Editor’s Note: This page summarizes the news from Ukraine as of Wednesday, June 29.
On the same day that NATO formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the security alliance, President Joe Biden said the US will increase its military presence in Eastern Europe during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Arriving at NATO’s Madrid summit on Wednesday, Biden announced that the US would establish its first permanent headquarters in Poland, maintain an additional rotating brigade in Romania and ramp up its rotating deployment in the Baltic region.
The troops in Poland would represent the first permanent US troops on NATO’s eastern flank. The alliance plans to stockpile supplies of equipment and ammunition in the east and grow to nearly eight times the total rapid response force of 40,000 to 300,000 troops by next year.
With Turkey’s opposition out of the way, NATO also plans to expand to 32 countries by welcoming previously unaligned Sweden and Finland, which have become wary of Russian aggression. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the war has brought “the biggest overhaul of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War”.
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►On the first day of the NATO summit, allies approved a new Strategic Concept for the Alliance outlining how it will address future threats and security challenges. The document includes a statement that defines Russia as the “most significant and immediate threat” to the security of its allies.
►The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who remained in power thanks to the intervention of Russian troops in 2015 during a civil war, said it will recognize the “independence and sovereignty” of Ukraine’s separatist eastern republics in Luhansk and Donetsk provinces .
►Egypt will receive a $500 million loan from the World Bank to help finance the purchase of wheat intended to supply the country’s poor households with subsidized food as prices skyrocket due to the war in Ukraine, the government said. Bank.
►A cyber attack has temporarily disabled public and private websites in Norway in the past 24 hours, Norwegian authorities said, pointing to a criminal pro-Russian group as the likely culprit.
The airstrike that killed 18 people and injured dozens more in a Ukrainian shopping center on Monday may indeed have been an accident, as Russian authorities have claimed, but their commanders do not hesitate to endanger civilians in the pursuit of military gains.
That’s according to the latest intelligence rating from the British Ministry of Defencepointing out that the inaccuracy of the Russian bombing campaign earlier in this war resulted in massive casualties.
“Russian planners most likely remain willing to accept a high level of collateral damage when they see military necessity to hit a target,” the review said, deeming it a “realistic possibility.” rocket destroyed the Kremenchuk shopping center.
The attack was internationally condemned, with French President Emmanuel Macron calling it a “new war crime”. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the UN to set up an international tribunal to investigate it.
REPO Task Force Seized $30 Billion From Oligarchs
The REPO Task Force lives up to its acronym.
The multinational committee charged with confiscation of the wealth of Russian elites associated with President Vladimir Putin has blocked and frozen $30 billion in the property and funds of sanctioned oligarchs for its first 100 days, the Treasury Department said.
That doesn’t include the yachts, other ships and luxury real estate that have been seized or the $300 billion in Russian Central Bank funds that have been frozen, the department said.
“We continue to raise Russia’s costs of its war,” Treasury said of the REPO task force, whose acronym stands for Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs. The European Commission has established its own Freeze and Seize Task Force to work with the REPO group.
NATO’s expansion to 32 countries, which came closer to reality when Sweden and Finland were invited to join on Wednesday, represents a big blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who for years railed about the security alliance coming to his country’s doorstep.
Putin cited Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO as one of the reasons for launching his “special operation”. unattached for decades were prompted to seek stronger protection once the war began.
“It’s a defeat for him. It’s a kick in the stomach,” said Charles Kupchan, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank specializing in foreign policy and international relations.
The membership offer to the two Scandinavian countries became a fait accompli on Tuesday when Turkey withdrew its opposition after negotiating an agreement that would allay concerns over Kurdish rebel groups that Turkey considers terrorists. Admission to NATO requires a unanimous vote from member states.
Meeting with leaders from countries around the Caspian Sea, Putin rejected the idea that his plans were counterproductive, saying: “To us, Finland’s and Sweden’s membership is nothing like Ukraine’s membership. They understand that very well.”
— Francesca Chambers and Michael Collins
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not changed his goals in Ukraine, even if they seem unrealistic, the top US intelligence official said Wednesday.
Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, foresees a long, “grinding battle” in which Russia retains the parts of the eastern Donbas region it already controls and consolidates its hold on the south by the fall, but is unlikely to progress beyond Which.
At an event in Washington, Haines said Putin “basically has the same political goals he had before, which is to take most of Ukraine” and push NATO away.
“We see a discrepancy between Putin’s short-term military objectives in this area and the capacity of his army, a kind of discrepancy between his ambitions and what the army can achieve,” she said.
Russia continues to make incremental progress in Lysychansk, the last city in Luhansk province it does not control. The invading forces and their separatist allies control 95% of Luhansk and about half of Donetsk, making up the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbas.
The Ukrainian government announced the largest prisoner exchange of the war, with 144 soldiers returning home, according to a report on the Defense Ministry’s Telegram account.
Of these, 95 were involved in the defense of the Azovstal steel factory in the ruined southern city of Mariupol, which was taken by Russia weeks ago. Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatist People’s Republic of Donetsk, said both sides released the same number of soldiers.
Contributions: The Associated Press