Ukraine live: Russia accuses US over new missile shipments

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Ukrainian servicemen prepare to detonate unexploded Russian ammunition in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 1, 2022.

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The Biden administration is getting ready to send Ukraine a small number of high-tech, medium-range rocket systems, a critical weapon that Ukrainian leaders have been pleading for as they struggle to stall Russian progress. The rocket systems are part of a new $700 million tranche of security assistance for Ukraine from the US that will include helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems and tactical vehicles. 

Meanwhile, Russian forces have now seized half of Sievierodonetsk, a key city in eastern Ukraine, as heavy fighting between Russians and Ukrainians continues.

Follow Wednesday’s developments in Ukraine as they unfolded in our blog below:

06:52

    A Kremlin spokesperson says US plans to send more missile systems to Ukraine are “”deliberately and diligently pouring fuel into the fire.” Russia claims to have completed testing of a hypersonic cruise missile.Russian forces now control 70% of the strategic city of Sievierodonetsk, according to the regional governor.Germany is to send Ukraine anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems, amid criticism that it’s not doing enough to help Kyiv.Russian gas exports plunged 27.6 per cent in 2022, according to Gazprom.Denmark is holding a referendum today on whether to join the EU common defence policy.Russia is cutting off natural gas supply to Denmark, adding the country to a list that includes Finland, Poland, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.Russia has criticised the US over its plans to send advanced arms shipments to Ukraine, including medium-range rocket systems.Ukrainian counter-offensives in Kherson are critical terrain, says US think tank.

19:43

Zelenskyy lauds Polish help with refugees and military support

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday thanked Poland for its military support.

Speaking at a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Zelenskyy hailed what he described as “unprecedented defense support” from Warsaw.

He also voiced gratitude to Poland for hosting Ukrainians who were forced to leave the country during the war, praising its “warm and humane attitude to our people.”

“Our relations have progressed through the war of Russia against Ukraine from warm and good-neighborly relations to another stage of strong and historic ties,” Zelenskyy said.

(AP)

19:31

Poland to improve infrastructure to ease Ukraine grain export buildup

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Wednesday his country is improving its transport infrastructure to ease the export of grain and other key products from neighboring Ukraine that has been severely restricted by Russia’s invasion.

Morawiecki spoke in the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka, near Kyiv, that was heavily damaged by Russian shelling. He was there to inaugurate container houses, provided by Poland, for people left homeless by the fighting.

Morawiecki said Poland is working on expanding its transport infrastructure and the flow capacity to facilitate the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products to the world. Poland is receiving EU funds for the purpose, Morawiecki said.

He said North African and Middle Eastern countries rely heavily on Ukraine grain and could face problems feeding their populations without it.

Poland is currently a key route for Ukraine exports, but border bottlenecks – among other difficulties – are restricting the flow of goods.

Poland and Ukraine are also discussing Poland’s assistance in rebuilding Ukraine after the war, as well as stronger cooperation in defense, security and infrastructure.

The prospective deals will “on one hand help Ukraine, on the other hand will give an economic impulse to Poland,” Morawiecki said.

Later Wednesday Morawiecki was joined in Kyiv by Poland’s most powerful politician, Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, for talks on Ukraine’s recovery with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

(AP)

18:43

Italy imports more Russian oil despite impending embargo

Even as the European Union decided to reduce Russian crude oil imports by 90% by the end of the year, Italy has become the only country in Europe to increase them, an unintended consequence of EU sanctions against Russia.

Meant to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, the EU oil embargo is now putting at risk one of Italy’s largest refineries, located in Sicily, which would deal an economic blow to the depressed region’s economy.

Italy agreed with its EU partners to cut Russian crude imports by 2023, a move that Premier Mario Draghi called “a complete success,″ that ”just a couple of days ago wouldn’t have been believable.”

But Rome also has to deal with the fate of the refinery in Sicily owned by Russia’s Lukoil. As a result of previous sanctions against Russia, ISAB Srl has paradoxically gone from processing 15% of Russian crude to 100%.

That’s because banks have refused to take the risk of extending credit to Russia-controlled ISAB that would allow it to buy oil from non-Russian sources, even if not specifically barred from doing so, said Matteo Villa, an energy analyst at the ISPI think tank in Milan.

Italy in May received about 400,000 barrels of Russian oil a day in May, four times the pre-invasion levels, according to the Kpler commodity data company. Of that total, ISAB received 220,000 barrels a day from Russia.

“Italy is the only country in Europe increasing oil imports,” Villa said, going from the sixth-largest importer of Russian oil to the the largest in the three months since the invasion.

The plant employs 3,500 people at three production sites, including a refinery, gasification and electricity cogeneration plant, in Sicily’s Syracuse province, and risks closure if a solution isn’t found before the embargo kicks in. The plant and related activities generate half of the provincial gross domestic product and 8% of the region’s economic activity, processing one-fifth of Italy’s crude oil imports.

