Ukraine predicts Russia will escalate its attacks this week as EU leaders consider whether to back Kiev's bid to join the bloc and Moscow presses its campaign – now in its 117th day – to win control of the country's east.

Joint efforts should continue to export Ukrainian grain via Black Sea to prevent global food crisis, Erdogan says.
Joint efforts should continue to export Ukrainian grain via Black Sea to prevent global food crisis, Erdogan says. (AP)

Monday, June 20, 2022

Erdogan, Guterres discuss steps to end conflict

Türkiye's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres have discussed initiatives to end the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

In phone call with UN chief, Erdogan said peace talks must be revived and that the conflict should be resolved through diplomacy. 

Joint efforts should continue to export Ukrainian grain via Black Sea to prevent global food crisis, Erdogan said.

Ukraine suffering 'significant' human losses, Russia claims

Russia has claimed that Ukrainian forces have suffered heavy casualties in the conflict between them, with only one brigade losing over 2,100 soldiers in a single month.

"During the special military operation, the opponent suffers significant losses. Thus, since May 19, just the 14th mechanised brigade of the AFU (Armed Forces of Ukraine) lost more than 2,100 people killed and wounded," Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said at a press briefing in Moscow.

"Due to the low morale and psychological state, 800 people intended to make up for the losses of this unit, refused to go to the combat area, accusing the officers of incompetence, bribery and nepotism in the payment of monetary allowances," he said.

'Complex' talks ongoing to unblock Ukraine ports: Zelenskyy

Ukraine is engaged in "complex negotiations" to release its ports from Russia's blockade, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said, warning the global grain crisis would last as long as Russia's "colonial war".

"We are conducting complex multilevel negotiations to unblock our Ukrainian ports. But there is no progress yet.. That is why the global food crisis will continue as long as this colonial war continues," he said in a video address to the African Union.

Ukraine soon to receive first temporary storage for 2022 grain harvest

Ukraine, which faces a shortage of storage facilities for the 2022 grain crop due to the Russian incursion, will soon receive the first temporary storages from abroad, the agriculture ministry said.

Ukraine's agriculture minister told Reuters earlier in an interview that in the autumn when the corn harvest is over, the shortage of storage capacity could reach up to 15 million tonnes.

"The ministry ... has appealed to the governments of the United States, Canada, UK and the EU to provide Ukraine with temporary storage facilities. 

Food warehouse in Odessa destroyed in Russian missile attack: Ukraine

 A food warehouse in the Black Sea port of Odessa was destroyed in a Russian missile attack but no civilians were killed, the Ukrainian military said.

The Operational Command "South" said Russian forces fired 14 missiles at southern Ukraine during a three-hour barrage "in impotent anger at the successes of our troops." 

Russia's military did not immediately comment on the reports. Explosions rocked Odessa after the Russia-installed head of the Crimea region, annexed by Moscow in 2014, said Ukrainian forces had attacked drilling platforms owned by a Crimean oil and gas company in the Black Sea off Ukraine's southern coast.

Ukraine hits oil Crimean drilling platforms: pro-Russian regional head

Ukrainian forces have attacked drilling platforms in the Black Sea owned by a Crimean oil and gas company, the pro-Russian head of the annexed peninsula said, giving no details of what weapons were used.

Three people were wounded and a search was under way for seven workers from the Chernomorneftegaz energy company, Sergei Askyonov, the Russian-backed head of Crimea, said in a post on Telegram.

Crimean officials said work on three drilling platforms had been suspended after the hit, with fires reported.

Kremlin places blame for gas crisis at Europe's door 

The Kremlin has said that Europe only had itself to blame for the crisis in the gas market and demanded that gas turbines used by the Nord Stream 1 pipeline should be returned. 

Russia's state-controlled gas firm, Gazprom, cut capacity along Nord Stream 1 last week, citing the delayed return of equipment currently being serviced by Germany's Siemens Energy in Canada. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia has gas to supply but that equipment should be sent back first, adding that the recent crisis was of a 'man-made' nature created by Europe.

"Russia remains the most reliable supplier. From a technical point of view, the mechanical infrastructure of that pipeline is under EU sanctions," Peskov said. "We have gas, it is ready to be delivered, but the Europeans must give back the equipment, which should be repaired under their obligations."

'Russia has no right to threaten Lithuania': Ukraine

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has criticised Russia after it accused Lithuania of imposing trade restrictions on the transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Moscow's exclave of Kaliningrad.

"Russia has no right to threaten Lithuania. Moscow has only itself to blame for the consequences of its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine," Kuleba wrote in a statement on social media.

Ukraine bans, seizes assets of pro-Kremlin party

A Ukrainian court has banned the country's largest pro-Russian political party and seized its assets nationwide after the group was accused of undermining the country's sovereignty.

The ruling comes after President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree in March banning the work of several parties identified by the security services as being sympathetic to Moscow. An appeals court "banned the activities of the political party Opposition Platform - For Life," Ukrainian Justice Minister Denys Malyuska said in a statement on social media.

"The court has ruled to transfer all property, funds and other assets of the party to state ownership," he added.

Russia's blockade of Ukraine grain exports is a real war crime: EU's top diplomat

Russia's blockade of the export of millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain is a real war crime, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said.

"We call on Russia to deblockade the (Ukrainian) ports...It is inconceivable, one cannot imagine that millions of tonnes of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world people are suffering hunger," he told reporters.

"This is a real war crime, so I cannot imagine that this will last much longer," he said on arriving to a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

EU foreign ministers discuss Ukraine’s EU membership, food security

The meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers has started in Luxembourg.

Following the recommendation of the European Commission issued last week, EU leaders are expected to evaluate whether to grant EU candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova at their summit on June 23-24.

“The discussion will mostly focus on Ukraine’s EU membership application since leaders have to take a historic decision that also signals our values,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told reporters on the way to the meeting.

Ukraine says lost control of Sievierodonetsk village

Ukraine has said it has lost control of a village adjacent to the eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, the centre of weeks of fierce fighting with Russian troops.

"Unfortunately, we do not control Metyolkine anymore. And the enemy continues to build up its reserves," the Luhansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a statement on social media.

Germany says working with Poland, Romania on freeing stuck Ukrainian grain

Germany supports Poland and Romania in adapting their railways to enable the export of millions of tonnes of grain stuck in Ukraine due to a Russian sea blockade, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said.

"The railway tracks need to be modernised, we need the right cargo wagons - the German government is working on this with many other actors," she said as she arrived for a meeting with her European Union counterparts in Luxembourg.

"It is clear that, in the end, we will certainly not be able to get out all grain but if we even just manage to free part of it, on various routes, then this will help as we are facing this global challenge."

Russia replaces Saudi Arabia as China's top crude oil supplier

China's crude oil imports from Russia have soared 55 percent from a year earlier to a record level in May, displacing Saudi Arabia as the top supplier, as refiners cashed in on discounted supplies amid sanctions on Moscow over its offensive in Ukraine.

Imports of Russian oil, including supplies pumped via the East Siberia Pacific Ocean pipeline and seaborne shipments from Russia's European and Far Eastern ports, totalled nearly 8.42 million tonnes, according to data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs.

That's equivalent to roughly 1.98 million barrels per day (bpd) and up a quarter from 1.59 million bpd in April.

Ukrainian refugee influx could ease euro zone labour shortage: ECB

The influx of Ukrainian refugees into the European Union could gradually ease labour shortages in the euro zone as some of those fleeing the conflict are likely to settle permanently, the European Central Bank has said.

"Under all of the assumptions detailed thus far, back-of-an-envelope calculations point to a median increase of between 0.2 percent and 0.8 percent in the euro area labour force in the medium term," the ECB said in an Economic Bulletin article.

"This corresponds to an increase of between 0.3 and 1.3 million in the size of the euro area labour force as a result of the Ukrainian refugee crisis," it added.

Zelenskyy warns of Russian 'hostile activity'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that Russia was likely to intensify its "hostile activity" this week, as Kiev awaits a historic decision from the European Union on its membership application.

Nearly three months after Russia launched a bloody assault on his country, Zelenskyy said there had been "few such fateful decisions for Ukraine" as the one it expects from the EU this week, adding in his address that "only a positive decision is in the interests of the whole of Europe."

"Obviously, we expect Russia to intensify hostile activity this week...We are preparing. We are ready," he continued.

For live updates from Sunday (June 19), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies