2022-06-15 14:02:30 By : Ms. Jane Tan

Israel, Egypt, E.U. sign gas export deal to reduce reliance on Russia

Western-made planes in Russia may be ‘unsafe’ without access to repairs

Ukraine war brings peace — between Canada and Denmark

Ukrainian troops exhausted, outgunned, need training, U.K. official says

U.S., allies criticize Navalny’s reported prison transfer

Gazprom reduces Nord Stream gas to Germany after repair delays

NATO allies to discuss better arms for Ukraine, future of alliance

Biden touts plan to get Ukrainian grain out by rail

Ukraine battle intensifies as Western backers mull new military aid

U.S. won’t push Ukraine toward a cease-fire, Pentagon official says

Ukraine investigates mayor of captured town over treason allegations

Drawn-out conflict looms at Severodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant, U.K. says

Navalny reportedly moved to high-security prison infamous for abuse

Austin to host defense leaders from 50 countries that support Ukraine

Update from key battlefields: U.S. sending more rocket systems as street-by-street battles rage in east

Israel, Egypt, E.U. sign gas export deal to reduce reliance on Russia

Western-made planes in Russia may be ‘unsafe’ without access to repairs

Ukraine war brings peace — between Canada and Denmark

Ukrainian troops exhausted, outgunned, need training, U.K. official says

U.S., allies criticize Navalny’s reported prison transfer

Gazprom reduces Nord Stream gas to Germany after repair delays

NATO allies to discuss better arms for Ukraine, future of alliance

Biden touts plan to get Ukrainian grain out by rail

Ukraine battle intensifies as Western backers mull new military aid

U.S. won’t push Ukraine toward a cease-fire, Pentagon official says

Ukraine investigates mayor of captured town over treason allegations

Drawn-out conflict looms at Severodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant, U.K. says

Navalny reportedly moved to high-security prison infamous for abuse

Austin to host defense leaders from 50 countries that support Ukraine

Update from key battlefields: U.S. sending more rocket systems as street-by-street battles rage in east

NATO allies and partners are discussing Wednesday how best to help Ukrainian forces survive a brutal Russian pummeling in the eastern Donbas region, as well as a longer-term push to transition Ukraine from Soviet-style to NATO-standard weapons. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is attending a conference of defense leaders from some 50 countries in Brussels to discuss matching military assistance to Kyiv’s battlefield needs. In the besieged city of Severodonetsk, increasingly beleaguered Ukrainian forces ignored a Russian deadline to surrender.

The British Defense Ministry said Wednesday that “Russian forces now control the majority” of Severodonetsk and are likely to focus their efforts on a small number of civilians and soldiers holed up in a chemical plant there — in a situation reminiscent of the months-long siege of Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his troops are taking “painful” losses in Severodonetsk as part of a broader strategy of attrition in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Support for Ukraine is high in European countries as the war approaches its fourth-month mark, according to a new poll from the European Council on Foreign Relations. But more than a third of Europeans favor ending the war as soon as possible, even if Ukraine has to concede territory. French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that at some point, Ukraine’s president “will have to negotiate with Russia.” A U.S. defense official said Tuesday that Washington will not “tell the Ukrainians how to negotiate, what to negotiate and when to negotiate,” but will aim to “strengthen their hand whenever the negotiations do happen.”

Here’s what else to know:

TEL AVIV — Israel, Egypt and the European Union signed a trilateral natural gas deal Wednesday in Cairo as Europe scrambled to cobble together an energy strategy to replace the Russian supplies it has relied on for decades.

The deal will enable Israel to streamline and increase the export of its natural gas through already existing pipelines to Egyptian ports, where it can be pressurized and liquefied for shipment to Europe.

“This will contribute to our energy security. And we are building infrastructure fit for renewables — the energy of the future,” tweeted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday from Cairo, attaching a photo of the signing.

Israel in recent weeks has promised to accelerate its gas output as demand grows and prices soar. It is looking, in collaboration with other Middle Eastern countries, to sell to Europe, previously the largest client of Russian energy.

