International leaders, officials and investors gathered in London on Wednesday for a two-day ‘Ukraine Recovery Conference’ focused on drumming up funding for Ukraine’s reconstruction once the war ends.
Addressing the conference virtually, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “there is currently no place in the world where there is a need to construct and rebuild as many objects as in Ukraine. Every new day of Russian aggression brings new ruins. Thousands, thousands and thousands of destroyed houses, devastated industries, burned lives,” he said.
The UK pledged a new package of financial support for Ukraine, including $3 billion of World Bank loan guarantees, while the US promised $1.3 billion to help it overhaul its energy grid and modernize its ports, railways and other infrastructure. The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would provide Ukraine with 50 billion Euros ($54.5 billion) for 2024-27.
In other news, Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed Wednesday that it had intercepted three Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles on their approach toward “objects” in the Moscow region.
EU approves 11th round of sanctions against Russia
The European Union has approved its 11th sanctions package against Russia over its war in Ukraine.
Sweden, in its role as President of the EU, tweeted out the news Wednesday, saying, “The package includes measures aimed at countering sanctions circumvention and individual listings.”
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the move will “deal a further blow to Putin’s war machine, with tightened export restrictions targeting entities supporting the Kremlin.”
The union notes that its sanctions do not target a country or population, but are always targeted at specific policies or activities.
The Associated Press reported that the sanctions forbid transit via Russia of an expanded list of goods and technology which might aid Russia’s military or security sector. Importantly, they place restrictions on the sale of sensitive dual-use goods and technology to third countries that might sell it on to Russia.
The package adds a further 71 persons and 33 entities to those banned from the EU and with EU assets frozen, for involvement in illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia, according to the AP.
No ships have left Ukrainian ports in past two days as expiry of Black Sea grain deal looms
No ships carrying agricultural products have left Ukrainian ports under the Black Sea Grain Initiative in the past two days, according to the UN-backed organization responsible for collecting export data.
The Black Sea grain deal was brokered between Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 and faces expiry next month. The agreement established a humanitarian sea corridor for agricultural products for global destinations.
UN Secretary General disappointed by slow pace of vessel inspections for Black Sea grain deal
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on all signatories of the Black Sea Grain Initiative to “do their utmost to ensure the continuation of this vital agreement, which is up for renewal on 17 July,” according to a new statement released by a UN spokesman.
“The Secretary-General is disappointed by the slowing pace of inspections and the exclusion of the port of Yuzhny-Pivdennyi from the Black Sea Initiative. This has resulted in a reduction in the movement of vessels coming in and out of Ukrainian seaports, leading to a drop in the supply of essential foodstuffs to global markets,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for Guterres, wrote in a statement.
Ukraine has previously blamed Russia for delaying inspections at the ports and creating a backlog of vessels.
According to the UN statement, food exports through the Black Sea grain corridor have “dropped significantly from a peak of 4.2 million metric tons in October 2022 to 1.3 million metric tons in May.”
Putin downplays Ukraine’s counteroffensive
Russian President Vladimir Putin downplayed Ukraine’s counteroffensive, saying Moscow had seen a “lull” in action and that Kyiv was seeing heavy losses, according to comments reported by Reuters that cited Russian news agency Interfax.
Ukraine could lose its fighting capacity as a result of those purported losses, Putin claimed, adding that Kyiv already understood that it had “no chance” in its counteroffensive.
Ukraine’s military reported earlier Wednesday that it had made some partial gains in its counteroffensive in the south of the country but that fighting was intense.
Putin says Russia’s new Sarmat nuclear missiles soon ready for deployment
President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia’s new generation of Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are capable of carrying 10 or more nuclear warheads, would soon be deployed for combat duty.
In a speech to new graduates of military academies, Putin stressed the importance of Russia’s “triad” of nuclear forces that can be launched from land, sea or air.
“The most important task here is the development of the nuclear triad, which is a key guarantee of Russia’s military security and global stability,” he said.
“Already about half of the units and formations of the Strategic Missile Forces are equipped with the latest Yars systems, and the troops are being re-equipped with modern missile systems with the Avangard hypersonic warhead.”
The first Sarmat launchers would be put on combat duty “in the near future”, Putin said.
Ukraine seeing ‘partial success’ in southern counteroffensive
Ukraine’s armed forces said they are gaining ground in their counteroffensive in the south of the country.
Andriy Kovalev, spokesperson of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said Ukraine’s troops continue to conduct offensive operations in the Melitopol and Berdyansk areas of Zaporizhzhia.
“On the directions Novodanilivka – Robotyne, Mala Tokmachka – Verbove, Vilne Pole – Makarivka, they had partial success, they are gaining ground at the achieved milestones,” he said, according to comments posted on the Military Media Center on Telegram.
Kovalev added that Russian forces focused their main efforts “on conducting defense and preventing the advance of Ukrainian troops, using reserves, trying to restore the lost position.”
Defense forces of Ukraine continue to hold back the advance of Russian troops in the east of the country, Kovalev added, noting that “especially heavy fighting” continues in the Lyman area of Donetsk.
“Offensive actions were carried out in the direction of Bilogorivka – Shipylivka, they were partially successful,” he said.