Key developments

Ukraine received High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems from the US, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Thursday.

European Union leaders have accepted Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for membership of the bloc, European Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday.

The US will provide Ukraine with an additional $450 million worth of security assistance, the Department of Defense announced Thursday.

13:19 2022-06-24
Ukraine receives artillery rocket systems from US

Ukraine received High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from the United States, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Thursday.

"HIMARS have arrived in Ukraine," Reznikov tweeted, without specifying the number of weapons.

The HIMARS were supplied to Ukraine under the 700-million-US-dollar weapon package unveiled by the United States on June 1.

11:08 2022-06-24
US to send Ukraine more rocket systems in new weapons package
The Pentagon building is seen in Arlington, Virginia, US, in this Oct 9, 2020 file photo. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - The United States will provide Ukraine with an additional $450 million worth of security assistance, including four more advanced rocket systems, the Department of Defense announced Thursday.

Among the items that Washington pledged to Kyiv in the latest weapons package were four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, 18 patrol boats for monitoring coasts and rivers, more ammunition, as well as small arms such as grenade launchers and machine guns.

The package will be drawn from the Pentagon's existing stocks, marking the 13th time the administration has done so to arm Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia.

The United States, according to a statement from the Pentagon, has now committed approximately 6.8 billion dollars in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of President Joe Biden's administration, including approximately $6.1 billion since the beginning of Russia's special military operation in Ukraine.

07:50 2022-06-25
Ukraine, Moldova granted candidate status in EU bid
By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels
EU Leaders' Summit held in Brussels, Belgium on June 23, 2022. [Photo/VCG]

Leaders from the European Union's 27 member states unanimously endorsed candidate status of the bloc's membership for Ukraine and Moldova on Thursday evening, a move hailed by EU leaders as "historic" but viewed by experts as symbolic in an extremely lengthy process.

EU leaders were divided earlier over such a fast decision that will be unfair to other applicant nations, but their views have changed notably in the past week since the European Commission formally published its opinion endorsing the status.

The decision was made on the first day of a two-day EU summit in Brussels. It also came a week after a joint trip to Kyiv by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, voicing their support for the candidate status.

"Historic agreement, historic decision," said European Council President Charles Michel after the meeting on the first day.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the decision "a very defining moment and a very good day for Europe today".

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky applauded the decision, saying "it's a unique and historic moment in Ukraine-EU relations".

Moldova's President Maia Sandu called the announcement "an unequivocal signal of support for our citizens and Moldova's European future".

Macron called the move "historic" and "starting a new platform for Ukraine, Moldova and Europe".

While EU leaders finally agreed unanimously on Ukraine and Moldova, they failed to break the deadlock over the membership bids by Albania and North Macedonia, which were granted candidate status in 2014 and 2005 respectively.

Symbolic move

Candidate status is seen by many as a symbolic move, showing that a designated country could begin a prolonged process to formal accession. Turkey received its candidate status as early as December 1999 and still sees no light in the immediate future.

Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the decision was made against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"But it should be noted that the path from candidate status to formal membership is very long," he said.

"The admission of candidacy is indeed historically quick, but we have to remember that the accession process is much longer, and there are difficult parts ahead," echoed Lai Suetyi, an associate professor in the Center for European Studies at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies.

08:01 2022-06-24
Support for West's tough response frays

As pain spreads, 'Ukraine fatigue' chips away at resolve to hurt Russia

People attend a funeral for Ukrainian serviceman Oleh Kutsyn in Kyiv on Wednesday. The man was recently killed in the conflict with Russia. Ukraine was expected to receive EU candidacy status on Thursday, though the accession process is likely to take years if not decades. [Photo/Agencies]

With the Russia-Ukraine conflict poised to enter its fifth month, the West is showing signs of fatigue as the price paid for its partisan role mounts, and there are more discussions about how and when to end the fighting in order to combat rising global inflation and food shortages.

Leaders of the European Union were scheduled to gather in Brussels on Thursday to discuss calls to formally grant Ukraine candidate status to join the bloc, a prize sought by Kyiv even as Russian forces slowly advance in the eastern Donbas region.

While the European Commission-backed candidacy is widely expected to be approved, some members of the bloc have been lukewarm about Ukraine's status, and any accession process is likely to take years if not decades.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned of a risk of "Ukraine fatigue" as the conflict drags on, in comments that followed a visit to Kyiv on Saturday. He fears that such a mood shift could erode the West's resolve to support Ukraine.

Addressing this issue, a column in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday said "the economic pain is creating political problems for European governments that have joined the US-led campaign of sanctions against Russia: 'Ukraine fatigue'."

