Wednesday, May 22, 2024

🔴 Live: F-16 deliveries for Ukraine will ‘only prolong conflict’, Putin warns

Deliveries of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine will only prolong the war with Moscow, Russia’s Vladimir Putin told an economic conference on Tuesday, dismissing Kyiv’s claims that it will soon receive the aircraft from the West. Putin was expected to hold talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, whose train entered Russia earlier in the day. Follow our live blog for the latest updates on the war in Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

1:30pm: Poland refuses to lift grain embargo on Ukraine

Poland’s prime minister has said his government will not lift its embargo on imports of Ukrainian grain as scheduled on Friday because it would hurt Polish farmers.

“Poland will not allow Ukraine grain to flood us,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Regardless of the decisions of the clerks in Brussels, we will not open up our borders,” added Morawiecki, whose party is in the midst of campaigning for parliamentary elections next month. 

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, in agreement with the European Union, imposed an embargo on Ukrainian farm produce from April to prevent a glut in their home markets that would hurt their farmers, but the embargo is scheduled to expire on September 15.

11:15am: Putin says F-16 deliveries for Ukraine will ‘only prolong conflict’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed Ukrainian claims that their armed forces will soon receive F-16 fighter jets from the West, adding that the aircraft would not change the course of the war.

“They are going to deliver F-16s. Will this change anything? I don’t think so. It will just prolong the conflict,” Putin said at an economic forum in Russia’s Far East.

The Russian leader claimed between 1,000 and 1,500 Russian citizens were signing voluntary contracts to join the military every day.

Over the past six or seven months, 270,000 people have signed voluntary contracts, Putin told the forum in Vladivostok. The figure was slightly lower than the 280,000 that former president Dmitry Medvedev stated earlier this month.

10:50am: Zelensky orders officials’ asset declarations to be made public

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for electronic financial declarations by officials to be available to the public “immediately”, vetoing a law that triggered an outcry across Ukraine.

Zelensky has stressed the need for transparency during the war, with several corruption scandals leading to the arrest or dismissal of public officials in recent months.

“Declarations should be open. Immediately. Not in a year. The registry should be opened now,” he said.

More than 80,000 Ukrainians last week signed a petition asking Zelensky to veto a law that would restore mandatory asset declarations for officials but keep them out of the public eye for another year.

8:45am: Train carrying North Korea’s Kim enters Russia

The train carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has entered Russia ahead of a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Russian state news agency Ria Novosti reports,.

The train crossed into the Primorsky region from North Korea, the agency said, with images showing a train with dark green carriages being pulled along a track by a Russian Railways locomotive.

Kim will meet Putin later this week, according to Russian media reports. The visit is Kim’s first trip abroad in four years.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un waves as he departs from Pyongyang in this photo released on September 12, 20023. © Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via AFP

8:30am: Pro-Kremlin populist tipped to win September 30 Slovak elections

Slovak elections this month could see the EU member change course on Ukraine, with polls suggesting the next prime minister could be a Kremlin-friendly populist, AFP reports.

The Central European country was the first NATO nation to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine. But opinion surveys indicate the September 30 snap ballot will be won by the Smer-SD party, whose leader Robert Fico has made comments in line with Kremlin rhetoric.

“The war in Ukraine originated in 2014 when Ukrainian fascists were killing civilian victims of Russian nationality,” he alleged in a video, repeating inaccurate and unproven Russian claims. 

Fico has also pledged to “immediately stop all deliveries of military aid to Ukraine”, opposes Ukraine’s bid to join NATO and has condemned EU sanctions against Russia.

7:20am: Sweden to boost defence spending in line with NATO target

The Swedish government said late on Monday it wants to increase its defence budget by 28%, putting it on track to reach the military spending target 2% of gross domestic product set by the NATO alliance, which the Scandinavian country is preparing to join. 

“We are in the most serious security policy situation since the end of World War II, which requires Sweden to have a defence that is ready to protect Swedish territory,” defence minister Pal Jonson told reporters.

Unveiling a defense bill for 2024, Sweden’s centre-right coalition government said military spending would increase by a total of 27 billion kronor ($2.4 billion). Of that amount, approximately 700 million kronor ($63 million) will be spent on Sweden’s future membership of NATO.

4:06am: Moscow dismisses US warnings about North Korea’s arms sales

Russia and North Korea are not interested in statements from the United States, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has told Russian news agencies, commenting on warnings from Washington that Pyongyang plans to sell arms to Russia.

“As you know, while implementing our relations with our neighbours, including North Korea, the interests of our two countries are important to us, and not warnings from Washington,” Russian agencies cited Peskov as saying. “It is the interests of our two countries that we will focus on.”

US intelligence officials have warned that Putin could focus on securing more supplies of North Korean artillery and other ammunition to refill declining reserves as he seeks to defuse Ukraine’s counteroffensive and prove Russia can grind out a long war of attrition.

1:05am: Ukraine’s Zelensky calls for renewed focus on ‘defence of the state’

President Volodymyr Zelensky and his allies urged Ukrainians on Monday to keep their focus squarely on the war effort 18 months into Russia’s invasion, an indication that authorities in Kyiv were steeling for a long campaign.

Zelensky has long called for greater focus on the war effort and pledged to intensify a crackdown on corruption as part of Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union.

The campaign prompted the dismissal of Ukraine’s defence minister last week and has also seen the detention of a business magnate who was once Zelensky’s mentor on fraud charges.

“Although today is the 565th day of this war, each and every one must be focused on the defence of the state, as in the early days,” Zelensky said in his nightly video message.

Key developments from Monday, September 11:

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday urged Berlin to supply Ukraine with long-range Taurus missiles during a surprise visit to Kyiv by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

Officials in Kyiv said Ukrainian troops had regained more territory on the eastern and southern fronts in their military counteroffensive against Russian forces.

Ukraine also claimed its forces had regained control of several offshore drilling platforms close to Crimea, which Russian forces took over in 2015.

Read yesterday’s blog to see how the day’s events unfolded.

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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