Key developments

The Russian military on Saturday announced full control of Severodonetsk, the administrative center of the Ukraine-controlled part of the eastern Lugansk region.

Ukraine and Germany signed an agreement on providing grant aid worth 1 billion euros ($1.06 billion) for Kyiv.

Russia will transfer the nuclear-capable Iskander-M tactical missile systems to Belarus in the next few months to increase its defense capability.

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.

09:17 2022-06-28
Russia-Ukraine conflict dominates G7 summit
Clockwise from front right: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles MicheI, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attend a working dinner on Sunday during the G7 leaders' summit at Bavaria's Schloss Elmau castle in Germany. MARKUS SCHREIBER/AP

G7 leaders addressed on Monday the global economic consequences of the Russia-Ukraine conflict during their meeting in the Bavarian Alps of Germany, as they discussed strategies on how to secure energy supplies and tackle surging inflation.

The wealthy Western nations were set to finalize plans on Tuesday for a price cap on Russian oil, Reuters reported, quoting a senior United States official on the sidelines of the three-day summit, which opened on Sunday.

"The dual objectives of G7 leaders have been to take direct aim at Russia's revenues, particularly through energy, but also to minimize the spillovers and the impact on the G7 economies and the rest of the world," the official said.

The United Kingdom, the US, Canada and Japan on Sunday announced moves to ban imports of Russian gold, which, the BBC reported, is aimed at wealthy Russians who have been buying bullion to reduce the financial impact of Western sanctions.

Western countries have introduced a slew of sanctions aimed at some Russian individuals, banks, businesses and state-owned enterprises since the conflict started in February.

The Kremlin insisted on Monday there were "no grounds" to say that Russia had defaulted on its foreigncurrency sovereign debt as the West pummels Russia with sanctions.

"These claims about default, they are absolutely wrong," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters after a key payment deadline expired on Sunday, adding that Russia had settled the debt in May.

Bloomberg News reported earlier on Monday that Russia defaulted on its foreign-currency sovereign debt for the first time in more than a century, after the grace period on some $100 million of interest payments due Sunday had expired.

Russian authorities have accused the West of seeking to drive Moscow into an artificial default, and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has dismissed the situation as a "farce".

A formal default would be largely symbolic, given that Russia cannot borrow internationally at the moment and doesn't need to, thanks to plentiful oil and gas export revenues, Reuters said.

G7 leaders will make an "unprecedented, long-term security commitment to providing Ukraine with financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support as long as it takes", according to a fact sheet released by the US.

The US is planning to send Ukraine sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, a source told Agence France-Presse on Monday.

US President Joe Biden, who is attending the summit, "has made the procurement of advanced air defense systems for Ukraine a priority", the source said.

An announcement is "likely this week" on the purchase of NASAMS, an "advanced medium-to longrange surface-to-air missile defense system", as well as other weaponry to help Ukraine fight Russia's forces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who addressed the summit by video link on Monday, has pleaded for more powerful weapons.

G7 leaders also expressed "serious concern" over alleged Russian plans to deliver missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to Belarus in the coming months.

"We urge Russia to behave responsibly and exercise restraint," they said in a statement.

The Ukraine crisis has detracted attention from another crisis-that of climate change-originally set to dominate the summit. Activists fear Western nations are watering down their climate ambitions as they scramble to find alternatives to Russian gas imports and rely more heavily on coal, a dirtier fossil fuel, instead.

Japan is also pushing to remove a target for zero-emission vehicles from a G7 communique expected this week, according to a proposed draft seen by Reuters.

Agencies via Xinhua contributed to this story.

22:30 2022-06-27
Ukraine terminates 2 nuclear safety deals with Russia

KYIV - Ukraine terminated two agreements with Russia concerning cooperation in the field of nuclear safety, Ukraine's state-run nuclear energy operator Energoatom said in a statement on Monday.

Kyiv withdrew from the agreement between the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety of Ukraine and the Federal Nuclear and Radiation Safety Survey of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the sphere of nuclear and radiation safety signed on Sept 19, 1996.

Meanwhile, the country also scrapped the agreement between the Federal Supervision of Nuclear and Radiation Safety of Russia and the State Nuclear Regulatory Committee of Ukraine on the exchange of information and cooperation in the field of safety regulation when using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes signed on Aug 14, 2002.

09:00 2022-06-27
Russia fully takes Severodonetsk

MOSCOW/KYIV-The Russian military on Saturday announced that it had taken full control of Severodonetsk, the administrative center of the Ukrainian-controlled part of the eastern Lugansk region.

With the support of Russian troops, the forces of Lugansk launched "a successful offensive "and "completely liberated" the cities of Severodonetsk and Borovskoye as well as two settlements in Lugansk, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a briefing.

Severodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk was reported by the Ukrainian government-run Ukrinform news agency as saying: "The city is already completely occupied by the Russian Federation. They are trying to establish their order."

Civilians who had been sheltering at the Azot chemical plant had begun to leave, said Stryuk, adding that there was enough medicine in the city to give them emergency assistance.

Commenting on the development, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday said Ukraine would win back all the cities it had lost to Russia, including Severodonetsk, and admitted the conflict was becoming tough to handle.

In a late-night video address, he also said Ukraine had been hit by 45 Russian missiles and rockets over the prior 24 hours, in an action that he described as a cynical but doomed attempt to break his people's spirits.

"Therefore all our cities, Severodonetsk, Donetsk, Lugansk, we'll get them all back," he said.

A day after the key eastern city fell to Russia in a major setback for Ukraine, Russian missiles struck the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Sunday.

The missiles hit Kyiv's central Shevchenkivskiy district on Sunday morning, partially destroying a nine-story apartment building and causing a fire, the city's mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app.

The latest developments on the battlefield come as world leaders gathered in Europe to discuss further sanctions against Moscow.

Before a G7 meeting in Germany, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britain is ready to guarantee a further $525 million of World Bank loans to Ukraine later this year, taking total fiscal support this year to $1.5 billion.

"Ukraine can win and it will win. But they need our backing to do so. Now is not the time to give up on Ukraine."

In St. Petersburg on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would deliver Iskander-M missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to Belarus in the coming months, as he received Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

He also offered to upgrade Belarus' warplanes to make them capable of carrying nuclear weapons, in comments broadcast on Russian television.

Xinhua - Agencies

14:13 2022-06-26
Explosions occur in Ukraine's capital

KIEV - Several explosions occurred in the Shevchenkivskyi district of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, on Sunday morning, Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko told The Telegram.

According to the mayor, ambulance crews and rescuers are already on the scene and local residents are being rescued and evacuated.

04:55 2022-06-25
Russia to dominate Western agenda
By YIFAN XU in Washington
Banners displaying the NATO logo are placed at the entrance of NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, in this April 19, 2018 file photo. [ Photo/Agencies]

At the upcoming G7 and NATO summits, Russia will be No 1 on the agenda, while China will also be a focus, experts said.

Because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, "the focus fundamentally will remain on Russia at these summits", Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for China-America Studies, told China Daily.

He said the issue of China would also be brought into the spotlight, for the two groups "had already been thinking a little bit about China for a few years".

"That's why this issue of China being big into the NATO Strategic Concept was something which was cooking for a couple of years," Gupta said.

The G7 group will hold its 48th summit at Schloss Elmau in Germany between Saturday and Monday. The NATO summit will take place in the Spanish capital Madrid on the last two days of June.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the summit would update the NATO Strategic Concept, and will include China in this document for the first time.

On Tuesday, the Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted a news briefing call previewing the two summits. During the call, Matthew Goodman, senior vice-president for economics at the CSIS, said the two summits are "a pretty challenging set of meetings" for the United States.

"The good news is that President (Joe) Biden has some wind at his back because he was able to mobilize this group of allies and partners to take on the Russia-Ukraine challenge initially. But the question is: Can he move the ball forward on these two — at these two meetings," Goodman said.

"There are some pretty significant headwinds here. you have Ukraine bogged down. You've got inflation raging, you know, a series of crises from food to energy to health to climate. Obviously, Ukraine is going to loom large and the big question is around whether this group is going to be able to take forward the sanctions."

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan revealed on June 16 that Biden would announce a new global infrastructure plan at the G7 summit to counter the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said any geopolitical calculations that are to advance under the banner of infrastructure development are not welcome and will not succeed.

Caitlin Welsh, director of the CSIS' Global Food Security Program, said at Tuesday's briefing that food security is likely to be high on the G7 agenda given the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on global food security and also preexisting levels of food security due to the impacts of COVID-19, climate change and conflict.

Max Bergmann, director of the Europe Program at the CSIS, said China is something the US has pushed to make a much bigger focus at NATO.

"Of course, when Antony Blinken went to NATO for the first time as US secretary of state, he mentioned China more than 10 times. I think he only mentioned Russia about four times, demonstrating kind of the US focus, at least at the time, in early 2021," he said.

However, Gupta said the summits would not greatly impact Europe-China relations.

"There are very serious situations in Europe. And I think this is a serious situation in Europe that is going to force NATO to be less ambitious in thinking about China and more focused on how to safeguard security on the continent, the European continent," Gupta said.

"Even China's inclusion in the strategic concept is just an initial marker, not really much more than that."

19:47 2022-06-24
Russian companies striving to survive and prosper under sanctions
Photo taken on March 10, 2022 shows the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. [Photo/Xinhua]

"It's the most affordable new vehicle in Russia. They're calling it… the anti-sanctions car!"

This quote come from Russian state TV putting a positive spin on the new Lada rolling off the production line in the city of Togliatti.

Due to Western sanctions, the Russian carmaker cannot import all the components that it used to. So the "most affordable" Lada Granta has no airbag, no anti-lock braking system, no Electronic Stability Control and no seat-belt pretensions.

More than four months after Russia's special military operation was launched in Ukraine, the new Lada sums up the current Russian economy in a way: affected by sanctions but still functional.

As a matter of fact, "functional" is an achievement, as Russia is now the most sanctioned country in the world. According to data service Statista, more than 10,500 restrictions have been imposed on Russian individuals and companies. More than 7,500 of those were implemented in the last four months.

The sanctions hit Russia with a wide array of restrictions, including major Russian banks being cut off from the SWIFT international payment system and Western bans on flights.

Russia held the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last week with the theme of "New Opportunities in a New World". Economic experts and enterprise owners gathered in the second-largest city of Russia, looking for a way out from the current economic crisis.

The head of the Russian Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, warned at a session of the forum that the country's economy faces pressure from abroad that could persist indefinitely, dampening hopes that conditions could return to what they were before February.

"External conditions have changed for a long time indeed, if not forever," she said.

Minister of Economic Development, Maxim Reshetnikov, told the same session that the prognosis is for Russia's GDP to fall by 7.8 percent this year, but "in the last month, there's been a wave of improving assessments and prognoses".

After the ruble lost as much as half its value in the first weeks of the Ukraine conflict, Russia took significant measures to support it, leading to a rebound that boosted it to levels not seen in years. However, that has made Russian exports more expensive. Meanwhile, many countries are moving to lessen their dependence on Russian oil and natural gas.

Nabiullina called for Russia to reduce its emphasis on exports overall in favor of domestic production.

"It has always been believed that exports are our intrinsic value," she said. "We need to rethink and, finally, think about the fact that a significant part of production should work for the domestic market, more processing and more creation of final products."

For Oleg Kechin, owner of a chain of barbershops, forecasts that Russia will be plunged into its deepest economic crisis in a generation feel overdone.

"There's no deep crisis. In general, everything's fine," he said. "Everyone's talking about a decrease in purchasing power, but I haven't noticed it."

At the forum, Yuri Gavrilov, director of strategy and M&A and a member of the management board of Metalloinvest, echoed Kechin, saying he was not that worried.

Founded in 2006, Metalloinvest is a leading Russian mining and metallurgy company and global supplier of HBI and iron ore, and one of the top Russian producers of high-quality steel.

"The current crisis is global and our company is also experiencing difficulties caused by the disruption of established supply chains. But we are confident in the long-term sustainability of our business, as we provide the market with high-quality raw materials that are important for the green transition of steelmaking," Gavrilov told China Daily.

"The need of high-quality steel and HBI is increasing, and we have been focusing on the production of these high-end raw materials for many years," he said.

Meanwhile, the company has accumulated significant experience in the production of iron ore raw materials and steel with a low carbon footprint, and is interested in cooperation to develop new technology.

He noted the company's overseas partners will continue to choose them as more countries are pursuing the grand goal of carbon neutrality within 20-40 years, and Metalloinvest is able to provide products that help to produce steel with very low carbon emissions.

Similar with Metalloinvest, Russia's largest gas processing and petrochemical company, Sibur, is also expanding its offering of advanced, eco-friendly polymers for use in packaging, pipe production and other industries.

Sergey Komyshan, executive director of Sibur, told China Daily that one of their products is liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) – a low-carbon fuel, which hasn't been affected by sanctions.

"Due to geopolitical tensions, we had to reduce exports to Europe, which account for 23 percent of Sibur's revenue, and redirect sales volumes to other markets," Komyshan said.

Just like many other Russian companies, Sibur is considering shifting its business from the West to the East.

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.

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