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.

Putin appoints governors for Donbass

Strasbourg 05.10.2022 President Putin appoints acting heads of four “new Russian regions”, Russian TASS news agency reports. (Image above: archive)

Following referenda where voters opted for the accession of the regions to Russia, Putin and the heads of the four regions signed treaties on their accession to Russia at a Kremlin-hosted ceremony, the news agency continues. THe moved unanimously condemned by the European Union, assessing the change as “annexation”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed acting heads of the four new Russian regions who will govern until the regions’ heads are elected according to Russian law.

The same politicians who headed the regions prior to their accession to Russia have retained their posts. Denis Pushilin, who was a leader of Russian-speaking protests in the Donetsk Region after a coup in Ukraine, became acting head of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). Pushilin participated in a ceremony on April 7, 2014 when the DPR was created, and in 2018 he was elected head of the republic.

Leonid Pasechnik has been a head of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR). In 2014, when protests against Euromaidan events and a nationwide coup began in southeastern Ukraine, he took the side of the Lugansk Region’s people’s militia and was elected head of the republic in 2018.

The leaders of the two self-proclaimed Donbass republics retained the title of heads, while the heads of the other two regions became acting governors.

Yevgeny Balitsky, who has been leading the Zaporozhye Region’s military-civilian administration, will be the region’s acting governor. The military-civilian administration was formed in the region’s liberated areas after those had been taken over by Russian troops. And Vladimir Saldo, previously the head of the Kherson Region’s military-civilian administration, will become the region’s acting governor.

Following referendums where voters opted for the accession of the regions to Russia, Putin and the heads of the four regions signed treaties on their accession to Russia at a Kremlin-hosted ceremony on Friday. Pushilin, Pasechnik, Balitsky and Saldo signed off on the documents on behalf of the four regions.

Izyum: Russian troops in retreat

Brussels 10.09.2022 The Russian troops stationed at Balakleya and Izyum have been regrouped and redeployed to the Donetsk direction in order to step up efforts there, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Saturday, September 10.

“In order to achieve the declared goals of the special military operation for the liberation of Donbass, it was decided to regroup the Russian forces stationed near Balakleya and Izyum to boost efforts in the Donetsk direction,” Konashenkov said.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, for that purpose, an operation of reorganizing and redeploying the Izyum-Balakleya grouping to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has been carried out in the past three days. Simultaneously, distractive and demonstration activates indicating troops’ real actions were taken.
“A powerful fire attack, with the air force, missile and artillery troops engaged, was conducted against the enemy to prevent harm to Russian troops,” the general added.

On Friday, September 9, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video showing Russian troops’ redeployment to the Kharkov direction. Footage features a military convoy consisting of BTR-82A armored personnel carriers and D-20 towed gun-howitzers. Besides the Z and V symbols, a new symbol – a circle inscribed in a triangle – painted on military vehicles can be seen in the video.

Putin vows to overcome hardships

Brussels 18.07.2022 Russia is not going to lose heart or have decades of its progress reversed, despite inhospitable forecasts from opponents, President Vladimir Putin told the Council for Strategic Development at a meeting on Monday.

The president said Russia was being completely denied access to foreign hi-tech products.

“We understand that this is a major challenge to our country, however we are not going to lose heart or have decades of our progress reversed, despite predictions from a number of our ill-wishers, the opposite is true,” Putin insisted.

“[We are] aware of the huge amount of obstacles” being put up, so Russia will be “looking for new solutions while making effective use of its own technological capacities available in the country and research by innovative Russian companies,” Putin explained.

“I understand that this is a complicated task. All of us are perfectly aware of that. And it’s also clear that we cannot and will not live in isolation from the rest of the world,” the Russian president pledged.

The head of state stressed that Russia cannot be isolated from the rest of the world, or fenced off from it.

“Obviously, we cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world. And we won’t. It is impossible in the present-day world to merely issue as decree and erect a huge fence. It is simply impossible,” he said and outlined top priority tasks.

According to the president, one of such tasks is to develop end-to-end technologies, which have major influence on structural changes in the economy.

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-U.S. talks on mercenaries failed

Brussels 09.07.2022 Talks on American mercenaries in Ukraine going nowhere — Russian diplomat
“The U.S. earlier sent some kind of a signal, mostly stressing that these people should be regarded as combatants under the Geneva Convention and the corresponding obligations should be applied to them,” Deputy Foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov said.

Russian-U.S. exchanges on the issue of American mercenaries in Ukraine failed to proceed, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told reporters on Friday, July 8.

“As far as I understand, the discussions failed to develop,” he said in response to a TASS question. “The US earlier sent some kind of a signal, mostly stressing that these people should be regarded as combatants under the Geneva Convention and the corresponding obligations should be applied to them,” Ryabkov added.

The senior Russian diplomat has underlined that “the circumstances of mercenaries’ emergence and the overall presence and activities of foreign mercenaries on the side of Ukraine’s Armed Forces and nationalist battalions are one of the most serious issues in the relations with the United States and their allies.

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.

Russia: Pope and senator Paul

Brussels 21.06.2022 Senator Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky) received some high profile company last week in citing NATO expansion as a main reason Russia invaded Ukraine. Pope Francis echoed Paul’s earlier sentiment that the North-Atlantic Alliance played a significant role in provoking Russia and shares a large part of the blame. The Pontiff announced that Russia’s invasion was “perhaps somehow either provoked or not prevented” in an interview with La Civilta Cattolica.

Senator Paul initially made his comments during an exchange with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a hearing about the conflict in Ukraine. The fact that Pope Francis endorsed this theory as well should come as no surprise. It has been a prominent theory in geopolitics for several decades. Yet Democrats and other left-wingers refused to acknowledge this, despite decades of evidence supporting Paul’s claim. Instead, they vilified and attacked Senator Paul, along with anyone else who repeated this theory.

Paul offered his criticism in April and was accused of being a Putin apologist. Will the Democrats blame Pope Francis for becoming a Putin puppet?