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US Pledges 'Robust' Political, Practical Support for Kyiv


Ukrainian soldiers stand under a Ukrainian flag during an operation that claims to liberate a village named as Blahodatne, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, in this screengrab from a handout video released June 11, 2023. (68th Separate Hunting Brigade 'Oleksy Dovbusha'/via Reuters)
Ukrainian soldiers stand under a Ukrainian flag during an operation that claims to liberate a village named as Blahodatne, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, in this screengrab from a handout video released June 11, 2023. (68th Separate Hunting Brigade 'Oleksy Dovbusha'/via Reuters)

Latest developments:

  • Russian forces have unsuccessfully attempted to advance near the Donetsk Oblast village of Blahodatne, which was recently liberated by Ukrainian forces, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces alleged Monday.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden's meeting with outgoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has been pushed back a day after Biden underwent an unexpected root canal procedure. The two are now expected to hold talks Tuesday.
  • Swiss authorities said Monday’s attack of several government websites was claimed by the NoName hacking group controlled by pro-Russian hackers. The government websites were down as Switzerland’s parliament prepares for a video address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Thursday. It also coincides with a national holiday in Russia.

During a news conference Monday in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was determined to maximize its support for Ukraine so it can succeed on the battlefield. A "robust" package of political and practical support for Ukraine, Blinken added, can also be expected at the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius.

Blinken said that although it was too soon to predict where Ukraine's counteroffensive will lead, Washington was confident that Kyiv will continue to take back its land occupied by Russia.

Ukraine says that since the beginning of its counteroffensive last week, its forces have liberated seven villages in the southeast.

In his nightly video address Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted the advances of the Ukrainian forces during fierce battles and despite unfavorable weather. "The strength of our warriors still yields results," he said. Zelenskyy thanked everyone "who is in combat now, everyone who supports our combat brigades in the relevant areas."

A Ukrainian official said Monday the country's troops retook control of Storozhov, a village in the Donetsk region as part of the counteroffensive.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar thanked a marine brigade in a Telegram post, saying the Ukrainian flag was flying over Storozhov. She said the scene would repeat in every area until Ukrainian forces liberate all of Ukraine's land.

The development came a day after Ukrainian officials said their troops recaptured three other villages in the area: Blahodatne, Neskuchne and Makarivka.

Ukraine's General Staff said Monday that during the past day there had been heavy fighting elsewhere in Donetsk, including in Bakhmut, and in the Luhansk region.

F-16s training

Ukrainian pilots could begin training on F-16 fighter jets as soon as this summer. The Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said this is a first step toward supplying Kyiv with a powerful, long-term capability in its war with Russia, Reuters reports.

Ukrainian Pilots Eager to Use F-16s in Fight Against Russia
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Previously, the Netherlands had said it aimed to start training Ukrainian pilots "as soon as possible," but had not specified when such training could start.

Ollongren told Reuters the goal was to have the training program fully operational within six months. A possible location for the training could be in Denmark where there are flight simulators. The training would begin with two groups of 12 Ukrainian pilots, already experienced flying Soviet-era MiGs.

The Dutch defense chief did not, however, commit to supplying F-16s to Ukraine.

"It is a very strong weapons system. It's a very strong capability. But it's not going to be available anytime soon and President Zelenskyy, of course, knows that," Ollongren said. She did note that F-16s will be “very important for the future,” in Ukraine.

"When the war is over Ukraine has to be able to defend itself to deter Russia from trying again,” she said. “And I think … that's what the Ukrainians also see."

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power

The United Nations atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi is expected to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant this week to assess risks from the decrease of water levels at the Kakhovka reservoir.

Ukraine's Kakhovka reservoir has lost nearly three-quarters of its volume of water since the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine was destroyed last week, but it has not impacted the plant's cooling ponds, Ukrainian Environment Minister Ruslan Strilets said Monday.

Ukrainian nuclear authorities said the water at the plant's cooling ponds remains stable and high enough because the pods are separate from the reservoir and can be refilled by wells in the area. The water in the pond evaporates slowly, they said, because the reactors are not producing power.

In Kherson, the United Nations is coordinating relief efforts for the Kakhovka disaster by delivering water, food and hygiene items to almost 180,000 people. Since the day of the disaster, the U.N. has distributed more than 800,000 liters (211,000 gallons) of bottled water and 70,000 monthly rations of ready-to-eat food, U.N. spokesperson Stephanie Dujarric told reporters Monday, adding that the U.N. has also provided information to 100,000 people in the area about risks regarding mine contamination.

In his nightly video address Sunday, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy decried Russian attacks on evacuation routes for civilians escaping flooded areas.

“It was an evacuation from Kardashynka, a village on the left bank of Kherson region. … The occupiers created this disaster by blowing up a dam, leaving people to their fate in flooded towns and villages, and then shelling the boats that are trying to take people away,” he said.

Kyiv and Russia trade blame on the destruction of the dam that led to catastrophic flooding.

Black Sea grain deal

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern Monday that Russia will pull out of the U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain deal by July 17.

The agreement allowing safe wartime export of grain and fertilizers from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports may be nixed by Moscow if its terms regarding its own grain and fertilizer shipments are not met.

While Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have obstructed shipments.

Russia demands the export of ammonia via a pipeline to Ukraine’s port of Pivdennyi and the reconnection of Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to the SWIFT international payment system.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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