President Putin says Russia is in the process of rerouting its trade and oil exports towards BRICS countries in the wake of Western sanctions over Ukraine, where fighting has entered 119th day.

Servicemen of the 126th Separate Territorial Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine take part in military exercises in Odessa region on June 22, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine.
Servicemen of the 126th Separate Territorial Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine take part in military exercises in Odessa region on June 22, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. (AFP)

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

G7 summit to 'increase pressure' on Russia

Leaders at the upcoming G7 summit in Germany will announce new measures aimed at pressuring Russia over its attacks on Ukraine, a senior US official said.

"We will roll out a concrete set of proposals to increase pressure on Russia," the official said. US President Joe Biden flies on Saturday to join the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan at the summit in Bavaria.

"How do we maximise pain on Putin's regime? How do we minimise spill-backs back to the rest of the world? And I think that's exactly how the discussion around energy markets and energy market challenges will get framed," a US official said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity.

Zelenskyy: Ordinary Ukrainians resisting Russia's forces are my role models

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his role models are ordinary Ukrainians who resisted Russian forces as he compared Russia to the fictional arch-villain Lord Voldemort in the 'Harry Potter' books.

Zelenskyy, dressed in a military uniform, was answering questions via videolink from students at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. Asked by one student who his role models were, Zelenskyy said: "The people of Ukraine...and there are very many of them."

"An ordinary Ukrainian farmer who could take his tractor and close off a road to Russian tanks, an ordinary woman who would go out and stop armoured vehicles with her bare hands...Those are the people I look up to," he said via an interpreter.

Harry Potter is better than Voldemort, and we know who is Voldemort in this war, and who is Harry Potter, so we know how the war will end

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Pro-Russian forces close to encircling key Ukrainian city: Separatists

Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine claim they are close to surrounding Ukrainian forces defending the twin cities of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk, the site of fierce weeks-long fighting.

An officer in the separatist army of Luhansk — a pro-Russian breakaway region in eastern Ukraine — said their forces surrounded Ukrainian troops in the villages of Hirsk and Zolote, a day after capturing the neighbouring village of Toshkivka.

The three settlements are located a few kilometres outside Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, which Moscow's forces are trying to seize. "Very soon (Ukrainian) groups in Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk will also be surrounded," Andrei Marochko told Russian state TV.

TV centre in separatist-held city of Donetsk damaged by shelling: TASS

The Petrovskiy television centre in the Ukrainian separatist-held city of Donetsk has been badly damaged by shelling and broadcasting has been interrupted, the Russian state news agency TASS has cited the local Donetsk news agency as saying.

The broadcast tower is still standing but part of its equipment has been damaged, while some equipment has been moved out, according to the Donetsk news agency.

Russian momentum could slow for lack of resources: British PM

Britain's defence intelligence service believes that Russia's momentum in the fighting in Ukraine will slow in the next few months as its army exhausts its resources, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told a group of European newspapers.

"...in the next few months, Russia could come to a point at which there is no longer any forward momentum because it has exhausted its resources," Johnson said in comments released by Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"Then we must help the Ukrainians to reverse the dynamic. I will argue for this at the Group of Seven summit (in Germany at the weekend)," he said. "In as much as the Ukrainians are in a position to start a counter-offensive, it should be supported. With equipment that they demand from us," he said.

Moscow vows response to US for not allowing Russian aircraft to pick up diplomats

Russia will take counter-measures, including asymmetrical ones, in response to the US decision not to allow a Russian aircraft to pick up Russian diplomats and their families from the United States, the foreign ministry spokesperson has said.

"The American side continues to systematically destroy bilateral relations that are already in a lamentable state," Maria Zakharova said in the statement.

Moscow names area outside US Embassy after breakaway territory

Moscow city authorities have renamed an intersection adjoining the US Embassy after a Russian-backed breakaway territory of Ukraine, after the Embassy welcomed a previous proposal to call it "Defenders of Donbass Square".

In a decision published on its website, the city government said the name "Donetsk People's Republic Square" had come top in an online poll.

Workers were already putting up street signs with the new name directly outside the Embassy complex, located near the home of the Russian government in central Moscow.

UK supports Lithuanian ban on sanctioned goods travelling to Russia

Britain fully supports Lithuania's decision to ban the transit of Russian goods sanctioned by the European Union through its territory, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said.

Russia has warned NATO member Lithuania that unless the transit of goods to Russia's Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea was swiftly restored, then Moscow would take undisclosed measures to defend its national interests.

"The UK fully supports Lithuania stopping sanctioned goods from Russia travelling through their country. We must stay strong in the face of Russian aggression and challenge these unjustified threats," Truss said on Twitter.

Estonia accuses Russia of 'escalatory' actions

Estonia has accused Russia of engaging in escalatory actions ahead of next week's NATO summit, including alleged missile simulations and airspace violations.

It also referenced Russia's threat this week against Estonia's fellow Baltic state Lithuania over its restriction of rail traffic to Russia's Kaliningrad exclave.

"Currently, there is no immediate military threat against Estonia. However, we see that the Russian Federation is escalating its rhetoric and activities ahead of the Madrid Summit," Estonian defence ministry spokesperson Thomas Mell told AFP.

Ukraine expects EU-wide support for candidacy to join bloc

A Ukrainian deputy prime minister overseeing the country’s push to join the European Union has said that she’s "100 percent" certain all 27 EU nations will approve making Ukraine a candidate for membership in the bloc during a summit this week.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna said the decision could come as soon as Thursday, on the first day of the two-day EU leaders summit in Brussels.

Asked how confident she was that Ukraine would be accepted as an EU candidate, she said: "The day before the summit starts, I can say 100 percent." The EU’s executive arm threw its weight behind Ukraine’s candidacy last week.

Press group: Ukraine journalist, soldier 'coldly executed'

A Ukrainian photojournalist and a soldier accompanying him appear to have been “coldly executed” during the first weeks of the fighting in Ukraine as they searched in Russian-occupied woods for the photographer’s missing camera drone, Reporters Without Borders has said.

The press freedom group said it sent investigators back to the woods north of the capital, Kiev, where the bodies of Maks Levin and serviceman Oleksiy Chernyshov were found April 1. The group said its team counted 14 bullet holes in the burned hulk of the pair's car, which remained at the spot.

Citing the findings from its investigation into the deaths, the group said disused Russian positions, one of them still booby-trapped, were found close by. Also found were the remains of food rations, cigarette packs and other litter seemingly left by Russian soldiers.

Counteroffensive in Kherson quite successful: Ukraine

Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces in the Kherson region has been “quite successful,” according to a Ukrainian official.

“Our actions in the south, toward Kherson, are quite successful...We are advancing,” Nataliya Gumenyuk, a spokesperson for Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine, said in a televised interview on Tuesday night. Ukrainian forces are intentionally not announcing their gains or the names of areas that they have retaken, the official said.

“During a military operation, I urge everyone to remain calm and wait for official statements. Only the military knows where they are, where they are moving and what successes they have achieved,” she added.

Countries increasingly see US as reliable since Ukraine conflict: Poll

Growing majorities in nations friendly to the United States have come to view Washington as a reliable partner since the Ukraine conflict, an international survey has said.

An 18-nation survey by the Pew Research Centre also showed that already negative views of Russia have sunk further since Moscow attacked Ukraine in February.

In Sweden, 84 percent said the US was a reliable partner, a jump of 21 points from a year earlier. Sharp rises were also seen in South Korea and Canada. Other countries that saw rises in perceptions of US reliability include Australia, Belgium, Britain and Germany. Favourable marks for the US came from Poland as well.

Russia is rerouting trade and oil to BRICS countries: Putin

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia was in the process of rerouting its trade and oil exports towards countries from the BRICS group of emerging economies in the wake of Western sanctions over Ukraine. The BRICS countries comprise Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

In a video address to the BRICS Business Forum participants, Putin said Russia was discussing increasing the presence of Chinese cars on the Russian market as well as the opening of Indian supermarket chains.

"In its turn, Russia's presence in the BRICS countries is growing.­­ There has been a noticeable increase in exports of Russian oil to China and India," Putin said. He also said Russia was developing alternative mechanisms for international financial settlements jointly with its BRICS partners.

Ukraine crisis has sounded alarm for humanity: China

The conflict in Ukraine has “sounded an alarm for humanity,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said, as China continues to assume a position of neutrality while backing its ally Russia.

“The Ukraine crisis has again sounded the alarm for humanity. Countries will surely end up in security hardships if they place blind faith in their positions of strength, expand military alliances, and seek their own safety at the expense of others," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying.

Xi was speaking at the opening of a virtual business forum of the “BRICS” countries. In other comments, Xi said imposing sanctions could act as a “boomerang” and a “double-edged sword,” and that the global community would suffer from “politicising, mechanising and weaponising” global economic trends and financial flows.

Putin signs decree on external debt service as possible default looms

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on establishing temporary procedures to fulfil foreign debt obligations, the Interfax news agency has reported, as investors keep a close eye on a potential default.

The agency said Putin had ordered the government to choose banks within 10 days to handle payments on Eurobonds under a new scheme. Russia's failure to service its foreign debt due to Western sanctions is taking it closer to its first default on international bonds since the Bolshevik revolution more than a century ago.

Microsoft: Russian hacking groups step up cyber espionage on Ukraine allies

Russian government hackers recently carried out multiple cyber espionage operations targeting countries allied with Ukraine since its February offensive, Microsoft has said in a report.

"The cyber aspects of the current war extend far beyond Ukraine and reflect the unique nature of cyberspace," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in the report.

Researchers had already traced a series of destructive cyberattacks on Ukrainian entities to Russian state-backed hacking groups since the conflict began. They have now found that 128 organisations in 42 countries outside Ukraine were also targeted by the same groups in stealthy, espionage-focused hacks, according to the report.

Western allies must stay 'firmly on course' in support for Ukraine: Scholz

Western allies must remain steadfast in their support of Ukraine in its fight against Russia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said ahead of a G7 leaders' summit in Bavaria this weekend.

"It is... important that we stay firmly on course — with our sanctions, with internationally coordinated arms deliveries, with our financial support for Ukraine. Until Putin finally recognises his colossal misjudgement," Scholz said in a speech to parliament, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow accuses Berlin of 'Russophobic hysteria' on Nazi invasion anniversary

Russia has accused Germany of anti-Russian sentiment in a statement on the anniversary of the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi troops in 1941 as tensions rage over Ukraine.

"Russophobic hysteria is systematically fuelled by almost daily public attacks against our country by members of the German government," Russia's foreign ministry said on Wednesday. 

It said authorities in Berlin "have recently been undermining the process of historical reconciliation between Russians and Germans" after World War II.

(Berlin) jeopardises the results of the efforts made by Russia and Germany for decades to overcome post-war enmity, hostility and distrust between the peoples of our countries

Russian foreign ministry

Ukraine calls fight with Russia in Sievierodonetsk 'hell'

Ukraine has said that the eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk is "hell" as Russian forces have moved to encircle two key cities in the Donbass where Moscow has concentrated its military efforts.

"For four months all our positions have been under fire from everything - and I just want to emphasis this - from all the weapons that the Russian army has," the Luhansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a statement on social media.

"It's just hell out there," he added, referring to Sievierodonetsk, which has been heavily shelled for weeks by Russian forces who have made territorial gains south of the city, moving closer to its sister city of Lysychansk separated by the river Donets.

Casualty rate nears 55 percent among pro-Russian separatist forces in east Ukraine: UK

Casualties have amounted to about 55 percent of the original strength of the forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), one of Russia's proxies in eastern Ukraine, Britain has said.

Figures published by the DPR showed that by June 16, 2,128 military personnel had been killed in action, with 8,897 wounded since the beginning of 2022, the British defence ministry said in a daily Twitter update.

Russian authorities have not released the tally of military casualties in Ukraine since 25 March, it added.

Fire at Russia's Novoshakhtinsk oil plant erupts after Ukrainian drone flight

A fire at Russia's Novoshakhtinsk refinery in the Rostov region has begun after two Ukrainian drones have been spotted over the plant, TASS has cited an unidentified source in the local authorities.

"One of them made an impact, crashing into a heat transfer unit, after which the blaze started. The second one flew away," the source told TASS.

The local emergency service said the blaze has been put out, Interfax news agency reported.

Members of Russian delegation to OSCE denied British visas

Members of the Russian delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have been denied British visas to attend the next session, Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of Russian upper house's international affairs committee, has said.

Russia FM heads to Iran for talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due in Iran for talks on boosting trade and energy co-operation as the two countries grapple with Western economic sanctions.

"Lavrov will meet our foreign minister (Hossein Amirabdollahian) tomorrow (Thursday)," Iran's official IRNA news agency said.

G20 chair to push for peace with Ukraine, Russia visits

Indonesian President and G20 chairman Joko Widodo will visit counterparts in Ukraine and Russia next week and press for a peaceful resolution to their conflict, his foreign minister has said, the first such trip by an Asian leader.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said: "The president is showing compassion on the humanitarian crisis, will try to contribute to the food crisis caused by the war, and the impact felt on all countries, especially the developing and low-income ones," she told a news conference.

Russian gas flows to Europe via Nord Stream, Ukraine unchanged

Flows of Russian gas to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and deliveries through Ukraine have remained steady, while reverse flows on the Yamal pipeline eased, operator data showed.

Physical flows to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline across the Baltic Sea stood at 29,279,682 kilowatt hours per hour (kWh/h) on Wednesday morning, in line with levels over 29,000,000 kWh/h seen through most of the previous day, operator company information showed.

Russian gas producer Gazprom last week said capacity through the pipe line would be cut to just 40 percent due to the delayed return of equipment being serviced by Germany's Siemens Energy in Canada.

Ukraine, Russia forces dug in; Putin to mark WWII anniversary

Ukrainian and Russian forces remained entrenched in eastern Ukrainian battlegrounds, a day of commemoration in both countries to mark the anniversary of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Fighting in the months-long conflict has favoured Russia in recent weeks because of its huge edge in artillery firepower, a fact Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged in his address.

"Thanks to tactical maneuvers the Ukrainian army is strengthening its defences in the Luhansk region," he said. "That is really the toughest spot. The occupiers are also pressing strongly in the direction of Donetsk."

"And just as actively as we are fighting for a positive decision by the European Union on Ukraine's candidate status, we are also fighting every day for modern weaponry for our country. We don't let up for a single day," Zelenskyy said, urging those nations supporting his country to speed up arms deliveries.

For live updates from Tuesday (June 21), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies