The European Commission recommends Ukraine, where fighting has entered the 114th day, be formally named a "candidate" for joining the EU, a move that could open up a long path towards joining the bloc.

“There are some countries needed, and some leaders needed, that speak to him — and it is necessary that they are clear,
“There are some countries needed, and some leaders needed, that speak to him — and it is necessary that they are clear," German Chancellor Scholz said. (AFP)

Friday, June 17, 2022

Talking to Russia's Putin is 'necessary' - Germany's Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that it's “absolutely necessary” for some leaders to talk directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid efforts to end the conflict in Ukraine, and he and France's president will continue to do so.

“There are some countries needed, and some leaders needed, that speak to him — and it is necessary that they are clear," Scholz told DPA.

"When I speak to Putin I say, for instance, the same things I said to you," he added. "Please understand that there will be no dictate(d) peace, and if you really believe that you will rob some land and then hope that the times will change and all the things will become normal again, this is a mistake."

Russia has 'nothing against' Ukraine joining EU - Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had no objections to Ukraine joining the European Union following the European Commission's decision to back Kiev's bid to become a member. 

"We have nothing against it. It is not a military bloc. It's the right of any country to join economic unions," Putin said when asked about the prospects of Ukraine joining the EU.

Russia has railed against Ukraine's attempts to join the NATO military alliance for years, with the issue becoming a major stand-off between Moscow and the West. 

Britain will give Kiev strategic endurance to prevail against Russia

Britain will give Ukraine the "strategic endurance" to prevail against Russia's offensive, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a visit to Kiev. 

Britain will also work with Ukraine to free up grain for export via the Black Sea that he said was being held "hostage" by Russian President Vladimir Putin, he told a joint news conference with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kiev. 

Putin says Russia-Ukraine relations will normalise after military operation

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the St Petersburg Economic Forum that Russia anticipates restoring relations with Ukraine after the military operation in that country concludes.

During a question-and-answer session with Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Putin said: "sooner or later, the situation will return to normal".

Russia: Almost 2,000 foreign mercenaries died in battles in Ukraine

The Russian Defense Ministry published the data about the foreign mercenaries fighting on Ukraine's side.

According to the ministry, 6,956 people have arrived in Ukraine since February 24, when the offensive started, 1,956 died in battles, while 1,779 left the country. 

As of Friday, at least 3,221 foreigners are fighting on the Ukrainian side, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at a press briefing in Moscow. 

Other companies will replace those that withdraw from Russia – Putin 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that other companies will replace those that withdraw from Russia over its special military operation in Ukraine. 

Hundreds of Western companies have left Russia in the past four months including oil and energy majors. Companies such as McDonald's, Renault and Enel have written down hundreds of millions of dollars in losses as they sell assets at cut prices.

Zelenskyy: EU candidate status will help Ukraine defeat Russia 

The European Commission's decision to recommend granting Ukraine European Union candidate status will help Kiev in defeating Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

"It's the first step on the EU membership path that'll certainly bring our victory closer. Grateful to @vonderleyen & each (EU) member for a historic decision," Zelenskyy said on Twitter. He added that he expected EU government leaders to approve the proposal next week.

European Commission recommends EU 'candidate status' for Ukraine

The European Union's executive arm has recommended making Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, a first step on what is expected to be a long road for the conflict-hit country to join the 27-nation bloc.

The European Commission delivered its proposal to award Ukraine candidate status after a fast-tracked analysis of answers to a questionnaire. The Ukrainian government applied for EU membership less than a week after Russia attacked the country on February 24.

The leaders of the bloc's existing members are scheduled to discuss the recommendation during a summit next week in Brussels. The European Commission’s endorsement, while a strong sign of solidarity with Ukraine, is likely to take years or even decades to materialise into EU membership.

Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us, the European dream.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Kremlin: Ukraine's EU candidacy requires Russia's attention

The Kremlin has said it is closely following Ukraine's efforts to become a member of the European Union, especially in the light of increased defence cooperation within the bloc.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the issue "requires our heightened attention, because we are all aware of the intensification of discussions in Europe on the subject of strengthening the defence component of the EU".

"There are various transformations that we are observing in the most careful way," he told a telephone briefing with journalists.

