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Ukraine war: African peace plan, NATO membership, flooding death toll

Kremlin: Putin ‘considering’ African peace plan

Russian officials have given a lukewarm reception to a peace plan presented in St Petersburg yesterday by a delegation of African leaders – but say that Vladimir Putin is considering it nonetheless.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after the three-hour meeting that the Africans’ peace plan consisted of 10 elements, but “was not formulated on paper.”

“The main conclusion, in my opinion, from today’s conversation is that our partners from the African Union have shown an understanding of the true causes of the crisis that was created by the West, and have shown an understanding that it is necessary to get out of this situation on the basis of addressing these underlying causes,” Lavrov said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that while the plan would be “difficult to implement”, Putin “has shown interest” in it.

“Not all provisions can be correlated with the main elements of our position,” Peskov said, “but this does not mean that we do not need to continue working.”

Heavy casualties in Ukrainian counteroffensive, says UK assessment

Russia and Ukraine are suffering high numbers of military casualties as Ukraine fights to dislodge the Kremlin’s forces from occupied areas in the early stages of its counteroffensive, British officials said Sunday.

Russian losses are probably at their highest level since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March, the UK Ministry of Defence reported in its regular assessment.

According to British intelligence, the most intense fighting has centred on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province, around Bakhmut, and further west in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province. While the update reported that Ukraine was on the offensive in these areas and had “made small advances”, it also said that Russian forces were conducting “relatively effective defensive operations” in Ukraine’s south.

The Ukrainian military announced in a regular update Sunday morning that over the previous 24 hours Russia had carried out 43 airstrikes, four missile strikes and 51 attacks from multiple rocket launchers.

Ukraine raises flooding death toll

The Ukrainian authorities reported 16 dead and 31 missing following the destruction of a dam on the Dnipro river last week.

“Sixteen people died: 14 in the Kherson region and two in the Mykolaiv region. 31 people are still missing”, said the Ukrainian Interior Minister. Russia, which denies any connection with the explosion, has already raised the death toll from the floods in areas under its control in southern Ukraine to 29.

The floods have not only devastated a huge area but also drained water supplies needed to cool the nearby Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, whose reactors have been put into “cold shutdown” to guard against a major accident.

Biden says Ukraine’s NATO path won’t be made easy

Ukraine will not be given any special treatment in its bid to join NATO, US President Joe Biden said on Saturday.

Asked by journalists whether he intended to make it “easier” for Kiev to join the Atlantic Alliance, Biden bluntly said “no”, assuring them that Ukraine would have to “meet all the criteria. So we’re not going to make it easy”.

Biden also described as “totally irresponsible” Russia’s deployment of nuclear warheads in Belarus, which it confirmed this week.

The US president’s remarks come ahead of NATO’s next annual summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 11 and 12 July.

While Russian propaganda has often framed the invasion of Ukraine as a response to supposed NATO overexpansion, the war has in fact driven the alliance to expand further. As Ukraine set out on its long journey to membership, Finland joined with relative ease, and Sweden’s membership is being blocked only by Turkey and Hungary.

Ukraine reconstruction conference scheduled

Leaders from more than 60 countries and hundreds of top executives from the world’s leading companies are expected in London next week for the second International Conference on Rebuilding Ukraine, the British government announced on Saturday.

“The reconstruction of the Ukrainian economy is as important as its military strategy”, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is due to say at the opening of this event, which will be held on Wednesday and Thursday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will speak on a video call.

The World Bank has put Ukraine’s immediate needs for repairing the damage caused by the fighting at $14 billion (€12.8 million).

But according to a recent study by the World Bank, the UN, the European Union and the Ukrainian government, getting the country’s economy back on its feet will cost $441 billion (€402 billion). This figure is set to rise as the conflict continues.

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