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Ukraine-Russia war – live: Putin at risk of ‘revolution’ after Belgorod raid, Wagner chief claims

The leader of Russian mercenary group Wagner has claimed that Vladimir Putin could face a revolution similar to those of 1917 and lose the war in Ukraine unless the elite got serious about fighting the war.

Ukraine is preparing a counter-offensive aimed at pushing Russian troops back to the borders of before 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea, Yevgeny Prigozhin said. Ukraine would try to encircle Bakhmut and attack Crimea, he added.

“Most likely of all, this scenario will not be good for Russia so we need to prepare for an arduous war,” he said in an interview posted on his Telegram channel.

Russia‘s elite, he said, protected their own children from fighting the war while the children of ordinary Russians perished on the front, a situation he said that could trigger turmoil in Russia.

If ordinary Russians continued getting their children back in zinc coffins while the children of the elite sunned themselves abroad, he said, Russia would face turmoil along the lines of the 1917 revolutions which ushered in a civil war.

Key Points

  • Wagner chief warns Russia could face revolution unless elite gets serious about war

  • Anti-Russia fighters using US-made armoured vehicles for incursion into Russia - Report

  • Russia ‘forcefully mobilising’ AWOL soldiers in Ukraine, British intelligence says

  • Mercenary Prigozhin warns Russia could face revolution

  • Drone drops explosive device on a car in Belgorod, governor says

  • Governor of Belgorod tells local residents not to return home yet as nine villages evacuated

Mercenary Prigozhin warns Russia could face revolution unless elite gets serious about war

08:28 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, warned that Russia could face a revolution similar to those of 1917 and lose the war in Ukraine unless the elite got serious about fighting the war.

Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has triggered one of the deadliest European conflicts since World War Two and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Ukraine is preparing a counter-offensive aimed at pushing Russian troops back to the borders of before 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea, Prigozhin said. Ukraine would try to encircle Bakhmut and attack Crimea, he added.

“Most likely of all, this scenario will not be good for Russia so we need to prepare for an arduous war,” he said in an interview posted on his Telegram channel.

“We are in such a condition that we could fucking lose Russia - that is the main problem ... We need to impose martial law.”

Prigozhin said his political outlook was dominated by love for the motherland and serving Putin. He said the nickname of “Putin’s chef” was stupid as he couldn’t cook, quipping that “Putin’s butcher” might be a more apt nickname.

Russia‘s elite, he said, protected their own children from fighting the war while the children of ordinary Russians perished on the front, a situation he said that could trigger turmoil in Russia.

If ordinary Russians continued getting their children back in zinc coffins while the children of the elite sunned themselves abroad, he said, Russia would face turmoil along the lines of the 1917 revolutions which ushered in a civil war.

 (AP)
(AP)

Anti-Russia fighters using US-made armoured vehicles for incursion into Russia - Report

04:30 , Shweta Sharma

Anti-Russian fighters appeared to have used US-made armoured vehicles in the Belgorod Oblast incursion, according to pictures and videos verified by New York Times.

At least three such US-made vehicles were used with two of those captured by Russian forces.

The group behind the incursion that has sparked evacuations in Belgorod used MRAPs, known as Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, which were first built by the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and Washington has sent several to Ukraine.

The two groups that have claimed responsibility for the incursion are the Freedom of Russia Legion - a Ukraine-based Russian militia led by Russian opposition figure Ilya Ponomarev that says it is working inside Russia for Vladimir Putin’s overthrow - and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC).

One of the photos of a seized MRAP showed a Russian soldier standing next to a vehicle which had a white spray-painted marking of an upward-pointing arrow. A vehicle with a similar symbol was seen in a video just hours before the incursion into Russia.

Shadowy attacks inside Russia deliver a psychological win for Ukraine

14:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The announcement from Moscow came as little surprise, at least in its language – claiming that those who had raided Russian villages close to the border with Ukraine had been “completely eliminated”. That it came after two days of fighting raises more of an eyebrow.

The attack has been claimed by Russian militia groups who say their aim is to see President Vladimir Putin toppled. Whatever the state of the raid – with suggestions that the militas’ opperations could be continuing despite the announcements from Moscow – in the context of Russia’s broader invasion it is a skirmish. It is the intrigue around the incursion that will have a more lasting effect as it becomes part of the propaganda war between Moscow and Kyiv.

Our foreign editor Chris Stevenson has more:

Analysis: Shadowy attacks inside Russia deliver a psychological win for Ukraine

US says Russia's Wagner Group seeking to transit military equipment through Mali

13:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The U.S. State Department on Monday said Russia‘s Wagner Group is trying to obscure its efforts to acquire military equipment for use in Ukraine, adding that Washington has been informed the mercenary force is seeking to move those acquisitions through Mali to aid Russia in its war.

Wagner is willing to use false paperwork for such transactions, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters at a regular news briefing.

“There are indications that Wagner has been attempting to purchase military systems from foreign suppliers and route these weapons through Mali as a third party,” Miller said.

