Newest information on Russia and the warfare in Ukraine

Fiji court OK’s U.S. seizure of Russian-owned mega yacht

The 106m-long and 18m-high super luxury motor yacht Amadea, one of the largest yacht in the world is seen after anchored at pier in Pasatarlasi for bunkering with 9 fuel trucks, on February 18, 2020 in Bodrum district of Mugla province in Turkey.

Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Fiji’s top court allowed U.S. authorities to take possession of a $235 million, 350-foot yacht said to be owned by Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov.

The superyacht Amadea quickly was sailed out of a port in Fiji, bound for the United States, the Department of Justice said.

The seizure is the latest in a series of actions taken against the assets of Russia’s elite as punishment for their country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The U.S. argued in Fijian courts that Kerimov, who is under American sanctions, was the real owner of the Amadea, despite paperwork that showed it was owned by Eduard Khudainatov, the former CEO of Russian oil and gas company Rosneft.

Fiji’s Supreme Court said it was in the public interest that the Amadea leave in U.S. possession, saying its berthing there was “costing the Fijian government dearly.”

Dan Mangan

U.S. Navy warship USS Gravely docks in Poland in show of support for Ukraine

The U.S. Navy warship USS Gravely docked in the Baltic port city of Gdynia, Poland in what officials described as a show of support for Ukraine.

A machine gun is seen on the deck of U.S. Navy’s warship USS Gravely which docked in the Baltic sea port city of Gdynia in what was described by officials as a show of support for the country as war rages in neighboring Ukraine, Poland June 7, 2022.

Kacper Pempel | Reuters

U.S. Marines stand on the deck of U.S. Navy’s warship USS Gravely which docked in the Baltic sea port city of Gdynia in what was described by officials as a show of support for the country as war rages in neighboring Ukraine, Poland June 7, 2022.

Kacper Pempel | Reuters

U.S. Marines stand near radar inside of U.S. Navy’s warship USS Gravely which docked in the Baltic sea port city of Gdynia in what was described by officials as a show of support for the country as war rages in neighboring Ukraine, Poland June 7, 2022.

Kacper Pempel | Reuters

A U.S. Marine holds a U.S. and Polish flags after conference in front of U.S. Navy’s warship USS Gravely which docked in the Baltic sea port city of Gdynia in what was described by officials as a show of support for the country as war rages in neighboring Ukraine, Poland June 7, 2022.

Kacper Pempel | Reuters

Ukraine’s economy expected to contract by 45%, Russia’s by 8.9%: World Bank

The World Bank expects Ukraine’s economy to be cut almost in half this year, as Russia’s invasion has crippled its industries, infrastructure, investment and population.

Ukraine’s economy is predicted to contract by 45.1% in 2022, the Bank wrote in its Global Economic Prospects report. In 2021, Ukraine’s gross domestic product reached nearly $200 billion, the highest level since its independence in 1991, its economy ministry said in February of this year.

An aerial view of the completely destroyed shopping mall after a Russian shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 21, 2022.

Emin Sansar | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Before the invasion its population was 44 million; 7 million Ukrainians have now fled the country as refugees, and a further 7 million are internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

Russia’s economy, meanwhile, is expected to contract by 8.9%, the World Bank forecasts. Its economy has been hit by myriad international sanctions and a mass exodus of foreign companies, but high prices of oil and gas — of which Russia is a major exporter — are keeping its current account balance in a healthy surplus and its currency relatively strong.

— Natasha Turak

Russian forces control 97% of Luhansk, defense minister says

Service members of pro-Russian troops ride an infantry fighting vehicle during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the town of Popasna in the Luhansk Region, Ukraine June 2, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Russian forces now control 97% of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, according to the Associated Press.

The assessment comes after weeks of brutal fighting and heavy Russian artillery bombardment of much of the eastern Donbas, of which Luhansk is a part. Moscow says that full control over the Donbas is an “unconditional priority.”

Much of the fiercest fighting, including street battles, is currently taking place in Luhansk in the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, where Russian forces have won major ground despite some recent successful efforts by Ukrainian troops to claw back territory.

Some officials and pundits in other countries have suggested Ukraine should give up the Donbas to Russia in exchange for peace, an idea Ukraine fiercely rejects. Kyiv and many of its Western allies warn that if they give up land to Russia, Moscow will only be incentivized to expand its gains and try to capture more Ukrainian territory. Russia has been ambiguous on whether it would seek to capture more land.

— Natasha Turak

UN says at least 4,253 killed in Ukraine since start of war

Ivan Sosnin, 19, walks next to his destroyed house in the city of Lysychansk at the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 7, 2022.

Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images

The United Nations has confirmed 4,253 civilian deaths and 5,141 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.

The international organization said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

World Bank slashes global growth forecast, says Russian invasion of Ukraine worsened economic slowdown

The World Bank cut its projection for global growth by 1.2 percentage points to 2.9% for this year, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a further blow that was worsening an already hard-hit economy still recovering from the Covid pandemic and facing mounting inflation.

The world is entering a “protracted period of feeble growth and elevated inflation,” the organization wrote in its latest Global Economic Prospects report.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has slammed global food exports, particularly grains and cooking oils — a huge proportion of which are exported by the two warring countries — because Russian forces are blocking Ukraine’s vital Black Sea ports.

A driver unloads a truck at a grain store during barley harvesting in the village of Zhovtneve, Ukraine, July 14, 2016.

Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

The disruption in agricultural supplies has hit Middle Eastern and African economies particularly hard, as these regions rely heavily on Black Sea food exports and their largely lower-income populations are now struggling under acute food price inflation.

“With inflation now running at multi-decade highs in many countries and supply expected to grow slowly, there is a risk that inflation will remain higher for longer,” World Bank President David Malpass wrote.

The World Bank expects global growth to slow by 2.7 percentage points between 2021 and 2024. Global growth had reached around 5.5% in 2021, the Bank wrote previously.

— Natasha Turak

Deutsche Bank relocates hundreds of staff from Russia to Berlin: WSJ

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

German lender Deutsche Bank has offered its roughly 1,500 employees at a tech center it ran in Russia the opportunity to relocate to Berlin with their families, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a source familiar with the matter.

Roughly half accepted, the Journal reported. The bank has not specified what will happen to the Russian center, where staff were tasked with developing corporate and trading software.

The move follows similar decisions by several major firms to relocate their Russia-based staff — either permanently or temporarily — elsewhere as a result of Western sanctions on the country and its invasion of Ukraine. Several companies including international consulting firms have chosen the United Arab Emirates as their relocation spot.

Deutsche Bank’s move reflects its desire to make Berlin the hub for its tech operations, as well as to avoid the cybersecurity risk of having major staff operations in Russia.

— Natasha Turak

Russia’s parliament votes to leave the European Court of Human Rights

Russia’s parliament, called the Duma, passed bills ending its membership in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and terminating the court’s jurisdiction over Russia. The bills passed established the deadline for its jurisdiction as March 16, meaning any cases or rulings beyond that point would be void.

The ECHR is part of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which expelled Russia as a member on March 15 over its invasion of Ukraine. Previously, the ECHR provided a means of pursuing legal and human rights cases against Russia that had either been rejected or ignored by Russian courts, or that were too dangerous to pursue in Russia itself.

Russia in March also left the Council of Europe, Europe’s largest inter-governmental organization, whose parliamentary assembly unanimously voted to expel it. Moscow says it independently decided to leave the organization.

— Natasha Turak

UK’s Boris Johnson: Vital that Ukraine is not pressured into accepting a bad peace deal

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses his cabinet ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting in Downing Street, London, Britain June 7, 2022. 

Leon Neal | Reuters

Ukraine cannot be pressured by other countries into accepting a bad peace deal with Russia, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a meeting with his cabinet.

Johnson “said it was vital that President Zelenskyy was not pressured into accepting a bad peace, noting that bad peace deals do not last,” a spokesperson for the prime minister told reporters.

Johnson also “said the world must avoid any outcome where Putin’s unwarranted aggression appears to have paid off,” the representative added.

Some officials and former political players, including former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, have suggested that Ukraine should cede some of its territory to Russia in order to end the war.

Ukrainian officials have responded by accusing those people of not living in reality, pointing out Russia’s continued effort to seize and annex Ukrainian land over the years, and arguing that giving up territory will only encourage Moscow to try to eventually take more.

Ukrainian officials say they will not give up on diplomacy, but that at the moment, peace negotiations are going nowhere.

— Natasha Turak

Further Russia sanctions are in the pipeline, U.K. says

Speaking to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet, British Foreign Minister Liz Truss said new sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine are in the pipeline.

The U.K. has already levied several rounds of sanctions on Moscow targeting individual oligarchs and contacts of Russian President Vladimir Putin, trade with Russia, Russian financial institutions and state media outlets. It also aims to phase out its purchasing of Russian oil by the end of 2022.

Johnson said his government would “remain at the forefront” of support for Ukraine. The prime minister visited Kyiv in April in a show of support, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as part of a surprise trip.

— Natasha Turak

Zelenskyy mourns Ukraine’s ‘dead cities’

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits an area damaged by Russian military strikes, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine May 29, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy decried what he called Ukraine’s “dead cities,” once centers of life now almost entirely destroyed by Russian bombardment.

He was referring to Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, crucial remaining holdouts in the country’s east that Russian forces have almost entirely captured and that are key in Moscow’s aims to take the entirety of Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Fierce fighting continues in both cities, with most civilian areas and infrastructure completely demolished.

Zelenskyy visited Lysychansk on Sunday, in a surprise and risky move that put him on the frontlines of the fighting.

— Natasha Turak

Ukrainian forces have retaken parts of Severodonetsk, UK defense ministry says

Ukrainian forces have managed to retake some parts of the embattled city of Severodonetsk in the eastern Donbas, where Russia has captured significant territory in recent weeks.

Ukrainian service members carry shells to be used by a M777 Howitzer near a frontline, in Donetsk Region, Ukraine June 6, 2022.

Stringer | Reuters

The city is seen as a last Ukrainian holdout in the Luhansk region and has been the scene of brutal street fighting and severe Ukrainian personnel losses.

“Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces have recaptured parts of Sieverodonetsk although Russian forces likely continue to occupy eastern districts,” the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence said in its latest daily intelligence update on Twitter. “Russia’s broader plan likely continues to be to cut off the Sieverodonetsk area from both the north and the south.”

“Russia made gains on the southern, Popasna axis through May but its progress in the area has stalled over the last week,” the ministry wrote, adding that Russia is likely preparing to make a renewed push in the north of the territory.

“Russia will almost certainly need to achieve a breakthrough on at least one of these axes to translate tactical gains to operational level success and progress towards its political objective of controlling all of Donetsk Oblast,” the ministry added.

Ukrainian officials have said that Russia controls more than 90% of the eastern Luhansk oblast.

— Natasha Turak

Blinken says Russia is ‘exporting starvation and suffering’ beyond Ukraine

A worker carries a sack of wheat flour outside a wholesale food shop in Sanaa, Yemen February 28, 2022. 

Khaled Abdullah | Reuters

Russia’s blockade of key Ukrainian ports, which has stalled critical grain exports, has hurt people around the world, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“The Kremlin needs to realize that it is exporting starvation and suffering well beyond Ukraine’s borders,” he said during a roundtable on food insecurity with business leaders and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Blinken noted that African countries are “experiencing an outsized share of the pain.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has sought a corridor to export grains held up in Ukrainian ports. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has held talks to try to free up the grain supply.

— Jacob Pramuk

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