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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine


NATO to greatly increase its high-readiness force to 300,000

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a news conference ahead of a NATO defence ministers’ meeting at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 15, 2022. 

Yves Herman | Reuters

The NATO military alliance will increase the number of its forces at high readiness to over 300,000 from the current number of 40,000, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday.

“We will transform the NATO Response Force and increase the number of our high readiness forces to well over 300,000,” said at a press conference on Monday, ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid that begins on Tuesday.

The summit would see NATO strengthen its forward defenses and enhance its battlegroups in the eastern part of the alliance, he said. “We will also boost our ability to reinforce in crisis and conflict,” he added. It would do this with:

  • More pre-positioned equipment, and stockpiles of military supplies.
  • More forward-deployed capabilities, like air defense.
  • Strengthened command and control.
  • And upgraded defense plans, with forces pre-assigned to defend specific allies.

The NATO Response Force is a high-readiness force comprising land, air, sea and special forces units that are capable of being deployed quickly. The force currently comprises around 40,000 troops.

NATO’s announcements come as the military alliance tries to best assist Ukraine in repelling the Russian invasion, with various NATO members sending arms to Kyiv, but trying to avoid a direct confrontation with nuclear power Russia.

NATO’s summit will see its 30 member countries meet, as well as representatives from its allies. Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea will join the summit for the first time, and Georgia and the European Union will also take part.

— Holly Ellyatt

‘For as long as it takes’: G-7 issues statement in support of Ukraine

The G-7 — which comprises the world’s most wealthy nations of the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan — has published a statement in which they affirm their continued support for Ukraine and committed to further punishing Russia on the economic front.

“We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” the G-7 said in the communique on Monday.

The groups said it was committed to sustaining and intensifying international economic and political pressure on President Putin’s regime and what it called “its enablers” in Belarus, depriving Russia of the economic means to persist in its war of aggression against Ukraine.

The targeted use of coordinated sanctions would, the group said, continue “for as long as necessary.” Sanctions imposed on Russia so far were, the leaders said, “in defence of the rules-based international order that Russia has so egregiously violated.” And there would be more sanctions, they noted.

“We will continue to explore new ways to isolate Russia from participating in the global market and crack down on evasion. We are determined to reduce Russia’s revenues, including from gold. We will also continue to target evasion and backfilling activities,” the G-7 said.

It added that it would further reduce Russia’s export revenues by taking “appropriate steps to further reduce dependency on Russian energy,” and “further restrict Russia’s access to key industrial inputs, services, and technologies produced by our economies, particularly those supporting Russia’s armament industrial base and technology sector.”

Finally, the G-7 added that it will increase the costs of Russia’s war on Ukraine by imposing targeted sanctions on those responsible for war crimes, exercising illegitimate authority in Ukraine, and those that it said were “standing behind Russia’s engagement in efforts to increase global food insecurity by stealing and exporting Ukrainian grain or otherwise profit illegitimately from the war.”

The group said it would assist the global economy and would take action to help mitigate spillover effects from the sanctions, especially relating to humanitarian and other basic needs, and vulnerable populations.

— Holly Ellyatt

‘Ukraine feels the support of the G-7,’ Zelenskyy states

President Zelenskyy has issued a statement on Telegram following his video address of G-7 leaders in Germany today:

“I addressed the G-7 leaders’ summit in Schloss Elmau by video conference.  Ukraine feels the support of the G-7 states.  Thank you for your defense and financial assistance to our country in the fight against the Russian invasion.  For us, the consistent position of the G-7 countries on sanctions is also important. They should continue to increase, in particular by limiting the price of oil exported by the aggressor.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Zelenskyy reportedly asks G-7 for anti-aircraft defense systems, sanctions and security guarantees

From left to right: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, US President Joe Biden and European Council President Charles Michel have taken seat at a round table as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (on the screen) addresses G-7 leaders via video link during their working session on June 27, 2022 at Elmau Castle, southern Germany.

Kenny Holston | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has addressed the leaders of the Group of Seven nations that are gathered in Munich, Germany, and has pressed them for more help to end the war before winter sets in.

