Prepared by Sofia Oliynyk and Maryana Zaviyska
Photo: State Service of Ukraine for Emergencies
Amid ongoing military drills conducted by Belarus along its border with Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered assessments on troops’ combat readiness in four of the five Ukrainian oblasts bordering Belarus. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, claims that Belarus has deployed seven battalions totaling around 4,000 troops along the Ukrainian border. In his speech on June 17, Lukashenko once again blamed the West for “dragging Belarus into the war” and threatened to fire missiles at Kyiv should Ukraine attack Belarus. However, a report by the Institute for the Study of War suggests that, despite an increase in military activities by Belarus, it remains unlikely that the country will directly join Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine due to the risk of domestic unrest. Nevertheless, President Putin said that Belarus will receive the Russian Iskander missile systems, able to launch ballistic and guided missiles, in the nearest future.
Zelensky called on Belarusians to resist the Kremlin’s military goals. In a virtual address to Belarusians on June 26, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “the Kremlin has already decided everything for you, your lives are worthless to them. But you are not slaves or cannon fodder.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has also seized assets worth $136 million belonging to two Belarusian oil companies accused of financing Russia’s full-scale invasion.
On June 26, Lukashenko said that Lithuania’s decision to comply with EU sanctions and suspend transit of some goods ‘resembles a declaration of war.’ The brewing dispute between Lithuania and Russia over the transit of goods to Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast draws attention to the Suwalki Gap – the 100-kilometer strip at the Poland-Lithuania border that Russia may potentially target from Belarusian territory. On June 18, Lithuania suspended the transit of some goods to and from Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast, locked between Poland and Lithuania. Lithuania announced that, in compliance with EU-imposed sanctions on Russia, it would gradually cease the transit of goods such as construction materials, coal, metals, and advanced technology to and from Kaliningrad. The move will reportedly affect 40 to 50% of the goods imported and exported to the region via Lithuania. Because Kaliningrad is sandwiched between the two EU member states, Russia will have to rely on a remaining sea route to supply its exclave. The Kremlin was quick to pronounce Lithuania’s decision a ‘blockade’, promising retaliatory measures to ‘defend its national interests’.
Belarus extends its official ‘list of terrorists’ by adding political opponents. At the same time, Belarusian lawyers defending clients in politically motivated cases are facing persecution and are barred from practicing law.
The U.K. government said on June 26 that it’s ready to provide $525 million in guarantees for the World Bank lending to Ukraine. ‘The U.K. will continue to back Ukraine every step of the way because we know that their security is our security, and their freedom is our freedom,’ U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. The lending will cover costs such as the salaries in the public sector and the running of schools and hospitals, the statement said.
NATO will provide Ukraine with modern weapons systems. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby announced this. He noted that Soviet weapons would also be supplied because they do not require additional training of the Ukrainian military. ‘We want to make sure that the right balance is struck here, and they get the systems that they’re used to as well as the systems that they need, the use of which doesn’t unnecessarily reduce their combat readiness on the ground,’ John Kirby said.
G7 leaders will commit to providing indefinite support to Ukraine for its defense against Russia’s invasion, according to the text of a draft statement from their summit in Bavaria, reported by Bloomberg. Also four countries, US, UK, Japan and Canada, of the Group of Seven rich nations moved to ban imports of Russian gold to tighten the sanctions squeeze on Moscow and cut off its means of financing the invasion of Ukraine. Introduction of the price cap on Russian oil is also at the table. This could put the squeeze on Moscow, which is benefiting from soaring energy prices, and cut off its means of financing the invasion of Ukraine.
President Biden and several of his counterparts in the Group of Seven nations on Sunday announced a ban on new imports of Russian gold. Gold is a crucial asset for the Russian central bank, which has faced restrictions on accessing some of its assets held abroad because of Western sanctions.
Japan, as a follow-up of the G7 talks, announced the additional sanctions that include a ban on imports of Russian gold and on providing accounting, trust and some other services to Russia. Prime Minister Kishida also said Japan will expand its asset freeze measures to cover an additional 70 Russian individuals and organizations and will implement a ban on exports to 90 military-related organizations.
‘The G7 summit should respond to Russian strikes on Kyiv,’ said Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office. ‘The sanctions should be more aggressive. An embargo on gold exports is good, but a gas embargo is needed in the new EU sanctions package’.
Russia defaulted on its foreign-currency sovereign debt for the first time since 1918. This results from the series of the Western sanctions that shut down payment routes to overseas creditors.
On June 25, Greece suspended visa applications for Russians for an indefinite period, the Association of Tour Operators of Russia reported. The decision came months after Greece announced that Russians will no longer be eligible to apply for, hold, or renew investment-based residence permits in Greece.
Lithuania will not agree to concessions on transit of Russian goods through neighboring Kaliningrad. ‘Lithuania must and will maintain control over the goods transported through its territory, and there can be no talk of any ‘corridors,’ as well as concessions to Russia in response to the Kremlin’s threats,’ said Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda. Lithuania plans to veto the decision of the European Commission to allow unlimited transit of Russian goods through the EU.
Cities under attack.
Three explosions were recorded early on June 26 in Kyiv’s central Shevchenkivskyi District targeting two high-rise buildings. Russian attack missiles destroyed not only residential buildings, but also hit kindergarten. No casualties have been reported from the kindergarten. According to the State Emergency Service, the attack on the residential building killed one person and at least six were hospitalized. 24 explosions were reported in the Sumy region on June 26. Head of Sumy regional administration said that Russian forces fired mortars on the oblast’s Shalyhinska and Yunakivska communities on the morning of June 26. According to the preliminary data, there were no casualties. Russian missile strike kills at least 3, injures 4 in Sarny, Rivne region. According to Rivne Governor Vitaly Koval, missiles hit two car repair facilities. Authorities continue going through the rubble, and the number of casualties can grow, the governor added. On Sunday, Russian troops also hit the Chernihiv and Cherkasy region. There were 2 strikes on facilities in Desna, Chernihiv region and 2 strikes on Cherkasy region. As a result of shelling a residential area in Odesa region, several residential buildings were destroyed and set on fire in an approximate area of 500 square meters. Six people were injured, including one child.
Cities under occupation.
Russian military reportedly kidnaps families of Ukrainian soldiers in occupied areas of Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts. Ukraine’s Operational Command ‘South’ reported on June 25 that Russia collected information on Ukrainian service members through captured data or collaborators and used it to kidnap families of Ukrainian soldiers, including their children. In the Zaporizhzhia region, the Russian army abducts people in Enerhodar for money. Russian collaborators demand 50 000 UAH for the release of the captured local people. Mayor Dmytro Orlov says that hundreds of city residents are now in captivity. A large part of them is qualified employees of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Some are detained for ‘political’ reasons, some for money. Prisoners are subjected to electric shocks, beatings and imprisonment for weeks, sometimes even months.
In the Kherson region partisant movement grows to prevent Russian hold of powers, says the report. The report presents that the opostion takes place both in Kherson but also in small towns across the region. One can observe a leaflet campaign across the city, warning Russian forces and collaborators of their fate when the Ukrainian Army enters the city, but local activists are bringing retribution closer. Also, car explosions are on the rise. There are frequent cases reported that bombs explode at the Russian collaborators cars. Some of the findings indicate that in early June, the local media reported that local farmers of Kherson region opened fire on Russian occupiers who intended to steal their vehicles. The farmers told Telegraf that the occupiers are threatening them with prison if they refuse to plant the new harvest.
Meanwhile the Defense Ministry’s Intelligence Directorate reports that Russia is conducting a covert mobilization to replenish its ranks in the east of Ukraine, which is why there is no point in waiting until Russia exhausts its resources. He added that Ukraine could only achieve a victory against Russia through military force.
War crimes prosecution.
The Ministry of Justice has filed a new lawsuit against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), says the Ministry statement. In the lawsuit, Ukraine accuses the Russian authorities of violating the European Convention on Human Rights in connection with the illegal invasion of the sovereign territory of Ukraine.The document submitted to Ukraine today addresses Russia’s flagrant human rights violations in the early stages of the war and describes the events from the beginning of the Russian invasion on the morning of February 24, 2022 to the actual withdrawal of its ground forces from Kyiv and other northern cities on April 7, 2022. As part of this lawsuit, Ukraine demands, in addition to the complete withdrawal of Russian troops, the award of monetary compensation to the injured parties.
Ukraine increases the volume of grain exports through its Western borders by 50% monthly to resolve the global food supply crisis that emerged due to blocking of the Ukrainian seaports by Russia. The Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine reports that it is working daily on rearranging the logistics towards transportation by land, particularly involving the western borders of Ukraine with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova, as the Ukrainian seaports remain blocked. Meanwhile, Russia removed 400,000 tons of grain from the occupied territories of Ukraine during the full-scale invasion according to Taras Vysotskyi, the First Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company Energoatom accused Russia of committing ‘another act of nuclear terrorism,’ saying in the early morning of June 26 that a Russian missile passed critically low over the South Ukraine nuclear power plant. ‘Any damage to the existing power unit will lead to severe consequences and could threaten the world with a terrible nuclear catastrophe,’ the company said. It added that the missile likely flew in the direction of Kyiv, where on the same morning, a Russian strike hit a residential building, killing at least one person.
The international image of the United States, NATO and Russia has shifted. Recent Pew Research Center study indicates that views on Russia plunging and views of the United States and NATO remaining positive, even increasing. In Poland, the shifts have been dramatic. Views on the U.S., European Union and NATO have reached all-time highs — each hovering around 90 percent — since the question was first asked in 2007. And views on Russia dropped from one-third of Poles sharing a favorable view in 2019 to a measly 2 percent in 2022. Overall, Russia saw a steep decline in its favorability since 2020. All 18 countries surveyed recorded all-time low shares in positive opinions of the nation — even as Russia was already seen in a relatively unfavorable light. A median of 85 percent across nations saw Russia unfavorably this year. In the U.S., positive views of Russia dropped from 15 percent in 2020 to 7 percent this year.
In Mariupol, Russian forces burnt all books from the library of the Church of Petro Mohyla. Unique copies of Ukrainian-language publications were kept there and now they are lost forever.
On June 26, Ukraine celebrated the Day of the Crimean Tatar flag. Despite the shelling of Kyiv, a blue flag with a tamga was solemnly raised on the flagpole near the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. On this occasion a Crimean Tatar “June 26 Initiative” has been launched in Ukraine. Its goal is “to defeat the enemy and return the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar flags to the Crimea”.
- From Pushkin to Putin: Russian Literature Is Full of Imperial Ideology (foreignpolicy.com) – Volodymyr Yermolenko, a philosopher and the editor in chief of UkraineWorld argues about imperialistic nature and dehumanizing nationalism of Russian classical literature: ‘Once you begin to look for it, you’ll find Russian literature chock full of imperialist discourse, romanticized conquest and cruelty, and silence about the consequences. […] At the same time that European orientalism was developing an image of African and Asian societies as having no history worth telling, Russian literature was constructing an image of the Caucasus and Ukraine as societies whose violent histories deserved to be forgotten’.
- We must ignore the defeatist voices who propose to sell out Ukraine (telegraph.co.uk) – an article by Liz Truss, UK’s Foreighn Secretary, and Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Foreighn Affairs of Ukraine: ‘The Ukrainian people do not have the luxury to feel fatigued. Nor can the rest of the free world. The evidence of heinous war crimes continues to mount, from the bombardment of innocent Ukrainian civilians to rape, torture and abduction’.
- The Perils of Pessimism | Foreign Affairs – ‘Pessimism is also a major contributing factor to the war in Ukraine. For all his talk about restoring Russian greatness, Russian President Vladimir Putin has a pessimistic worldview, and this explains his decision to invade. Russia’s 2014 interventions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine backfired badly. Instead of returning to the Russian fold, Ukraine responded by bolstering its military capabilities and drawing closer to NATO and the European Union. As Ukraine’s westward drift accelerated, Putin felt he had to act quickly—and with military force—before Kyiv completely escaped Russia’s sphere of influence’.
- Making Sense of Ukraine | KULTURA ENTER – ‘Ukrainians understand something crucial that the Westerners did not wish to understand until recently – that the very existence of an independent, democratic and European Ukraine is unacceptable for Putinist Russia, insofar as it considers Ukraine an indispensable part, a centerpiece of its (still incomplete) imperial identity’.
- According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, 339 children have been killed due to the Russian war in Ukraine, while at least 613 children were injured.
- General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced the total estimated losses of the Russian military as of 10 a.m., June 27, 2022: personnel – around 35000, tanks ‒ 1552, APV ‒ 3687, artillery systems – 771, MLRS – 243, anti-aircraft warfare systems – 101, fixed-wing aircraft – 217, helicopters – 184, operational-tactical level UAV – 636, cruise missiles – 139, boats and light speed boats – 14, soft-skinned vehicles and fuel tankers – 2575, special equipment – 60.
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