Countercurrents | September 02, 2022
Citing anonymous sources CNN claimed on Thursday, U.S. officials helped prepare the Ukrainian military for its counteroffensive against Russian forces in the south of the country.
In its article, CNN, one of largest US news organizations, alleged that this assistance included joint “war gaming” analytical exercises designed to help the Ukrainians get a clear picture of how much personnel and hardware they would need in different scenarios. U.S. officials reportedly were able to better understand what kind of equipment, munitions or intelligence Washington could offer to Kiev.
According to the CNN report, which cites multiple U.S. and Western officials and also Ukrainian sources, U.S. had suggested that Kiev should keep its counteroffensive focused solely on the Kherson region in the south of the country as opposed to trying to strike on multiple fronts, which had supposedly been the Ukrainians’ initial plan.
When asked for comment by CNN, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder refused to go into detail about the nature of what he called “routine military-to-military dialogue,” merely adding that the U.S. provides the Ukrainians “with information to help them better understand the threats they face and defend their country against Russian aggression.” He also noted that Ukraine was the one making the final decision.
While arguing that there is now increased parity between the Ukrainian and Russian militaries, the multiple sources cited in the article pointed out that question marks were still hanging over whether Kiev’s counteroffensive would be successful and how long it would take.
Among the factors that have allegedly tipped the scale more in Ukraine’s favor recently, the anonymous officials named the delivery of sophisticated Western weaponry, including the U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), and supposed hostility toward Russian troops among large swaths of the population in Russia-controlled regions of the country. The latter, according to CNN, has been translating into guerilla-style attacks, assassinations and sabotage efforts behind Russian lines.
An anonymous U.S. defense official cited by CNN concluded that much will now depend on how well Russian forces are able to defend the seized territory, adding that the Ukrainian counteroffensive may end up not being as “massive” as some would expect.
On Monday, Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that Ukraine’s offensive in the Kherson region had “failed miserably,” with pro-Kiev forces suffering “great losses.” Moscow stated that Ukrainian troops had been unable to make any gains.
Russia Mulls $70 billion Yuan-led Currency Purchase
A report by Bloomberg said on Thursday:
Russia is considering buying some $70 billion in yuan and other currencies of ‘friendly’ nations that have not placed sanctions on the country this year.
According to the report, the plan was passed at a meeting between top government officials and representatives of the Central Bank of Russia on August 30.
The move is reportedly aimed at slowing the strengthening of the ruble, which could pose problems for the Russian economy by reducing exporter’s profits. Russia is also reportedly eager to keep its exchange reserves in ‘friendly’ currencies instead of the euro and US dollar, after $300 billion of the country’s reserves were frozen by the West as part of Ukraine-related sanctions.
“The $300 billion frozen has become vulnerability and a symbol of missed opportunities,” the report prepared for the meeting said, as cited by the news outlet, which obtained a copy of the document reportedly verified by the participants at the meeting.
The document noted, however, that even buying currencies of ‘friendly’ countries may prove problematic, because it would require separate agreements, while the currencies of other nations are subject to either political or devaluation risks.
According to First Deputy Chairman of the Bank of Russia Dmitry Tulin, who spoke to business outlet RBK, it is “much safer to use currencies of countries that do not support sanctions against Russia” even though there is a small risk they may decide to join the sanctions later. However, long-term savings in alternative currencies may be tricky and may require an individual approach depending on the country, as various currencies “differ greatly from each other in terms of liquidity, exchange rate volatility and the possibility of using them in commodity and financial markets.”
West Initially Pushed Zelensky To Negotiations With Russia, Says Ex-Ukraine President
An Ukrainska Pravda report said:
European leaders were initially pushing Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky towards peace negotiations with Russia, but later changed their tune, the country’s former president, Viktor Yushchenko, have said.
“I will not name any names, but presidents and prime ministers were arriving from Europe in groups with one message for President Zelensky: ‘Sit at the negotiating table, and we will figure something out later,” Yushchenko, who governed Ukraine from 2005 to 2010, told newspaper Ukrainska Pravda last Thursday.
Yushchenko added that the tone changed significantly after Ukraine accused Russian troops of committing war crimes in Bucha and other towns outside of Kiev in the spring.
Moscow denies that its soldiers have committed war crimes and maintains that its troops only strike military targets.
Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine effectively broke down in late March, with both sides blaming each other for the failure of the negotiations.
Ukrainian and Western officials have since argued that talks with Moscow would only make sense if Kiev gains the upper hand on the battlefield and can negotiate from a position of strength.
IAEA Establishes Continued Presence At Zaporozhye NPP
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is organizing continued presence at the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in southern Ukraine, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said on Thursday.
“We are finishing our long-awaited visit to the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. I have just completed a first tour of the key areas that we wanted to see in this first approach to the whole facility. Of course, there is a lot more to do. My team is staying on. And more importantly, most importantly, we are establishing our continued presence from the IAEA here,” he said in a video published on his Twitter page.
Grossi told reporters that the IAEA team had conducted an initial assessment, had seen “the key things” they needed to see, and were planning to stay on.
Energodar residents, who Grossi talked to before leaving the plant, handed him a petition with over 20,000 signatures calling to stop Ukraine’s provocations against the nuclear power plant. They also handed the IAEA chief photos and eyewitnesses’ statements related to shelling of the city by the Ukrainian armed forces.
Earlier, Grossi told reporters that it had been hard for the mission to reach the Zaporozhye NPP. According to the IAEA chief, it is crucial for the world to know what is happening on the ground and the IAEA continued presence at the plant is needed to stabilize the situation and obtain regular, reliable and unbiased data.
On Thursday, the IAEA mission led by Grossi left the Ukraine-controlled area for the liberated area of the Zaporozhye Region to inspect the Zaporozhye NPP. The delegation, which is on a fact-finding mission to estimate the material damage to the plant and to evaluate the operational capabilities of the plant’s safety and security systems, arrived in the city of Energodar on Thursday afternoon. The experts are supposed to assess the staff’s working conditions and take urgent measures to provide safety and security guarantees for the facility.
Earlier reports said:
The IAEA inspectors reached the Zaporozhye NPP amid reports of renewed shelling and combat.
The visit comes hours after the Russian Defense Ministry accused Kiev of dispatching commandos in an attempt to seize the plant. According to Russian officials, the attack has been repelled.
Russian troops took control of the facility shortly after Moscow launched its military operation in the neighboring country. As the plant continued to operate with local staff, Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of firing shells and missiles dangerously close to its reactors.
Macron Vows To Prevent Russia From Winning War In Ukraine
An AP report said:
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday pledged to keep up France’s humanitarian, economic and military support to Ukraine and to bolster European unity as a way to pile pressure on Russia and prevent it from winning it war in that country.
“We cannot let Russia militarily win the war,” Macron said in a speech to French ambassadors at the Elysee presidential palace.
He set the goal of enabling Ukraine to either win militarily or be put in a strong position to achieve “a negotiated peace.”
“We must get prepared for a long war,” Macron said, adding that this would involve tensions escalating over Ukraine’s nuclear plants.
Macron said France strongly supported the mission of the IAEA that arrived Thursday to the Zaporizhzhia plant to assess its safety. The French president suggested he would call his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin after the IAEA mission concludes.
Macron vowed to “keep talking” to Russia despite criticism from some countries, especially in eastern Europe, which defend a hardline stance against Moscow. “We must do everything to make a negotiated peace possible” when Russia and Ukraine will be ready to sit for talks, he said.
“We must not let Europe get divided” over the war in Ukraine and its consequences, Macron said, adding that the EU mustn’t align itself with “warmongers” or allow countries from eastern Europe to act alone in support of Kyiv.
In a nearly two-hour speech meant to outline the goals of the French diplomacy in the upcoming year, Macron praised the views expressed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this week in Prague as “fully in line” with his own plea for a stronger, more independent and sovereign Europe.
Macron called on Europe to “defend” its freedoms and values and to “fight” for them.
He also urged French diplomats to push back more aggressively against misinformation, fake news and propaganda spread on social media.
Paris needs to use some communication tools to “break the Russian, Chinese or Turkish storytelling” and be able to “say when France is wrongly attacked, to say what France really did,” he said.
Ukraine Conflict Will Be Over Soon, Says Belarusian President
A media report from Minsk said:
The denouement in the Ukraine conflict is coming soon, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has predicted, alleging that there are tensions emerging between the country’s armed forces and its civilian leadership.
Speaking on Thursday during a virtual class for all Belarusian school and university students, Lukashenko said that “Ukraine is being divided” and that a “a conflict is brewing between the president and the military.”
According to the Belarusian leader, the Ukrainian army is the only power in the country that can “pound the table and say: let’s talk or else Ukraine will be wiped off the face of the earth.”
Lukashenko argued that the country’s military, which has first-hand experience of what is actually happening on the frontline, “sees that it is hopeless.”
He warned that the conflict in the neighboring country could spiral into the “most dreadful confrontation” involving the use of weapons of mass destruction.
He also stated that “Russia cannot suffer a defeat there,” adding that Minsk stands firmly by its ally, Moscow.
Lukashenko went on to call out those who describe Russia and Belarus as “aggressors.”
He argued that Moscow’s military operation was pre-emptive in nature, helping to avert an imminent Ukrainian missile strike on the southern regions of Belarus, including against Russian forces that had not yet been withdrawn from the country after military drills.
Lukashenko suggested that the West – and the U.S. in particular – had been behind the preparation for the planned attack against Belarus, claiming those powers would still “do everything to bring Russia to its knees.”
According to the Belarusian leader everything depends in Ukraine “not on the president, but on the military.”
“They [the military] are getting slaughtered there. They see no prospects. Take a look at Ukraine’s west; the Poles are rubbing their hands, and are already carving up Ukraine’s land,” Lukashenko said adding that “the peak is expected very soon.”
The Belarussian head of state believes that the people of Ukraine “should have their say, because the president has nothing to say.”
Lukashenko also said it was abnormal “that cargoes of foodstuffs and grain are being transported to Europe,” when there is nothing to eat for the people of Ukraine.