Key EU Summit Amid Doubts About Western Unity
European leaders meeting Monday and Tuesday are seeking a new package of sanctions against Russia, which could may (or may not) include an oil embargo. It comes as German Economy Minister Robert Habek said EU unity "is beginning to crumble."
A crucial two-day summit of European Union leaders is underway to forge a new response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as doubts spread that Western unity is about to come undone.
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EU leaders meet Monday and Tuesday to discuss a new package of sanctions against Russia, which could also include an oil embargo and a program aimed at speeding up the cessation of dependence on fossil fuels, including Russian gas.
But German Economy Minister Robert Habek on Sunday expressed fears that the unity of the European Union "is beginning to crumble."
Radio Liberty correspondent Rikard Jozwiak reported that while the sixth package of sanctions against Russia will cover crude oil as well as petroleum products supplied from Russia to EU member States, it includes “the temporary exception of crude oil supplied by pipeline."
Hungary, Czech Republic and Germany have resisted total shutdowns of Russian energy imports, which are crucial to their economies. There are also differences among Western countries about what arms to send to Ukraine.
More than three months since the invasion, these may be signs that air-tight unity is over. "After Russia's attack on Ukraine, we saw what could happen when Europe is united,” Gabek said. “But unity is already beginning to crumble, to crumble again."
Kherson Counteroffensive As Severodonetsk Is Breached
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Ukrainian soldiers have launched a counteroffensive in the city Kherson, battling to hold off Russia’s efforts to conquer and cut off a strategic strip of Eastern Ukraine, central to Moscow’s struggling war effort.
Ukraine’s military announced the plans to try to retake territory around the key city, which Russia had taken over earlier this month, through its official Twitter account, writing: “Kherson hold on, we’re close!”
In recent weeks, Russian forces have taken heavy losses, even as they gain more ground in the eastern Donbas region. Satellite images have shown Russians trying to build fortifications in Kherson. It was not clear if they were aware of the Ukrainian military’s counterattack.
The Ukrainian forces have broken through a line of Russian defense and were able to push the Russians into less favorable land. The counteroffensive also succeeded in weakening Russia’s supply route on bridges over the Dnipro river.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk continues in the Luhansk region, as the Russian military has entered the outskirts of Severodonetsk. The head of the region said: “the Russians entered the outskirts of Severodonetsk, killed two townspeople, wounded five. This applies to the northeastern and southeastern outskirts of the city.”
The Russian military is transferring equipment to the temporarily occupied towns and villages, regrouping units and preparing attacks on Slavyansk from Izyum and Lyman.
On Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told French TV channel TF1 that the "liberation" of the Donbas region is an "unconditional priority" for Moscow. Other Ukrainian territories should decide their future on their own, he added.
Survey: Asian, African Countries Don’t Share West’s Negative Views Of Russia
DPI 2021 Key findings
The annual Democracy Perception index, carried out after the invasion of Ukraine, showed that negative views of Russia stay within Europe and other liberal democracies. Meanwhile, positive views of Russia have been retained in China, Indonesia, Egypt, Vietnam, Algeria, Morocco, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
A majority of respondents in a total of 20 countries believe economic ties with Russia should not be cut because of the war in Ukraine. Despite the mixed opinions regarding Russia, strong sympathy was shown for Ukraine throughout the world.
Negative perceptions of China were not as common as for Russia however. British respondents were the most likely to want to cut economic ties with Russia if it were to invade Taiwan. This survey is the latest sign of the growing polarization between the West and the rest of the world.
Sergei Lavrov Denies Putin Is Ill
Sergei Lavrov and French Journalist Liseron Boudoul
Vladimir Putin’s health, a taboo subject in Russia, has sparked rumors across the globe. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, denied any speculation that President Vladimir Putin is ill on Sunday in an interview for French television channel, TF1.
When asked about the Russian leader’s health Lavrov replied: “President Putin appears in public every day. You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his speeches. I don't think that sane people can see in this man the signs of some kind of illness or ailment.”
