Russia deliberately turns Donbass to ashes, governor says
Russian missile strikes on the city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine have killed at least five people, Ukrainian authorities said on Wednesday.
As a result of a series of artillery attacks across the country over the past day in the eastern and southern regions, at least 10 people were killed and almost 20 were injured.
Russian missiles also struck the city of Zaporozhye on Wednesday, an attack that may signal Moscow’s determination to hold onto territory in southern Ukraine as it seeks to completely conquer the east.
Part of the civilian casualties occurred in the Donetsk region. The city of Bakhmut is facing particularly heavy shelling as it is now the center of Russia’s offensive, Donetsk administration chief Pavel Kirilenko said.
In the neighboring Luhansk region, which Russian and separatist forces have all but taken over, Ukrainian soldiers have fought to maintain control of two remote villages amid Russian shelling, Governor Serhiy Gaidai said.
Lugansk and Donetsk together make up Ukraine’s Donbass, a largely Russian-speaking region of steel mills, mines and other industries vital to Ukraine’s economy.
The Russians “deliberately turn the Donbass into ashes, and there will simply be no people left in the occupied territories,” Gaidai said.
Russian artillery also hit northeastern Ukraine, where regional governor Oleg Sinegubov accused Russian troops of trying to “terrorize civilians” in Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city.
2. Ukraine seeks breakthrough in grain export negotiations
Ukraine said on Wednesday that an agreement to resume Russian-blocked grain exports appeared close as Turkey held four-way talks.
This gave rise to hopes for an end to the confrontation, as a result of which millions of people were on the verge of starvation.
Kyiv believed a deal was just “a stone’s throw away,” Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said ahead of the talks.
However, other participants looked less optimistic. Since then, the UN has reported “positive” results, although Secretary General António Guterres had previously warned that there was “a long way to go” to reach an agreement.
Russian anti-war dissident to be jailed
A Moscow court has sentenced opposition politician Ilya Yashin to two months in prison pending an investigation into spreading “fake information” about the Russian army, which carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
“Russia will be free!” Yashin shouted in court after the judge agreed to the state prosecution’s demand to keep him in prison until September 12.
New Russian law bans public statements that “discredit” its military or cite information from unofficial sources. The measure was criticized by the West as a further crackdown on free speech.
Yashin, an ally of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and a member of Moscow’s Krasnoselsky District Council, has vowed to remain in Russia despite the looming threat of arrest.
He has been openly critical of President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Yashin’s lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, said the charges stemmed from a video Yashin posted on his YouTube channel in which he talked about Russia’s actions in Bucha near Kyiv. Russia denies committing atrocities.
Since the beginning of the conflict, Russia has taken steps to suppress almost all forms of dissent, with most of its opposition members either in prison or in exile.
4. Blinken accuses Russia of “war crimes” in connection with forced deportations
A senior US diplomat has accused Russia of committing a “war crime,” the forcible deportation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian men, women and children to Russia in an attempt to change the demographic makeup of Ukraine.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken strongly condemned the “illegal transfer and deportation of protected persons” from areas of Ukraine now controlled by Russia.
“The Russian authorities must provide detainees and all citizens of Ukraine forcibly evicted or forced to leave their country the opportunity to quickly and safely return home,” Blinken said in a statement.
Blinken said between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, including 260,000 children, were interrogated, detained and deported to Russia, including in the country’s Far East.
“Moscow’s actions seem deliberate and immediately evoke historical comparisons to Russian ‘filtration’ operations in Chechnya and elsewhere,” he said. “Efforts to change the demographic makeup of parts of Ukraine.”
Blicken cited mounting evidence that Russian authorities are detaining, torturing or “disappearing” thousands of Ukrainian civilians whom Russia considers dangerous because of their potential ties to the Ukrainian army, media, government, or civil society groups. According to reports, some Ukrainians were summarily executed.
“President Putin and his government will not be able to engage in these systematic abuses with impunity. Responsibility is imperative,” Blinken said. The US and our partners will not be silent. Ukraine and its citizens deserve justice.”
5. Pro-Russian separatist territories “recognized by North Korea”
Two pro-Russian separatist territories Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine said on Wednesday that North Korea has recognized them as states. There was no immediate announcement from Pyongyang.
This recognition will be the third after the recognition of Syria at the end of June and Russia in the days before Moscow launched an offensive into Ukraine in February.
The diplomatic missions of the Donetsk and Lugansk separatists in Moscow have posted photos on Telegram showing their respective representatives receiving what is presented as a letter of thanks from North Korean Ambassador Sin Hong-chul.
Shortly before this, the leader of the separatist territory of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, announced the recognition by the North Korean authorities.
“The international status of the Donetsk People’s Republic continues to strengthen,” he said. “This is a new victory for our diplomacy,” he also told AFP.
Russia justifies its military offensive in Ukraine by the need to protect these separatist entities in the east of the country.
Moscow is widely seen, despite its denials, as the instigator of these separatist movements in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
Gazprom questions the imminent return of the gas pipeline to full capacity
On Wednesday, Russian energy company Gazprom questioned the prospects for a quick restoration of natural gas supplies to full capacity via a major pipeline to Western Europe.
Last month, Gazprom cut gas supplies via Nord Stream 1 to Germany by 60%. The state gas company cited technical problems with equipment that partner Siemens Energy sent to Canada for an overhaul and was unable to return due to sanctions imposed in connection with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Canadian government said over the weekend that it would allow the delivery of a gas turbine to Germany that powers the compressor station, citing “very serious difficulties” the German economy would suffer without enough gas to keep industry running and generating electricity. .
On Wednesday, Gazprom tweeted that it “does not have any documents that would allow Siemens to take the gas turbine engine … out of Canada.” He added that “in these circumstances it is not possible to draw an objective conclusion about further developments regarding the safe operation” of the compressor station at the Russian end of the pipeline, which he said is of “critical importance”.
Siemens Energy did not comment on Gazprom’s statement.
7. Germany Launches Fifth LNG Terminal to Diversify Gas Supplies
Germany’s fifth floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal project was launched on Wednesday with French group TotalEnergies as Berlin tries to avoid an energy crisis this winter amid threats to cut off gas supplies from Russia.
TotalEnergies and Germany’s Deutsche Ostsee have “signed an agreement to install and operate a floating terminal at Lubmin” on the Baltic Sea, where the Nord Stream pipeline also passes, according to the two companies.
“From December 1, 2022, the terminal will pump 4.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas into the German network,” they added.
This is the fifth floating LNG terminal project launched by Germany since the start of the war in Ukraine at the end of February.
Since the Russian invasion, Berlin has been trying to diversify its previously Russian-dominated gas supplies.
Berlin now fears Moscow will cut off supplies entirely as repairs have been carried out on the Nord Stream gas pipeline since Monday.
In early June, the country was 35% dependent on Russian gas imports, compared with 55% before the war in Ukraine.
LNG terminals allow natural gas to be imported by sea through a liquefaction process that makes it more transportable.
At present, Germany has no such facilities, either offshore or onshore, and receives all its gas supplies through pipelines, mainly from Russia.
These new terminals should allow Berlin to diversify its suppliers with more orders from the US, Qatar and Canada.
8. The EU allows the transit of some sanctioned Russian goods to Kaliningrad
The European Commission on Wednesday released new guidance on the transit of goods from Russia to its Kaliningrad exclave, seen as an attempt to defuse tensions.
9. Two-thirds of Ukrainian refugees plan to remain in place for the time being, according to the UN.
About two-thirds of refugees from Ukraine expect to stay in their host countries until the fighting subsides and the security situation improves after the Russian invasion, a study by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has found.
10. The European Space Agency ends cooperation with Russia over the mission of the rover
The European Space Agency (ESA) has officially ended cooperation with Russia on the ExoMars mission to search for life on the Red Planet.