Day 631 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Russia will Try to Start a War in the Balkans according to Ukrainian PresidentUkraine | November 16, 2023, Thursday // 12:16| views
Day 631 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- British intelligence: The Russians have reached the chemical plant in Avdiivka
- Finland closes border crossings with Russia to asylum seekers
- Russian general and his wife found dead, their death a mystery
- Zelensky: Russia is trying to provoke a war in the Balkans
- New documents prove that Putin planned in advance to starve Ukraine
- Russia was left out of UNESCO's Executive Board for the first time in history
- A Ukrainian group says the number of Ukrainian soldiers killed since the start of the conflict is nearly 25,000
- The Czech Republic freezes Russian assets in real estate
British intelligence: The Russians have reached the chemical plant in Avdiivka
Russian troops have recently advanced in the battle for the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, the British Ministry of Defense announced in its daily intelligence briefing, published on the social platform X, cited by DPA.
"Most likely, Russian forces have advanced to the approaches of the Ukrainian-controlled chemical plant in Avdiivka," the report said. The extensive industrial complex, where coke coal and various chemicals are produced, is a key strategic position in the northern part of the city, where an important main road passes.
If Russian troops succeed in capturing the plant, it will hamper supplies to the Ukrainian army, British military intelligence said. "On the other hand, the industrial facility provides Ukraine with a defensive advantage on local soil and it is possible that Russia would suffer significant losses of military personnel if it tried to launch an attack on the plant," is the opinion of the British Ministry of Defense.
It has published a daily summary since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February last year. Accordingly, Moscow accuses London of conducting a disinformation campaign about the hostilities, according to DPA, quoted by BTA.
Finland closes border crossings with Russia to asylum seekers
Finland will close four of its nine border crossings along its border with Russia to limit the flow of asylum seekers into the Scandinavian country, Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said today, Reuters reported.
On Wednesday, the country's president said the rise in refugees along the eastern border appeared to be "Russian retaliation for Finnish defense cooperation with the US".
"The government today decided that Finland will close part of the crossing points along the eastern border from tomorrow," Orpo said.
Finland, which is a member of NATO, shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, which is also outside the European Union.
Russian general and his wife found dead, their death a mystery
The former commander of the 6th Army of the Air Force and Aerospace Defense of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Sviridov, was found dead at his home in the Stavropol Territory. Next to him was found the body of a woman who was probably his wife. This was reported by the Russian Telegram channel Baza.
The bodies of 68-year-old Vladimir Sviridov and his 72-year-old wife Tatiana Sviridova were found in their home in the village of Adzhievsko. According to preliminary information, the couple died about a week ago.
Employees of the gas service have already carried out measurements and have not found an excess of the permissible concentration of harmful substances. What caused the death of Vladimir and Tatyana Sviridovi is still unknown.
Lieutenant General Vladimir Sviridov headed the 6th Army of the Russian Air Force and Air Defense from 2005 to 2009.
This is another death of a senior Russian military officer.
In August, "Wager" founder Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin's plane crashed in Russia. Later, it was reported that the bodies of eight victims, including him, were found at the crash site.
One version of the crash is a terrorist attack on board. Witnesses also reportedly heard two loud explosions before the plane crashed.
In April, another senior official died in Russia under strange circumstances. Igor Shkurko, First Deputy General Director and Chief Engineer of Yakutskenergo, died suddenly in a cell at the Yakutsk pre-trial detention center in the Russian Federation. On March 30, he was detained in a bribery case. In the cell of the investigative detention, the accused was found without signs of life. The arriving medical workers pronounced him dead. According to preliminary data, no traces of violent death were found.
In Russia, the general from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who was responsible for "hunting" oppositionists and inconvenient journalists, also shot himself. Vladimir Makarov was the deputy head of the Main Directorate for countering extremism. Putin fired him in January 2023.
Zelensky: Russia is trying to provoke a war in the Balkans
“Russia is trying to start a war in the Balkans”.
This was announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a briefing for journalists from Africa.
"Pay attention to the Balkans. Believe me, we have information. Russia has a long plan. The Middle East, the second distraction will be the Balkans. After all, if the partners do not do something now, then there will be an explosion there again, and again - this will not be a new story. Their relations have been in crisis for a long time. Therefore, Russia will invest today in making one Balkan country fight another."
Zelensky announced that the new British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has arrived in Kyiv for his first overseas working visit after taking office, the agencies reported.
Cameron, who was appointed foreign secretary on Monday, said in a video released by Zelensky's office that he wanted to emphasize London's support for Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president said he was grateful for the gesture of the British diplomat, who testified in the conditions of the conflict in the Middle East.
"The world is not so focused on the situation on the battlefield in Ukraine, and this splitting of attention really doesn't help," he said.
New documents prove that Putin planned in advance to starve Ukraine
A report by a human rights organization presented evidence of Russia's preliminary plan to steal grain and cause starvation of the Ukrainian people.
According to new evidence gathered by human rights experts, Russia was actively preparing to seize grain supplies and deprive the Ukrainian population of food months before Vladimir Putin ordered last year's full-scale assault on Ukraine.
When Russian tanks crossed the border on February 24, 2022, they deliberately targeted areas rich in grain and food production infrastructure, according to the report by the international human rights law firm Global Rights Compliance , GRC).
The grain stolen from Ukraine so far is estimated at 1 billion dollars per year at its market value. Numerous private Ukrainian grain companies were forcibly incorporated into Russia's state operator, GRC recalls.
The GRC has found that a Russian defense ministry contractor has begun purchasing grain trucks and ordered three new 170m bulk carriers as early as December 2021 - evidence of pre-planning to loot Ukraine's food resources "on an unprecedented scale".
Russia began to control Ukrainian agricultural sites within less than a week of its invasion and was exporting up to 12,000 tons of grain per day from all occupied territories.
The grain theft investigation spans the period up to August this year. The GRC says that although Russia has not seized any more grain-rich territory since then, it still controls the entire Crimean peninsula, one of the main regions from which grain is transported by sea to Russia and abroad.
Evidence of a "highly coordinated level of pre-planning" will be provided by the International Criminal Court and the GRC hopes it will lead to the first international prosecution of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war crime of induced starvation as a method of warfare.
Multiple convoys of vehicles have been seen carrying grain towards the Crimean peninsula in the weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and GPS trackers of stolen trucks owned by local farmers show their route was through Crimea to Russia the GRC report stated.
Satellite images shared with The Independent by the GRC show grain trucks at a facility in Melitopol in Zaporizhzhia with license plates registered in occupied Crimea. Other images show wagons marked "grain" leaving Beridansk railway station in Zaporizhzhia. One of the attached images from this year shows a newly constructed warehouse building in Melitopol with grain visible throughout the complex.
Despite the apparent planning involved in the theft of Ukrainian grain from Russia, job advertisements seen in Russia attached to the evidence show that the government was unable to hire truck drivers quickly enough to transport the vast quantities of stolen food.
It is highly likely that Russia will be found guilty, said Catriona Murdoch, one of the partners at the GRC, and that would mean Putin could face another International Criminal Court arrest warrant to go along with the one issued in March. this year for illegal deportation of children from occupied Ukrainian territories.
According to Yousuf Syed Khan, a senior lawyer at the GRC, Russia's weaponization of the Ukrainian grain industry is "unprecedented in modern history."
2022 marks the 90th anniversary of the start of the Famine - the Stalinist regime-induced famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 that starved millions of Ukrainians to death.
Now Russia is once again using hunger as a weapon in its full-scale war against Ukraine. Siege tactics and the obstruction of humanitarian aid have left Ukrainian civilians without food and water. In addition, Russia continues to threaten global food security by blocking grain exports from Ukraine to Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
"Russia not only implemented a multi-pronged approach by besieging civilians, destroying critical infrastructure, but also pre-planned the seizure and looting of agricultural goods in an insidious plan. Moscow caused a global food crisis and attacked Ukraine's agricultural sector as a military tactic," he explains Catriona Murdoch, quoted by The Independent.
Murdoch is an expert in international criminal law and the war crime of starvation, related violations and abuse of the right to food. She is a member of the Bar of England and Wales and one of the UK's leading civil and public law firms. He has extensive international litigation experience before the courts and tribunals of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
"Russia is doing this to present itself as a legitimate power on Ukrainian territory and, as a result, to make Ukraine's national economy weaker," Khan believes.
At the same time, Russia is appealing to the UN and other global powers to ease war-related sanctions so it can resume grain exports from occupied territories to developing countries hit hardest by the food crisis. Offering grain to friendly third countries was also part of Putin's failed tactic to get back at the UN Human Rights Council, The Independent notes.
Russia was left out of UNESCO's Executive Board for the first time in history
Russia will no longer be among the countries to be represented on the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - UNESCO, following the November 15 vote. Its non-election is historic.
In 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on UNESCO to expel Russia in response to its attacks on Ukrainian cultural heritage. The call was renewed by the Ukrainian parliament this July following Russian attacks on the historic center of Odesa, a World Heritage Site.
"The era of Russian influence has ended and rightfully so: Russian terrorists have no place at the head of significant international bodies," Zelensky wrote on X.
According to the voting results published on the UNESCO website, Serbia, Albania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have been selected for Group II "Eastern Europe" of the board. Before the last vote, Russia was consistently among the countries represented in this group.
"Not a bad couple of weeks. First, Moscow was kicked out (of) the UN International Court of Justice in the New York elections for the first time since its founding; now Moscow is kicked out of the UNESCO executive body, again for the first time in its history," noted the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya.
During an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly, convened over Moscow's annexation of four Ukrainian regions hours after massive Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian cities, Kyslytsya described Russia as a "terrorist state".
Russia has been expelled from a number of international bodies, including the Council of Europe and the UN Human Rights Council. On November 9, the Russian representative did not get a seat at the International Court of Justice, losing to the Romanian representative.
As of November 2, 327 cultural sites have been damaged or destroyed by Russian attacks on Ukraine, according to information released by UNESCO.
"Cultural heritage is what makes us rich and what we must preserve and pass on to future generations. That's why I see it as one of the front lines of this war," said Igor Poshivaylo, co-founder of the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Emergency Response Initiative.
In addition to the statement made by the UN Secretary-General, UNESCO condemns the Russian attack in the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site "Historical Center of Odesa", affecting buildings of cultural importance in the site.
Coming just two weeks after the strike that destroyed a historic building in Lviv, this attack is the second so far in an area protected by the World Heritage Convention in violation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
This blow also coincided with the destruction of the Cultural Center for Folk Art and Art Education in the city of Mykolaiv, a hundred kilometers away.
A Ukrainian group says the number of Ukrainian soldiers killed since the start of the conflict is nearly 25,000
A Ukrainian civic group said it had confirmed the deaths of nearly 25,000 Ukrainian soldiers since the start of the Russian invasion in early 2022, using open sources, bringing the total number of dead Ukrainian servicemen to more than 30,000, Reuters reported.
Kyiv treats battlefield losses as a state secret, and officials say revealing their numbers could damage the war. According to an August New York Times article, which cited unnamed US officials, the number of Ukrainian dead by then was close to 70,000.
In the Ukrainian magazine Sedmychnyk (Weekly), Yaroslav Tinchenko and volunteer German Shapovalenko stated that Shapovalenko's Book of Memory project had confirmed 24,500 obscure cases in combat and non-combat operations using open sources. However, the real number is likely to be higher, they added, noting that many of the 15,000 soldiers listed as missing are likely to have died.
Reuters was unable to verify the claims through an independent source.
"Obviously, the 24,500 names are not the final death toll, but in our estimation it is no less than 70 percent (of the total number)," the two wrote. "This means that the real number of those killed in combat and non-combat actions is over 30,000 people," they specified.
A spokesman for Ukraine's defense ministry told Reuters he could not comment on the numbers. The Book of Remembrance project, which has tracked the war dead in Ukraine since Russia's first invasion in 2014, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tinchenko, in a statement through his employer, the National Military History Museum of Ukraine, also declined to comment.
The article, published late last night, comes as Ukraine increasingly faces the prospect of a long war with Russia. Earlier in the month, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said in an article published in the British magazine "The Economist" that the conflict with Russia was entering a new stage of positional warfare, involving static and exhausting battles. The Ukrainian counter-offensive, which began in June, achieved only limited success in the south and east of the country.
The authors of the article in the Ukrainian magazine said it was crucial to balance the various assessments reported in Western media, which they described as susceptible to "manipulation", with verified data. "Should we talk about this topic in wartime Ukraine? We think yes, but only in terms of concrete data and open and reliable sources," they wrote.
Russia also does not disclose the number of dead during the war, Reuters notes.
The Czech Republic freezes Russian assets in real estate
The Czech government said today it was freezing Russian-owned real estate in the Czech Republic, extending its sanctions list in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.
The EU member state's government press office said sanctions were also imposed on a Russian company controlled by President Vladimir Putin's administration, which is responsible for managing the Russian state's assets abroad. The statement did not name the company.
"Revenues from the company's activities serve to directly finance the Putin regime," the government said in a statement. "As of today, the company's commercial activities are considered illegal, as well as the circumvention and violation of this sanction, and the company's assets in the Czech Republic are frozen," adds the press service of the cabinet, from where they note that on the territory of the Czech Republic, the Russian company in question manages a number of real estate properties.
In principle, the imposed sanctions do not affect diplomatic missions, the Czech news agency CTK clarifies, referring to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jan Lipavsky.
The Czech sanctions list goes beyond the scope of the EU sanctions packages, including six other individuals and entities. This country has been one of Ukraine's biggest supporters since Russia invaded the neighboring country in February last year, Reuters notes.
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