A 10-country poll released recently by the European Council on Foreign Relations, or ECFR, showed that while European public opinion helped to solidify Europe's political response in the first 100 days of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, diverging public preferences could now weaken this unity.

The council's research shows that, while Europeans support sanctions against Russia, they are split about the long-term goals. In all countries but Poland, the "peace" camp that wants the conflict to end as soon as possible is larger than the "justice" camp that believes the more pressing goal is to punish Russia. European citizens worry about the cost of economic sanctions and the threat of nuclear escalation. Unless something dramatically changes, they will oppose a protracted conflict.

ECFR Director Mark Leonard told The Washington Post that there are potential divisions over the cost of living, refugees, and nuclear escalation, but the big divide is between those who want to end the conflict as quickly as possible and those who want Russia to be punished.

"If badly handled the gap between the 'peace camp' and the 'justice camp' over Ukraine could be as damaging as that between creditors and debtors during the euro crisis," Leonard said.

A poll by the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland showed that there are "signs of American public fatigue" over the conflict. In May only 59 percent of those surveyed said they were prepared to see higher energy prices because of the conflict, down from 73 percent who said the same in March.

Increased inflation

The proportion of people in the US who said they were prepared to see an increase in inflation (52 percent in May and 65 percent in March) and potentially lose US troops (27 percent in May to 32 percent in March) likewise shrank.

Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University, said the emergence of signs of fatigue among people in Europe is understandable. The conflict is still dragging on and the gap between Russian and Ukrainian expectations for how to end the conflict is still wide, making it difficult to have a quick end to the fighting.

But the conflict has already imposed strains on Europe, including those caused by a shortage of energy supplies that has pushed up fuel prices and further inflated food prices. The conflict has also brought millions of people to Europe in the largest influx of refugees since World War II, putting to the test some European countries' ability to take them in.

"Europe is thus stuck in a dilemma," Ding said. "There are also divisions among European countries, as some people want to continue support to Ukraine, and some are more concerned about its domestic problems."

He Yun, an associate professor in the School of Public Administration at Hunan University in Changsha, said many people in Europe and the US are experiencing "Ukraine fatigue". The conflict is emotionally draining to those following it on news outlets or in social media, especially after four months of fighting.

"In addition, sanctions led by the US and Europe against Russia are hurting their own people. In America for instance, the gas price has risen over 60 percent compared to a year ago," she said. "Combined with the high inflation rate and rising utility bills, ordinary people are finding it harder to make ends meet," He said.

"So people ask, why do I have to suffer for this conflict? Why can't it just end? And this is precisely why there needs to be a peaceful solution to the Ukraine-Russia conflict soon."

07:42 2022-06-23
Russian FM meets Iranian president in Tehran
A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency shows Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi (R) meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the capital Tehran on June 22, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

TEHRAN - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi shortly after arriving in Tehran on an official visit, Iranian state IRIB TV reported.

During his two-day trip at the invitation of Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Lavrov is scheduled to meet senior Iranian officials to discuss the Iran nuclear deal, issues concerning Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan, trade and energy cooperation, as well as expansion of cooperation between Tehran and the regions of Eurasia and Caucasus, the report said.

Both Iran and Russia are under US sanctions, which have limited their ability to send their huge energy reserves to global markets.

The two countries described their relations as strategic.

In July 2015, Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with world powers, pledging to put some curbs on its nuclear program in return for the removal of the sanctions on Tehran.

In May 2018, however, former US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the nuclear deal and reimposed unilateral sanctions on Tehran, prompting Iran to compromise some of its nuclear commitments under the agreement in retaliation.

Since April 2021, several rounds of talks have been held in Vienna between Iran and the remaining JCPOA parties to revive the deal.

Iran insists on obtaining guarantees that the succeeding US governments would not drop the deal again, and calls for lifting the sanctions in a verifiable manner.

10:00 2022-06-22
Russia detains two 'US mercenaries'
Photo taken on March 10, 2022 shows the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. [Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW/KYIV-The Kremlin has said two US citizens detained in Ukraine were mercenaries not covered by the Geneva Conventions who should face responsibility for their actions.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov's comments on Monday were the first formal acknowledgment that the two, identified in US reports as Andy Huynh, 27, and Alexander Drueke, 39, were being held.

According to media reports on Tuesday, the two men are currently held in Donetsk.

The US State Department said earlier that it had been in touch with Russian authorities regarding any US citizens who may have been captured.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has entered an attritional phase in recent weeks, with Russian forces concentrating on the Donbas region.

The United States and its European allies have provided weapons and financial assistance to Ukraine, but avoided direct involvement in the conflict.

At least two US citizens have been killed in the conflict, Reuters reported.

On Tuesday, Ukraine acknowledged difficulties in fighting in its east as Russian forces made advances on two cities ahead of a European Union summit this week expected to welcome Kyiv's bid to join the bloc.

Governor Serhiy Gaidai of the Lugansk region said Russian forces had gained some territory on Monday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had predicted Russia would step up attacks ahead of the EU summit on Thursday and Friday. He was defiant in a late Monday address to the nation, while also referring to "difficult" fighting in Lugansk for Severodonetsk and its sister city Lysychansk.

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on Feb 24 in its special military operation aimed at "demilitarizing and denazifying" Kyiv.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that he was "proud "of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, saying Western sanctions "will be overcome".

International concern has focused on trying to restore Ukrainian exports of food. Ukraine is one of the world's main sources of grain and food oils, leading to fears of global shortages.

Russia blames the food crisis on Western sanctions curbing its exports.

Agencies Via Xinhua

09:58 2022-06-22
Envoy: Antagonism disrupts work of UN
By LIU YINMENG in Los Angeles

Hate speech between countries poisons the international political climate and seriously disrupts the work of the United Nations in various areas, a Chinese envoy to the UN warned Tuesday.

"For some while, with the conflict in Ukraine unraveling, antagonism has been permeating the international community, seriously disrupting the work of the UN in various fields and calling into question the authority and effectiveness of this council," Dai Bing, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN, told a Security Council briefing on Ukraine.

Such a political climate is not conducive to the proper settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. It may lead to the failure of global governance mechanisms and plunge the world into greater division and turmoil, which is not in the interest of any party, Dai said.

He emphasized the indivisibility of security for all nations, pointing out that "the Cold War mentality, the logic of hegemony, and bloc politics have long outlived their relevance".

Instead, the international community should "substitute dialogue for confrontation, consultation for coercion, partnership for alliances, and win-win for zero sum," he said.

"The Security Council, in particular, should shoulder its responsibilities, manage differences, and be an active force for the facilitation of peace talks, mediation and good offices," Dai said.

He warned against the danger of sending in more lethal weapons, saying that doing so "will only fuel animosity, exacerbate conflicts, trigger a wider humanitarian crisis and claim more innocent lives".

Noting that prolonged conflict will bring greater security risks from which no party can benefit, Dai called on the international community to work together to de-escalate the situation and create conditions for resumed negotiations and "achieve a ceasefire without further delay".

"We advise certain countries not to continue adding fuel to the fire to serve their own geopolitical self-interest, not to mention force other countries to take sides, thereby intensifying division and antagonism within the international community," Dai added.

Dai said all parties to the Ukraine conflict should earnestly uphold international humanitarian law and ensure the maximum protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, in additional to facilitating evacuation and humanitarian access.

He urged the international community to increase humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people and reduce the harm caused by violent conflicts. Any allegations of violations of the international humanitarian laws should be based on facts, and all parties should avoid unwarranted accusations pending the final findings, Dai said.

Dai pointed out that certain media platforms have "adapted their policies for political ends, allowing one-way hate speech".

"Such a practice is extremely dangerous. It is imperative to strengthen government oversight of social media platforms. They should not be given a free rein," he said.

10:25 2022-06-21
EU calls for ceasefire in Ukraine to allow grain exports
Ears of wheat are seen in a field near the village of Hrebeni in Kyiv region, Ukraine, July 17, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

BRUSSELS - The European Union is insisting on a ceasefire in Ukraine to allow millions of tons of grain to be exported, the EU's foreign policy chief said on Monday.

The Ukraine crisis is having serious consequences on hunger in the world, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell told the press following a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council with EU foreign ministers.

He rejected Russia's blaming of the situation on the EU sanctions as disinformation.

He noted that during the meeting in Luxembourg, the ministers reviewed the EU's military assistance that Ukraine was receiving and the help from each member state.

"All member countries are involved in these efforts, and we will support Ukraine for as long as necessary. At the same time, we are asking for a ceasefire that may allow food exports," he said.

09:37 2022-06-21
Germany bringing back coal
By JULIAN SHEA in London
Steam rises from the cooling towers of a power plant in Niederaussem, in western Germany. [INA FASSBENDER/AFP]

New coalition govt makes u-turn on energy policy amid supply concerns

Germany's coalition government Economy Minister Robert Habeck has admitted the country must go against the principles of his Green Party and burn more coal for its energy because of the threat to the country's fuel security posed by the loss of supply from Russia.

For many years Germany has been criticized for being reliant on Russian fuel resources, and in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, the issue has been brought into sharp focus.

"To reduce gas consumption, less gas must be used to generate electricity. Coal-fired power plants will have to be used more instead," said a statement put out by Germany's economy ministry.

