How I Brokered Peace Between Warring Ethiopian, Tigrayan Sides – Obasanjo

A file photo of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

 

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has narrated how he brokered peace in the Ethiopia and Tigray war. 

Obasanjo detailed his efforts at bringing peace to the region in an article that was released by his media aide Kehinde Akinyemi on Tuesday.

He said the work lasted over 15 months, adding, however, that the cause of the crisis was not “unconnected with the assumption of office by Prime Minister Abiy and the reaction of Tigray leadership to what they perceived as the policies and programs of the prime minister”.

“As I traversed the country consulting with regional leaders and stakeholders in all walks of life, I observed and felt the impact of the destruction and losses at close quarters. I witnessed the wailing and crying of those who had lost loved ones, the sites of mass graves. The frustration, anger, and desperation caused by war was everywhere to be seen,” Obasanjo said.

“At the same time, I encountered local and foreign people — particularly community leaders and people in the civil society – working tirelessly to give help, hope, succor and life to victims and those in need.”

According to him, since the war started in November 2020, there were efforts on several levels to end the fight but they proved unsuccessful.  But he said this did not discourage him from continuing with visits, consultations and discussion.

“After eight months of intense shuttle diplomacy, including eight visits to Mekelle, Capital of Tigray, and the the Chairperson of AU Commission enlarging my panel with addition of former President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa, we finally succeeded,” Obasanjo said.

“A peace agreement was signed by the delegates and representatives of the Ethiopian Federal Government, TPLF and the Tigray people on Nov. 2.

“After five days of intense discussions in Nairobi Kenya in November, the military commanders agreed on modalities for the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.”

He believes that while attempts would be made to “dig holes in the agreement,” it “must be implemented in good faith”.

“The peace agreement and its implementation must be owned by the leaders and people of Ethiopia,” the former president added.

“The panel and the observers are mere facilitators, there to provide a guiding hand if needed.”

Read the full article below:

My Ethiopia-Tigray experience and the road to peace – Obasanjo

Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo is the African Union’s envoy to the Horn of Africa and oversaw the peace talks in Ethiopia. In this piece, he shares his experience on the conflict and proffer suggestions to how the peace move can be sustained.

Over the last fifteen months, I have been working as High Representative of African Union in the Horn of Africa to promote peace, security and stability. Because of its strategic position and the conflict raging in its northern region of Tigray, the focus and fulcrum has been Ethiopia.

After receiving my mandate from the Chairperson of AU Commission, Ambassador Moussa Faki Mahamat, I set out to seek the point of entry into a conflict which dates back to Solomonic times in the Bible or back to 2018 when Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy assumed office, depending on whom you are talking to.

Whatever the history, background or remote causes of the civil war in Tigray region, its immediate cause was not unconnected with the assumption of office by Prime Minister Abiy and the reaction of Tigray leadership to what they perceived as the policies and programs of the prime minister. The last straw was the alleged attack on the northern command of the Ethiopian Army located in Tigray by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

On Nov. 4, 2020, the TPLF attacked the Ethiopian Defence Forces garrison in Tigray. In response, Prime Minister Abiy ordered what was labeled “law and order action” to punish the alleged impunity of TPLF. The war raged for two years devastatingly and directly over four regions in Ethiopia – Tigray, Amhara Afar, Oromia. There was no part of the country that did not feel the effect of the war in one way or the other.

Some of the neighbors of Ethiopia such as Eritrea and Sudan had their part in the war directly and indirectly, and all countries in the Horn were impacted indirectly by the social, economic and political fallout.

The destruction caused in the Tigray region which was the main theater of the war was very high in human and material losses. It has been estimated that no fewer than 600,000 people died directly in battle or as a result of disease and the lack of access to humanitarian aid.

If destruction of lives caused directly and indirectly in other parts of Ethiopia particularly in Amhara, Afar, and Oromia is added, the estimated total lives lost in Ethiopia civil war would be close to one million. The cost of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of private and public properties and institutions has been estimated at about $25 billion.

To the quantifiable loss of lives and properties and other material losses must be added the unquantifiable losses of opportunities occasioned by the war. The cost of the destruction of trust and the breakdown of relationships within and without the country is high and will take years if not decades to fully rebuild.

As I traversed the country consulting with regional leaders and stakeholders in all walks of life, I observed and felt the impact of the destruction and losses at close quarters. I witnessed the wailing and crying of those who had lost loved ones, the sites of mass graves. The frustration, anger, and desperation caused by war was everywhere to be seen.

At the same time, I encountered local and foreign people — particularly community leaders and people in the civil society – working tirelessly to give help, hope, succor and life to victims and those in need.

From the beginning of the civil war in November 2020, there were efforts made at the local, regional, continental and global levels to stop the violence and the accompanying losses. There were efforts by different groups at the national level to prevent degeneration into wars. There were similar efforts at bilateral and regional levels. And when the war began, greater efforts were mounted by friends of Ethiopia and Tigray people to bring about cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access, the restoration of services, and the search for political solutions to Ethiopia’s conflict.

Refusing to be discouraged, I continued with visits, consultations, and discussions to get face to start talks between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the leadership of Tigray people.

After eight months of intense shuttle diplomacy, including eight visits to Mekelle, Capital of Tigray, and the the Chairperson of AU Commission enlarging my panel with addition of former President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa, we finally succeeded.

A peace agreement was signed by the delegates and representatives of the Ethiopian Federal Government, TPLF and the Tigray people on Nov. 2.

After five days of intense discussions in Nairobi Kenya in November, the military commanders agreed on modalities for the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.

Any pessimist can dig holes in the agreement, undermine it and try to prevent it from being implemented. But no agreement between two belligerents for peace will ever be regarded as perfect by all because it must, necessarily, be based on compromise.

We can, however, strive for perfection in the implementation of the agreement in order to achieve the objectives of peace, security, constitutionality, stability, welfare and well-being, development, and progress of all concerned, especially the ordinary people of Ethiopia no matter where they live.

The agreement must be implemented in good faith, on the basis of peace with honor and dignity, constitutionality and stability. Peace deals function on building trust, and that trust has to be nurtured, layered and reinforced from inside and outside.

All leaders of Ethiopia and all Ethiopians with their neighbors, partners and friends must join hands and accept the truth that there is ‘no victor, no vanquished’ if the possibility of peace, common security and shared prosperity, development and progress for all concerned is to be realized.

The peace agreement and its implementation must be owned by the leaders and people of Ethiopia. The panel and the observers are mere facilitators, there to provide a guiding hand if needed.

Olusegun Obasanjo

Kehinde Akinyemi,
Special Assistant on Media
Nov.27, 2022.

Turkey ‘Determined’ To Continue Efforts For Grain Deal – Erdogan

This handout picture taken and released by Ukrainian Presidential press-service shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) welcoming Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan prior to their talks in Lviv on August 18, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) welcomes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prior to their talks in Lviv on August 18, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  AFP

 

Turkey is “determined” to continue efforts to keep the Ukraine grain deal in force despite Russia suspending its participation, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

“Although Russia acts hesitantly… we will resolutely continue our efforts to serve humanity,” Erdogan said in a televised address, days after Moscow said it was suspending its participation in the deal negotiated by Turkey and the UN to export Ukrainian grain.

AFP

Multiple Explosions Rock Ukraine

A rescuer with a hose extinguishes a fire in a residential building damaged after a strike in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. (Ukrainian State Emergency Service / AFP)

 

Missile strikes on “many” Ukrainian cities including the capital Kyiv left people dead and wounded on Monday, the country’s presidency said, a day after Moscow blamed Ukraine for an explosion on a bridge connecting Crimea to Russia.

“Ukraine is under missile attack. There is information about strikes in many cities of our country,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said on social media, calling on the population to “stay in shelters”.

In Kyiv, AFP reporters heard several loud explosions starting at around 8:15 am local time (0515 GMT) — during Monday morning rush hour.

READ ALSO: Russia Says Three Killed In Crimea Bridge Blast, Army Leadership Changed

Russia’s last strike on Kyiv took place on June 26.

One AFP journalist in the city said one of the projectiles landed near a children’s playground, and that smoke was rising from a large crater at the impact site.

Several trees and benches nearby were charred from the blast, while several ambulances had arrived in the area.

Rescuers gather past a residential building damaged after a strike in Zaporizhzhia, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine on October 9, 2022. (Photo by Maryna Moiseyenko / AFP)

 

“The capital is under Russian terrorists’ attack!” Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said on social media, adding that the strikes had hit the city center.

“If there is no urgent need, it is better not to go to the city today. I am also asking the residents of the suburbs about this –- do not go to the capital today.”

Videos posted on social media showed black smoke rising above several areas in the city.

“Air raid sirens are not subsiding around Ukraine… Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded. Please do not leave the shelters,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said on social media, accusing Russia of wanting to “wipe us from the face of the Earth”.

“Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Let’s hold on and be strong.”

Bridge attack 

The strikes came a day after Moscow blamed Ukraine for the blast on a bridge linking Crimea to Russia, leaving three people dead.

Rescuers clean the rubble of a residential building damaged after a strike on Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.  (Ukrainian State Emergency Service / AFP)

 

“The authors, perpetrators and sponsors are the Ukrainian secret services,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said of Saturday’s Crimea bridge bombing, which he described as a “terrorist act”.

Putin was speaking during a meeting with the head of the investigation committee he has set up to look into the bombing, Russian news agencies reported.

The Russian leader is gearing up for a meeting with his Security Council later Monday, the Kremlin told local news agencies.

“Tomorrow the president has a planned meeting with the permanent members of the Security Council,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The blast that hit the bridge sparked celebrations from Ukrainians and others on social media.

Rescuers help a woman to leave a residential building damaged after a strike in Zaporizhzhia, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine on October 9, 2022. (Maryna Moiseyenko / AFP)

 

But Zelensky, in his nightly address on Saturday, did not directly mention the incident, and officials in Kyiv have made no direct claim of responsibility.

On Saturday, Russia said some road and rail traffic had resumed over the strategic link, a symbol of the Kremlin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The 19-kilometer (12-mile) bridge is a vital supply link between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula.

Some military analysts argue that the blast could have a major impact if Moscow sees the need to shift already hard-pressed troops to Crimea from other regions — or if it prompts a rush by residents to leave.

Mick Ryan, a retired Australian senior officer now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that even if Kyiv was not behind the blast, it constituted “a massive influence operation win for Ukraine”.

“It is a demonstration to Russians, and the rest of the world, that Russia’s military cannot protect any of the provinces it recently annexed,” he said on Twitter.

Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine Is Failing, Says UK

File photo of Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (C) hosting a meeting in England. AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilise military reservists to support the war in Ukraine shows that “his invasion is failing”, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday.

“No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, the international community are united and Russia is becoming a global pariah,” he said in a statement.

AFP

Putin Calls Up Reservists, Says Russia Will Use ‘All Means’ For Defence

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a gathering in Moscow on September 20, 2022. (Photo by Grigory SYSOYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial military mobilisation and vowed on Wednesday to use “all available means” to protect Russian territory, after Moscow-held regions of Ukraine suddenly announced annexation referendums.

The votes, already denounced by Kyiv and the West as a “sham”, will dramatically up the stakes in the seven-month-old conflict in Ukraine by giving Moscow the ability to accuse Ukrainian forces of attacking its own territory.

Four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine — Donetsk and Lugansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south — said on Tuesday that they would hold the votes over five days beginning Friday.

READ ALSO: Again, Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Shelling Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

In a pre-recorded address to the nation early on Wednesday, Putin accused the West of trying to “destroy” his country through its backing of Kyiv, and said Russia needed to support those in Ukraine who wanted to “determine their own future”.

The Russian leader announced a partial military mobilisation, with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu telling state television that some 300,000 reservists would be called up.

 ‘Not a bluff’

“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff,” Putin said.

“Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can also turn in their direction,” Putin added.

Putin said that through its support for Ukraine the West was trying to “weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country”, while Shoigu said Moscow was “fighting not so much Ukraine as the collective West” in Ukraine.

The sudden flurry of moves by Moscow this week came with Russian forces in Ukraine facing their biggest challenge since the start of the conflict.

In a rare admission of military losses from Moscow, Shoigu said Wednesday that 5,937 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine since the launch of the military intervention in February.

A sweeping Ukrainian counter-offensive in recent weeks has seen Kyiv’s forces retake hundreds of towns and villages that had been controlled by Russia for months.

The referendums follow a pattern first established in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine after a similar vote.

Like in 2014, Washington, Berlin and Paris denounced the latest referendums and said the international community would never recognise the results.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said they were a “sham”, French President Emmanuel Macron called them a “travesty”, and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said they were “an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“Sham referenda and mobilisation are signs of weakness, of Russian failure,” the US ambassador in Ukraine, Bridget Brink, said on Twitter.

“I thank all the friends and partners of Ukraine for their massive and firm condemnation of Russia’s intentions to organise yet more pseudo-referendums,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in response.

Strike at the nuclear plant

Kyiv said the referendums were meaningless and vowed to “eliminate” threats posed by Russia, saying its forces would keep retaking territory regardless of what Moscow or its proxies announced.

Political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya said the vote announcements were a direct result of the success of Ukraine’s eastern counter-offensive.

“Putin does not want to win this war on the battlefield. Putin wants to force Kyiv to surrender without a fight,” she said.

The Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom meanwhile on Wednesday accused Russia of again striking the Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant in southern Ukraine.

The strike damaged a power line causing the stoppage of several transformers of the number six reactor of the plant and forcing a brief start of emergency generators, Energoatom said.

“Even the presence of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) does not stop” the Russians, it said, calling on the agency to “more resolute actions” against Moscow.

Europe’s largest nuclear facility, located in Russian-held territory, has become a hot spot for concerns after tit-for-tat claims of attacks there.

AFP

Russia’s Gazprom Further Cuts Gas Deliveries To France

A file photo of a gas pipeline terminal prior to an inaugural ceremony for the first of Nord Stream’s twin 1,224-kilometre gas pipelines through the Baltic Sea, in Lubmin, northeastern Germany.  AFP

 

French energy firm Engie said Tuesday that Russian energy giant Gazprom was slashing its natural gas deliveries “due to a disagreement between both sides over the execution of contracts”.

Engie added in a statement that Russian gas supplies had already been reduced drastically after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

READ ALSO: At Least Five Dead As Russian Shelling Hits Central Kharkiv

“Engie had already secured the necessary volumes to guarantee supplies for its clients and for its own needs,” it said.

Russian gas accounted for 4.0 percent of its overall energy supplies at the end of July, the group said.

Warnings from the French government have mounted in recent days about possible difficulties this winter due to energy shortages and galloping inflation.

Many European countries are facing severe supply problems as Moscow turns off the gas taps in response to EU military and diplomatic backing for Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron is to gather ministers for a special cabinet meeting on Friday in order to “prepare for all eventualities this autumn and winter,” his office said.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne urged company bosses on Monday to reduce their consumption and warned about the risk of rationing.

“If we end up with rationing, companies will be the most affected and unfortunately we need to be prepared for it,” she told the Medef business association.

Claire Waysand, deputy chief executive of Engie, told the same meeting on Monday that the weather would play a crucial role this winter.

“To be sure that we get through winter with enough electricity and gas, we have an interest in it not being too cold,” she said.

“If so, then there might be days when there are real tensions.”

France has been rapidly filling its gas storage facilities, which are now 90 percent full, and has negotiated extra supplies from Norway.

The country relies on nuclear for most of its electricity, but gas accounts for about 20 percent of its total energy consumption, mostly for residential heating and cooking as well as industrial purposes, official figures show.

At Least Five Dead As Russian Shelling Hits Central Kharkiv

Ukrainian firefighters put out the fire in a destroyed house following a Russian shelling in the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region on August 24, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. AFP

 

At least five people were killed on Tuesday as Russian shelling hit the center of Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, the mayor said.

Igor Terekhov added that seven people were also wounded on his Telegram account.

READ ALSO: IAEA Chief Leads Team To Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

The regional governor, Oleg Synegubov, gave a slightly lower death toll of four and said another four were injured.

“The Russian occupiers shelled the central districts of Kharkiv,” Synegubov said on Telegram, as he warned residents to “stay inside the shelters”.

Located in northeastern Ukraine just 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Russian border, Kharkiv managed to repel efforts by Moscow’s forces to take the city, which had a population of some 1.4 million residents before the war.

It has been heavily bombarded throughout the conflict, with hundreds of people killed, officials say.

AFP

IAEA Chief Leads Team To Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

File photo of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, situated in the Russian-controlled area of Enerhodar, eastern Ukraine. AFP

 

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi on Monday said he was on his way to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which has been the target of strikes in recent weeks.

“The day has come, IAEA’s Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya is now on its way,” Grossi tweeted, saying the team from the UN atomic watchdog would arrive at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant “later this week”.

READ ALSO: Fresh Shelling At Ukraine Power Plant As Operator Warns Of Radiation Risk

In a photograph accompanying his tweet, the IAEA chief posed with a team of 13 people wearing caps and sleeveless jackets bearing the nuclear watchdog’s logo.

Grossi has for months been asking to be able to visit the site, warning of “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, which has six of Ukraine’s reactors, has been occupied by Russian troops since shortly after Moscow launched its invasion on February 24, and has remained on the frontlines ever since.

Moscow and Kyiv have traded blame for shelling around the complex, near the city of Energodar.

Its Ukraine operator Energoatom warned on Saturday of the risk of radioactive leaks and fire after new strikes.

The United Nations has called for an end to all military activity in the area surrounding the complex.

Ukraine initially feared an IAEA visit would legitimise the Russian occupation of the site before finally supporting the idea of a mission.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday urged the watchdog to send a team as soon as possible.

Between Thursday and Friday, the plant was cut off from Ukraine’s national power grid for the first time in its four-decade history due to “actions of the invaders”, Energoatom said.

It came back online Friday afternoon.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed that a team of independent inspectors could travel to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant via Ukraine, the French presidency said on August 20 after a call with Emmanuel Macron.

AFP

US, NATO ‘Main Threats’ To National Security – Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a BRICS Plus session involving the leaders of several invited states during the 14th BRICS summit - in virtual format via a video call at the Novo-Ogarevo state residence, outside Moscow, Russia on June 24, 2022. Mikhail Metzel / Sputnik / AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a BRICS Plus session via a video call at the Novo-Ogarevo state residence, outside Moscow, Russia on June 24, 2022. Mikhail Metzel / Sputnik / AFP

 

The United States’ quest to dominate the oceans and NATO’s expansion are the biggest threats facing Russia, according to a new Russian naval doctrine signed by President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.

The 55-page document said the “main challenges and threats” to national security and development were Washington’s “strategic objective to dominate the world’s oceans” and NATO military infrastructure moving towards Russia’s borders.

READ ALSO: Ukraine War: First Grain Cargo Could Leave Port On Monday, Says Turkey

“Russia’s independent internal and external policy faces counter-measures from the United States and its allies, who aim to preserve their dominance in the world, including its oceans,” said the doctrine, signed on Russian Navy Day.

Moscow views the Western military alliance — the Soviet Union’s enemy during the Cold War — as an existential threat, using Ukraine’s membership hopes to justify its offensive on February 24.

The doctrine said Moscow will seek to strengthen its leading position in exploring the Arctic and its mineral resources and maintain “strategic stability” thereby bolstering the potential of the northern and Pacific fleets.

It also mentioned Russia’s desire to develop a “safe and competitive” sea route from Europe to Asia, known as the Northeast Passage, via the country’s Arctic coastline and ensure it worked throughout the year.

“Today’s Russia cannot exist without a strong fleet… and will defend its interests in the world’s oceans firmly and with a resolution,” the doctrine added.

Ukraine War: First Grain Cargo Could Leave Port On Monday, Says Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech after cabinet meeting at Presidential Complex in Ankara on November 3, 2020. Adem ALTAN / AFP
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech after cabinet meeting at Presidential Complex in Ankara on November 3, 2020. Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

A spokesman for the Turkish presidency said there was a “high probability” that a first ship carrying Ukrainian grain could leave Ukraine’s port of Odessa on Monday.

That is despite Russian missiles hitting the city in the wake of the July 22 agreement on shipping grain between Russia, Turkey, the UN and Ukraine.

“There is a strong possibility that a first ship could leave tomorrow morning if everything is sorted out by this evening,” Ibrahim Kalin said in an interview with Kanal 7 television Sunday.

But Kalin said there were still “one or two subjects to be settled in the negotiations with the Russians”.

READ ALSO: US, NATO ‘Main Threats’ To National Security – Russia

“Preparations have reached a point to allow the ships to leave the port of Odessa. The ships have been loaded, they are ready to leave, but we need good logistical coordination,” he said.

The resumption of exports was also discussed in talks between the Turkish and Ukrainian defence ministers, Ankara said Sunday.

“It is planned to begin transport as soon as possible,” the Turkish ministry said in a statement.

The Joint Coordination Centre, charged with controlling Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea, was officially inaugurated Wednesday in Istanbul in line with the deal.

The deal to lift the blockade — the first significant text involving both sides since the conflict began — is aimed at easing a global food crisis that has seen prices soar in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The coordination centre is responsible for registering and tracking merchant ships taking part in the convoys, monitoring them via the web and satellite, and inspecting the ships as they are loaded at Ukrainian ports and when they arrive at Turkish ports.

bg/gw/imm

Ukraine Denies Carrying Out Drone Attack On Russian Fleet HQ

A Ukrainian soldier launches a drone near Kharkiv on July 23, 2022 amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK / AFP)

 

Russia said an attack from a drone on Sunday wounded six personnel at the headquarters of its Black Sea fleet in annexed Crimea, as authorities in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv reported it had suffered its “strongest” shelling of the war.

AFP journalists witnessed an intense bombardment of the eastern town of Bakhmut after President Volodymyr Zelensky called in a late-night address for civilians to leave the front line Donetsk region bearing the brunt of the Kremlin’s offensive.

Russian authorities in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea — seized by Moscow from Ukraine in 2014 — said a small explosive device from a commercial drone likely launched nearby hit the navy command in the city of Sevastopol.

The local mayor blamed “Ukrainian nationalists” for the attack that forced the cancellation in the city of festivities marking Russia’s annual holiday celebrating the navy.

But a spokesman for Ukraine’s Odessa region military administration denied Kyiv — whose nearest positions are some 200 kilometers (125 miles) away — was responsible and called the incident “a sheer provocation”.

“Our liberation of Crimea from the occupiers will be carried out in another way and much more effectively,” spokesman Sergiy Bratchuk wrote on Telegram.

Authorities in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv said Sunday that widespread Russian bombardments overnight had left at least two civilians dead, as Moscow continued to pummel the sprawling front line.

“Mykolaiv was subjected to mass shelling today. Probably the strongest so far,” the city’s mayor Oleksandr Senkevych wrote on Telegram.

“Powerful explosions were heard after one in the morning and around five in the morning.”

Mykolaiv — which has been attacked frequently — is the closest Ukrainian city to the southern front where Kyiv’s forces are looking to launch a major counter-offensive to recapture territory lost after Russia’s February invasion.

Zelensky urges Donetsk evacuation

Strikes also pounded the northeastern regions of Kharkiv and Sumy, near the front line with the Russian forces.

“Today a whole succession of explosions took place… a few buildings are reportedly damaged,” Igor Terekhov the mayor of Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv said.

Sumy regional chief Dmytro Zhyvytsky said that some 50 strikes on Saturday evening had left one person dead and two wounded.

The governor of the Donetsk region, where Moscow is focusing the brunt of its attacks, said three civilians were killed and eight wounded in shelling Saturday.

AFP journalists on Sunday saw one wounded man collected by an ambulance after a ferocious bombardment of the town of Bakhmut.

In an overnight address, Zelensky warned that thousands of people, including children, were still in the battleground areas of the Donetsk region.

“There’s already a governmental decision about obligatory evacuation from Donetsk,” Zelensky said, underscoring authorities’ calls to leave the besieged region in recent weeks.

“Leave, we will help,” Zelensky said. “At this stage of the war, terror is the main weapon of Russia.”

Official Ukrainian estimates put the number of civilians still living in the unoccupied area of Donetsk at between 200,000 and 220,000.

A mandatory evacuation notice posted Saturday evening said the coming winter made it a matter of urgency, particularly for the more than 50,000 children still in the region.

“They need to be evacuated, you cannot put them in mortal danger in the winter without heating, light, without the ability to keep them warm,” Kyiv’s Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories said in a statement.

Zelensky, in his address, also once more pressed the international community, especially the United States, to have Russia officially declared a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

 Deadly jail strike

The call came a day after a jail holding Ukrainian prisoners of war in Kremlin-controlled Olenivka was bombed, leaving scores dead, with Kyiv and Moscow trading blame.

Russia’s defence ministry said Sunday it had invited the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations to visit the site “in the interests of an objective investigation”.

There was no confirmation from the two international bodies.

The ICRC said Saturday that a request to send a team to the site had not been granted, and Ukraine said it was encouraging international experts to go to Olenivka.

Russian military accused Kyiv of striking the Olenivka prison with US-supplied long-range missiles in an “egregious provocation” designed to stop soldiers from surrendering.

It said Saturday that the dead included Ukrainian forces who had surrendered after weeks of fighting off Russia’s brutal bombardment of the sprawling Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol.

The defence ministry said 50 Ukrainian prisoners were killed and 73 were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Ukraine accuses Russia of responsibility, with Zelensky accusing the Moscow of the “deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war”.

He has stepped up calls for the international community, especially the United States, to have Russia officially declared a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

AFP

Macron Seeks Bigger Military Budget In ‘War Economy’

File Photo of French President Emmanuel Macron  (Photo by Sergei GUNEYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday called for a boost to defence budgets following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying France was now on a “war economy” footing.

Speaking at Eurosatory, a weapons industry fair, Macron said Europe needed “a much larger defence industry” to avoid relying on suppliers elsewhere for its equipment needs.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, France “has entered into a war economy in which I believe we will find ourselves for a long time”.

Macron said he had asked the defence ministry and armed forces chiefs of staff to adjust a six-year framework defence spending plan running to 2025 to the new geopolitical situation, to “match the means to the threats”.

Even before Ukraine, French military spending had gradually increased since Macron came to power in 2017 to reach 41 billion euros ($43 billion) this year, and is currently scheduled to hit 50 billion euros in 2025.

“We didn’t wait for strategic changes to re-invest,” Macron said, but Russia’s war had created “an additional need to move faster and become stronger at a lower cost”.

Macron said that “anybody doubting the urgency of these efforts only needs to look to Ukraine, where soldiers are asking for quality weaponry and they are entitled to a response from us”.

According to Le Monde newspaper, the government’s armament agency DGA is considering a draft law that would allow the requisitioning of civilian equipment or civilian factories to make weapons.

As European governments bolster defence budgets, they need a larger EU-based defence industry to meet the new military needs, Macron said.

“Let’s not repeat the errors of the past going forward,” he said. “Spending large sums on purchases from elsewhere is not a good idea.”

Europe needs a defence industry that is “much stronger and much more ambitious” than now, he said, “or we will create our own future dependencies”.

A European fighter plan project is, according to experts, currently running about a decade late, while a new French-German battle tank project, MGCS, is not expected to be operational for nearly another two decades.