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Russia-Ukraine latest: Iran ‘sends hundreds of missiles’ to Moscow as Putin’s troops claim key Dnipro victory

Russia-Ukraine latest: Iran ‘sends hundreds of missiles’ to Moscow as Putin’s troops claim key Dnipro victory

Iran has provided Russia with hundreds of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, six sources told Reuters, deepening the military cooperation between the two U.S.-sanctioned countries.

Iran’s provision of around 400 missiles includes many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, three Iranian sources said. This road-mobile missile is capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700 km (186 and 435 miles), experts say.

Iran’s defence ministry and the Revolutionary Guards - an elite force that oversees Iran’s ballistic missile programme - declined to comment. Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It comes as Putin’s troops claim to have recaptured a key bridgehead on the Dnipro river, the village of Krynky.

Ukraine’s military has dismissed a claim by Russia’s defence minister that Moscow’s forces have secured full control over the village of Krynky, on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in southern Kherson.

A statement on Telegram by the Ukrainian military’s southern district said Russian forces had made no headway on the eastern bank and that Sergei Shoigu’s statement was a “falsification of the facts.”

Key Points

  • Russian forces 'take full control of Avdiivka coke plant'

  • Zelensky urges West to stop feeding ‘artificial deficit of weapons’ in Ukraine

  • Ukrainian forces pull back from Avdiivka to dodge encirclement, army chief says

  • Putin’s troops advancing along ‘entire front line’, Kyiv warns

Ukraine anti-graft police probing dozens of defence-related cases

16:00 , Lydia Patrick

Anti-corruption authorities in Ukraine are investigating more than 60 cases related to the defence sector, a top law enforcement official said on Wednesday.

Cleaning up graft in the military, which has been hit with scandals in recent months, is crucial for Kyiv as it struggles to fend off Moscow’s nearly two-year-old invasion and seeks more Western aid.

Semen Kryvonos, head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), said his agency has prioritised cases involving procurement during the past two years and has sought help from foreign partners in its investigations.

“Theft in the army at this time is an extraordinarily terrible crime, and investigations in this sphere are one of the most important priorities of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau,” he told reporters in Kyiv.

Defence Minister Rustem Umerov suspended a senior official earlier this month after another agency, the Security Service of Ukraine, named him as a suspect in an alleged $40 million embezzlement scheme.

Umerov’s predecessor, Oleksii Reznikov, was dismissed last September following procurement-related scandals at his ministry, which he described as smears. He was not personally accused of corruption.

Ukraine, which ranks 104th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, has made fighting graft across the public sector a top priority as it seeks membership of the European Union.

Kryvonos said anti-corruption authorities had delivered their best-ever results last year, but called for the establishment of a dedicated forensics centre to process cases more quickly and more transparently.

FILE Ukrainian servicemen of the 65th Mechanised Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are seen at a position near the front line village of Robotyn (REUTERS)
FILE Ukrainian servicemen of the 65th Mechanised Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are seen at a position near the front line village of Robotyn (REUTERS)

Iran sends Russia hundreds of ballistic missiles, sources say

15:15 , Lydia Patrick

Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, six sources told Reuters, deepening the military cooperation between the two U.S.-sanctioned countries.

Iran’s provision of around 400 missiles includes many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, three Iranian sources said. This road-mobile missile is capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700 km (186 and 435 miles), experts say.

Iran’s defence ministry and the Revolutionary Guards - an elite force that oversees Iran’s ballistic missile programme - declined to comment. Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The shipments began in early January after a deal was finalised in meetings late last year between Iranian and Russian military and security officials that took place in Tehran and Moscow, one of the Iranian sources said.

An Iranian military official - who, like the other sources, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information - said there had been at least four shipments of missiles and there would be more in the coming weeks. He declined to provide further details.

Another senior Iranian official said some of the missiles were sent to Russia by ship via the Caspian Sea, while others were transported by plane.

“There will be more shipments,” the second Iranian official said. “There is no reason to hide it. We are allowed to export weapons to any country that we wish to.”

U.N. Security Council restrictions on Iran’s export of some missiles, drones and other technologies expired in October. However, the United States and European Union retained sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme amid concerns over exports of weapons to its proxies in the Middle East and to Russia.

A fourth source, familiar with the matter, confirmed that Russia had received a large number of missiles from Iran recently, without providing further details.

FILE Footage shows what appears to be the aftermath of a strike on a Russian shopping centre (REUTERS)
FILE Footage shows what appears to be the aftermath of a strike on a Russian shopping centre (REUTERS)

Watch - Sunak says government ‘considering all options for Putin’ after Alexei Navalny’s death

14:00 , Lydia Patrick

Sunak says government ‘considering all options for Putin’ after Navalny’s death

The army of British knitters bringing joy to Ukrainians during two years of war

13:01 , Lydia Patrick

An army of knitters across the UK have been diligently knitting hats, blankets and booties for babies in Ukrainian hospitals for almost two years, bringing joy to their families in the war-torn country.

At least 20 knitting groups gather in town halls and libraries on a regular basis to knit gifts that get delivered to new mothers often giving birth in dire circumstances.

Sue Stafford, a retired nurse, has been helping gather items like clothes, food and medicines for Ukrainians since the beginning of the war, but recently decided to expand her activities into organising a knitting group in Broughton, Chester.

Ms Stafford said: “I put on the village website that it was my idea to start knitting blankets for Ukraine but, ‘I’m rather a slow knitter, could anybody help?’

