Boris Johnson visits Ukraine amid fresh sleaze allegations
Vladimir Putin is turning away from his reliance on Wagner mercenaries to fight in Ukraine, according to military observers.
The Russian president likely intends to rely on conventional Russian forces after recently appointing a new overall commander in General Valeriy Gerasimov, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its latest update on the Ukraine conflict.
Mr Putin may have felt threatened by Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s ambition in Moscow politics and his claims of his mercenaries’ importance to the Russian campaign, the ISW said.
Mr Prigozhin put the Kremlin in an uncomfortable position earlier this month when he claimed Wagner fighters had taken the Ukrainian town of Soledar several days before Russia officially made the same claim.
Earlier, Germany’s foreign minister says Berlin “would not stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, on the same day as Boris Johnson made another surprise visit to Kyiv.
Putin ‘turning away’ from Wagner group
Vladimir Putin is turning away from his reliance on the Wagner group of mercenaries to fight in Ukraine, according to military observers.
In its latest update on the Ukraine conflict, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said the Russian president likely intends to turn back to conventional Russian forces after recently appointing a new overall commander in General Valeriy Gerasimov.
Mr Gerasimov took over after a period in which Mr Putin put misguided faith in Wagner and former commander Sergei Surovikin to turn around the ailing Russian campaign.
Mr Putin may also have felt threatened by Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s ambition in Moscow politics and his assertiveness over claimed Wagner victories, the ISW said.
The Kremlin was put in an uncomfortable position earlier this month when Mr Prigozhin claimed his fighters taken the Ukrainian town of Soledar several days before Russia officially made the same claim.
Liam James23 January 2023 14:49
EU grants €500m in military aid for Ukraine
The EU has approved €500m military aid package for Ukraine, Sky News reports.
Hungary approved the decision, having previously blocked the package. However, it also signalled its opposition towards more sanctions, notably any that would constrict its deal with Moscow on nuclear energy.
Another €45m allocated towards “non-lethal equipment” is set to be part of the EU’s military training mission for Ukraine, as per one of its diplomats.
Eleanor Noyce23 January 2023 17:10
Hungary won’t veto EU arms funding to Ukraine, official says
Hungary’s foreign minister said that while his government is not in favour of the European Union sending funding for weapons to Ukraine, it will not block a planned tranche of €500m (£438m) in assistance to Kyiv to use in the war with Russia.
Speaking at a news briefing on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Peter Szijjarto dismissed as “lies” media reports that emerged last week that Hungary planned to veto the funds earmarked for Ukraine under the bloc’s European Peace Facility.
Hungary opposes the delivery of Western weapons to Ukraine – something Mr Szijjarto said could “lead to the prolongation or potential escalation” of the war – but the government won’t veto the aid package, he said.
“We don’t consider weapons shipments, nor the hundreds of millions of euros Europe has spent to finance them, a good idea. But we won’t block the decision,” he said.
Associated Press23 January 2023 16:40
Russia ‘may have’ orchestrated letter bomb to Spanish prime minister
Russian military intelligence officers may be behind the letter bomb sent to the Spanish prime minister, the New York Times reports.
The event was part of a wider letter bomb campaign in Spain.
US officials believe that Russian officers directed individuals from a white supremacist militant group to carry out the attacks, of which there were six in total. One person was injured.
The Russian Imperial Movement has been designated a terrorist organisation by the US, and has members across Europe. Investigators are now looking into this movement.
US officials also believe that Russia could be testing out its proxy organisations.
Eleanor Noyce23 January 2023 16:23
Germany sends Patriots on way to Ukraine
Germany has dispatched the first two out of three Patriot air defence units that will be sent to the Polish town of Zamosc close to the Ukrainian border where they will be deployed to prevent stray missile strikes.
Two men were killed by a stray Ukrainian missile that struck the Polish village of Przewodow in the region last November, in an incident that raised fears of the war in Ukraine spilling over the border.
As a result, Berlin offered to deploy three of its Patriot units to Poland to help secure its air space. Ground-based air defence systems such as Raytheon’s Patriot are built to intercept incoming missiles.
