Western military build-up and $330 billion Russian asset freeze

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The US Treasury Department said yesterday that the United States and its allies had frozen $330 billion in Russian assets since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

Specifically, the Western Allies froze $30 billion in assets belonging to Russia’s wealthy or sanctioned elite and “froze” about $300 billion from the Russian Central Bank, according to a statement released by the Western Allies Action Group, who is responsible for tracking Russia. elite assets.

At least five yachts and luxury properties owned or controlled by Russian citizens were also seized and sanctioned.

“Together, we will ensure that the sanctions continue to impose heavy costs on Russia for its unjustified and prolonged aggression against Ukraine,” the statement said.

On the first day of their summit in Germany, G7 leaders announced a ban on freshly mined gold in Russia to prevent Moscow and the country’s ruling minority from using the precious metal to circumvent sanctions.

Here, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said yesterday that the NATO summit in Madrid confirmed the alliance’s “hostility” to Russia, calling its expansion into Finland and Sweden a “largely destabilizing” stage.

“The Madrid summit reinforces the course of aggressive deterrence that follows the alliance towards Russia,” he added to Russian news agencies.

On the military front, US President Joe Biden announced yesterday in Madrid that his country would “strengthen its military presence in Europe” so that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) could “respond to threats from all directions and in all areas: on land, in the air”. and the sea.

At the NATO summit, which he called “printed history,” he said US military presence and capabilities would be enhanced in Spain, Poland, Romania, the Baltic States, Great Britain, Germany and Italy.

“We are on time” and “we are proving that NATO is needed more than ever,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Biden recalled at length that the United States had already deployed “an additional 20,000 troops to Europe this year to bolster our ranks in response to aggressive Russian moves.”

He pointed out that Washington will increase the number of its destroyers at Spain’s Rota naval base to six from the previous four.

In Poland, Washington will establish a “permanent headquarters of the American Fifth Corps”.

Biden added: “We will maintain an additional brigade” of a total of five thousand people based in Romania, and we will carry out “additional deployments in the Baltic countries”.

“We will be sending two additional squadrons” of F-35 fighters to the UK and “deploying additional air defense capabilities” to Germany and Italy, he said in a brief press release.

Biden believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to “make Europe like Finland”, i.e. force NATO member countries to adopt a neutral position, historically the position of the Nordic countries, but he assists, against his will, in the expansion of the alliance by including additional European countries.

Finland, historically known for its neutrality, and Sweden are preparing to join NATO after overturning a Turkish veto on Tuesday night, with the alliance displaying near-perfect unity since the start of the war in Ukraine.

The day before, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Wednesday that his country was not “afraid” of US President Joe Biden’s announcement of an increased US military presence in Europe in a context of sharp tensions with Moscow.

NATO Secretary: Russia threatens the “security” of the countries of the “North Atlantic region”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said Russia poses a “direct threat” to the security of NATO countries meeting at the Madrid summit, which seek to bolster the eastern wing of the alliance by response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We will make it clear” – at the summit, which will review the Alliance’s roadmap for the first time since 2010 – that Russia poses a direct threat to our security, he said.

Buses and trains will connect Crimea to southern Ukraine

Yesterday, pro-Russian Ukrainian authorities announced the opening of a road and rail link between Crimea annexed to Moscow and the cities of Kherson and Zaporozhye in southern Ukraine.

“From July 1, bus and rail connections will connect Crimea with Kherson and Zaporozhye regions for the first time in eight years,” Sergei Aksyonov, the pro-Moscow Crimean leader, said in a telegram.

He added that “Russian Guard units will provide flight safety.”

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