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UKRAINE UPDATE: 7 JUNE 2024

Biden delivers pointed rebuke to Putin and Trump; Nato to expand cooperation with Kyiv

Biden delivers pointed rebuke to Putin and Trump; Nato to expand cooperation with Kyiv
US President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden, and French President Emmanuel Macron and wife Brigitte Macron arrive at a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery on the 80th anniversary of D-day on 6 June in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. (Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden delivered a pointed rebuke to two men he’s identified as present-day threats to democracy — Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump — as he marked one of the US’s greatest triumphs against authoritarianism.

Nato is planning to expand cooperation with Ukraine on defence technology and share more intelligence about Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities, as some of its members lift constraints on Kyiv’s ability to wage war.

President Joe Biden defended his decision to allow Ukraine to launch US-provided weapons against military targets within Russia, characterising it as limited in scope amid worries it could spark a wider war. 

Biden says democracy at risk in Ukraine fight as he marks D-day

US President Joe Biden delivered a pointed rebuke to two men he’s identified as present-day threats to democracy — Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump — as he marked one of the US’s greatest triumphs against authoritarianism.

Biden did not mention Putin and Trump by name, but his remarks at an American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, where he was marking the 80th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy during World War 2, linked the historic backdrop to Ukraine’s current struggles to repel Russia’s invasion and hailed the importance of alliances such as Nato to preserve democracy.

“We’re living in a time when democracy is more at risk across the world than any point since the end of World War 2,” Biden said on Thursday from Normandy, where world leaders gathered near beaches where allied soldiers battling Nazi Germany mounted the largest amphibious assault in history.

“Isolationism was not the answer 80 years ago and is not the answer today,” Biden said, defending the role of US alliances such as Nato, which Trump has repeatedly criticised, as essential to preserving freedom.

Biden, who has warned of Russian President Putin’s grand designs for the continent, was expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky while in France. He warned that if the allies failed there, “Ukraine will be subjugated and it will not end there. Ukraine’s neighbours will be threatened, all of Europe will be threatened.

“To surrender to bullies, to bow down to dictators, is simply unthinkable. Were we to do that, it means we would be forgetting what happened here on these hallowed beaches. Make no mistake: we will not bow down, we will not forget,” he added.

Biden’s speech capped an emotional ceremony, where leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron, paid tribute to the veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy 80 years ago.

Before his speech, Biden spoke with the veterans. One stood up out of his wheelchair and saluted him, saying: “Mr. President.” Another, who was struggling to get back into his chair, jokingly warned: “Don’t get old!”

The trip has given Biden the opportunity to draw an implicit contrast with Trump, his general election rival, who is vying to return to the White House.

On Friday, he’ll deliver a speech on democracy and freedom at Pointe du Hoc, echoing the famous election-year address by former President Ronald Reagan four decades earlier. By raising topics like the value of US allies and the need to combat tyrants, Biden can deliver a veiled critique of Trump’s leadership style and penchant for isolationism rather than explicitly campaign on foreign soil.

Nato to expand defence tech, intelligence sharing with Kyiv

Nato is planning to expand cooperation with Ukraine on defence technology and share more intelligence about Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities, as some of its members lift constraints on Kyiv’s ability to wage war.

The conflict has pushed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to devote more resources to cybersecurity deterrence and tracking Russia’s military tech, Assistant Secretary-General David van Weel told journalists this week.

“Ukrainians are innovating at a very high speed,” he said on Tuesday in Krakow, Poland. “But of course, the Russians are not stupid. That means innovation in the battlefield is not a static thing. It’s more like chess.”

Recent Russian advances have led Ukraine’s allies to loosen restrictions on weapons they provide, with the US and Germany authorising attacks on Russian territory for the first time. Such strikes had previously been forbidden for fear of antagonising the country with the biggest nuclear arsenal.

An agreement that introduces new frameworks for sharing information, including on supply chains for drones, will be finalised in time for the alliance’s July summit in Washington, according to Van Weel.

One goal of the programme is to help make Ukraine a large-scale tech provider once the war ends. Nato also wants to replicate some of the rapid tech adoption and deployment seen in Ukraine since the war started, Van Weel said.

Van Weel spoke at the inaugural Defence Innovators Forum, a conference that featured representatives from 17 countries including Ukraine, Belgium and the US, as well as dozens of startups building battlefield equipment.

At the conference, Nato and US officials frequently pointed to the rapid tech development in Ukraine since the start of the war with envy.

Alex Bornyakov, Ukraine’s deputy tech minister, gave reporters in Krakow a blunt assessment of his country’s approach to purchases. “It’s very simple,” he said. “If it kills Russians, we buy it.”

Biden defends move to let Ukraine hit Russia with US weapons

Biden defended his decision to allow Ukraine to launch US-provided weapons against military targets within Russia, characterising it as limited in scope amid worries it could spark a wider war.

Biden, in an interview aired on ABC’s Good Morning America, was asked if Ukraine was already using American weapons inside Russia, but he avoided giving specifics.

“They are authorised to be used in proximity to the border,” Biden said. “We are not authorising strikes 200 miles [320km] into Russia. We’re not authorising strikes on Moscow, on the Kremlin.”

“It’s just across the border where they’re receiving significant fire from conventional weapons used by the Russians to go into Ukraine to kill Ukrainians,” he added.

The decision to allow US weapons in retaliatory strikes against Russia marks a shift for Biden, who had long resisted such a move, worrying it could mark an escalation of the war and invite Russian attacks on Nato nations. Zelensky has long urged allies to send long-range weapons that would allow his forces to strike targets inside Russia.

Putin has responded with new threats, including saying that such actions could mark direct involvement by other countries in the war and suggesting that Russia could provide weapons to others to strike targets in the West.

Asked if those remarks concerned him, Biden responded, “I’ve known him for over 40 years, he’s concerned me for 40 years.

“He’s not a decent man, he’s a dictator and he’s struggling to make sure he holds his country together while still keeping this assault going,” Biden said.

French citizen detained in Russia on allegations of spying

Russian authorities said they detained a French citizen on suspicion of spying, the latest of several arrests of foreigners in the country since the start of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

The person was “suspected of collecting information in the field of military activities”, Russia’s Investigative Committee said on Thursday in a Telegram statement that didn’t identify the individual.

State-run Tass news agency later identified him as Laurent Vinatier, a consultant with the Swiss group Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue working on Eurasian issues, citing a spokesperson for the organisation. The report said Vinatier had earlier worked on the Chechen conflict.

He was officially accused of violating a law on so-called foreign agents. A video accompanying the statement appeared to show the man being detained by law enforcement.

“We are aware that Laurent Vinatier, an adviser at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, has been detained in Russia,” the organisation said in an emailed statement. “We are working to get more details of the circumstances and to secure Laurent’s release.”

The Elysee and French Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been held in a Moscow jail for more than a year after he was detained in Yekaterinburg by agents of the Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, on spying allegations that he and the newspaper have denied. The US State Department has formally determined that Gershkovich has been “wrongfully detained”, opening the way for the US to negotiate on his behalf.

Alsu Kurmasheva, a Prague-based editor at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was detained in June last year and charged with failing to register as a “foreign agent”.

Drones attack Novoshakhtinsk refinery in southern Russia

Drones attacked the Novoshakhtinsk refinery in southern Russia near the border with Ukraine, sparking a fire at the plant.

The fire was extinguished at 4am local time, Rostov region Governor Vasily Golubev said on his Telegram channel on Thursday. There were no casualties from the attacks, he added.

It’s unclear what damage the fire caused or how operations were affected at the refinery. The facility, which processed more than 4.8 million tonnes of crude last year, or around 97,000 barrels a day, was the target of a drone strike earlier this year.

Since the start of 2024, Ukrainian drones have attacked several Russian refineries, to reduce fuel supplies to the Kremlin’s army on the frontline and slash Moscow’s oil revenue.

The attacks brought Russia’s average daily crude-processing volumes close to an 11-month low in April. The facilities have partly recovered their operations since then, but now seasonal maintenance is adding pressure.

Read more: Russian oil refinery hit as Kharkiv region is under shelling

Russia has been targeting major Ukrainian cities and the nation’s energy infrastructure with missile and drone strikes since the start of its full-scale invasion in February 2022. DM

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