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Biden heads to Europe focused on support for Ukraine

Published July 9, 2023last updated July 9, 2023

A NATO summit demonstrating solidarity with Ukraine will dominate the US president's European tour. Meanwhile, Ukraine's ambassador to Germany said his country insists on joining alliance.

President Joe Biden, escorted by Col. William "Chris" McDonald, waves to members of the media as he walks to board Air Force One on his way to Europe to attend the NATO Summit
One of Biden's objectives on the trip is to show Americans back home the importance of continuing support for UkraineImage: Susan Walsh/AP/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • US President Joe Biden flew to Europe to attend the NATO summit, making a first stop in London where Ukraine will be on the agenda
  • Ukraine's ambassador to Germany said that an earlier Ukrainian accession to NATO could have prevented many of Russia's aggressive actions
  • For the events of July 8, follow this link
Skip next section Biden, Erdogan discuss Sweden's NATO membership
July 9, 2023

Biden, Erdogan discuss Sweden's NATO membership

US President Joe Biden told his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sweden must be allowed to join NATO as soon as possible, the White House said in a statement.

The two leaders spoke on the phone ahead of Biden's European trip. The Turkish presidencysaid Biden and Erdogan will meet in person on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania.

Turkey is holding up Sweden's membership as NATO requires the unanimous approval of all members to expand.

Erdogan on Sunday again stressed Sweden still needed to crack down harder on suspected Kurdish militants to win Turkey's support.

He will meet Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Monday. 

Erdogan's office said he also told Biden Sweden's NATO membership, and the delivery of F-16" fighter jets, which Turkey hopes to secure from the United States, can't be linked. 

Skip next section Steinmeier: Germany cannot reverse US cluster munitions decision
July 9, 2023

Steinmeier: Germany cannot reverse US cluster munitions decision

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier believes his country must accept the United States' decision to supply cluster munitions to Ukraine, even though Germany is not in favour of using such explosives.

"In the current situation, we cannot get in the way of the United States," he told broadcaster ZDF.

Steinmeier pointed out that he signed the international treaty banning cluster munitions in Oslo in 2008 as German foreign minister. "I am biased there," he added.

Russia, which has used cluster munitions in Ukraine, is not a party to the convention. The US and Ukraine have not signed it either.

Skip next section Biden: US could offer Ukraine Israeli-like protection pre-NATO entry
July 9, 2023

Biden: US could offer Ukraine Israeli-like protection pre-NATO entry

US President Joe Biden said that while the discussion of Ukraine's imminent membership in NATO was premature, the US and its allies in the military alliance would continue to provide Ukraine with the security and weaponry they need to try to end the war with Russia.

"I don't think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war," Biden told CNN ahead of his weeklong trip to Europe.

The US president said that he's spoken to Volodymyr Zelenskyy at length about the issue, saying that he's told the Ukrainian president the US would keep providing security and weaponry for Ukraine as it does for Israel while the process plays out.

"I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to be able to get into NATO," Biden said.

Meanwhile, Democratic US Senator Tim Kaine and Representative Barbara Lee raised concerns over the decision by Biden's administration to send cluster munitions to Ukraine to combat the Russian invasion.

Kaine said he had "some real qualms" about the US decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine because it could inspire other countries to sidestep an international convention barring the munitions..

Biden defends US plan to send cluster bombs to Ukraine

Skip next section Kyiv eyes NATO 'security guarantees' ahead of Vilnius summit
July 9, 2023

Kyiv eyes NATO 'security guarantees' ahead of Vilnius summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he is hoping for the "best possible result" from the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The Ukrainian head of state made the comments after meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda, with whom he said he discussed the Vilnius summit.

Also on Sunday, Zelenskyy told US broadcaster ABC that he wants "all the decisions to be made during the summit."

"I don't want to go to Vilnius for fun if the decision has been made beforehand," he stressed.

"Ukraine should get clear security guarantees while it is not in NATO," he said. "And this is a very important point. Only under these conditions would our meeting make sense."

Meanwhile, John Kirby, the communications director for the US National Security, said that NATO was ready to provide Ukraine with security guarantees but not immediate membership.

He said that observers will see that the members of the alliance have a "concerted unified approach to making it clear that NATO is eventually going to be in Ukraine's future."

Kirby said that NATO will "continue to help Ukraine defend itself" until the country becomes a members state of the alliance.

Skip next section Russian, Turkish foreign ministers discuss grain deal, Mariupol defenders in phone call
July 9, 2023

Russian, Turkish foreign ministers discuss grain deal, Mariupol defenders in phone call

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the situation in Ukraine and the Black Sea grain deal in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan, Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Moscow has threatened to quit the deal allowing the safe export of grain and fertilizer from Ukrainian ports because several demands to dispatch its own grain and fertilizer have not been met. The deal expires on July 17.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he was pressing Russia to extend the deal, brokered last year by Ankara and the United Nations, by at least three months.

Ministers also discussed the return to Ukraine of Ukrainian commanders who defended a steel plant in Mariupol. They were forced to surrender and later exchanged in prisoner swop arranged by Turkey. Under the deal with Moscow, they were supposed to stay in Turkey until the war ends.

However, they returned to Ukraine from Turkey with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday.

Zelenskyy brings Azovstal commanders home from Turkey

Skip next section Biden leaves for UK, NATO summit and Finland visits
July 9, 2023

Biden leaves for UK, NATO summit and Finland visits

President Joe Biden left for Europe on Suday for a three-nation trip that will be dominated by a NATO summit in Lithuania.

His first stop will however be Britain where he will meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street on Monday and then travel to Windsor Castle for a visit with King Charles.

The main part of Biden's Europe trip will be the NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital Tuesday and Wednesday, where the Western allies will discuss helping Ukraine to oust Russian occupation forces.

The US leader will also have to address unease from allies including Britain about his decision to give Ukraine cluster munitions to Ukraine. 

Biden hopes to use the summit to pressure Turkey into dropping opposition to Sweden's all-but-cleared NATO membership bid. But he has said he will resist calls for promising Ukraine quick entry into the alliance. Entry requires unanimous consent from the other members.

Biden's final stop before returning to Washington on Thursday will be Finland, which ended its historic neutrality to enter NATO in response to the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Is NATO in Europe prepared to counter Russia's threat?

Skip next section BRICS summit to be 'physical' despite Putin warrant — South Africa
July 9, 2023

BRICS summit to be 'physical' despite Putin warrant — South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that next month's BRICS summit in South Africa, to which Vladimir Putin has been invited, will be "physical" despite an arrest warrant on the Russian leader.

"The BRICS summit is going ahead and we are finalizing our discussions on the format," he told journalists on the sidelines of a gathering of his African National Congress (ANC) party.

"We are going to have a physical BRICS summit, all of us are committed to having a summit where we will be able to eyeball each other," Ramaphosa added. 

South Africa has a duty as a signatory to the International Criminal Court to arrest Putin if he attends the talks between the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China, due to an arrest warrant over the deportation of children from Ukraine.

The Kremlin has not yet confirmed Putin's participation in the summit planned for August 22-24 in South Africa.

Skip next section Russian paramilitaries planning further operations in border area
July 9, 2023

Russian paramilitaries planning further operations in border area

The Freedom of Russia Legion, a paramilitary volunteer battalion fighting on the side of Ukraine, is planning more operations in the Russian border area, according to a spokesman.

"There will be a further surprise in the next month or so," Maximillian Andronnikov, who goes by the name Caesar, told British Sunday newspaper The Observer in an interview.

"It will be our third operation," he said. After that, he said, there will be a fourth and a fifth. "We have ambitious plans. We want to free all our territory," the spokesman added.

In May and June, fighters from the legion together with the Russian Volunteer Corps were involved in attacks in the Russian border region of Belgorod near Ukraine. 

The Ukrainian government insists it has nothing to do with the attacks.

Pro-Ukraine Russian militia fights against Kremlin

Skip next section Russia officials say missiles shot down over Crimea, Rostov region
July 9, 2023

Russia officials say missiles shot down over Crimea, Rostov region

Russian air defense systems shot down two missiles, one over the annexed Crimean peninsula and another over the southern Rostov region that borders Ukraine, officials said.

A cruise missile was shot down near the city of Kerch on the Crimean peninsula, without inflicting any damage or casualties, Russia-installed Governor Sergei Aksyonov wrote on the Telegram messaging app. He did not specify where the missile had been launched from.

Crimea was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, but is internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.

In another incident, air defense shot down a Ukrainian missile in Russia's Rostov region, Governor Vasily Golubev said on Telegram.
"There were no casualties. The debris partially damaged the roofs of several buildings," Golubev wrote.

Skip next section Zelenskyy, Duda remember WWII victims ahead of anniversary
July 9, 2023

Zelenskyy, Duda remember WWII victims ahead of anniversary

The presidents of Ukraine and Poland marked together the anniversary of one of World War II's bloodiest episodes for the two countries, while visiting a Ukrainian church in the western city of Lutsk.

"Together we pay tribute to all the innocent victims of Volhynia! Memory unites us!," the office of Poland's president, Andrzej Duda, wrote on Twitter. "Together we are stronger."

The Volhynia massacre took place between 1943 and 1945 during World War II. Ukrainian nationalists killed tens of thousands of Poles, in what the Polish Parliament says bore elements of genocide.

Kyiv rejects this categorization, and tensions over this episode in history have muddied the waters between the two allies.

Polish historians say Polish retaliatory operations killed up to 12,000 Ukrainians.

Poland has been one of Ukraine's biggest supporters since Russia invaded the country in February 2022.

Skip next section Wagner mutiny took Russian media by surprise, UK Defence Ministry says
July 9, 2023

Wagner mutiny took Russian media by surprise, UK Defence Ministry says

Wagner group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin's short-lived mutiny last month took Russian media outlets by surprise, though they were quick to fall in line in their response, the British Defence Ministry said in its daily update on the war. 

The ministry said the Russian state-approved media response came in three phases.

Initially, outlets were surprised and unprepared, the ministry said, noting that Russian TV maintained its usual schedule.

Once the mutiny was over, Russian media sought to "correct" earlier claims that security forces had been passive. Simultaneously, they circulated the narrative that Russian President Vladimir Putin "had triumphed by thwarting the insurrection, while avoiding bloodshed."

The third and final phase came a week later, according to the British ministry, and consisted of playing down Prigozhin's significance as well as that of his rebellion. Media outlets also sought to tarnish the mercenary group founder's reputation.

The ministry also noted the silence of Wagner's Telegram channels, "almost certainly due to state intervention."

"By contrast, Putin has undertaken unusually prominent public engagements, almost certainly aiming to project strength," the ministry said.

Skip next section Russia urges NATO to discuss Zaporizhzhia plant
July 9, 2023

Russia urges NATO to discuss Zaporizhzhia plant

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has urged NATO members to discuss Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant during their summit.

Zakharova accused Ukraine of "systematic infliction of damage" to the plant. She called on NATO to devote the summit's "key attention" to it.

"After all, the vast majority of the alliance members will be in the direct impact zone," Zakharova said on the Telegram messaging app, hinting at the possibility of something happening to the plant.

Both Russia and Ukraine have recently exchanged accusations over concocting plots to attack the nuclear plant.

Skip next section Ukraine calls for end to ambiguity over its NATO accession
July 9, 2023

Ukraine calls for end to ambiguity over its NATO accession

As NATO member states prepare for their annual summit, Kyiv continues to press for a clear commitment from the military alliance regarding its eventual membership once Russia's invasion is over.

Speaking to Germany's dpa news agency, Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Oleksii Makeiev, urged NATO to put an end to ambiguity over the matter.

"At the summit in Vilnius, we expect a clear and unequivocal invitation and direction to join NATO," he said.

Makeiev warned of repeating what he described as mistakes during the NATO 2008 summit in Bucharest. During the summit, when the alliance welcomed Kyiv's membership aspirations, then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed the country's rapid accession to the alliance.

"If Ukraine had already been a NATO member in 2014, the Crimean annexation, the war in the Donbas and now the Russian large-scale war of aggression would certainly not have taken place," Makeiev told dpa.

Oleksii Makeiev
Oleksii Makeiev argued that over half of the German population was in favor of Ukraine's NATO accession, citing a recent pollImage: BeckerBredel/IMAGO

"The only way to put an end to Russian aggression against Europe is to send a strong signal from the 2023 NATO summit, which has every opportunity of going down in the history of cohesion."

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has already indicated that the upcoming summit in Lithuania's capital will not result in a formal invitation for Kyiv to join.

Skip next section US President Biden to discuss Ukraine with UK PM Sunak
July 9, 2023

US President Biden to discuss Ukraine with UK PM Sunak

US President Joe Biden heads to Europe on Sunday ahead of a NATO summit kicking off in Lithuania on Tuesday.

His first stop will be London.

Biden is set to meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street on Monday, with Ukraine high on the agenda. Analysts have suggested that Kyiv's two avid allies need to discuss its demands for NATO accession privately before the summit.

Biden is also due to meet King Charles III at Windsor Castle, where the two leaders are expected to discuss environmental and climate issues.

rmt/nm (AP, dpa, Reuters)