Ukraine latest: Xi rejects unilateral sanctions at ‘Russian Davos’ | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

The Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on Feb. 24 continues, with casualties mounting on both sides.

Ukrainian forces are putting up resistance in the east, where the focus of the war has shifted, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy regularly calls on the world to do more to help. Governments around the globe have imposed heavy sanctions against Moscow but have stopped short of direct intervention for fear of sparking a wider conflict.

Meanwhile, rising geopolitical risk and volatile energy and financial markets are rocking Asia.

For all our coverage, visit our Ukraine war page.

Read our in-depth coverage:

— Ukraine spillover dominates discussion at Singapore security summit

— Analysis: China feels slight unease in intimidating Japan with Russia

— China, India and Turkey to siphon more Russian oil ahead of EU ban

— Turkey becomes magnet for Russians and Ukrainians alike

Entries include material from wire services and other sources.

Note: Nikkei Asia on March 5 decided to temporarily suspend its reporting from Russia until further information becomes available regarding the scope of the revised criminal code.

Here are the latest developments:

Saturday, June 18 (Tokyo time)

3:40 a.m. In his prerecorded message to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping urges nations to ” reject attempts at decoupling, supply disruption, unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure,” in what appears to be a jab at Western nations’ isolation campaign against Russia.

Xi calls for economic globalization and “true multilateralism.”

“China stands ready to work with Russia and all other countries to explore development prospects,” Xinhua reports the Chinese president as saying.

Other leaders speaking at the event include Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart  Tokayev.

3:10 a.m. Russian warships sailed south of Tokyo this week, while Chinese destroyers passed through a strait north of Japan, Japan’s Ministry of Defense says. Read more.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17.  (TASS Host Photo Agency Pool via AP)

1:50 a.m. Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod accuses a Russian military ship of violating Denmark’s territorial waters twice in one night.

In a Twitter post, the minister calls the incident “a deeply irresponsible, gross and completely unacceptable Russian provocation.”

Kofod says the Russian ambassador has been summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Russian side’s response was not immediately clear.

12:05 a.m. Western nations’ attempt to destroy the Russian economy with sanctions has failed, Russian President Vladimir Putin says at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Maintaining the pretext that the war is not a Russian invasion but a “special military operation,” he says the economy is gradually returning to normal.

Putin pins the blame for energy and food inflation on the West, claiming Russia is not blocking shipments of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

His speech was delayed by more than an hour after the forum, known as the “Russian Davos,” was the target of a cyberattack.

Friday, June 17

11:55 p.m. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a surprise visit to Kyiv.

8:00 p.m. The European Commission has recommended that Ukraine be made an official candidate for membership in the European Union.

4:58 p.m. The evacuation of 568 civilians sheltering in bunkers under the Azot chemical plant in the embattled city of Sievierodonetsk is currently impossible due to shelling and heavy fighting, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region says. In a post on Telegram messenger, he said there were 38 children taking shelter in the bunkers at the chemical plant.

Smoke rises after a military strike on a compound of Sievierodonetsk’s Azot Chemical Plant, amid a Russian attack on the city on June 10.

  © Reuters

4:30 p.m. Ukrainian missiles hit a Russian naval tugboat transporting soldiers, weapons and ammunition to the Russian-occupied Zmiinyi (Snake) Island south of the Odesa region on Friday, the regional governor says. Odesa Gov. Maksym Marchenko identified the vessel as the Vasiliy Bekh. Ukraine’s Naval Command said the tugboat had a TOR anti-air missile system on board but this had failed to stop the strike.

The superyacht Amadea is moored in Honolulu on June 16. The Russian-owned yacht arrived in Honolulu Harbor flying an American flag after the U.S. last week won a legal battle in Fiji over the $325 million vessel.

  © AP

2:30 p.m. A Russian-owned superyacht seized by the U.S. arrived in Honolulu Harbor on Thursday flying an American flag. The U.S. last week won a legal battle in Fiji over the $325 million vessel and immediately sailed it to Hawaii. The FBI has linked the Amadea to the Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov. The U.S. said Kerimov secretly bought the Cayman Island-flagged vessel last year through various shell companies.

11:00 a.m. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he will attend “an important” NATO meeting in Madrid at the end of the month as the U.S.-led alliance looks to further strengthen its ties in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Australia, one of the largest non-NATO contributors to the West’s support for Ukraine, has been supplying aid and defense equipment and has banned exports of alumina and aluminum ores, including bauxite, to Russia. “I’m going to NATO as a priority … to support the people of Ukraine standing up against this thuggish illegal behavior of Russia,” Albanese said on Friday.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks during a joint press conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in Sydney on June 10.

  © AP

8:08 a.m. Law enforcement in the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands and Britain have dismantled a global network of internet-connected devices that had been hacked by Russian cyber criminals and used for malicious purposes, the U.S. Justice Department says. The network, known as the RSOCKS botnet, comprised millions of hacked computers and devices worldwide, including Internet of Things gadgets like routers and smart garage openers, the department said. RSOCKS users paid a fee of between $30 and $200 per day to route malicious internet activity through compromised devices to hide the true source of the traffic, it said.

5:00 a.m. Italian power company Enel agrees to sell its entire stake in Russian unit PJSC Enel Russia to local buyers for about 137 million euros ($145 million), according to a news release.

The buyers are energy group Lukoil and investment fund Gazprombank-Frezia.

“Following completion of the transaction, Enel will dispose of all its Russian power generation assets, which include approximately 5.6 GW of conventional capacity and around 300 MW of wind capacity at different stages of development,” Enel says.

From left, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi attend a news conference in Kyiv on June 16.

  © Reuters

1:00 a.m. The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania voice support for Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union after a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

“All four of us support the immediate granting of EU candidate status for Ukraine,” French President Emmanuel Macron says.

Zelenskyy says he has received invitations from European partners to attend some major upcoming events, including the NATO summit in Madrid.

12:15 a.m. The U.K.’s latest round of sanctions in response to the Ukraine war target a Russian official accused of involvement in forced deportations and adoptions.

Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova “has been accused of enabling 2,000 vulnerable children being violently taken from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and orchestrating a new policy to facilitate their forced adoptions in Russia,” the U.K. government says in a statement.

Also sanctioned is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who London says has given “prominent support” to Russian aggression against Ukraine. The new sanctions come a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy talked about Ukraine’s defense needs by phone with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The Ukrainian people do not have the luxury of tiring of the war, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tells the House of Commons.

Thursday, June 16

5:37 p.m. The leaders of Germany, France and Italy arrived in Kyiv in an overnight train in a joint demonstration of support for Ukraine, where officials were pleading for more and faster deliveries of Western arms to hold off Russia’s assault. “It’s an important moment. It’s a message of unity we’re sending to the Ukrainians,” French President Emmanuel Macron said after the train pulled into the station in Kyiv.

The visit by Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has taken weeks to organize, while all three have faced criticism from Kyiv over support viewed as tepid. Britain’s Boris Johnson already visited more than two months ago. Still, the decision by the three most powerful EU leaders to travel together held strong symbolism at a pivotal moment — a day before the EU’s executive commission is expected to recommend pushing forward with Ukraine’s bid to join the bloc.

11:00 a.m. Japan ran its biggest single-month trade deficit in more than eight years in May as high commodity prices and declines in the yen swelled imports, Ministry of Finance data shows. Imports soared 48.9% in the year to May, above a median market forecast for a 43.6% gain in a Reuters poll. That outpaced a 15.8% year-on-year rise in exports in the same month, resulting in a 2.385 trillion yen ($17.8 billion) trade deficit, the largest shortfall in a single month since January 2014.

Pipes of Nord Stream 1 in Germany on March 8. Further cuts by Russia’s Gazprom mean the pipeline will run at just 40% capacity.

  © Reuters

9:00 a.m. Russian Gazprom’s move to cut supplies of gas to Germany is a warning signal that could cause problems for Europe’s biggest economy in winter, the head of Germany’s energy regulator told a newspaper. Gazprom on Wednesday announced a further cut in the amount of gas it can pump through Nord Stream 1, meaning the pipeline will run at just 40% capacity. “It would significantly worsen our situation,” regulator chief Klaus Mueller told the Rheinische Post daily. “We could perhaps get through the summer as the heating season is over. But it is imperative that we fill the storage facilities to get through the winter.”

4:00 a.m. Swedish furniture brand IKEA will reduce its workforce in Russia and Belarus, sell factories and close its purchase and logistics offices in Moscow and Minsk. The company paused operations in the two countries in early March, but has continued to pay salary for workers.

3:00 a.m. The Federal Reserve raises the benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points — the largest hike since November 1994 — in its latest move to curb the worst inflation the U.S. has faced in 40 years. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the Fed’s goal is a sustained inflation rate of 2%. “What’s becoming more clear is that many factors that we don’t control are going to play a very significant role in deciding whether that’s possible or not. And here I’m thinking of course of commodity prices, the war in Ukraine, supply chain,” Powell said at a news conference following the meeting.

2:50 a.m. Japanese budget airline ZIPAIR Tokyo says it will remove the “Z” logo from the tail of its planes. The design change was motivated in part by Russian forces’ use of the letter “Z” on tanks, trucks and other equipment during their invasion of Ukraine.

Ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine are processed at Dover Air Force Base in the U.S. in January. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

2:15 a.m. The U.S. is providing another $1 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems needed to support Kyiv’s defensive operations in the Donbas region, President Joe Biden says.

“I am also announcing an additional $225 million in humanitarian assistance to help people inside Ukraine, including by supplying safe drinking water, critical medical supplies and health care, food, shelter and cash for families to purchase essential items,” Biden says, according to a White House statement.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says group members are expected to agree an assistance package for Ukraine that will help it transition to modern standard weaponry at a summit later this month.

  © Reuters

Wednesday, June 15

11:55 p.m. Russia’s state-owned Gazprom says it will cut flows of natural gas to Germany through the Nord Stream pipeline for the second time in two days, blaming delays to turbine repairs.

Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, says the timing of the maintenance cited for Tuesday’s reduction appears to be a “political decision.”

11:00 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says he will attend the NATO summit later this month, becoming the first Japanese leader to do so.

The June 29-30 gathering in Madrid will closely follow the Group of Seven summit in Germany, which Kishida will also attend.

Kishida says the Western alliance has relevance for Asia in light of the Ukraine conflict, stressing that “unilateral change to the status quo by force is not acceptable anywhere in the world.” Read more.

10:45 p.m. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu details a United Nations plan to create a sea corridor from Ukraine for grain exports, saying safe routes could be formed without needing to clear the mines around Ukrainian ports.

His comments appear to mark a shift from an earlier proposal to de-mine Ukraine’s ports, a move that Kyiv fears would leave it far more vulnerable to Russian attack from the Black Sea.

8:26 p.m. Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone call on Wednesday that all parties should work toward resolving the crisis in Ukraine “in a responsible manner,” Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.

7:30 p.m. NATO members are expected to agree an assistance package for Ukraine that will help it move from Soviet-era weaponry to NATO standard gear at a summit later this month, the group’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says. “It is very much about enabling the Ukrainians to transition from Soviet-era, from old equipment to more modern NATO standard equipment,” he told reporters ahead of a meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers in Brussels.

11:50 a.m. The European Union’s top aviation safety regulator said he is “very worried” about the safety of Western-made aircraft continuing to fly in Russia without access to spare parts and proper maintenance. The EU and the U.S. have moved to restrict Russia’s access to spare parts following its invasion of Ukraine.

“This is very unsafe,” Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference, adding regulators do not have good data on many of the planes flying in Russia or if any have experienced safety issues in recent months.

9:38 a.m. The U.S. will build temporary silos along the border with Ukraine in a bid to help export more grain and address a growing global food crisis, President Joe Biden said. Since the Russian invasion and blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, grain shipments have stalled and more than 20 million tons are stuck in silos. Ukraine says it faces a shortage of silos for a new crop. The war is stoking prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer. Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies. Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil and Russia a key fertilizer exporter.

Russia’s Daria Kasatkina competes at the French Open in May.

  © Reuters

3:11 a.m. Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be allowed to compete at the U.S. Open this year — but only under a neutral flag, the United States Tennis Association says.

“Tennis has done much through [the] Tennis Plays for Peace [program] for humanitarian support of Ukraine,” USTA President Mike McNulty says. “Unfortunately, the need for help only continues to grow. The USTA will be responding very soon with a broad set of initiatives that will include significant financial assistance and other programs to further support humanitarian relief and the people of Ukraine.”

Players from Russia and Belarus are not allowed to compete at Wimbledon later this month, a move that prompted the men’s ATP and women’s WTA tours to strip the Grand Slam event of its ranking points.

Tuesday, June 14

9:34 p.m. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will create a global wheat shortage for at least three seasons by keeping much of the Ukrainian crop from markets, Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi tells Reuters. Ukraine, known as Europe’s breadbasket, has had its maritime grain export routes blocked by Russia and faces problems such as mined wheat fields and a lack of grain storage space.

“Now we are talking about three wheat harvests at the same time: We cannot take out last year’s crop, we cannot harvest and take out the current one, and we do not particularly want to sow the next one,” Solskyi says.

6:00 p.m. Russia has struck an artillery weapons depot with Kalibr cruise missiles in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region, the RIA news agency reports, citing the Russian defense ministry. Russian air defense forces shot down a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet and an Mi-24 helicopter, TASS news agency reports, citing the ministry.

4:30 p.m. The Moscow Exchange says it will suspend trading of the Swiss franc against the ruble and the dollar from Tuesday after Switzerland adopted new EU sanctions against Russia. “The suspension of operations is due to difficulties conducting settlements in Swiss francs faced by market participants and the financial sector in connection with the restrictive measures imposed by Switzerland on June 10,” the Moscow Exchange said in a statement. Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, updated its sanctions package last Friday to match the EU’s latest restrictions against businesses, banks and individuals from Russia and Belarus.

8:44 a.m. Russian forces cut off the last routes for evacuating citizens from the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, a Ukrainian official said, as the Kremlin pushed for victory in the Donbas region. The last bridge to the city was destroyed, trapping any remaining civilians and making it impossible to deliver humanitarian supplies, said regional governor Sergei Gaidai, adding that some 70% of the city was under Russian control. Ukraine has issued increasingly urgent calls for more Western heavy weapons to help defend Sievierodonetsk, which Kyiv says could hold the key to the battle for the eastern Donbas region and the course of the war, now in its fourth month.

5:09 a.m. The main goal of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine is to protect the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, the Kremlin said after Denis Pushilin, the leader of the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk region of Ukraine, asked for additional forces from Moscow. Pushilin said earlier on Monday, “All necessary forces, including the allied ones, including the forces of the Russian Federation, will be involved in order to counter the enemy.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Russia’s RIA state news agency as saying, “In general, the protection of the republics is the main goal of the special military operation.”

A road sign apparently damaged by cluster munition is seen amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

  © Reuters

1:00 a.m. Russia’s relentless shelling of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv with cluster munitions and scatterable land mines amounts to a war crime that indiscriminately killed hundreds of civilians, Amnesty International says. Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv was under near-constant bombardment from the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 until Ukrainian forces pushed the Russians away from the city in May. Ukraine has said 606 civilians were killed there and 600,000 evacuated. Amnesty said that it had found during a 14-day investigation in April and early May evidence that Russia had used cluster munitions and scatterable mines in Kharkiv.

12:30 a.m. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says it is still possible for Sweden and Finland to overcome Turkey’s concerns over terrorism and arms sales “within a reasonable time” to advance their applications for membership in the alliance. Stoltenberg tells the Financial Times that Turkey’s opposition to the two countries membership bids was unexpected. “Earlier in the process, we had no reasons to believe there would be any problems,” he says. “The Turkish concerns are not new.” Turkey “is an important ally, and when an ally raises security concerns, we have to address them,” Stoltenberg adds.

Monday, June 13

6:00 p.m. An industrial zone where about 500 civilians are sheltering is under heavy artillery fire from Russian forces, the regional governor says. Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine that includes Sievierodonetsk, says on Facebook that Russian forces control about 70% of the city and fighting there is fierce.

11:30 a.m. Business sentiment among major Japanese companies in the April-June period was negative for the second consecutive quarter as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove oil prices higher, government data shows. The confidence index covering firms capitalized at 1 billion yen ($7.4 million) or more logged minus 0.9, compared with minus 7.5 in the January-March period, dragged down by a plunge in auto-related manufacturers at minus 25.4, according to the joint survey by the Finance Ministry and Cabinet Office. The sector was hit by a decrease in production due to parts supply shortages. The figures are calculated by subtracting the percentage of firms reporting worsening conditions from those seeing improvements.

9:40 a.m. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Turkey has “legitimate concerns” over terrorism and other issues that need to be taken seriously. Turkey has accused Finland and Sweden of supporting Kurdish militants and says it will not back the Nordic nations’ NATO bid until they change their policies. Speaking at a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Stoltenberg stressed that “no other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey” and pointed to its strategic geographic location with neighbors like Iraq and Syria.

1:56 a.m. Russian forces have blown up a bridge linking the embattled Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk to another city across the river, cutting off a possible evacuation route for civilians, local officials say. Sievierodonetsk has become the epicenter of the battle for control over Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

For earlier updates, click here.

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