War in Ukraine must end to avoid 'nuclear' precipice, says Lukashenko

Russian gas is flowing back to Europe via Nord Stream.

War in Ukraine must end to avoid 'nuclear' precipice, says Lukashenko

Russian gas is flowing back to Europe via Nord Stream. Moscow reopened the gas tap to Europe on Thursday morning by restarting the gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany after a ten-day interruption for maintenance. Uncertainty remains about the quantities transported via this pipeline, which is essential to avoid an energy crisis this winter.

On the ground, Russia extended, on Wednesday July 20, its objectives to territories other than those of eastern Ukraine. For its part, kyiv is asking its allies for more weapons and new sanctions against Moscow, five months after the start of the Russian invasion.

The West, Ukraine and Russia must agree to avoid the "precipice" of "nuclear war", Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Russia's main ally, said Thursday in an exclusive interview with AFP.

"Come on, let's stop. We must not go further. Further is the precipice. Further is nuclear war. It must not go that far", he said . "We must stop, agree, stop this chaos, the operation and the war in Ukraine," added Alexander Lukashenko.

But according to the Belarusian president, who lent his territory to the Russian army to attack Ukraine, it is up to kyiv to accept the concessions and go to negotiations, the only way out of the conflict.

The Nord Stream gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany restarted Thursday after ten days of maintenance, the eponymous company managing the equipment told AFP. "It works," a spokesman for Nord Stream told AFP, without specifying how much gas was being delivered. The actual data will be known later today.

The German government feared that this pipeline would not be reopened by Moscow after this work started on July 11. According to data transmitted by Gazprom to Gascade, the German network operator, the pipeline should deliver 530 GWh during the day. It's only "30%" of its capacity, noted on Twitter on Thursday, the president of the German Network Agency, Klaus Müller.

It would also be ten points less than before the work. Arguing that there is no turbine under maintenance in Canada, Gazprom has already reduced deliveries via Nord Stream to 40% of capacity since mid-June. The Russian gas giant Gazprom had assured that it could not guarantee the resumption of deliveries via this gas pipeline under maintenance until Thursday morning.

Two people were killed and 19 others injured on Thursday morning in a Russian bombardment on Kharkiv, Ukraine's second city located in the northeast, announced the regional governor. Four of the injured are in serious condition as a result of the multiple rocket launcher bombardment, said Oleg Synegoubov.

The Central Bank of Ukraine announced on Thursday the devaluation of the hryvnia by 25% against the dollar due to the impact of the Russian invasion on the national economy. "Such a measure will strengthen the competitiveness of Ukrainian producers" and "support the stability of the economy in wartime conditions," the central bank said in a statement. This established the exchange rate at 36.57 hryvnias for one dollar against 29.25 hryvnias for one dollar previously, a rate which had been in force since the start of the Russian invasion at the end of February.

This rate will remain fixed until the new decision of the central bank which preserved most of the restrictions on the foreign exchange market introduced since the beginning of the Russian invasion to prevent a collapse of the national currency.

Both the Russian military and the Ukrainian forces are "unnecessarily" endangering civilians by basing troops in the heart of inhabited areas, such as a school basement or a dispensary, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused on Thursday. . “Both Russian and Ukrainian forces must avoid basing their troops among civilians and do everything possible to keep civilians away from the surrounding area,” she urged.

HRW specifies that it has documented four cases of Russian and three Ukrainian military bases established in residential areas. "The attacks that followed against these bases killed and injured civilians," the organization said, adding that it had interviewed more than 50 residents of seven localities located in the Ukrainian regions of Cherniguiv (north), Kharkiv (east) and Zaporizhia. (south) and visited six of them.

Among the best known cases, cited by HRW, the village of Yaguidné (Chernigiv region) where the Russians detained around 350 civilians for a month in the basement of a school they used as a military base. For their part, the Ukrainian forces have established a base in a disease control center in a residential area of ​​Pokotylivka, in the Kharkiv region, supports the NGO. When the Russians attacked the center on April 28, at least six civilians were injured and dozens of nearby houses and the local school were damaged, according to the same source.

South America's Mercosur economic bloc, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, has not allowed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to make a speech at his leaders' summit. State which will take place this Thursday in Asuncion, announced the Paraguayan rotating presidency.

"There was no consensus. This was communicated to the Ukrainian ambassador to Argentina and Paraguay. It was the Minister of Foreign Affairs himself" who notified the diplomatic representative, said Wednesday Raul Cano, Deputy Foreign Minister of Paraguay, the host country of the summit. The Minister specified that all decisions of the economic bloc were taken unanimously. However, he did not give the name of the state or states that opposed the intervention of the Ukrainian president.

The United States will provide four new Himars precision artillery systems to Ukraine to help fight the Russian invasion, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday. His Ukrainian counterpart had asked Washington the day before to send more of these multiple rocket launchers mounted on light armor, saying that kyiv had used them to destroy about 30 Russian command stations and arms depots so far.

The United States will deliver "four systems (...) additional Himars, bringing the total to 16. The Ukrainians have made excellent use of the Himars and you can see the impact on the ground", said Lloyd Austin in front of the press at the Pentagon.

Limit the heating of certain buildings, postpone the closure of nuclear power plants, encourage companies to reduce their needs... Brussels proposed a plan on Wednesday aimed at reducing European gas demand by 15% to overcome the drop in Russian deliveries.

In order to get through the winter without a major disaster, the European Commission has prepared an arsenal of measures allowing the Twenty-Seven to face a possible rupture in Russian supplies - which constituted some 40% of their gas imports last year. "Russia is using gas as a weapon. In the event of a total shutdown, Europe will have to be ready," said EU executive president Ursula von der Leyen.

France will invest 85 million euros to replace the 18 Caesar guns given to Ukraine, which have cut nearly a quarter of the French army's stock, Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu said on Wednesday. "An envelope of 85 million euros will allow us to do this replenishment, the idea being not to damage the training and training plans of our gunners", he declared during a hearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"The money is there, it is rather taken in the management of the LPM (military programming law, editor's note) without that shaking up an existing program. We do not cancel, we do not delay a committed program", a- he specified. Before the start of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine on February 24, the French army had 76 Caesars, 155mm truck-mounted guns with a range of 40 kilometers.

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