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Ukraine news - live: Putin ally boasts sanctions against Russia have 'failed miserably'

A close ally of Vladimir Putin has boasted that the sanctions slapped on Moscow by the Kyiv’s allies have “failed miserably.”

Posting to Telegram on Tuesday morning, Dmitry Medvedev – former Russian president and prime minister – claimed that “enemy countries do not have the courage to admit that their hellish sanctions” have misfired.

He went on: “So everything is as always: the Americans make money on a humiliated Europe. Crushed Europe endures and loses money. At the same time, even the IMF predicts economic growth in Russia this year.”

In other news, senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt has claimed that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine could have been avoided if Brexit had not happened.

The bloc’s former Brexit coordinator suggested the Russian president calculated that the continent was not united on defence after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Mr Verhofstadt went on: “A united Europe, certainly on defence matters, would make an enormous difference. I think maybe without Brexit, maybe there was no invasion. I don’t know.”

Key points

  • Russia faced with battle for ‘every metre’ in eastern Ukraine

  • France sets conditions on sending jets to Ukraine

  • Biden says US won’t provide F-16 jets to Ukraine

  • Russia planning new axis of advance to divert Ukraine from Bakhmut sector - MoD

  • Russia is having its ‘big revenge’, warns Zelensky

Putin ally says Western sanctions have 'failed miserably’

12:15 , Emily Atkinson

A close ally of Vladimir Putin has boasted that the sanctions slapped on Moscow by Kyiv’s allies have “failed miserably.”

Posting to Telegram on Tuesday morning, Dmitry Medvedev – former Russian president and prime minister – claimed that “enemy countries do not have the courage to admit that their hellish sanctions” have misfired.

 (Sputnik)
(Sputnik)

He went on: “The vast majority of industrial products and consumer goods were replaced by our own, Russian, and the missing ones – by Asian brands. Parallel imports also work, from which we get the same western brands, and their owners get nothing.

“So everything is as always: the Americans make money on a humiliated Europe. Crushed Europe endures and loses money. At the same time, even the IMF predicts economic growth in Russia this year.”

Boris Johnson 'to urge US to sustain aid for Ukraine’

12:55 , Emily Atkinson

Boris Johnson will meet with Republican lawmakers this week as he presses the US to sustain aid to Ukraine as it fights off Russia’s assault.

The former prime minister is scheduled to speak at a private Republican club in Washington on Tuesday evening, said Representative Joe Wilson, a member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

He is also scheduled to meet with a group of Republican senators, said senator Todd Young on Monday, though he said he was unaware of the exact timing of the talks.

On Wednesday, Mr Johnson will discuss the need for “Western unity and support for Ukraine and what more can be done against the threat Russia poses” at the Atlantic Council think tank.

Russia publishes new decree in ‘terrorism crackdown'

12:35 , Emily Atkinson

Russia will begin checks for weapons and explosives in cars in regions of the country with a high terrorist threat level, according to a presidential decree published on Tuesday.

Kremlin attacks ‘extremely aggressive position’ of Baltic states

11:55 , Emily Atkinson

Calls by the president of Lithuania to supply Ukraine with fighter planes highlight the “extremely aggressive position” of the Baltic states and Poland, Moscow claims.

As a result of this, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that “major European countries” should make efforts to counterbalance their stance.

It comes after Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda said that Nato should stop drawing “red lines” and supply Ukraine with whatever weapons it needed, including fighter jets and long-range missiles.

 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

Asked about those comments, Mr Peskov told reporters: “In general, we see an extremely aggressive position from representatives of the Baltic countries and Poland. They are apparently ready to do anything to provoke the growth of further confrontation, with little regard for the consequences.”

He added: “Of course, it is very sad that under these conditions the leaders of major European countries, who drive all European processes, unfortunately do not play a balancing role.”

US ambassador ‘discusses arms control in meeting with Russian minister'

11:35 , Emily Atkinson

Moscow’s deputy foreign minister has met with the US ambassador, according to Russia’s foreign ministry.

Sergei Ryabkov met with newly-arrived US ambassador Lynne Tracy and they had discussed arms control, the ministry said.

Russia wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine without Brexit, suggests top MEP

11:15 , Emily Atkinson

Russia may not have invaded Ukraine if Brexit had not happened, senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt has said on the third anniversary of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Mr Verhofstadt – the European parliament’s former Brexit coordinator – suggested Vladimir Putin calculated that the continent was not united on defence after the UK’s exit from the bloc.

“This war, this brutal invasion started with Putin and Russia,” he told LBC. “It’s really an attempt by Putin to restore the old Soviet Union. The only difference is the communist party is replaced with his own cronies.”

Political correspondent Adam Forrest has more on this story here:

Russia wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine without Brexit, suggests top MEP

Ukraine terrain control mapped

10:55 , Emily Atkinson

Russia has begun a major new offensive on the Ukrainian-held bastion of Vuhledar that could make local gains but is unlikely to lead to an operational breakthrough, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has wanred (see more on this from our 7.40am post)

As a fresh Russian assault looms, here is a map showing the assessed control of terrain in Ukraine as of 30 January, using data from the Institute for the Study of War.

 (The Independent)
(The Independent)

Russia slaps Twitch with hefty fine over Ukraine war content

10:35 , Emily Atkinson

A Russian court has fined streaming service Twitch 4m roubles (£46,265) for failing to remove what it called “fakes” about Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow has long objected to foreign tech platforms’ distribution of content that falls foul of its restrictions, with Russian courts regularly imposing penalties.

In pictures: Friends of fallen Azov solider carry his body to Sloviansk cemetary

10:20 , Emily Atkinson

Ukrainian servicemen carry the body of an Azov battalion soldier killed while fighting in Bakhmut to a cemetary in Sloviansk.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Oleksiy Storozh (R), 28, is seen carrying the cross to be placed at the grave of his late best friend, 28-year-old orphan Oleksandr Korovniy. Other friends of Mr Korovniy are seen carrying his coffin.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Nato’s Stoltenberg calls for closer ties with Japan

10:05 , Emily Atkinson

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has called for closer ties between Japan and the military alliance amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking in Japan during a visit as part of his East Asia tour, the Nato secretary general said a Russian victory in Kyiv would be a “tragedy for the Ukrainians.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Mr Stoltenberg went on: “But it will also send a very dangerous message to authoritarian leaders all over the world because then the message will be that when they use military force they can achieve their goals. So the war in Ukraine matters for all of us.”

He said his visit “is a way to further strengthen the partnership between Nato and our highly valued partner Japan.”

Mr Stoltenberg is set to meet with prime minister Fumio Kishida and hold a joint press conference later today.

Gazprom 'to ship 24.5m of gas to EU’

09:50 , Emily Atkinson

Gazprom said it will ship 24.5m cubic metres (mcm) of gas to Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday, a volume in line with recent days.

It follows reports that its exports to the EU fell to a record low in the first 30 days of January. For more on that story, see our post from 7.50am.

Putin 'speaks to Saudi Arabian prince in phone call’

09:35 , Emily Atkinson

President Vladimir Putin has spoken with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in a telephone call, according to Russia’s foreign ministry.

“Further development of bilateral cooperation in the political, trade, economic and energy sectors, as well as cooperation within the Opec Plus group to provide the stability of global oil market were discussed,” a read-out of the call states.

Putin and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince are pictured during a meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in October 2019 (REUTERS)
Putin and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince are pictured during a meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in October 2019 (REUTERS)

Review: World leaders seem rightly shamefaced about how they got taken for a ride by Russian president

09:20 , Emily Atkinson

Putin vs the West is the latest series from the legendary Norma Percy, and the three-parter contains everything you’d expect from the veteran documentarian – the right blend of revelation, anecdote, history, drama, forensic analysis and storytelling. It’s Putin, the Ukraine war and how the West fouled up, all made comprehensible. It’s brilliant, and you have to watch it to understand how we got to where we are now.

Read Sean O’Grady’s latest review here:

World leaders seem rightly shamefaced in Putin vs the West – review

Macron to host Kyiv defence minister in Paris amid jets debate

09:05 , Emily Atkinson

French president Emmanuel Macron is expected to welcome Ukraine’s defence minister to Paris today amid an ongoing debate among allies over whether to provide Ukraine with fighter jets.

The meeting comes after US president Joe Biden ruled out supplying Ukraine with F-16s to support its efforts against the Russian advance.

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

Last week, Oleksiy Reznikov said Kyiv was planning to push for Western fourth-generation fighters like F-16s after securing supplies of main battle tanks.

Contrary to the US, France and Poland appear to be willing to consider any such request from Ukraine, with Mr Macron telling reporters in The Hague on Monday that “by definition, nothing is excluded” when it comes to military assistance.

Advocacy group accuses Ukraine of ‘scattering’ landmines in Izium

08:50 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine has been urged to investigate claims that its military used thousands of rocket-fired antipersonnel landmines in and around the eastern city of Izium when Russian forces occupied the area.

“Ukrainian forces appear to have extensively scattered landmines around the Izium area, causing civilian casualties and posing an ongoing risk,” said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch.

“Russian forces have repeatedly used antipersonnel mines and committed atrocities across the country, but this doesn’t justify Ukrainian use of these prohibited weapons,” he said.

 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“Human Rights Watch documented PFM mine use in nine different areas in and around Izium city and verified 11 civilian casualties from these mines,” it said on Tuesday.

“The nine areas were all close to where Russian military forces were positioned at the time, suggesting they were the target.”

A PFM is a scatterable antipersonnel mine, commonly called the ‘butterfly mine’.

Kyiv attacks Croatian president’s ‘unacceptable’ comments over Crimea

08:30 , Emily Atkinson

Kyiv has hit out at comments made by Croatia’s president that Crimea will “never again” be a part of Ukraine, calling them “unacceptable.”

President Zoran Milanovic made the remarks on Monday while detailing his objection to Zagreb providing military aid to Ukraine.

What the West is doing about Ukraine “is deeply immoral because there is no solution (to the war),” Mr Milanovic told reporters. “It is clear that Crimea will never again be part of Ukraine.”

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Posting to Facebook on Tuesday, Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said: “We consider as unacceptable the statements of the president of Croatia, who effectively cast doubt on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Russia seized the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia and Belarus ‘start joint training week for regional forces'

08:10 , Emily Atkinson

Russia and Belarus have started a week-long session of staff training for the joint command of their regional grouping of forces, Minsk’s defence ministry says.

The training is part of preparation for joint drills the two countries will hold in Russia in September, its statement reads.