The head of the European Union’s aviation safety regulator told reporters Tuesday he was “very worried” that it could be dangerous for Western-made planes to continue operating in Russia without access to proper maintenance and spare parts, which have been cut off as a result of sanctions since the invasion of Ukraine.

Patrick Ky, executive director of the E.U. Aviation Safety Agency, said the organization has been unable to monitor the safety of many of the planes flying in Russian airspace, according to Reuters. Restricting access to repairs and Western-manufactured supplies is “very unsafe,” he added, proposing that countries allow export exemptions on a case-by-case basis on humanitarian grounds.

Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, the United States and the E.U. closed their airspace to Russian aircraft and imposed export controls on spare parts, crippling Russia’s aviation industry. About 80 percent of Russia’s commercial fleet consists of foreign-made planes, predominantly from Airbus and Boeing, both of which have stopped doing business with Moscow.

Anthony Faiola and Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.

TORONTO — It’s a barren and inhospitable rock plopped in a frigid channel in the Arctic. One geologist who visited characterized it as “not a very exciting island.” A Canadian legal analyst once tried to point it out on a map in a presentation he had prepared for lawmakers but conceded that its size made it “very difficult to see.”

“We don’t have a big blowup picture to show you,” he said.

Nevertheless, for some five decades, Canada and Denmark have squabbled — mostly, but not always, politely — over the not-very-exciting Hans Island, a half-square-mile mass in the Kennedy Channel of the Nares Strait that is home to neither vegetation nor wildlife. The craggy outcropping — Tartupaluk in Inuit — lies between Canada’s Ellesmere Island and Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday that Ukrainian troops on the front lines are “exhausted” and outgunned, and he argued that the West’s focus should be on training them rather than on giving Ukraine more weapons.

Wallace made the remarks at a news conference with Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram in Oslo, on the margins of a meeting of the Joint Expeditionary Force, a defense coalition of Northern European nations.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly argued that they have not received the quantity or quality of weapons they need to face Russia’s army. Ukraine’s NATO supporters are set to meet Wednesday in Brussels to discuss additional military assistance and transitioning Ukraine from Soviet-era weapons to modern Western ones.

In Oslo, Wallace argued that the West needs to train Ukrainian troops to properly use the weapons sent to them. ″We think there is a good prospect of Ukraine pushing back Russia when these weapons arrive and when they are applied in a way that matches our design … for them when we bought them,” he said.

This involves giving Ukraine not just ″equipment” but also “the vital software, the know-how, to make sure they can make the maximum use of it,” he added.

Some Ukrainian soldiers fighting in the east have been there for 90 days and ″are exhausted,” Wallace said. “They are often, in artillery terms, outnumbered at very, very high ratios.” He argued that the West needs to show Ukraine how “to replace people on the front line” and how to develop a strategic counteroffensive.

Washington has condemned reports that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin and outspoken opponent of the war in Ukraine, may have been transferred out of his prison colony to a high-security facility known for systematic abuse of inmates.

Navalny’s allies took to social media early Tuesday to say he had gone missing from a penal colony in Pokrov, where he was serving a 2½-year sentence for a probation violation. His transfer was apparently connected to a new nine-year sentence for fraud and contempt of court — charges he and his legal team have described as trumped up.

A local official later said Navalny had arrived at IK-6, a prison some 150 miles east of Moscow. The facility has been the subject of multiple media investigations revealing brutality in the Russian penitentiary system and systematic abuse of prisoners by guards and other convicts.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said Tuesday that Navalny’s arrest was “politically motivated,” and he called for his “immediate release, as well as an end to the persecution of his many supporters.”

Navalny reportedly moved to high-security prison infamous for abuse

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply troubled” to hear that Navalny had been transferred and called on the Kremlin to reveal his whereabouts.

Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking minority-party member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was “deeply concerned” by the reports and pledged to hold Putin responsible for the “unlawful detention.”

On social media, supporters tweeted “Where is Navalny?” in an attempt to raise awareness about the Putin critic’s disappearance. They included Michael McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama, and British lawmaker Chris Bryant.

Former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt argued that the war in Ukraine is emboldening Russia to worsen its treatment of dissidents. “The less people hear the real story, the longer the war goes on,” he said.

Others who have had run-ins with the Russian government tweeted their support for Navalny.

“This is extremely worrying,” said Bill Browder, a hedge fund manager who built his fortune in Russia before turning into a prominent critic of the Kremlin. He drew parallels with the fate of his late Russian accountant, who uncovered evidence of large-scale fraud and corruption and died in jail. The Russian presidential human rights council found he had probably been beaten to death.

“We all know what happened after,” Browder added. “Let’s pray it isn’t the case for Alexei Navalny.”

Garry Kasparov, a Russian chess grandmaster and Putin critic, accused the Russian leader of trying to kill Navalny.

Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom said Tuesday it was cutting gas supplies to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline by about 40 percent because a turbine sent for repairs was not returned “in due time.”

In a post on Twitter, Gazprom said German engineering company Siemens failed to return gas compressor units following their repair.

Siemens said sanctions imposed by Canada, where the repairs were being carried out, prevented the return of the units.

“Due to the delayed return of gas compressor units from repair by Siemens … and technical engines’ malfunctions, only three gas compressor units can currently be used at the Portovaya compression station,” Gazprom said, referring to the compressor station on Russia’s Baltic Sea coast. It said capacity would be cut to 100 million cubic meters of gas per day instead of the planned supply amount of 167 million.

In a statement, Siemens Energy said the units were manufactured in Canada and needed to be regularly sent back for maintenance.

“Due to the sanctions imposed by Canada, it is currently impossible for Siemens Energy to deliver overhauled gas turbines to the customer. Against this background we have informed the Canadian and German governments and are working on a viable solution,” the company said.

Nord Stream is the biggest gas supply link to the European Union, and the benchmark price of European natural gas rose by about 15 percent following Gazprom’s announcement. Gas supplies to Europe suffered another setback last week when a fire knocked out the Freeport LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal in Texas. Operators said it could take 90 days for a partial restart. LNG shipments from the United States had helped to stabilize gas prices in Europe in recent months.

Since Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, the E.U. has worked with the United States and other allies to sanction Moscow, but several member countries remain heavily reliant on Russian oil and gas.

BRUSSELS — NATO allies and partners will discuss Wednesday how best to help Ukrainian forces as they are pummeled by the Russians in the east, as well as a longer-term push to move the country from Soviet-style to NATO-standard weapons.

“Allies are committed to continue providing the military equipment that Ukraine needs to prevail, including heavy weapons and long-range systems,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at news conference in Brussels.

On Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will chair a meeting of the Ukraine “defense contact group” in Brussels, where the conversation is expected to focus on how to respond to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s pleas for modern antimissile weapons and other arms.

That discussion will be followed by a meeting of NATO defense ministers, who will discuss Ukraine, changes to the alliance’s force posture and defense spending — the issues on the agenda for a NATO summit in Madrid later this month.

“We will now take decisions on the scale and design of our posture for the longer term,” Stoltenberg said. “This will mean big increases in our presence, capabilities and readiness.”

Though Stoltenberg declined to get into specifics, he said the alliance was discussing how best to bolster its defense and deterrence capabilities, particularly on its eastern flank. This will likely include additional forces, prepositioning of heavy equipment and preassigning forces to specific countries, he said.

Overshadowing preparation for the summit, however, is Turkey’s opposition to bids by Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. Although Stoltenberg and other leaders initially expressed confidence that the alliance would move swiftly on the issue, pushback from Ankara has changed the conversation and raised fears of a stalemate.

On Wednesday, Stoltenberg acknowledged that Turkey’s opposition took him by surprise. “We didn’t have information that that would be a problem,” he said.

But Stoltenberg and other officials stressed that the alliance is working to resolve the issue and get both aspiring members to Madrid as “invitees.”

“Many of us had hopes that we would see these two countries join us in Madrid as invitees at the table with the other leaders,” U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said in a news briefing Tuesday. Now, she said, that may not happen.

Still, she added, “I think the allies all hope this is something we can resolve in weeks and months, not years.”

President Biden on Tuesday unveiled a plan to build temporary silos in countries bordering Ukraine to help get grain exports out of the war-torn nation by rail and avert a global food crisis.

A Russian naval blockade has halted maritime trade at Ukrainian Black Sea ports, leaving millions of tons of grain stuck in the country in what world leaders have described as a deliberate attack on the global food supply chain. Ukraine is a major exporter of goods such as sunflower oil, corn and wheat.

“I’m working closely with our European partners to get 20 million tons of grains locked in Ukraine out onto the market to help bring down food prices,” Biden said Tuesday at a Philadelphia union convention. “They can’t get out through the Black Sea because they’ll get blown out of the water. So we’re working on a plan to get it out through other countries by rail.”

Complicating the plan is the fact that Ukraine’s rail cars operate on a different rail gauge than the rest of Europe. The idea is to build temporary silos in places such as Poland into which the grain can be transferred from Ukrainian rail cars and then transported by European rail cars for export by sea.

The plan is “taking time,” Biden said.

Russia intensified its assault on a strategic Ukrainian city on Tuesday as NATO officials prepared to debate increased military support for Kyiv’s attempt to reverse Russian momentum in the country’s east.

Officials in the eastern city of Severodonetsk said that Ukrainian forces were mounting a pitched defense of an area that is now a central focus of Russian firepower. Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk described “constant fighting” for Severodonetsk, which has become increasingly isolated following the destruction of bridges leading out of the city. He said Russian troops so far have been unable to complete their control of the area.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region where Severodonetsk is located, said that humanitarian supplies could no longer be delivered to the city. The two sides have exchanged accusations about who is responsible for destroying the bridges, which permit the movement of civilians and aid but also military equipment and troops.

A senior Pentagon official said Tuesday the United States will not compel Ukraine to accept a cease-fire, even as casualties mount on each side and Russia makes incremental gains in Ukraine’s east.

“We’re not going to tell the Ukrainians how to negotiate, what to negotiate and when to negotiate,” Colin Kahl, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said during a security conference held by the Center for a New American Security in Washington. “They’re going to set those terms for themselves.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urgently requested more antimissile systems on Tuesday to stave off a Russian onslaught in the east. In Severodonetsk, a besieged city central to the Kremlin’s goal of capturing eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian and Russian forces are locked in street-by-street battles.

“The Ukrainians remain stalwart defenders. There are significant casualties, but that is true on both sides,” Kahl said.

Earlier this week, Zelensky vowed to liberate cities and territories captured by Russian forces, including Mariupol, Melitopol and Kherson. He previously said a stalemate with Russia is “not an option.”

Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating the mayor of Svyatogorsk, a Russian-occupied town in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, for treason over suspicions he switched sides during the conflict.

Volodymyr Bandura allegedly made a media appeal last week in which he promoted the idea of “Russian peace” and expressed gratitude to Russian forces that captured the city, according to a statement Tuesday posted on the website of the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office. Bandura is also accused by Ukrainian prosecutors of agreeing to a Russian proposal to head the city on behalf of the occupying forces.

Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, appeared to confirm the accusations, writing on Telegram: “We have been in touch with [Bandura] for a long time, he was waiting, like many residents of Svyatogorsk, for liberation, he supports a special military operation.”

“For obvious reasons, he was forced to hide his position — the task was to save people,” Pushilin added. He also said Bandura was offered the job of heading the Russian administration of the city.

After russia's bombardment wooden All Saints Monastery of Svyatogorsk Lavra is on fire. It's affiliated w/ Moscow Patriarchate. On 30.05 russsia killed 4 monks here. Would Patriarch Kiril finally call president putin 2 end the war or would he continue blessing russia's army? pic.twitter.com/3HI3sjQnf4

Svyatogorsk is the site of a towering wooden monastery that caught fire and sustained heavy damage during a recent Russian bombardment. Russia’s Defense Ministry denied that its forces were involved in the attack. Instead, it accused Ukrainian troops of sparking the blaze by firing at the monastery, which is part of a revered centuries-old Ukrainian Orthodox Church site.

After more than a month of heavy fighting, Russian forces now control most of Severodonetsk, a besieged city central to the Kremlin’s goal of capturing eastern Ukraine, according to British defense officials.

In a potential repeat of the standoff in Mariupol — where Ukrainian fighters and civilians were holed up for weeks in a network of tunnels beneath an industrial site in the city — elements of Ukraine’s military and several hundred civilians are sheltering in underground bunkers in the Azot chemical plant in the city’s industrial zone, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update Wednesday.

“Russian forces will likely be fixed in and around Azot whilst Ukrainian fighters can survive underground. This will likely temporarily prevent Russia from re-tasking these units for missions elsewhere,” it said.

“It is highly unlikely that Russia anticipated such robust opposition, or such slow, attritional conflict during its original planning for the invasion,” it added.

Russian military officials on Tuesday called on Ukrainian troops stationed at the plant to lay down their arms and surrender, describing them as “nationalist battalion militants and foreign mercenaries.”

The officials said they will open a humanitarian corridor on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Moscow time to allow civilians to evacuate to the Russian-held city of Svatove. Kyiv has accused Moscow of attacking such corridors in the past.

Russian state media outlet Tass said Wednesday that up to 1,200 civilians may be at the plant, citing an official from the separatist administration, implying they are being held there. The Washington Post was unable to verify the Russian claims. Ukraine has not said whether troops are stationed at the plant.

An American lawyer for the chemical company said last week that about 800 civilians were sheltering in bunkers beneath the Severodonetsk chemical factory. They included some 200 of the plant’s 3,000 employees and about 600 other inhabitants of the devastated city, according to Lanny Davis, a lawyer for the Ukrainian businessman who controls the Azot chemical plant.

The workers have remained at the facility to safeguard “what is left of the plant’s highly explosive chemicals,” he said in a statement at the time.

Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin and an outspoken opponent of his invasion of Ukraine, has been reportedly transferred out of his prison colony to a high-security facility known for the systematic abuse of inmates.

Oleg Yazhan, chairman of the Public Monitoring Commission of Vladimir region, told state media that Navalny had arrived in “IK-6,” referring to a prison in Melekhovo, some 150 miles east of Moscow.

But Navalny’s aides said they could not confirm that he had been transferred to Melekhovo and could not account for his whereabouts, though his legal team had been told he was being moved.

Earlier on Tuesday, Navalny’s allies had sounded an alarm, saying he was missing from the Pokrov penal colony, where he had spent months behind bars. The lawyer who went to see Navalny was told “there is no such convict there” and was turned away.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet with defense leaders from some 50 nations Wednesday to discuss future military assistance for Ukraine. The meeting, which will take place in Brussels alongside a gathering of NATO defense ministers, comes shortly after Washington pledged to send four advanced M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, to Ukraine.

Weapons handling training for Ukrainian soldiers is now a priority, according to the Pentagon. Learning to operate the HIMARS, for instance, takes at least three weeks.

Ukraine has repeatedly asked for more sophisticated weapons as it goes up against Russia’s superior arsenal. It says it has not received sufficient assistance.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this month said Kyiv needs 60 multi-rocket launch systems to stand a chance of pushing Russia back. On Tuesday, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister Hanna Malyar told reporters that her country has only received 10 percent of the weapons it has requested to “create parity with the Russian army.”

The latest: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will host a gathering of defense leaders from some 50 countries in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss matching military assistance to Ukraine’s battlefield needs. Meanwhile, Russia said it will open a humanitarian corridor Wednesday to allow civilians to leave a chemical plant in Severodonetsk for a Kremlin-controlled city.

The fight: A slowly regenerating Russian army is making incremental gains in eastern Ukraine against valiant but underequipped Ukrainian forces. The United States and its allies are racing to deliver the enormous quantities of weaponry the Ukrainians urgently need if they are to hold the Russians at bay.

The weapons: Ukraine is making use of weapons such as Javelin antitank missiles and Switchblade “kamikaze” drones, provided by the United States and other allies. Russia has used an array of weapons against Ukraine, some of which have drawn the attention and concern of analysts.

Photos: Post photographers have been on the ground from the very beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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