Here is the situation on Saturday, July 8, 2023.
- Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces is going more slowly than some expected, but it remains too early to draw conclusions about Kyiv’s prospects for battlefield gains, said Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top policy adviser. Russia was more successful digging into defensive positions “than perhaps was fully appreciated”, he said.
- Ukrainian forces have advanced by more than a kilometre (0.62 miles) in the past 24 hours near Bakhmut, Ukraine military spokesperson Serhiy Cherevatyi said. “The defence forces continue to hold the initiative there, putting pressure on the enemy, conducting assault operations, advancing along the northern and southern flanks,” he said.
- Ukraine has halted rescue operations in the western city of Lviv following a Russian missile attack on a residential apartment block that killed 10 people. The missile strike on Thursday was described as the biggest attack of the war on civilian infrastructure in Lviv, which is far from the front lines.
- UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Russia must not further endanger the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and the “IAEA must have full access to inspect the plant and ensure nuclear safety and security”. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency is pushing for access to the roof of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine following accusations that Russia had planted explosives there.
- The destruction of the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine caused economic, agricultural and ecological devastation that will last for years, experts said, and it will have a lasting effect on the climate of southern Ukraine.
- No one from Russia’s Wagner mercenary force has visited a camp set up in Belarus for the private army after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko struck an exile deal that ended Wagner’s mutiny last month against Moscow’s military leaders.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked US President Joe Biden for a “much-needed” defence package after Washington said it would provide cluster munitions to Kyiv. Zelenskyy thanked the US and Biden for their “decisive steps”.
- The US decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine was “difficult”, but Ukraine needs such weapons because it is running out of ammunition in its war against Russia, Biden said.
- NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that the Western military alliance takes no position on cluster munitions and the provision of such weapons to Ukraine was a decision that individual members will make.
- Germany, which has signed a treaty to ban cluster munitions, said it will not provide the bombs to Ukraine but expressed an understanding of Washington’s position.
- US Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the US Department of Defense had “multiple variants” of the cluster munitions and “the ones that we are considering providing [to Ukraine] would not include older variants with [dud] rates that are higher than 2.35 percent”.
- Human Rights Watch slammed the US decision to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, saying the bombs pose immense danger to civilians.
- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres wants countries to cease using cluster munitions, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said.
- The European Union said it would devote 500 million euros ($548m) to boost the production of ammunition for Ukraine and replenish the stockpiles of EU member countries. Under a deal struck between the European Council and European Parliament representatives, subsidies will be given to European arms firms to increase their production capacities and tackle identified bottlenecks.
- During a visit to the Czech Republic, Zelenskyy said that Kyiv needs long-range weapons to fight Russian forces. “Without long-range weapons, it is difficult not only to carry out an offensive mission but also to conduct a defensive operation,” he told a joint press conference with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala.
- Zelenskyy thanked Slovakia for its support during a news conference in Bratislava with the country’s president.
- Biden’s national security adviser said there was no clear answer on how to return Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter detained by Russia, to the US.
- Turkey supports Ukraine’s NATO membership aspirations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Zelenskyy during a meeting in Istanbul. Zelenskyy met the Turkish leader as part of a tour of some NATO members as he lobbies for Kyiv to be granted membership in the military alliance.
- NATO is preparing an additional 500-million-euro ($548m) aid package for Ukraine, Stoltenberg said.
- Stoltenberg said NATO leaders will reaffirm that Ukraine will become a member of the military alliance, and they will use next week’s meeting of the military bloc in Vilnius, Lithuania, to discuss how to bring Kyiv closer to that membership goal.
- Zelenskyy said he expects unity among NATO member states at the Vilnius summit and wants concrete steps regarding Ukraine’s path to joining the alliance.
- The White House said that Ukraine will not join NATO following next week’s summit, but its members will discuss what steps are necessary for Kyiv to qualify for the military alliance’s membership.
- The NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital on Tuesday and Wednesday will be guarded by Patriot missile batteries from Germany and fighter jets and forces from 17 nations.
- Stoltenberg said there are still “gaps” to bridge for Turkey to approve Sweden’s NATO membership bid at the meeting next week, and that he would meet Swedish and Turkish leaders ahead of the summit on Monday.
- If Russia does not agree to extend a deal allowing the safe export of grain and fertiliser from Ukrainian ports, it is unlikely Western states would continue cooperating with UN officials helping Moscow with its exports, the UN’s aid chief Martin Griffiths said. The deal, which allows safe shipments across the Black Sea of food and fertiliser from Ukrainian ports and facilitates Russia’s own exports, is due to expire on July 17.
- Russia’s budget deficit for the first half of 2023 was 2.6 trillion roubles ($28.4bn), narrowing in June as spending fell and revenues increased. During the same period last year, Russia posted a surplus of 1.48 trillion roubles ($16.2bn).
- The EU is discussing ways to use Russian assets frozen as part of sanctions over Moscow’s war on Kyiv to help with Ukraine’s reconstruction, Czech Prime Minister Fiala said.
- Ukraine has submitted a request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The CPTPP includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the UK.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies