Washington announces a new $775M defence package for Kiev on the 177th day of the conflict, while a key pipeline conveying Russian natural gas to Europe is set to shut down for three days for "maintenance".

Over 5,000 civilians have been killed and more than 7,000 wounded since the Ukraine conflict erupted on February 24, according to UN estimates.
Over 5,000 civilians have been killed and more than 7,000 wounded since the Ukraine conflict erupted on February 24, according to UN estimates. (AFP)

Friday, August 19, 2022

US announces new $775M arms package for Ukraine

The US for the first time will give Ukraine Scan Eagle surveillance drones, mine-resistant vehicles, anti-armour rounds and howitzer weapons to help Ukrainian forces regain territory and mount a counter-offensive against Russian soldiers.

A senior defence official told reporters that a new $775 million aid package will include 15 Scan Eagles, 40 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles known as MRAPs with mine-clearing rollers, and 2,000 anti-armour rounds that can help Ukraine troops move forward in the south and east, where Russian forces have placed mines.

The official said the US is looking to help shape and arm the Ukrainian force of the future as the conflict drags on. The package also includes more precision-guided missiles for the HIMARS systems that have permitted Ukrainian forces to strike Russian command centres and munitions depots far behind the front lines.

Maintenance work to halt Nord Stream gas for three days: Gazprom

Russian gas deliveries to Europe through the Nord Stream pipeline will cease from August 31 to September 2 for "maintenance", Russian energy giant Gazprom has said, raising the prospect of energy shortages in Europe.

"It is necessary to carry out maintenance every 1,000 hours" of operation, Gazprom said in a statement. "On August 31, 2022, the only Trent 60 gas compression unit will be stopped for three days for maintenance" involving technicians from Germany's Siemens, Gazprom said.

As a result, "gas transportation through the Nord Stream pipeline will be suspended for three days". At the end of this period, deliveries will be restored to a flow of 33 million cubic metres of gas per day, Gazprom said.

Since Western countries imposed sanctions on Moscow after it launched its offensive against Ukraine, Moscow has repeatedly cut gas deliveries to Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russian supplies.

China's Xi plans visit to Central Asia to meet Putin next month: Report

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is planning to travel to Central Asia to meet with Russia's Vladimir Putin and other leaders at a regional summit next month, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

The tentative addition of a trip to Xi's schedule comes after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan sparked fear in Beijing of accidental military encounter, the report said, citing people familiar with the planning.

Zelenskyy appreciates Erdogan for supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appreciated his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

"I had lengthy conversations today with Erdogan, the Turkish president. I am appreciative of President Erdogan's consistent support for our state's territorial integrity and sovereignty. We talked about cooperation in the economy, energy and defence sectors,” Zelenskyy said in a video message.

On Thursday, Erdogan visited the Ukrainian city of Lviv and met with Zelenskyy and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Russian forces showing 'total lack of progress': Pentagon official

Ukraine's forces have brought the Russian advance to a halt in recent weeks and the Russian military's positions on the ground have weakened, a senior US defence official has said.

"You are seeing a complete and total lack of progress by the Russians on the battlefield," the official said, speaking to reporters on grounds of anonymity.

Half of Russia's Black Sea fleet's combat jets out of operation: Western official

Blasts at the Saky air base in the annexed Crimean peninsula earlier this month have put more than half of the Russian Black Sea fleet's naval aviation combat jets out of use, a Western official has said.

The air base near Novofedorivka on the west coast of the peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, suffered multiple explosions on August 9.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ukraine was now consistently achieving "kinetic effects" deep behind Russia's lines which was having a material impact on Russia's logistics support and "a significant psychological effect on the Russian leadership".

Ukrainian economy could contract 35-40% by year-end: Minister

Ukraine's economy could contract 35-40% by the end of the year, Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko has said. Hit by Russia's offensive, the economy contracted 15.1% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2022.

Russia's watchdog plans measures against IT companies

Russia's state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor has said it is taking punitive measures against a string of foreign IT companies, including TikTok, Telegram, Zoom, Discord and Pinterest.

In a statement, Roskomnadzor said the measures were in response to the companies' failure to remove content that it had flagged as illegal, and would remain in place until they complied. It did not specify what measures would be taken.

Russia has repeatedly threatened to fine sites, including Google, that violate harsh new laws criminalising the spreading of "false information" about the Russian army.

Swiss prosecutors asked to probe journalist attack in Ukraine

A rights group has asked Switzerland to investigate an alleged attack on a Swiss photojournalist by Russian troops in Ukraine earlier this year, prosecutors have confirmed.

Ukrainian NGO Truth Hounds has asked Switzerland's Office of the Attorney General to probe an attack on Swiss freelance journalist Guillaume Briquet in southern Ukraine in March, according to the Swiss-based Civitas Maxima group that helped it file the complaint.

The OAG confirmed to AFP news agency that it had received the complaint, which it said would "now be examined according to usual procedure."

Briquet was injured in the head and arms when his car, which had Geneva plates and PRESS written on both sides, was ambushed by Russian troops near Mykolaiv on March 6, according to Civitas Maxima.

Moscow: Russian military control of Zaporizhzhia plant guarantees no 'Chernobyl scenario'

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said Russia's military presence at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine is a guarantee against what he called a "Chernobyl scenario", referring to the 1986 nuclear catastrophe.

Yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ivan Nechaev said that a UN proposal to demilitarise the area around the nuclear plant was "unacceptable".

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe's largest, was occupied by Russia in March. It remains near the frontline and has repeatedly come under fire in recent weeks, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.

Ship with over 11,700 tonnes of Ukrainian corn docks in Türkiye

A ship carrying over 11,700 tons of corn from Ukraine has reached its destination in Türkiye, the National Defense Ministry has said.

The Barbados-flagged Fulmar S docked at Alsancak, an Aegean Sea port in the western Izmir province.

It set off from Chornomorsk on August 13, one of over two dozen vessels that have been able to leave Ukrainian ports under the landmark grain export deal signed in Istanbul last month. 

UK: Russia bombarding Kharkiv to keep Ukraine from using forces elsewhere

Russia is keeping up a steady bombardment of the northeastern Kharkiv front to tie down Ukrainian forces and prevent them from being used for counter-attacks in other regions, Britain's defence ministry has said.

Kharkiv, some 15 km (9 miles) from Russian front lines, has been consistently shelled since the start of Russia's offensive of Ukraine as it is within range of most Russian artillery, the ministry said in a daily intelligence bulletin.

Seventeen people were killed and 42 injured in two Russian attacks in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, on Wednesday and Thursday, the regional Ukrainian governor said. Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians in what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

UK spy chief: Putin losing 'information war' in Ukraine 

Russia has failed to gain ground in cyberspace against Ukraine almost six months after its onslaught on the country, the head of Britain's GCHQ intelligence service has said.

Jeremy Fleming, the intelligence head, in an op-ed in The Economist, wrote that both countries have been using their cyber capabilities in the fighting in Ukraine.

"So far, President Putin has comprehensively lost the information war in Ukraine and in the West. Although that's cause for celebration, we should not underestimate how Russian disinformation is playing out elsewhere in the world," Fleming wrote.

Fleming said Russia had deployed WhisperGate malware to destroy and deface Ukrainian government systems. He also said Russia has used the same playbook before on Syria and the Balkans and said online disinformation is a major part of Russia's strategy. 

For live updates from Wednesday (August 17), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies