Moscow drone attack: Buildings damaged in wake of suspected strike

There has been a significant escalation in fighting around the frontlines in eastern Ukraine – with Russia claiming to have repelled a significant attack by Kyiv’s forces around Donetsk.

A Ukrainian counteroffensive has been long anticpated, as it seeks to rip back control of territory taken by Russia in the country’s south and east. And there has been a notable increase in military activity in recent days. Russia’s Defence Ministry has now claimed to have repelled a “major offensive” in the Donetsk region and to have killed hundreds of Ukrainian troops.

It also shared a video claiming to show several Ukrainian armoured vehicles in a field blowing up after being hit. Officials in Kyiv have not commented on the claims and have emphasised the need for secrecy around its attack plans.

Officials and military chiefs have suggested that the counteroffensive would be be preceded – and accompanied – by divisionary assults aimed at “shaping” the battlefield to its advantage, as well as sowing as much confusion in the Russian ranks as possible.


Russia says 250 Ukrainian soldiers killed in thwarted major offensive

The Russian defence ministry has said hundreds of Ukrainian troops have been killed after a major battlefield offensive against Russian forces was thwarted in Donetsk region.

“On the morning of 4 June, the enemy launched a large-scale offensive in five sectors of the front in the South Donetsk direction,” the ministry said today.

It added that “the enemy’s goal was to break through our defences in the most vulnerable, in its opinion, sector of the front” but Ukraine “did not achieve its tasks, it had no success.”

The ministry shared a video claiming to show several Ukrainian armoured vehicles in a field blowing up after being hit.

At least 250 Ukrainian troops were killed, 16 tanks and infantry vehicles were destroyed, and 21 armoured combat vehicles were damaged in the skirmish, the ministry said.

Officials in Kyiv have not commented on the Russian defence ministry’s claims so far.

It in not clear whether the attack represented the start of a long-expected Ukrainian counteroffensive to recapture some of the territory taken by Russian forces after the invasion of February 2022.

Arpan Rai5 June 2023 04:02


Russia’s Prigozhin labels Ukraine’s reclamation of settlement north of Bakhmut a ‘disgrace’

Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had retaken part of the settlement of Berkhivka, north of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, calling it a “disgrace”.

Prigozhin’s private Wagner militia captured Bakhmut last month after the longest battle of the war and handed its positions there to regular Russian troops. Ukrainian forces have continued to attack areas close to the city.

“Now part of the settlement of Berkhivka has already been lost, the troops are quietly running away. Disgrace!” Prigozhin said in an audio message published by his press service.

He urged Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, to come to the front to rally the troops.

“Come on, you can do it!” he said. “And if you can’t, you’ll die heroes.”

Prigozhin has waged a public feud with Shoigu and Gerasimov for months, frequently accusing them of failing to provide sufficient ammunition and support for Wagner in the field, and so causing it to suffer needlessly heavy losses.

Eleanor Noyce5 June 2023 10:59


Ukraine may lose 20% of winter grain yield if poor weather persists

Most of Ukraine‘s winter grain crops are in good condition but grain yields could fall by 20% if current dry and hot weather persists, APK-Inform consultancy quoted agricultural scientists as saying on Monday.

Ukraine is a major grain grower and exporter but its production has fallen sharply since Russia invaded the country in February last year.

Grain output decreased to around 53 million tonnes in 2022 from a record 86 million tonnes in 2021. The government has said that in 2023 the harvest could decline to 44.5 million tonnes.

Winter wheat dominates the Ukrainian winter grain harvest and accounts for 95% of the country’s overall wheat production.

“In general, weather conditions for most of the spring period were sufficiently favourable for growth and development of winter cereal crops,” Ukraine‘s national academy of agricultural science said in a report.

“However, in case of continuation of dry weather in the period of grain filling, especially on the background of high air temperatures… the share of lost yields can be from 15% to 20%,” it said, giving no exact forecast of the harvest.

Scientists noted that crops which were sown very late were particularly at risk.

The Ukrainian agriculture minister told Reuters on Friday that the ministry forecast the 2023 winter grain crop at around 18 million tonnes, or 20% less than in 2022.

Eleanor Noyce5 June 2023 10:50


Kremlin calls US statement on nuclear arms control ‘positive’

The Kremlin said on Monday that a statement by United States national security adviser Jake Sullivan calling for bilateral arms control discussions was “positive”, and that Russia remained open for dialogue.

Sullivan said on Friday that the United States would abide by the nuclear weapons limits set in the New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms reduction pact between the two Cold War rivals, until its 2026 expiry if Russia did the same.

President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow’s participation in the treaty in February.

“This is an important and positive statement by Mr Sullivan. Of course, we expect it to be de facto confirmed by steps through diplomatic channels, and then the proposed formats for dialogue can be considered,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Signed by then-U.S. president Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, the New START treaty caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy.

It came into force in 2011 and was extended in 2021 for five more years after Joe Biden took office as U.S. president.

Under the agreement, Moscow and Washington are committed to deploying no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads and a maximum of 700 long-range missiles and bombers.

When operating as intended, the pact allows both U.S. and Russian inspectors to ensure that the other side is complying with the treaty.

Eleanor Noyce5 June 2023 10:41


Russia’s most famous icon handed over from museum to church despite protests

Russian Orthodox believers celebrated Trinity Sunday with Russia’s most famous icon transferred from a museum to Moscow‘s main cathedral despite the keepers’ vociferous protests.

The Trinity icon by Andrei Rublev, which was kept in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery since the 1920s, was moved to Christ the Savior Cathedral before the holiday on President Vladimir Putin‘s personal order.

Putin’s abrupt decision to hand over the 15th-century icon to the church came despite a strong opposition from the Tretyakov keepers, who warned that the icon was too fragile to move and requires constant care to avoid a drastic deterioraton in its condition.

Eleanor Noyce5 June 2023 10:30


Poland receives draft EU regulation extending ban on Ukrainian food imports

Poland’s agriculture minister has received a draft regulation from the European Commission extending a ban on Ukrainian grain imports until 15 September, he said on Monday.

The EU on 2 May set restrictions until 5 June on imports of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed to ease the excess supply of the grains in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Those countries had complained that cheaper Ukrainian grain was making domestic production unprofitable and had asked the EU to extend the ban.

“We have received from the EC a draft of a new regulation banning the import of 4 products to the 5 countries,” Robert Telus wrote on Twitter. “The effective date provided for in the draft is 15 September this year.”

“It’s a draft but I hope it will come into force from tomorrow,” he added.

Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed can be sold to any other country in the 27-nation bloc.

The EU had earlier liberalised all imports from Ukraine to help Kyiv’s efforts to fend off Russia’s invasion. The five countries became transit routes for Ukrainian grain that could not be exported through its Black Sea ports because of the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called for the unconditional removal of all export restrictions on Ukrainian agricultural products at talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Eleanor Noyce5 June 2023 10:20


Russia’s Prigozhin says Ukraine has retaken part of settlement north of Bakhmut

Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had retaken part of the settlement of Berkhivka, north of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, calling it a “disgrace”.

Prigozhin’s private Wagner army captured Bakhmut last month after the longest battle of the war and handed its positions there to regular Russian troops.

Eleanor Noyce5 June 2023 10:15


Papal envoy heads to Ukraine to ‘listen carefully’ to possible peace plans

Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, tasked by Pope Francis to carry out a peace mission to try to help end the war in Ukraine, headed to Kyiv on Monday for a two-day trip to sound out government authorities.

The Vatican announced his visit, which many observers see as an uphill effort, in a short statement. It said the main purpose was “to listen carefully to Ukrainian authorities on the possible ways to reach a just peace and support humanitarian gestures that may help ease tensions”.

It was not clear if Zuppi, who is archbishop of Bologna and head of the Italian Bishops Conference, would meet President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Zelensky met the pope at the Vatican on 13 May and later appeared cool to the prospects of any papal initiative that would put Ukraine on an equal footing with Russia, which invaded its neighbour on 24 Feb 2022.

Zuppi, 67, told reporters last month that he did not foresee a mediation in the strict sense of the word but that he was ready to “do anything” to help ease tensions.

“We can’t watch a war without at least saying that we are close to the victims and seeking in every way possible to alleviate the consequences,” he said.

At the meeting in May, Zelensky asked the pope to back Kyiv’s peace plan, which Zelensky has repeatedly said is not open to negotiation.

Eleanor Noyce5 June 2023 10:10


Russia claims it thwarted Ukrainian attacks in provinces annexed by Moscow

Russian officials said their forces thwarted large Ukrainian attacks in two provinces of Ukraine illegally annexed by Moscow. Ukraine did not confirm the attacks, making it unclear whether they marked the start of an anticipated counteroffensive.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a rare early morning video released Monday that its forces pushed back a “large scale” assault Sunday at five points in southern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, one of four regions that President Vladimir Putin claimed as Russian territory last fall but is only partially controlled by Moscow.

“The enemy’s goal was to break through our defenses in the most vulnerable, in its opinion, sector of the front,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. “The enemy did not achieve its tasks. It had no success.”

Konashenkov said 250 Ukrainian personnel were killed, and 16 Ukrainian tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles and 21 armoured combat vehicles were destroyed.

Eleanor Noyce5 June 2023 10:00


Saudi Arabia welcomes Venezuelan leader Maduro, reaching out to yet another US foe

Saudi Arabia has welcomed Venzuelan President Nicolas Maduro on an official visit, reaching out to yet another U.S. foe as the oil-rich kingdom engages in a flurry of diplomacy.

Maduro arrived late Sunday in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, where he was greeted by Saudi officials, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Last month, the Saudis welcomed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a close Western ally, to an Arab League summit. But days later, they hosted a senior Russian official who is under Western sanctions.

The Saudis say they are pursuing their own national interests in a world increasingly defined by great power competition. Experts say the diplomatic surge is aimed at shoring up regional stability and improving the kingdom’s image as it seeks international investment for massive development projects.

Eleanor Noyce5 June 2023 09:45

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