Day 456 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv announced that it has Launched its Counteroffensive against Russian forces
Day 456 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- Moscow will operate the nuclear weapons in Belarus
- EC spokesperson: The EU is no longer dependent on Russian fossil fuels
- The journalist who took the scandalous interview with Prigozhin was fired
- The European Commission has agreed to Rosatom continuing the construction of Hungary's only nuclear power plant
- Kyiv announced the release of 106 soldiers in a prisoner exchange with Russia
- Prigozhin announced that the units of "Wagner" have begun to withdraw from Bakhmut, they will be replaced by regular Russian troops
- "New York Times": According to US services, Ukrainians are probably behind the drone attack on the Kremlin
- Moscow claimed new provocation - blowing up two nuclear power plants in Russia
- Drones over Crimea
- Stoltenberg: Ukraine will not join NATO before the end of the war
- Zelensky: Delivery of F-16 fighter jets is a signal that Russia will lose
- Kyiv's air defense has repelled a new massive attack by Russian drones
- US sells surface-to-air missiles worth 5 million to Ukraine
- Prigozhin: On June 1, PMC Wagner will withdraw from Bakhmut
Ukraine has announced that it has launched its counteroffensive against Russian forces
A Ukrainian official today announced that his country has already begun its counteroffensive against the Russian occupation forces and that it is waging intense fighting along the entire front line.
Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Italian RAI television that the Ukrainian offensive has been going on for several days.
"The counter-offensive has been going on for several days now, there is an intense war along the 1,500-kilometer border, but the action has already started," he told Italian television channel Rai.
Podolyak emphasized that the Ukrainian military will not strike the territory of Russia with Western weapons - they will be used exclusively to liberate the territories occupied by Moscow.
Podolyak later elaborated on Twitter:
Once again about the #counteroffensive. Without further questions.— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) May 25, 2023
1. This is not a "single event" that will begin at a specific hour of a specific day with a solemn cutting of the red ribbon.
2. These are dozens of different actions to destroy the #Russian occupation forces in…
"Once again about the #counteroffensive. Without further questions. 1. This is not a "single event" that will begin at a specific hour of a specific day with a solemn cutting of the red ribbon. 2. These are dozens of different actions to destroy the #Russian occupation forces in different directions, which have already been taking place yesterday, are taking place today and will continue tomorrow. 3. Intensive destruction of enemy logistics is also a counteroffensive."
Podolyak said Ukraine already has long-range missiles, Western tanks and anti-aircraft systems that allow it to conduct successful counteroffensive operations.
He recalled that Ukrainian military pilots will be trained to fly American F-16 fighter jets, and with the eventual delivery of such fighter jets, Ukraine will be able to close its airspace to the enemy. Earlier, military experts noted that this would take months if not years.
EC spokesperson: The EU is no longer dependent on Russian fossil fuels
The EU is no longer dependent on Russian fossil fuels, announced the spokesperson of the European Commission, Tim McPhie. He reported data on the occasion of one year since the adoption of the REPowerEU plan for the green transition, which was presented yesterday by the European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson.
In one year, Europe exceeded the goals of the plan, the import of Russian coal into the EU stopped. Russian blue fuel is quickly disappearing from the European market, McPhie said, adding:
"Deliveries of Russian gas via pipelines, which historically made up about 45-50 percent of EU imports before the war in Ukraine, fell to nearly 8 percent in March this year.
This is largely due to our work with reliable suppliers, who last year increased supplies by 70 billion cubic meters. We're mostly talking about the USA and Norway".
In the winter, the European Commission proposed to the member states to reduce gas demand by 15 percent, and the citizens reached a reduction of 18 percent, emphasized McPhie.
Half the amount was saved by households, who saved a total of about 50 billion cubic meters - a third of the annual import from Russia.
In 2022, 60 percent more wind and solar power sources were installed than in 2021, equivalent to replacing 11 billion cubic meters of Russian gas.
All this was done with money from "Next Generation EU" - the temporary tool for recovery from the Covid pandemic. European gas storage is now over 66 percent full, a record for this part of the year. The goal is for them to be 90 percent full by November 1.
The journalist who took the scandalous interview with Prigozhin was fired
The journalist Konstantin Dolgov, who on the eve of May 24 took a scandalous interview with the owner of PMC Wagner, was fired from his job hours after the recording appeared on social networks.
The conversation in question caused a huge response among supporters of the so-called Russian world (Russian Mir) because of Putin's Chef's revelations about Russian aggression against Ukraine. In particular, during the conversation, Prigozhin admitted that there was no "Nazi regime" in Kyiv, that the Russian troops had failed on all fronts, and the VSU had only strengthened and turned into one of the most powerful armies in the world. He also announced that thanks to the so-called "special military operation" Ukrainians have become a united nation.
The comments in question did not go down well with many people in Russia, but since they cannot do anything about Prigozhin, who has a personal army and a "troll factory". Therefore, the towel must now be washed by Dolgov, who has already been released from the Russian propaganda project "Telega ONLINE".
The journalist in question is actually a citizen of Ukraine, and in his homeland he is called the "Kharkiv collaborator".
Here is what he wrote on his Telegram channel about the scandal.
"I was fired from the project because of the interview with Yevgeny Prigozhin. I was fired the very next day... They told me that my services were not needed and that it happened because of this very interview... I will tell all the details of this shameful and disgusting story," he complained in a video posted on social media.
The European Commission has agreed to Rosatom continuing the construction of Hungary's only nuclear power plant
Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó said the European Commission had given the green light for Rosatom's further involvement in the completion of new units at Hungary's only "Paks" nuclear power plant, Euronews reported, citing Budapest's top diplomat ahead of his participation in the meeting of the foreign ministers of the EU countries.
The head of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminded that the contracts for the construction of new units of the Paks NPP have been in place for nine years and during that time the legal and technical circumstances have changed. In order to complete the construction as soon as possible, it is necessary to make changes to the contracts that were agreed in Moscow with the representatives of Rosatom. Budapest submitted the changes to the European Union for approval under European law and the European Commission approved them on Wednesday.
Szijjártó said the European Commission's decision would speed up the implementation of the Paks project and allow Paks-2 to be put into operation in the early 2030s.
"Nuclear energy is of crucial importance for Hungary and the construction of new Paks NPP units is a long-term guarantee for the security of Hungary's energy supply," said the Hungarian foreign minister.
The Paks-2 project is an expansion of the Paks NPP worth 12 billion euros, which is carried out under the leadership of Rosatom and is mainly financed with a Russian state loan. Last year, the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority issued a permit for this project. Paks is the only nuclear power plant in Hungary whose life was extended to 2030 after modernization. According to the adopted energy strategy, Budapest wants to increase the production of nuclear power in the future. This project is one of the reasons why Hungary actively opposes any sanctions against the Russian nuclear sector.
Kyiv announced the release of 106 soldiers in a prisoner exchange with Russia
Ukraine has secured the release of 106 soldiers in a prisoner swap with Russia on Thursday, said the chief of staff of President Volodymyr Zelensky, quoted by Reuters.
The soldiers, including eight officers, were caught fighting in the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut, which Russia claims it has captured but where Kyiv forces say they still have a small foothold.
"Each one of them is a hero of our country. Many of those we bring back from captivity were considered missing without a trace. The relatives of these people have gone through difficult times," said Andriy Yermak.
There is still no information about the soldiers that Russia received from Ukraine in return.
Ukrainian military intelligence claimed that 2,430 Ukrainians were released in a prisoner exchange, including 139 civilians.
Moscow will operate the nuclear weapons in Belarus
Russia will operate the nuclear weapons that will be stationed in Belarus after President Vladimir Putin announced in March that Moscow would move its arsenal westward to be closer to NATO borders.
Having a non-strategic nuclear weapon on the territory of Belarus, not handing it over to the republic, control over it and the decision to use it remain with Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday, as quoted by Russia's Interfax news agency.
The defense ministers of Russia and Belarus signed a document on Thursday on the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russian state news agency TASS reported.
Shoigu said the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus was provoked by rising tensions with the West.
"In the conditions of an extremely sharp escalation of threats on the western borders of Russia and Belarus, a decision was made to take countermeasures in the military-nuclear sphere," Reuters quoted him as saying.
The Russian minister noted that "additional measures can be taken in the future to ensure the security of the union state and respond to the military-political situation".
In late March, Putin announced an agreement with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in the republic. According to the President of the Russian Federation, the Iskander missile system, which can be a carrier of a tactical nuclear weapon, has been handed over to Belarus.
"From April 3, we will start training crews, and on July 1, we will complete the construction of a special storage for tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus. Everything that the president of Belarus asked, the questions that he asked in it are being implemented, and all our agreements will be implemented soon," Putin said at the time.
Tactical nuclear weapons are less powerful and intended for direct use on the battlefield rather than mass destruction of cities. Their use is prohibited by international agreements on the conduct of war.
Prigozhin announced that the units of "Wagner" have begun to withdraw from Bakhmut, they will be replaced by regular Russian troops
Russia's private military company Wagner has begun withdrawing its units from the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut and transferring its positions there to regular Russian troops, Reuters reported, citing a video statement released today by its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin.
"We are withdrawing our units from Bakhmut. From today at 5 a.m., May 25, until June 1, most of the units will be redeployed to rear camps. We are handing over our positions to the military," the Wagner founder announced.
The video was uploaded on Telegram by his press office and shows Prigozhin in combat gear standing next to a war-damaged residential building.
Prigozhin announced the capture of Bakhmut on Saturday after the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.
In his latest video statement, the Wagner founder, who has repeatedly publicly criticized senior Russian defense officials, said his forces would be ready to return to Bakhmut if the regular army was unable to handle the situation.
PMC Wagner reportedly began the withdrawal of units from Bakhmut after statements from Prigozhin earlier that claimed the group needed reorganization and training. Lets see it they are actually moving out. pic.twitter.com/v7ftaS2NMJ— NOELREPORTS ???????? ???????? (@NOELreports) May 25, 2023
"New York Times": According to US services, Ukrainians are probably behind the drone attack on the Kremlin
US officials quoted by the New York Times said the drone attack on the Kremlin earlier this month was likely orchestrated by one of Ukraine's special military or intelligence units.
US intelligence agencies do not know which unit carried out the attack, and it is unclear whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky or his top aides were aware of it, although some officials say Zelensky was not.
The agencies reached their preliminary assessment in part through intercepted communications in which Russian officials blamed Ukraine and other communications in which Ukrainian officials said they believed their country was responsible for the attack, in which two drones were launched on May 3 at Kremlin, causing minor damage.
US officials say their level of confidence that the Ukrainian government directly authorized the attack is "low," but that's because intelligence agencies still don't have concrete evidence identifying which government officials, Ukrainian units or operatives were involved.
The attack appears to be part of a series of operations that have made officials in the United States - the largest supplier of military equipment to Ukraine - uncomfortable. The Biden administration is concerned about the risk of Russia blaming US officials and retaliating by expanding the war beyond Ukraine.
US spy agencies see a picture emerging of a loose confederation of Ukrainian units capable of conducting limited operations inside and outside of Russia, using their own personnel or partners working under their command. Some of those missions may have been conducted with little, if any, oversight from Zelensky, officials said.
In addition to the drone attack, US officials believe Ukrainians were responsible for the killing of the daughter of a prominent Russian nationalist, the killing of a pro-Russian blogger and a series of attacks in Russian cities near the Ukrainian border, the latest on Monday.
US officials similarly view the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines, which carry natural gas from Russia to Europe, as the work of pro-Ukraine operatives whose ties to the Ukrainian government have not yet been established.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence, described their assessment in general terms but did not share details of the intercepts. Representatives from the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.
The ability of US intelligence agencies to determine responsibility for attacks against Russian targets has been complicated by the way Ukraine has organized its security services, which have secret, overlapping and sometimes competing responsibilities.
Some US officials initially considered the possibility that the attack on the Kremlin was carried out by the Russian government in an operation designed to give Moscow a pretext for escalating the conflict.
But since the attack, the United States has intercepted communications in which Russian officials were heard discussing the incident and the findings of Moscow's preliminary investigation into what happened. In those internal discussions, Russian officials appeared surprised by the drone intrusion and blamed Ukraine. US officials say this intelligence helped them to convince them that the attack was not carried out by the Russians.
The United States also intercepted Ukrainian conversations in which officials said they believed their country was responsible for the attack. But these officials don't seem to have known who within the Ukrainian system might have planned or carried this out. According to US officials, some Ukrainian secret agents operate largely independently and without direct supervision from Zelensky or his top deputies. Officials do not believe Zelensky signs off on all the covert operations, and the extent to which he is aware of them in advance is unclear.
Instead, the sources said they suspect Zelensky and his top aides set the broad parameters of the covert campaign, leaving decisions about who and what to target to the security services and their operatives. In this way, Zelensky and his associates can deny that they know about them.
Moscow claimed new provocation - blowing up two nuclear power plants in Russia
Russia has announced that it is the subject of a new mega-provocation after the drone attack on the Kremlin. This time, the Federal Security Service (FSB) announced that it had arrested members of a Ukrainian sabotage group who planned to blow up more than 30 high-voltage power lines at the Leningrad and Kalinin nuclear power plants, causing chaos and material damage.
According to the service, the group managed to blow up one and mine four more power lines at the Leningrad NPP and detonate another seven at the Kalinin NPP.
"On the eve of the celebration of the 78th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, a sabotage-terrorist group of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine tried to undermine more than 30 high-voltage power lines of the Leningrad and Kalinin nuclear power plants, which, according to the plan of the Ukrainian special services would lead to the shutdown of nuclear reactors, disrupt the normal operation of the nuclear power plant and cause serious economic and reputational damage to the Russian Federation," the counterintelligence service said in a statement released on Thursday.
The Leningrad NPP is the largest in Russia and is located 35 km from the second largest city - St. Petersburg and the Kalinin NPP is located 200 km northwest of Moscow in the Tver region.
According to the intelligence service, two people have been detained - a citizen of Ukraine and a citizen of Russia, and a third, who was currently in Belgium, is being sought. Two of their helpers were also arrested - Russian citizens, "who helped provide them with means of communication and vehicles with fake state registration plates", writes the Interfax agency, citing counterintelligence.
The group was formed in September by a colonel from the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine and was then trained in special camps in Ukraine.
According to the FSB announcement, the members of the group illegally crossed the Russian border, transiting through Poland and Belarus. In order to secure explosives, they activated an international traffic channel on the route Chelm (Poland) - Shalchininkai (Lithuania), then through the territory of Belarus - in the Rzhev region of Russia.
Already on Russian territory, the group was transporting the explosives in caches on a cargo trailer.
After their capture, 36.5 kg of plastic explosive "S-4", 61 foreign-made electric detonators, 38 electronic timers and pistols with ammunition were found, reports the counterintelligence.
Those detained are being investigated for "illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, storage, transportation, transfer or carrying of explosive substances or explosive devices" and face up to 20 years in prison.
On the eve of May 9, which is celebrated in Russia solemnly as Victory Day in World War II, it was reported that Ukrainian intelligence had arranged for two drones to fly over the Kremlin, which were shot down by air defenses at the last minute. According to the Russian version, they were supposed to kill President Vladimir Putin, who has offices in the Kremlin. Kyiv has denied the plot.
Drones over Crimea
Six drones were shot down overnight Thursday in various parts of the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, Moscow-backed authorities said.
They do not specify whose drones they were, and official publications do not specify whether they are Ukrainian.
At least two of the drones were shot down over the main city and base of the Black Sea Fleet, Sevastopol.
The air defense system shot down several drones in Sevastopol on Thursday morning, Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev said.
"Early in the morning, our military repelled another attack on Sevastopol with a drone," wrote the governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, on Telegram, as quoted by the Interfax agency.
The governor specified that in the area of Kacha, the forces of the Black Sea Fleet shot down two drones with small arms, and others were silenced and forced to land.
All the drones were small, authorities said.
Stoltenberg: Ukraine will not join NATO before the end of the war
Ukraine will not be able to join NATO as long as the war against Russia continues, said the head of the alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, quoted by "Reuters".
"Becoming a member in the midst of a war is not on the agenda," he said at an event organized by the US German Marshall Fund in Brussels on Wednesday.
In September, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a bid for fast-track NATO membership after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees annexing four partially occupied regions of Ukraine to Russia.
NATO allies have not complied with Zelensky's request, with Western governments wary of actions they fear could bring NATO closer to entering an active war with Russia, Reuters writes.
However, both Kyiv and some of its closest allies in Eastern Europe are demanding that NATO at least take concrete steps to bring Ukraine closer to membership at the alliance's summit in Vilnius in July.
"It is time for the alliance to stop making excuses and begin the process that will lead to the eventual accession of Ukraine," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote in an article in April. "What we need is a clear written statement from the Allies that outlines the path to accession."
During his visit to Kyiv in April, Stoltenberg stressed that Ukraine's future was in NATO, a strong confirmation of a decision 15 years ago. But he did not give a time frame by which membership could take place.
NATO agreed at its 2008 summit in Bucharest that Ukraine would eventually become a member of the alliance.
But the leaders have since stopped short of taking any steps, such as giving Kyiv a membership action plan that would lay out a timetable for bringing the country closer to NATO.
At the event in Brussels, Stoltenberg acknowledged that there are differences among NATO members over how to respond to Kyiv’s membership ambitions.
"There are different points of view in the alliance and, of course, the only way to make decisions in NATO is by consensus. Consultations are currently underway," he said.
"No one can tell you exactly what the final decision of the Vilnius summit will be on this question," he added.
Zelensky: Delivery of F-16 fighter jets is a signal that Russia will lose
The planned delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine is "one of the strongest signals from the world that Russia will lose," said President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Speaking during his evening address, Zelensky referred to an international coalition with Great Britain and the Netherlands, CNN reported. The two countries said in early May that they were working to help Ukraine acquire US-made F-16 fighter jets.
President Joe Biden later said the US would support joint efforts with allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots of fourth-generation aircraft, including the F-16.
Norway said it would support the training and consider different ways to do so.
"This will be a signal that Russian terror has lost, and our world, which is based on respect for independent nations and the right of peoples to choose their own path, has survived," Zelensky said.
Ukraine will prepare all the necessary conditions to make sure that the air transition will take place as quickly and efficiently as possible, the president added.
Kyiv's air defense has repelled a new massive attack by Russian drones
Kyiv's air defense has repelled a new massive attack by Russian drones, the military administration of the Ukrainian capital announced. The air alert over the city lasted for over three hours last night. The danger signal system was also activated in other settlements, including the second largest city of Kharkiv.
Meanwhile, the two groups of fighters who claimed responsibility for entering Russia's border region of Belgorod boasted the success of their operation. They denied Moscow's claims of dozens of casualties and said the weakness of Russian defenses had been exposed.
According to them, the two groups gave two victims and 12 people were injured. The commander of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) stressed that his group would undertake new incursions into Russian territory.
"The operation is ongoing, to be honest. It definitely has different phases. So phase one, which we consider successful, is now over. But the operation is ongoing. We captured weapons, took prisoners. Our big trophies are anti-drone guns, we didn't have any before. They are expensive and now we already have them," said Denis Kapustin, commander of the Russian Volunteer Corps.
US sells surface-to-air missiles worth 5 million to Ukraine
The United States has announced the sale to Ukraine of surface-to-air missiles NASAMS worth about 285 million dollars, which will strengthen its air defense, reported AFP.
"Ukraine urgently needs to increase its defense capabilities against missile strikes by Russian aviation," the US Defense and Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a communiqué.
The US State Department has approved the sale and it is now expected to get the green light from the US Congress.
Air defense proved to be a key factor in the conflict in the massive missile barrage by Russia. The sale of the NASAMS systems comes alongside billions of dollars in US military aid to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, AFP notes.
Prigozhin: On June 1, PMC Wagner will withdraw from Bakhmut
The Russian private military group "Wagner" will withdraw from the city of Bakhmut on June 1 and hand over its positions to the Ministry of Defense. This was announced in an extensive interview by the founder of the group Yevgeny Prigozhin.
He stated that the objectives of the so-called "special military operation" were not achieved. According to him, attempts to de-Nazify Ukraine have turned Ukrainians into a nation.
"We have turned Ukraine into a nation that everyone around the world knows about," Putin's chef said.
Prigozhin added that as a result of demilitarization, Ukraine currently has one of the strongest armies in the world.
"They have a high level of organization, training and intelligence. They have a variety of weapons and what's more: they work equally successfully with NATO, Soviet and any other weapon systems. And they are absolutely philosophical about the losses they suffer," he added.
Prigozhin indicated that about 50,000 Ukrainian soldiers died in the fighting for Bakhmut, and the wounded were between 50,000 and 70,000. PMC owner Wagner assured that the losses among his fighters were three times less. He emphasized that while the children of ordinary people are dying at the front, the children of the Russian political elite are having fun abroad.
Meanwhile, Russian terrorist Igor Girkin-Strelkov commented on his words, saying that Prigozhin was lying about the losses of his mercenaries at Bakhmut. According to him, they are at least as much as those of VSU. Girkin believes that Putin's Chef is currently without an army, as they have already run out of fools who are ready to send them to slaughter.
"This division can end like during the revolution in 1917. When first the soldiers rose up, then their relatives."
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