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UKRAINE UPDATE: 17 MAY 2024

Xi, Putin pledge to fight US ‘containment’ efforts; Slovak leader stable after assassination attempt

Xi, Putin pledge to fight US ‘containment’ efforts; Slovak leader stable after assassination attempt
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing, China, on 16 May. (Photo: Sergei Bobylev / Sputnik / Pool via Reuters)

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin pledged to intensify cooperation against US ‘containment’ of their countries, as they warned of growing nuclear tensions between rival powers.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s injuries remained life-threatening even as his condition stabilised a day after he was shot, as a fuller picture emerged of a “lone wolf” assailant driven by political animus.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with key commanders in the northeastern city of Kharkiv as his military fought to prevent Kremlin troops from occupying new territory in the region.

Putin and Xi vow to step up fight to counter US ‘containment’

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin pledged to intensify cooperation against US “containment” of their countries, as they warned of growing nuclear tensions between rival powers.

Putin and Xi accused the US of planning to station missile systems around the world that “pose a direct threat to the security of Russia and China”, in a joint declaration after more than two hours of talks in Beijing on Thursday. They agreed to tighten coordination, including between their militaries, against what they called Washington’s “destructive and hostile course.”

The two leaders also warned of “increased strategic risks” from spiralling tensions between nuclear powers. They accused the US of seeking to violate the strategic nuclear balance to gain a “decisive military advantage”.

Putin was in China on his first foreign visit since his inauguration last week for a fifth presidential term, indicating the importance of the relationship with Xi in enabling Moscow to resist unprecedented sanctions from the US and its allies over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Xi signalled to Putin that ties between China and Russia remained strong, as the Russian leader begins a new term and the war in Ukraine drags into its third year.

The leaders said “preventing direct military confrontation between the nuclear powers is the priority task”, but lambasted nuclear states that “encroach on each other’s vital interests” by expanding military alliances near their borders, a dig at Nato expansion in Europe and US-led efforts to forge security partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region to counter China.

Xi said China was “ready to work with Russia as a good neighbour, friend and partner with mutual trust” state broadcaster China Central Television reported after the pair had met. China was prepared “to consolidate the friendship between the two peoples for generations to come”, he added.

Putin wants the visit to ensure that the economic and diplomatic support that China has provided since he attacked Ukraine remains intact. The US has warned China over its trade with Russia, threatening to sanction banks that prop up the Kremlin’s war machine.

Slovak leader in intensive care after assassination attempt

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s injuries remained life-threatening even as his condition stabilised a day after he was shot, as a fuller picture emerged of a “lone wolf” assailant driven by political animus.

The first assassination attempt on a European leader in more than 20 years has sent shock waves through one of the continent’s most polarised countries and highlighted the inflammatory politics that have become prevalent since the pandemic and turbocharged with Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“We have crossed a red line in Slovakia that we have never before crossed since the foundation of our country,” Peter Pellegrini, a Fico coalition ally who is set to take office as president next month, told reporters outside the hospital in the city of Banska Bystrica where Fico underwent a five-hour surgery. Fico “escaped death by a hair’s breadth”, he said.

Pellegrini said he spoke with Fico, who was able to respond, “but only a few sentences”. The prime minister’s conditions remained “very critical”, he said, adding that Fico was not yet “completely safe.”

Fico (59) was fired on at close range in an attack by a 71-year-old assailant during a public appearance northeast of the capital on Wednesday. The premier underwent surgery to treat “multiple” gunshot wounds and was being attended by a team of doctors, hospital Director Miriam Lapunikova told reporters.

Authorities have identified the suspected assailant as Juraj C. from the western Slovak town of Levice. After a Security Council meeting in the capital Bratislava, Interior Minister Matus Sutaj-Estok said that while the suspect acted alone, police were focusing on a political motive for a man who participated in anti-government protests last year directed at Fico.

Clearly pointing a finger at critical media coverage, Sutaj-Estok said the suspect had been opposed to the government’s effort to scrap a special prosecutor’s office, halt military aid to Ukraine and overhaul public media.

“The shooter was interested in politics — he followed news you wrote,” the minister said, repeatedly urging journalists to report only facts and challenging the veracity of their reporting on Fico’s government.

Zelensky gathers commanders in Kharkiv amid Russian offensive

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with key commanders in the northeastern city of Kharkiv as his military fought to prevent Kremlin troops from occupying new territory in the region.

Ukraine started reinforcing the area around the country’s second-biggest city after Russian forces began crossing the border last week, taking control of some villages and stretching Ukraine’s positions along the frontline.

“The situation in Kharkiv region is generally under control and our soldiers are inflicting significant losses on the occupier,” Zelensky said on Telegram after meeting with Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi and other officials. “But the direction remains extremely difficult and we are bolstering our units.”

Russian units were preventing locals from evacuating and were taking them captive amid efforts to get a foothold in the northern part of the embattled town of Vovchansk, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on Telegram. At least one case of Russian forces executing a civilian had been reported in the town, he said.

The Ukrainian General Staff said earlier on Thursday that “decisive actions” by Kyiv’s units had forced Russian troops to significantly reduce their activity in the area.

Russian uranium supplier Tenex issues force majeure notice after US ban

Russia’s state-owned uranium supplier Tenex has notified US customers they have 60 days to secure a waiver exempting them from a law recently signed by President Joe Biden that bars imports of the company’s nuclear fuel.

The force majeure notice seen by Bloomberg was sent to utilities including Constellation Energy, the largest US nuclear plant operator, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorised to speak publicly. Constellation declined to comment and Duke and Dominion didn’t respond to a request seeking comment.

The May 14 letter underscores the uncertainty facing the US nuclear power industry following this week’s enactment of the ban on Russian uranium imports. Utilities can receive waivers allowing the import of Russian enriched uranium until 2028 if the US determines no alternative source can be found or if such shipments are determined to be of national interest. Russia supplies about a quarter of the uranium used in US reactors, making it the nation’s top supplier of the fuel.

Tenex said in its letter that utilities that opt to suspend production would see it resumed after a waiver was granted, though a new delivery schedule could need to be negotiated. Such a move means utilities that don’t receive a waiver within 60 days could effectively lose their place in line for reactor fuel shipments that can take three to four months to complete.

Tenex, which is owned by Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom, has said in intends to honour all its contractual commitments in the US, but it has no control over what action the Kremlin might take. DM

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  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Politics aside China and Russia are hard working nations, china close to 35 trillion GDP, Russia has all the assets only it’s forceful nature works against the GDP, our leader must understand that we need to stop being a grant population, beggars will not rule the world.

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