Rafael Nadal: the permanent challenge

Rafael Nadal: the permanent challenge

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NATO ended its summit in Madrid on Thursday on the observation, made by Moscow, that a new “iron curtain” was falling in Europe. Ukraine, on the strength of the alliance’s renewed support, has taken back from the Russians a strategic island for the control of maritime routes

“The Iron Curtain, in fact, is already coming down,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Minsk, using the term that made history. of Europe during the Cold War, and only fell with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

“This iron curtain is erected today by the Westerners themselves,” added his Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Makei, whose country is a henchman of Moscow in its confrontation with the West.

Russia, “direct threat”

Moscow and Minsk reacted to the summit on Wednesday and Thursday of the Atlantic Alliance which reaffirmed its massive support for Ukraine. Its new strategic roadmap now designates Russia as “the most significant and direct threat to the security of the allies”, and denounces attempts by Moscow and Beijing to unite their efforts to “destabilize the international order”.

“We will stand with Ukraine and the whole Alliance will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” US President Joe Biden said at the end of the summit.

The allies have announced new military aid to Ukraine: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an additional one billion pounds, Joe Biden a new tranche of 800 million dollars.

As for French President Emmanuel Macron, he has planned the revision of the country’s military programming, stressing that “we must now, entering a period of war, know how to produce certain types of equipment faster, stronger”.

Putin’s ‘ridiculous’ accusation

Finally, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz considered “ridiculous” the accusation of Russian President Vladimir Putin who had affirmed Wednesday evening – taking up a leitmotif of the Russian narrative – that NATO had “imperialist ambitions” with regard to Russia.

“It is rather Putin who has made imperialism the goal of his policy” by saying that the neighboring countries are “part of his country”, added the German Chancellor. The latter has promised to make the German army the first conventional army in Europe from now on, also breaking with the détente born of the fall of the Berlin wall more than thirty years ago.

China, a circumspect ally of Moscow and cautious in the Ukrainian crisis, was content to declare that NATO, which described Beijing as a “challenge” for its interests and its security, “is stubborn (…) to smear Chinese foreign policy”.

Erdogan for a ceasefire

As for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is trying – while supplying deadly drones to Ukraine – to keep in touch with the two parties and to mediate, he called for “intensifying efforts” for a cease fire.

“For Turkey there will be no losers with peace,” he told reporters at the end of the NATO summit, of which his country is a member.

The Russians leave Serpents’ Island

But for now, on the ground where they have been under very strong pressure for weeks in the Donbass in the east of the country, it is a victory of great symbolic value that the Ukrainians have obtained with the withdrawal of Russian forces of Serpents’ Island, a strategic islet in the Black Sea which they had taken in the first hours of their offensive.

The Russian army said it was withdrawing “as a sign of goodwill”, its objectives having been “accomplished” according to it, and to facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain from Ukraine through the Black Sea.

This militarized islet, initially held by Ukrainian border guards, is located in the northwest of the Black Sea, southwest of Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port where millions of tons of grain are waiting to be exported, and facing the mouth of the Danube.

“The enemy has fled”

The Ukrainian version of the Russian withdrawal is markedly different. “Unable to withstand the fire of our artillery, missiles and airstrikes, the occupiers left Serpents’ Island,” the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhniy, announced on Telegram, accompanying his message of a video showing strikes on the island.

The southern command of the Ukrainian army clarified that “the enemy fled in two launches”, leaving the island “on fire” where “explosions are still heard”.

The number two of the Ukrainian general staff, Oleksiï Gromov, specified that the Ukrainian forces would now re-establish “direct physical control” over the island.

Johnson congratulates Kyiv

Boris Johnson, from Madrid was quick to congratulate the Ukrainians on this victory, stressing that it showed that it was “impossible” to submit Ukraine.

“If you wanted proof of the incredible ability of the Ukrainians to fight back to overcome adversity and push back the Russians, look at what happened today on Serpents’ Island,” he said.

Moscow exports Ukrainian cereals

The issue is also strategic and global, since this area of ​​the Black Sea is at the center of the stakes for the export by boat of millions of tonnes of Ukrainian cereals, the blocking of which threatens the world with a major food crisis.

The authorities installed by the Russian occupation forces in southern Ukraine for their part announced Thursday the departure of a ship loaded with 7,000 tons of Ukrainian cereals from the port of Berdiansk, passed under Russian control.

Ukraine has for weeks accused Russia of stealing its wheat crops in the occupied regions to sell it illegally internationally.

Widodo at Putin

Receiving in Moscow his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the G20, Vladimir Putin again affirmed Thursday that Russia was not “obstructing the export of Ukrainian wheat”, and blamed Western sanctions restrictions on Russian exports of fertilizers and food products.

The Indonesian president said for his part that he had given Vladimir Putin a message from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“The Battle Continues”

On the eastern front, the shelling continued Thursday morning in the Donbass region, where the majority of the fighting is concentrated.

The city of Lyssytchansk, a major stake in this front after the capture of the neighboring city of Severodonetsk “lives under an uninterrupted bombardment of all kinds of weapons”, deplored Wednesday evening the governor of the Lugansk region, Serguiï Gaïdaï, estimating that 15,000 civilians remain in the city.

But the number 2 of the general staff, Oleksiï Gromov, told reporters on Thursday that the Ukrainian forces had “no intention of retreating there”.

“Measures for the defense of the city are continuing. In the morning the enemy began assault operations from different directions (but) the battle continues.”

Last big city to tear down

It is the last major city to be conquered by the Russians in the Lugansk region, one of the two provinces of the Donbass industrial basin, which Moscow intends to fully control.

According to the Russian agency Ria Novosti, the forces of Moscow and the pro-Russian separatists claimed Thursday morning the capture of the refinery of the city.

Near Dnipro, in the center-east of the country, a bombardment also hit an agricultural company, destroying 40 tonnes of corn, according to regional authorities.

Finally, Russia said on Thursday that it was holding “more than 6,000” Ukrainian prisoners of war, the day after Ukraine announced that it had obtained the return, in an exchange, of 144 soldiers, including 95 “defenders of Azovstal” to Mariupol in the “biggest exchange since the beginning of the Russian invasion”.

This article has been published automatically. Sources: ats / blg / afp

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