Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ukraine war briefing: US hits China with sanctions over war supplies to Russia

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  • China has been hit with sanctions by the US for supplying “critical inputs to Russia’s military-industrial base” for use in the war against Ukraine. US officials on Wednesday announced a sweeping package targeting nearly 300 entities in Russia, China and other countries. “Today’s actions will further disrupt and degrade Russia’s war efforts by going after its military industrial base and the evasion networks that help supply it,” said the US treasury secretary, Janet Yellen.

  • The almost 300 targets include dozens of actors accused of enabling Russia to acquire technology and equipment from abroad. Other than China, targeted non-Russian entities were located in Azerbaijan, Belgium, Slovakia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These companies “enable Russia to acquire desperately needed technology and equipment from abroad”, a treasury statement said. As part of the measures, the state department blacklisted additional individuals and companies involved in Moscow’s energy, mining and metals sectors; and individuals connected to the death of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a Siberian prison in February.

  • Long queues formed in Moscow on Wednesday as the Russian army displayed western tanks and military hardware captured in Ukraine. It included US, German and French tanks along with British and Australian armoured vehicles, and military hardware made in Turkey, Sweden, Austria, Finland, South Africa and the Czech Republic. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, held a similar exhibition in Kyiv in 2023 of captured Russian tanks and equipment. Russia has itself lost more than 3,000 tanks in Ukraine, says the International Institute for Strategic Studies, amounting to its entire pre-war active inventory, but has enough lower-quality armoured vehicles in storage for years of replacements and says it is ramping up production of new tanks.

  • The US has accused Russia of violating the international chemical weapons ban by deploying the choking agent chloropicrin against Ukrainian troops and using riot control chemicals “as a method of warfare” in Ukraine. Russia’s use of the gas “comes from the same playbook as its operations to poison” Alexei Navalny in 2020, and Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018, with the novichok nerve agent, the state department said, adding that it was delivering its findings to Congress.

  • “The use of such chemicals is not an isolated incident and is probably driven by Russian forces’ desire to dislodge Ukrainian forces from fortified positions and achieve tactical gains on the battlefield,” the state department said. In addition to chloropicrin, Russian forces have also illegally used grenades loaded with CS and CN gases, the Ukrainian military alleged.

  • The US government said it was sanctioning Russian state entities and companies linked to Moscow’s chemical and biological weapons programmes, including a specialised military unit that “facilitated the use” of chloropicrin against Ukrainian troops. The state department is expected to convey its findings to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose rules Russia and other members are required to obey.

  • Five civilians were killed on Wednesday as Russia struck Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, local officials said. In the north-eastern Kharkiv region bordering Russia, a guided bomb attack killed a 38-year-old woman and her father inside a car, the region’s governor said. Farther east in the Kharkiv region close to the city of Kupiansk, Russian shelling killed a 67-year-old woman in the village of Lelyukivka. In the eastern Donetsk region, a 57-year-old woman and a 64-year-old man were killed and six injured in the small town of Girnyk, about 15km from the frontline, said Vadym Filashkin, the head of the region’s military administration.

  • Vadym Filashkin, a regional governor, has said 682 residents are holding on in “very difficult conditions” with no running water or power in the besieged city of Chasiv Yar, prewar population 12,500. Months of relentless Russian artillery pounding have devastated the strategic city which has emerged as the invaders’ next major target, sitting on elevated ground that could serve as a gateway to the cities of Kostiantynivka, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Ukrainian forces defending Chasiv Yar have said they are still awaiting fresh ammunition.

  • Ukraine’s Nova Poshta postal and courier company said late on Wednesday that a missile had struck its sorting depot in Odesa, but there were no casualties among its employees. The Odesa regional governor, Oleh Kiper, said at least 13 people were injured in the missile strike, which triggered a large fire.

  • A Russian national pleaded guilty on Wednesday to lying to the FBI about his participation in an organisation that wants to restore the “Russian empire” including Ukraine. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Tomas Ianchauskas, a US green card holder who mainly lives in Russia, served as the regional leader of the Tsargrad Society, formerly known as the Double Headed Eagle Society. US prosecutors say the group is controlled by sanctioned Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeyev. Ianchauskas, 39, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to FBI agents. He faces up to six months in prison when sentenced on 11 July.

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