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Ukraine updates: Russia seeks gains as Kyiv awaits F-16s

Published June 17, 2024last updated June 17, 2024

​​​​​​​Ukraine's army boss says Russia is ramping up its attacks to maximize gains before the arrival of foreign military aid. Meanwhile, Russia has derided the results of a Kyiv-led peace summit. DW has the latest.

F-16s in the air
Ukraine's army chief said the arrival of the first F-16s would stop Russia in its tracks Image: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo/picture alliance/dpa
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Ukrainian army chief Oleksandr Syrsky says Russia is aware that deliveries of weapons such as F-16s will hamper its battlefield chances.

Syrsky said the command of Russia's troops was making every effort to increase the intensity and expand the theater of conflict.

Russia has made steady advances in eastern Ukraine and the south, with Ukraine citing ammunition and manpower as a major issue.

In other related news, Russia said the result of an international peace summit — to which it was not invited — were effectively zero.

Here are the latest developments from Russia's war in Ukraine on Monday, June 17:

Skip next section Stoltenberg, Biden hail NATO defense spending hikes
June 17, 2024

Stoltenberg, Biden hail NATO defense spending hikes

While Russia's act of aggression on Ukraine has no end in sight, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told US President Joe Biden in talks at the White House on Monday that 23 of the 32 NATO members were set to meet the defense spending target of 2% of GDP this year

That compared to fewer than 10 members five years ago. 

"Across Europe and Canada, NATO allies are this year increasing defense spending by 18%, that's the biggest increase in decades," Stoltenberg said. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (left in picture) and US President Joe Biden in talks at the White House. June 17, 2024.
Stoltenberg said during his trip that 23 of 32 NATO members were on course to hit the 2% of GDP defense spending target this yearImage: Mark Schiefelbein/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Biden said the alliance was facing one of the most consequential moments for Europe since World War II as Ukraine battled Russian forces. 

"We've strengthened NATO's eastern flank making it clear that we'll defend every single inch of NATO territory," Biden said. 

Stoltenberg noted how in 2014, when the 75-year-old military alliance first set its 2% target, only three members — the US, UK and Greece — met it. 

European and US defense spending could become an issue in the upcoming US presidential election, with Biden's challenger Donald Trump often critical of what he portrays as disproportionate funding from Washington while at the same time accusing Europe of lagging behind in its spending. 

Skip next section US troubled by Putin-Kim ties
June 17, 2024

US troubled by Putin-Kim ties

The United States said it was concerned over what is described as a deepening relationship between Russia and North Korea.

On Monday, the Kremlin announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to North Korea on Tuesday, in a rare visit.

Putin is also expected to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his visit. 

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the visit appeared to be part of a post-election "charm offensive" by Putin.

Separately, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Putin's visit showed how "dependent" Moscow was on authoritarian leaders to wage its offensive in Ukraine.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba dismissed what he described as a "lonely bromance" between Putin and Kim, calling for more Western air defense systems and weapons.

"The best way to respond to it is to continue strengthening the diplomatic coalition for just and lasting peace in Ukraine and delivering more Patriots and ammunition to Ukraine," Kuleba told AFP.

Skip next section Stoltenberg says NATO members hitting their defense spending target
June 17, 2024

Stoltenberg says NATO members hitting their defense spending target

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said more than 20 member states will meet the alliance target of spending at least 2% of their GDP on defense this year.

The figure represents a nearly fourfold increase from 2021 in the ranks of the 32 NATO members who meet the alliance's defense spending guideline.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, only six nations had achieved the goal.

The increase in spending reflects the concerns of Western allies about the war in Ukraine.

Stoltenberg was speaking ahead of a meeting with US President Joe Biden, laying the groundwork for a summit of NATO leaders in Washington next month.

"Europeans are doing more for their collective security than just a few years ago," Stoltenberg said in a speech at the Wilson Center.

He also said a steady flow of Western weapons was vital for any peace in Ukraine.

"It may seem like a paradox, but the path to peace is more weapons for Ukraine," Stoltenberg said.

He made the remark as there is concern over the possible reelection of former President Donald Trump, who has characterized many NATO allies as freeloading on US military spending.

Skip next section Putin to visit North Korea, Vietnam
June 17, 2024

Putin to visit North Korea, Vietnam

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to visit North Korea for a two-day trip starting on Tuesday.

Putin is expected to meet his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un amid international concerns about their military cooperation.

"Several documents will be signed", among which will be "important, highly significant documents", Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov was quoted as saying by the state-run agencies. 

Moscow maintains close ties with Pyongyang, and the United States and South Korean officials have accused the North of supplying Russia with ammunition for its war against Ukraine.

Both Pyongyang and Moscow have denied the accusations.

Kim paid a rare foreign visit to Russia in September.

The Kremlin said Putin would also visit Vietnam on Wednesday and Thursday. 

He is set to meet in Hanoi with Gen. Nguyen Phu Trong, the secretary general of the Vietnamese Communist Party, President To Lam, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and National Assembly Chairman Tran Thanh Man.

Skip next section Ukraine says Russia eager for gains ahead of F-16 deliveries
June 17, 2024

Ukraine says Russia eager for gains ahead of F-16 deliveries

Ukraine says Russian forces are ramping up attacks on its territory in a push to make territorial gains before Kyiv receives more foreign military aid — including F-16 fighter jets.

Russia has advanced steadily in Ukraine's eastern region of Donetsk and also further on stretches of the front that Kyiv has struggled to hold, blaming manpower and ammunition shortages.

"The enemy is well aware that as a result of the gradual receipt of a significant amount of weapons and military equipment from our partners, and the arrival of the first F-16s, which will strengthen our air defense, time will play in our favor and its chances of success will decrease," Ukrainian army chief Oleksandr Syrsky said in a Facebook post.

"Therefore, the command of Russia's troops is currently making every effort to increase the intensity and expand the geography of hostilities to maximize the depletion of our troops, disrupt the training of reserves and prevent the transition to active offensive actions," he added.

Syrsky said Russian forces were focusing firepower on the Donetsk region, particularly on the Pokrovsk front.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at a peace summit in Switzerland this weekend that present levels of military aid from abroad were still insufficient and that deliveries were arriving late.

He has appealed to allies for faster deliveries of promised F-16 fighter jets and urged Western countries to keep sending more air defense batteries.

Ukrainian airpower relies on Soviet-era technology

Skip next section Russia says Ukraine summit yielded 'zero' results
June 17, 2024

Russia says Ukraine summit yielded 'zero' results

Moscow has said that an international peace summit on Ukraine led by Kyiv, to which Russia was not invited, produced "zero" results.

Officials gathered in Switzerland from more than 90 countries at the weekend, backing Ukraine's independence.

However, the conference left the central question of how to end the conflict unresolved.

"If we talk about the results of this meeting, then they come down to zero," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

A vast majority of countries attending the summit backed the final document, although several countries did not sign it. They included Saudi Arabia, India, and the United Arab Emirates.

"Many countries understood the lack of perspective of any serious discussion without the presence of our country," Peskov said.

He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin was "still open to dialogue and serious discussion."

Putin last week said Russia would take part in peace talks only if Ukraine gave up four of its regions, effectively demanding a surrender.

Ukraine peace summit a success despite abstentions, says analyst

Skip next section Ukraine's finance minister says debt rework dead 'critical'
June 17, 2024

Ukraine's finance minister says debt rework dead 'critical'

Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko says an important debt rework deal is still expected by August, despite talks with holders of its international bonds.

An agreement, with holders of pre-existing bonds that allowed Ukraine to suspend payments after Russia's 2022 invasion of the country, comes to an end in August.

Marchenko said Kyiv would keep up talks with the holders of some $20 billion to ensure a new deal before the deadline. 

"Strong armies must be underpinned by strong economies to win wars," the minister said. "Ukraine has shown remarkable resilience in the face of Russia's full-scale invasion, and our economy has outperformed expectations – but it is a fragile balance, which depends on the continuation of consistent, substantial partner support. Timely debt restructuring is a critical part of this support."

Skip next section Ukrainian energy supplier says power shortages to worsen
June 17, 2024

Ukrainian energy supplier says power shortages to worsen

Ukraine's state energy operator has announced further drastic restrictions on electricity supply in the coming weeks due to ongoing Russian attacks on the country's energy infrastructure.

"In the coming weeks, the situation will deteriorate significantly compared to today," the head of Ukrenergo, Volodymyr Kydrytsky, told state media late on Sunday evening.

Ukrainians must prepare themselves for having no electricity for up to twelve hours a day, he said. The supply situation is not expected to improve before the end of July, Kydrytsky said.

The impact of systematic Russian attacks on thermal and hydroelectric power plants might be made worse by the need for maintenance work at nuclear power plants and bad weather conditions.

Planned power outages may also occur during peak consumption times, Kydrytsky said.

More than 55,000 private and industrial consumers were left without electricity on Monday after Russia attacked power lines in Ukraine's east-central Poltava region, the regional governor said.

Russian attacks on the power network have meant that energy shortages in Ukraine are a daily occurrence for many people. President Volodymyr Zelenksyy recently said Ukraine can only produce half as much electricity this year as last year.

Reconstruction of Ukraine's energy infrastructure crucial

rc/lo (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)