Read the full story here...

The army of British knitters bringing joy to Ukrainians during two years of war

Zelensky says foreign aid delay making war ‘very difficult’ as Putin vows to push further into Ukraine

12:00 , Lydia Patrick

Russia is being allowed to make significant advances in Ukraine because of delays in arms deliveries from Western nations, the besieged country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky warned.

Russia has captured the key strategic city of Avdiivka in recent days and has also amassed troops at several points along the 1,500km frontline, Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address late on Monday, adding that these forces are apparently aiming to pounce on any perceived defensive weaknesses among Ukrainian forces.

“The situation is extremely difficult in several parts of the frontline, where Russian troops have amassed maximum reserves. They are taking advantage of the delays in aid to Ukraine,” Mr Zelensky said in his address, calling the concerns “very tangible issues”.

He admitted Ukraine is facing a deficit of artillery. “There is a need for frontline air defence and for a longer range of our weapons,” the Ukrainian president said.

Read the full story here...

Zelensky says foreign aid delays making war ‘very difficult’ as Putin eyes more gains

Navalny issued chilling warning about second Trump term in final letters from prison

11:00 , Lydia Patrick

Alexei Navalny issued a chilling warning about what a second presidential term for Donald Trump could mean in one of his final letters before he died in an Arctic prison last week.

The staunch opponent of Vladmir Putin also read voraciously from Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov and Solzhenitsyn to occupy his mind and prevent himself from sinking into despair amid the brutal conditions in which he was held.

In one 3 December letter to Evgeny Feldman, a photographer who covered his attempted run for president in 2018 and now lives in exile in Latvia, Navalny wrote that he feared that if anything should happen to President Joe Biden – a distinct possibility, he felt, given the American’s advanced age – “Trump will become president”.

Read the full story here...

Navalny issued chilling warning about second Trump term in final letters from prison

Russia's top general visits troops in Ukraine to discuss next steps

10:00 , Lydia Patrick

Russia’s top general, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, visited troops fighting in the war in Ukraine to discuss the next steps after the taking the town of Avdiivka, state media reported on Wednesday.

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Russian troops would push further into Ukraine to build on their success on the battlefield after the fall of the town of Avdiivka where he said Ukrainian troops had been forced to flee in chaos.

Gerasimov was shown awarding medals to Russian troops involved in taking Avdiivka and he was given a report by the commander in charge of the Russian assault on Avdiivka, Colonel-General Andrei Mordvichev, state media said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN that Avdiivka would not have fallen had Kyiv received weapons held up by the U.S. Congress’ failure to approve a large aid package.

After the failure of Ukraine to pierce Russian front lines in the east and south last year, Moscow has been trying to grind down Ukrainian forces just as Kyiv ponders a major new mobilisation.

Ukraine Hungary Foreign Ministers (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Ukraine Hungary Foreign Ministers (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LA woman detained in Russia on suspicion of treason for giving funds to Ukraine

09:45 , Lydia Patrick

A Los Angeles woman has been detained in Russia on accusations of treason for allegedly giving funds to Ukraine, according to Russia’s FSB security services.

The woman, a 33-year-old dual American-Russian citizen, was not identified in a statement issued by the FSB, which said she “was involved in providing financial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against the security of our country.”

The FSB in the central Urals city of Yekaterinburg accused her of taking part in pro-Ukraine protests outside of Russia and of sending aid to Kyiv.

It said the woman had been “proactively collecting funds... which were subsequently used to purchase tactical medical items, equipment, means of destruction and ammunition for the Ukrainian armed forces.”

Read the full story here...

LA woman detained in Russia on suspicion of treason for giving funds to Ukraine

A Russian court extends the pretrial detention for an American reporter accused of spying

09:15 , Lydia Patrick

A court in the Russian capital ruled Tuesday to keep Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in custody pending his trial on espionage charges that he denies.

The Moscow City Court rejected an appeal against Gershkovich’s detention filed by his lawyers, upholding an earlier ruling to keep him behind bars until the end of March.

That means Gershkovich, 32, will spend at least a year behind bars in Russia after his arrest in March 2023 while on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains.

Gershkovich and the Journal have denied the espionage allegations, and the U.S. government has declared him to be wrongfully detained. Russian authorities haven’t detailed any evidence to support the charges.

Read the full story here...

A Russian court extends the pretrial detention for an American reporter accused of spying

Death was everywhere: Edinburgh man delivers aid to frontline Ukrainian villages

08:45 , Lydia Patrick

An Edinburgh charity founder who has personally delivered aid to “decimated” frontline villages in Ukraine and helped thousands of civilians has urged Britons to continue to care for ordinary people impacted by war in the country.

Oleg Dmitriev, 43, told the PA news agency he was compelled by the “feeling of injustice and the catastrophe” to start helping deliver aid to Ukraine two weeks after Russia’s full-scale invasion began on February 24 2022.

Since then he has established his own charity, Sunflower Scotland, which has helped more than 11,700 people in Ukraine’s frontline villages, people in liberated areas and hospitals.

Almost two years on, Mr Dmitriev has travelled to at least 16 frontline villages and towns to deliver aid to people living in the most dangerous and impoverished circumstances.

He first visited the city of Kharkiv, which he said was a “heartbreaking experience”.

Read the full story here...

Death was everywhere: Edinburgh man delivers aid to frontline Ukrainian villages

Ukraine’s air force says it downs 13 out of 19 Russia-launched drones

08:27 , Lydia Patrick

Russia launched 19 attack drones at Ukraine overnight and six missiles, with the Ukrainian air defence systems destroying 13 of the drones and one missile, Ukraine‘s air force said on Wednesday.

Some of the drones that were not destroyed did not reach their targets, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app, without providing further detail. It said that the 13 drones that were destroyed were downed chiefly over regions close to the frontline.

The air force also said that it destroyed a Kh-59 air-to-surface guided air missile in the Poltava region. It said that Russia launched five other missiles, but it did not say whether the missiles that were not destroyed reached their targets.

Reuters could not independently verify the Ukrainian air force’s report. There was no immediate comment from Russia.

FILE -  This photograph taken on February 15, 2024 shows a crater next to a destroyed house following a Russian missile attack in Chuhuyiv, Kharkiv region (AFP via Getty Images)
FILE - This photograph taken on February 15, 2024 shows a crater next to a destroyed house following a Russian missile attack in Chuhuyiv, Kharkiv region (AFP via Getty Images)

Kyiv disputes Moscow’s claims they have captured a key village

08:18 , Lydia Patrick

Russia claimed they captured the key village of Krynky, territory they have fought over Ukraine with for months.

Ukraine rejected Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu’s claims they had taken full control of the area, labelling it “a falsification of the facts”.

Nukes in space: What have Russia and the United States said?

08:05 , Lydia Patrick

Unidentified sources in the United States say Russia is developing a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon but President Vladimir Putin said he opposes nuclear weapons in space and Moscow has flatly denied the U.S. assertions.

The United States believes Russia is developing a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon whose detonation could disrupt everything from military communications to phone-based ride services, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was his understanding the system would involve a nuclear explosive device placed into orbit.

Reports about possible Russian development emerged after the Republican chair of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee on Feb. 14 issued a cryptic statement warning of a "serious national security threat."

The clearest public sign Washington thinks Moscow is working on a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon was a White House spokesperson's comment on Thursday that the United States believes the system being developed would violate the Outer Space Treaty.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was his understanding the system would involve a nuclear explosive device placed into orbit.

Reports about possible Russian development emerged after the Republican chair of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee on Feb. 14 issued a cryptic statement warning of a "serious national security threat."

The clearest public sign Washington thinks Moscow is working on a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon was a White House spokesperson's comment on Thursday that the United States believes the system being developed would violate the Outer Space Treaty.

Russia Cosmonaut Record (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Russia Cosmonaut Record (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Putin gifts petrol head Kim Jong-un a new luxury car for his collection

06:58 , Andy Gregory

Vladimir Putin has gifted a Russian-made limousine to his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un, the latest signal of deepening relations between two countries that are otherwise increasingly isolated on the global stage.

North Korean state media said the car was hand-delivered by a Russian delegation over the weekend, and on Tuesday the Kremlin confirmed that Mr Putin had sent a full-sized luxury sedan limousine by Aurus, Russia’s first luxury car brand.

Mr Putin’s present to Mr Kim is likely to be in violation of Moscow-backed United Nations Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang, which prohibit the supply of luxury goods including all “transportation vehicles” to the East Asian nation.

KCNA reported that the car was received on 18 February by Mr Kim’s sister and close aide, Kim Yo-jong, as well as other senior North Korean officials.

My colleague Shweta Sharma has the full report here:

Pelosi speaks out on Putin's leverage over Trump: 'It's probably financial'

05:47 , Andy Gregory

Belarusian opposition leader calls for boycott of upcoming elections

04:33 , AP

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is in exile in neighboring Lithuania after challenging Alexander Lukashenko in the 2020 ballots, has called for boycotting the upcoming election in Belarus.

“We are calling for a boycott of this cynical farce because this imitation of election has nothing to do with democracy,” Tsikhanouskaya told The Associated Press. “Belarusians inside the country hate this regime, but they can’t openly say that due to brutal repressions.”

Speaking during a meeting Tuesday with top Belarusian law enforcement officials, Mr Lukashenko alleged that Western countries were pondering plans to stage a coup in the country or try to seize power by force. He claimed, without offering evidence, that Polish authorities in particular could use blackmail and threats to try to convince senior Belarusian officials to switch allegiances.

Valery Karbalevich, an independent Belarusian political analyst, observed that Lukashenko treats the election as a “military operation.”

“This is the continuation of the concept of election as a war, a military operation in which the Belarusian leader is fighting internal and external foes,” Mr Karbalevich said. “Authorities in Belarus see any election as a threat and a pretext to step up repressions and tighten the screws.”

Lukashenko accuses West of trying to undermine his rule ahead of contentious Belarus elections

03:24 , Andy Gregory

Belarus’s authoritarian leader of nearly 30 years, Alexander Lukashenko, has accused the West of trying to foment protests during parliamentary and local elections this month in order to undermine his rule.

Early balloting began on Tuesday in the tightly-controlled parliamentary and local vote, in which only those who follow Mr Lukashenko’s political course were allowed to compete. Most candidates belong to the four officially registered parties, which all support Lukashenko’s policies.

It marks the first election in Belarus since the contentious 2020 presidential vote which handed Lukashenko his sixth term in office and triggered an unprecedented wave of mass demonstrations.

This month’s election takes place amid a relentless crackdown on dissent. Over 1,400 political prisoners remain behind bars, including leaders of opposition parties and renowned human rights advocate and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski.

The Viasna human rights centre reported on Tuesday that Ihar Lednik, one of the leaders of the opposition Social Democratic Party, had died in prison at age 64. Lednik, who was serving a three-year sentence after being convicted of slandering Lukashenko, has died of cardiac arrest following a surgery in prison.

Viasna said that Lednik’s death marked the fifth death of a political prisoner in custody over the last three years.

Avdiivka would not have fallen if Kyiv had received stalled US aid package, Ukraine’s Kuleba says

02:17 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has lamented that Avdiivka would not have fallen had Kyiv received weapons held up by the US Congress’s failure to approve a large aid package.

“We wouldn’t [have lost] Avdiivka if we had all the artillery ammunition that we needed to defend it. Russia does not intend to pause or withdraw ... Once Avdiivka is under their control, they undoubtedly will choose another city and begin to storm it,” Mr Kuleba told CNN.

Ukrainian troops, he said, were “making miracles ... but the reason they have to sacrifice themselves and die is that someone is still debating a decision. I want everyone to remember that every day of debate in one place means another death in another place.”

The US Senate passed a $95bn aid package earlier this month that includes funds for Ukraine, but House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson has declined to bring it up for a vote on the floor of the House.

Putin claims Russia will push further into Ukraine after seizing Avdiivka

01:09 , Andy Gregory

Vladimir Putin has claimed that Russian troops will push further into Ukraine to build on their success on the battlefield after the fall of the town of Avdiivka, where he said Ukrainian troops had been forced to flee in chaos.

The town, which once had a population of 32,000, fell to Russia on Saturday, marking Mr Putin’s largest battlefield victory – and the most costly – since Russian forces captured the city of Bakhmut last May.

“As for the overall situation in Avdiivka, this is an absolute success, I congratulate you. It needs to be built on,” Mr Putin told defence minister Sergei Shoigu in the Kremlin.

“But that development must be well-prepared, provided with personnel, weapons, equipment and ammunition,” Mr Putin said. “It seems to be self-evident, but nevertheless I draw your attention to it.”

Rishi Sunak accuses Putin of setting off ‘energy and a food price bomb’

00:05 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine rejects Russian claim to have wrested control of Dnipro village

Tuesday 20 February 2024 23:11 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine’s military has dismissed a claim by Russia’s defence minister that Moscow’s forces have secured full control over the village of Krynky, on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in southern Kherson.

A statement on Telegram by the Ukrainian military’s southern district said Russian forces had made no headway on the eastern bank and that Sergei Shoigu’s statement was a “falsification of the facts.”

Russian troops abandoned the western bank of the Dnipro in Kherson region in late 2022, but remain in areas on the eastern bank. Ukrainian forces captured some districts on the eastern bank last November.

Joanna Lumley hails ‘great feeling of unity’ at Ukraine event

Tuesday 20 February 2024 22:06 , PA

People in the UK sometimes “don’t know how to focus” their help for Ukraine, Dame Joanna Lumley has suggested as she read a poem at a theatre event to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country.

The 77-year-old joined more than 1,000 others at London’s Palace Theatre for an evening which featured performances by Ukrainian poets, a ballerina and musicians in a show of support for the war-torn country.

The actress read the English translation of a poem by Ukrainian poet and medic Yuliia Paievska, who was imprisoned by Russian soldiers between March and June 2022.

The Absolutely Fabulous star told the PA news agency afterwards: “The house was packed, it was extraordinary, there was a great feeling of unity. I think the important thing about the world, which is very fragmented, is that if you see how strong people are together, it weakens the opposition.”

When asked if Britons were doing enough to support Ukraine, she said: “If somebody said ‘collect milk bottles’ or something like that, or ‘collect tin cans’, we would all do it all the time, but sometimes it’s too nebulous and people don’t know how to focus their aid.

“I know that this country stands absolutely behind Ukraine and we long for what will happen.”

Ukraine and US defence ministers discuss ammunition and war’s front line

Tuesday 20 February 2024 20:41 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainian defence minister Rustem Umerov has said that he and the new forces commander Oleksandr Syrsky discussed the war’s front line and ammunition supplies with US defence secretary Lloyd Austin.

Writing on Facebook, Mr Umerov described the call as “productive”

“General Syrskyi gave updates on the current dynamics on the frontline,” he wrote. “The common understanding of the situation and the action plan were discussed. The ammunition supply was in focus as well.”

Ukraine probes alleged shooting of captured Ukrainian soldiers near Robotyne

Tuesday 20 February 2024 20:05 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine has begun an investigation into the alleged shooting by Russian troops of three Ukrainian soldiers captured on the southern front line, prosecutors have said, marking the second such inquiry announced since Sunday.

According to the prosecutor’s general office, the three Ukrainian prisoners of war were shot dead on Sunday near Robotyne, a village in Zaporizhzhia wrested back from Russian forces during last year’s painstaking counteroffensive.

A criminal proceeding is looking into “the fact of violation of the laws and customs of war, combined with premeditated murder”, prosecutors said.

On Sunday, Kyiv said it was investigating the alleged fatal shooting by Russians of six unarmed Ukrainian soldiers after Ukrainian forces withdrew from the embattled town of Avdiivka, in Russia’s biggest battlefield success in nine months.

Jon Stewart reacts to Tucker Carlson getting 'radicalised' following his Russian shopping trip

Tuesday 20 February 2024 18:44 , Andy Gregory

US seeking information on reported arrest of US-Russian ballerina

Tuesday 20 February 2024 16:57 , Andy Gregory

The Biden administration is aware of and seeking information about the reported arrest in Russia of a ballerina who is a dual Russia-US citizen, White House spokesperson John Kirby has said.

Russia’s main security agency said on Tuesday that it had arrested the ballerina on accusations of committing state treason by raising funds for Ukraine, according to the New York Times.

Spanish police suspect bullet-riddled body belongs to Russian defector

Tuesday 20 February 2024 16:34 , Andy Gregory

Spanish police suspect the bullet-riddled body of a man found in Spain is that of a Russian defector who escaped across the front line and into Ukraine last year with an army helicopter.

The body was found last Tuesday in La Cala, near Alicante, according to police. The man had been shot half a dozen times and was run over by the car, according to the Spanish state news agency Efe.

Spain’s Civil Guard said they found documents on the body that identified the man as a 33-year-old Ukrainian. But police now believe it could be Maksim Kuzminov, who defected last year by flying into Ukraine in a Mi-8 army helicopter with the help of Ukrainian intelligence.

Andrii Yusov, a representative of Ukrainian military intelligence, confirmed to local media that the former Russian pilot had died in Spain, but didn’t provide details. It is not clear how or why Kuzminov would have traveled to Spain.

The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, told Russian journalists that Maksim Kuzminov was a “traitor and criminal” who became a “moral corpse” as soon as he started planning “his dirty and terrible crime,” according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Swedish PM to visit Hungary before vote on Nato bid

Tuesday 20 February 2024 15:53 , Andy Gregory

Swedish premier Ulf Kristersson will travel to Budapest on Friday to meet Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban before Hungary’s parliament votes on Sweden’s Nato membership bid next Monday.

Hungary is the only Nato member that has yet to ratify the Nordic country’s accession, with Mr Orban’s nationalist party repeatedly delaying a vote, citing grievances over Sweden criticising Hungary over its record on rule-of-law standards.

Mr Orban said on Tuesday that it would be a “pleasure” to welcome Mr Kristersson in Budapest.

“We are planning to discuss how to strengthen the defence and security policy cooperation between Hungary and Sweden, as well as our plans for the Hungarian presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the EU’s Strategic Agenda,” Orban said in a post on X/Twitter.

Mr Orban’s Fidesz party proposed on Tuesday that Hungary’s parliament should vote to ratify Sweden’s bid to join Nato.

Footage shows a key eastern Ukrainian frontline city of destroyed by war

Tuesday 20 February 2024 15:10 , Tom Watling

Footage published by the Russian ministry of defence has shown the newly-occupied city of Avdiivka completely destroyed by war.

In the footage, posted below, the cityscape is seen bombed out and wholly, with a church cupola broken in pieces and the roads ahead strewn with burn out tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs).

The city was taken over by Russian forces over the weekend after a five month-long assault, first led by tanks and then by infantry. It may now act as a springboard for more Russian attacks in Donetsk Oblast.

Western estimates suggest Russia lost hundreds of vehicles and tens of thousands of personnel in the last half a year. The battle, however, began in earnest a decade ago, during the Donbas war.

Videos shared in the final weeks of Russia’s assault on the city showed dozens of glide bombs being dropped on the city, destroying what was left of Avdiivka. Ukrainian journalist Yuri Butusov, one of the last journalists to visit the city before it fell, estimated that 600 bombs were dropped on Avdiivka in January alone.

Officials believe that not a single building remains intact.

Finland says thousands of migrants are seeking to enter via Russia

Tuesday 20 February 2024 14:40 , Tom Watling

Finland has claimed that “thousands” of third-country migrants were waiting to cross the border onto its territory from Russia.

Finland closed all crossings on its 830-mile border with Russia late last year amid a growing number of arrivals who lacked valid documents to enter the European Union. Helsinki accuses Moscow of funnelling migrants to the border, a claim the Kremlin has denied.

“We have information that thousands of people on the Russian side are waiting to get to Finland,” Interior Minister Mari Rantanen told a news conference, adding that this represented “a threat to society”.

Rantanen declined to say how Finnish authorities had obtained the information.

While Finland’s forested border areas have seen freezing temperatures and deep snow during the winter months, Rantanen said she believed more migrants may seek to cross illegally as spring arrives and temperatures gradually increase.

Rantanen said existing EU legislation did not offer solutions for handling situations like the one faced by Finland.

The Finnish border authority has said more than 1,300 asylum seekers from nations including Yemen, Somalia and Syria had entered Finland from Russia between August and December last year, 900 of them in November alone. In comparison, the number before last August had averaged just one person a day.

Finland’s immigration authority told Reuters in January that it had not been able to locate some 160 of the migrants and that they had probably continued to another European country.

Relations between Russia and Finland, once relatively cordial, have deteriorated sharply since Helsinki’s decision to join NATO following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

The Finnish Interior Ministry said on Monday it would swiftly draft legislation to strengthen border security and combat attempts by Moscow to pressure Finland in the form of instrumentalised migration.

The government will present its proposal to parliament next month, it added.

Russia places US senator Graham on 'terrorist and extremist' list - TASS

Tuesday 20 February 2024 14:00 , Tom Watling

Russia’s financial monitoring agency, Rosfinmonitoring, has included US Senator Lindsey Graham on its “list of terrorists and extremists”, the Russian state-owned TASS news agency reported.

United States Senator Lindsey Graham attends a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill (Anadolu via Getty Images)
United States Senator Lindsey Graham attends a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill (Anadolu via Getty Images)

Russian drones kill five people, damage industrial facility, Ukraine says

Tuesday 20 February 2024 13:45 , Tom Watling

Russian drone attacks on Tuesday killed five people from one family and damaged an industrial facility in Ukraine‘s northern and central regions, local authorities said.

A drone of Lancet type hit a residential building in the northerly Sumy region in the morning, killing a mother, her two sons and two other relatives, the regional military administration said on the Telegram messenger app.

Earlier on Tuesday Ukraine‘s military said that Russia had launched 23 Shahed drones overnight and its air defences had destroyed all of them, including over the central Poltava region.

But the head of the regional military administration said an industrial facility caught fire after a drone attack overnight on the Kremenchuk district, where an oil refinery is located.

He did not specify the type of drones used or whether the fire was caused by falling debris from the downed weapon.

Ukraine is investigating reports Russia executed prisoners of war after Avdiivka withdrawal

Tuesday 20 February 2024 13:26 , Tom Watling

Ukraine is investigating reports that Russian forces executed eight unarmed prisoners of war after capturing the key eastern town of Avdiivka, officials said.

Six unarmed Ukrainian soldiers awaiting evacuation were shot in Avdiivka, while two others were shot in the village of Vesele on the town’s outskirts, according to reports.

Ukrainian forces confirmed on Saturday they had pulled out of the battered city following a sustained Russian onslaught that began in October last year. Subsequently Moscow said its forces had taken full control of Avdiivka and the town’s heavily fortified coke plant.

Ukraine investigating reports Russia executed Kyiv soldiers after Avdiivka withdrawal

Ukraine premier in Tokyo says his country needs missiles, but expects new US aid to come through

Tuesday 20 February 2024 13:00 , Tom Watling

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Tuesday that his country needs long-range missiles and other ammunition to end Russia‘s invasion, and said he expects a U.S. aid package that’s stalled in Congress to come through, speaking at a news conference the day after he attended a conference in Tokyo on reconstructing Ukraine.

Ukraine has modern equipment, training soldiers and fighting at NATO standards and that “European countries and the United States are supporting us, absolutely,” Shmyhal said.

Ukraine premier in Tokyo says his country needs missiles, but expects new US aid to come through

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine (that tell us what might happen next)

Tuesday 20 February 2024 11:55 , Tom Watling

When Russia invaded Ukraine in the early hours of 24 February two years ago, nobody knew how it would play out. Here author and Russia expert Mark Galeotti sifts through the carnage of the bloody conflict for clues as to what will happen next

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine

Canada sending more than 800 drones to Ukraine to support its fight against Russia

Tuesday 20 February 2024 11:00 , Tom Watling

The Canadian government said Monday it will dispatch more than 800 drones to Ukraine starting as early as this spring.

The Department of National Defence said in a statement that drones have become a critical capability for Ukraine in its war with Russia. It said the drones are important for surveillance and intelligence gathering, and can also be used to move supplies, including munitions.

They will cost more than $95 million Canadian ($70 million) and are part of a previously announced $500 million Canadian ($370 million) in military help for Ukraine.

Canada sending more than 800 drones to Ukraine to support its fight against Russia

Kim Jong Un adds latest to his exotic car collection – a Putin limousine

Tuesday 20 February 2024 10:30 , Tom Watling

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has gifted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a Russian made limousine to add to his exotic car collection.

The Russian-made car was delivered to Kim‘s top aides by the Russian side on February 18, official KCNA news agency said.

The gift was “for his personal use”, Russian state media reported, in what could be a violation of UN ban that Moscow had agreed to adopt against Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Un adds latest to his exotic car collection – a Putin limousine

Russian spy chief: killed Russian pilot was 'moral corpse' for defecting

Tuesday 20 February 2024 10:08 , Tom Watling

Russia’s foreign intelligence chief has said that a Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine and was found shot dead in an underground garage in Spain last week was a “moral corpse” when he planned his crimes, Russian news agencies reported.

Spain’s state news agency EFE reported that a body found on 13 February in the town of Villajoyosa, near Alicante in southern Spain, belonged to pilot Maxim Kuzminov, who had landed in Ukraine with his Mi-8 helicopter last August.

“In Russia it is customary to speak either good of the dead or nothing at all,” Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), was quoted as saying when asked about Kuzminov.

“This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse at the very moment when he planned his dirty and terrible crime,” Naryshkin was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.

Ukraine‘s GUR military intelligence said Kuzminov had been found dead in Spain.

Kuzminov’s defection to Ukraine was presented last year as a major coup for Kyiv.

He had been living in Spain with a Ukrainian passport under a different name, EFE said. Ukraine‘s Ukrainska Pravda newspaper reported that Kuzminov had been found shot dead.

Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine with stolen military chopper shot dead in Spain

Russian forces lack ‘combat effectiveness’ to exploit Avdiivka takeover, says British MoD

Tuesday 20 February 2024 09:31 , Tom Watling

Russian forces lack the “combat effectiveness to immediately exploit the capture of Avdiivka”, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has claimed in its latest intelligence update.

The Russian MoD announced it had taken over the city over the weekend after five months of costly mechanised and then infantry-led assaults.

The key eastern frontline city had been fought over for 10 years, and could unlock the rest of the Donetsk region in Russia’s bid to control the wider east.

