UKRAINE UPDATE 23 JUNE 2023
Missiles strike bridge between Kherson and Crimea; Zelensky says Russia may sabotage nuclear plant
Russian officials said a bridge linking Crimea and the occupied part of the Kherson region was struck by Ukrainian missiles. Andriy Yusov, a Ukrainian military intelligence spokesperson, didn’t directly address the claim, but said on television that ‘everything happens for a reason’.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky alleged Russia was weighing a “terrorist attack” at the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, that would result in a radiation leak.
In a video address, Zelensky said information from Ukraine’s security service would be shared with nations including the US and China and international organisations. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the claims “another lie”, according to Russia’s state-run Tass news service.
- Ukraine reports slow progress as its forces attack supply lines
- Ukraine doubtful of new Russian gas transit deal as war rages
- Ukraine premier lauds strong, unwavering support from allies
- European gas falls as Ukraine transit risk adds to volatility
- Russia covers up key budget spending data as war swells deficit
Ukraine premier lauds strong, unwavering support from allies
Ukraine has solid and unwavering support from its allies and the aid it receives is in no way linked to results on the battlefield, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.
Shmyhal participated in the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London aimed at garnering the support of world leaders and businesses to help fund the rebuilding of the country after the war.
The conference would have “long-term consequences” for Ukraine and had already resulted in agreements with partner countries, declarations and memorandums, he said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Thursday.
Positive signals about future possible European Union and Nato membership “are very supportive” for Ukraine, he said.
Ukraine reports slow counteroffensive progress as its forces attack supply lines
Ukraine reported halting progress in its counteroffensive as a strike on a bridge connecting Russian-occupied Crimea with the mainland signalled Kyiv’s efforts to disrupt a key supply artery.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told Bloomberg Television that the campaign “is not an easy walk — this is not a Hollywood movie”, echoing comments made this week by Zelensky. Kyiv forces advanced up to a kilometre on the southern front, a military spokesman said.
Ukraine’s military has sought to break Russian defence positions across the frontline in the southeast of the country, with reports of heavy losses on both sides. The main thrusts of the counteroffensive have yet to begin, according to a European defence official who declined to be identified. Kyiv’s manoeuvres were currently focused on testing Russian lines and targeting its artillery and other supplies, the official said.
Russian officials confirmed that a bridge south of a village in the Kherson region was damaged early on Thursday by a Ukrainian missile strike, hitting a narrow passage to Crimea. Both sides of the connection are occupied.
Russian defensive operations, meanwhile, have been relatively effective, with reinforced helicopter forces helping the Kremlin to gain an advantage with longer-range missile capability against ground targets, another European official said. The advantage may be temporary, the official added.
Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar cited “especially fierce fighting” in the north of the eastern Donetsk region. Russian troops have been on the attack there, seeking to force Ukraine to relocate resources, the military has said.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said the “overall slower-than-expected pace” of the counteroffensive had little bearing on Ukraine’s broader military potential.
Hungary wins EU exemption to let Russian firm service metro cars
The European Union is set to hand Hungary an exemption in its latest package of sanctions on Russia to permit imports of goods and services needed to maintain the Budapest metro.
The sanctions, which were backed by member states on Wednesday, include derogations for several parts including safety glass, specific types of machinery and some valves, as well as related technical assistance, according to documents seen by Bloomberg.
The parts are needed to operate cars running on Budapest’s metro Line 3, one of the documents shows. The metro cars are maintained by Russian firm Metrowagonmash, which builds and services subway trains. Metrowagonmash had refurbished the line’s ageing rolling stock in 2017 but earlier this year a quarter of them were reported to be out of service due to quality issues.
The Russian company was sanctioned by the US earlier this year.
Other exempted goods include telephone sets, signalling apparatus such as bells and indicator panels, as well as subway and tramway coaches. In total, goods falling under some 14 tariff codes can be authorised for import or transfer to Hungary.
Russia covers up key budget spending data as war swells deficit
Russia unexpectedly halted the publication of detailed data on budget spending, casting public finances deeper into secrecy as the government wrestles with soaring costs linked to the war in Ukraine.
The Finance Ministry stopped disclosure of high-frequency outlays on its electronic budget portal that previously showed up-to-date information about spending on different categories. The statistics enabled analysts to examine trends in expenditure and to calculate how much of the budget was going towards activity deemed classified.
The Finance Ministry and Russia’s Treasury didn’t respond to a request for comment. Monthly budget reports that include uncategorised spending figures are still being published by the ministry with a lag of a week or more.
Russia already curbed the publication of critical data, including reporting of oil output, after the US and its allies imposed sanctions in response to President Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. As the war has dragged on, authorities also began to keep an unprecedented share of its spending away from public scrutiny.
Biden and Modi deals span drones, jet engines and chips
US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will announce a series of defence and commercial deals designed to improve military and economic ties between their nations during Thursday’s state visit at the White House, senior US officials said.
General Electric unveiled plans to jointly manufacture F414 engines with state-owned Indian firm Hindustan Aeronautics for the Tejas light-combat aircraft, as part of an effort to improve defence- and technology-sharing as China becomes more assertive in the Indo-Pacific.
Biden and Modi will discuss a deal for MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones made by General Atomics, and a new defence pact allowing US Navy ships to undertake major repairs at Indian shipyards.
The two leaders plan to debut a series of semiconductor deals designed to take advantage of Indian subsidies intended to bring advanced technology manufacturing to the South Asian nation.
Micron Technology will announce an investment of more than $800-million toward a $2.75-billion semiconductor assembly and testing facility in India, while Applied Materials will announce a new semiconductor centre for commercialisation and innovation. Chip manufacturer Lam Research will also announce a training programme in India for up to 60,000 engineers.
EU states likely to back proposed €50bn package for Ukraine
European Union countries are likely to back a proposal from the bloc’s executive arm for a €50-billion financing package for Ukraine, EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis told Bloomberg TV.
The commission earlier this week announced a funding plan through 2027 comprising grants, loans and guarantees to cover part of Ukraine’s current expenditure and to fund urgent reconstruction projects, as it continues to fight back against Russia’s invasion.
“We expect the support for the package,” Dombrovskis, a vice president of the commission, said on Thursday. “Of course, there are going to be discussions with member states, this may bring some adjustments.”
The cash will be disbursed provided Ukraine fulfils reforms to improve the rule of law and address corruption. Leaders are due to decide whether to open negotiations by the end of the year on Ukraine’s bid to join the EU.
Ukraine says Russia gas transit likely to end in 2024
Russia may halt natural gas transport through Ukraine to Europe next year as the governments are unlikely to renew a contract due to the ongoing war, Ukraine’s Energy Minister German Galushchenko told the Financial Times.
The shipments could stop by the end of 2024 when the contract expires, Galushchenko said, adding that his nation was preparing its system for a halt.
Bloomberg wasn’t immediately able to reach Ukraine’s Energy Ministry outside normal business hours.
The transit of fuel from Russia to Europe through Ukraine has been a flash point between the nations over the past two decades, leading to several disruptions, including in the winter of 2009. While Russia is no longer Europe’s biggest gas supplier, countries including Austria, Slovakia and Hungary are still heavily reliant on its fuel.
US to try to enlist more nations, says report
Ukraine has recruited the help of a top White House adviser to meet officials from nations that have stayed on the sidelines of the war in Ukraine, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to join Ukraine’s effort to sway various countries, according to the FT. The newspaper said the meeting will take place in Denmark over the weekend and participants may include representatives from countries such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Turkey.
China, which has shown support for Russia in the conflict, may also send a representative, the FT said.
The US said it would provide an additional $1.3-billion toward the cost of reversing the devastation inflicted on Ukraine by Russia’s invasion, estimated by the World Bank at more than $400-billion over the next decade.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the pledge at Wednesday’s Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, where host Rishi Sunak announced the creation of a framework for war-risk insurance designed to encourage private investors.
The UK premier said that more than 400 businesses from 38 countries had signed to join the reconstruction effort. The London-based European Bank of Reconstruction and Development said it would seek to raise €600-million in loans and grants to restore Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. DM