Russian advances in East Ukraine | Daily News

Russian advances in East Ukraine

Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Platinum Jubilee this week
Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Platinum Jubilee this week

As Russian Forces keep gaining control of areas in the East of Ukraine, the Biden administration in the US is sending advanced rocket systems to Ukraine, responding to requests from Ukrainian to curb the advance of Russian Forces in the East.

“America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression,” Biden said in an essay published in the New York Times. Ukrainian officials provided assurances they would not use the weapons to strike targets inside Russia.

Russian Forces now control most of Severodonetsk, one of the last major Ukrainian-held areas of the Eastern Luhansk region. Capturing it would give the Kremlin a significant symbolic victory.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow’s combat power is at “maximum” strength, in its push to capture the wider Donbas region, which includes Luhansk and Donetsk. “The situation in the Donbas direction is very difficult,” Zelensky said in his nightly address, adding that Severodonetsk is “at the epicentre of the confrontation.”

As the 100th day since Russia launched its invasion nears, the tide of battle in Ukraine’s East seems to be pulling in Moscow’s favour. On Monday, Russian troops entered the outskirts of Severodonetsk, one of the last strategically significant cities in the Luhansk region still in Ukrainian control. Should the city fall, it would give Russia and its proxy forces de facto authority over half of Donbas, the country’s coveted Eastern industrial heartland.

In a recent interview with a French radio station, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated that the current momentum was part of the Kremlin’s newly focused aim. “Our obvious objective is, of course, to push the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian battalions out of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” he said, amid rising fears among Western officials that Russia intends to annex territory in Donbas and Kherson, a region abutting already annexed Crimea.

As the Russian advance in the East continues, Ukrainian officials have made their demands loud and clear. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, members of the Kyiv’s delegation urged for more military aid and heavy weaponry from the United States and Europe. They framed the reasons for their demands in ideological terms: Ukraine’s defence was the defence of all liberal, democratic societies. Russian victory, on the other hand, would mark the victory of might over right, of brute tyranny over the rule of law.

As the Biden administration announced further deliveries of weapons and munitions to Ukraine, which may include advanced long-range rocket systems that would help thwart Russia’s advance in the East. President Biden has indicated that he did not want to send the type of rocket system whose range could reach deep into Russian territory. The Kremlin cast Biden’s remarks as “rational”.

In Europe, there remain pronounced differences in the approach to the conflict. France and Germany, for example, recently urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to engage in direct talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky, over ending the Black Sea blockade that has been so ruinous for the global economy. That appeal was met with derision from politicians in the Baltic States further to the East, who want to deepen Russia’s isolation and deliver Putin a decisive defeat.

Queen’s Jubilee

Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Platinum Jubilee this week marking 70 years since her ascension to the throne.

She is the first British monarch to celebrate 70 years of service and will be honoured for the work she’s done for the people of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the Realms.

Jubilee celebrations have been ongoing for the past year, but it culminates later this week with a four-day holiday in the UK that will be full of pomp and pageantry.

The free flower festival, Chelsea in Bloom, was launched on May 23, 2022 in London, England. The streets around Sloane Square are full of tributes as businesses participate with ‘British Icons’ as their 2022 theme. The festival coincides with The Chelsea Flower Show, inspired by the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Among the major events in this celebration is Trooping the Colour, the Queen’s annual birthday parade with festivities on June 2, when more than 1,200 officers and soldiers, the 1st Battalion and the Irish Guards will put on a display of military pageantry. They will be joined by hundreds of army musicians and approximately 240 horses.

It’s an annual birthday tradition that has been used to celebrate the birthday of the British sovereign for more than 260 years.

It will be one of the busiest events in London — tickets are already sold out — there will be an opportunity for people to view the parade as it travels from Buckingham Palace to the parade ground. There will also be large screens erected in St. James’ Park for Londoners to watch and the festivities will be shown live on TV.

Once the parade has ended and the procession has returned to the palace, the Royal Family will make a balcony appearance, as they do every year.

Platinum Jubilee Beacons - The U.K. will uphold the long-standing tradition of lighting beacons to celebrate the jubilee.

The beacon chain, once used as a tool for communication, is now used for royal jubilees, weddings and coronations, as a sign of unity across towns and borders in the UK.

In 1977, 2002 and 2012, beacons commemorated the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees of the Queen, and in 2016 her 90th birthday. More than 1,500 beacons will be lit throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and U.K. overseas territories.

A principal beacon, called The Tree of Trees, will be lit in a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace on the evening of June 2.

There are three kinds of beacon events - Community Beacons — thousands of beacons will be lit by communities, charities and different groups throughout the regions of the U.K., Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories.

Commonwealth Beacons — beacons will be lit in all capital cities of the Commonwealth – 54 in total.

Principal Beacon — to be lit on June 2 in a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Service of Thanksgiving - On June 3, Great Paul, the largest church bell in the country, will ring a service of thanksgiving for the Queen’s reign, to be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The bell was made in 1882 but fell silent in the 1970s due to a broken mechanism. It was fixed in 2021 and has been rung eight times since, but this is the first time it will ring for a royal occasion since its restoration.

The jubilee weekend is expected to deliver a £6bn-plus boost to high streets and hospitality businesses as Britons take advantage of the four-day break to splash out on street parties and nights out.

Revellers are expected to spend more than £2bn on food and drink supplies alone, while pubs, bars and restaurants are hoping to ring up almost £3bn in sales, research suggests, as the two bank holidays combine with half-term breaks for most schools in England and Wales.

About a fifth of the population plans to join a street party, with around £600,000 expected to be spent on decorations and memorabilia as retailers tempt shoppers with the questionable delights of Queen-shaped gnomes, corgi balloons and union flag bunting.

UK: Threat to Johnson

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is faced with an increasing threat of a No Confidence by the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, over the “Partygate” scandal.

For weeks now, Westminster is expecting 54 Conservative MPs calling for a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson. If, as now appears increasingly likely, that threshold is breached in the coming days, another number will become all-important: the 180 MPs required to kick him out of Downing Street.

The Tories have a reputation for ruthlessness when it comes to throwing out their leaders, and the rules of a no-confidence vote are stark: if Johnson loses, he is out.

He would be expected to stay on as prime minister while a successor was chosen, but he would be disqualified from standing in the leadership race.

The House of Commons is in recess until the afternoon of Monday June 6; but if the 54 threshold is reached this week the 1922 Committee chair, Graham Brady, could announce that a vote will be held when MPs return.

With 359 sitting Conservative MPs, it would take 180 votes to defeat the prime minister.

“Partygate” is a political scandal in the United Kingdom about parties and other gatherings of government and Conservative Party staff held during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, when public health restrictions prohibited most gatherings. While several lockdowns in the country were in place, gatherings took place at 10 Downing Street, its garden and other government buildings.

These were first reported on from late November 2021 and attracted media attention, public backlash and political controversy. In late January 2022, twelve gatherings came under investigation by the Metropolitan Police, including at least three attended by PM Boris Johnson. The police issued 126 fixed penalty notices to 83 individuals who the police found had committed an offense under COVID-19 regulations, including one each to Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson, and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who all apologized and paid the penalties.

Many Tory MPs are holding back from submitting letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson over fears their names will leak and they will face reprisals from the whips.

Rebel Conservatives trying to orchestrate enough names to oust the prime minister say many MPs, particularly newer ones, are concerned about the privacy of the process.

Conservative backbenchers said the newer MPs in particular were worried about being targeted by the whips if they went public with having submitted letters, and if the overthrown attempt is ultimately unsuccessful.

Many at Westminster believe the most likely outcome is that Johnson wins by a narrow majority – one veteran Tory described it as “nip and tuck”. He would then face the decision of whether to throw in the towel, rather than press on, with his authority badly undermined.

Colleagues who know him well suggest there is little or no chance of him voluntarily stepping aside, and instead would press on in the hope he can rekindle the public’s love for him.

“He would hang on even if it was a one-vote majority,” said one former Cabinet colleague. “He loves the trappings.”

EU - Russian Gas

Europe is developing contingency plans in case of a complete halt to Russian gas imports, the EU’s Energy Commissioner said, as she warned that any country was at risk of being cut off by Moscow.

The EU is reportedly racing to store as much gas as possible and could replace most of Russia’s deliveries this year, but would have to do more if there were any “full disruption” of supplies. The plans being drawn up by the European Commission would include measures to ration gas supplies to industry, while sparing households.

Russian state-owned gas supplier Gazprom has already cut gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria, Finland and the Netherlands, for refusing to comply with a Kremlin decree to pay their bills in rubles instead of euros or dollars. “We are facing a situation that any member state might be the next one [to be cut off],” an EU official said.

“So far we have been able to take care of the security of supply concerns of these member states, mainly with the help of the solidarity of neighbours.”

Kadri Simson, the EU’s Energy Commissioner, said it would be ‘do-able’ for the bloc to replace two-thirds of Russian gas this year, which accounts for 27 per cent of EU gas use, with chemicals, ceramics, food and glass production the biggest consumers. The commission has said it would protect key supply chains for food, security, and health and safety products.

Analysts say it would be “do-able” to replace two-thirds of Russian gas this year, as the commission has previously vowed to do, expressing optimism about efforts to secure alternative supplies. The EU has received record deliveries of liquefied natural gas this year, enabling it to start to refill underground reservoirs. Energy companies from several big gas consumers, such as Italy and Germany, have said they will comply with the Russian decree, which has been amended so that Russia’s sanctioned central bank is not directly involved in converting payments made in euros or dollars into rubles.

The European Commission last week unveiled a €210bn plan to wean Europe off Russian energy by 2027, including targets to cut energy use and invest in renewables. Shedding Russian gas is a massive task for the EU, which before the war with Ukraine got 40 percent of its gas supplies from Russia. This has now fallen to around 26 per cent, the commission has said.

Russia supplied 155bn cubic metres of gas last year. The Estonian Commissioner said Brussels expected more gas from the US and Norway and was talking to new suppliers. “We are working with Egypt and Israel, and hopefully before the summer we will have bilateral agreements with them. We are planning to renew our energy dialogue with Algeria,” she said. Hungary is blocking a proposal for an embargo on Russian oil, which last year accounted for 25 per cent of EU consumption.

Aussie record

Australia’s new government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, includes a record 13 women, including the first female Muslim to serve in the role and the second Indigenous person named Indigenous Affairs Minister.

“Proud to lead an inclusive government that is as diverse as Australia itself,” Albanese wrote on Twitter. “Welcome to all these new Labor members.”

Youth Minister Anne Aly is Australia’s first female Muslim Minister, while Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic is the first Muslim to serve in Cabinet.

Linda Burney became the first woman, and only the second Indigenous person, to serve as Indigenous Affairs Minister.

Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong were sworn-in early last week so they could fly to Tokyo for a summit with President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Of the 30 ministers appointed to the new government, nearly half are women. Women also hold a record 10 spots out of 23 in core Cabinet roles.

In last month's election, the Labor Party secured enough seats to hold an outright majority in the 150-seat House.

Albanese's Cabinet includes some new faces as well as some lawmakers who served in the previous Labor government that last held power nine years ago.

“We have an overflow of talent on our side of the Parliament,” Albanese said, adding that “it’s the most experienced incoming Labor Government in our history since federation.”

Denmark - EU defence

Polling stations have opened in Denmark for voters to decide whether to abandon their country’s 30-year-old opt-out from the European Union's common defence policy.

The referendum is the latest example of European countries seeking closer defence links with allies, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It follows Sweden and Finland’s historic bids to join NATO, which plans to take up their applications at the end of the month.

Some 4.2 million Danish voters are eligible to cast ballots in the referendum. The “yes” side - in favour of getting rid of the 1992 opt-out - has been ahead in recent months. Polls showed it with around 40% support and the “no” side with 30%.

“The world is changing, and not in a good way. We need to stand together and strengthen the cooperation that strengthens our security,” Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, Head of the Opposition Liberal Party, said as he handed out flyers Wednesday in a last-minute attempt to convince undecided voters to vote “yes.”

Recent polls showed that about 20% of voters remained undecided.

“Unfortunately we are looking forward to a time that will be even more unstable than what we experience now,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said after casting her vote. “I believe it is the right thing for Europe, I believe it is the right thing for Denmark, believe it is the right thing for our future.”

Denmark joining the EU's defence policy would have a relatively modest impact on Europe’s security architecture, particularly compared to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. But Christine Nissen, a researcher with the Danish Institute for International Studies, said both moves were “part of the same story,” and would strengthen military cooperation on a continent stunned by the war in Ukraine.

The main effect of abandoning the opt-out would be that Danish officials could stay in the room when EU colleagues discuss defense topics, and Danish Forces could take part in EU military operations.

One of the founding members of NATO, Denmark has stayed on the sidelines of the EU’s efforts to build a common security and defence policy in parallel with the trans-Atlantic NATO alliance. It was one of four opt-outs that Danes insisted on before adopting the EU’s Maastricht Treaty, which laid the foundation for political and economic union.

The waiver means Denmark has not participated in the EU’s discussions on defence policy, its development and acquisition of military capabilities and its joint military operations, such as those in Africa and Bosnia.

In a 1993 referendum, Denmark also opted out of cooperation in EU justice and home affairs, the common currency and citizenship.

The citizenship opt-out, which said European citizenship would not replace national citizenship, has since become irrelevant as other members later adopted the same position. But the other provisions remain intact despite efforts by successive governments to overturn them.

Danish voters in 2000 decided to stay outside the eurozone, and 15 years later they voted to keep the exemption on justice and home affairs.

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