Russia’s deadly missile strike on Zelensky’s hometown; Lithuania warns of provocations from Wagner in Belarus

Russia’s deadly missile strike on Zelensky’s hometown; Lithuania warns of provocations from Wagner in Belarus
Emergency services work at a scene after a missile hit an apartment building in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, on 31 July 2023. (AP Photo / Libkos)

At least six people were killed and 42 injured in a Russian missile strike on Kryvyi Rih, the home town of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the state’s emergency situation service.

Ukraine received a $1.25-billion grant from the US through the multidonor trust fund of the World Bank for direct budget support. Kyiv has received $8.45-billion of such US aid so far this year.

Saudi Arabia will host a meeting of national security and political advisers “soon” to discuss support for Ukraine’s peace demands, following a meeting of Kyiv’s key backers and developing nations in Denmark in June, according to Andriy Yermak, the president’s chief of staff. The goal is to reach a global summit of heads of state, which could take place by the end of the year, he said.

Latest developments




Zelensky likely to travel to New York for UN General Assembly

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is likely to head to New York in September for the United Nations General Assembly, where he is expected to make the case for his “peace formula” plan, according to people familiar with the matter.

Zelensky’s 10-point blueprint for ending the conflict calls for Russian troops to withdraw completely from Ukraine, release all prisoners of war and deportees, and ensure food and energy security. It also includes security guarantees for Ukraine once the fighting ends and aims to restore safety around the occupied nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, which he says is at risk from Russian sabotage.

The plan will be discussed this weekend at a gathering hosted by Saudi Arabia with more than two dozen nations invited. In New York, Zelensky is expected to participate in other sessions and meetings during the week of the UNGA, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information.

Lithuanian leader warns of provocations from Wagner in Belarus

Lithuania’s president reinforced a warning about the presence of Russian mercenaries in neighbouring Belarus, saying the Wagner Group could conduct “various provocations” across the border.

“We cannot rule out such a threat,” President Gitanas Nauseda told journalists on Monday, according to the Baltic nation’s public broadcaster. Considering the new proximity, “it is really too tempting to be here — not far from our border — not to use their presence for various provocations.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki took up the issue over the weekend, warning on Saturday that Wagner forces may enter Polish territory alongside illegal migrants. Speaking months ahead of an election, the premier provided little to back the assertion, which echoed Belarus’s decision to send migrants — mostly from the Middle East — across the Polish and Baltic borders in 2020, a move that fomented chaos at the frontier and escalated tensions with the European Union.

Nauseda didn’t go as far, saying there were yet no indications of any activity.

China curbs drone export after US says it aids Russia war effort

China slapped restrictions on the export of drones and certain components used in their manufacture, a move that could hurt production abroad of the aerial vehicles including types employed by armed forces in the Ukraine war.

Exports of certain classes of drones, their engines and infrared imaging equipment won’t be allowed without a licence starting on 1 September, government agencies, including the top-ranked Central Military Commission, said in statements on Monday, adding that China is not targeting any specific country. The restriction on drone shipments will be effective for no longer than two years, the agencies said.

Read more: US confronts China over companies’ ties to Russia war effort

Drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, have emerged as a potent military force in recent years. Civilian craft made by China’s SZ DJI Technology — the world’s biggest maker of the devices — have been employed by both Russians and Ukrainians in the Ukraine war.

Saudi Arabia hosts Ukraine talks in outreach to Global South

Saudi Arabia will seek to boost efforts by Ukraine and its allies to win support from the so-called Global South by hosting talks in Jeddah next weekend.

The Saudi government has invited national security and diplomatic advisers from Ukraine, several of Kyiv’s key allies and others in the Group of 20 such as India, Brazil and China, according to a person familiar with the matter. More than two dozen nations have been asked to attend, the person said, also including Turkey, Japan, the UK, South Africa and the European Union. Russia has not been invited.

The biggest developing economies have so far remained mostly neutral in the face of Russia’s invasion of its neighbour and the US and the EU have been trying to persuade those countries not to offer President Vladimir Putin help in sustaining his war machine.

The meeting, which follows a similar gathering in Copenhagen in June, is expected to discuss Zelensky’s peace formula and the Ukrainian president’s effort to hold a global summit on the proposals later this year. China was invited to the meeting in Denmark but didn’t attend.

Russia sets record pace for oil drilling this year despite production cuts

Russia’s oil firms are setting a record pace in their drilling this year, even as the country has agreed with Opec+ to make longer production cuts.

Rigs drilled 14,700km of production wells in Russia from January to June, 6.6% more than planned and 8.6% more than the same period in 2022, according to data seen by Bloomberg.

Last year “saw a post-Soviet production drilling record, and given the data I now expect a new high to be established”, said Ronald Smith, an oil and gas analyst at Moscow-based BCS Global Markets.

Russian oil firms accelerated their drilling even as the Kremlin ordered them to cut production by 500,000 barrels a day, initially for just a few months in retaliation for Western sanctions over Ukraine, and subsequently until the end of 2024 in coordination with allies in Opec+.




Secret deals with Russia help Kim Jong-un fund nuclear programme

Reports of new types of sugar in the local markets. Satellite imagery of trains crossing borders.  Cargo ships with their transponders off. When assessing North Korea’s opaque economy, rather than hard statistics, it’s these sorts of indicators experts pore over.

And all are pointing to one conclusion: Kim Jong-un has found fresh ways to fill his depleted coffers. This money is enabling him to ignore financial incentives designed to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table, and press ahead with building his nuclear arsenal.

His grandfather, state founder Kim Il-sung, took the reins of the country with Soviet support. Now, as North Korea prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War on 27 July 1953, it’s once again Russia the regime must thank.

Russia has resumed sending oil to North Korea for the first time since 2020, the United Nations said last month. That follows an earlier restart of grain shipments. While it’s impossible to know what is going in the other direction, both the US government and independent analysts have one main thesis: munitions from North Korea’s vast stockpiles.

These interventions, of course, aren’t sufficient to restore a tattered, isolated economy to full health. Yet together with the reopening of trade links with China and other sources of income like cybercrime, the assistance from Russia is ensuring the economy remains stable enough to function, enabling Kim to continue defying the international community.

“North Korea always manages to find a way to survive,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a regional issues manager at the Vienna-based Open Nuclear Network who worked as an analyst for the CIA’s Open Source Enterprise for almost two decades. “There is no indication that it would return to nuclear talks any time soon.”

Pyongyang, which has been banned from arms sales for about 15 years, rejects accusations it is supplying Russia. Yet the White House in December said it had evidence North Korea had completed an initial arms shipment to the Wagner Group for use in Ukraine that included infantry rockets and missiles.

One item that North Korea has and Russia probably wants is 152mm artillery shells. These are interoperable with the Soviet-era weaponry that’s been pushed back into service in Ukraine. The Kremlin’s war machine has been burning through thousands daily, according to the Jamestown Foundation research group, and has been scrambling for supplies as the conflict continues.

North Korea possesses untold stores of munitions that could run into millions of rounds for an arsenal that has for decades held Seoul under the threat of devastation. DM


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