Liam James23 January 2023 16:03
Norway denies planning to deport Wagner asylum seeker
Norwegian authorities have denied planning to deport an asylum seeker who entered the country to flee the Wagner group of mercenaries.
Russian Andrey Medvedev, formerly a fighter with Wagner, “has been arrested under the Immigration Act and it is being assessed whether he should be produced for detention,” Jon Andreas Johansen of Norwegian immigration police told The Associated Press. Norway’s VG newspaper said detaining him is not a punishment, but a security measure.
Norway‘s National Criminal Investigation Service, which takes part in the investigation of war crimes in Ukraine said it was questioning Mr Medvedev who “has the status of a witness.”
Mr Medvedev, who has been on the run since he defected from the Wagner Group, has reportedly told Gulagu.net that he is ready to tell everything he knows about the shady paramilitary group and its owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, a millionaire with ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Liam James23 January 2023 15:26
Zelensky ally says Ukrainian officials to be jailed in anti-corruption drive
A top ally of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said corrupt officials would be rounded up and jailed as part of a zero tolerance policy, after the most high-profile graft allegations since Russia invaded burst into public view.
On Sunday, anti-corruption police said they had detained the deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of receiving a $400,000 (£324,000) kickback to facilitate the import of generators into wartime Ukraine last September.
Separately, a newspaper investigation published on Saturday accused the Defence Ministry of overpaying suppliers for food for its soldiers. The ministry said the report contained “signs of deliberate manipulation” and was “misleading”.
David Arakhamia, head of Mr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, said: “We’re definitely going to be jailing actively this spring. If the humane approach doesn’t work, we’ll do it in line with martial law.”
Fighting corruption was Mr Zelensky’s trademark policy ahead of the invasion, having won a landslide victory in 2019 on a promise to clean up Ukraine’s crooked institutions.
Liam James23 January 2023 14:00
Russia expels ambassador from Nato member Estonia after it calls for Ukraine to get German tanks
Russia has announced that it is downgrading its relationship with Nato member Estonia by asking the country’s envoy to leave by next month (Sravasti Dasgupta writes).
In a statement on Monday, Russia’s foreign ministry said both countries would be represented in each other’s capitals by an interim charge d’affaires instead of ambassadors.
It added that the move was in response to an Estonian bid to reduce the size of the Russian embassy in capital Tallinn.
“In recent years, the Estonian leadership has purposefully destroyed the entire range of relations with Russia. Total Russophobia, the cultivation of hostility towards our country have been elevated by Tallinn to the rank of state policy,” the Russian foreign ministry statement said.
Liam James23 January 2023 13:30
South Africa defends military drills with Russia
South Africa’s foreign minister deflected criticism of joint military drills planned with Russia and China, saying that hosting such exercises with “friends” was the “natural course of relations.”
Naledi Pandor made her comments during a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who was visiting South Africa 11 months after Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine.
Some opposition parties and South Africa’s small Ukrainian community have said that hosting Mr Lavrov is insensitive. South Africa is one of Russia‘s most important allies on a continent divided over the invasion and Western attempts to isolate Moscow because of its military actions.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said his country is impartial on the Ukraine conflict – though he has accused Nato of causing the Russian invasion – and has abstained from voting on UN resolutions on the war.
Liam James23 January 2023 13:00
Ex-Wagner asylum seeker ‘told he will be deported’ from Norway
A former commander of Russia‘s Wagner mercenary group who recently fled to Norway has been told he will be deported, a Russian rights group said.
Andrei Medvedev, who fled by crossing the Russian-Norwegian frontier in the Arctic, was apprehended by police in Norway, an official said on Monday.
“He is apprehended … and we are considering whether to seek a court’s decision for internment,” police lawyer Line Isaksen told Reuters, declining to give further details.
Mr Medvedev has said he was in fear for his life after witnessing the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners brought to the front lines in Ukraine.
Gulagu, a Russian rights group in contact with Mr Medvedev, said: “The transfer of a person who fled from the Russian Federation to Europe and began to give statements to the media and officially to the Norwegian criminal police would be a big mistake and would grossly violate his right to life.”
Liam James23 January 2023 12:30