(AP)

18:36

Report: China bars Russian airlines using foreign planes

China has barred Russia’s airlines from flying foreign-owned jetliners into its airspace, the Russian news outlet RBK reported, after President Vladimir Putin threw the aircrafts’ ownership into doubt by allowing them to be re-registered in Russia to avoid seizure under sanctions over Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

The European Union, home to major aircraft leasing companies, banned the sale or lease of aircraft to Russian carriers in February. Putin responded by approving the re-registration measure in March, which prompted suggestions foreign owners may never recover planes worth billions of dollars.

China’s air regulator asked all foreign carriers last month to update ownership information and other details, RBK said, citing two unidentified sources. It said Russian airlines that couldn’t provide documents showing their aircraft were “de-registered abroad” were barred from Chinese airspace.

(AP)

17:57

Netherlands increases defence spending 

The Dutch government on Wednesday announced what it is calling the biggest boost in its military spending since the end of the Cold War as war rages in Ukraine.

Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said “threats in the world and the war in Ukraine show that peace and security cannot be taken for granted.”

Ollongren unveiled 5 billion euros ($5.3 billion) a year in increased military spending.

The extra money will fund military hardware purchases in coming years including six new F-35 fighter jets and a doubling of the military’s fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones from four to eight.

The Defense Ministry said the investment means the Netherlands will meet the NATO agreed defense spending of 2% of its gross domestic product in 2024 and 2025.

It also aims to ease shortages in military supplies and equipment. That will enable military personnel to “work with the best equipment and train a lot without constant shortages of spare parts, transport and ammunition,” the ministry said.

(AP)

17:36

17:16

Ukraine ‘assures US’ over weapons use

Ukraine has given “assurances” to the United States that it will not use new missile systems promised by Washington to target Russian territory, US diplomatic chief Antony Blinken said Wednesday.

“It is Russia that is attacking Ukraine, not the other way around. To be clear, the best way to avoid escalation is for Russia to stop the aggression and the war that it has launched,” he told reporters, responding to Moscow’s accusations that it was providing the new US weapons.

Read more about the high-tech weapons system America plans to send to Ukraine at our story here.

(Euronews / AFP)

16:49

Russian oligarch goes to court over Monaco bank account

Russian oligarch Boris Rotenberg, a resident of Monaco, has gone to court in the tiny principality to force a bank to open an account for him after his was closed earlier this year, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Mr Rotenberg, 65, who made his fortune in the construction industry and also holds a Finnish passport, was included with his brother Arkadi on the list of people close to the Russian regime subject to individual sanctions by the European Union on 8 April because of the Russian war in Ukraine. 

But the decision by the bank Société Générale to close his account happened in January, before Rotenberg was sanctioned.

In February, Rotenberg had then applied to another bank, Banque J. Safra, which also refused the request to open an account, according to documents seen by AFP.  

By virtue of his right to an account, the oligarch applied to the Monegasque Budget and Treasury Department to designate a new banking establishment.

On 6 April, the Compagnie monégasque de banque was designated but “refused in turn the request to open the account”, according to the summons.

In order to open an account for a client, a bank is “subject to due diligence obligations” and can therefore refuse to open the account if it has not been able to carry out these obligations.

The Compagnie monégasque de banque “did not carry out the due diligence obligations”, explains Rotenberg’s lawyer, calling it “an arbitrary decision which only results from its own inertia”.

The request to open an account “was only for a deposit account, so there is no risk that would justify such a refusal”, the lawyer said, asking the court to “order” the Compagnie monégasque de banque to open a deposit account for Mr Rotenberg, with a penalty payment.

The Monegasque government said they did not want to make any comment, calling it a “private matter.” 

Childhood friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom they practised judo, the two Rotenberg brothers once controlled construction giants and became rich through huge public contracts, particularly for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Boris Rotenberg owns a villa in Eze (Alpes-Maritimes) which is on the list of assets frozen as part of the EU sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine.

(AFP) 

16:00

Russian official predicts referendums in occupied Ukrainian territories by July

One of Russia’s negotiators on the Ukraine conflict told the Ria Novosti agency on Wednesday that Ukrainian occupied by Russian forces could hold referendums as early as July with a view to annexation. 

“I don’t want to predict (…), but I think that the liberated territories will hold a referendum more or less at the same time, which is logical,” said Leonid Slutski, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of the Russian parliament.

“I expect it to take place in July,” added the official, who is a member of the Russian delegation to the peace talks with Ukraine that have been stalled for weeks.

Russia calls the Ukrainian regions it occupies with its separatist allies “liberated territories”.

These are the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, whose independence Moscow has recognised and whose leaders aspire to rejoin Russia, but also the regions of Kherson and Zaporijjia in southern Ukraine, which the Russian army has largely conquered since late February.

Administrations have been imposed there to introduce the Russian rouble as a currency, grant Russian citizenship to the inhabitants or install Russian communication networks.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that the inhabitants of the four territories “should be able to choose their future”. 

“We have no doubt that they will make the best decision,” he said.

(AFP)

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