As the war enters its 479th day, these are the main developments. This is the situation as it stands on Saturday, June 17, 2023.
- The Commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said the situation in the east of the country remains “tense” and plans for the ongoing counteroffensive against Russian forces need to be adjusted. “Despite the advance of our troops in the south and the loss of territory and settlements in this direction, the enemy continues to move some of the most combat-capable units to the Bakhmut direction, combining these actions with powerful artillery fire and strikes by assault and army aircraft on the positions of our troops,” he said.
- Russia’s defence ministry said its forces repelled numerous attempts by Ukrainian forces in their ongoing counterattacks over the last 24 hours and inflicted significant losses in the south Donetsk and Donetsk directions. More than 500 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and five tanks were destroyed, the ministry said.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin again rejected reports of Ukrainian counteroffensive successes on the front lines in Ukraine, saying that at “no point have they achieved their goals”. He also said Ukraine will soon run out of its own military equipment and will be totally reliant on the West.
- Ukraine will send several dozen combat pilots to train on US-made F-16 fighter jets, Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said. NATO members the Netherlands and Denmark are leading efforts in an international coalition to train pilots and support staff, maintain aircraft and ultimately supply the F-16s.
- A team of legal experts assisting Ukraine’s prosecutors said that preliminary findings made it “highly likely” that the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine was caused by explosives planted by Russia.
- Putin proclaimed the end of “neo-colonialism” in international politics and praised Russia’s economic strategy following its ruptured ties with the West. “The ugly neo-colonial system of international relations has ceased to exist, while the multi-polar global order is strengthening,” he said at an annual economic forum in Saint Petersburg.
- Putin confirmed that Russia has sent nuclear arms to its ally Belarus. He also said that Russia could “theoretically” use nuclear weapons if there was a threat to its territorial integrity or existence.
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it “ironic” that Putin had placed Russian nuclear arms in Belarus when Putin justified his invasion of Ukraine as an action to prevent Kyiv from obtaining nuclear weapons.
- The White House denounced the comments from Putin on the possible use of nuclear weapons, adding that the US had made no adjustments to its own nuclear posture in response to the rhetoric.
- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia is ready for further talks on nuclear arms control, the Interfax news agency reported.
- A delegation of African leaders visited Kyiv on a peace mission where they called on Russia and Ukraine to de-escalate and negotiate. Shortly after their arrival, air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine as Russian missiles were detected. “The launching of the missiles today does not deter us and has not stopped us from continuing to call for de-escalation,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ruled out peace talks with Russia until a full withdrawal of Moscow’s forces from Ukraine.
- United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan told Putin that his nation wished to strengthen ties with Russia. The Gulf state has not joined the West in placing sanctions on Moscow and has maintained what it says is a neutral position on the Ukraine war.
- German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said NATO allies may be ready to remove hurdles from Ukraine’s path to joining the NATO military alliance amid reports that the US is open to allowing Kyiv to forgo a formal candidacy process.
- Turkey and Hungary must ratify Sweden’s NATO membership before the alliance meets at a summit in July, France said, adding that any further delays were not understandable and risked the security of the 31-member alliance.
- US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also urged Turkey’s new defence minister to approve Sweden’s NATO membership.
- Putin said there was a “serious danger” that NATO could be pulled further into the Ukraine conflict.
- Canada said it would bolster its force in Latvia as part of NATO with the deployment of 15 Leopard 2A4M tanks.
- Russia’s foreign ministry said it summoned the Australian ambassador after authorities in Australia cancelled the lease of a land plot where a new Russian embassy complex was being built in Canberra.
- The United Nations estimates an “extraordinary” 700,000 people require drinking water in eastern Ukraine following the collapse of the Kakhovka dam.
- The US will provide an additional $205m in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Secretary of State Blinken said.
- It is unlikely that Russia will quit the Black Sea grain deal before it comes up for renewal on July 17, Russian media reported. But Russian officials said they see no grounds to extend the agreement beyond that date. “How can you extend something that doesn’t work?” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
- Source: Aljazeera