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UKRAINE WRAP | Ukrainian forces report battlefield gains

11 May 2022 - 06:15 By TimesLIVE
An aerial view shows a T-90 tank of the Russian army being destroyed in a drone attack, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Vovchansk Raion, Ukraine, in a screen grab taken from a handout video released on May 10 2022.
An aerial view shows a T-90 tank of the Russian army being destroyed in a drone attack, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Vovchansk Raion, Ukraine, in a screen grab taken from a handout video released on May 10 2022.
Image: Ukrainian Armed Forces Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

May 11 2022 - 17:40

Ukraine pushes Russian forces back

Ukrainian forces reported battlefield gains on Wednesday in a counterattack that could signal a shift in the momentum of the war, while Kyiv shut gas flows on a route through Russian-held territory, raising the spectre of an energy crisis in Europe.

Following days of advances north and east of the second largest city Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces were within just several kilometres of the Russian border on Wednesday morning, one Ukrainian military source said on condition on anonymity. Before the advance, Russian forces had been on the outskirts of Kharkiv, a city 40km from the frontier.

The advance appears to be the fastest that Ukraine has mounted since it drove Russian troops away from Kyiv and out of the country's north at the beginning of April. If sustained, it could let Ukrainian forces threaten supply lines for Russia's main attack force, and even put rear logistics targets within Russia itself within striking range of Ukrainian artillery.

In Vilhivka, a village east of Kharkiv held by Ukrainian forces, the thump of near constant artillery and swoosh of multiple rocket launchers could be heard from fighting at the front, now pushed substantially further east, where Ukraine has been trying to capture villages on the banks of the Donets river and threaten Russian supply lines on the far side.

Further east, Ukrainian forces seemed to be in control of the village of Rubizhne, on the banks of the Donets. "It is burnt out, just like all Russian tanks," a Ukrainian soldier told Reuters near Rubizhne next to the ruins of one Russian tank. "The weapons are helping a lot, the anti-tank ones."

Reuters

May 11 2022 - 17:36

Russian billionaires’ challenges to EU sanctions mount up

A high-profile Russian billionaire mounted a fresh challenge to strike down strict European Union sanctions imposed on him in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Alexey Mordashov joined a growing list of well-known businessmen trying to fight the restrictions in European courts — a process that can take years to resolve.

“We believe the sanctions against Alexey Mordashov are completely unjustified and illegitimate, and we will use all available means under international law to protect our interests,” a spokesperson for Mordashov said.

He filed the challenge at the EU General Court, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, in the last few days, according to a filing at the Luxembourg-based court. Russian metals billionaire Alisher Usmanov already filed a challenge last month, asking the court also to suspend the sanctions until judges make a final decision on whether they are lawful.

EU court fights over sanctions can be long and arduous affairs and seldom result in victory for those targeted. Former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych and his son remain on a new sanctions list even after winning challenges to their inclusion on the 2020 version earlier on Wednesday.

Steel billionaire Mordashov is worth about $24bn through Russia’s fourth largest steelmaker Severstal. He ceded his stake in a media company linked to an ally of Putin, that partly led to the billionaire becoming sanctioned.

Bloomberg

May 11 2022 - 14:00

Ukraine's Zelenskiy wants to restore the country's territory

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking to French University Sciences Po, said he wanted to restore the country's territory before an end of the war with Russia could be envisioned, adding he was still willing to dialogue with Moscow.

"Once we recoup all that is ours, we will finish this", Zelenskiy told students via videolink.

Reuters 

May 11 2022 - 13:53

Russian-backed separatist region of east Ukraine blocks Facebook, Instagram

The Russian-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine said on Wednesday it had blocked access to Facebook and Instagram, aligning itself with Russia's policy on the US-based social networks.

Moscow recognised the DPR and a second region of eastern Ukraine - the Luhansk People's Republic - as independent on Feb. 21, and sent troops into Ukraine three days later, citing as one of its reasons the need to protect Russian-speakers there."

Access to the information resources of the American company Meta, which allows calls for violence against Russian-speaking users on its social networks, has already been blocked," the DPR's communications ministry said in a statement.

"In light of this, access to the Facebook and Instagram social networks is blocked on the republic's territory."

Meta Platforms Inc did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia banned Facebook and Instagram in March after a court found Meta guilty of "extremist activity". Moscow had already curbed access to Facebook for restricting Russian media outlets' access to the platform.

Russia's state communications regulator blocked access to Instagram in March after Meta said it would allow social media users in Ukraine to post messages such as "Death to the Russian invaders".

Meta said the temporary change in its hate speech policy applied only to Ukraine.

Russia has cultivated close ties with Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as the Donbas, since supporting a pro-Russian insurgency following Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Both regions receive financial support from Moscow, use the Russian rouble as their currency and teach the Russian curriculum in their schools. 

Reuters 

May 11 2022 - 13:15

Nearly 5-million jobs lost in Ukraine as war pummels economy - ILO

Around 4.8-million jobs have been lost in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in February, as the conflict shut down businesses, strangled exports and drove millions to flee, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said on Wednesday.

The job losses, which account for around 30% of Ukraine's workforce before the invasion, could climb to 7-million if hostilities continue, the ILO said in a study, adding that 3.4-million jobs could return rapidly in the event of a ceasefire.

The war could also drive up unemployment in neighbouring countries hosting millions of refugees and hit Central Asian economies as migrant workers in Russia lose their jobs and return home.

Russian forces have pounded Ukrainian cities in a war that has killed thousands, forced more than 5-million people - mainly women, children and older people - to flee and could cause Ukraine's economy to contract by at least one-third in 2022."

Economic disruptions, combined with heavy internal displacement and flows of refugees, are causing large-scale losses in terms of employment and incomes," the study said.

"The Russian aggression in Ukraine has resulted in a devastating humanitarian crisis, triggering the fastest forced population movement since the Second World War," it said.

Neighbouring countries such as Poland and Romania have absorbed the bulk of the refugees, an estimated 1.2-million of whom were working prior to the invasion.

A protracted conflict will put sustained pressure on labour markets and welfare systems in those countries, likely driving up unemployment, the study said.

"As a hypothetical exercise, adding these refugees to the number of unemployed would raise the unemployment rate in Poland from 3 per cent to 5.3 per cent," it said.

The war could also have a spillover effect on countries in Central Asia that are heavily dependent on remittances sent by migrants working in Russia.

An economic downtown in Russia, squeezed by Western sanctions and the costs of the war, could lead to migrant workers losing their jobs and returning home, the study said.

Globally, the war in Ukraine is exacerbating rising food and energy prices, threatening jobs and real wage growth particularly in low and middle income countries that are still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, it said. 

Reuters 

May 11 2022 - 13:09

Russian-backed separatist region of east Ukraine blocks Facebook, Instagram

The Russian-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine said on Wednesday it had blocked access to Facebook and Instagram, aligning itself with Russia's policy on the US-based social networks.Moscow recognised the DPR and a second region of eastern Ukraine - the Luhansk People's Republic - as independent on Feb. 21, and sent troops into Ukraine three days later, citing as one of its reasons the need to protect Russian-speakers there.

"Access to the information resources of the American company Meta, which allows calls for violence against Russian-speaking users on its social networks, has already been blocked," the DPR's communications ministry said in a statement.

"In light of this, access to the Facebook and Instagram social networks is blocked on the republic's territory."

Meta Platforms Inc did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia banned Facebook and Instagram in March after a court found Meta guilty of "extremist activity". Moscow had already curbed access to Facebook for restricting Russian media outlets' access to the platform.

Russia's state communications regulator blocked access to Instagram in March after Meta said it would allow social media users in Ukraine to post messages such as "Death to the Russian invaders".

Meta said the temporary change in its hate speech policy applied only to Ukraine.

Russia has cultivated close ties with Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as the Donbas, since supporting a pro-Russian insurgency following Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014.Both regions receive financial support from Moscow, use the Russian rouble as their currency and teach the Russian curriculum in their schools.

Reuters

May 11 2022 - 11:49

Russia's Medvedev, Volodin lash out at U.S. aid to Ukraine

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev accused the United States on Wednesday of waging a “proxy war” against Russia after the House of Representatives approved a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, and said the US economy would suffer.

Writing on the messenger app Telegram, Medvedev said that the bill approved by the House on Tuesday was a bid “to deal a serious defeat to our country and limit its economic development and political influence in the world.”

Medvedev said: “It won’t work. The printing press by which America is constantly increasing its already inflated government debt will break faster.”

Medvedev, who has served as deputy chairman of Russia’s security council since resigning as prime minister in January 2020, blamed “insane” prices for US fuel and groceries on what he called America’s “Russophobic authorities”.

Also writing on Telegram, Russia’s State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin accused Washington of using the aid package to “indebt” Ukraine and of appropriating the country’s grain reserves in lieu of payment.

“Washington wants a Holodomor in Ukraine,” he wrote, referring to the man-made 1930s famine that killed millions of Ukrainians. 

Reuters 

May 11 2022 - 11:27

Russian gas transit through Ukraine almost 72 mcm on Wednesday - Ukraine

Ukraine's gas pipeline operator said the volume of Russian gas transfers via Ukraine on Wednesday was almost 72 million cubic metres, compared with a volume of 124.6 mcm on May 11 last year.

The pipeline operator said on Tuesday it would declare force majeure on the transportation of Russian gas through the Sokhranivka entry point.

Flows to Europe through Sokhranivka dried up on Wednesday.

Reuters 

May 11 2022 - 11:14

Russian diplomats spurned in Europe's capitals

Russian diplomat Sergiy Andreev was feeling unwelcome on the streets of Warsaw even before protesters doused him with red liquid thrown in his face at short range this week.

Soon after Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Andreev, who is Moscow's ambassador in Poland, found the embassy bank accounts had been frozen. Attempts to meet with Polish officials for any level of diplomatic discussion were impossible, he said.

His regular barber refused to cut his hair. Insurance companies denied coverage for embassy cars, Andreev said.

"We are practically isolated," he told Reuters, before the paint incident on Monday.

Reuters 

May 11 2022 - 11:00

Ukraine 'cannot confirm' Gazprom statement on switching gas flows to new entry point

The head of Ukraine's state gas company said on Wednesday he could not confirm an assertion by Russia's Gazprom that it is not technically possible to switch gas transfers to Ukraine to a new entry point.

"We cannot confirm Gazprom’s claims that it is technically impossible to transfer transit from Sokhranivka to Sudzha IP. In Oct’20 they did it with 27.5 mcm/d - due to maintenance on their side).

Back then Gazprom gave 165 mcm/d to Sudzha (1.5x more that total transit last months)," Naftogaz head Yuri Vitrenko wrote on Twitter.

Reuters 

May 11 2022 - 10:50

Hungary says EU's Russia oil embargo should exempt pipeline shipments

Russian shipments via pipelines should be exempted from planned European Union oil sanctions against Moscow that, in their current form, would destroy Hungary's economy, its Foreign Minister said on Wednesday.

Peter Szijjarto said that, following talks with EU officials, an agreement between Budapest and Brussels on the proposed ban still looked unlikely."

Brussels has no proposal for a solution ... which could handle the atomic bomb like impacts of this potential oil embargo against Russia on Hungary's economy." Szijjarto said said in a video posted on his Facebook page.

Most other EU countries support banning Russian oil under a new sixth package of sanctions designed to punish Moscow for waging war on Ukraine.

Unanimity is required for such a decision, however, with Hungary the most vocal critic.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday discussed investment in upgrading Hungarian oil infrastructure, a spokesman for the latter said on Tuesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron also talked to Orban this week.But Szijjarto said the only way to an agreement would be if the ban applied to maritime oil shipments only and that it would be realistic to return to Hungary's original proposal to exempt pipeline shipments.

Russian oil shipments via the Druzhba pipeline account for about 65% of the oil Hungary needs.

Orban said earlier he was ready to negotiate he saw a new proposal that would meet Hungarian interests.

Reuters 

May 11 2022 - 09:00

Requests for Russian gas via key Ukraine transit point fall to zero, data shows

Nominations for Russian gas transit via Ukraine at the Sokhranovka entry point for May 11 fell to zero, data from Ukraine's gas pipeline operator showed on Wednesday, following Kyiv's warning of shutting down supplies through the route.

Ukraine said on Tuesday it would suspend gas flows through the transit point which it said delivered almost a third of the fuel piped from Russia to Europe via Ukraine, blaming Moscow for the move and saying it would move the flows elsewhere.

The gas pipeline via the Sokhranovka point runs through Ukraine's Luhansk region, part of which has been under control of pro-Russian separatists.

Ukraine's gas pipeline operator GTSOU said it would stop shipments via the route from Wednesday, declaring "force majeure", a clause invoked when a business is hit by something beyond its control.

But Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled firm which has a monopoly on Russian gas exports by pipeline, said it was "technologically impossible" to shift all volumes to the Sudzha interconnection point further west, as GTSOU proposed.

The data showed requests for Russian gas transit to Europe via Ukraine at the Sudzha entry point stood at almost 72-million cubic metres for Wednesday.

On Tuesday, total Russian gas flows via Ukraine to Europe were at 95.8-million cubic metres. 

Reuters 

May 11 2022 - 08:40

Russian gas nominations for Slovakia drop, operator data shows

Daily nominations for Russian gas deliveries to Slovakia via Ukraine fell on Wednesday, data from Slovakian operator TSO Eustream showed.

Nominations via the Velke Kapusany border point were around 717,923 megawatt hours (MWh) per day on Wednesday, versus about 883,844 MWh per day on Tuesday, the data showed.

Reuters

May 11 2022 - 08:15

Private US group says it has secured release of Russian-held American in Ukraine

A US citizen in Ukraine who had been accused of espionage and held by Russian forces was being evacuated to Poland with two family members after his release was secured by a private volunteer group from Florida, the group said on Tuesday.

Kirillo Alexandrov, 27, along with his Ukrainian wife and her mother, is the latest of over 600 people freed in dozens of such missions since February, according to Project Dynamo, a Tampa-based group first formed to rescue Americans and others from Afghanistan last year.

Alexandrov, a native of Michigan who had moved to Ukraine, was arrested with his spouse and mother-in-law in late March outside the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson as they were trying to flee the region following its occupation by Russian troops, Project Dynamo said.

May 11 2022 - 07:00

US House passes $40bn bill to bolster Ukraine against Russian invasion

The US House of Representatives approved more than $40 billion more aid for Ukraine on Tuesday, as Congress races to keep military aid flowing and boost the government in Kyiv as it grapples with the Russian invasion. 

The House passed the Ukraine spending bill by 368 to 57, with every 'no' vote coming from Republicans. The measure now heads to the Senate, which is expected to act quickly.

President Joe Biden had asked Congress to approve an additional $33 billion in aid for Ukraine two weeks ago, but lawmakers decided to increase the military and humanitarian funding.

“This bill will protect democracy, limit Russian aggression, and strengthen our own national security, while, most importantly, supporting Ukraine,” Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said as she urged support for the spending package.

May 11 2022 - 06:43

Ukraine to halt some Russian gas flows, claims battlefield gains

Ukraine prepared to suspend the flow of some Russian gas to Europe through a key transit point on Wednesday, as it claimed battlefield gains over invading Russian forces, including the recapture of four villages around the second city of Kharkiv.

Ukraine has remained a major route for Russian gas to Europe even after President Vladimir Putin ordered what he called a “special military operation” on Feb. 24.

Mounting Western sanctions are seeking to ban or phase out the use of Russian energy, a major source of funds for Putin's war effort and a vulnerability for Europe, especially Germany.

Blaming the interference of Russian occupying forces for the suspension, Ukraine's gas operator said it would redirect gas from the Sokhranivka transit point, which is in an area occupied by Russian forces, to another in a Ukraine-controlled area.

May 11 2022 - 06:10

Will Russia use nuclear weapons?

Russia's President Vladimir Putin warned of a possible nuclear strike against anyone who intervenes in the Ukraine conflict. These are the scenarios experts predict if Moscow were to use nuclear weapons.

May 11 2022 - 06:00

Putin preparing for prolonged war in Ukraine, US spy chief says

The United States believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing for a long conflict in Ukraine and a Russian victory in the Donbas region east of the country might not end the war, US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said.


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