Russia claims to have gained ground in Ukraine
The Russian military said on Saturday it had carried out “offensive operations” in the Zaporizhzhia region of southern Ukraine, allowing it to take “advantageous positions”.
“As a result of offensive operations, units of the Eastern Military District took more advantageous lines and positions,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
He gave no further details.
Fighting in the Zaporizhzhia region intensified on Friday, as Russian forces claimed to seize a village in the region, just 50 kilometers from the local capital.
The region is home to the largest nuclear power plants in Europe, with fighting there raising fears of a possible disaster.
Yesterday, Ukraine’s energy minister said the situation at the plant was dire because of the psychological state of its Ukrainian staff and the state of its equipment.
Chechen fighters in Ukraine: Euronews report
A Euronews report looked at Chechen fighters spilling blood on both sides of the war in Ukraine.
Among those fighting alongside Ukrainian troops are Russian President Vladimir Putin’s oldest and fiercest enemies, veterans of separatist wars in their homeland, alongside radical Islamists who fought in Syria.
Meanwhile, Russia has used Chechens loyal to the Kremlin to discipline and even execute dissident soldiers, as well as to intimidate civilians in Ukraine.
Chechnya is a restless part of southern Russia in the Caucus region. After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, its predominantly Muslim population attempted to break away and establish its own state. This led to two horrific wars in the 90s, which ended with Moscow establishing control of Chechnya.
According to experts, the Chechens who are waging war for Russia in Ukraine today are those who joined forces with Moscow to crush their own people’s rebellion during the Second Chechen War from 1999 to 2009.
But Jean-Francois Ratelle, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa, was skeptical of their importance on the battlefield, comparing them to a disposable private army.
“These are not elite troops,” he said. “They were most likely used as a grunt force…It’s always easier for a Chechen to be killed in a war than an ethnic Russian.”
“They were treated like cannon fodder for a while.”
Read the full report:
Sour Kyiv to hesitate on tanks
Ukraine on Saturday lamented the “indecision” of its Western allies after they refused its requests for heavy tanks.
Hesitation will lead to the death of more Ukrainians, a Ukrainian presidential adviser has claimed.
“Today’s indecision kills our citizens even more,” tweeted Mykhaïlo Podoliak, urging Ukraine’s allies to “think faster”.
“You will help Ukraine with the necessary weapons anyway and realize that there is no other option to end the war,” he pleaded.
Germany has been particularly singled out for its decision not to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a position criticized by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as his country faces a new Russian offensive.
In a rare public criticism, the foreign ministers of the Baltic countries asked Berlin on Saturday “to now supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine”.
Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia claimed it was Germany’s “responsibility” as Europe’s “leading power”.
Zelenskyy said he regretted Germany’s cautious stance on Friday night, saying he was convinced that “there is no other solution” for its Western allies than to deliver tanks to its army.
At a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday, the 50 or so countries represented disagreed on sending heavy tanks to Kyiv, despite its repeated demands for heavy weaponry.
Russia says heavy tanks would make no difference on the ground, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the West was nurturing the “illusion” of an eventual Ukrainian victory.
But many experts believe they would be a big advantage for Kyiv in eastern Ukraine, where Russia are back on the offensive after suffering heavy setbacks this fall.
US calls Wagner a criminal organization
Washington on Saturday designated the Russian paramilitary group Wagner as an international criminal organization, denouncing its abuses in Ukraine, the purchase of North Korean weapons and the massive recruitment of prisoners.
“Wagner is a criminal organization that commits vast atrocities and human rights abuses,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
“The Wagner Group currently has some 50,000 personnel deployed in Ukraine, including 10,000 mercenaries and 40,000 prisoners,” he said, adding that its “recruitment methods” raised “reservations” at the Russian Defense Ministry.
The announcement could lead to sanctions against the mercenary force, which also operates in Africa.
Wagner is led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a 61-year-old Russian businessman who was once Putin’s leader. He was very active in the fierce battle to take Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
“We will work tirelessly to identify, expose and target all those who help Wagner,” Kirby said.
According to Washington, the group is growing in strength and now rivals Russian forces.
“We have intelligence information that tensions between Wagner and the Department of Defense are escalating,” he said.
“Wagner is becoming a center of power in competition with the Russian military and other Russian ministries,” the US official said, saying Prigozhin was “advancing” his own interests in Ukraine.
“Wagner makes military decisions on the aggregate basis of what will bring him favor…particularly in terms of publicity,” he added.
The Kremlin has denied there are any tensions between the Russian military and the paramilitary group, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling the allegations “manipulation”.
Founded in 2014, the Wagner Group, founded in 2014, recruited thousands of prisoners to fight in Ukraine in exchange for sentence reductions.
Air defense exercises in Moscow
Russia announced on Saturday that it had conducted air defense exercises around Moscow, saying it needed to prepare for possible “air attacks” on its critical infrastructure.
In a press release, the Russian Defense Ministry said the exercises were to “repel air attacks against important military, industrial and administrative infrastructure”.
On Friday, social media posts said air defense systems had been installed at several locations in the Russian capital, including atop the country’s Defense Ministry.
Russian officials did not initially comment on the reports as weapons resembling a Pantsir-S1 mobile anti-aircraft system were spotted on the roof of a building in central Moscow, about 2 kilometers east of the Kremlin.
According to reports earlier in the week, mobile surface-to-air missile batteries were seen near the vast Losiny Ostrov forest park on Moscow’s northern border and in another building in the capital.
Since Russia sent troops to Ukraine nearly 11 months ago, it has been hit by several drone strikes or attempted strikes deep within its territory.
In December, a drone strike killed three people at a military airfield some 600 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.
Explosive drones also hit the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea annexed to Russia.
While the United States and other NATO members have provided billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, Washington maintains that it will not send weapons that could be used for attacks on Ukraine. inside Russia.