NATO has never been more united – Biden
Following unprecedented EU, NATO and G7 summits in Brussels, US President Joe Biden has said NATO has never been more united, describing this as the opposite of what President Putin expected. Biden told world leaders the US would “respond” if Russia used chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine. Biden, French president Emanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson all refused to say exactly how they would respond but Biden said the nature of the US response would depend on the nature of the chemical weapons used. He urged continuing unity so sanctions would stay in place long enough to affect Moscow’s decision-making. At the emergency summit, NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg confirmed four new battlegroups, comprising of 40,000 troops in total, would be sent to Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.
Kyiv updates its arms shopping list
CNN reveals that Ukraine has recently updated its list of requests for additional military assistance from the United States government, inserting hundreds of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles more than previously sought. The list shows a growing need for Stinger and Javelin missiles, 500 units of both, and then jets, attack helicopters and anti-aircraft systems like the S-300. Russia’s attempts to encircle the city of Kyiv and block Chernihiv have been unsuccessful, according to the latest intelligence report released by the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff. As well as the Russian efforts to conquer Popasna, Rubizhne and Mariupol. Russia will try to block Kyiv from the east. The withdrawal of some Russian units is due to the “loss of more than 50% of the personnel”, the armed forces of Kyiv say, adding that Russia continues to replenish the losses. For the Ukrainian military, the large landing ship Saratov was destroyed during the attack on the occupied port of Berdyansk, adding that the ships Caesar Kunikov and Novocherkassk were also damaged.
Zelensky pushes for more support
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed he spoke to members of the NATO, G7 and EU summits, as well as the Swedish parliament, the president of Lithuania, the prime minister of Israel and the British prime minister. “This is all for support for our country. We need it for our defence,” he said, adding it was “all for Russia to understand one thing: it needs to seek peace too”. Delivering yet again a powerful late night nation address, Zelensky suggested Russia may not have invaded had it known the war would drag on for more than a month. “I’m sure, they would have been scared to come here, he said, adding “In this month, we have held all main areas of Russian assaults. The world has imposed destructive sanctions. We keep working and making agreements about new ones.”
Removing Russia from G20
Reuters reports President Biden has said he supports removing Russia from the G20 organisation of major economies, following the invasion of Ukraine. The topic was raised during his meetings with world leaders in Brussels. Biden said if the G20 could not agree on removing Russia, then Ukraine should be allowed to attend the meetings. The president said the key thing was for NATO countries to remain allied against Vladimir Putin. “The single most important thing is for us to stay unified and the world to continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people’s lives that will be lost and ruined and what’s going on,” Biden said.
Belarus authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko has warned that a Polish proposal to deploy a western peacekeeping force in Ukraine could trigger “world war three”. Lukashenko, who has allowed Russia to use Belarus’ territory to send troops into Ukraine, said on Thursday that should Poland’s suggestion be taken up “it will mean World War three”. Last week the leader of Poland’s ruling party said an international peacekeeping mission should be sent to Ukraine and be given the means to defend itself. Several western countries have said they will not deploy their troops to Ukraine. President Putin warned that any foreign interference with Moscow’s military action would trigger an immediate Russian response that would lead to “the consequences you have never seen in your history”.
Ukrainians launch strikes against high-value targets
Ukrainian forces have launched strikes against high-value targets in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, including a landing ship and ammunition storage depots at Berdyansk. Its latest intelligence report, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said it was likely that the Ukrainians would continue to target logistical assets in Russian-held areas. This will force the Russian military to prioritise the defence of their supply chain and deprive them of much-needed resupply for forces. “This will reduce Russia’s ability to conduct offensive operations, and further damage already dwindling morale,” it said.
In other developoments…
- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and EU chief Ursola von der Leyen said payments for Russian energy won’t be made in roubles as Moscow has has demanded. “The time of Russian energy blackmail is over,” von der Leyen said.
- Canada has the capacity to increase oil and gas exports by the equivalent of 300,000 barrels of oil per day by the end of this year, its natural resources minister Jonathan Wilkinson has said. Canada could increase oil exports by 200,000 bpd and gas by 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, in order to help other countries reduce their reliance on Russian energy. He said the country was also looking into ways to supply liquified natural gas (LNG), which it does not currently export.
- Ukraine says it has conducted the first proper prisoner exchange with Russia since the war began, with 10 Ukrainians exchanged for 10 Russians. In a separate exchange 11 Russian civilian sailors rescued from a ship that sank off Odesa were swapped for 19 Ukrainian seafarers.
- Pope Francis levelled strong criticism against countries for increasing defence spending following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, describing it as “madness”. He said the conflict in Ukraine was a product of “the old logic of power that still dominates so-called geopolitics” and the real answer was not more weapons and more sanctions.
US, EU call on Taliban to reopen schools for girls
Six countries, including the United States, are asking the Taliban to “review” their decision to close middle schools for girls. France, Italy, Norway, the United States, Canada and Great Britain, as well as the EU High Representative have warned that the decision “may have consequences that not only harm girls but” may undermine Afghanistan’s ambition to become a respected member. of the international community”.
Football: Italy out of Qatar world cup
European champions Italy won’t be in Qatar later this year after their 1-0 defeat by North Macedonia in Palermo, a goal coming two minutes into injury time. North Madeconia will now face Portugal on Tuesday after the latter’s 3-1 victory over Turkey. Gareth Bale scored two goals to take Wales a step closer to qualifying for their first World Cup since 1958 with a 2-1 victory over Austria and will now face either Scotland or Ukraine, to be played at a later date. Poland were given a bye against Russia and will face Sweden after the latter’s 1-0 victory, after extra time, against the Czech Republic. In Asia, Japan qualified for the World Cup finals following a 2-0 win over Australia. Coach Graham Arnold has urged a demoralised Australia to be positive after their failure to automatically qualify for a fifth successive World Cup. The Socceroos needed to beat Japan and then win against Saudi Arabia next week to seal their place in Qatar. Now they face a play-off against either UAE, Iraq or Lebanon.