Zelenskyy has reportedly requested anti-aircraft defense systems to help protect Ukraine and has said he wants the war to end before the end of the year, Reuters reported citing two unnamed European officials present at the summit.

Addressing the leaders of the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, Zelenskyy also asked for more sanctions on Russia and security guarantees, Reuters said, citing one European official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Zelenskyy also reportedly asked for help to export grain from Ukraine and for reconstruction aid.

Holly Ellyatt

Russia likely to increase its dependence on reserve forces, UK says

Over the coming weeks, Russia’s campaign in Ukraine “will highly likely increasingly rely on echelons of reserve forces,” said Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

Those consist of several distinct components which Russia has almost certainly already started to field, the ministry said in its latest intelligence update on Twitter on Monday. 

“Russia’s Combat Army Reserve is a recent innovation of part-time but volunteer reservists, which deploy as whole units typically ear-marked for rear area security tasks,” the U.K. said.

In addition, it said Russia could call upon a “sizable pool of all veterans who have served in the regular military in the last five years,” adding that Russian authorities are likely using volunteers from that category to fill out the third battalions within regular brigades.

“Despite a continued shortfall in the number of deployable reservists for Ukraine, the Russian leadership likely remains reluctant to order a general mobilisation,” the ministry noted. 

While Russia’s main operational focus remains the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk pocket, a week of consistently heavy shelling suggests Russia is now trying to regain momentum on the northern Izium axis, heading up toward the second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

“Ukrainian forces continue to hold the line in that sector, making good use of forested terrain to assist their defence,” the ministry said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Having seized Severodonetsk, Russian forces are now said to be blockading its neighbor

Ukrainian soldiers ride on an armored personnel carrier in the Luhansk region on June 23, 2022. Luhansk is currently the site of the fiercest fighting between Russia and Ukraine.

Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

Russian forces are now reportedly trying to blockade the city of Lysychansk, the neighboring city to Severodonetsk which was fully seized by Russian forces over the weekend.

“In the Donetsk direction, the enemy, with the support of artillery, is trying to blockade the city of Lysychansk from the south,” Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesperson for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said in his latest military update on Monday.

He said Russian forces are shelling civilian and military infrastructure in the areas of Lysychansk and the surrounding settlements.

The comments come after Russian forces seized full control of the next-door city of Severodonetsk on Saturday. The capture of the city, which lies opposite Lysychansk on the other side of the Siverskyi Donets river, came after Ukraine ordered the “tactical” retreat of its troops from the city after weeks of intense fighting there.

Ukraine said the withdrawal would allow its troops to fight from higher ground in Lysychansk.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia on the brink of historic debt default as payment period expires

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov (seen here with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2019) reportedly told Russian newspaper Vedomosti that Moscow will continue to service external debts in rubles, but foreign Eurobond holders will need to open ruble and hard currency accounts with Russian banks in order to receive payments.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russia is nearing a historic debt default after a 30-day grace period on two international bond payments expired on Sunday night.

Interest payments on two eurobonds totaling $100 million were due on May 27, two days after the U.S. Treasury closed an exemption that had allowed Moscow to process foreign debt payments in dollars through U.S. and international banks, on a case-by-case basis.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has branded the situation a “farce” and claimed it does not constitute a genuine default, as Russia has ample cash and the willingness to pay, but has been prevented from doing so by international sanctions.

Read the whole story here.

— Elliot Smith

Russia’s neighbors fear NATO’s defense plans are not fit for purpose

Finland’s army soldiers attend the multinational NATO exercise Saber Strike in Adazi, Latvia, June 11, 2015.

Finland’s army soldiers attend the multinational NATO exercise Saber Strike in Adazi, Latvia, June 11, 2015.

Everything changed when Russia invaded Ukraine and NATO’s defense strategy must now account for the new security environment on Europe’s eastern flank. That’s the coordinated message from the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania ahead of NATO’s all-important Madrid summit this week.

Bolstering the defense of the Baltic region is seen as one of the most important decisions for NATO leaders to take at the June 29-30 summit.

The 30-member military alliance is poised to reflect on how the group can respond to Europe’s new security reality in the wake of Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine.

“We need to move to deterrence by denial. We need a credible military construct on the Eastern flank that will deter Putin,” a spokesperson at Estonia’s foreign ministry told CNBC. Read the whole story here.

Sam Meredith

UK’s Boris Johnson to tell fellow G-7 leaders they must end Putin’s ‘stranglehold’ on food prices

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to call on world leaders gathered at the G-7 summit in Germany on Monday to take urgent action to get essential food supplies out of Ukraine.

The U.K. said it was working with its international partners on a plan to overcome what it called “the Russian stranglehold” on food exports, and said it will work with Ukraine to repair vital railways to use for exports instead.

“Putin’s actions in Ukraine are creating terrible aftershocks across the world, driving up energy and food prices as millions of people are on the brink of famine,” Johnson will tell the summit Monday, according to pre-released comments from Downing Street.

“Only Putin can end this needless and futile war. But global leaders need to come together and apply their combined economic and political heft to help Ukraine and make life easier for households across the world. Nothing should be off the table,” Johnson will add.

The U.K. said it was working with its international partners on a plan to overcome what it called “the Russian stranglehold” on food exports, and said it will work with Ukraine to repair vital railways to use for exports instead.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Independence Square after a meeting on April 9, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Global food prices have risen since the start of the war as vital produce from Ukraine (seen as the “breadbasket of Europe”) has been unable to leave the country because of a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports, such as Odesa, preventing exports of wheat and oil.

Ukraine supplies 10% of the world’s wheat, 12%-17% of the world’s maize and half of the world’s sunflower oil, the British government said in a statement previewing Johnson’s comments. It said 25 million tonnes of corn and wheat — the annual consumption of all the least developed countries — can’t be exported and is currently at risk of rotting in Ukrainian silos. “This problem is due to worsen dramatically with July’s harvest,” it noted.

— Holly Ellyatt

Zelenskyy set to press G-7 leaders for urgent help as Russia makes gains

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to make an impassioned plea to the leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) wealthy, industrialized nations, asking them for more heavy weaponry to combat Russian forces.

“Delays in the transfer of weapons to our state, any restrictions are actually an invitation for Russia to strike again and again,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on Sunday.

He said Ukraine can stop Russia’s aggression only “if we get everything we ask for, and just in time we need it — weapons, financial support, and sanctions against Russia.”

He said there are no other options “because it is here — in the sky over Kyiv, in the sea near Odesa, on the land of the Kharkiv region, Donbas, in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions — that it is being decided what life will be like in Europe in the future. Here, in Ukraine, and nowhere else.”

Rescuers work on a damaged residential building in Kyiv. Rockets hit a house and a kindergarten last Friday, leaving six people injured and one dead.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Zelenskyy’s comments come after Russia once again targeted the Ukrainian capital Kyiv over the weekend, after pulling its troops back from the city several months ago in order to focus on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

The southwestern port city of Odesa was also hit, as well as the regions around the port of Mykolaiv farther up the coast to the east, Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, the northeastern area around Kharkiv and the Donbas.

On Sunday morning U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed that the G-7 will announce a ban on Russian gold imports, confirming earlier reports of an imminent ban.

— Holly Ellyatt

G-7 nations to announce import ban on Russian gold as Moscow sanctions widen

U.S. President Joe Biden, center, attends a working lunch with other G7 leaders to discuss shaping the global economy. The Group of Seven leading economic powers are meeting in Germany for their three-day annual gathering.

Kenny Holston | The New York Times via AP, Pool

The leaders of the G-7 nations will announce a ban on Russian gold imports for Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed on Sunday morning.

As the leaders meet in Munich, Germany, for the latest G-7 summit, Biden took to Twitter to confirm earlier reports of an imminent ban.

“The United States has imposed unprecedented costs on Putin to deny him the revenue he needs to fund his war against Ukraine,” he said early Sunday.

“Together, the G7 will announce that we will ban the import of Russian gold, a major export that rakes in tens of billions of dollars for Russia.”

The move would add to a series of punitive penalties imposed by the West on Russia since its onslaught on Ukraine began on Feb. 24.

— Matt Clinch

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