"That's bitter, but it's simply necessary in this situation to lower gas usage," said Habeck.

"We must and we will do everything we can to store as much gas as possible in summer and autumn.

"The gas storage tanks must be full in winter. That has top priority," he added.

At the moment, Germany's gas storage facilities are at 57 percent capacity. Habeck said this needed to be topped up as soon as a matter of urgency "otherwise, it will be really tight in winter". The current target figure is 90 percent capacity by November.

Last week, Russian gas company Gazprom said it had further limited fuel supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which runs from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, claiming there were technical problems. Habeck rejected this explanation of the reduction from 167 million cubic meters each day to 67 million, saying the decision was politically motivated.

"It is obvious that (Russia's President Vladmir) Putin's strategy is to unsettle us by driving up the price and dividing us," he said. "We won't let that happen."

The Financial Times quoted Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz as saying that the country's dependence on Russian energy was "a mistake of Germany's economic policy", and that previous governments had overlooked the chance to come up with alternative supply routes.

Industries are also being encouraged to save gas when they can, in return for financial incentives, with unused supply being put into storage.

The return to coal-fired power is a major u-turn by the coalition government that had previously announced its intention for Germany to be coal-free by 2030.

The Social Democrats are the senior partners in the current coalition government, along with the Greens and the neoliberal Free Democrats, or FDP, who have suggested easing restrictions imposed on fracking in 2017 as a way around the problem.

"As scientific studies show, under modern security standards fracking causes no relevant environmental damage," the FDP's parliamentary director Torsten Herbst told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

09:00 2022-06-21
Russia may 'intensify' its attacks soon, Kyiv warns
Construction work on a new neighborhood takes place in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Saturday. The city has been largely devastated after months of fighting and siege. NIKOLAI TRISHIN/TASS

KYIV-Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Russia is likely to intensify its campaign this week, as Kyiv awaits a historic decision from the European Union on its bid for candidate status.

Nearly three months after Russia launched a special military operation in his country, Zelensky said there had been "few such fateful decisions for Ukraine" as the one it expects from the EU this week.

"Only a positive decision is in the interests of the whole of Europe," he said in an address on Sunday.

Moscow's forces have been pummeling eastern Ukraine for weeks as they try to seize the Donbas region.

On Friday, Brussels backed Kyiv's bid for EU candidate status after the heads of the bloc's biggest members-France, Germany and Italy-paid a visit to the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine could join the list of countries vying for membership as early as this week, when member state leaders meet for a Brussels summit.

But EU officials have cautioned that even with candidacy status, membership could take years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Moscow had "nothing against" Ukraine's EU membership, but a Kremlin spokesman said Russia was closely following Kyiv's bid.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile warned that the conflict could grind on "for years" and urged Western countries to be ready to offer long-term military, political and economic aid, Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported.

Ukraine has repeatedly urged Western countries to step up their deliveries of arms, despite warnings from Russia that it could trigger a wider conflict.

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it had launched missile strikes during the prior 24 hours, with one attack on a top-level Ukrainian military meeting near the city of Dnipro killing "more than 50 generals and officers".

On the battlefield, Ukraine said on Monday that it had lost control of a village adjacent to the eastern industrial city of Severodonetsk, the center of weeks of fierce fighting.

Also on Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry demanded the immediate lifting of Lithuania's "openly hostile" restrictions on the rail transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Moscow's exclave of Kaliningrad, wedged between Lithuania and Poland.

"If in the near future cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation through Lithuania is not restored in full, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests," the ministry said in a statement.

Agencies via Xinhua



09:00 2022-06-20
Crisis seen softening hearts on refugees
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky visit an exhibition of destroyed military vehicles and weaponry in Kyiv's Mykhailivska Square on Friday. [JOE GIDDENS/POOL/AFP]

Sympathy for Ukrainians may change attitudes to others in need, UN official says

WARSAW/MOSCOW-An outpouring of public support across Europe for the millions of people who have fled the conflict in Ukraine may point to a shift in attitudes toward refugees, a UN official said as Kyiv received a morale-boosting visit from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Gillian Triggs, the assistant high commissioner for protection at the United Nations' refugee agency, spoke of the wellspring of sympathy for Ukrainians leading to a potential softening in attitudes toward refugees more broadly.

"We are very encouraged," Triggs said in a Reuters Newsmaker interview published on Friday, as fighting intensified in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

More than 6.5 million people have left since Russia's "special military operation" started nearly four months ago, many finding accommodation in private homes or hotels, as well as in government-sponsored housing.