Russia hits Ukraine's Mykolaiv with missiles, 'kills two'

Russia has struck the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv with missiles, killing two people and wounding 20, including a child, the region's governor has said.

The attack damaged four residential buildings and an infrastructure facility, Governor Vitaliy Kim added on Telegram. There was no immediate reaction from Russia, which denies strikes against civilians and civilian infrastructure.

A video posted on social media showed two missiles hitting the ground and causing a large explosion with clouds rising above multi-storey buildings. The footage couldn't be independently verified.

Russia: Nearly 2,000 foreign fighters killed in Ukraine

Russia says close to 2,000 foreign mercenaries have been killed in Ukraine since the start of Moscow's military intervention in the country.

Russia's defence ministry said in a statement that 6,956 "mercenaries and weapons specialists" from 64 countries had arrived in Ukraine since the start of the conflict and that "1,956 have already been destroyed". Another 1,779 have left Ukraine, it said.

It said that Poland was the "absolute leader" among European countries for the number of fighters that were sent to Ukraine, followed by Romania and Britain. It also singled out "mercenaries" from Canada, the United States and the Caucasus nation of Georgia.

Ukraine: Russian naval tugboat hit with Harpoon missiles

Ukraine says its forces have hit a Russian naval tugboat with two Harpoon missiles in the Black Sea, the first time it has claimed to have struck a Russian vessel with Western-supplied anti-ship weapons. The Russian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond.

The tugboat, identified as the Vasiliy Bekh by Odessa region's governor, had been transporting soldiers, weapons and ammunition to the Russian-occupied Zmiinyi (Snake) Island in the Black Sea, the Ukrainian navy said.

The Ukrainian military published a video of what it said were two Harpoon missiles hitting the vessel on the Telegram app. Reuters could not independently verify the footage. Harpoon missiles are among the array of foreign weaponry that Western allies have sent to Ukraine.

During the full-scale war in the Black Sea, (anti-ship missiles) were used twice, first the (Ukrainian-made) Neptune, and today, June 17, the Harpoon. Both uses were successful. At the same time, the air defence of Russian ships proved to be entirely ineffective

Ukraine's Armed Forces Strategic Communications Directorate

Governor: 'Complete ceasefire' needed to free civilians from Azot plant

Only a "complete ceasefire" will allow the evacuation hundreds of civilians sheltering in a chemical plant in Ukraine's Sievierodonetsk, the site of heavy fighting with Russia, the regional governor has said.

"It is now impossible and physically dangerous to get out of the (Sievierodonetsk chemical Azot) plant due to constant shelling and fighting. There are 568 people in the shelter, including 38 children," Luhansk governor Sergiy Gaiday has said on Telegram.

"Exit from the plant is possible only with a complete ceasefire."

UN: Humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine 'extremely alarming'

The UN has said the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine is "extremely alarming" and continues to deteriorate, four months into the Russian offensive.

"Nearly four months since the start of the war, the humanitarian situation across Ukraine — particularly in the eastern Donbas — is extremely alarming and continues to deteriorate rapidly," the UN's humanitarian agency, OCHA, said in a statement.

It said the situation is "particularly worrying in and around Sievierodonetsk", the eastern Ukrainian city where bloody battles have raged for weeks. The UN said there is "diminishing access to clean water, food, sanitation and electricity" in the city, the statement said.

Kremlin: Russia's main goal in Ukraine remains protection of Donbass

The Kremlin has said the goal of its "special military operation" in Ukraine remains the protection of the population of the eastern Donbass region.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia's main objective in Ukraine was to "save and secure" the Donbass from what he called "barbaric attacks" by Kiev's armed forces.

EBU: Eurovision 2023 cannot go ahead in Ukraine 

The 2023 Eurovision Song Contest cannot be held in Ukraine given the ongoing situation in the European country, the European Broadcasting Union has said, adding that it was in talks with the BBC to host it in the United Kingdom.

"The security and operational guarantees required for a broadcaster to host, organise and produce the Eurovision Song Contest under the ESC Rules cannot be fulfilled by UA:PBC," ESC said on Twitter.

"The EBU would like to thank (Ukraine's public broadcaster) UA:PBC for their wholehearted cooperation and commitment in exploring all scenarios in the weeks since Kalush Orchestra's win on 14 May in Turin..." Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra won this year's contest last month.

UK ministry: Data suggests 15,000 millionaires trying to leave Russia

Data suggests thousands of millionaires are trying to leave Russia and a continued exodus of its business and oligarch community will likely exacerbate the conflict's long-term damage to its economy, Britain's defence ministry has said.

"Migration applications suggest that 15,000 Russian millionaires are likely already attempting to leave," the ministry said. Meanwhile, Russia is likely trying to regain momentum in attempts to surround the Sievierodonetsk pocket from the south, it said.

Ukrainian officials have said their troops were holding out against massive Russian bombardment in the eastern city, and described new progress in a counteroffensive in the south.

Gazprom's gas exports to Europe via Ukraine drop to 41.9 mcm

Russian gas producer Gazprom has said its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point was seen down to 41.9 million cubic metres (mcm) from 42.5 mcm on Thursday.

An application to supply gas via another major entry point, Sokhranovka, was rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said.

Network operator: France no longer receiving any Russian gas via pipelines

France has not received any natural gas from Russia via pipeline since June 15, network operator GRTgaz has said, after Russian energy giant Gazprom warned this week that it would sharply cut deliveries to Europe.

Gazprom said the supply reductions via the Nord Stream pipeline are the result of repair work, but EU officials believe Moscow is punishing allies of Ukraine, where Russian forces launched an offensive in February.

Macron, Scholz, Draghi return to Poland after Kiev visit

France's Emmanuel Macron, Germany's Olaf Scholz and Italy's Mario Draghi have returned to Poland by train following their first visit to Ukraine since Russia's offensive.

An hour before their train arrived in the Polish city of Przemysl, Prime Minister Draghi joined President Macron in his carriage for a bilateral meeting. Shortly after the departure from Kiev on Thursday, Macron and Chancellor Scholz also held talks.

During their visit to Ukraine, the three leaders, joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, said they were ready to "immediately" grant Ukraine official candidate status to join the European Union.

EU to give fast-tracked opinion on Ukraine membership bid

The European Commission is set to meet to give its fast-tracked opinion on Ukraine's bid for EU candidacy, a step closer to membership for the country a day after the bloc's most powerful leaders visited Kiev as it battles Russia's forces.

Never before has an opinion been given so quick on EU candidacy, which must be approved by all 27 member states. The opinion will serve as a basis for discussion at next week's EU summit, where leaders are expected to approve Ukraine's candidate status, but with stern conditions, and membership may take years or even decades.

France, Germany, Italy and Romania are all in favour of Ukraine receiving "immediate" candidate status, French President Emmanuel Macron said in Kiev on Thursday. Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian premier Mario Draghi arrived in Ukraine by train and visited the Kiev suburb of Irpin, scene of fierce battles.

Australia's new prime minister considers visit to Ukraine

Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said he will take advice on whether to accept President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's invitation to visit Ukraine during an upcoming European trip. 

Albanese will attend a NATO meeting in Spain at the end of this month. Albanese said he only became aware of the invitation to visit Ukraine when he read a newspaper report on Friday. He said “we’ll continue to stand with the people of Ukraine”.

Zelenskyy gave the invitation when he wrote to congratulate Albanese on his centre-left Labor Party’s win at elections on May 21, said Ukraine Embassy in Australia’s deputy head of mission Volodymyr Shalkivski.

UK defence chief: Russia will never take control of Ukraine

Russia has already "strategically lost" its conflict with Ukraine, suffering heavy losses and strengthening NATO, the UK's chief of defence staff has said in an interview.

"This is a dreadful mistake by Russia. Russia will never take control of Ukraine," said Tony Radakin, the country's highest-ranking military officer, adding it would emerge a "more diminished power".

"Russia has strategically lost already. NATO is stronger, Finland and Sweden are looking to join," he told Britain's domestic Press Association news agency, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin may achieve "tactical successes" in the weeks to come, but had sacrificed a quarter of his country's army power for "tiny" gains and was running out of troops and high-tech missiles.

For live updates from Thursday (June 16), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies