More Than 40 Ukrainian Prisoners Dead, Russia And Ukraine Blame Each Other
Russia and authorities in the occupied region of Donetsk say that more than 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been killed as well as at least 130 injured, after Ukrainian forces shelled a prison where they were being held. The prison located in Olenivka was housing Ukrainian soldiers taken into custody after the fall of Mariupol in April.
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Early Friday, Russian authorities accused the Ukrainian forces of targeting the prison to either prevent them from testifying against Kyiv or to discourage other Ukrainian armed forces from surrendering. In a statement, the Russian defense ministry said the prison “was hit by a missile attack from the American HIMARS multiple launch rocket system."
Ukraine quickly denied any involvement in the attack. The general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement: “The armed forces of the Russian Federation carried out targeted artillery shelling of a correctional institution in the settlement of Olenivka, Donetsk oblast, where Ukrainian prisoners were also held. In this way, the Russian occupiers pursued their criminal goals — to accuse Ukraine of committing war crimes, as well as to hide the torture of prisoners and executions.”
This is a developing story, and it is unclear if independent authorities will have access to verify the details and responsibility.
Lavrov Acknowledges Blinken Request For A Call, Barely
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS/Zuma
According to Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will “pay attention” to the request of his counterpart U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to set up a call “when time permits.”
It was a expressly chilly response to the American overture. The call, which would be e first time Blinken and Lavrov would have direct contact since the beginning of the war on February 24, was requested to discuss Blinken’s proposed prisoner exchange between Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer, and two U.S. citizens detained in Russia, basketball star Brittney Griner and ex U.S. marine Paul Whelan.
The U.S. State Department has confirmed that Russia had "acknowledged" the request from the United States for a call.But State Department spokesperson Ned Price does not seem to have much faith in the potential exchange, “The fact that, now several weeks later, we are where we are, I think you can read into that as being a reflection of the fact that this has not moved to the extent we would like," he said.
Russian Mercenary Wagner Group Handling “Regular” Duties, Sign Of Troop Shortage
\u201cLatest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 29 July 2022\n \nFind out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/CD3LU2jI92\n\n\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 #StandWithUkraine \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\u201d— Ministry of Defence \ud83c\uddec\ud83c\udde7 (@Ministry of Defence \ud83c\uddec\ud83c\udde7) 1659069145
Intelligence reports from the U.K. Defense Ministry says the Russian-controlled private military Wagner Group is now being assigned duties similar to Russia’s regular army units on the front line in Ukraine. This marks a “significant change” from previous duties of the Wagner Group since 2015 when it “typically undertook missions distinct from overt, large-scale regular Russian military activity.”
The UK ministry believes the the Wagner Group’s role has changed because of Russia's “major shortage of combat infantry.” However, the Wagner Group’s forces are “highly unlikely to be sufficient to make a significant difference in the trajectory of the war,” the ministry said.
Belarus Recalls UK Ambassador, Citing “Hostile And Unfriendly” Actions
Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko
Belarus has recalled the UK’s ambassador to the country, as tensions rise in the midst of the war in Ukraine. In a statement, Belarus' foreign ministry said Britain had adopted policies that were "systematically aimed at causing maximum damage to Belarusian citizens and legal entities," citing sanctions on its companies, a ban on national airline Belavia and restrictions on Belarusian state media.
Tensions between Belarus and the West have risen as the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko, stays close to the Kremlin for financial, military and diplomatic support, and allows the Russian army to fire missiles at Ukraine from its territory.
U.S. Senate Resolution Calls On Blinken To Name Russia State Sponsor Of Terrorism
The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a non-binding resolution calling for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to name Russia a state sponsor of terrorism for its crimes against humanity in Chechnya, Georgia, Syria and Ukraine, resulting “in the deaths of countless innocent men, women and children.”
The House of Representatives is expected to pass a similar motion, though it is by no means a guarantee that the State Department will go through with the suggestion. State Department spokesman Ned Price has previously rejected the idea of designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, since such a move could have a negative impact on any potential peace talks in the future.
EU Foreign Affairs Chief Borrell: Europe Will Need Time To Wean Off Russian Gas
European Union countries will eventually stop buying any Russian gas in the future, but it will take time. That was the stark message from the EU’s foreign policy leader Josep Borrell in an interview with Spanish media outlet Television Espanola, who added that: “Russia knows that we will stop buying gas from it."
“We’ve decided that we will get rid of excessive energy dependence that has been built on Russia. First should be coal, then oil, a longer period may be needed to ween off gas, because we must adapt, we cannot go from 40% to 0% overnight.”
The interview comes after the EU decision Tuesday to voluntarily reduce EU gas consumption by 15% from August 1 to March 31, 2023. It also includes the possibility of moving to the second mandatory phase of reducing consumption by the same 15% if the European Commission considers that there is a threat to cut off supplies.
Hanover Prepares For Gas Crisis: No Floodlights On Monuments, Cold Showers In City Pools
City Hall in Hanovercommons.wikimedia.org
Hanover is the first major German city to have begun turning off floodlights on public monuments, fountains and introducing cold showers in municipal swimming pools and gyms, reports German daily Die Welt. In so doing the country is hoping to reduce energy consumption in the face of the threat of the Russian gas crisis.
Municipal buildings in the capital of Lower Saxony will only be heated from October 1 to March 31, the room temperature will not be allowed to exceed 20°C, and the use of mobile air conditioners and heaters is prohibited. Kindergartens, schools, care homes and hospitals will be exempt from austerity measures.