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War in Ukraine enters 'protracted phase': Defence minister

Putin says Europe’s oil sanctions are ‘economic suicide’

Image: Ukraine Presidency/Ukraine Presi

Updated May 17th 2022, 9:00 PM

THE WAR WITH Russia is entering “a protracted phase”, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said today, as Moscow’s troops are now trying to take full control of the east and south of the country.

“Russia is preparing for a long-term military operation,” Reznikov told European Union defence ministers and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

“The war is entering a protracted phase,” he added in the speech, the text of which was published on his Facebook page.

According to Reznikov, Russian troops are currently building fortifications in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions in order to “move to defence if necessary”.

The Kremlin’s main efforts are now focused on “encircling and destroying groups of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, creating and maintaining a land corridor from Russia to Crimea, and completing the occupation of southern Ukraine”, he added.

Reznikov called on Ukraine’s Western allies for more coordination in arms deliveries to Kyiv, “to liberate our territories as soon as possible”.

French President Emmanuel Macron told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a call today that arms supplies from Paris would “increase in intensity”, according to a statement from the French presidency.

“He confirmed that arms deliveries by France would continue and would increase in intensity in the days and weeks to come, the same as for the supply of humanitarian equipment,” the statement said.

France was initially hesitant to supply heavy weaponry to Kyiv as Macron positioned himself as a mediator in the crisis, holding regular conversations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

But Macron’s talks with the Kremlin strongman have tapered off and overt French military support to Ukraine has increased in recent months.

At the end of April, Macron announced that France would supply Milan anti-tank missiles as well as Caesar howitzers, which are highly prized for their accuracy.

The French statement said that a total of 800 tonnes of humanitarian aid had been delivered since February.

The two leaders also discussed ways of exporting Ukrainian grains such as wheat, which many poor countries depend on.

Ukraine has long been one of the world’s main breadbaskets, but it is struggling to export its produce due to a naval blockade by Russia and its harvest this year is expected to be cut by as much as half.

“The two presidents also discussed the security guarantees that France could give to Ukraine as part of an international agreement in order to guarantee the respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country,” the French statement said.

Zelenskyy has occasionally had harsh words for Macron, once suggesting that the French leader was scared of Putin and recently saying his talks with the Russian leader were “in vain”.

Macron irked the Ukrainian government last week by saying that Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union could take “decades” and that the country should be offered an arrangement short of full membership in the meantime.

Separately, Kyiv said today that peace talks to end fighting with Russia in Ukraine had been suspended and blamed Moscow for failing to find areas for compromise.

“The negotiation process is on hold,” Mykhaylo Podolyak, a presidential aide was cited as saying in a statement issued by the presidency.

Podolyak, who is also Kyiv’s lead negotiator in talks with Russia’s delegation, said Moscow was blind to its “extremely negative” role in the world.

“The strategic objective of the Russians is: all or nothing,” Podolyak was cited as saying.

He said Russian failed to understand that the war is “no longer taking place according to its rules, its timetable, or its plans”.

Talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegation have been held regularly both in person and via video-link since the Kremlin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine on February 24.

The Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers met for inconclusive talks in Turkey in March, followed by a meeting of the delegations in Istanbul, which also failed to bring about concrete results.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said earlier Tuesday that talks were not being held “in any form” between the two sides, in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

Also today, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the oil sector was undergoing a “tectonic change”, but claimed Europe would be committing “economic suicide” with its sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine.

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By seeking to phase out Russian energy supplies, Europe will only hurt itself, Putin said, urging state officials to use “ill-thought-out” moves by the West to the country’s advantage.

He told an energy meeting that Europe would see higher energy prices and higher inflation as a result of its actions.

“Of course, such an economic suicide is a domestic affair of the European countries,” Putin said.

After the Kremlin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24, the West has introduced unprecedented sanctions against Russia.

Western countries have displayed close coordination in their announcements of penalties, but have not moved at the same pace when it comes to Russian oil and gas.

Putin is hoping to redirect supplies to “friendly” countries as European nations look for ways to wean themselves off Russian energy.

Putin said Europe’s “chaotic actions” are not only damaging its own economy, but also leading to an increase in revenues from oil and gas for Russia.

“Changes in the oil market are tectonic in nature and doing business as usual, according to the old model, seems unlikely,” he said.

“In the new conditions, it is important not only to extract oil, but also to build the entire vertical chain leading to the final consumer,” he added.

Putin said the government will help companies change their business model.

The Kremlin chief said the state would help improve logistics as well as the deep processing of hydrocarbons and ensure payments in national currencies.

 © AFP 2022

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