Crimea: Kerch bridge explosion

Brussels 08.10.2922 fire is burning on the Kirch Strait Bridge that connects Russia to Crimea Saturday morning, with images showing multiple train cars fully engulfed and two spans of the road bridge in the water. The Ministry of Transport of Russia told RBC news that the coastal infrastructure is ready for the resumption of the operation of the Kerch ferry crossing. As of 08:30 Moscow time, the first ferry started moving to the terminal for loading and starting transportation, three more ferries of various ship owners are preparing to enter the crossing.

Traffic on the bridge, a critical strategic artery for Russian forces in Crimea amid its war in Ukraine, has reportedly been halted as heavy flames and black smoke spew from a train carrying unknown cargo. Photos also show spans of both east and westbound lanes have collapsed into the water near the burning train.

The bridge cost billions to build after Russia seized Crimea in 2014 and has been one of Ukraine’s top targets, although it lacked traditional weaponry capable of striking it from far away. Even the Pentagon has openly stated that it sees the bridge as a viable target for Ukrainian forces. Russia has deployed air defenses and decoy barges in an attempt to protect it from some kind of attack in recent months.

As it becomes clear from the conversations of local inhabitants, filming the fire, they talk about “flight”, which is colloquial for air missile strike.

Saint-Petersburg festivities cancelled

Brussels 07.10.2022 Traditional Christmas and New Year celebrations in Saint Petersburg will be cancelled and all previously allocated funds for the festivities will be channelled to finance volunteers and mobilised troops of the “special military operation” (SMO) in Ukraine, the municipal authorities said in a statement on Friday, October 7. (Image: Saint-Petersburg, Russia)

“During a session with Governor Alexander Beglov with members of the municipal administration it was decided to cancel previously scheduled events dedicated to New Year festivities,” the statement reads.

“All available funds will be channelled into a special Saint Petersburg stipulating extra outfit and gear for volunteers and mobilised citizens,” Beglov said.

It was previously noted that all mobilised people in Saint Petersburg would be paid a bonus of 100,000 rubles (over $1,600), while volunteers would get 300,000 rubles in bonuses (over $4,800).

Mayor of the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod Yury Shalabayev also stated that previously scheduled New Year and Christmas celebrations, including music concerts and festivities, would be cancelled and all previously allocated financial means would be channelled to aid the families of mobilised Russian nationals.

“I have received numerous questions via social websites from our citizens about planned mass festivities, concerts and fireworks to mark the New Year. My response is no, although we planned them initially,” he said.

“However, we will still carry on with New Year celebrations for children and festive events in schools and kindergartens,” the mayor of Nizhny Novgorod added.

On September 21, President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilisation in Russia. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu clarified that 300,000 reservists would be called up, who would undergo training before being sent to the special military operation zone.

The partial mobilization will not involve students and conscripts. Only citizens who have prior combat experience and military specializations needed for the operation will be mobilized. The defense chief emphasized that the call-up is being carried out first and foremost to support the territories liberated during the special military operation.

USA-Russia: prisoners exchange talks

Brussels 06.08.2022 Russia is ready to discuss the exchange of prisoners with the US, but only within the channel, negotiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden. If the Americans resort to public diplomacy, its’ “their problem,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said to reporters Friday, August 5. (Image above: Viktor Bout)

The top diplomat said that Washington’s logic in the situation around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is “strange,” and noted that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken displayed no interest in contacts with his Russian counterpart during the ASEAN events in Phnom Penh.

“If the Americans once again decide to resort to public diplomacy and to make loud announcements that they plan to take some steps, then that is their business, and I would even say, their problem. The Americans often do not comply with agreements on a quiet professional work on this and many other topics.”

Borrell: views on Ukraine conflict shift

Brussels 11.07.2022 The G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bali opened to Josep Borrell the different perspectives around the world on the situation in Ukraine and its consequences, the The European Union top diplomat said, pointing at the evolution of views on the conflict.

“In the March vote at the UN General Assembly, 140 states condemned the Russian aggression and no member of the G20, apart from the aggressor, opposed this Resolution. But on how to move forward and on the consequences of the war, views differ sharply,” Borrell said in a statement published on the EU’s website on Sunday. “The G7 and like-minded countries are united in condemning and sanctioning Russia and in trying to hold the regime accountable. But other countries, and we can speak here of the majority of the `Global South’, often take a different perspective,” he concluded.

“The global battle of narratives is in full swing and, for now, we are not winning,” Borrell underlined.

The G20 foreign ministerial sessions held in Bali on July 7-8 were attended by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who held a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a “special military operation” in response to a request by the heads of the two Donbass Republics. The U.S., the EU, the UK and a number of NATO allies retaliated with sweeping sanctions against Russia and have been ramping up their weapons supplies to Ukraine.

“In the March vote at the UN General Assembly, 140 states condemned the Russian aggression and no member of the G20, apart from the aggressor, opposed this resolution. But on how to move forward and on the consequences of the war, views differ sharply,” Borrell said in a statement published on the EU’s website on Sunday. “The G7 and like-minded countries are united in condemning and sanctioning Russia and in trying to hold the regime accountable. But other countries, and we can speak here of the majority of the `Global South’, often take a different perspective,” the EU diplomat concluded.

“The global battle of narratives is in full swing and, for now, we are not winning,” Borrell continued.

The G20 foreign ministerial sessions held in Bali on July 7-8 were attended by Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov. The Russian foreign minister held a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a special military operation in response to a request by the heads of the two Donbass republics. The US, the EU, the UK and a number of other countries retaliated with sweeping sanctions against Russia and have been ramping up their weapons supplies to Ukraine.

Russia: Belgorod hit by missile

Brussels 03.07.2022 At least three people were perished and dozens of residential buildings damaged in the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border, the regional governor said, after reports of several blasts in the city.

At least 11 apartment buildings and 39 private houses were damaged, including five that were destroyed, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov posted on the Telegram messaging app.

Governor Gladkov said earlier that the “incident” was being investigated, adding: “Presumably, the air defence system worked.”

At least four people were injured and two hospitalised, including a 10-year-old boy, he said.

The news agencies could not independently verify the reports. There was no immediate reaction from the Ukraine relevant authorities.

Belgorod, a city of nearly 400,000 some 40km north of the border with Ukraine, is the administrative centre of the Belgorod region.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov confirmed that tonight, from 3:00 to 3:30 Moscow time, the “Kyiv regime” carried out a “deliberate strike with Tochka-U ballistic missiles with cluster munitions and Tu-143 Reis drones on residential areas of Belgorod and Kursk, where there are no military installations”.

All three Tochka-U ballistic missiles with cluster warheads launched by Ukrainian military at Belgorod were destroyed in the air by Russian air defense systems. As a result of the defeat of Ukrainian missiles, the wreckage of one of them fell on a residential building in the city.

NATO MADRID PIVOTAL SUMMIT

Brussels 25.06.2022 NATO Leaders are meeting in Madrid at a pivotal time for our security. Russia’s war against Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe, caused far-reaching energy and food crises, and shaken the rules-based international order. NATO’s response has been swift and united.

How has Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the new security reality in Europe affected NATO’s approach to deterrence and defence?

What is the Alliance doing to address other challenges, like China’s growing influence and assertiveness or the security consequences of climate change?

What will be included in NATO’s next Strategic Concept, the blueprint for the Alliance’s future adaptation to a more competitive world where authoritarian powers try to push back against the rules-based international order?

These are just some of the important questions that NATO Leaders will discuss during the Madrid Summit.

More than ever, NATO is the indispensable platform for transatlantic consultations and cooperation on security and defence. At the Madrid Summit, Allies will continue to adapt, taking decisions to keep NATO strong and ready in a more dangerous world. Heads of State and Government will agree to strengthen deterrence and defence, and support Ukraine for the longer term. They will agree the 2022 Strategic Concept, which will be a roadmap for the Alliance in the years to come. Allies will also boost cooperation with partners, enhance resilience and sharpen NATO’s technological edge – all underpinned by the necessary investments in our collective defence.

NATO Leaders are gathering in Madrid, Spain to discuss important issues facing the Alliance. The Madrid Summit will set NATO’s strategic direction for the next decade and beyond, ensuring that the Alliance will continue to adapt to a changing world and keep its one billion people safe.

Lavrov: no timetalbe in Ukraine

Brussels 02.05.2022 Moscow won’t set artificial timetable for its military operations in Ukraine in order to complete it by Victory Day, celebrated in Russia on May 9, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (pictured) said in an interview with Italy’s Mediaset broadcaster.(Image above: illustration).

“Our troops won’t artificially base their activities on a specific date, including Victory Day,” he pointed out in response to a question. “We will solemnly celebrate May 9 the way we always do,” Lavrov added.

According to the top diplomat, the pace of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine first and foremost depends “on the need to mitigate risks for civilians and Russian troops.”

Lavrov underlined that the operation was particularly aimed at ensuring the safety of civilians and making sure that there were no threats from Ukraine to civilians and Russia, “which would be related to offensive weapons and the spread of Nazi ideas that the West is trying to downplay.”

“I have seen reports on NBC, I have read the National Interest magazine. Serious articles have started to appear there that are warning against playing games with Nazis, like it happened in 1935-1938,” the Russian Minister has underlined.