Washington has unveiled the details of its 11th package of military assistance to Ukraine worth $700 million. Central to the package is a decision to equip Kiev with HIMARS, that could be used to hit Russian targets from Ukraine. The authorities in the US claim their aim is to support the armed forces in Ukraine, while Kiev has promised Washington not to use the high mobility artillery rocket systems for attacks on Russia. However, the move risks escalating the conflict further and getting third countries involved in it.
"The United States will stand with our Ukrainian partners and continue to provide Ukraine with weapons and equipment to defend itself," US President Joe Biden said in a statement, announcing the package. Furthermore, Washington on Wednesday made it clear that Kiev should not use the US weapons it had been receiving for offensive or possible attacks on Russian territory.
This latest $700 million package is part of the $40 billion defense and humanitarian assistance the US Congress approved for Ukraine in May. It includes a wide range of armaments, such as helicopters, tactical vehicles, Javelin antitank rockets and Stingers. Yet, the deliveries of HIMARS are key. The Pentagon said four systems would enter service with the Ukrainian army as soon as possible, and those have already been dispatched to Europe in advance, with training to take up to three weeks. Kommersant reported earlier that the systems can hit targets at a distance of up to 300 kilometers.
President of the American University in Moscow Edward Lozansky says the decision to send the rocket systems to Ukraine could have "catastrophic consequences", and "the world has been expecting a Russian response with bated breath." In an interview with Kommersant, the expert slammed the "laughable" guarantees from Kiev not to use the systems against Russia, saying the Ukrainian president had repeatedly broken his promises.
The West is backing down in its sanctions attack on Russia. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas Greenfield has promised to remove uncertainty and the high risk of renewed punitive action for trade with Russia. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated on Wednesday that the global food crisis would not be ironed out until Russian and Ukrainian agricultural products return to global markets.
Western officials have been increasingly voicing their concerns over a global food deficit amid the situation in Ukraine and are ready to discuss it with Russia. On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron offered his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a scenario envisaging the UN greenlighting a resolution on the export of Ukrainian grain from Odessa, while Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced on Wednesday that his country received funds from the EU to develop infrastructure for Ukrainian grain exports.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta experts see "signs of sanity" in the efforts to coordinate grain deliveries. "There can be no sanctions against the world’s top grain exporter without consequences," Executive Director of the Capital Market Department at Univer Capital Artem Tuzov said. He thinks the US letters of guarantees to insurers and exporters should alleviate Russian grain exports. "Yet, similar letters should be provided by the EU, the UK and other countries who have joined anti-Russian sanctions. The largest insurance companies and exporters operate globally, and US export licenses are no guarantee that the EU or the UK would not have their claims," the expert said.
TeleTrade Chief Analyst Mark Goikhman said the US proposals were good news. However, "this does not mean to say the sanctions will be softened. The idea is they should not hinder the world from running normal trade or having financial ties. No sanctions have been imposed on Russian grain exports, yet foreign insurers and exporters fear there might be consequences in a crisis."
Andrey Turchak, secretary of the General Council of the United Russia party and first deputy chairman of the Federation Council, was the first Russian official to announce that the Kherson Region could join Russia. "The decision should be made by residents [of this region] themselves, and I am confident they will do so. And I have absolutely no doubt that the region will become part of the Russian Federation," Turchak said.
He said a referendum should be held when "the situation is ripe without any shelling attacks and as soon as there is a security zone [between these regions and Ukraine]".
LDPR leader and Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutsky said he expected referendums to be held in the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics and in the Kherson Region "as early as in July." "It is likely to happen in July, but I won’t make any guesses over a potential location, yet I assume the liberated territories will hold a referendum at a more or less simultaneous time," he added.
Crimean Senator Sergey Tsekov said the issue could be put to a referendum a bit later - "within a year", Vedomosti reported.
Political analyst Alexander Nemtsev told the paper that he believes a separate federal district could be created or that the regions could be integrated into Crimea. "The question arises as to who will be senior [in the Russian political hierarchy] to [head of the Kherson Region’s civil-military administration Vladimir] Saldo and the leaders of the DPR and the LPR," he said.
Nemtsev said the name of a united district could be something other than "Crimean". Also, other political issues will have to be solved as soon as a new federal district appears, like who will be its plenipotentiary envoy and where its capital will be located, the expert said.
Chairman of the Russian Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin told Rossiyskaya Gazeta his agency had been getting hold of more and more proof of crimes committed by the Kiev regime, including material evidence, thousands of testimonies, expert conclusions, and monitoring data. All this evidence shows that some 350 people are involved in serious and particularly serious crimes. These include military and political officials, law enforcement officers, as well as members of radical Ukrainian nationalist formations and mercenaries, Bastrykin said. Half of them are people who have committed crimes against the peace and the security of mankind, and a number of those are wanted, he added.
Since 2014, over a thousand criminal cases have been opened over incidents in the two Donbass republics and Ukraine, with 70,000 victims, including minors, he said. The bulk of crimes under investigation comprises shelling attacks on civilians using artillery guns, mortars, MLRS, while murders, kidnappings and cases of torture are also being investigated.
Bastrykin described some crimes mostly against those civilians who do not support Kiev’s Nazi regime as stunningly unhuman. Over the past three months, Ukrainian nationalists have killed more than 400 civilians, with over 2,000 homes damaged, he said.
The head of the Russian Investigative Committee told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that he had instructed his teams of detectives and criminologists to assess the damage, which could run up to hundreds of billions rubles.
Also, more than 70 foreign mercenaries are involved in criminal cases, including individuals from the US, Canada, Great Britain, Norway and Georgia, Bastrykin said, and some of them have surrendered or have been interrogated. Nobody in Ukraine has ever probed crimes against civilians in the Donbass republics, while other countries have been ignoring the failure by Kiev to abide by its international commitments, though they have sent Ukraine their financial assistance, along with military trainers and advisers, he added.
He said Russia had never tolerated such crimes, and now that the new republics have been formed, those who have for many years tortured and killed civilians should be tried in Donbass, which, he said, complies with criminal proceedings and common sense.
In April-May, the Russian Aviation Agency certified five companies as aircraft engineers, a source close to the regulator told Vedomosti, and the information has been confirmed by some of the companies. This means that the companies are now allowed to modify foreign aircraft, have minor modifications certified and issue technical documents.
Russian aviation has been one of the most impacted sectors since the launch of the special military operation in Ukraine, the newspaper said. The sanctions imposed against it include a ban on deliveries of aircraft and components to Russian air carriers, as well as a ban on insurance and maintenance works. Foreign leasing companies were scheduled to pull their planes out of Russia before March 28, yet the bulk of foreign aircraft remained in the country, and air carriers use those for domestic flights.
The certificates will enable companies to develop components for aircraft, Fyodor Borisov, an expert with the Higher School of Economics, told the paper. Later on, the companies could produce some key parts to replace foreign ones. "The certification is to acknowledge that a company is qualified for finding solutions to replace original components," Borisov explained.
The move should also help address the lack of components for aircraft maintenance and repair works amid the sanctions, he said. The airline industry would be expected to come up with specific proposals on import substitution, yet nobody can guarantee that these proposals will be available quickly under the circumstances, the expert said.
Oleg Panteleyev, who heads the Aviaport agency, finds it useful to localize the production of some components for foreign aircraft. Apart from key parts and devices that should be inside the aircraft throughout its service life, there are parts for which there should be specific documents, he said. And the production of solid amounts of such items as filters and gaskets in Russia could be cost effective, Panteleyev concluded.
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