A survey by the pollster Ipsos also showed on Friday that the world has become more compassionate toward refugees, a finding it said suggested the conflict in Ukraine had increased public openness to refugees.

About 78 percent of people in 28 countries believe those escaping conflict or persecution should be able to take refuge in another country, up from 70 percent in a 2021 survey.

Also, fewer people believe borders should be entirely closed to refugees, with 36 percent agreeing in Friday's poll, against 50 percent a year earlier.

Triggs said some level of fatigue may be setting in and cautioned governments to prepare to rehouse Ukrainians once private accommodation dries up.

Mounting pressure

Migration has been one of the most divisive policy issues in Europe for years, as the bloc faced mounting pressure from people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. And sympathy has been in short supply for migrants from these regions.

On Saturday, with a blessing for Ukraine's ambitions to join the European Union and a pledge of unwavering support from Britain, the country vowed to prevail against Moscow as it battled Russian forces.

EU countries are expected at a summit this week to grant Ukraine EU candidate status following a recommendation from the bloc's executive on Friday, putting Kyiv on course to realize an aspiration, even if membership could be years away.

On Johnson's visit to the Ukrainian capital, he offered President Volodymyr Zelensky a ramped-up military training program to help in the country's fight against Russian forces.

Johnson followed up the visit on Friday with an article in a British newspaper in which he said Ukraine's foreign backers should hold their nerve to ensure it has "the strategic endurance to survive and eventually prevail".

"Time is now the vital factor," Johnson wrote in a 1,000-word article for The Sunday Times.

Johnson's surprise visit came a day after European leaders from France, Germany, Italy and Romania were in Kyiv to back the country's EU aspirations.

On Saturday, Zelensky said he had visited soldiers on the southern front line in the Mykolaiv region.

In other developments on the battlefield, two top commanders of fighters who defended the Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine's southeastern port of Mariupol have been transferred to Russia for investigation, Russia's state news agency TASS reported.

In the economic sphere, Russian President Vladimir Putin explained Moscow's stance and policy on hotspot political and economic issues during the 25th St Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday.

At the plenary session of the forum, Putin recalled that the surge in commodity and raw material prices occurred long before the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, underlining that the current situation has nothing to do with Russia but was caused by "many years of irresponsible macroeconomic policies" of the Group of Seven nations.

Regarding the future of the Russian economy, Putin said his country will never follow the path of self-isolation and economic independence.


12:34 2022-06-18
Ukraine granted possible path to EU
By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels
(From L) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President of France Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz give a joint press conference following their meeting in Kyiv on June 16, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

But it's only the first step in a process that could take decades

The European Commission proposed on Friday to give Ukraine and Moldova candidate status for the European Union membership just a day after several leaders of its member states paid a visit to Kyiv.

In its fast-track decision, the commission emphasized that it was based on the understanding that the two countries will carry out a number of reforms.

"Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country's aspiration and the country's determination to live up to European values and standards,"European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a press conference on Friday.

Leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania voiced their support for Ukraine's EU candidate status during a visit to Kyiv on Thursday.

French President Emmanuel Macron said: "We all four support the immediate EU candidate status."

Granting Ukraine candidate status is "a strong, quick expected gesture of hope and clarity that we want to send to Ukraine and its people",Macron told a joint press conference after a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

He added that it would be accompanied by a "road map" that would include "conditions".

Candidate status is not the same as EU membership. It is just the start of an often lengthy process toward formally joining the EU, which could take years or even decades.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed that his government backed Kyiv's bid for EU candidate status.

"We came to #Kyiv today with a clear message: #Ukraine belongs to the European family. Germany wants a positive decision in favor of Ukraine as a #EU candidate country," Scholz wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

This was Scholz's first trip to Ukraine. He had earlier cited Ukraine's decision in April not to welcome German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as "standing in the way" for his trip to Kyiv.

"We are at a turning point in our history. The Ukrainian people defend every day the values of democracy and freedom that underpin the European project, our project. We cannot wait. We cannot delay this process," Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.

Draghi, Macron and Scholz arrived in Kyiv after a 10-hour train ride from Poland, a surprise trip that was not announced beforehand.

All 27 EU members must agree unanimously in order for the candidate status to be granted.

Peace deal with Russia

Ukraine is also expected to reach a peace deal with Russia before any talks with the EU could go ahead.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg expressed that he was unsure of an exact timetable for Finland and Sweden to join the security alliance, a legacy of the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

In a news conference on Thursday after a NATO defense ministers meeting, Stoltenberg reiterated that the concerns raised by Turkey need to be taken seriously as it is a major member state and important ally.

He said he aimed to find a solution to Turkey's concerns as quickly as possible, responding with the word "soon" when asked when a solution could be found.

Turkey has accused both Sweden and Finland of supporting and harboring Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara labeled as "terrorists". Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to veto their NATO membership if the issues are not resolved.

Turkey's demands also include lifting restrictions on arms exports to Turkey and extraditing members of certain Kurdish organizations that are opposed to Erdogan's government.

Huseyin Bagci, director of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute, told Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at an event in Helsinki that Finland would not receive NATO approval from Turkey before or during the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of this month. But he added that Turkey is not stopping Finland's NATO bid, but rather delaying it.

Agencies contributed to the story.



09:11 2022-06-18
BRICS Business Forum to enhance cooperation

The upcoming BRICS Business Forum will serve as an open platform for enhancing trade cooperation, boosting global stability and promoting world economic recovery against growth headwinds, said its organizer.

Zhang Shaogang, vice-chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, told a news briefing on Friday that this year the BRICS Business Forum will start in Beijing on Wednesday on both online and offline channels.

He said that there will be more than 1,000 officials, diplomats and business representatives from 18 countries participating in this year's forum.

Businesses from 13 countries will be engaged, he said. Most business participants are world-renowned enterprises, he added, and they are also of critical importance to BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), including 40 of the world's top 500 companies, covering areas of energy, finance, aviation, manufacturing, transportation, and also emerging industries such as big data, e-commerce, and new energy.

"This year the forum has drawn wide attention from BRICS countries and beyond, and this has demonstrated the strong attractiveness and vitality of BRICS business cooperation," Zhang said. "We believe business-owners and stakeholders worldwide are willing to see this forum as an important open platform to enhance cooperation and boost global recovery. This also indicates that they are optimistic about China's growth prospects and are willing to enhance their cooperation with China."

He said this year, the forum will be held under the theme of deepening business relations among BRICS countries and jointly creating a bright future for global development. The forum will hold specific discussions focusing on global economic recovery, green transformation and sustainable development, digital economy, enhancing health and medical cooperation under the COVID-19 situation, and boosting the resilience of supply and production chains.

He said he expects this year's forum will boost businesses' confidence in generating mutual benefits via cooperation, enhancing mutual understanding, and formulating valuable policy recommendations for economic development.

08:12 2022-06-18
Zelensky, Johnson meet on defense, security issues
This handout picture taken and released by Ukrainian Presidential Press-Service on June 17, 2022, shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) welcoming Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, before talks in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. [Photo/Agencies]

Kyiv - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with visiting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday to discuss defense and security issues, the presidential press service said.

In particular, Zelensky and Johnson discussed in detail the current situation on the frontline in the east and the south of Ukraine as well as the supplies of weapons.

"We talked about the need to increase the supply of heavy weapons. The main thing today is to provide air defense for Ukraine as well. We started to move in this direction," Zelensky told reporters after the talks.

For his part, Johnson said that his country stands ready to continue providing weapons to Ukraine and organizing military training for its use.

Besides, the parties have discussed security guarantees for Ukraine and the efforts to clear the Ukrainian territory from landmines.

Other key topics of the conversation were financial and economic support for Kiev, the blockade of Ukrainian ports, as well as efforts to address the energy crisis in Ukraine.

Johnson arrived in Kiev earlier in the day for his second visit since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Previously, the British prime minister visited the Ukrainian capital on April 9.

08:02 2022-06-18
Putin dismisses Western 'blitzkrieg' against Russia
By REN QI in St. Petersburg
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 17, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Leader determined to continue military operation in Ukraine amid sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia had weathered Western sanctions and an economic "blitzkrieg" against Moscow had never had any chance of succeeding.

In a speech delivered at the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, or SPIEF, in Russia's second-largest city, Putin accused the United States of treating other countries as "colonies", and said gloomy forecasts for the Russian economy had not been fulfilled.

The West imposed the most severe economic sanctions that any nation has faced in modern history since Moscow started a special military in Ukraine on Feb 24.

Putin drew applause from the hall when he reaffirmed the determination to continue the operation.

Putin said the operation was difficult but needed, adding that the European Union could lose more than $400 billion due to the sanctions, which he said would rebound on those who had imposed them.

The EU had lost its "political sovereignty", he said, as it had started down a track that would lead to radicalism, as he criticized the bloc's economic policies such as "printing money" to address high inflation and inequality.

The Russian leader also said his country was not to blame for rising prices on the global grain market.

Putin accused the US of driving up food prices by printing money and "snapping up" food on global markets, adding that Moscow stood ready to boost its exports of grain and fertilizers, and that Russia would send food exports to Africa and the Middle East.

During a denunciation of the West, Putin said:"Nothing will be as it used to be in global politics."

