12 votes

Weekly megathread for news/updates/discussion of Russian invasion of Ukraine - June 30

This thread is posted weekly on Thursday - please try to post relevant content in here, such as news, updates, opinion articles, etc. Especially significant updates may warrant a separate topic, but most should be posted here.

If you'd like to help support Ukraine, please visit the official site at https://help.gov.ua/ - an official portal for those who want to provide humanitarian or financial assistance to people of Ukraine, businesses or the government at the times of resistance against the Russian aggression.


  1. skybrian
    U.S.-supplied HIMARS changing the calculus on Ukraine’s front lines (Washington Post) [...] [...] [...] [...]

    U.S.-supplied HIMARS changing the calculus on Ukraine’s front lines (Washington Post)

    The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, commonly known as HIMARS, is one of four that Ukrainians received last month from the United States as part of a $700 million military aid package. The soldiers assigned to this one already adorned the inside with a picture of a scantily clad woman, an air freshener and rosary beads. The outside has three small black skulls stenciled on it — one for every target successfully hit.

    “We actually have six,” said this system’s chief, whose call sign is Kuzya. “We just haven’t had a chance to add the other three yet.”


    Kuzya and his comrades said their targets so far have focused on Russian command posts — warehouses where enemy officers and weaponry were stationed.


    The HIMARS also brings more peace of mind, the soldiers said. With their old equipment, they avoided rocket trajectories that passed through any population settlements, limiting them to only shooting through fields and forests, to avoid potentially harming civilians, Moroz said.

    And now?

    “I don’t have any doubts about what we’ll hit,” Moroz said. “I know the rocket will hit its target because it’s navigated by satellite.”

    The system this unit used before was the Soviet-era Uragan, a self-propelled multiple-rocket launcher that had a maximum range of about 20 miles. It also had a margin of error of about half a mile [...]


    Operations are mostly conducted at night — the soldiers standing at a distance and counting off before shouting “fire!” There’s a bright flash of light as each rocket takes off. Then they’re ready to move within two minutes — and speed is imperative to keeping the HIMARS safe because the Russians can quickly pinpoint the source of the shooting and fire back. The mobility is impressive — for a hulking vehicle, it can move at up to 60 miles per hour, they said.


    The computer system is entirely in English, so at the time of training, interpreters explained what each button means — all documented in a notebook the soldiers regularly consult. But Google Translate is still needed on occasion.

    Kuzya said it would be nice to have 50 HIMARS so that Ukraine could deploy four in each direction of a vast front that spans nearly its entire eastern border with Russia. “Sputnik,” the unit’s commander, said it would have been better to have had the equipment sooner — before Moscow’s forces took control of most of the country’s Luhansk region.

    “I think it took too long to get them here,” he said. “Had they been here much earlier, I think we would’ve already been done with this war.”

    4 votes
  2. skybrian
    After invasion of Ukraine, a reckoning on Russian influence in Austria (Washington Post) [...] [...]

    After invasion of Ukraine, a reckoning on Russian influence in Austria (Washington Post)

    Egisto Ott managed undercover agents in the Austrian domestic security service and also served in Turkey and Italy as an intelligence officer, and he is suspected of having sold state secrets to Russia, as well as providing information on perceived enemies of the Kremlin in the West, according to European security officials and Austrian investigative documents.

    The still-developing Ott case, security officials say, is one of many internal problems that contributed to last year’s dissolution of Austria’s domestic intelligence agency — the BVT — and has led other European agencies to curtail their links with Vienna or cut it out of intelligence sharing on some matters relating to Russia.

    The 60-year-old Ott has become emblematic of Russia’s deep penetration of European Union member Austria in politics and industry as well as the intelligence field. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has accelerated a reckoning on the risks for countries that fall under Moscow’s sway. In ongoing, closed-door hearings, Austrian lawmakers have been probing Russian interference in the intelligence services and contracts that the partly state-owned gas giant OMV had with Russia. Lawmakers also are examining business links that senior Austrian political figures and parties have had with the Kremlin and Russian state-owned companies.


    A revolving door opened between the highest ranks of the Austrian government and major Russian state companies. Two years after leaving government, Kneissl, for instance, took a highly paid position on the board of the Russian state energy giant Rosneft. She additionally wrote opinion columns for RT, a Kremlin propaganda outlet.

    Former Austrian chancellor Christian Kern was on the board of Russian Railways. Wolfgang Schüssel, another former chancellor of Austria, was on the board of Lukoil, another Russian energy giant.

    Kern and Schüssel both resigned from their positions after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. Kneissl resigned her post with Rosneft in May.

    Some of Austria’s major companies also became deeply entwined with Russia, particularly in its energy sector. In 2015, OMV, an Austrian energy firm partly owned by the government and currently the country’s second largest company, hired a new chief executive, Rainer Seele, a German national. In his previous position, with Wintershall Holding, a German crude oil and natural gas producer, Seele had worked with Gazprom, the Russian natural gas behemoth, and was a strong supporter of the Nord Stream pipeline.


    Officials [...] believe Ott used his new posting to tap a network of intelligence contacts inside and outside Austria. Telling colleagues at other agencies that he was conducting official business as part of his new job, Ott requested hundreds of illegal searches in secure databases for information on people across the continent, according to the investigative documents.

    4 votes
  3. [2]
    Russia abandons Snake Island in victory for Ukraine (Reuters) [...] Meanwhile:

    Russia abandons Snake Island in victory for Ukraine (Reuters)

    Russia's defence ministry said it had decided to withdraw from the outcrop as a "gesture of goodwill" to show Moscow was not obstructing U.N. efforts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grains to be shipped from Ukraine.

    Ukraine said it had driven the Russian forces out after a massive artillery and assault overnight.



    Ukrainian authorities said they were trying to evacuate remaining residents from Lysychansk, where they believe around 15,000 people remain.

    An official from the pro-Russian separatist administration in the province told RIA news agency the Lysychansk oil refinery was now fully controlled by Russian and pro-Russian forces, and all roads to Lysychansk were also under their control.

    Ukraine says the main road out is largely impassable because of fighting, but the city is not yet cut off.

    3 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      Russian forces withdraw from Ukraine’s Snake Island (Washington Post)

      Russian forces withdraw from Ukraine’s Snake Island (Washington Post)

      Ukraine’s success in the push for Snake Island is partially attributed to new weapons supplies by the West. British intelligence assessed that, using donated Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Ukraine “almost certainly” managed to sink the Russian naval tugboat Spasatel Vasily Bekh, which had been delivering Russian weapons and personnel to Snake Island.

      Pro-Russian war reporters and bloggers also have linked the reinforcement of Ukraine’s fighting capabilities to the French artillery system CAESAR, stationed in Odessa, as one of the reasons for the withdrawal, signaling a win for Kyiv and its Western allies. CAESAR has a firing range of about 26 miles.

      “After the transfer of French self-propelled howitzers CAESAR and [tactical missiles] Tochka-U to the Odessa region, the density of artillery fire from the Odessa region increased manifold,” a popular Telegram blogger known as Rybar wrote Thursday.

      2 votes
  4. skybrian
    Near Kherson, Ukrainians regain territory in major counteroffensive (Washington Post) This is an account of a reporter who visited villages that recently changed hands:

    Near Kherson, Ukrainians regain territory in major counteroffensive (Washington Post)

    This is an account of a reporter who visited villages that recently changed hands:

    Along one gravel road leading here, children have set up their own pretend checkpoint for cars driving by. A 12-year-old girl playfully asked Washington Post journalists to say a code word — “palianytsia,” a type of Ukrainian bread — before allowing them to pass. Ukrainian soldiers who saw this chuckled that the kids have apparently learned to regularly change the password — for security reasons, of course. One that they previously used was a crude quip about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    2 votes
  5. cfabbro
    ‘Everyone was beaten’: Ukrainians held captive by Russia recover from physical, emotional scars (NBC)

    ‘Everyone was beaten’: Ukrainians held captive by Russia recover from physical, emotional scars (NBC)

    Torture, beatings and neglect: Ukrainian service members captured during Russia’s invasion may be lucky to be back home alive, but their physical and emotional scars could plague them for years.

    “The Russians were intent on extracting information,” said Mykhaylo, who said he spent two months in captivity before he was freed in the prisoner exchange.

    “They wanted to know about the type of weapons they had, specifically U.S. Stinger and Javelin missiles,” he said. “But we didn’t have that.”

    A few days later, Mykhaylo said the prisoners were transferred to a “very cold” meat storage refrigerator before being bused to neighboring Belarus, a close ally of Russia’s, and then flown to Kursk in Russia. There, he said, they spent five nights in freezing temperatures in a tent before they were transferred to a detention facility in the city.

    “They took away our uniforms, beat us up, put us in cells and started to take us for interrogations,” he said, adding that every morning they were routinely made to sing the Russian national anthem.

    In many ways, however, Mykhaylo said he was lucky compared to some of the other prisoners, both civilians and service members, who suffered far worse punishments. He said one of his fellow prisoners told him “that they beat him on the kidneys, they beat him on the face, everywhere they could for an hour.”

    “When he slept, he was moaning all night long,” he added. “We wanted to help him in some way but we could not do anything.” Others who had tattoos with Ukrainian symbols “were beaten very badly,” he said.

  6. cfabbro
    Russia releases photo of cosmonauts holding Luhansk flag on ISS (The Guardian)

    Russia releases photo of cosmonauts holding Luhansk flag on ISS (The Guardian)

    Russia’s space agency has published photos appearing to show cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS) holding the flags of the self-proclaimed republics in Luhansk and Donetsk.

    In a message posted to the official Roscosmos Telegram channel, Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov appear to be holding the flags of the two occupied territories, whose occupiers are recognised as legitimate authorities only by Russia and Syria among UN member states.

    The message accompanying the pictures says: “Liberation Day of the Luhansk People’s Republic! We celebrate both on Earth and in space.”

    It is unclear how the flags might have arrived at the ISS, although on 3 June an uncrewed Russian Progress cargo spacecraft docked with the space station, having departed from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. According to Nasa, it was carrying almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies.

    Artemyev, Matveyev and Korsakov were the first Russian crew to join the ISS since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February, and when they emerged from their Soyuz capsule in yellow uniforms it was widely seen as a message of solidarity with Ukraine. However, the cosmonauts were coy about that interpretation. Asked about the suits at the time, Artemyev said every crew chose their own.

    “It became our turn to pick a colour. But in fact we had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it,” he said. “So that’s why we had to wear yellow.”

  7. [2]
    Turkey seizes Russian ship carrying ‘stolen’ Ukrainian grain (The Guardian)

    Turkey seizes Russian ship carrying ‘stolen’ Ukrainian grain (The Guardian)

    A Russian-flagged ship carrying thousands of tonnes of grain is being held and investigated by Turkish authorities in the Black Sea port of Karasu over claims its cargo was stolen from Ukraine.

    Turkish customs officials acted after Kyiv claimed the Zhibek Zholy was illegally transporting 7,000 tonnes of grain out of Russian-occupied Berdiansk, a Ukrainian port in the south-east of the country.

    Officials in Karasu said the ship was waiting off port while inquiries were undertaken into the provenance of the shipment.

    The difficulty of identifying the origins of the grain remains real, however. The Russian-appointed administrations in occupied territories also claim that they are working in partnership with local farmers to release grain into the global market.

    On Tuesday, authorities installed by Russia in the south-eastern Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine announced an agreement to sell grain to Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    1. cfabbro
      Link Parent
      Kyiv asks Turkey to probe three more Russian ships it alleges transported stolen grain (Reuters)

      Kyiv asks Turkey to probe three more Russian ships it alleges transported stolen grain (Reuters)

      Ukraine has asked Turkey to help investigate three Russian-flagged ships as part of Kyiv’s efforts to probe what it alleges is the theft of grain from Russian-occupied territory, according to official documents.

      In a June 13 letter, which hasn’t previously been reported, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office asked Turkey’s justice ministry to investigate and provide evidence on the three named ships it suspects have been involved in transporting grain allegedly stolen from recently occupied Ukrainian territories, such as Kherson.

      The letter, which Reuters reviewed, said the ships travelled from Crimea’s main grain terminal in Sevastopol in April and May and pressed Ankara to obtain documentation about their cargo and arrival at Turkish ports. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

      All three large dry bulk carriers - Mikhail Nenashev, Matros Pozynich and Matros Koshka - are owned by a subsidiary of a Western-sanctioned Russian state-owned company called United Shipbuilding Corporation, according to Equasis, a shipping database. The Russian company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

      1 vote