But the British MoD suggested the heavy casualties suffered by Russian forces to seize the city will cap their ability to push on from their new positions.

“It is likely that Russian forces lack the combat effectiveness to immediately exploit the capture of Avdiivka and will require a period of rest and refit,” they wrote on X.

“In the coming weeks, Russia will likely seek to extend its territorial gain beyond Avdiivka.”

In the meantime, images have shown Ukrainian forces shoring up backward defensive positions in the town of Lastochkyne, northwest of Avdiivka.

Hungary set to ratify Sweden's NATO bid on Feb 26 after long delay

Tuesday 20 February 2024 09:03 , Tom Watling

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party has proposed that parliament should vote to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO on 26 February, a move that it would support.

“Our group wishes to support” Sweden’s NATO bid, the Fidesz party said in a document, asking the Speaker of parliament to include the vote in its agenda next Monday. Fidesz has a huge majority in parliament.

Sweden applied to join NATO nearly two years ago, in a historic shift in policy prompted by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

After a prolonged delay, Hungary will be the last NATO member to approve the Nordic country’s bid to become the bloc’s 32nd member.

Swedish Defence Minister Pal Jonson welcomed news of Hungary’s plans to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban had signalled on Saturday that parliament could soon ratify the Swedish bid when it convenes for its new spring session.

“It’s good news that our dispute with Sweden will soon be settled,” Orban told supporters, without providing details.

Hungary could discuss deepening economic and defence cooperation with Sweden if the latter’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson were to visit Budapest, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Monday.

Hungarian Prime Minister Orban delivers his annual State of the Nation speech, in Budapest (via REUTERS)
Hungarian Prime Minister Orban delivers his annual State of the Nation speech, in Budapest (via REUTERS)

Sweden donates another £540m in military aid to Ukraine

Tuesday 20 February 2024 08:30 , Tom Watling

Sweden's defence ministry has announced they will donate military aid to Ukraine worth some 7.1 billion Swedish crowns (£541 million), including the transfer of equipment and fresh cash for arms procurement.

It will be Sweden's 15th round of aid for Ukraine and the Nordic country's biggest package to date, taking the overall aid since Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022 to around 30 billion crowns.

Putin gifts petrol head Kim Jong-un a new car for his collection

Tuesday 20 February 2024 08:05 , Athena Stavrou

Russian president Vladimir Putin has gifted a car to his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un, the latest signal of deepening relations between two countries that are otherwise increasingly isolated on the global stage.

The Russian-made car was delivered for Mr Kim’s “personal use” on Sunday via a Russian delegation, North Korean state media outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

Mr Putin’s present to Mr Kim is likely to be in violation of Moscow-backed United Nations Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang, which prohibit the supply of luxury goods including all “transportation vehicles” to the East Asian nation.

Read the full article below:

Putin gifts petrol head Kim Jong-un a new car for his collection

Ukraine downs 23 drones in overnight attack

Tuesday 20 February 2024 08:03 , Athena Stavrou

Russia unleashed a barrage of drone attacks on seven cities in Ukraine as the country claimed said they had downed all 23 drones with their air defences.

“As a result of combat operations, all 23 “shahids” drones were shot down in Kharkiv, Poltava, Kirovohrad, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions,” the military said on Telegram messaging app.

Cheney warns that Trump has created the ‘Putin wing’ of the Republican party

Tuesday 20 February 2024 07:01 , Andy Gregory

Former Republican conference chair Liz Cheney has argued that former president Donald Trump has created the “Putin wing” of the Republican Party, a section backing the Russian president.

Ms Cheney, 57, was on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday warning of the Putin wing possibly coming back to the White House in the form of former president Donald Trump.

She slammed the ex-president for his recent comments saying that he wouldn’t protect Nato countries who don’t pay their fair share, recounting how he told a fellow world leader that he would urge Russia to do “whatever the hell they want”.

John Bowden and Gustaf Kilander have more in this report:

Cheney warns that Trump has created the ‘Putin wing’ of the Republican party

Alexander Litvinenko's wife calls Vladimir Putin 'monster'

Tuesday 20 February 2024 06:02 , Andy Gregory

Russia exploiting delays in Western aid, warns Zelensky

Tuesday 20 February 2024 05:03 , Andy Gregory

Russia is exploiting delays in extending aid to Ukraine, and the situation in areas where Moscow’s troops are concentrated is “extremely difficult”, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned.

“There is now an extremely difficult situation in several parts of the frontline, precisely where Russian troops have concentrated maximum reserves,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address, after a visit to frontline areas in the northeast.

“They are taking advantage of delays in aid to Ukraine and this is a very sensitive matter. Artillery shortages, the need for frontline air defence and for longer-range weapons.”

 (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)
(UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Canada to donate £55m-worth of drones to Ukraine

Tuesday 20 February 2024 04:01 , Andy Gregory

Canada has announced that it will donate more than 800 SkyRanger R70 drones to Ukraine.

The drones, sourced from Teledyne in Ontario, have been valued at over C$95m (£55.9m), Canada’s defence ministry said, adding that the donation was funded by the C$500m in military assistance announced by prime minister Justin Trudeau during last year’s visit to Kyiv.

“Today’s announcement ensures that Ukraine has the drones it needs to detect and identify targets which are critical to Ukraine’s ongoing fight. Canada will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” said defence minister Bill Blair.

Canada has committed over C$9.7bn (£5.7bn) in aid to Ukraine since February 2022, including over C$2.4bn (£1.4bn) in military assistance, the country’s defence ministry said.

UK ministers facing questions over sudden closure of Ukraine family scheme

Tuesday 20 February 2024 03:04 , Andy Gregory

Ministers are facing calls to “urgently explain” why a scheme offering visas to Ukrainians fleeing war was shut down at 3pm on Monday and is no longer accepting applications.

The Home Office closed the Ukraine family scheme at 3pm on Monday, which had allowed applicants to join family members or extend their stay in the UK.

The decision by the Home Office to close the Ukraine family scheme was among a series of changes to immigration rules set out in a policy document published without warning earlier in the day. It also confirmed a visa extension scheme will close on 16 May.

Labour said the move “sends the wrong message” about the UK’s “willingness” to stand by Ukraine while campaigners raised concerns that one of “few safe routes” created to allow families to reunite amid the conflict was “closing at such short notice”.

Ukraine seeking action to stop Russian use of Starlink, minister says

Tuesday 20 February 2024 02:02 , Reuters

Ukraine has asked Elon Musk’s firm SpaceX Aerospace to prevent Russia from using its Starlink terminals for communications in areas occupied by Vladimir Putin’s troops, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has said.

Starlink terminals were rushed in to help Ukraine after Russia’s invasion and have been vital to Kyiv’s battlefield communications. Starlink says it does not do business of any kind with Russia’s government or military.

But Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told the Wall Street Journal this month that Russian troops were using thousands of Starlink terminals, after acquiring them from private Russian firms that purchased them from intermediaries.

Deputy PM and minister of digital transformation Mykhailo Fedorov has now told public broadcaster Suspilne that Ukrainian authorities have sought action from SpaceX.

“We found an algorithm and made a proposal to SpaceX and are in communication with them to ensure that such cases do not occur,” said Mr Fedorov. “SpaceX has done something similar with the Israeli government.”

Mr Fedorov said Ukraine needed the terminals to work in all areas “because specific technologies are being used linked to drones. There are other ways so that our Starlinks work and others do not. We are working on this with SpaceX.”

EU moves closer to new sanctions against Russia

Tuesday 20 February 2024 00:59 , Andy Gregory

The European Union has moved closer to new sanctions against Moscow over its war on Ukraine, as Alexei Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya met with the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers in Brussels.

Germany, Lithuania and Sweden were among EU countries calling at the meeting – scheduled before Navalny’s death – for specific new penalties against Russia in response to the suspected killing.

And in a development which will relieve Brussels, Hungary – the last EU country needed to pass the proposed new restrictions against nearly 200 more firms and people deemed involved in the war – said it would not stall or veto the bloc’s 13th package of Russia sanctions since Moscow invaded Ukraine.

The EU’s top diplomat suggested that Russian prison officials linked to Navalny’s death could be added to the list of those subjected to asset freezes and travel bans.

There was no immediate word of any more hard-hitting measures that could target Russia’s broader economy and an EU diplomat said so far it seemed any specific new sanctions related to Navalny’s death would be “symbolic” and come later.

Biden willing to meet with Republican US House speaker over Ukraine aid

Tuesday 20 February 2024 00:01 , Alexander Butler

US President Joe Biden said he was willing to meet with House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson to discuss a funding bill for Ukraine’s war against Russia, saying that Republicans are making a mistake by opposing the aid package.

The Senate in a bipartisan vote earlier this month passed a £75billion aid package that includes funds for Ukraine, but Johnson so far has declined even to bring it up for a vote on the floor of the House, which Republicans control by a narrow 219-212 margin. He has been demanding a meeting with Biden.

“Sure I’d be happy to meet with him, if he has anything to say,” Biden said.

Speaking to reporters as he returned to the White House from a weekend in Delaware, Biden said Republicans are making a big mistake by opposing aid to Ukraine for use in its war to repel Russian invaders.

Zelensky thanks Japan for reconstruction conference

Monday 19 February 2024 23:00 , Alexander Butler

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Japan for hosting a conference on the reconstruction of his country.

Writing on X, Zelensky said Ukrainians would be “forever grateful” for Japanese support and welcomed the country’s “expertise and experience” on post-war resconstruction.

“As Tokyo hosts the Japan-Ukraine Conference for the promotion of economic growth and reconstruction, I express my sincere gratitude to prime minister Fumio Kishida his team, and the entire Japanese people for all their firm support for our country and people,” he said.

“Japan has been standing with Ukraine since the first days of this full-scale war. Japan’s ongoing long-term assistance has helped our people withstand this difficult time and saved many Ukrainian lives.

“Most importantly, we have seen how many Japanese people hold Ukraine dear to their hearts. We will be forever grateful for this.

“The Ukraine-Japan cooperation is gaining momentum and we are looking forward to further realizing its full potential in many areas, including recovery, where Japan has unique expertise and experience.”

Russia claims control of Avdiivka coke plant after most intense battle of war so far

Monday 19 February 2024 22:00 , Alexander Butler

Why is Japan hosting a conference for Ukraine reconstruction when it’s still at war?

Why is Japan hosting a conference for Ukraine reconstruction?

Monday 19 February 2024 21:00 , Alexander Butler

Why is Japan hosting a conference for Ukraine reconstruction when it’s still at war?

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine

Monday 19 February 2024 20:00 , Alexander Butler

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine