Daily: 23/06/2022

Ukraine Tops Agenda at China’s BRICS Summit 

Ukraine: It was a word barely mentioned but often alluded to as the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — collectively known as BRICS — gave their opening remarks at a virtual summit Thursday hosted by Beijing. 

 

In his address, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the group’s purpose was to “make the world a more stable place” and “speak out for equity and justice.” He then appeared to take aim at the West, though the U.S. was never referred to by name. 

 

“We must abandon cold war mentality and bloc confrontation and oppose unilateral sanctions and the abuse of sanctions,” the president of the world’s second-largest economy said in apparent reference to U.S. and European Union sanctions against Moscow. 

 

Of the BRICS member states — emerging economies that position themselves as an alternative to the U.S.-led liberal world order — only Brazil voted against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations earlier this year. China, India and South Africa all abstained from condemning the invasion. 

 

Xi’s remarks Wednesday at the BRICS business forum ahead of the main summit were even less equivocal. 

“We in the international community should reject zero-sum games and jointly oppose hegemony and power politics,” he said. 

Avoid ‘spillovers’

 

“Major developed countries should adopt responsible economic policies and avoid negative policy spillovers that may take a heavy toll on developing countries. It has been proved time and again that sanctions are a boomerang and a double-edged sword,” he added. 

 

Unlike the others, Xi did refer directly to Ukraine, saying: “The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis has resulted in disruptions to global industrial and supply chains … and emerging markets and developing countries bear the brunt.” 

 

For his part, Russia leader Vladimir Putin on Thursday thanked Xi and “all our Chinese friends” and took aim at the “selfish actions of certain states” that he said had thrown the global economy into a crisis, referring to sanctions against his government. 

 

Countries in the global South have been hard hit by food insecurity and rising oil prices caused by the Ukraine crisis, and Putin noted that Russia could “count on the support of many Asian, African and Latin American states striving to pursue an independent policy.” 

 

On Wednesday at the business forum, Putin said Russia was actively “redirecting its trade flows” and increasing oil deliveries to India and China. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said that instead of closing itself off in the face of disrupted supply chains, Brazil would be seeking to “deepen our economic integration.” 

 

South Africa, one of the democracies in BRICS, has been widely criticized for taking a neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict. At the Thursday summit, President Cyril Ramaphosa was less strident than other leaders. 

 

“In line with our foreign policy principles, South Africa continues to call for dialogue and negotiation toward a peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world,” he said. 

Different views

 

Later, a joint declaration by the group was vague, underscoring the different countries’ divergent views on the matter.

“We have discussed the situation in Ukraine and recall our national positions as expressed at the appropriate fora, namely the UNSC [U.N. Security Council] and UNGA [U.N. General Assembly]. We support talks between Russia and Ukraine” the statement said, adding that BRICS supported U.N. humanitarian assistance to the region.    

 

Not all the talks focused on the Ukraine crisis, however, with leaders, including Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also stressing the need to enhance international cooperation in the fight against COVID-19. 

 

On this matter, Ramaphosa took aim at the West for not adhering to “the principles of solidarity and cooperation when it comes to equitable access to vaccines.” 

 

“We call on developed economies, international agencies and philanthropists that procure vaccines to purchase from manufacturers in developing economies, including in Africa,” he said. 

 

Despite aiming to present a united front against the U.S. and its allies, BRICS member states also have disagreements among themselves, though those do not necessarily stop their cooperation. Bolsonaro has previously made anti-China statements, while India has challenged Beijing on its disputed Ladakh border. 

 

On Wednesday, ahead of the BRICS summit, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with India’s ambassador to China, Pradeep Kumar Rawat. In the ministry’s summary of the meeting, Beijing stated the two countries should continue to look for “solutions through dialogue and consultation” on the “boundary issue” and that “common interests between China and India far outweigh the differences.”

BRICS expansion 

 

Additionally, China has supported the expansion of BRICS to include other countries. “Bringing in fresh blood will inject new vitality into BRICS cooperation and increase the representativeness and influence of BRICS,” said Xi in his remarks at the summit. 

 

China’s Wang said that “to strengthen the solidarity and cooperation between emerging markets and developing countries,” for the first time, officials and foreign ministers of Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Thailand, described as BRICS Plus countries, were invited to a May virtual meeting of BRICS foreign ministers. 

 

The BRICS joint statement declared the countries were in favor of further discussions about expanding bloc membership but “stressed the need to clarify” the details of the process.

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Sanctioned Russia Becomes China’s Main Source of Oil, Customs Data Show  

China ramped up crude oil imports from Russia in May, customs data showed Monday, helping to offset losses from Western nations scaling back Russian energy purchases over the invasion of Ukraine. 

The spike means Russia has overtaken Saudi Arabia to become China’s top oil provider as the West sanctions Moscow’s energy exports. 

The world’s second-biggest economy imported about 8.42 million tons of oil from Russia last month, a 55% rise from a year ago. 

Beijing has refused to publicly condemn Moscow’s war and has instead exacted economic gains from its isolated neighbor. 

It imported 7.82 million tons of oil from Saudi Arabia in May. 

China bought $7.47 billion worth of Russian energy products last month, about $1 billion more than in April, according to Bloomberg News. 

The new customs data came four months into the war in Ukraine, with buyers from the United States and Europe shunning Russian energy imports or pledging to slash them over the coming months. 

Asian demand is helping to stanch some of those losses for Russia, especially buyers from China and India. 

India bought six times more Russian oil from March to May compared with the same period last year, while imports by China during that period tripled, data from research firm Rystad Energy show.   

“For now, it is just pure economics that Indian and Chinese refiners are importing more Russian-origin crude oil … as such oil is cheap,” said analyst Wei Cheong Ho. 

According to the International Energy Agency’s latest global oil report, India has overtaken Germany in the past two months as the second-largest importer of Russian crude. 

China has been Russia’s biggest market for crude oil since 2016. 

‘No limits’

Days before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping greeted his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Beijing where the two countries declared a bilateral relationship of “no limits.” 

Although demand in China remains muted because of COVID restrictions, there has been some improvement in the past month as cities loosen controls after the country’s worst outbreak since the early days of the pandemic. 

This has allowed supply chain problems to ease and industrial production to pick up, official data show. 

China’s overall imports from Russia spiked 80% in May compared with a year ago, to $10.3 billion, according to customs data. 

Beijing’s purchases of Russian liquefied natural gas surged 54% from a year ago to 397,000 tons, even as overall imports of the fuel fell. 

China has been accused of providing a diplomatic shield for Russia by criticizing Western sanctions on Moscow and arms sales to Kyiv. 

Joint goals

Once bitter Cold War rivals, Beijing and Moscow have stepped up cooperation in recent years as a counterbalance to what they see as U.S. global dominance. 

This month they unveiled the first road bridge linking the countries, connecting the far eastern Russian city of Blagoveshchensk with the northern Chinese city of Heihe. 

Last week Xi assured Putin of China’s support for Russian “sovereignty and security” in a call between the two leaders.  

The Kremlin said the pair had agreed to ramp up economic cooperation in the face of “unlawful” Western sanctions. 

The West has implemented unprecedented sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its war in Ukraine, forcing Moscow to find new markets and suppliers to replace foreign firms that have left Russia following the invasion. 

The 27-nation European Union agreed in late May to a package of sanctions that would halt the majority of Russian oil imports. 

The United States has already banned all Russian oil, but European nations are much more dependent on these imports. 

Energy is a major source of income for Putin’s government, and Western nations are trying to isolate Moscow and impede its ability to continue the war.

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Корпорація Nike повністю йде з Росії

«Nike ухвалила рішення залишити російський ринок»

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Балканські лідери розчаровані відсутністю прогресу щодо вступу в ЄС у той час, як Україна очікує на статус кандидата

Як очікують, 23 червня лідери Євросоюзу нададуть статус кандидатів на членство у блоці Україні і Молдові

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Зеленський: ми хотіли б підтримки від влади Ізраїлю

«Я вдячний вашому великому народу. Але ми хотіли б підтримки від вашої влади. Мені здається, це справедливо»

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ДБР знайшло на Сумщині «підпільний склад» ОПЗЖ

Зокрема, там зберігалися пропагандистські газети і листівки, посвідчення помічників народного депутата України

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EU Official ‘Confident’ Bloc will Back Ukraine’s Candidate Status 

European Council President Charles Michel said he is confident EU leaders will vote Thursday in favor of granting candidate status to Ukraine.

EU leaders gathered in Brussels were also set to discuss the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine on global food security, as well as additional EU economic, military and humanitarian support for Ukraine.

The European Commission recommended EU candidate status for Ukraine and its smaller neighbor, Moldova, last week.

The candidacy status is just the first step toward joining the 27-member group. Ukraine will need to meet political and economic conditions, such as meeting standards on democratic principles. Diplomats say the process could take a decade to complete.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation that he had spoken to 11 European Union leaders Wednesday about Ukraine’s candidacy and would make more calls Thursday. Earlier, he voiced his optimism at joining the EU, saying he believed all 27 EU countries would support Ukraine’s candidate status.

Zelenskyy said Russia carried out “massive air and artillery strikes” in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, adding that Russia’s goal is to “destroy the entire Donbas step-by-step.”

The Ukrainian leader called for faster arms deliveries to help his forces match up against those from Russia.

Kharkiv region Governor Oleh Synehubov said Wednesday shelling of the residential districts of Kharkiv or other towns in the region had continued unabated.

“There is no letup in the shelling of civilians by the Russian occupiers,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “This is evidence that we cannot expect the same scenario as in Chernihiv or Kyiv, with Russian forces withdrawing under pressure.”

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video address that Russian forces were hitting Kharkiv “with the aim of terrorizing the population” and forcing Ukraine to divert troops, Reuters reported.

Microsoft reported Wednesday that Russian intelligence agencies have conducted multiple efforts to hack the computer networks of Ukraine’s allies.

“The cyber aspects of the current war extend far beyond Ukraine and reflect the unique nature of cyberspace,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in the report.

The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported. In the past, Moscow has denied conducting foreign cyber espionage missions, saying it “contradicts the principles of Russian foreign policy.”

Since the conflict began four months ago, Ukrainian entities have been attacked by Russian state-backed hacking groups, Microsoft reported. Researchers found 128 organizations in 42 countries outside Ukraine were also targeted by the same groups in espionage-focused hacks, the report found. 

Nearly two-thirds of the cyberespionage targets involved NATO members, researchers found.

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

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As EU Decision on Ukraine Nears, Russia Increases Bombardment of Donbas 

A day before a meeting of European Union leaders, where a vote is likely on Ukraine’s candidacy to the union, Russian forces pounded Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and the eastern Donbas region.

The EU leaders’ two-day summit begins Thursday in Brussels. Olha Stefanishyna, deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, told The Associated Press the vote could come as soon as Thursday.

Last week, the European Commission formally recommended EU-candidate status for Ukraine and its smaller neighbor, Moldova. On Wednesday, Stefanishyna said she was “100%” confident that Ukraine would be accepted as an EU candidate.

The candidacy status is just the first step toward joining the 27-member group. Ukraine will need to meet political and economic conditions, such as standards on democratic principles.

Stefanishyna told AP she thought Ukraine could be an EU member within years. Some European officials have suggested it could take decades.

“We’re already very much integrated in the European Union,” she told AP. “We want to be a strong and competitive member state, so it may take from two to 10 years.”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation that he had spoken to 11 European Union leaders on Wednesday about Ukraine’s candidacy and would make more calls on Thursday. Earlier, he voiced his optimism at joining the EU, saying he believed all 27 EU countries would support Ukraine’s candidate status.

Meanwhile, Kharkiv region Governor Oleh Synehubov said shelling of the residential districts of Kharkiv and other towns in the region had continued unabated.

“There is no letup in the shelling of civilians by the Russian occupiers,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “This is evidence that we cannot expect the same scenario as in Chernihiv or Kyiv, with Russian forces withdrawing under pressure.”

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video address that Russian forces were hitting Kharkiv “with the aim of terrorizing the population” and forcing Ukraine to divert troops, Reuters reported.

On Sunday, Zelenskyy had warned that Russia was likely to intensify its attacks this week, ahead of the EU action.

“Obviously, we expect Russia to intensify hostile activity this week. … We are preparing. We are ready,” he said.

Zelenskyy said Wednesday of Russia’s heavy air and artillery strikes in the eastern Donbas: “Step by step they want to destroy all of the Donbas. All of it.”

Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzianyk told AP that in some battles, for every artillery shell that Ukrainian forces fire, the Russian army fires at least six.

Also, Microsoft reported Wednesday, Russian intelligence agencies have conducted multiple efforts to hack the computer networks of Ukraine’s allies.

“The cyber aspects of the current war extend far beyond Ukraine and reflect the unique nature of cyberspace,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in the report.

The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported. In the past, Moscow has denied conducting foreign cyber espionage missions, saying it “contradicts the principles of Russian foreign policy.”

Since the conflict began four months ago, Ukrainian entities have been attacked by Russian state-backed hacking groups, Microsoft reported. Researchers found 128 organizations in 42 countries outside Ukraine had been targeted by the same groups in espionage-focused hacks, the report found.

Nearly two-thirds of the cyberespionage targets involved NATO members, researchers found.

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

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EU Leaders Meet to Decide Ukraine’s Path to Accession

The European Union’s 27 leaders meet in Brussels this week to consider the membership applications of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. As Henry Ridgwell reports, E.U. leaders also will discuss military support for Ukraine as Russia intensifies its bombardment in the Donbas region.

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Паритет на полі бою потрібен якнайшвидше – Зеленський

Почалася 120-та доба війни РФ проти України

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Microsoft: Russian Cyber Spying Targets 42 Ukraine Allies

Coinciding with unrelenting cyberattacks against Ukraine, state-backed Russian hackers have engaged in “strategic espionage” against governments, think tanks, businesses and aid groups in 42 countries supporting Kyiv, Microsoft said in a report Wednesday.

“Since the start of the war, the Russian targeting [of Ukraine’s allies] has been successful 29 percent of the time,” Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote, with data stolen in at least one-quarter of the successful network intrusions.

“As a coalition of countries has come together to defend Ukraine, Russian intelligence agencies have stepped up network penetration and espionage activities targeting allied governments outside Ukraine,” Smith said.

Nearly two-thirds of the cyberespionage targets involved NATO members. The United States was the prime target and Poland, the main conduit for military assistance flowing to Ukraine, was No. 2. In the past two months, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Turkey have seen stepped-up targeting.

A striking exception is Estonia, where Microsoft said it has detected no Russian cyber intrusions since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The company credited Estonia’s adoption of cloud computing, where it’s easier to detect intruders. “Significant collective defensive weaknesses remain” among some other European governments, Microsoft said, without identifying them.

Half of the 128 organizations targeted are government agencies and 12% are nongovernmental agencies, typically think tanks or humanitarian groups, according to the 28-page report. Other targets include telecommunications, energy and defense companies.

Microsoft said Ukraine’s cyber defenses “have proven stronger” overall than Russia’s capabilities in “waves of destructive cyberattacks against 48 distinct Ukrainian agencies and enterprises.” Moscow’s military hackers have been cautious not to unleash destructive data-destroying worms that could spread outside Ukraine, as the NotPetya virus did in 2017, the report noted.

“During the past month, as the Russian military moved to concentrate its attacks in the Donbas region, the number of destructive attacks has fallen,” according to the report, “Defending Ukraine: Early Lessons from the Cyber War.” The Redmond, Washington, company has unique insight in the domain due to the ubiquity of its software and threat detection teams.

Microsoft said Ukraine has also set an example in data safeguarding. Ukraine went from storing its data locally on servers in government buildings a week before the Russian invasion — making them vulnerable to aerial attack — to dispersing that data in the cloud, hosted in data centers across Europe.

The report also assessed Russian disinformation and propaganda aimed at “undermining Western unity and deflecting criticism of Russian military war crimes” and wooing people in nonaligned countries.

Using artificial intelligence tools, Microsoft said, it estimated “Russian cyber influence operations successfully increased the spread of Russian propaganda after the war began by 216 percent in Ukraine and 82 percent in the United States.”

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EU’s Executive Arm Outlines Ambitious Environmental Bill

The European Union’s executive arm unveiled groundbreaking environmental proposals Wednesday — a draft law that would halve the EU’s pesticide use by 2030 — and work to restore its land, seas and rivers.

The draft legislation aims to restore 20% of Europe’s degraded land and waterways within the next eight years — a measure the European Commission’s Vice President Frans Timmermans says is vital for the region’s future.

“We’re proposing a law that would require all member states to restore nature,” he said. “We need to repair 80% of our nature that’s in bad shape and bring back to our cities, towns, forests, agriculture lands, seas lakes and rivers the nature that our citizens want and need.”

Among other targets, the commission’s proposal would halve the use of chemical and other hazardous pesticides by 2030 — and ban them completely in places like parks and playgrounds. It would restore 25,000 kilometers of rivers so they flow along their natural course.

Environmental groups have welcomed the proposals.

“The overall reaction is extremely positive,” said Laura Hildt, a biodiversity policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau, a green umbrella nonprofit. 

“We’re really happy to see that the commission has come out with a strong proposal that really has the potential to bring back ecosystems that have been destroyed and to improve those that need it,” she said.

 

Hildt and activists, however, say some areas need to be strengthened — including targets for marine restoration and for pesticide use.

“We have to make sure the principal that says that chemical pesticides must only be used as a last resort is properly applied,” said European Environmental Bureau pesticide analyst, Eva Corral.

Behind the commission’s proposals are scary statistics. One-third of Europe’s bees and other pollinators are in decline, and one in 10 near extinction. Those species — along with healthy soils — are vital, not just for biodiversity, but for food production. 

EU countries and the European Parliament still need to approve the draft legislation. Reports suggest some member states want them delayed or diluted, citing the Ukraine war’s impact on food security. 

But, according to Timmermans, the European Commission is pushing back.

“Using the war in Ukraine to water down proposals and scare Europeans into believing sustainability means less food is frankly quite irresponsible, because the climate and biodiversity crises are staring us in the face,” he said.

The measures would support European farmers financially as they transition to more environmentally friendly practices. And the commission says they’re just a first step toward building a more sustainable future for the bloc.

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