“We have not seen as of yet any indications that these acquisitions have been finalized or executed, but we are monitoring the situation closely.”

Miller said Washington has imposed sanctions on a number of people and entities that support Wagner’s military operations, and said the United States would have more to share soon.

Reuters could not immediately reach Mali’s government for comment.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia‘s Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday dismissed the U.S. allegations as a “hoax” in a news conference and urged Washington to examine the effect of its own military exports.

 (PRIGOZHIN PRESS SERVICE)
(PRIGOZHIN PRESS SERVICE)

Belgorod raid: Who is behind attacks on Russian region bordering Ukraine?

13:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia alleges that dozens of Ukrainian militants crossed into one of its border towns in its Belgorod region, striking targets and forcing an evacuation, before over 70 of the attackers were killed or pushed back by what the authorities termed a counterterrorism operation.

Ukraine denied any involvement in the skirmishes Monday and Tuesday, instead blaming two Russian groups that claim to be volunteers fighting alongside Kyiv‘s forces in an uprising against the government of President Vladimir Putin.

While neither version could be independently verified, whatever happened appears to have sent Moscow scrambling to respond to one of the most serious border incursions since Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Who is behind Belgorod incursion on Russian region bordering Ukraine?

WHO condemns Russia's aggression in Ukraine, rejects Moscow's counter-proposal

12:38 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The World Health Organisation (WHO) assembly passed a motion on Wednesday condemning Russia‘s aggression against Ukraine, including attacks on healthcare facilities.

The motion passed by 80 votes to 9, with 52 abstentions and 36 countries absent.

The Western-led motion, put forward at the U.N. agency’s annual meeting, also called for an assessment of the impact of Russia‘s aggression on the health sector.

Russia had submitted a counter-proposal recognising the health emergency in Ukraine, but making no mention of its own role in the war.

That motion was rejected by the assembly immediately after the first, by 62 votes to 13, with 61 abstentions and 41 countries absent.

After the votes, the Russian representative told the assembly it was not against the work of the WHO in Ukraine, but it was against the “politicisation” of the body.

Ukraine‘s representative said the vote was a “sign of hope” for its citizens in need of health assistance, and a milestone in the continuation of the WHO’s work in the country.

Tensions had been running high in the run up to the twin votes. During speeches that were critical of Russia, Moscow’s envoy interrupted with points of order.

Britain’s ambassador Simon Manley also accused Russia of spreading “disinformation” at the assembly and a Russian official confirmed it had distributed pamphlets accusing Ukrainian forces of attacking medical facilities in parts of the country it controls.

Moscow has consistently denied targeting civilians during what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The votes echo last year’s assembly, when two sets of motions were also presented, with the Western-led resolution passing with 88 votes for and 12 against. Abstentions and absence levels were high, as in this year’s vote.

Russia extends detention of WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich by three months

12:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Russian court has extended the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich by three months, Russian news agencies reported Tuesday.

Mr Gershkovich, an American citizen, was ordered held until 30 August. He had been arrested in March on espionage charges on a reporting trip in Russia. He, his employer and the US government have denied the charges.

Mr Gershkovich is the first US correspondent since the Cold War to be detained in Russia on spying charges, and his arrest rattled journalists in the country and drew outrage in the West.

The US government has declared Mr Gershkovich to be “wrongfully detained” and demanded his immediate release. He’s being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

Russia extends detention of WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich by three months

Kremlin says Ukraine border raiders' use of Western-made military hardware part of pattern

11:49 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the use of Western-made military hardware by pro-Ukrainian fighters who conducted a raid on a Russian border region this week was consistent with the West’s growing involvement in the Ukraine conflict.

The Russian military said on Tuesday it had routed militants who attacked the Russian border region of Belgorod with armoured vehicles the previous day, killing more than 70 “Ukrainian nationalists” and pushing the remainder back into Ukraine.

Images of some of the destroyed vehicles used by the pro-Ukrainian fighters broadcast on Russian state media showed U.S.-made military hardware such as U.S.-made Humvees.

“It is no secret for us that more and more equipment is being delivered to Ukraine‘s armed forces. It is no secret that this equipment is being used against our own military. And it is no secret for us that the direct and indirect involvement of Western countries in this conflict is growing by the day,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“We are drawing the appropriate conclusions.”

 (EPA)
(EPA)

Finland says Russia set to terminate agreement on military visits

10:42 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia has informed neighbouring Finland that it will terminate a bilateral agreement on mutual visits to military installations, the Finnish defence ministry said late on Tuesday.

The bilateral agreement, signed in 2000, provided for one annual Russian assessment visit to Finland and a similar visit by Finland to the Leningrad Military District in north-west Russia, the Finnish ministry said in a statement.

Finland last month joined the NATO military alliance in response to Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, drawing a threat from Moscow of “counter-measures.”

The bilateral agreement, last applied in 2019 before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, was among several post-Cold War measures taken to improve East-West relations.

