Ukraine won't win war, Hungarian leader says; US reporter's arrest extended 3 months: Updates
Kyiv is doomed to defeat against Russia in a war that has killed thousands of Ukrainians, left Ukraine's cities battered and its economy in shambles, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday.
Orban, speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum, argued that sending further military aid will only lead to more deaths. Hungary is a member of the European Union but retains close ties to Moscow. Orban has repeatedly balked at sanctions, claiming they are a domestic hardship that won't expedite an end to the war.
“Emotionally it's tragic, all of our hearts are with the Ukrainians,” Orban said at the Bloomberg-sponsored event. "But I'm talking as a politician who should save lives. There's no chance to win this war."
Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Oleg Nikolenko dismissed Orban's view, saying that before the war began some European politicians argued that Ukraine had no chance to hold out for more than 72 hours.
"They were wrong then, and they are wrong now," Nikolenko said. "Unlike the supporters of capitulation to the enemy without resistance, the Ukrainians will continue to fight until the complete liberation of their territories from Russian occupation."
◾ The Kremlin is considering an export ban on gas to prevent domestic fuel shortages and ease domestic gas prices that have been rising since April, Reuters reports. The Russian finance ministry plans to halve subsidies to oil refiners to replenish state coffers are expected to add to the Russian gas price crunch.
◾ Julius Baer, one of the largest Swiss banks, began freezing investment accounts of its Russian and Belarusian clients at the request of the central securities depository Euroclear, Forbes Russia reported. Euroclear submitted the request to comply with international sanctions.
◾ Ukraine has enough weapons to launch its counteroffensive, which "will start soon,'' the country's head of military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, said in an interview with NHK, Japan's public media organization.
◾ Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited naval infantry troops at the front line to mark the annual Day of the Ukrainian Marines.
◾ Several countries, including Poland, have already started training Ukrainian pilots to use U.S.-built F-16 fighter jets, said the European Union's chief diplomat, Josep Borrell. President Joe Biden said last week the U.S. will train Ukrainian pilots.
Detainment of American reporter Evan Gershkovich extended 3 months
A Russian court extended by three months Tuesday the arrest of American reporter Evan Gershkovich of the Wall Street Journal, whom the U.S. government considers wrongfully detained.
Gershkovich, 31, was ordered held until Aug. 30 on espionage charges he, the newspaper and the U.S. have denied. Russian authorities have not presented any evidence to substantiate the accusation against Gershkovich, who was arrested March 29 while on a reporting trip in Russia.
The case against him has been shrouded in secrecy, including Tuesday's pre-trial hearing, which was held behind closed doors and not announced in advance. U.S. Embassy officials were allowed to visit Gershkovich once at Moscow's Lefortovo prison, but Russian authorities have denied permission for other visits.
The New York Times reported that Gershkovich’s parents − Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, Soviet emigres who live in New Jersey − were admitted into Tuesday's hearing and saw him in person for the first time since his arrest after waiting outside the courtroom for more than an hour. They did not comment afterward.
Russia carries out 'professional' intercept of US fighter jets
The Pentagon said Tuesday that there was a “safe and professional interaction’’ between two of its warplanes and Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea, an exchange the Russian Ministry of Defense characterized as an intercept.
A statement from the ministry’s National Defense Control of the Russian Federation posted on Telegram said it detected the two American fighter jets approaching Russian territory.
“To prevent violation of the state border of the Russian Federation, a Su-27 fighter from the air defense forces of the Baltic Fleet was taken into the air,” the statement said. “The crew of the Russian fighter classified the air targets as two US Air Force B-1B strategic bombers and occupied the established air watch zone.”
The Pentagon's spokesman, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, seemed to agree with the ministry that the intercept followed international rules. “My understanding is that it was a safe and professional interaction with Russian aircraft, so nothing significant to report on that front,” Ryder told reporters.
On May 11, American fighter jets intercepted six Russian aircraft in international airspace near Alaska as the U.S. was conducting military training, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The combined U.S.-Canada organization described the intercept as routine and said they happen six or seven times a year in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone.
Anti-Kremlin Russians attack Russian border villages
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed Tuesday to have killed more than 70 "terrorist saboteurs" amid conflicting reports about the fate of anti-Kremlin, Russian militia volunteers who in recent days seized several villages in Russia's Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine. The deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, described the volunteers as "scumbags," adding that "you just have to exterminate them like the rats they are and not even take them prisoner."
On Monday, the Free Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps released a video saying they had crossed into Russia and taken control of bordering villages. "The Legion returns home," armed men in one of the videos said. On Tuesday the legion posted a message on Telegram saying it had liberated more territory and was pushing forward.
The Russian Defense Ministry, however, said Tuesday that the "saboteurs" were blocked and defeated by airstrikes and artillery fire. "The remnants of the nationalists were driven back to the territory of Ukraine, where they continued to be hit by fire until they were completely eliminated," the ministry said on Telegram.
The ministry claimed over 70 saboteurs were killed and four armored combat vehicles were destroyed. It dismissed the attacks as a Ukrainian ruse to distract attention from what Russia claims was the fall of Bakhmut over the weekend.
"Russia is facing an increasingly serious multi-domain security threat in its border regions, with losses of combat aircraft, improvised explosive device attacks on rail lines, and now direct partisan action,'' the British Defense Ministry said. "Russia will almost certainly use these incidents to support the official narrative that it is the victim in the war.''
Russian media celebrates disputed Bakhmut 'victory'
Russian TV and tabloids on Tuesday were ecstatically celebrating the Kremlin's claim that the eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut had fallen, comparing the disputed victory to the Red Army liberation of Berlin in 1945.
President Vladimir Putin's congratulatory statement to the troops was highlighted, and announcers emphasized the victory by using the city’s Soviet former name Artyomovsk. This is despite the Ukraine military's claim that it retains a small part of the city and has retaken villages to the north and south − and could soon encircle the battered, almost deserted city that before the war was home to more than 70,000 people.
“The myth that Artyomovsk is an unassailable fortress has been crushed,” said the anchor on Channel One, Russia’s most popular state broadcaster. “Those are historic events.”
Footage showed Russian fighters yelling “Victory!” and placing the Russian tricolor flag and the black flag of the private military contractor Wagner atop a severely damaged high-rise building. Wagner forces led the monthslong push to seize the city, and their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said his troops will leave the city to be occupied by Russian Defense Ministry forces. Those forces previously struggled to hold ground taken by Wagner.
Contributing: The Associated Press