Saturday, June 4th
Poland has so far received 3.8 million refugees from Ukraine
10:50 | Since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the Polish border guard has registered more than 3.8 million refugees from the neighboring country. More than 22,000 people crossed the Ukrainian-Polish border on Friday, the Polish border guard announced.
In the opposite direction, more than 25,000 people crossed the border from Poland into Ukraine on the same day. In the last few weeks, there have been more returnees daily than new arrivals. In all, about 1.8 million people have traveled to Ukraine from Poland since the start of the war on 24 February. According to the authorities, these are largely Ukrainian citizens.
They usually travel to areas recaptured by the Ukrainian army from Russia. There is no official information on how many war refugees have remained in Poland and how many have traveled on to other EU countries. Ukraine had more than 44 million inhabitants before the Russian invasion on 24 February. Poland and Ukraine are connected by a border over 500 kilometers long.
On Friday, the Polish border guard found 14 attempts at illegal border crossing from Belarus. Among them were citizens of Ghana, Guinea, Egypt and India. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International accuse Poland of discriminating against refugees not coming from Ukraine.
Polish authorities deny human rights violations and defend their restrictive approach to refugees from Belarus. They accuse the country of deliberately sending migrants from non-European countries to the Polish border.
Philharmonic Orchestra defends concerts with Russian musicians
10:30 | The Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra defends giving two concerts with a conductor and pianist of Russian origin. Ukraine’s ambassador said on Friday that he was “deeply disappointed” by the efforts of pianist Nikolai Lugansky.
Ambassador Maksym Kononenko said Lugansky has “actively” cooperated with pro-Russian separatists. “I think it is very disturbing that someone like Lugansky is allowed to perform in the Netherlands, a country that is proud to uphold the values for which Ukrainians shed their blood,” he said. If the orchestra really wanted to continue using Russian artists, it could have chosen those who ‘actively oppose the actions of their country’. Lugansky would not have done that yet, according to the ambassador.
According to the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, ticket sellers and the Ukrainian Foundation in the Netherlands have been urged in recent weeks to investigate whether both Luganksy and conductor Stanislav Kochanovsky are ‘on the right track’. It was also urged to end the collaboration with Lugansky. The organization says it has taken these calls ‘very seriously’.
Based on conversations with ‘experts and with those involved’, the organization concludes that ‘there is just reason to offer these musicians a stage and connect with each other and with our audience through music. We have not heard or found any justification for legitimizing the cancellation of Nikolai Lugansky or Stanislav Kochanovsky, and therefore the concerts with both musicians will proceed as planned. ‘
There have also been consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, the orchestra states. This led to the same verdict. ‘The power of art and culture lies precisely in the connecting role that it can and has played across the boundaries of time and culture. It is not an expression of one particular political regime ‘.
Ukraine: At least 80,000 Russian soldiers killed
09:50 | According to Ukraine, a total of at least 80,000 Russian soldiers, pro-Russian separatists and members of the Wagner mercenary army paid by Moscow have so far been killed.
This was stated by Mikhail Podoljak, top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky. He estimates that the bloody battle between his country and Russia will last “between two and six months”. Ukraine recently estimated its own losses at up to 100 killed and 500 wounded a day.
According to Podoljak, peace talks will only take place if “the situation on the ground would change and Russia would no longer feel that it could dictate the terms”. He warned that territorial concessions to Russia would not end the war. Some cities, such as Mariupol and now Severodonetsk, where the toughest fighting is taking place, actually no longer exist, he said.
The negotiation process between Ukrainian and Russian representatives has stalled. Moscow said on Friday it did not intend to end the “military operation” until all targets had been reached. According to the Kremlin, results have already been achieved with the occupation of part of the country.
Friday, June 3rd
Governor Luhansk claims to recapture part of Severodonetsk
22:15 | The Ukrainian army has recaptured part of the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk from the Russians, said Luhansk governor Sergei Gaidai. The Russian army controls a large part of the city, but according to the governor, the Ukrainians have regained part of the lost territory.
Gaidai said the Russians shelled Ukrainian positions in Severodonetsk for hours. They moved forward slowly, but the Ukrainian soldiers were able to push them back, after which the shelling started again. According to the governor, the Russians are destroying everything with shelling and bombs, but making no progress. Gaidai is waiting for enough western long-range weapons to recapture the city forever. “Believe me, the Russian infantry will flee.”
For days, the besieged city has been the scene of bloody street fights. If the Russians occupy Severodonetsk, all they have to do is conquer the neighboring city of Lischansk to control the entire Luhansk region. The British Ministry of Defense wrote on Friday that the Russians are expected to conquer the region within two weeks.
Then the Russian troops can focus on Donetsk, the other half of the Donbas region. According to the Ukrainian army, the Russians are already preparing an attack on Slovyansk. North of that city, not far from Severodonetsk, between six hundred and eight hundred soldiers would now gather.
About ten foreign warriors have arrived in Severodonetsk to defend the city. A 22-year-old Georgian told a Reuters reporter that they want to push the Russians back, no matter how long it takes. “We’re on the right side of the story.” Another spoke Portuguese and wanted to protect the population. “I go alone with a victory.”
Putin: grain exports from Ukraine via Belarus ‘no problem’
20:40 | Russian President Vladimir Putin says grain exports from Ukraine are ‘no problem’. In an interview on Russian television, he said on Friday that the food is easiest to get from Ukraine via Belarus. The president denied that there was a blockade, and believes that the West only designates his country as a scapegoat because it does not want to be responsible for the food crisis in the world.
According to Putin, the lack of food market was caused by Western sanctions and the situation will worsen as long as the sanctions remain in place. To resolve the food crisis, sanctions would have to be lifted, something Western leaders are not planning. Sanctions are also in place against Belarus, which according to Putin is the best option for exporting the grain. President Alexander Lukashenko has already said he is ready to send grain to Europe.
Russia controls much of the Ukrainian coast and the Black Sea, preventing ships from leaving the country. There are about 20 million tons of grain in Ukraine, an amount too large to be moved by train and truck. According to experts, exports via ships are necessary.
Earlier in the day, Putin spoke with African Union President Macky Sall about the food crisis. The reduced food supply threatens to create shortages, especially in Africa. After the conversation, Sall said he was reassured.