'New opportunities'

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Putin's speech is extremely important as "economies were taken hostage by politics, and politicians in many countries made a large number of mistakes amid the COVID-19 pandemic".

The annual forum, often dubbed the Russian Davos, is organized by the Roscongress Foundation. This year, the four-day event will last until Saturday under the theme: "New Opportunities in a New World".

Before the plenary session, Putin met with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturyan and Milorad Dodik, Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to Peskov, some things of the forum are being changed due to realities. For example, Putin's traditional meeting with heads of global news agencies will not take place.

Instead, the Russian president met with military correspondents, heads of news divisions, as well as the chiefs of Russian TV, print, and Internet media.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also delivered a speech via video link at the forum on Friday.

Oleg Deripaska, a Russian industrialist, said he was glad to watch the Chinese leader speak at one of Russia's most important economic forum.

He said the two neighbors enjoy good relations across many spheres including education, culture and tourism. He suggested that the two countries could enhance cooperation over joint processing of raw materials, which will further increase both sides' competitiveness in the global market.

Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that some Russian companies had already rerouted part of their exports from the West to the East amid sanctions.

Agencies via Xinhua contributed to this story.

07:43 2022-06-17
Zelensky, European leaders discuss Ukraine's EU integration, conflict with Russia
(From L) Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron arrive for a press conference in at Marinsky Palace in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Kyiv - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania in Kiev Thursday to discuss his country's prospects to join the European Union and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the presidential press service reported.

At the meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Zelensky briefed the European leaders about the situation on the frontline and the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces in the conflict with Russia.

Ukraine expects fresh supplies of heavy weapons, modern jet artillery and missile defense systems from its partners, Zelensky said.

He also assured the European leaders that Ukraine stands ready to carry out the necessary work to gain full membership in the EU.

For his part, Macron said that Ukraine is part of the European family, and the leaders of the four countries support granting Ukraine the status of a candidate for EU membership.

Meanwhile, Scholz said that the candidate status is an important milestone in Ukraine's European path, while noting that the country needs to meet certain criteria to join the 27-member bloc.

Iohannis stressed that European countries must create effective tools for rebuilding Ukraine after the conflict, while Draghi noted that the EU is demonstrating unity in its readiness to help Ukraine.

At their talks, the parties also touched upon the issues of economic support for Ukraine, the blockade of the export of Ukrainian grain, and fresh economic sanctions on Russia.

Macron, Scholz, Draghi and Iohannis arrived in Kiev earlier in the day for their first visit since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Feb. 24.

On Feb. 28, Zelensky signed an official appeal to the EU asking for the accession of Ukraine via a new special procedure. And on June 11, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the commission will finalize the assessment on granting Ukraine EU candidate status by the end of this week.

10:05 2022-06-16
Russia continues to slash gas supply to Europe
A 3D printed natural gas pipeline is placed in front of displayed Gazprom logo in this illustration taken February 8, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW -- Russian gas giant Gazprom announced on Wednesday that it will shut down another turbine engine on the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline, thus significantly reducing the amount of gas delivery to Europe.

As Germany's Siemens, the manufacturer of the gas turbine engines, failed to provide the overhaul service in time, Gazprom decided to stop the second engine at the Portovaya compressor station due to its technical condition, the company said on Telegram.

The daily output of the Portovaya compressor station from 1:30 am Thursday Moscow Time (2230 GMT Wednesday) will be no more than 67 million cubic meters, sharply down from 100 million, Gazprom said.

Citing the same reason, Gazprom said on Tuesday that the amount of gas supply via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would be cut from 167 million cubic meters per day to 100 million.

Completed in 2011, the Nord Stream 1 pipeline connects Vyborg City in northwestern Russia and Germany via the Baltic seabed. To relax its overload, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was finished in 2021 but has been halted since Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine in February.

10:03 2022-06-16
US to provide 1-bln-USD additional security assistance to Ukraine
File photo of US President Joe Biden. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON -- US President Joe Biden said Wednesday that his country is providing Ukraine with a package of additional security assistance worth $1 billion, as well as $225 million worth of humanitarian assistance.

Biden informed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, of the decision during a telephone conversation, where the US president said the security assistance will include "additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems that the Ukrainians need to support their defensive operations" in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region, according to a statement released by the White House.

The humanitarian assistance will "help people inside Ukraine, including by supplying safe drinking water, critical medical supplies and health care, food, shelter, and cash for families to purchase essential items," Biden said in the statement.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convened a meeting of more than 45 nations in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss support for Ukraine. "We also discussed Secretary Austin's efforts in Brussels today to coordinate additional international support for the Ukrainian armed forces," Biden said.

