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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine


Kremlin denies Putin is set to meet North Korean leader

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held talks in 2019.

Alexander Zemlianichenko | Afp | Getty Images

The Kremlin is continuing to deny that Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un, this week.

Western officials said last week that they believe Putin and Kim will meet on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, Russia’s port city on the Pacific coast, and that Kim would likely travel to the region by bulletproof train.

When asked on Monday if a meeting would take place this week, Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian media RTV1 that “such contacts are not planned at the EEF” in Vladivostok, which is only 80 miles from Russia’s narrow border with North Korea.

However, South Korean news agencies reported Monday that a North Korean train presumably carrying Kim had departed for Russia.

Citing unidentified South Korean government sources, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that the train likely left North Korean capital of Pyongyang on Sunday evening and that a meeting could take place as early as Tuesday.

The Yonhap news agency and some other media published similar reports. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service didn’t immediately confirm those details, AP reported.

If the visit does take place, it would be Kim’s first known trip outside the secretive North Korean state since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

 — Holly Ellyatt

North Korean train presumably carrying leader Kim Jong Un departed for Russia, media reports

A North Korean train presumably carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has departed for Russia for a possible meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korean media said Monday.

Citing unidentified South Korean government sources, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that the train likely left the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on Sunday evening and that a Kim-Putin meeting is possible as early as Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un on April 25, 2019 in Vladivostok, Russia.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Yonhap news agency and some other media published similar reports. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service didn’t immediately confirm those details.

U.S. officials released intelligence last week that North Korea and Russia were arranging a meeting between their leaders that would take place within this month as they expand their cooperation in the face of deepening confrontations with the United States.

According to U.S. officials, Putin could focus on securing more supplies of North Korean artillery and other ammunition to refill draining reserves and put further pressure on the West to pursue negotiations amid concerns about a protracted conflict in Ukraine.

In exchange, Kim could seek badly needed energy and food aid and advanced weapons technologies, including those related to intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines and military reconnaissance satellites, analysts say.

There are concerns that potential Russian technology transfers would increase the threat posed by Kim’s growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles that are designed to target the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

— Associated Press

Western sanctions on Russia could push the BRICS alliance closer

Workers use machinery to move drill sections on the drilling floor of the oil derrick in the Salym Petroleum Development oil fields near the Bazhenov shale formation in Salym, Russia.

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Sanctions imposed by the West on Russia are pushing the BRICS nations closer, said oil executives at the recent APPEC conference in Singapore.

“Looking at the oil markets today … the Western sanctions on Russia are working. They’re working in the sense that they’re creating less or lower revenues, lower invoice prices for Russian goods,” said Russell Hardy, CEO of energy trading firm Vitol.

“The flip side of sanctions is that it is creating stronger bonds between BRICS countries, which in turn is a sort of an opposite force, of polar opposites, to Western politics,” he said.

The BRICS alliance includes Russia, as well as Brazil, India, China and South Africa. The bloc met last week and invited oil heavyweights including Saudi Arabia and the UAE — as well as Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina — to join the alliance in 2024.

Read more on the story here: Western sanctions on Russia could push the BRICS alliance closer

— Lee Ying Shan

Ukraine says it regains more territory in the east, south

Ukraine reported on Monday its troops had regained more territory on the eastern and southern fronts in its military counteroffensive against Russian forces.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said Kyiv’s forces had retaken close to 2 square km (0.77 square mile) of land in the past week around the shattered eastern city of Bakhmut, which was captured by Russian troops in May after months of gruelling fighting.

Maliar told Ukrainian television that Ukrainian forces captured part of the village of Opytne south of the city of Avdiivka and had “partial success” near the village of Novomaiorske in the eastern Donetsk region.

“There was movement near Opytne; (Ukrainian) defence forces captured part of this settlement,” Maliar said.

She also reported “some success” near Andriivka and Klishchiivka, a village on heights south of Bakhmut seen as critical to securing control of the city. Kyiv’s troops have liberated 49 square km near Bakhmut since the start of the three-month-old counteroffensive, Maliar said.

Ukrainian soldiers walk with a grenade launcher in a forest as Russia-Ukraine war continues in the direction of Avdivka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on August 16, 2023.

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

In the south, where Ukrainian forces are trying to advance toward the Sea of Azov in a drive that is intended to split Russian forces, Maliar said Kyiv had retaken 1.5 square km in the past week.

Maliar added that Ukrainian forces had successes south of the villages of Robotyne and west of Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Kyiv has retaken villages and settlements in its three-month-old offensive, but its soldiers have been hampered by vast Russian minefields and trenches. Reuters was not able to verify the reports and Russia has not confirmed the Ukrainian advances.

— Reuters

Foreign aid workers killed, injured in Russian shelling

Two foreign aid workers were killed and two others injured in a Russian missile attack in eastern Ukraine over the weekend.

Spanish national Emma Igual, the director of the nongovernmental organization Road to Relief, which has been providing humanitarian aid to civilians in eastern Ukraine, is believed to have died alongside her Canadian colleague Anthony Ihnat as the car they were traveling in was hit by Russian shelling.

The charity said in a statement that two other aid workers, German medical volunteer Ruben Mawick and Swedish volunteer Johan Mathias Thyr, were also injured in the attack and taken to hospital.

The aid workers had been traveling from Slovyansk toward Bakhmut, an area of intense fighting, “to assess the needs of civilians caught in crossfire in the town of Ivanivske” near Bakhmut in Donetsk, the NGO said on Facebook.

“On their way in, passed Chasiv Yar, their vehicle came under Russian attack.” After a direct hit, the charity said, “the vehicle flipped over and [caught] fire.”

Refugees fleeing the Ukraine war passing through Lviv on their way to Poland.

Dan Kitwood | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that the “Russian shelling once again confirms how close the war against Ukraine is to everyone in the world who really values human life and who considers it a common moral duty of humanity to stop terror and defeat evil.”

The charity organization has been operating in Ukraine for 18 months, providing aid and overseeing the evacuation of civilians from front-line towns and villages. It said it was cooperating with both military and police to investigate the attack.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine dealt a blow by G20’s muted condemnation of Russia’s invasion

Ukraine was left fuming after leaders from the Group of 20 industrialized nations, gathered in India for a summit last weekend, issued a joint communique in which their condemnation of Russia’s invasion of country was muted.

In an 83-paragraph joint communique issued Sunday, the Delhi declaration omitted words from last year’s statement that overtly condemned Russia’s invasion and aggression against Ukraine. The wording of “most members strongly condemned the war” was among the changes.

Leaders of the G20 nations attend the second working session of the G20 Leaders’ Summit at Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on September 9, 2023.

Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images

Instead, the leaders highlighted the human suffering and other negative impacts of the war in Ukraine that have complicated recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

G20 member states agreed to lean on the tenets of the United Nations charter on territorial integrity and against the use of force.

Finding a consensus was not easy, with China and Russia objecting to references to the ongoing war. Ukraine, meanwhile, was angered by the watered-down communique.

Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, criticized the statement in a Facebook post, saying the G20 had “nothing to be proud of.”

Read more here: G20 nations soften Russia condemnation to reach Delhi summit compromise, draw Ukraine’s ire

— Clement Tan, Holly Ellyatt

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