Ukraine - Day 401 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Blinken urged the Americans to leave Russia immediately
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Day 401 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
Russia responded to Lukashenko: A ceasefire in Ukraine now will not achieve its goals
Russia said on Friday that a ceasefire in Ukraine would not allow it to achieve the goals of its "special military operation" at the moment, Reuters reported. The Kremlin reacted after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko - Russia's closest ally - called for an immediate ceasefire, without preconditions, and for both Moscow and Kyiv to start talks on a lasting peace deal. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia had taken note of Lukashenko's comments and that President Vladimir Putin would discuss them with him next week. But he pointed out that Russia's goals in Ukraine cannot be achieved now by stopping the fighting. "As far as Ukraine is concerned, nothing changes, the special military operation continues, because today this is our only means to achieve our goals," Peskov stressed. He added that parts of the plan proposed by China for peace in Ukraine are "unfeasible at the moment due to the unwillingness - or rather the inability - of the Ukrainian side to disobey its leaders and commanders." That was a reference to Moscow's claims - unsupported by evidence - that Ukraine's Western backers had ordered Kyiv not to seek a ceasefire. "These commanders, as we know, are not sitting in Kyiv and demanding that the war continue," Peskov said. Russia has said it is open to peace but has made it clear that it will only be on its terms. It insists that Kyiv must accept the "new realities" of a place where Russia has seized and claims to have annexed more than a sixth of Ukrainian territory. Ukraine has said that Russia must withdraw its troops as a precondition for any peace deal and argued that any temporary ceasefire would only allow Russia to regroup for future hostilities.
Zelensky: The Russian occupiers killed over 1,400 people in Bucha
The Russian occupiers have killed over 1,400 citizens of Ukraine in the town of Bucha, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported on Telegram, quoted by UNIAN. "Bucha. 33 days of occupation. Over 1,400 killed, 37 of them children. Over 175 people found in mass graves and torture cells. 9,000 Russian war crimes. 365 days since it is a free Ukrainian city again. Symbol of atrocities of the army of the occupying country. We will never forgive. We will punish all the guilty," the state leader said. The occupiers committed inhuman atrocities in Bucha - they raped women and killed their husbands, UNIAN reminds. Shootings of civilians, torture, rape, looting are recorded as facts. In addition, the occupiers tied up children and raped the girls. Subsequently, they began to call the atrocities of Russian soldiers in the city "the Bucha massacre". The Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated Bucha on March 1, 2022, 33 days after the city was captured by Russia. International investigators are now collecting evidence in those cities and elsewhere where Kyiv says Russian troops have committed large-scale atrocities, Reuters reported. Moscow denies the allegations. After Ukraine regained control of Bucha, shocking footage of corpses on the streets of the city was broadcast around the world, the agency recalled. Anniversary commemorations are expected later in Bucha, a suburb of the capital now regularly visited by foreign leaders. However, fighting continues in full force in eastern and southern Ukraine, where Russian forces hold vast swaths of territory captured since their invasion in February last year.
Viktor Orban: The question of sending peacekeeping troops to Ukraine is becoming more and more legitimate in the EU
"The question of whether peacekeeping troops can be sent to Ukraine is becoming 'increasingly legitimate.' European countries have come close to this seemingly 'impassable border,'" Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a wide-ranging live interview on Kossuth Radio on Friday morning. "We are close to this seemingly impassable border," Orban said, but did not specify which troops were involved and which EU member states were ready to discuss the issue. On the occasion of the words of the Hungarian Prime Minister, UNIAN recalls that Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced in March 2022 that support for the introduction of peacekeeping forces in Ukraine has grown in the European Union. However, President Volodymyr Zelensky did not support such an idea, and the topic is used by the Kremlin for hybrid attacks against the West, claiming that the division of Ukraine is being prepared under the banner of supposedly peacekeeping troops. Orban, who is considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin but whose country was also put on Russia's hostile list this week, commented that Ukraine was getting increasingly heavily armed. "After our last meeting (on the radio), there was an EU summit attended by European heads of government and state. There is no dispute that the war is becoming increasingly bloody and cruel, the number of victims on both sides is over a hundred thousand. However, the number of countries that sided with peace instead of war did not increase," the head of the Hungarian government lamented. According to him, the people of the EU countries are striving for a ceasefire and the beginning of peace negotiations, but this has not reached their leaders. Most of them were still in favor of the war and sending more and more weapons to Ukraine. "First we need a ceasefire. It has to start from there, everything can happen from there," declared Orban, who believes that this is in the interest of both warring parties. According to him, Hungary's position "belongs to the world majority, the global majority, even though it is a minority in Europe." The Hungarian Prime Minister believes that the majority of European countries are wandering on the issue of war and declared that the Hungarian left is in favor of the war, having missed the chance to stand on the side of peace. "The pro-war parties have threatened the European Union, from which we expect two things. The first is to have lasting peace. So that the risk of war is constantly low. The union itself has become a pro-military institution. The other is to maintain the level of prosperity achieved. Unfortunately, war and sanctions are destroying the European economy," Orban repeated his earlier theses. On the issue of Russia and sanctions, the politician believes that the Russians are not telling the truth. The reliability of economic data from Russia has always been questionable and in times of war they cannot be expected to tell the truth, and according to Orban, they do not. According to the prime minister, warring parties cannot be expected to tell the truth while fighting for their lives. "When I look at Iran, I scratch my head because I've been hearing for years that the Iranian economy is going to collapse," Orban added.
USA: Russia offers food to North Korea in exchange for weapons
Russia is sending a delegation to North Korea to offer food in exchange for weapons, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said, the BBC reported. The US has repeatedly accused North Korea of supplying weapons to Russian forces in Ukraine, and more precisely to the private military group of "Putin's chef" Yevgeny Prigozhin - PMC "Wagner". Pyongyang rejects these claims. The US government has new information about a deal between the two countries, Kirby said. "Russia aims to send a delegation to North Korea and is offering food in exchange for ammunition," he said. Kirby pointed out that any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would violate UN Security Council resolutions. The security spokesman said the US was closely monitoring the situation and the alleged deal. North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world and has experienced chronic food shortages for decades, including a devastating famine in the mid-to-late 1990s. In February, experts warned that North Korea was facing a critical food crisis due to a significant drop in production caused by poor climate, tight border controls and the effect of international sanctions. According to satellite images of the South Korean authorities, in 2022, North Korea produced 180,000 tons less food than in 2021, writes the BBC. Western sanctions have significantly affected Russia's ability to replace weapons used or destroyed in the war against Ukraine. Sanctions have forced Russia to turn to new countries for arms supplies. Late last year, the US said Iran had become Russia's biggest military backer.
Six Russian missiles hit Kharkiv last night
At least six Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv last night. Local officials are still determining the extent of the damage and whether there are any victims, said regional governor Oleg Sinegubov, quoted by Reuters and BTA. "The enemy is attacking Kharkiv again. At least six rockets have hit the city," Sinegubov wrote on Telegram. According to preliminary information, Russia used S-300 missiles, added the governor. The missiles were fired from the Belgorod region in southern Russia, Sinegubov said. Belgorod is a Russian border town located north of Kharkiv. Military analysts say Russia has adapted its S-300 air defense missiles to hit ground targets in Ukraine. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Army announced that its troops repelled several Russian attacks carried out at the same time at different points on the eastern front, DPA reported. The areas near the cities of Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinsk were subjected to Russian attacks, according to information from the headquarters. "A total of 47 enemy attacks were repulsed," the text said. Once again, the center of events was the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, for which heavy fighting has been going on for months. "Nevertheless, our defenders bravely held the city and repelled numerous enemy attacks," the General Staff said in a statement on Facebook.
Putin signed a decree to recruit 147,000 soldiers into the army
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to recruit 147,000 soldiers into the armed forces, CNN reported. The recruitment process will take place between July 1 and 15. "I have decided to authorize the recruitment of Russian citizens between the ages of 18 and 27 who are not in the reserve and meet the requirements of the law ‘On Military Duty and Military Service’ from April 1 to July 15, 2023, a total of 147 000 people," said the document, cited by the Russian state agency. By the same decree, the president decided to release from military service the soldiers, sailors, sergeants and senior officers whose term of conscription has expired. The document enters into force on the day of its publication. As the head of the State Duma Defense Committee, Andrey Kartapolov, specified earlier today, conscripts will not be sent to serve in the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Also, the project to gradually change the age of conscripts will not affect the spring conscription.
Blinken called on the Americans to leave Russia immediately
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged US citizens in Russia to "immediately leave" the country, amid the arrest of Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich. “We are deeply troubled by the widely publicized detention of an American journalist by Russia. We are in contact with the WSJ regarding this situation," the document noted. At the same time, it claims that the Russian authorities are making "attempts to intimidate, suppress and punish journalists" and civil society activists. According to Blinken, the US condemns such attempts. "The State Department's highest priority is the safety of American citizens abroad. We reiterate our strong warnings about the dangers facing American citizens in Russia. American citizens living in or traveling to Russia should leave the country immediately, as travel advisories are in place," said Blinken, whose statement was released by the US State Department. The secretary of state said his department was in contact with WSJ officials about the situation surrounding the arrest of the American reporter. "Any time an American citizen abroad is detained, we immediately request consular access and seek to provide all necessary support," Blinken stressed. Yesterday, Russia's FSB announced that WSJ Moscow correspondent Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg on suspicion of espionage for the US government. According to the secret services, the American was collecting information, representing a state secret, "about the activities of an enterprise of the Russian military-industrial complex." The WSJ denied the allegations against Gershkovich and demanded his immediate release. In turn, the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, stated that Gershkovich's activities in Yekaterinburg "have nothing to do with journalism."
Ukraine announced a boycott of the qualifiers for Paris 2024 due to the participation of Russians
The government of Ukraine has announced that athletes from the country will not participate in qualifications for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 if Russians also compete in them. The decision was announced by Cabinet Secretary Oleg Nemchinov, who is also a member of the local Olympic Committee. He stressed that Ukrainian sports federations that do not agree with this will be punished. On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee recommended the return of athletes from Russia and Belarus, but stressed that no decision had yet been made on the Paris Olympics. The recommendation says that athletes who support the war, as well as those associated with the military and the security services, will not be allowed, and this will affect a large number of athletes on the Russian team who are part of CSKA (Moscow) and "Dynamo". Ukraine threatened a boycott even after the initial announced intention of the IOC to seek a way for Russians to participate. "At a meeting of the government, a decision was made at the suggestion of colleague Vadim Gutzeit (Minister of Youth and Sports in Ukraine and President of the Olympic Committee) to participate only in those qualifications in which there are no Russians. Accordingly, participation beyond this criterion may be a reason for withdrawing the national status of federations," said Nemchinov. He said he was aware that for some Ukrainian athletes, this would mean they would miss the games. According to Nemchinov, this is a price they have to pay. "I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Yesterday I was at another funeral of a good friend who gave 20 years of his life to athletics, but now he was killed in Kharkiv. He has three children. He went to war and did not serve in the kitchen, so to speak. It was on the front line. So I want to say to our athletes who are worried that their careers will be destroyed or something. But your life and your children will remain," added Nemchinov. At the end of Thursday's executive bureau meeting, IOC president Thomas Bach again criticized government interference in sport. He accused countries of double standards because of their threats to boycott now. "It is unfortunate to see that some governments are unwilling to respect the autonomy of sport, the majority within the Olympic movement, as well as all stakeholders. These governments do not pay attention to the issue of double standards. We have not seen a single comment about their attitude to the participation of athletes from countries from the remaining 70 wars and armed conflicts around the world," said Bach.