Sun. Jan 29th, 2023

U.S. Transportation Command says it will prioritize Ukraine aid

Steelworkers ride on a railroad switching engine at the Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. Cleveland Works steel mill in Cleveland, Ohio, US, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.S. Transportation Command said it will prioritize aid to Ukraine to minimize the repercussions from a possible strike by rail workers, Politico reported.

Labor unions and railroad executives have until Friday to hammer out deals and avoid a shutdown that would snarl supply chains.

Rail is also important for the movement of military equipment. Army officials have estimated that two-thirds of equipment travels to shipping ports by rail when a unit is called into field.

Washington has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of weapons and assistance in its fight against Russia’s invasion.

— Natalie Tham

Celebrity chef Jose Andres’ humanitarian organization shares photos from the frontlines of Ukraine

The World Central Kitchen shared photos on Twitter from the frontlines of Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Founded by celebrity chef and humanitarian Jose Andres, the organization sends teams to places around the world impacted by conflict or natural disasters.

“Located on the frontlines in the Donetsk Oblast, WCK delivered food kits to families and seniors in Bakhmut. With the constant threat of missiles, residents are living in basement bomb shelters,” the organization wrote on Twitter.

The two-star Michelin chef has previously said that his organization has delivered more than 2 million food kits to Ukrainians since Russia’s late February invasion.

— Amanda Macias

USAID says more than 206,000 metric tons of Ukrainian grain headed to most food insecure countries

Samantha Power, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), speaks during an event on “The State of Global Food Security and Nutrition,” hosted by The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Eleanor Crook Foundation in Washington, DC, on July 18, 2022.

Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

USAID Administrator Samantha Power said that the U.N.-backed deal to reopen Ukrainian ports, more than 206,000 metric tons of agricultural products are headed to the world’s most food insecure countries.

Power wrote that Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are some of the beneficiaries of the deal.

“USAID is supporting both agricultural production & exports like these, helping Ukraine feed the world,” she wrote on Twitter.

— Amanda Macias

Biden chooses veteran diplomat for new U.S. envoy to Russia

Lynne Tracy

U.S. State Department

The Biden administration has picked a veteran foreign service officer with years of experience in Russian affairs as its nominee to be the next ambassador to Russia.

Administration officials familiar with the matter say the nomination of Lynne Tracy, the current U.S. ambassador to Armenia, will be submitted to the Senate as soon as the Russian government signs off on the choice. Ambassadorial nominations must be approved by the host government under the rules of diplomatic protocol.

Such approval is generally routine, but Russia’s acceptance of President Joe Biden’s pick for ambassador cannot be taken for granted at a time of particularly fraught U.S.-Russian relations over Ukraine, the detention of Americans in Russia, allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. and other elections, and an escalating spat over the staffing of embassies in Washington and Moscow.

The ambassador opening comes as many Russia experts in the United States who might have been candidates for the Moscow post have been banned from Russia. Russia was informed of the administration’s decision to choose Tracy’s several weeks ago but has not yet given its formal approval, known as “agrément” in diplomatic parlance, the officials said.

— Associated Press

Ukraine has exported 2.8 million metric tons of grains and other crops since ports reopened

The grain harvester collects wheat on the field near the village of Zgurivka in the Kyiv region, while Russia continues the war against Ukraine. August 9, 2022.

Maxym Marusenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said that more than 2.8 million metric tons of crops have left the besieged country since ports reopened in July.

The Joint Coordination Center, an initiative of Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey, said that 129 vessels have so far left three Ukrainian ports.

— Amanda Macias

Seven vessels depart Ukraine carrying 172,962 metric tons of agricultural products

An aerial view of “Glory” named empty grain ship as Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkiye and the United Nations (UN) of the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) conduct inspection on vessel in Istanbul, Turkiye on August 09, 2022. 

Ali Atmaca | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said it has approved seven vessels to leave the besieged country.

The Joint Coordination Center, an initiative of Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey, said that the vessels are carrying a total of 172,962 metric tons of grain and other food products.

The ships are expected to depart Wednesday and are destined for Spain, Italy, Bangladesh and Turkey.

— Amanda Macias

Pentagon awards Lockheed Martin and Raytheon a $311 million joint production contract for Javelin missiles

A serviceman of Ukrainian military forces holds a FGM-148 Javelin, an American-made portable anti-tank missile, at a checkpoint, where they hold a position near Kharkiv, on March 23, 2022.

Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. Army has awarded Lockheed Martin and Raytheon a production contract worth $311 million to replenish Javelin missile stockpiles.

The Javelin has sat on top of Ukraine’s weapons wish list since Russia invaded the country in late February.

The U.S. has so far transferred more than 8,500 Javelins to Ukraine.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden visited the heavily guarded Lockheed Martin compound in Troy, Alabama where the Javelin missile is produced.

The windowless facility is where more than 50,000 classified missiles were assembled and tested over the last 20 years before joining the U.S. military’s colossal arsenal.

— Amanda Macias

‘It’s not surprising to us,’ Pentagon says of Ukraine counteroffensive

Ukrainian soldiers stand guard as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends flag hoisting ceremony in Izium after the Ukrainian forces took control of the city from the Russian forces in Kharkiv, Ukraine on September 14, 2022.

Metin Atkas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Pentagon hailed a series of lightning advances Ukraine made against Russian forces in the southern and eastern parts of the war-weary country.

“Certainly, since the beginning of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, we’ve seen the Ukrainians demonstrate a remarkable adaptability and their ability to use their warfighting capabilities to great effect,” Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon.

“So, it’s not surprising to us that they have pushed as quickly as they have,” he added.

Ryder declined to confirm Ukrainian government reports that cited specific gains the country had made, adding that he would not speak on behalf of a foreign military.

He added that the U.S. would continue to provide security assistance to Kyiv and hailed Ukrainian forces’ “remarkable adaptability on the battlefield.”

— Amanda Macias

How many must die? Pope blasts Russia war, appeals for peace

Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque greets Pope Francis during the plenary session of the VII Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, September 14, 2022.

Vatican Media | via Reuters

Pope Francis told the Russian Orthodox hierarchy and other faith leaders that religion must never be used to justify the “evil” of war, and asked at an outdoor Mass in Kazakhstan, “How many deaths will it take?” for peace to prevail in Ukraine.

An increasingly frail Francis made the appeal during his first full day in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, where he opened a global interfaith conference and ministered to the tiny Catholic community in the majority Muslim country.

In the conference audience of imams, patriarchs, rabbis and muftis was Metropolitan Anthony, in charge of foreign relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, which has firmly backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. His boss, Patriarch Kirill, was supposed to have participated in the congress but canceled last month.

Kirill has supported Russia’s invasion on spiritual and ideological grounds, calling it a “metaphysical” battle with the West. He has blessed Russian soldiers going into war and invoked the idea that Russians and Ukrainians are one people.

— Associated Press

Estonia, one of NATO’s smallest countries, prepares additional aid package for Ukraine

Estonia’s Defence minister Hanno Pevkur speaks to the media before the Informal Meeting of European Union Defence Ministers.

Tomas Tkacik | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that his government is preparing another aid package for the war-torn country.

“The Ukrainian armed forces and people have shown immense courage. It is a proud feeling to see reports of success along Ukraine’s eastern front – it is a sure sign that our collective aid has had a positive impact and that it must continue,” Pevkur said, according to an Estonian readout of the meeting.

Estonia, one of NATO’s smallest member countries and a nation that borders Russia, has donated two field hospitals to Ukraine since Russia’s war broke out in late February.

Pevkur also met with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

“I was interested in hearing from the Minister of Defence about the specifics of aid that is needed now – that will be the basis for putting together our next aid package to Ukraine. In addition, we are currently contributing towards training efforts,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

30-40% chance of a collapse in the Russian army, says retired Air Marshal

A former senior member of the British armed forces has told Sky News said there is a 30-40% chance that Russia’s armed forces could collapse and the war could be over by Christmas.

Retired RAF Air Marshal Edward Stringer, the ex-director-general of the Defence Academy and director-general of Joint Force Development, Strategic Command, told Sky’s Kay Burley he previously thought the war would go into next year, but things have changed on the ground.

Two soldiers look at the southern frontline from their position, which is 5 km from it. Soledar is a town in the Donetsk region, where it is being hammered by Russian artillery as it sits along the crucial road that leads out of besieged Severodonetsk.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

He said: “I do not see that the Russians will be able to rebuild their armed forces to be able to re-seize the initiative and retake the offensive again.

“And so now we are into seeing how this develops on the ground and one hopes that Zelenskyy will be in a position where he can start to negotiate favourable terms and perhaps even defeat the entire Russian invasion of his country

“Eventually all conflicts end in negotiation. One has to calibrate to what extent you have to keep channels open and to what extent you allow him (Putin) to think that he’s still part of the family of nations.

“I always thought it would go into next year. I think it is possible now, and one hates to be the person that says it will all be over by Christmas, but it is possible now that there could be a collapse in the Russian armed forces… it’s a good 30-40%, and that calls into question the future of Putin, Putinism, and the West should think very strongly now about what the world looks like post-Putin.”

Read the original post here from Sky News.

— Sky News

As war began, Putin reportedly rejected a Ukraine peace deal recommended by aide

Vladimir Putin’s chief envoy on Ukraine told the Russian leader as the war began that he had struck a provisional deal with Kyiv that would satisfy Russia’s demand that Ukraine stay out of NATO, but Putin rejected it and pressed ahead with his military campaign, according to three people close to the Russian leadership who spoke to Reuters.

The Ukrainian-born envoy, Dmitry Kozak, told Putin that he believed the deal he had hammered out removed the need for Russia to pursue a large-scale occupation of Ukraine, according to these sources. Kozak’s recommendation to Putin to adopt the deal is being reported by Reuters for the first time.

Putin’s threat to halt all supplies raises the risk of energy rationing in Europe this winter.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Putin had repeatedly asserted prior to the war that NATO and its military infrastructure were creeping closer to Russia’s borders by accepting new members from eastern Europe, and that the alliance was now preparing to bring Ukraine into its orbit too. Putin publicly said that represented an existential threat to Russia, forcing him to react.

But, despite earlier backing the negotiations, Putin made it clear when presented with Kozak’s deal that the concessions negotiated by his aide did not go far enough and that he had expanded his objectives to include annexing swathes of Ukrainian territory, the sources said. The upshot: the deal was dropped.

Read the whole story by Reuters here

— Reuters

Almost 5,000 Ukrainian soldiers undergo military training in the U.K.

Oleg (31) smiles as he holds the MBT-NLAW (Next generation Light Anti-tank Weapon) provided by the United Kingdom.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Almost 5,000 Ukrainian military servicemen have undergone military training in the U.K. with the participation of instructors from Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Ukraine and Britain.

The military personnel “have gained basic knowledge, skills, and abilities in tactical medicine, engineering, live-fire, psychological, and tactical training, including in running offensive and defensive missions in an urban setting,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in an update Wednesday.

The program, initiated by the U.K. government, is called ‘Operation Interflex’ which Ukraine’s armed forces said was “one of the shining examples of international support of our state and convincing evidence that Ukraine is not alone in the fight against Russian aggression.”

In the near future, the Interflex operation is set to expand to include the training of junior commanders of military units and units of the armed forces.

— Holly Ellyatt

We’re moving ‘towards victory’: Zelenskyy vows to keep up the momentum in counteroffensive

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talks to a journalist after his joint press conference with Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki and Latvian President Egils Levits on September 9, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Alexey Furman | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy proclaimed Wednesday that “we are moving in only one direction — forward and towards victory” as questions are asked over whether the momentum in Ukraine’s recent successful counteroffensives can be continued.

Reflecting on Ukraine’s recent successes, which have seen it recapture over 3,000 square miles of Russian-occupied land, Zelenskyy said on Telegram:

“Earlier, when we looked up, we always looked for the blue sky. Today, when we look up, we are looking for only one thing – the flag of Ukraine,” he said.

“Our blue-yellow flag is already flying in the de-occupied [town of] Izyum. And it will be so in every Ukrainian city and village. We are moving in only one direction — forward and towards victory.”

A Russian soldier, taken prisoner, on a tank with Ukrainian soldiers after the city was recaptured from Russian forces on September 11,2022 in Izyum, Ukraine. A Ukrainian counteroffensive has made significant advances in the east of Ukraine taking back land that have been under Russian control.

Laurent Van Der Stockt | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Yuriy Sak, an advisor to Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, told CNBC Wednesday that the counteroffensives had gone better than even Ukraine expected.

“We hope this is a starting point,” he said. “We’re normally cautious about making any predictions, and it’s always safer to say certain things after they occur, but anyway, what has happened is in many respects unexpected even for us,” Sak added.

“Indeed, it was very successful campaign, the Ukrainian army was able to regain control over 8,000 square kilometers. That’s a huge part of the territory that was temporarily occupied by the Russians and as a result, what we’re seeing is that the Russian army is demoralized, its military capabilities are degraded.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia propagandists accidentally published, then removed, an article declaring victory

Russian state media accidentally published and then quickly deleted an article claiming victory in Ukraine and declaring the beginning of a “new era,” just two days after the Kremlin invaded in late February, The Atlantic said in a report on Monday.

The incident has taken on renewed significance in light of Ukraine’s lightning offensive against Russian troops in Kharkiv, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said has successfully “liberated more than 6,000 square kilometers” of territory it had lost to the Kremlin.

A long convoy of invading Russian military vehicles is shown on the road toward Kyiv early in the war in late February, shortly before vehicle breakdowns, a lack of basic supplies, and attacks by Ukrainian defenders forced it to turn around and flee back to Russia. Over the last week, Ukrainian troops have dealt Russia a defeat in Kharkiv that’s as dramatic as the one outside Kyiv.

Maxar | Getty Images

Kremlin mouthpiece RIA Novosti deleted the story, which prematurely claimed victory over neighboring Ukraine even before Ukrainian defenders repelled Russian forces north of Kyiv. However, a copy of the article remains in internet archives known as the Wayback Machine.

“Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has ushered in a new era,” said the wrongly published article written by Petr Akopov, which was titled “The offensive of Russia and the new world.”

“Russia is restoring its unity — the tragedy of 1991, this terrible catastrophe in our history, its unnatural dislocation, has been overcome,” said the deleted article.

The 1991 “tragedy” article referred to is the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

—Joanna Tan

Russia ‘almost certainly’ sourcing weapons from states like Iran and North Korea, UK says

Russia is “almost certainly” increasingly sourcing weapons from other heavily sanctioned states like Iran and North Korea as its own stocks dwindle, according to the latest intelligence update from Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

It said on Twitter Wednesday it’s highly likely that “Russia has … deployed Iranian uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) in Ukraine for the first time.”

On Tuesday, Ukrainian officials reported that their forces had shot down a Shahed-136 UAV near Kupiansk, in the area of Ukraine’s successful ongoing offensive in Kharkiv.

“The Shahed-136 is a one-way attack UAV with a claimed range of 2,500 kilometres. Similar Iranian-manufactured systems have likely been used in attacks in the Middle East, including against the oil tanker MT MERCER STREET in July 2021,” the ministry noted.

“The loss of a Shahed-136 near the front lines suggests there is a realistic possibility that Russia is attempting to use the system to conduct tactical strikes rather than against more strategic targets farther into Ukrainian territory.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi greets Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 19, 2022. Putin likely wanted to show that Moscow is still important in the Middle East by visiting Iran, said John Drennan of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Sergei Savostyanov | AFP | Getty Images

Yesterday, the Pentagon said it was not able to determine the impact of Russia’s use of Iranian drones on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the U.S. was closely monitoring the situation but declined to confirm press reports that Russia had begun using the drones in Ukraine.

Last month, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that Russia had received the drones but said it was “too soon to tell” how the new weapons would shape the combat.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine seeks to root out occupiers, collaborators and saboteurs in recaptured territory

Russian military vehicles in Balakliya on Sept. 10, 2022. Zelenskyy said that, in Balakliya, a town in the northeastern Kharkiv region recaptured by Ukrainian forces last week, the payment of pensions has already resumed.

Juan Barreto | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday evening that “stabilization measures” have been put in place in the liberated towns and villages in northeast Ukraine, which has experienced a significant counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces in the last week.

“Remnants of occupiers and sabotage groups are being detected, collaborators are being detained, and full security is being restored,” he said, adding in his nightly address to the nation that border guards had been sent to protect “the state border in the liberated territory.”

“It is very important that together with our troops, with our flag, ordinary, normal life enters the de-occupied territory,” he said.

Zelenskyy said that, in Balakliya, a town in the northeastern Kharkiv region recaptured by Ukrainian forces last week, the payment of pensions has already resumed.

“All Ukrainian pensioners in the liberated territory will receive payments. Ukraine always fulfills its social obligations to people,” he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

‘Hard to tell’ if Ukraine war is at a turning point, Biden says

With Ukraine making significant progress in repulsing Russian forces from occupied parts of the country in the last week, thoughts have turned to whether this is a definitive moment in the conflict.

But when asked Tuesday about whether Ukraine has reached a turning point in the war, U.S. President Joe Biden said, “The question is unanswerable. It’s hard to tell. It’s clear the Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think it’s going to be a long haul.” 

When asked Tuesday about whether Ukraine has reached a turning point in the war, U.S. President Joe Biden said, “The question is unanswerable. It’s hard to tell. It’s clear the Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think it’s going to be a long haul.”

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Ukrainian officials have asked for more weapons assistance from the West in order to help them maintain their momentum in the war. Russian forces in the northeast of Ukraine have been scattered amid Ukrainian advances, which have seen them reclaim over 300 villages in the Kharkiv region.

— Holly Ellyatt

German Chancellor Scholz tells Putin to end the war in Ukraine during phone call

Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor speaks at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin for 90 minutes about the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“Given the seriousness of the military situation and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, the Chancellor urged the Russian President to find a diplomatic solution as soon as possible, based on a ceasefire, a complete withdrawal of Russian troops, and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” wrote German federal government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

Scholz warned that any further Russian annexations “would not go unanswered and would not be recognized under any circumstances.”

The two leaders agreed to remain in contact. Scholz spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last week.

— Amanda Macias

More than 300 villages in Kharkiv region liberated from Russian occupation, Ukraine says

Ukrainian flags placed on statues in a square in Balakliya, Kharkiv region, on Sept. 10 , 2022.

Juan Barreto | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Hanna Malyar said that the counter-offensive carried out by Ukrainian troops in Kharkiv over several days resulted in the liberation of more than 300 villages from Russian occupation.

“The operation will continue until the area is wholly liberated,” Malyar said during a national telethon update, according to an NBC News translation.

She said that approximately 150,000 people living in a region spanning about 3,800 square kilometers are back under Ukrainian leadership.

— Amanda Macias

White House hints at new security package amid recent gains in Ukraine

John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, speaks during a press briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 21, 2022.

Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

The White House said another U.S. security assistance package for Ukraine installment would be announced in the coming days, but declined to elaborate on the details.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the next package would be tailored “in lockstep” with Kyiv’s requests and hailed recent Ukrainian advances to seize back territory from Russian forces.

“At least in the Donbas, there is a sense of momentum,” Kirby told reporters at the White House.

“Certainly in the north, we have seen Russians retreat from the Kharkiv oblast. They’ve left fighting positions, they’ve left supplies and they’re calling it a repositioning,” Kirby said, adding that Russian forces are still facing a slew of logistical challenges.

“It’s still a very large and very powerful military and Mr. Putin still has an awful lot of military capacity left at his disposal, not just to be used in Ukraine but potentially elsewhere,” Kirby added.

— Amanda Macias

Blinken says U.S. will continue to send weapons to Kyiv, hails advances made by Ukrainian forces

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at the State Department in Washington, March 17, 2022.

Saul Loeb | Pool | Reuter

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailed Ukraine’s lightning advances made over the weekend but cautioned that Russian forces still maintain “very significant forces in Ukraine.”

“As we’ve seen, the brutalization of the country continues by the Russian aggressor and there’s, I think, unfortunately, the prospect of this continues to go on, but I think it’s encouraging to see the progress that Ukraine has made,” Blinken told reporters alongside Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in Mexico City.

Blinken said the U.S. would continue to provide Kyiv with additional military aid packages.

“We will continue to do, what is necessary to support Ukraine to maintain pressure on Russia so that it ends its aggression,” Blinken added.

— Amanda Macias

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