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Key developments

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has informed President Vladimir Putin of the control of Lugansk, the Defense Ministry said Sunday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday welcomed the UK government's decision to provide another 1 billion pounds in military support to Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday discussed the current situation in Ukraine and the supplies of grain and fertilizers amid a global food shortage.

Ukraine began exporting electricity to Europe on Thursday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.

09:41 2022-07-06
Ukraine's economy to shrink by at least 35 pct this year: PM
A man exits a building of a damaged shop in Kyiv, Ukraine April 15, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukraine's gross domestic product (GDP) will shrink at least 35 percent this year due to the conflict with Russia, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported on Tuesday, citing Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

While addressing the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Switzerland, Shmyhal said that the Ukrainian economy has started recovering from the "shock coma" of the first weeks of the conflict.

The government carried out a "relatively successful" grain sowing campaign and resumed logistics across the western border, Shmyhal said, noting that the economy still faces many challenges.

According to the State Statistics Service, Ukraine's GDP contracted 15.1 percent year on year in January-March 2022.

According to the estimates of the National Bank of Ukraine, in the second half of the year the rate of economic contraction will be lower, but in general, Ukraine's real GDP will decrease by more than 30 percent over the course of the year.

10:05 2022-07-05
Switzerland hosts first Ukraine Recovery Conference
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and chairman of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) Ruslan Stefanchuk walk after a group photo during the Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC2022), in Lugano, Switzerland, July 4, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

LUGANO, Switzerland - Tasked with establishing the principles and framework for the future reconstruction of the conflict-torn country, a two-day Ukraine Recovery Conference opened here on Monday.

The conference participants are expected to define the criteria for handling assistance to Ukraine and for the distribution of roles among the various partners, Ignazio Cassis, president of the Swiss Confederation and head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, said in his opening address.

He said he expected the senior officials from around 40 countries and representatives from 18 international organizations attending the conference to adopt the "Lugano principles" conducive to the sustainable recovery of Ukraine.

"The sustainable restructuring of the economy should be guided by the principle of building back better and creating the conditions for prosperity and intact livelihoods," he said.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who attended the conference in person, said that his country will need 750 billion US dollars for a three-stage reconstruction plan, which he presented in detail.

Addressing the conference by video link from Kyiv, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the plan also covers the country's institutional development.

Among the key principles and goals, Zelensky singled out heightened security, technological development, compliance with environmental standards, transparency and the rooting of the reconstruction project in Ukraine's real economic life.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told Monday's opening session that her institution has proposed to the government of Ukraine the creation of a reconstruction platform to map investment needs, coordinate action, channel resources and support an ambitious reform agenda.

The event, co-hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Ukraine, was originally planned as the 5th annual Ukraine Reform Conference. It was renamed earlier this year to reflect the new focus of the gathering.

"The way to rebuild Ukraine is through a broad-based political and diplomatic process. Switzerland and Ukraine want to start this process in Lugano," the Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that next year's Ukraine Recovery Conference will be hosted by the United Kingdom.

09:29 2022-07-05
US mulls plan to train Ukrainian military

KYIV - The United States is considering the possibility of providing training to the Ukrainian military, the Ukrainian government-run Ukrinform news agency reported Monday, citing the US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink.

"I can't tell the exact number or the plan, but I can say that I talked about it with officials from the Pentagon," Brink said after her visit to Washington.

The United States is working to provide Kyiv with more aid designed to strengthen Ukraine's positions on the frontline, the ambassador said.

On June 15, the US embassy in Ukraine said on Twitter that the US government had provided 4.6 billion US dollars worth of defense aid for Kyiv amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

According to the embassy, the United States sent to Ukraine 26,500 Javelin and other anti-armor systems, 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 108 howitzers, and 75,000 sets of body armor and helmets.

On June 23, Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said his country received High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from the United States.

07:45 2022-07-05
Russian forces hold key Ukraine city in new setback for Kyiv
Smoke billows over the oil refinery outside the town of Lysychansk on June 23, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

SIVERSK, Ukraine-Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday declared victory in the eastern Ukrainian region of Lugansk, one day after Ukrainian forces withdrew from their last remaining bulwark of resistance in the province.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin in a televised meeting on Monday that Russian forces had taken control of Lugansk, which together with the neighboring Donetsk Province makes up Ukraine's industrial heartland of Donbas.

Shoigu told Putin that "the operation" was completed on Sunday after Russian troops overran the city of Lysychansk, the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in Lugansk.

Putin's declaration came as Russian forces tried to press their offensive deeper into eastern Ukraine after the Ukrainian military confirmed that its forces had withdrawn from Lysychansk on Sunday. Lugansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had retreated from the city to avoid being surrounded.

"There was a risk of Lysychansk encirclement," Gaidai told The Associated Press, adding that Ukrainian troops could have held on for a few more weeks but would have potentially paid too high a price.

In an address late on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed Kyiv would fight on and ensure the military had "the most modern weapons".

The latest country to provide aid was Australia, after its Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday pledged further military support, including armored vehicles and drones during a meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv.

On Sunday, Moscow accused Kyiv of firing three cluster missiles at the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, which came a day after neighboring Belarus said it had intercepted Ukrainian missiles.

In what would represent an escalation of the conflict, Russia said its anti-aircraft defenses shot down three Tochka-U cluster missiles launched by "Ukrainian nationalists" against Belgorod.

Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said 11 residential buildings and 39 houses had been damaged.

Russia has previously accused Kyiv of conducting strikes on Russian soil, particularly in the Belgorod region.

'Colossal' work

On Monday, leaders from dozens of countries and organizations were meeting in the Swiss city of Lugano, where they aim to hash out a "Marshall Plan" for Ukraine's reconstruction, which is expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. The plan is aimed to begin even as conflict continues to rage.

Zelensky, who was expected to take part virtually, warned on Sunday that the work ahead in the areas that have been liberated alone was "really colossal".

Ukraine will also face demands for broad reforms, especially in cracking down on corruption after Brussels recently granted Kyiv candidate status in its push to join the 27-member European Union bloc.

Agencies via Xinhua

18:33 2022-07-02
Ukraine needs 'hard work, determination' to join EU, says von der Leyen
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attends a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, June 17, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

BRUSSELS -- Ukraine's bid to join the European Union (EU) is "within reach" but requires "hard work, determination and above all unity of purpose," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.

Addressing the Ukrainian parliament via video link, she said the path towards EU membership required reforms in many areas including tackling corruption. She also took note of the steps Ukraine had already taken in this direction.

"You have created an impressive anti-corruption machine. But now these institutions need teeth, and the right people in senior posts," she said.

Von der Leyen said Ukraine should appoint new heads for the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office and National Anti-Corruption Bureau as soon as possible.

She also highlighted the need to reform Ukraine's constitutional court, which requires legislation outlining selection procedures for judges, in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission.

"Many of the laws and institutions you need are already in place. Now is the time to translate rules and bodies into positive and enduring change," she said.

Von der Leyen was addressing the Ukrainian parliament following the approval of Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for EU membership on June 23.

Ukraine applied for EU membership shortly after the conflict with Russia had begun at the end of February. The country handed over its application on Feb. 28, while Moldova applied for EU membership on March 3.

18:28 2022-07-02
Ukrainian president, Norwegian PM discuss support for Kyiv
This handout picture taken and released by the Ukrainian presidential press service on July 1, 2022, shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store (L) holding a press conference during their meeting in Kyiv. AFP PHOTO / UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE

KYIV -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with visiting Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store on Friday to discuss further support for Kyiv, the presidential press service said.

During the talks, Zelensky thanked Store for the defense, political and humanitarian support and for the decision to allocate 1 billion euros for Ukraine.

For his part, Store said Norway will continue supporting Ukraine amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

At their talks, the parties also discussed further defense support for Kiev and Ukraine's post-conflict recovery.

Store arrived in Kyiv earlier in the day.

18:03 2022-07-02
US announces additional security assistance to Ukraine
A Ukrainian soldier covers an armored vehicle with branches in Donbass on April 12, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

WASHINGTON -- The United States on Friday announced a new round of security assistance to Ukraine that included advanced anti-aircraft and aerial defense systems as well as additional ammunition for advanced rocket systems.

Totaling $820 million, the new weapons came in two parts, according to an announcement from the Department of Defense. Fifty million dollars' worth of aid, of which additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems is a part, will be drawn from the presidential drawdown authority that authorizes President Joe Biden to directly tap into existing US weapons inventories.

The remaining $770 million falls under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, through which the US government contracts with arms manufacturers to make weapons for Ukraine. In this part, the United States will provide Ukraine with two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, 150,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition for the howitzers and four counter-artillery radars, the Pentagon said.

The United States has now committed $6.9 billion of security assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched the special military operation on Feb 24 and a total of 7$.6 billion since the start of the Biden administration.

11:08 2022-07-02
Russian forces leave Snake Island in 'goodwill gesture'
A satellite image on May 12 provides an overview of destroyed buildings on Snake Island. [Photo/Agencies]

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine-Russian forces withdrew from a strategic Black Sea island on Thursday, potentially easing the pressure to the vital Ukrainian port city of Odessa, but kept up their push to encircle the last stronghold of resistance in the eastern province of Lugansk.

The Kremlin portrayed the pullout from Snake Island as a "goodwill gesture".

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said the withdrawal was intended to demonstrate that Moscow is not hampering the United Nations' efforts to establish a humanitarian corridor for exporting agricultural products from Ukraine.

But Ukraine's military claimed it forced the Russians to flee in two small speedboats following a barrage of Ukrainian artillery and missile strikes.

Senior Ukrainian military official Oleksiy Gromov earlier said Kyiv was planning to deploy troops to Snake Island, but did not specify a timeline.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of blockading Ukrainian ports to prevent exports of grain, contributing to a global food crisis. Russia has denied that and said Ukraine needs to remove mines from the Black Sea to allow safe navigation.

Snake Island sits along a busy shipping lane. Russia took control of it in the opening days of the conflict in the apparent hope of using it as a staging ground for an assault on Odessa, Reuters said.

Meanwhile, Moscow kept up its push to take control of the entire Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. It is focused on the city of Lysychansk, the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Lugansk.

Russian troops and local militias control 95 percent of Lugansk and about half of Donetsk, the two provinces that make up the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas.

On Friday, residential areas in a town near Odessa were hit by missiles and at least 18 people were killed, including two children, media said.

Video of the predawn attack showed the charred remains of buildings in the small town of Serhiivka, located about 50 kilometers southwest of Odessa.

Agencies Via Xinhua

13:58 2022-07-01
Ukraine welcomes military support from UK

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday welcomed the UK government's decision to provide another 1 billion pounds (about $1.21 billion) in military support to Ukraine.

"The UK is our true friend and strategic partner," Zelensky tweeted.

09:25 2022-07-01
Ukraine is US' latest neocon disaster
By Jeffrey D. Sachs
The Capitol Hill in Washington DC, the US, December 4, 2019. [Xinhua]

The Ukraine crisis is the culmination of a 30-year project of the American neoconservative movement. The Joe Biden administration is packed with the same neocons who championed the United States' wars of choice in Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Syria (2011) and Libya (2011), and who did so much to provoke Russia regarding Ukraine.

The neocon track record is one of unmitigated disaster, yet President Biden has staffed his team with neocons. As a result, Biden is steering Ukraine, the US and the European Union toward yet another geopolitical debacle. If Europe has any insight, it will separate itself from these US foreign policy debacles.

The neocon movement emerged in the 1970s around a group of public intellectuals, several of whom were influenced by the University of Chicago political scientist Leo Strauss and Yale University classicist Donald Kagan. Neocon leaders included Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Kagan (son of Donald), Frederick Kagan (son of Donald), Victoria Nuland (wife of Robert), Elliott Cohen, Elliott Abrams and Kimberley Allen Kagan (wife of Frederick).

The main message of the neocons is that the US must militarily dominate every region of the world, and must confront rising regional powers that could someday challenge US global or regional dominance, most importantly Russia and China. For this purpose, US military force should be pre-positioned in hundreds of military bases around the world and the US should be prepared to lead wars of choice as necessary.

The United Nations is to be used by the US only when useful for US purposes.

This approach was spelled out first by Paul Wolfowitz in his draft Defense Policy Guidance written for the Department of Defense in 2002 when he was deputy secretary of defense. The draft called for extending the US-led security network to Central and Eastern Europe despite the explicit promise in 1990 by then German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that German reunification would not be followed by NATO's eastward enlargement.

Wolfowitz also made the case for US wars of choice, defending America's right to act independently, even alone, in response to crises of concern to the US. According to General Wesley Clark, (ret.), Wolfowitz had already made clear to Clark on May 1991 that the US would lead regime-change operations in Iraq, Syria and other former Soviet ally countries.

The neocons championed NATO expansion into Ukraine even before that became official US policy under former US president George W. Bush in 2008. They viewed Ukraine's NATO membership as key to US regional and global dominance. Robert Kagan, historian and political commentator, spelled out the neocon case for NATO enlargement in April 2006:

The Russians and Chinese see nothing natural in (the "color revolutions" of the former Soviet Union), only Western-backed coups designed to advance Western influence in strategically vital parts of the world. Are they so wrong? Might not the successful liberalization of Ukraine, urged and supported by the Western democracies, be but the prelude to the incorporation of that nation into NATO and the European Union — in short, the expansion of Western liberal hegemony?

Robert Kagan acknowledged the dire implication of NATO's enlargement. He quoted one expert as saying, "the Kremlin is getting ready for the 'battle for Ukraine' in all seriousness". After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, both the US and Russia should have sought a neutral Ukraine, as a prudent buffer and safety valve. Instead, the neocons wanted US "hegemony" while the Russians took up the battle partly in defense and partly out of their own imperial pretentions as well.

Shades of the Crimean War (1853-56), when Britain and France sought to weaken Russia in the Black Sea following Russian pressures on the Ottoman Empire.

Robert Kagan penned the article as a private citizen while his wife Victoria Nuland was the US ambassador to NATO during the George W. Bush administration. Nuland has been a neocon operative par excellence. In addition to serving as Bush's ambassador to NATO, Nuland was former US president Barack Obama's assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs during 2013-17, where she participated in the overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, and now serves as Biden's undersecretary of state guiding US policy vis-à-vis the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The neocon outlook is based on an overriding false premise: that the US military, financial, technological and economic superiority enables it to dictate terms in all regions of the world. It is a position of both remarkable hubris and remarkable disdain of evidence.

Since the 1950s, the US has been stymied or defeated in nearly every regional conflict in which it has participated. Yet in the "battle for Ukraine", the neocons were ready to provoke a military confrontation with Russia by expanding NATO over Russia's vehement objections because they fervently believe that Russia will be defeated by US financial sanctions and NATO's weaponry.

The Institute for the Study of War, a neocon think tank led by Kimberley Allen Kagan (and backed by a who's who of defense contractors such as General Dynamics and Raytheon), continues to promise a Ukrainian victory. Regarding Russia's advances, the ISW offered a typical comment:"Regardless of which side holds the city (of Sievierodonetsk), the Russian offensive at the operational and strategic levels will probably have culminated, giving Ukraine the chance to restart its operational-level counteroffensives to push Russian forces back."

The facts on the ground, however, suggest otherwise. The West's economic sanctions have had little adverse impact on Russia, while their "boomerang" effect on the rest of the world has been large.

Moreover, Washington's capacity to resupply Ukraine with ammunition and weaponry is hamstrung by the US' limited production capacity and broken supply chains. Russia's industrial capacity of course dwarfs that of Ukraine's. Russia's GDP was roughly 10 times that of Ukraine before the conflict, and Ukraine has now lost much of its industrial capacity.

The most likely outcome of the current fighting is that Russia will conquer a large swath of Ukraine, perhaps leaving Ukraine landlocked or nearly so. Frustration will rise in Europe and the US with the military losses and the stagflationary consequences of war and sanctions. The knock-on effects could be devastating, if a right-wing demagogue in the US rises to power (or in the case of Donald Trump, returns to power) promising to restore the US' faded military glory through dangerous escalation.

Instead of risking this disaster, the real solution is to end the neocon fantasies of the past 30 years and for Ukraine and Russia to return to the negotiating table, with NATO committing to abandon its goal of eastward expansion to Ukraine and Georgia in return for a viable peace that respects and protects Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The author is an economist, public policy analyst and director of The Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he holds the title of university professor.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

If you have a specific expertise, or would like to share your thought about our stories, then send us your writings at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn, and comment@chinadaily.com.cn.

09:20 2022-07-01
Russian, Indonesian presidents discuss Ukraine, food supplies
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo make press statements in the Kremlin on June 30, 2022. [Photo/Kremlin press release]

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday discussed the current situation in Ukraine and the supplies of grain and fertilizers amid a global food shortage.

During a joint briefing after their talks in the Kremlin, Putin said that he informed Widodo in detail of the situation in Ukraine.

Speaking about the imbalance in the global food market, Putin attributed the problem to many years of irresponsible macroeconomic policies in some Western countries.

Russia exported more than 43 million tons of grain last year, of which there were 33 million tons of wheat, Putin said, adding that possible good harvests this year will allow Russia to sell more.

Russia is also ready to deliver a sufficient amount of fertilizers and other materials to Indonesia and other friendly countries, he said.

To this end, Putin stressed the "importance of restoring supply chains disrupted by the sanctions (on Russia)."

Widodo, who paid a visit to Kyiv before traveling to Moscow, underlined the significance of promoting a peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.

"I conveyed a message from (Ukrainian) President (Volodymyr) Zelensky to President Putin and expressed my readiness to establish communication between the two leaders," he said.

Widodo appreciated that Putin promised the security of food and fertilizer supplies not only from Russia but also from Ukraine.

08:31 2022-07-01
Ukraine begins exporting electricity to Europe
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal is visible on a screen during the finance ministers and central bank chiefs meeting of the Group of 7 (G7) most industrialized nations in Koenigswinter, near Bonn, Germany May 19, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukraine began exporting electricity to Europe on Thursday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.

"The long-awaited export of Ukrainian electricity to Europe has begun," Shmyhal wrote on Telegram.

Shmyhal said the first flows of Ukraine's electricity went to Romania at an initial capacity of 100 megawatts.

In the future, Ukraine aims to increase the capacity of electricity flows to Europe to 2.5 gigawatts, he said.

According to Shmyhal, Ukraine has the potential to earn more than 70 billion hryvnyas (about $2.4 billion) per year from electricity exports to European countries.

In March, Ukraine's electricity grid was synchronized with the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity.

07:50 2022-07-01
Russian troops leave Black Sea islet near Ukraine key port
Photo taken on March 3, 2022 shows the view of the port of Odessa, Ukraine. [Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW - The Russian armed forces completed their tasks and withdrew from the tiny Snake Island in the Black Sea south of Ukraine's important port city of Odessa on Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced.

In a goodwill gesture, Russia has demonstrated to the international society that there is no obstacle for the United Nations to establish a humanitarian corridor to transport agricultural products from Ukraine, the ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine and some Western countries blame Moscow for the global food shortage, alleging that the Russian forces have impeded the export of Ukrainian grain.

Moscow has repeatedly denied the accusation, criticizing Kyiv for failing to clear the Black Sea coastline, including the harbor waters.

11:23 2022-06-30
Lavrov, Guterres discuss global food security challenges over phone
Photo taken on March 10, 2022 shows the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. [Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressed global food security issues during a telephone conversation with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday.

Lavrov talked about the situation in Ukraine, with a particular focus on current issues related to the supply of agricultural products and fertilizers to global markets, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

He confirmed that Russia is ready to continue exporting food and fertilizers, despite existing complications, namely the presence of illegal Western sanctions and the disruption of global value chains due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Russian diplomat reaffirmed Moscow's commitment to continuing further work aimed at reducing the threats of the food crisis in coordination with the United Nations.

09:30 2022-06-30
Ukrainian president urges more defense, financial aid at NATO summit
In this handout picture taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidency Press Office early on March 14, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a video address in Kyiv. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday addressed a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit via a video link, urging more defense and financial assistance for Ukraine, the presidential press service reported.

In his speech, Zelensky said that Ukraine needs modern missile and air defense systems to protect its cities, and artillery to stand against Russia on the battlefields.

Financial support for Ukraine is no less important than aid with weapons, Zelensky said, noting that his country needs nearly $5 billion per month for defense and protection.

The Ukrainian leader also called on the NATO member states to continue sanctions against Russia and provide Ukraine with security guarantees.

"We need security guarantees, and you have to find a place for Ukraine in the common security space," Zelensky stressed.

The three-day NATO summit kicked off in Madrid of Spain on June 28.

08:29 2022-06-30
Ukraine, Russia carry out largest prisoner exchange since conflict start
Photo taken on June 2, 2022 shows damaged building and vehicle in Kharkov, Ukraine. [Photo/Xinhua]

KYIV - Ukraine and Russia carried out their largest prisoner exchange since the start of the conflict on Feb 24, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine's Defense Ministry said Wednesday in a statement on Telegram.

The agency said 144 Ukrainians aged 19 and 65 years returned home as a result of the exchange.

According to the statement, under the swap, Russia released 59 soldiers of the National Guard of Ukraine, including 43 from the Azov regiment which fought for Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant.

Most of the released Ukrainians have severe injuries, it said.

Ukraine and Russia conducted their first prisoner exchange on March 24.

10:21 2022-06-29
G7 looks into Russia oil and gas price caps
By JONATHAN POWELL in London
Police patrol outside the international media centre during the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, June 26, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Leaders of the G7 nations agreed on Tuesday to study ways to impose a price cap on Russian oil and gas in an effort to ease economic pressures that have emerged from the Ukraine conflict.

Ahead of the third and final day of the G7 summit being held in the Bavarian Alps of Germany, an official news release said group members would now seek to reach an agreement with international partners on import price caps and options on how to achieve this.

Concerns of an impending recession induced by rising inflation have overshadowed the summit, and leaders have been debating ways of controlling costs.

The United States wants to tackle the problem with a price cap, which its officials say could be enforced by lifting sanctions on insurance for the cargo ships that transport Russian oil in return for a deal, reported Politico.

With this plan, sanctions would be lifted for nations that agreed only to buy Russian oil at a settled maximum price, generating an incentive to apply the price cap, it said.

France on Monday proposed higher global oil production and pushed for a worldwide price cap instead of only on Russian oil sales, but later backed down, making a deal on a Russian oil price limit possible, Reuters reported.

A deal on a price cap could face challenges in the European Union where sanctions require the consent of all 27 member states, reported the Financial Times.

It quoted a G7 official as saying they were "supportive of the basic structure" of a Russian oil price cap deal, but that "details need to be hammered out".

Revenue sources

Another told the FT that all G7 states agreed with the "basic idea that we have to reduce the sources of revenue for Russian oil".

Western countries, which are seeking to raise pressure on Moscow while also trying to limit damage to their own economies, have voiced increasing frustration that their sanctions on Russian oil have had the effect of forcing up the global crude price.

The International Energy Agency said in its latest monthly report that Russian oil export revenues had climbed despite the embargoes reducing volume, reported Reuters.

EU member states have been struggling to diversify their gas imports in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine. Italy announced measures last week to increase gas storage to overcome deficits in gas supplies from Russia.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has pushed hard for price caps on Russian oil and pipeline gas at the G7 summit.

"We must avoid the mistakes made after the 2008 crisis: the energy crisis must not produce a return of populism," Draghi was reported to have told the G7.

"We must mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, compensate families and businesses in difficulty, and tax companies that make extraordinary profits."

08:55 2022-06-29
Russian airstrike hits facilities in central Ukraine

MOSCOW/KYIV - The Russian Aerospace Forces launched a "high-precision" airstrike on hangars with armaments and munitions in the Kremenchuk road machinery plant in Ukraine's central Poltava region on Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

The attack, targeting weapons delivered by the United States and European countries, was carried out with "high-precision weapons of Russia's aerospace forces and Kalibr missiles," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The strike destroyed West-manufactured armaments and munitions set to be delivered to Ukrainian troops in Donbass, it added.

"The detonation of the stored munitions caused a fire in a non-functioning shopping center next to the facilities of the plant," the ministry said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram that the attack hit a local shopping mall with more than 1,000 people inside.

08:32 2022-06-29
Russia legalizes parallel imports amid Western sanctions
An employee wearing a face mask and gloves disinfects samples of cosmetics in a shopping center in Moscow, Russia, on June 2, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law on Tuesday legalizing "parallel imports" in the country in a bid to stabilize prices amid Western economic sanctions.

The law protects Russian companies that import certain categories of goods without the permission of the intellectual property owner, the so-called parallel imports, from possible civil, administrative and criminal liability.

The law authorizes the Russian government to determine the list of goods that are subject to the new legislation.

The legalization of parallel imports is aimed at protecting the Russian economy and citizens in the face of economic sanctions, simplifying trade in the eligible goods and stabilizing their prices, said Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of Russia's lower parliament house the State Duma.

09:34 2022-06-28
Russia expels 8 Greek diplomats in tit-for-tat move
People walk near the building of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, March 28, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW - Russia has declared eight Greek diplomats "personae non gratae," ordering them to leave the country within eight days, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Greek Ambassador to Russia Ekaterini Nassika was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in protest over the expulsion of Russian diplomats in Greece and Greece's supply of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine, the statement said.

The measures were taken as a direct response to the hostile actions of the Greek authorities, and Moscow will reserve the right to respond if Athens continues to take such an anti-Russian course, it added.

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