Russian gas exports to EU via Ukraine 'hits record low’

07:50 , Emily Atkinson

Russian gas exports to the European Union via Ukraine have reached a record low, reports say.

Exports plummeted to a low of 951.4 million cubic metres in the first 30 days of January, a report by Russian business newspaper Vedomosti claims, citing Gazprom figures.

Vedomosti reported that Gazprom had shipped between 41-43 million cubic metres via Ukraine daily during the second half of 2022.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

However, from 5 January, daily volumes began to fall sharply, with only 24.4 million cubic metres shipped daily by 19 January.

Vedomosti reported that the decline is primarily the result of reduced demand for Russian gas in Europe, amid an unusually warm and windy winter.

Russia ‘developing new axis of advance in Donetsk'

07:28 , Emily Atkinson

Russian forces have likely conducted attacks around the Ukrainian towns of Pavlivka and Vuhledar in the past three days, according to UK intelligence.

In its daily update, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Moscow couldbe aiming to develop a new axis of advance into Donetsk.

“There is a realistic possibility that Russia will continue to make local gains in the (Bakhmut) sector,” the update added.

“However, it is unlikely that Russia has sufficient uncommitted troops in the area to achieve an operationally significant breakthrough.”

US won’t send F-16s – Biden

07:00 , Liam James

US president Joe Biden said the US will not send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, just hours after France said it was open to such a move.

Ukraine recently denied reports that it was seeking two squadrons of 12 fighter jets from allies but French president Macron said yesterday that France could yet send jets with conditions.

Ukraine war a ‘massive wakeup call’ for British Army, say veterans and experts

06:27 , Arpan Rai

The war in Ukraine should trigger a “massive wakeup call” for how the UK government looks to fund the British Army, former soldiers and military historians have warned amid criticism over its ability to defend the UK and its allies.

Former soldier Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British Army officer from 1988 to 2012, told The Independent: “We thought the artillery was in good shape but that was before the Ukraine conflict, a lot of money was spent. But having been playing Star Wars [with focus on cyber and space security] the Ukraine war has shown that to be successful on the battlefield you need to focus on that.”

The Rishi Sunak administration has come under fire from veterans and members of his own party after a US general said the army could no longer defend the UK. The army is currently 76,000 strong but would shrink to 73,000 if downsizing plans go ahead. It is already half the size it was in 1990 and the smallest it has been since Napoleonic times.

Read the full story here:

Ukraine war a ‘massive wakeup call’ for British Army, say veterans and experts

Russia turns maternity hospitals into field hospitals in Luhansk – official

06:14 , Arpan Rai

Russia has turned two maternity hospitals in Luhansk Oblast into field hospitals, the Ukrainian general staff said today, reported The Kyiv Independent.

He added that the medical facilities were taken over by Russian soldiers and it is now only possible to give birth at the Luhansk Regional Perinatal Centre “where there is a catastrophic lack of places and risks for childbirth”.

Putin threatened to kill me with missile attack, says Boris Johnson

06:00 , Liam James

Boris Johnson has claimed that Russian president Vladimir Putin threatened to kill him in a missile attack, saying “it would only take a minute” in a call ahead of the invasion of Ukraine (Adam Forrest writes).

The former prime minister said the “extraordinary” conversation took place in February after he had visited Kyiv in a last-ditch attempt to show Western support for Ukraine amid growing fears of an assault.

Mr Johnson, who would emerge as a staunch backer of Volodymyr Zelensky’s government, made the claim in a new three-part series for BBC Two looking at how the West grappled with Mr Putin in the years leading up to the invasion.

The former PM, who left No 10 in September after being forced from office, made the visit to Kyiv in early February to warn Russia that an invasion would prove disastrous and lead to tough Western sanctions.

Boris Johnson told ‘a lie’ over Putin missile attack claims, says Kremlin

Russian shelling targets Bakhmut, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson

05:41 , Arpan Rai

Russian forces have shelled a dozen settlements in the Bakhmut sector over the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian army general staff said last night.

The Russian troops also trained tank, mortar and artillery fire on towns near Avdiivka to the south, the Ukrainian army official said.

More than 40 settlements came under Russian shelling in central Zaporizhzhia region and in southern Kherson region.

In Kherson, the Russians shelled Kherson city and towns on the left bank of the Dnipro River that they abandoned in November, Kyiv said.

Officials said some casualties have been reported.

Despite the heavy fighting which has picked pace in January, the front line in the eastern sector has not changed, according to Ukrainian military analyst.

The Russians also launched four rocket attacks on Ochakiv in southern Mykolaiv, the army said, on the day Zelensky met Danish prime minister in Mykolaiv city, to the northeast.

More than 60 Bradley fighting vehicles on way to Ukraine, say US officials

05:14 , Arpan Rai

A shipment of military aid that includes more than 60 Bradley fighting vehicles is on its way to Ukraine and will soon be received by Kyiv, US officials say.

The update was provided by US Transportation Command, a branch of the US military responsible for its significant transport logistics needs.

The shipment departed from South Carolina last week, a statement said.

“The shipment — containing more than 60 Bradleys — left the shores of North Charleston, South Carolina, last week, and will provide the Ukrainian forces with additional offensive and defensive capabilities to protect their borders against Russia’s illegal invasion,” US Transportation Command said.

Biden to visit Poland, date unknown

05:00 , Liam James

US president Joe Biden said on Monday he will visit Poland but does not know when.

NBC News reported last week Mr Biden was considering a trip to Europe, including possibly Poland, to coincide with the 24 February anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Boris Johnson told ‘a lie’ over Putin missile attack claims, says Kremlin

04:42 , Arpan Rai

The Kremlin has indicated Boris Johnson told “a lie” when the former prime minister said that Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to threaten him with a missile strike.

The former Downing Street incumbent made the claim in a new three-part series for BBC Two looking at how the West grappled with Mr Putin in the years leading up to the war in Ukraine.

Mr Johnson, talking about a phone call between the two leaders ahead of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, said: “He sort of threatened me at one point and said: ‘Boris, I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile, it would only take a minute,’ or something like that.”

Read the full story:

Boris Johnson told ‘a lie’ over Putin missile attack claims, says Kremlin

World leaders seem rightly shamefaced in Putin vs the West

04:30 , Arpan Rai

In Putin vs the West, David Cameron, François Hollande, Jose Manuel Barroso and the rest of the gullible talking heads are mostly filmed in front of impressively full bookcases or inside what look like ornately furnished palaces.

Juxtaposed with bombed-out Ukrainian schools or tanks rolling down Crimean roads, this makes them look rather detached from the bloody reality they allowed to happen.

This is the latest series from the legendary Norma Percy, and the three-parter contains everything you’d expect from the veteran documentarian – the right blend of revelation, anecdote, history, drama, forensic analysis and storytelling.

It’s Putin, the Ukraine war and how the West fouled up, all made comprehensible. It’s brilliant, and you have to watch it to understand how we got to where we are now.

Read the review here:

World leaders seem rightly shamefaced in Putin vs the West – review

Russia faced with battle for ‘every metre’ in eastern Ukraine

04:20 , Arpan Rai

A Russian-backed official has made fresh claims of capturing Ukraine’s territory in the eastern region, but added that its troops were facing fierce resistance from Ukrainian soldiers who are fighting for “every metre”.

Denis Pushilin, head of the occupied eastern Donetsk province and installed by Russia, claimed that the Ukrainian fighters were countering the Russian offensive with reinforcements in Bakhmut, Maryinka and Vuhledar — three towns placed in eastern Ukraine’s north to south strip.

Russian forces were making advances there, but “not clear-cut, that is, here there is a battle for literally every metre”, he said, reported Russia’s state news agency TASS.

Russia is having its ‘big revenge’, warns Zelensky

04:00 , Liam James

Russia has begun its “big revenge” for Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday, as Russian forces claimed a series of incremental gains in his country’s east.

Mr Zelensky has been warning for weeks that Moscow aims to step up its assault on Ukraine after about two months of virtual stalemate along the front line that stretches across the south and east.

He said Russian attacks in the east were relentless despite heavy casualties on the Russian side, casting them as payback for Ukraine‘s success in pushing Russian forces back from the capital, northeast and south earlier in the conflict.

“I think that Russia really wants its big revenge. I think they have [already] started it,” Zelenskiy said.

“Every day they either bring in more of their regular troops, or we see an increase in the number of Wagnerites,” he told reporters in the southern port city of Odesa.

Zelensky at a news briefing in Odesa on Monday (Reuters)
Zelensky at a news briefing in Odesa on Monday (Reuters)

Biden says US won’t provide F-16 jets to Ukraine

03:22 , Arpan Rai

Joe Biden has said the US would not be providing Ukraine’s armed forces with the American-made F-16 fighter jets that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and members of his government have asked for.

Mr Biden was addressing reporters upon his return to the White House when he was asked if the US would offer the single-engine multirole fighters to Kyiv.

He replied: “No”.

The president’s statement comes amid a renewed push by Pentagon officials to provide the jets, which are manufactured by Lockheed Martin and used by a variety of US allies, in the wake of his decision to allow Kyiv to acquire American-made M1 Abrams tanks.

Read the full story here:

Biden says US won’t provide F-16 jets to Ukraine

Slovenian authorities ‘hold 2 alleged Russian spies'

03:00 , AP

Slovenian authorities have apprehended two alleged Russian spies suspected of using an agency dealing in real estate and antiques as a front for their activities in the Nato member, media reported Monday.

Slovenia’s respected Delo newspaper and the Siol news portal cited the public prosecutor’s office as confirming the arrests.

Slovenian police confirmed that two individuals had been arrested in December for suspected espionage but did not disclose which country they were accused of working for.

“They are suspected of being members of a foreign intelligence service,” police spokesman Drago Menegalija said.

Report: Slovenian authorities hold 2 alleged Russian spies

Boris Johnson told ‘a lie’ over Putin missile attack claims, says Kremlin

02:00 , PA

The Kremlin has suggested Boris Johnson told “a lie” when the former prime minister said that Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to threaten him with a missile strike.

The former Downing Street incumbent made the claim in a new three-part series for BBC Two looking at how the West grappled with Mr Putin in the years leading up to the war in Ukraine.

Mr Johnson, talking about a phone call between the two leaders ahead of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, said: “He sort of threatened me at one point and said: ‘Boris, I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile, it would only take a minute,’ or something like that.”

But the Kremlin disputed the claim, saying there were “no threats with missiles” during the bilateral conversation held in February 2022.

Boris Johnson told ‘a lie’ over Putin missile attack claims, says Kremlin

Five civilians killed as fighting remains deadlocked, say Ukrainian officials

01:00 , Liam James

Fighting has remained largely deadlocked in eastern Ukraine, where Russian shelling killed five civilians over the past day, according to Ukrainian officials.

The casualties included a woman who was killed and three others who were wounded by the Russian shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the country’s north-east, regional governor Oleh Syniyehubov said.

An emergency worker walks in front of a residential building which was hit by a Russian rocket in the city centre of Kharkiv (AP)
An emergency worker walks in front of a residential building which was hit by a Russian rocket in the city centre of Kharkiv (AP)

Ukraine war a ‘massive wakeup call’ for British Army, say veterans and experts

00:00 , Liam James

The Ukraine war should provide a “massive wakeup call” for how the government looks to fund the British Army, former soldiers and military historians have warned amid criticism over its ability to defend the UK and its allies (William Mata writes).

Rishi Sunak has come under fire from veterans and members of his own party after a US general said the army could no longer defend the UK. The army is currently 76,000 strong but would shrink to 73,000 if downsizing plans go ahead. It is already half the size it was in 1990 and the smallest it has been since Napoleonic times.

Former soldier Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British Army officer from 1988 to 2012, told The Independent: “We thought the artillery was in good shape but that was before the Ukraine conflict, a lot of money was spent. But having been playing Star Wars [with focus on cyber and space security] the Ukraine war has shown that to be successful on the battlefield you need to focus on that.”

Ukraine war a ‘massive wakeup call’ for British Army, say veterans and experts

UK still a top-tier military power, says No 10

Monday 30 January 2023 23:00 , Liam James

London has insisted the UK remains a top-tier military power following claims a senior US general told defence secretary Ben Wallace the British Army is no longer regarded as a “top-level” fighting force.

Asked if Rishi Sunak still believes the UK is a top-level fighting force, his spokesman said: “Yes”, adding that the PM believes the British military personnel have “the equipment and capability to meet the threats they face”.

Defence sources told Sky News that cost-cutting measures have seen the status of the British Armed Forces decline in the eyes of world leaders. “You haven’t got a tier one, it’s barely tier two,” the US general reportedly told Mr Wallace.

France and Australia in joint arms pledge, moving on from Aukus snub

Monday 30 January 2023 22:00 , Liam James

France and Australia have unveiled plans to jointly manufacture ammunition for Ukraine as the two countries seek to shore up defence cooperation and move past a row over Canberra’s decision to ditch plans to buy French submarines.

The relationship hit historic lows in the autumn of 2021 with Paris accusing its allies of stabbing it in the back when Australia opted for nuclear-powered submarines built with US and British technology instead in what became known as the Aukus pact.

French defence minister Sebastien Lecornu said France and Australia had agreed to cooperate to make “several thousands” of 155-mm shells to help Ukraine, which he hoped could start being delivered in the first quarter of this year.

Mr Lecornu was speaking after meeting his Australian counterpart Richard Marles, the first joint high-level talks since the submarine row erupted.

France open to sending fighter jets to Ukraine

Monday 30 January 2023 20:59 , Liam James

President Emmanuel Macron said France was open to sending fighter jets to Ukraine, but laid out multiple conditions before such a significant step might be taken.

France has sent Ukraine air defence systems, rocket launcher units, cannons and other military equipment and has pledged to send armoured surveillance and combat vehicles, but has stopped short of sending battle tanks or heavier weaponry.

Asked at a news conference in The Hague on Monday if France is considering sending warplanes, Mr Macron said “nothing is excluded” as long as certain conditions are met.

Among those conditions: that providing such equipment would not lead to an escalation of tensions or be used “to touch Russian soil”, and that it would not “weaken the capacities of the French army”, Mr Macron said.

He also said Ukraine would have to formally request the planes.

Allies have held back from pledging war planes over fears of a Russian response but after several states took the previously unthinkable step of sending tanks, the terms of support for Ukraine have changed.

Croatia’s president criticises tank deliveries to Ukraine

Monday 30 January 2023 20:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Nato-member Croatia’s president has criticised Western nations for supplying Ukraine with heavy tanks and other weapons in its campaign against invading Russian forces, saying those arms deliveries will only prolong the war.

Zoran Milanovic told reporters in the Croatian capital that it’s “mad” to believe that Russia can be defeated in a conventional war.

“I am against sending any lethal arms there,” Mr Milanovic said. “It prolongs the war.”“What is the goal? Disintegration of Russia, change of the government? There is also talk of tearing Russia apart. This is mad,” he added.

Mr Milanovic won the presidential election in Croatia in 2019 as a left-leaning liberal candidate, a counterpoint to the conservative government currently in power in the European Union and Nato-member state.

Milanovic after taking the presidential oath in 2020 (AP)
Milanovic after taking the presidential oath in 2020 (AP)

Boris Johnson told ‘a lie’ over Putin missile attack claims, says Kremlin

Monday 30 January 2023 19:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Kremlin has suggested Boris Johnson told “a lie” when the former prime minister said that Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to threaten him with a missile strike.

The former Downing Street incumbent made the claim in a new three-part series for BBC Two looking at how the West grappled with Mr Putin in the years leading up to the war in Ukraine.

Mr Johnson, talking about a phone call between the two leaders ahead of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, said: “He sort of threatened me at one point and said: ‘Boris, I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile, it would only take a minute’, or something like that.”

But the Kremlin disputed the claim, saying there were “no threats with missiles” during the bilateral conversation held in February 2022.

Boris Johnson told ‘a lie’ over Putin missile attack claims, says Kremlin

Joe Biden’s decision to send tanks to Ukraine is about more than just politics

Monday 30 January 2023 18:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The decision by the Biden administration to reverse its previous stance and send tanks to Ukraine is a significant political and military move, Kim Sengupta writes.

The supply of the M1A1 Abrams has met the German stipulation on Leopard 2 tanks, for Berlin’s own forces – and those of other Nato states using them – to transfer them to Kyiv, with new offensives by both Russia and Ukraine due to begin in the spring.

The Abrams, the Leopards and the British-supplied Challengers will not, by themselves, win the war for Ukraine; but they will have a major impact on the battlefield and raise the scale and lethality of combat.

The number of tanks for a decisive tilt against the Russians are not adding up at the moment: although that may change.

Biden’s decision to send tanks to Ukraine is about more than politics | Kim Sengupta

Russian official says ‘small steps’ needed to reconcile with US

Monday 30 January 2023 17:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia‘s deputy foreign minister said that “small steps” would be needed for Moscow and the United States to come closer to agreement on bilateral issues, the RIA news agency reported on Monday.

“We hope that the tactics of small steps will allow us to come to mutually acceptable solutions on the most important issues of the bilateral agenda,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the RIA news agency in an interview.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Slovenia arrests two men suspected on spying for Russia

Monday 30 January 2023 16:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Slovenia’s state security service has arrested two men suspected of spying for Russian military intelligence, the Ljubljana-based Delo newspaper reported on Monday, citing sources.

The suspects, one of whom has citizenship of a South American country, operated under assumed identities from a rented office in the Bezigrad neighbourhood of the capital Ljubljana, the report said.

It said the two suspects have been charged with espionage for Russia‘s GRU military intelligence service and using false documents. If convicted, they could be jailed for up to eight years.

The Slovenian Intelligence Agency said the information gathered was “classified and therefore the agency does not make it public nor does it publicly comment on it.

“The Agency regularly informs the main bodies of the national security system on intelligence activities carried out by foreign entities and cooperates ... closely with Slovenian security authorities as well as with the EU and NATO authorities and services,” it said in an emailed response to Reuters.

NATO chief urges Seoul to send military support to Ukraine

Monday 30 January 2023 15:20 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday called for South Korea to provide direct military support to Ukraine, saying Kyiv is in urgent need of weapons to fight off the prolonged Russian invasion.

South Korea, a growing arms exporter with the large US-backed military, has provided humanitarian aid and other support to Ukraine while joining US-led economic sanctions against Moscow.

But the country has not directly provided arms to Ukraine, citing a long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to countries actively engaged in conflict.

Speaking at a forum in Seoul, Stoltenberg urged South Korea to “step up on the specific issue of military support.”

He noted that several NATO members and allies, including Germany, Norway and Sweden, have changed their policies of not exporting weapons to countries in conflict to support Ukraine.

“If we believe in freedom, if we believe in democracy, if we don’t want autocracy and tyranny to win, then they need weapons. That’s the reality,” said Stoltenberg, who arrived in South Korea on Sunday on a trip that also includes Japan.

Stoltenberg also met South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday. They discussed South Korea’s commitment to support Ukraine and NATO’s possible role in dissuading North Korea from its growing nuclear ambitions following an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests in 2022, Yoon’s office said.

South Korean officials didn’t confirm any specific discussions about sending arms to Ukraine.

Following his meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin on Sunday, Stoltenberg mentioned U.S. intelligence reports accusing North Korea of providing weapons to Russia to support its war in Ukraine, which he said highlights how security between the regions “is more and more interconnected.”

Russian business offers cash bounties to destroy Western tanks in Ukraine

Monday 30 January 2023 15:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Russian company said it will offer five million roubles - approximately £58,000 - in cash to the first soldiers who destroy or capture western-made tanks in Ukraine, after the Kremlin vowed Russian forces would wipe out any Western tanks shipped to Ukraine.

The United States, Germany and several other European countries are lining up to send Kyiv dozens of advanced combat tanks over the next few months to help boost Ukraine‘s military capacity as the war approaches the 12-month mark.

The decision has been criticised by the Kremlin as a dangerous escalation, and spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the tanks would “burn” on the frontlines.

Now a Russian company - Fores, a Urals-based firm which makes proppants for the energy industry - is offering cash payments to Russian servicemen who “capture or destroy” German-made Leopard 2 or U.S.-made Abrams tanks.

The company said it will pay five million roubles to the first Russian soldier to destroy one of the tanks, and 500,000 roubles- approximately £5,700- for all subsequent attacks.

Echoing language used by Russian officials and pro-war state TV hosts, Fores said NATO was pumping Ukraine with an “unlimited” amount of arms and escalating the conflict. It also said it would pay a 15-million rouble ($215,000) bounty on Western-made fighter jets, should they ever be delivered to Ukraine.

The tanks have not yet been dispatched to Kyiv, and it could take several months before the bulk of the promised deliveries are sent.

Finland to stick with Sweden in NATO bid, hopes for green light by July

Monday 30 January 2023 14:50 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Finland is sticking to its plan to join NATO at the same time as Nordic neighbour Sweden, and hopes to do so no later than July, Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said on Monday.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, but Turkey raised objections.

The three countries signed an agreement in Madrid over a way forward, but last week, Turkey suspended talks after protests in Stockholm that included the burning of a Koran.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan signalled on Sunday that Ankara could agree to Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday made similar statements.

However, Haavisto said Finland will stick with Sweden, its closest military partner, during the application process.

“Our strong wish is still to join NATO together with Sweden,” Haavisto told a news conference in Helsinki.

“We have underlined to all our future NATO partners, including Hungary and Turkey, that Finnish and Swedish security go together,” he said.

A spokesperson for Sweden’s foreign ministry declined to comment.

Zelensky visits southern Ukraine, meets Danish prime minister

Monday 30 January 2023 14:31 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky met Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen in the southern city of Mykolaiv on Monday during a rare visit by a foreign leader to a region close to the war front.

Zelensky greeted Frederiksen with a handshake on a snowy street before entering a hospital where they met soldiers wounded in Russia‘s invasion.

“It is important for our warriors to be able to undergo not only physical, but also psychological rehabilitation,” Zelensky wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “I am grateful to all the medical workers who care about the health of our defenders. I wish them a speedy recovery!”

The two leaders also visited the Mykolaiv Commercial Sea Port, where they saw oil storage tanks hit by Russian enemy missiles and drones, and a heating point equipped with a water purification and distribution unit under a project implemented with Danish assistance.

Zelensky thanked Frederiksen for the assistance provided by Denmark, whose defence ministry said earlier this month that the country would donate 19 French-made Caesar howitzer artillery systems to Ukraine.

The president said he had also met local officials while in Mykolaiv region, which has frequently been under attack by Russian forces since the invasion 11 months ago.

“The region is heroically withstanding all the attacks of the terrorists (Russian forces). During the visit, I held a meeting on the current situation in the region,” he wrote.

“We discussed the operational situation in the south of Ukraine, the consequences of Russia‘s missile and drone attacks.”

Talks also covered the state of the region’s energy infrastructure and the region’s long-term recovery, Zelensky said.

Russia claims gains in relentless battles in east Ukraine

Monday 30 January 2023 13:58 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian forces claimed incremental gains in eastern Ukraine on Monday adding up to their biggest advances in months, after relentless battles that Kyiv described as human wave attacks which showed Moscow had no regard for the lives of its own men.

The administrator of Russian-controlled parts of Donetsk province, Denis Pushilin, claimed troops had secured a foothold in Vuhledar, a coal mining town whose ruins have been a Ukrainian bastion since the outset of the war.

A day earlier, the head of Russia‘s Wagner mercenary force said his fighters had secured Blahodatne, a village just north of Bakhmut, a city that has been the focus of sustained Russian attacks for months.

Kyiv said it had repelled assaults on Blahodatne and Vuhledar, and Reuters could not independently verify the situations there. But the locations of the reported fighting indicated clear, though gradual, Russian gains after around two months in which front lines had largely been frozen in place.

“The situation is very tough. Bakhmut, Vuhledar and other sectors in Donetsk region - there are constant Russian attacks,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address late on Sunday.

“The enemy does not count its people and, despite numerous casualties, maintains a high intensity of attacks.”

Vuhledar sits south of Bakhmut, near where the eastern frontline protects Russian-controlled rail lines supplying Moscow’s forces in southern Ukraine. Mykola Salamakha, a Ukrainian colonel and military analyst, told Ukrainian Radio NV that Moscow’s assault there was coming at huge cost.

“The town is on an upland and an extremely strong defensive hub has been created there,” he said. “This is a repetition of the situation in Bakhmut - one wave of Russian troops after another crushed by the Ukrainian armed forces.”

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

Monday 30 January 2023 13:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine has now been raging for more than 11 months, the conflict continuing to record devastating casualties and force the mass displacement of millions of blameless Ukrainians.

Vladimir Putin began the war by claiming Russia’s western neighbour needed to be “demilitarised and de-Nazified”, an entirely baseless pretext on which to launch a landgrab against an independent state that happens to have a Jewish president.

Ukraine has fought back courageously ever since and continued to defy the odds by defending itself against Russian onslaughts with the help of Western military aid.

Read more from Thomas Kingsley and Joe Sommerlad:

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

China's top diplomat to visit Moscow in February

Monday 30 January 2023 13:20 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi is set to visit Moscow in February, Russia‘s Vedomosti newspaper said on Monday, citing two sources.

According to the newspaper, Wang may visit Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of the sources said.

Reuters was not able to immediately verify the report.

 (AP)
(AP)

Slovenia arrests two men suspected on spying for Russia

Monday 30 January 2023 13:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Slovenia’s state security agencies have arrested two men suspected of spying for the Russian military intelligence service, the Ljubljana-based Delo newspaper reported on Monday, citing sources.

The suspects, one of whom has citizenship of a South American country, operated under assumed identities from a rented office in the Ljubljana neighbourhood of Bezigrad, the report said.

The two suspects have been charged with espionage and using false documents. If convicted, they may face jail terms of up to eight years, the report said.

Slovenia’s intelligence agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report when contacted by Reuters.

More Russian forces moved to Kursk region on Ukrainian border -governor

Monday 30 January 2023 12:35 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia has moved additional forces and equipment to the Kursk region on the border with Ukraine to protect the frontier and ensure security, regional governor Roman Starovoit said on Monday, according to Interfax news agency.

Local authorities say that the region has repeatedly been subjected to Ukrainian shelling since Russia invaded Ukraine almost a year ago.

Some of Russia‘s troops entered from the Kursk region, although the areas of northeastern Ukraine that they seized have since been retaken by Kyiv’s forces.

Starovoit told a meeting of the regional government that a solid contingent of personnel from the armed forces, border guards and law enforcement agencies had already been formed in Kursk, but that “it is necessary to provide comprehensive support for the reception, deployment and arrangement of additional forces”.

Kyiv has repeatedly warned that Russia could make a new attempt to seize parts of northeastern Ukraine, pointing to increased joint military activity in Russia‘s close ally Belarus, another of the staging points for February’s invasion, around 200 km (120 miles) west of Kursk province.

In pictures: Kherson strikes damage residential homes

Monday 30 January 2023 12:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian firefighters douse flames in a burning house following Russian shelling in the city of Kherson.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Ryanair hiring Ukraine staff in anticipation of return after war

Monday 30 January 2023 11:53 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ryanair is hiring significant numbers of Ukrainian pilots and cabin crew so that it will be ready to return to the country when the war with Russia ends, Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said on Monday.

“We are very committed to returning to Ukraine as soon as it is safe to do so,” said O’Leary, who had said on the eve of the conflict that he was considering basing up to 20 aircraft in the country.

“We are hiring quite a number of Ukraine pilots and cabin crew specifically so that we can ... restore bases in Ukraine if and when it is safe to do so,” O’Leary told analysts after the release of third-quarter financial results.

Russian shelling kills 5 in tough eastern Ukraine combat

Monday 30 January 2023 11:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian shelling killed at least five people and wounded 13 others during the previous 24 hours, Ukrainian authorities said Monday as the Kremlin’s and Kyiv’s forces remained locked in combat in eastern Ukraine.

The casualties included a woman who was killed and three others who were wounded by the Russian shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine‘s second-largest city in the country’s northeast, according to regional Gov. Oleh Syniyehubov.

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)
 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

Russian army shells Kherson ‘atrociously all day'

Monday 30 January 2023 10:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the strikes on Kherson which damaged a hospital and residential buildings.

“Today, the Russian army has been shelling Kherson atrociously all day. Residential buildings, various social and transport facilities, including a hospital, post office, and bus station, have been damaged,” he said in his nightly address.

“Two women, nurses, were wounded in the hospital. As of now, there are reports of six wounded and three dead.”

 (AFP/Getty)
(AFP/Getty)

Boris Johnson lied about Putin missile threat, Kremlin says

Monday 30 January 2023 10:13 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Kremlin said on Monday that former British prime minister Boris Johnson was lying when he said Vladimir Putin had threatened him with a missile strike during a phone call in the run-up to the invasion of Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that what Johnson said was not true, or “more precisely, a lie”.

Johnson, speaking to the BBC for a documentary, said the Russian leader had threatened him with a missile strike that would “only take a minute”.

“He threatened me at one point, and he said, ‘Boris, I don’t want to hurt you but, with a missile, it would only take a minute’ or something like that,” Johnson said.

Russia seeks 'new level' of China ties

Monday 30 January 2023 09:58 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia said on Monday that it wanted to take ties with China to a “new level” and was looking forward to face-to-face talks with Beijing’s leadership as a Russian newspaper reported that China’s top diplomat would visit Moscow in February.

“We are convinced that the potential for Russian-Chinese bilateral cooperation is still far from exhausted,” Russia‘s foreign ministry said.

Russia aims to reach its target of $200 billion worth of trade between the two countries ahead of schedule and to “significantly deepen” its ties with Beijing, it said.

The deepening “no limits” partnership between the rising superpower of China and the natural resources titan of Russia is being watched by the West with some anxiety, though it is unclear just how deep the partnership is.

China has refrained from condemning Russia‘s operation against Ukraine or calling it an “invasion” in line with the Kremlin which casts the war as “a special military operation”.

After the West imposed the most severe sanctions in modern history on Moscow due to the war in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin says Russia is turning towards Asia - and China in particular - after centuries of looking to the West as the crucible of economic growth, technology and war.

The Russian foreign ministry’s comments came shortly after Russia‘s Vedomosti newspaper reported that China’s chief diplomat Wang Yi was set to visit Moscow in February.

According to the newspaper, Wang may visit Putin during his stay. The purpose of Wang’s visit is unclear but may be related to preparations for an upcoming visit to Russia by Chinese President Xi Jinping, it added.

When asked about the potential visit by Wang Yi, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said during a regular briefing that she was not yet aware of such a meeting.

Iran summons senior Ukraine diplomat over comments on drone strike

Monday 30 January 2023 09:28 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Iran summoned Ukraine‘s charge d’affaires in Tehran on Monday over his country’s comments on a drone strike on a military factory in the central Iranian province of Isfahan, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

In Ukraine, which accuses Iran of supplying hundreds of drones to Russia to attack civilian targets in Ukrainian cities far from the front, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky linked the incident directly to the war there.

“Explosive night in Iran,” Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted on Sunday. “Did warn you.”

A US official told Reuters that Israel appears to have been behind the attack.

Iran has acknowledged sending drones to Russia but says they were sent before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

Moscow denies its forces use Iranian drones in Ukraine, although many have been shot down and recovered there.

 (AP)
(AP)