Zelensky Visits Kharkiv In First Trip Outside Kyiv Region
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits destruction in Kharkiv
Ukraine Presidency/Ukrainian Pre/Planet Pix/Zuma
For the first time since the Russian invasion began, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has left the Kyiv region to visit troops in Kharkiv, on the eastern frontline. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, faced intense bombardment in the war’s first months.
Zelensky, wearing a bulletproof vest while surveying ruins in Kharkiv, told soldiers: “I want to thank each of you for your service.” He also posted a video on Telegram with the caption: "2,229 buildings have been destroyed in Kharkiv and the region. We will restore, rebuild and bring back life. In Kharkiv and all other towns and villages where evil came.”
Later, Zelensky fired the local security chief for “not defending” the city. Russian troops were gradually pushed back from the towns surrounding Kharkiv in April and May, prompting a few who had fled to return. But the city remains within range of Russian artillery, and several loud explosions were heard soon after Zelenksy’s visit.
Is Georgia Next Target For Putin?
Armoured vehicles of Russian peace-keeping forces have been patrolling South Ossetia and Abkhazia ever since they became independent, like here in Ergneti.
While the war wages in Ukraine, people in nearby Georgia are preparing for the possibility that they might be next. In August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia, and within five days captured the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, killing 850 people. On Friday May 13, the separatist government in South Ossetia announced a referendum on annexation to Russia in July. It is unclear whether this will actually take place, given tight coffers in Moscow, which would then have to finance the region even more than it currently does.
Solidarity with Ukraine is strong in Georgia; but it took a while to get there. On the second day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili had still rejected sanctions against Moscow. “That would do more harm to our country and our people,” he said in justification. Only due to public pressure, did he have to relent.
The government is still pursuing a cautious policy on the matter. To date, Georgia has joined international financial sanctions against Putin’s regime, but bilateral trade continues. Russia was Georgia’s second-largest trading partner last year. “We have to be careful with what we do,” says Nikoloz Samkharadze, the chairman of Georgia's Foreign Affairs Committee. “Our policy is that we don’t want to give Putin a reason to invade.”
Russia Tightens Online Grip, Blocks VPN Services
VPN & Internet Securitycommons.wikimedia.org
Russia has begun the blocking of popular VPN protocols, used to hide one’s online activity. According to Novaya Gazeta, l2TP and IPsec servers, used by internet service providers to allow VPNs, are no longer available in the regions of Western Siberia, Rostov-on-Don and in the Krasnodar area.
“This is a big blow, including to corporate networks — many administrators of such networks are now urgently looking for solutions to bypass the block,” online monitoring service GlobalCheck notes.
Use of VPNs has skyrocketed in Russia since the start of the Ukraine invasion, as citizens try to circumnavigate tightly state-controlled media, as TheWashington Post reported recently.
Ukraine Eurovision Winners Auction Trophy, Raise $900,000 For Military
Kalush Orchestra performs during a benefit concert for Ukraine in Berlin
The victorious Eurovision Act, the Ukrainian rap group Kalush Orchestra, has raised $900,000 for the country’s military by selling their trophy. The crystal microphone was auctioned on Facebook, with the aim of buying drones for the Ukrainian military. Three Ukrainian-made PD-2 drones have now been purchased with the money, which are much-needed for the hide-and-seek drone warfare which both Russia and Ukraine depend on.
The winning bid of 500 Ethereums – valued at $900,000 – was placed by WhiteBit, a European cryptocurrency exchange that says it has more than two million users. The band wrote on Facebook: “You guys are amazing. We appreciate each and every one of you who donated to this auction and a special thanks to the team WhiteBit who purchased the trophy for $900,000 and are now the rightful owners of our trophy.”
The auction of the trophy was accompanied by a raffle for lead singer Oleh Psiuk’s signature pink bucket hat. This raised an additional $370,000 for the military, with more than 31,000 people from 56 countries taking part. Coinciding with the auction was a charity concert taking place at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate where Kalush Orchestra performed, raising money for medical supplies.