UKRAINE UPDATE: 18 SEPTEMBER 2023
South Korea condemns Moscow-Pyongyang military ties; Four GOP senators urge Biden to give Kyiv missiles
In the wake of the first summit in four years between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warns of ‘illegal and unjust’ military cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow.
Four top Senate Republicans prodded US President Joe Biden to provide Ukraine with long-range missiles to help its counteroffensive against Russia, saying only a small part of US stockpiles would be needed.
The plea to the president, who is due to host Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House this week, puts a renewed focus on the Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, that Kyiv has long requested. Ukraine said Sunday it shot down six of 10 cruise missiles that Russia launched against the Odesa region and also downed six drones.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is travelling to New York to attend the UN General Assembly amid heightened tensions with Washington over Syria and Russia. Turkey is coming under increasing pressure from the EU and the US to join their campaign to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
- Biden urged by GOP senators to give Ukraine long-range missiles
- Erdoğan to attend UN General Assembly amid tensions with US
- Three nations challenge EU move with own bans on Ukraine’s crops
- Grain ships head for Ukraine’s Black Sea port, defying Russia
- South Korea’s Yoon condemns Russia-North Korea military ties
US senators to meet Zelensky as Republicans plan to block war funds
Top US Senate leaders will host an all-members meeting with Zelensky on Thursday, according to a Senate leadership aide, as House Republicans are preparing to block a Biden administration request for $24-billion in emergency Ukraine war funds.
Zelensky is expected to meet Biden at the White House the same day, travelling to Washington after attending the United Nations General Assembly. He’s expected to seek renewed commitments from US leaders to help Ukraine’s fight to regain occupied land from Russia.
Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader in the Senate, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are due to host the meeting on Capitol Hill.
Congress faces a 30 September deadline for the end of the fiscal year, with no solution in sight to avoid a potential government shutdown. Conservative hard-liners in the House have threatened to shut down the government if the budget deal includes more aid to Ukraine.
Ahead of Zelensky’s visit, four top Senate Republicans pushed Biden to provide Ukraine with long-range missiles. The letter rejects the argument by some conservatives that the aid dips too far into the US weapon supply, saying only a small part of US stockpiles would be needed.
The trip will be Zelensky’s first visit to Washington in more than six months.
Canada to give $24.4m to Ukraine for air defence
Canada will contribute C$33-million ($24.4-million) to a UK-led partnership that will deliver air defence missiles to help Ukraine blunt Russia’s missile and drone attacks.
The partnership, which was established in June and includes Denmark and the US, is “providing Ukraine with hundreds of short- and medium-range air defence missiles and associated systems required to protect Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure,” Canada’s defence minister, Bill Blair, said on Sunday.
The contribution is part of the C$500-million in new funding for military assistance for Ukraine announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June.
South Korea’s Yoon condemns Russia-North Korea military ties
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warned that “illegal and unjust” military cooperation between North Korea and Russia must be met with a unified international response, in remarks to media ahead of this week’s United Nations General Assembly meeting.
“Military cooperation between North Korea and Russia is illegal and unjust as it contravenes UN Security Council resolutions and various other international sanctions,” Yoon told the Associated Press in written responses before his departure to the annual gathering in New York.
Yoon told the news agency that he plans to raise the Russia-North Korea issue at the UN meeting this week. His comments come after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Russia, their first summit in four years.
The US has accused Kim of providing arms and ammunition to aid Putin’s war in Ukraine. Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the accusations.
Kim also took an extensive tour of military facilities near Vladivostok and met Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. The Kremlin has said there were no military agreements signed during Kim’s visit. Putin also said Russia would not violate restrictions on North Korea.
In his comments to the AP, South Korea’s Yoon warned against potential nuclear threats posed by North Korea. He said Seoul and Washington had “reaffirmed that any nuclear attack by North Korea will be met with a swift, overwhelming and decisive response that will bring about the end of the regime”.
Kim left Russia on Sunday afternoon. His bulletproof train departed from the railway station in Artyom, a small city near Vladivostok, according to RIA Novosti. The North Korean leader stayed in Russia for six days, his longest overseas trip since assuming the role.
Biden urged by GOP senators to give Ukraine long-range missiles
Four top Senate Republicans prodded Biden to provide Ukraine with long-range missiles to help its counteroffensive against Russia, saying only a small part of US stockpiles would be needed.
With Biden due to host Zelensky at the White House next week, the plea to the president puts a renewed focus on the Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, that Ukraine has long requested.
“Ukraine has significantly degraded Russian combat power and only requires a small portion of our stockpiled ATACMS,” senators Tom Cotton, Roger Wicker, Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham said in the letter dated Saturday.
While additional weapons deliveries are expected to be announced during Zelensky’s visit to Washington, ATAMCS aren’t on the list, according to a US administration official.
Ukraine’s push to regain Russian-occupied territory has been a slow grind. The senators said Ukraine’s military had “achieved some breakthroughs” and providing Lockheed Martin’s ATACMs would “maximise the likelihood of success in its current counteroffensive and follow-on operations”.
The US has provided some $44-billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbour in February 2022.
Meanwhile, the US government is rapidly approaching its 30 September federal budget deadline. Some House Republicans have threatened to throw a wrench into the negotiations if a budget deal includes more aid to Ukraine.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the “basic vibe” among legislators that the country needs to come together to support Ukraine is as strong as a year ago in both parties.
“But of course, I acknowledge that there’s a difference between this Congress and the last Congress, and we’ll have to contend with that as we go through the discussions that will continue in the days ahead on how to get Ukraine the resources it needs,” Sullivan said on Friday.
Grain ships head for Ukraine Black Sea port, defying Russia
Ukraine is defying Russia’s de-facto blockade of its Black Sea ports by sending empty ships to collect grain for the first time since a safe-passage deal collapsed almost two months ago.
Two ships “confirmed their readiness to use the route to the port of Chornomorsk to load almost 20,000 tons of wheat for Africa and Asia”, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on social media. The ships carry the flags of Palau and crew members are from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Ukraine.
Both vessels were at the port of Chornomorsk as of Saturday evening, according to ship tracking data.
Russia’s exit from the UN and Turkey-brokered Black Sea grain deal in July forced Ukraine to use more complicated and expensive routes to ship its harvest abroad. While grain has been redirected via rail, river and road routes, Russia has repeatedly targeted key river ports on the Danube with drone attacks.
The ships’ passage to Ukraine is fraught with risks as Russia has said it would treat any ships headed to Ukraine’s ports as potential carriers of weapons. In August, Russia’s navy opened fire on a cargo vessel to force it to stop for checks.
Five ships, including container and bulk vessels, have used the new corridor supervised by the Ukrainian navy and left the ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdennyi, where they had been stuck since Russia’s invasion started in February 2022. DM