09:15 2022-06-16
Ripple effects of crisis hitting hard in Africa
By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya
A farmer throws grains from a bucket in his barn in the village of Ptyche in eastern Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Sunday. EFREM LUKATSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The impact of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, such as skyrocketing prices of fuel and food, has not only hit economies across the globe but also is endangering the lives of Africa's crisis-hit communities, as humanitarian organizations face funding shortages.

This came as the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization warned that the conflict has affected access to food on a global level and could deal a blow to the crop harvest in 2023.

The main reason behind the price increase, the agency's chief economist Maximo Torero said, is that Russia and Ukraine are key exporters of cereals, including maize and wheat. The FAO said the two countries produced around 30 percent of the global wheat supply last year.

As a result of the surge in prices, he said, "consumers and especially vulnerable countries are facing significant challenges to be able to procure the amount of food that they need today".

On Tuesday, the World Food Programme warned its UN Humanitarian Air Service will be forced to ground its cargo planes in Guinea and Niger by August if additional funding of $6.4 million is not urgently provided.

This means that some crisis-hit communities in the two countries will be cut off from lifesaving aid.

The UN agency said the crisis has led to increased fuel prices, resulting in higher-than-expected costs required for the maintenance and running of the air transport services.

It said aircraft fuel costs increased by 26 percent in Guinea and 33 percent in Niger in April compared to January.

"The common humanitarian services provided by UN Humanitarian Air Service have become indispensable for humanitarian and health responders tackling recurrent outbreaks of deadly diseases such as Ebola, Lassa, and Marburg epidemics in the remote forest region of Guinea," said Lim Hyoungjoon, country director and representative of the WFP in Guinea.

Lim said poor and impassable roads remain a challenge to movement within the country.

"Support to UN Humanitarian Air Service is absolutely essential so that humanitarian assistance can be delivered to vulnerable communities in hard-to-reach areas of the country," he said.

Only reliable, safe way

The WFP said 4.4 million people in Niger are expected to face acute food insecurity during the June-August 2022 lean season, so the humanitarian air service remains the only reliable and safe way for humanitarian personnel and cargo to reach people in need across the country.

This includes remote and hard-to-reach areas, as access via land is hampered by vast distances, poor road infrastructure, flooding and insecurity.

In addition to plans to ground humanitarian air services to the two countries, the WFP also announced that it has suspended food assistance in South Sudan due to funding shortages, heightening the risk of starvation for 1.7 million people.

The suspension will see almost one-third of the acutely food insecure South Sudanese-that the UN agency had planned to support this year-left without humanitarian food assistance.

It will also impact 178,000 schoolchildren who will no longer receive daily school meals, a crucial safety net that helps keep them in education.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

06:35 2022-06-16
US urges firms to buy Russian fertilizer: report
Compound fertilizers packed in soft containers are seen at the mineral fertilizers packing department of a distribution and logistics center, Russia, Oct 2, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

The US government is quietly encouraging companies to make more Russian fertilizer deals, according to people familiar with the matter, while sanctions concerns have created a supply shortage and pushed up global food costs, Bloomberg reported.

The move is part of negotiations involving the United Nations underway to expand supplies of fertilizer, grain and other agricultural products from Russia and Ukraine.

The challenge Washington and its allies face is that they try to put more pressure on Moscow but at the same time try to reduce collateral damage on the global economy. The economy is heavily dependent on commodity supplies from Russia, including natural gas, oil, fertilizers, and grain, all of which have seen a rise in prices since the Russia-Ukraine conflict began, said the report.

Russia is a key fertilizer exporter and accounted for almost a fifth of 2021 fertilizer exports, which have fallen 24 percent this year, per the report.

US and European officials have accused Russia of using food as a weapon to block Ukrainian exports. Moscow denies and blames the shipment disruptions as a result of sanctions imposed by the US and its allies.

The US and EU have added exemptions to the ban on doing business with Russia to allow the fertilizer trade. However, many shippers, banks and insurance companies have been wary of such deals, fearing they could inadvertently fall foul of the sanctions. US officials have been surprised by the degree of caution, who appear to be caught in a paradoxical position in finding ways to encourage them.

Earlier this month, the US sent a representative to UN-led meetings in Moscow on supply issues, according to an anonymous source. A shortage of fertilizer this year could also affect next year's crops. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia has called on the US to assure its fertilizer and grain buyers and shippers that they would not be subject to sanctions.

"For Russia, it's really important that US authorities send a clear signal that these deals are permitted and in the interest of global food security and they shouldn't refuse to carry them out," said Ivan Timofeev, a sanctions specialist at the Russian International Affairs Council.

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