The broader Vienna Act, agreed within the framework of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which also provides for mutual inspection and evaluation visits, would not be affected by the termination, Finland said.

Russian PM tells China’s Xi: We will push back against sanctions

10:02 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told Chinese President Xi Jinping in China on Wednesday that Moscow and Beijing would push back against attempts by countries to use sanctions to “impose their will”, Russia‘s RIA news agency reported.

 (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
(SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia's Lavrov: West sees Russia and China as threat to its dominance

08:59 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said that the West saw Russia and China as “adversaries” that posed what he called an existential threat to the West’s “dominance”.

“As evidenced by statements made at the recently concluded G7 summit in Japan, the West views Russia and China as strategic adversaries posing almost an existential threat to its dominance,” Lavrov said.

 (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service)
(Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service)

Russia ‘forcefully mobilising’ AWOL soldiers in Ukraine, British intelligence says

07:21 , Shweta Sharma

In today’s intelligence update, the British ministry of defence has said Russian military courts dealt with 1,053 cases of personnel going absent without leave (AWOL), citing a credible search by a Russian journalist.

It said Russia’s struggle to enforce discipline in its ranks throughout its operations in Ukraine has likely worsened following the forced mobilisation of reservists since October 2022.

Russian PM says relations with China at ‘unprecedented’ high level

07:08 , Shweta Sharma

Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin who arrived in Beijing today said the ties with China are at an “unprecedented” high level, characterised by mutual respect for each other’s interests and the desire to jointly respond to challenges.

“As our Chinese friends say, unity makes it possible to move mountains,” Mr Mishustin told Chinese premier Li Qiang during a meeting in Beijing.

Mr Li said that China was willing to work with Russia to promote their pragmatic cooperation in various fields and take it to a “new level”.

Pragmatic cooperation between China and Russia has shown a “good” development trend, and the scale of investment between the two is also continuously seeing an upgrade, Mr Li told Mr Mishustin during a meeting in Beijing.

Kyiv denies EU’s Josep Borrell’s claim that Ukrainian pilots training on F-16 jets

06:59 , Shweta Sharma

Ukraine’s Air Force has denied EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell’s comments that its pilots are training on US-made F-16 jets in several European countries.

Preparations for the training program are “still ongoing”, Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat said, according to Kyiv Independent, adding that Ukrainian representatives have been sent to the countries providing the training to “study how the process will go.”

“For a long time, unfortunately, I’ve had to refute (claims) that ‘pilots study in the US, (and) Europe,” Mr Ihnat said in a televised interview on 23 May. “There is no need to give any extra hope.”

Pictures: Russian prime minister arrives in Beijing

06:38 , Shweta Sharma

Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin arrived in Beijing for a state visit during which he will meet Xi Jinping and ink a series of deals on infrastructure and trade.

He is the highest-ranking Russian official to visit Beijing since Moscow sent thousands of its troops to Ukraine in February 2022.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Drone drops explosive device on a car in Belgorod, governor says

06:30 , Shweta Sharma

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) dropped an explosive device on a car in Russia’s Belgorod Region, Tass reported, adding that the car was damaged.

Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on his Telegram channel today that no one was injured in the attack and a bomb squad was rushed to the scene.

Later, the drone was shot down in the region’s airspace but it is not clear if it was the same drone that dropped explosives.

“Air defences have shot down a drone above the Belgorod Region. According to preliminary information, there were no deaths or injuries,” he said.

Russia will achieve goals of its operation in Ukraine by any means, Kremlin says

06:15 , Shweta Sharma

Russia has denied the possibility of freezing the Ukrainian conflict, saying it will pursue its goals through special military operation or by other available means, Kremlin spokespersons said.

“Russia is taking under consideration only the completion of its special military operation: ensuring its interests, achieving Russia’s goals either through the special military operation, or by other available means,” Dmitry Peskov told TASS.

When about the reconciliation plans put forward by other countries, he said: “It is too early to speak about it. No prerequisites for a peace process are yet in place, evidently”.

He added negotiations are “hardly possible, because any negotiations with Russia are prohibited [in Ukraine]”.

Russia scrambled fighter jets after intercepting two US Air Force strategic bombers over Baltic

06:00 , Shweta Sharma

Russia said it scrambled a Su-27 fighter jet after it intercepted two US Air Force strategic bombers flying over the Baltic Sea yesterday night.

“After removing the foreign military aircraft from the Russian state border, the Russian fighter went back to its air base,” the Russian defence ministry said.

The Russian army flew its jet to “prevent violations of the state border”, adding that “the flight of the Russian fighter was carried out in strict accordance with international rules for the use of airspace.”

Confirming that US aircraft were intercepted by Russia, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said B-1 bombers were taking part in a “long-planned exercise in Europe”.

Russia says its military ‘crushed’ Ukraine incursion

05:45 , Shweta Sharma

Russia said it had crushed one of the biggest incursions by Ukraine, including several armoured vehicles, into its border region.

In what appeared to be one of the biggest incursions from Ukraine since the war began 15 months ago, two purported anti-Kremlin armed groups employing Russians based abroad said they were responsible for the attack in Russia’s Belgorod region.

The Russian defence ministry, which blamed the Ukrainian authorities, said its forces had surrounded the enemy fighters and defeated them with “air strikes, artillery fire and active action by border units”.

“The remnants of the nationalists were pushed back to Ukrainian territory, where they continued to be hit by gunfire until they were completely eliminated,” the ministry said.

The Belgorod regional governor said one civilian had been killed “at the hands of the Ukrainian armed forces”.

Russia set to ink bilateral agreements with China amid Western criticism

05:30 , Shweta Sharma

The Russian prime minister is visiting Beijing to sign a set of bilateral agreements on Wednesday with China in a show of their “no limits” partnership amid the war in Ukraine.

Prime minister Mikhail Mishustin - the highest-ranking Russian official to visit Beijing since Moscow sent thousands of its troops to Ukraine in February 2022 - was holding talks with Chinese president Xi Jinping and premier Li Qiang, according to the Russian government.

“As a result of the talks, a number of bilateral agreements is planned to be signed,” the Russian news agency Interfax reported, without elaborating.

It comes as Russia and China furiously objected to G7 declaration that singled them out on a range of issues, including Ukraine, nuclear arms and economic coercion.

Deepening of ties with China is a strategic course for Moscow, said the secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, who held talks on Monday with Chen Wenqing, member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo who oversees police, legal affairs and intelligence.

US State Department denies ‘enabling strikes inside of Russia'

04:45 , Shweta Sharma

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesperson, said the US government is aware of the reports that American armoured vehicles were used in the incursion into Russia, and that they are investigating the reports.

But he added that the US does not “encourage or enable strikes inside of Russia, and we’ve made that clear”.

“I will say that we’re skeptical at this time of the veracity of these reports,” Mr Miller said in response to a New York Times report.

“But as we’ve also said,” he added, “it is up to Ukraine to decide how to conduct this war.”

Russia’s newest nuclear submarine to depart from Arctic as Moscow steps up Pacific military presence

04:15 , Shweta Sharma

The Russian navy’s Generalissimo Suvorov, a nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, is set to move to its permanent base in the Kamchatka Peninsula in August, Tass reported, as Moscow is stepping up its military presence in the Pacific.

The nuclear submarine, which came into service at the end of 2022, can carry up to 16 nuclear-tipped Russian Bulava missiles, each of which can carry more than one nuclear warhead.

“The submarine Generalissimo Suvorov will make an inter-naval transition from the Northern Fleet (in the Arctic) to the Pacific Fleet in August,” the state TASS news agency reported, citing a source close to the military department.

“The transition will be carried out along the Northern Sea Route, including in a submerged position.”

Russia has been boosting defences in its vast far eastern regions bordering the Asia-Pacific, accusing the US of expanding its presence there and raising security concerns in Japan and across the region.

Ukraine launches probe into Russian commander

04:00 , Reuters

Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) said it has launched a criminal investigation into Andrei Ruzinsky, a Russian commander Reuters identified last year as helping lead the military occupation of eastern Ukraine.

Mr Ruzinsky was commander of the Russian Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps, which crossed into Ukraine in early 2022 and took control of a chain of towns south of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

The SBU said in a statement that it had served notice on Mr Ruzinsky, who is on Russian soil, that he was suspected of entering into a conspiracy to conduct acts of military aggression.

It said he had ordered attacks using heavy weapons on populated areas, and that he had given orders to the military commandant in the town of Balakliia, where there were multiple cases of civilians being detained and tortured, according to Ukrainian officials and residents.

Russia withdrew from the area in September last year.

Voices | Putin has blown Bakhmut to smithereens. Why does he want it this badly?

02:54 , Andy Gregory

Just over a year ago the final Ukrainian soldiers left the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, ending a nearly three-month siege of the city by Russian forces, writes Kit Macdonald for Independent Voices.

The Ukrainian troops’ mission – to tie Russian forces up in the city for as long as possible and kill as many of them as possible in the process – was complete. Ukraine pulled off a similar trick in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, twin cities on either side of the Donets River, during May and June 2022.

Now, perhaps the perfect realisation of these tactics has either just ended, is ongoing but close to ending, or is about to take a new twist.

Read the full piece here:

Opinion: Putin has blown Bakhmut to smithereens. Why does he want it this badly?

Ukraine probing alleged role of Belarus in forced deportation of children

01:50 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine is investigating the alleged role of Belarus in the forced transfer of children from Russian-occupied territories, Kyiv’s prosecutor general’s office has said.

The announcement came in response to a report by the exiled Belarusian opposition alleging that 2,150 Ukrainian children, including orphans aged six to 15, were taken to so-called recreation camps and sanatoriums on Belarusian territory.

Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin’s office told Reuters it has launched criminal proceedings into “the forced transportation/deportation of over 19,000 children” from the occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, and Kharkiv, including to Belarus.

“The fact and circumstances of taking Ukrainian children from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine to the so-called ‘recreational camps’ in Belarus are currently under investigation in the mentioned criminal proceedings,” it said.

Reuters did not receive answers to questions sent to Lukashenko’s office.

‘You’ll have to struggle with me for a very long time’: Lukashenko brushes off health rumours

Wednesday 24 May 2023 00:41 , Andy Gregory

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko was forced to dismiss claims that he was seriously ill as he appeared in footage broadcast by state media today, telling officials: “I’m not going to die, guys.”

Rumours about the state of the 68-year-old autocrat’s health have circulated since he appeared at a military parade in Moscow on 9 May, looking tired and unsteady on his feet.

Sounding hoarse, Mr Lukashenko told a meeting on health issues that he had been suffering from an adenovirus, which is a common cold virus. Footage of the encounter was broadcast by Pul Pervovo, a state outlet that reports on Lukashenko’s activities.

“If someone thinks I am going to die, calm down,” he said, adding that while it only took three days to recover from such a virus, he had been too busy to take time off immediately.

“I’m not going to die, guys. You’ll have to struggle with me for a very long time to come,” he said.

World Health Organisation discusses resolution on health emergency in Ukraine

Tuesday 23 May 2023 23:34 , Andy Gregory

World Health Organisation (WHO) members met today in Switzerland to discuss resolutions to the health emergency in Ukraine triggered by Russia’s invasion.

The organisation declared a health emergency in Ukraine after Vladimir Putin’s troops launched a full-scale invasion over a year ago.

Live: World Health Organisation discusses resolution on health emergency in Ukraine

Biden ‘deeply concerned’ about extension of WSJ reporter’s arrest

Tuesday 23 May 2023 22:26 , Andy Gregory

US president Joe Biden is deeply concerned about Russia’s decision to extend the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, the White House has said.

Mr Gershkovich, arrested in Russia in March on espionage charges, was remanded in custody until 30 August in Moscow on Tuesday, state news agency RIA reported, citing the Russian court.

The White House said Mr Gershkovich and US citizen Paul Whelan should be released from Russian detention immediately.

Putin meets with Bosnian Serb leader in Moscow

Tuesday 23 May 2023 21:20 , Andy Gregory

Vladimir Putin has held talks with Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik in Moscow in a meeting which has angered the European Union.

In a transcript released by the Kremlin, the Russian president told Mr Dodik that bilateral trade with his Serb Republic region of Bosnia, while relatively small, had increased by 57 per cent last year.

“This trend should certainly be maintained,” he said, adding that Russian and Bosnian Serb companies could achieve even better results. Bosnia receives Russian gas via Serbia and Bulgaria.

Mr Dodik – a Serb nationalist who has maintained close relations with Mr Putin – said Russia had been forced to invade Ukraine to preserve its security. Mr Putin thanked him for what he called his neutral position on the conflict.

What we know about the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich

Tuesday 23 May 2023 20:33 , Andy Gregory

With Evan Gershkovich’s arrest having been extended by a Russian court for a further three months, my colleague Joe Sommerlad has more details on the Wall Street Journal correspondent’s arrest:

What we know about arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia

Wall Street Journal correspondent’s arrest extended by three months

Tuesday 23 May 2023 20:01 , Andy Gregory

A Russian court has extended the arrest of Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich by three months, Russian news agencies reported.

Mr Gershkovich, a US citizen, was ordered to be held until 30 August, having in March become the first US reported to be detained by Moscow on espionage charges since the Cold War – charges which he, his employer and the US government all reject as false.

Tuesday’s court hearing was not announced in advance, with Russian state media claiming the session was closed because the reporter – who is being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison – was accused of possession of “secret materials”.

 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Russia says it deployed fighter jet to prevent U.S. bomber planes from crossing border

Tuesday 23 May 2023 19:25 , Andy Gregory

Russia deployed a fighter jet to prevent two US strategic bombers from crossing the Russian border as they flew over the Baltic Sea, Moscow’s defence ministry has claimed.

“The crew of the Russian fighter classified the aerial targets as two US Air Force B-1B strategic bombers,” the ministry said.

The bomber planes did not cross the Russian border and that the Russian fighter jet subsequently returned to its home airfield, it added.

US ‘sceptical’ of reports its weapons were used in Russia

Tuesday 23 May 2023 19:04 , Andy Gregory

The United States is sceptical of reports that Washington-supplied weapons were used in an attack inside Russian territory, a State Department spokesperson has said.

Washington does not encourage or enable strikes inside Russia, the spokesperson added.

‘Nuclear apocalypse’ becomes more likely with more powerful Kyiv weapons deliveries, claims Medvedev

Tuesday 23 May 2023 18:31 , Andy Gregory

The more destructive the weapons supplied by the West to Ukraine, the higher the risk of “nuclear apocalypse” becomes, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has said.

“The more weapons are supplied, the more dangerous the world will be,” Mr Medvedev, now deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council, told state news agencies during a trip to Vietnam and Laos.

“And the more destructive these weapons are, the more likely the scenario becomes of what is commonly called a nuclear apocalypse,” he was quoted as saying.

Warning that Nato did not appear to be taking the possibility of nuclear conflict seriously, Mr Medvedev said: “They are wrong. And at some point, events can move in a completely unpredictable scenario. And the responsibility will lie entirely with [Nato].”

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

Three Russian villages without power ‘after explosives hit substation'

Tuesday 23 May 2023 18:07 , Andy Gregory

Three villages in Russia’s Kursk region have been left without power after a drone dropped explosives on an electrical substation, the region’s governor said.

“Repair crews are currently carrying out restoration work. None of the residents were injured,” governor Roman Starovoit said on Telegram.

Belgorod incursion leader claims operation ‘still ongoing'

Tuesday 23 May 2023 16:34 , Andy Gregory

While Russia claims to have ended the incursion into Belgorod, a Financial Times correspondent reports having spoken to far-right extremist Denis Nikitin, who leads one of the two groups claiming responsibility for the attack on Russian territory, and who appeared to give a different view.

In a Twitter post four hours ago, the journalist wrote: “I just spoke to Denis Nikitin, leader of Russian Volunteer Corps. Chuckling at my questions about his unit’s incursion into Russia, he said the operation in Belgorod “is still ongoing.”

Governor of Russia's Belgorod region lifts 'anti-terrorism' measures

Tuesday 23 May 2023 16:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The governor of Russia‘s Belgorod region said on Tuesday that the anti-terrorism measures he introduced after Monday’s cross-border attack from Ukraine had been lifted.

“A decision has been taken to rescind the judicial anti-terrorist operation regime on the territory of the Belgorod region,” governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram.

Ukraine to get western support ‘for years to come’, Sunak says

Tuesday 23 May 2023 15:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine will receive western support for “years to come”, Rishi Sunak said as he warned Vladimir Putin that his strategy of waiting it out is “not going to work”.

The Prime Minister said it was one of the Russian president’s “great miscalculations” to assume his invasion of Ukraine would fragment allies.

Speaking during a Q&A session at the London Defence Conference in Bush House, Mr Sunak also said there was “consistency” across the G7 in the approach to Beijing.

China’s rise represented an “epoch-defining challenge” to the West, he said, but argued the response must not be one of protectionism, with a need to engage with Beijing on a range of issues.

Ukraine to get western support ‘for years to come’, Sunak says

Russian defence ministry says Ukrainian saboteurs forced back into Ukraine

Tuesday 23 May 2023 14:59 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Russian Defence Ministry released footage on Tuesday that it said showed the “destruction of Ukrainian saboteurs” in the Belgorod region.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed more than 70 attackers were killed in the course of the operation.

It was not possible to independently confirm claims about an armed incursion into Russian territory that began Monday.

Russia says it crushes cross-border incursion from Ukraine

Tuesday 23 May 2023 14:48 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia said on Tuesday it had routed fighters who crossed the border from Ukraine after two days of combat, in what appeared to be one of the biggest incursions of its kind of the 15-month-old war.

There was no immediate independent confirmation that the fighting had ended, although one of two groups claiming to be behind the raid said in a post on social media: “One day we will return to stay.”

The two days of fighting had forced Russia to evacuate towns along the Ukrainian border. Russia has blamed Ukraine for the attack, which Kyiv denied. The two groups that claimed responsibility describe themselves as Russian armed dissidents.

The Russian military said it had killed more than 70 “Ukrainian nationalists” and destroyed four armoured vehicles. There was no independent confirmation of those losses.

Russian forces had surrounded the enemy fighters and defeated them with “air strikes, artillery fire and active action by border units”, the defence ministry said.

“The remnants of the nationalists were pushed back to Ukrainian territory, where they continued to be hit by gunfire until they were completely eliminated,” it added.

This image taken from a video shows people indicating a damaged building in the Belgorod region, Russia (AP)
This image taken from a video shows people indicating a damaged building in the Belgorod region, Russia (AP)

Who are the Wagner Group and why are they so involved in Ukraine?

Tuesday 23 May 2023 14:20 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine have been supported on the battlefield by tens of thousands of mercenaries from a shadowy group led by a businessman and longtime affiliate of president Vladimir Putin.

The Wagner Group is a private military company under the control of Yevgeny Prigozhin that cut its teeth in deployments to Crimea and eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014 and has since dispatched troops to several conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, including the Syrian Civil War.

In Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wagner has proved indispensable, but an apparent power struggle between the Kremlin and the outspoken Mr Prigozhin has led to the group having its wings clipped by Moscow.

All we know about shadowy Wagner group mercenaries helping Putin wage war on Ukraine

Chinese envoy to visit Russia on May 26

Tuesday 23 May 2023 13:50 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Chinese Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui will visit Russia on May 26, the Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported, citing an unnamed source.

Li, a former ambassador to Moscow, has been on an extended tour to Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and finally Russia. Last week he became the most senior Chinese official to visit Ukraine since Russia sent in its armed forces in February 2022.

Live: WHO member states discuss resolution on health emergency in Ukraine

Tuesday 23 May 2023 13:35 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Live: WHO member states discuss resolution on health emergency in Ukraine

Governor of Belgorod tells local residents not to return home yet

Tuesday 23 May 2023 13:02 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Belgorod region, said on Tuesday that the Russian army and other security forces were still conducting what he called a counter-terrorism operation.

“The clearing out of the area by the Ministry of Defence in conjunction with the security forces is continuing,” Gladkov said on the Telegram messaging app.

“Do not yet return to your homes,” he told local residents who had been evacuated on Monday.

He said one elderly lady had died while being evacuated and two people were being treated in hospital for various injuries, but that no civilians had been killed in the clashes.

“We are waiting for the conclusion of the counter-terrorism operation,” he said.

He also said Russian air-defence forces had shot down drones over the region.

The two groups that have claimed responsibility for the incursion are the Freedom of Russia Legion - a Ukraine-based Russian militia led by Russian opposition figure Ilya Ponomarev that says it is working inside Russia for Putin’s overthrow - and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC).

Russian Ministry says incursion forces driven back into Ukraine after Belgorod attack

Tuesday 23 May 2023 12:43 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia‘s Defence Ministry said on Tuesday that the remnants of the units that it blamed for Monday’s cross-border attack from Ukraine on the Belgorod region had been forced back into Ukrainian territory.

In its daily briefing, the ministry said more than 70 attackers had been killed. Reuters was unable to verify the report.

Russia’s Medvedev: Western arms for Ukraine make ‘nuclear apocalypse’ more likely

Tuesday 23 May 2023 11:42 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday that the more destructive the weapons that Ukraine receives from its Western backers, the higher the risk of “nuclear apocalypse”, the state-owned news agency RIA reported.

RIA cited Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia‘s Security Council, as saying that Kyiv’s denial of involvement in an armed incursion in the Russian border region of Belgorod was “lies”.

 (AP)
(AP)

Kremlin says 'Ukrainian militants' are still active in Russia's Belgorod region

Tuesday 23 May 2023 10:58 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that “Ukrainian militants” were still active in Russia‘s border region of Belgorod, a day after local authorities declared a counter-terrorism operation there to repel what they called a sabotage group from Ukraine.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia‘s military campaign in Ukraine had been launched to prevent such incursions and that more efforts were needed from the Russian side to prevent such incidents.

Kyiv has said it is watching the situation in Belgorod closely but “has nothing to do with it.”

In pictures: Ukrainian soldiers at the frontline near Bakhmut

Tuesday 23 May 2023 10:32 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Ukrainian soldier sits in a trench at the frontline near Bakhmut (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A Ukrainian soldier sits in a trench at the frontline near Bakhmut (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A Ukrainian soldier carries supplies in a trench at the frontline near Bakhmut (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A Ukrainian soldier carries supplies in a trench at the frontline near Bakhmut (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Russian investigators open 'terrorism case' over cross-border attack from Ukraine

Tuesday 23 May 2023 09:48 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian investigators said on Tuesday they had opened a terrorism investigation after what they said was a cross-border attack on Russia‘s Belgorod region mounted by what they called Ukrainian armed groups.

Kyiv has denied involvement in the attack.

Fighting broke out in the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, on Monday.

Five key takeaways from ‘historic’ G7 Japan summit

Tuesday 23 May 2023 09:16 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries wrapped their three-day summit in Hiroshima, Japan, by further imposing sanctions on Russia, criticising China‘s aggression, and a surprise visit from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The leaders from the US, Canada, Britain, Italy, France and Germany attended the summit in prime minister Fumio Kishida‘s home constituency in the western city that was devastated by a US atomic bomb in August 1945.

The G7 “reached a consensus on the significance of the 77-year-old record of non-use of nuclear weapons and reaffirmed that there are no winners in a nuclear war”, Mr Kishida said, amid growing fears that Russia may use a nuclear weapon in its war in Ukraine.

Five key takeaways from ‘historic’ G7 Japan summit

Ukraine says it still holds part of Bakhmut, fighting decreases in city

Tuesday 23 May 2023 08:50 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian forces still control the southwestern edge of the city of Bakhmut and fighting in the city itself has decreased, Deputy Ukrainian Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on Tuesday.

She wrote on the Telegram messaging app that Kyiv’s forces had made some progress “on the flanks to the north and south of Bakhmut” and that Russian forces, which say they have taken the city itself, were continuing to clear areas they control.

Bakhmut has become a bloody symbol for both Ukraine and Russia – with the cost paid in human lives

Tuesday 23 May 2023 08:35 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Claim and counter-claim are flying between Moscow and Kyiv over the eastern city, writes Kim Sengupta. But there is one undisputed fact – the massive death toll and pain felt by those who have called it home

Bakhmut has become a bloody symbol for both Ukraine and Russia | Kim Sengupta

Who are the Wagner Group and why are they so involved in Ukraine?

Tuesday 23 May 2023 08:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine have been supported on the battlefield by tens of thousands of mercenaries from a shadowy group led by a businessman and longtime affiliate of president Vladimir Putin.

The Wagner Group is a private military company under the control of Yevgeny Prigozhin that cut its teeth in deployments to Crimea and eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014 and has since dispatched troops to several conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, including the Syrian Civil War.

In Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wagner has proved indispensable, but an apparent power struggle between the Kremlin and the outspoken Mr Prigozhin has led to the group having its wings clipped by Moscow.

All we know about shadowy Wagner group mercenaries helping Putin wage war on Ukraine

Putin has blown Bakhmut to smithereens. Why does he want it this badly?

Tuesday 23 May 2023 07:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Even if Russia and its mercenary Wagner Group have finally captured the town, its loss will not be the moral nor strategic victory that Russia desperately needs, writes Kit Macdonald

Opinion: Putin has blown Bakhmut to smithereens. Why does he want it this badly?

Drones shot down over Belgorod, says governor

Tuesday 23 May 2023 07:38 , Arpan Rai

An unspecified number of drones have been shot down over the Russian frontline Belgorod area by anti-aircraft weaponry, regional governor said today.

The region, which borders Ukraine, has been witnessing fighting since Monday, after what Russian officials called a Ukrainian “sabotage group” crossed the border.

Russia will use Belgorod situation to back its ‘victim narrative’ in war — UK MoD

Tuesday 23 May 2023 07:06 , Arpan Rai

The Kremlin will almost certainly use the incidents of security threats in border regions to support the official narrative that it is the victim in the war, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) said today.

The ministry pointed to a chain of events between 19 and 22 May wherein “Russian security forces highly likely clashed with partisans in at least three locations within Russia’s Belgorod oblast”, near the Ukrainian border.

The identity of the partisans remains unconfirmed, but Russian anti-regime groups claimed responsibility, the minstry said.

It added that the most serious incident took place near the town of Grayvoran. “As well as small-arms fire fights, there was an uptick in drone or indirect fire attacks near the incidents. Russia has evacuated several villages and has deployed extra security forces to the area,” the MoD said.

“Russia is facing an increasingly serious multi-domain security threat in its border regions, with losses of combat aircraft, improvised explosive device attacks on rail lines, and now direct partisan action,” it said.

‘Counter-terrorism operation’ in Belgorod region continues, says governor

Tuesday 23 May 2023 06:28 , Arpan Rai

The “counter-terrorism operation” in the Russian frontline city Belgorod was ongoing, regional governor said this morning.

He added that the defence ministry and law enforcement agencies are continuing “to clean up” the territory on the border with Ukraine.

“On the situation in the Graivoron district: the cleaning of the territory by the Ministry of Defence together with law enforcement agencies continues,” the governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said on the Telegram messaging app.

“I now appeal to the residents of the Graivoron district, who... temporarily left their homes, it is not possible to return yet.”

The governor confirmed one woman died during the evacuation yesterday and reportedly two people were wounded but Russian security forces have not been able to reach them.

Anti-Putin militia claim to have stormed Russian villages in cross-border raid from Ukraine

Tuesday 23 May 2023 06:22 , Arpan Rai

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region has accused a Ukrainian “sabotage group” of entering the town of Graivoron, about three miles (five kilometres) from the Russia-Ukraine border.

Officials said anti-Kremlin militia are said to have launched a cross-border raid from Ukrainian territory – overrunning one Russian village and pushing on into others.

The town also came under Ukrainian artillery fire, he said.

The governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, claimed eight people were wounded and most residents has left the area but the situation remained “tense”.

A spokesperson for the GUR told Ukraine’s public broadcaster, Suspilne, that the two groups were conducting an operation in the Belgorod region to create a “security strip” to protect Ukrainian civilians. The incursion was being carried out exclusively by Russian citizens, the spokesperson added.

Anti-Putin militia claim to have stormed Russian villages in cross-border raid

Kremlin says Belgorod situation created to distract from Bakhmut loss

Tuesday 23 May 2023 05:00 , Arpan Rai

The Kremlin has blamed the incursion in Belgorod as a move aimed to distract attention from the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut.

Russian forces claim to have captured Bakhmut in its entirety after more than nine months of attritional fighting, while reports suggest there is some residual fighting seen in the outskirts of the city, but that the Ukrainian forces have lost control of the last streets of multi-story buildings inside city limits.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said president Vladimir Putin had been informed about the territorial conflict in Belgorod, and that work was under way to drive out the “saboteurs”, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

“We understand perfectly well the goal of such a diversion — to divert attention from the Bakhmut direction and minimise the political effect of Bakhmut’s loss for the Ukrainian side,” Peskov was quoted as saying.

Ukrainian military intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov said the Belgorod operation would create a “security zone” to protect Ukrainians from attacks by Russia, reported the country’s outlet Hromadske.