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NATO SENDS THREE OF ITS RECONNAISSANCE PLANES TO ROMANIA (14/01/2023 / 11:00)

Political strategic level
At the start of Sweden's six-month presidency of the European Union, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday that the European Union must continue to increase pressure on Russia and support Ukraine. "We must continue to increase pressure on Russia and, of course, we will continue to strongly support Ukraine," she told a press conference.
The EC leader noted that in the eight months since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, Russia has cut its gas supplies to the EU by 80%, but this has only encouraged a diversification of gas sourcing routes. "The hard work has paid off. Gas prices are now lower than before the Russian invasion", she said at a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Kiruna, Sweden.
Contrary to the Kremlin's plans, Europe has plenty of gas and the price is falling. The price of electricity, which rose to cosmic heights as a result of the invasion, has also stabilised: in Lithuania, on the stock exchange, it has been fluctuating for several days in a row at an average of around 8-10 euro cents per kilowatt-hour.
There is more good news. With German economic output unchanged in the last quarter of 2022 and 1.9% growth for the year as a whole, Europe's largest economy looks set to avoid a recession, at least in the winter. Full-year gross domestic product growth in 2022, published on Friday by the German statistics office Destatis, was 0.7% higher than in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
These data suggest that the recession expected in the winter months in the wider 20-country euro area may be shorter and slower than forecast.
Ruth Brand, President of Destatis, said that the German economy performed well in 2022, despite the energy crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. "There were also severe material shortages and supply bottlenecks, massively rising food prices, a shortage of skilled labour and the ongoing, albeit fading, COVID-19 pandemic," she said.
Germany has managed, and so will the rest of Europe. It is becoming more and more fun to live a sober life, free from the terrorist dependence of Russia.
But despite the good news on the economic front, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht is to resign. It is being debated when the official announcement will be made and who will replace her. This was announced by the German newspaper BILD. Lambrecht herself, not the government, is said to be the initiator of the resignation.
The paper notes that Ch. Lambrecht has been dogged by scandals throughout her tenure as Defence Minister. In particular, she was accused of failing to learn the military ranks used in the German army. But that was only the beginning. "When some 200 000 Russian troops marched to Ukraine's borders in January 2022, Lambrecht proudly announced the delivery of 5 000 helmets to Ukraine. Shame!" - writes the publication.
The journalists also refer to other scandals, including the Minister's New Year's greeting, which did not go well and was covered by half the world's media.
Poland and Lithuania want to lower the price ceiling on Russian oil purchases and target Russia's nuclear sector with new European Union sanctions on Moscow and Minsk over the war in Ukraine, senior diplomats from the two EU countries said on Friday. The bloc will propose banning more "Russian propaganda" media outlets and removing more Russian banks from the global SWIFT messaging system, the diplomats said, asking not to be named. They said the EU's tenth sanctions package should be ready by the first anniversary of the invasion on 24 February.
Ukraine has already called for the inclusion of Russia's state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom in the sanctions. This has so far been blocked by Hungary, which has a Russian-built nuclear power plant that it plans to expand with Rosatom.
The two diplomats added that they would also try again to cut off Belgium's diamond trade with Russia, which, according to the Polish diplomat, has contributed €4.5 billion to Russia's budget, and to extend the bans on goods that could be used for military purposes.
Belgium has previously said that this would be a 'huge loss', while the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, the industry's lobby organisation, has said that if the EU were to stop importing diamonds from Russia, it would be to the benefit of competing shopping centres.
There is currently an internationally agreed limit of USD 60 per barrel, but Russian Urals oil has recently traded below this level. "The ceiling should remain effective as a means to reduce the Russian budget revenues to finance the war", said an unnamed Lithuanian diplomat.
Respect to our and Polish diplomats for their consistent work to undermine the financing of the Russian war machine.
On Friday, NATO announced that it plans to send three aircraft to Romania next week to carry out reconnaissance missions and to "monitor Russian military activities" on the territory of the 30-nation military alliance. The AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) surveillance planes are part of a 14-plane flotilla normally based in Germany. Three of these aircraft will be sent on Tuesday to an air base near the Romanian capital Bucharest for a mission expected to last several weeks, the Alliance said in a statement.
The planes "can detect aircraft hundreds of kilometres away, making them a critical capability for NATO's deterrence and defence", NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said.
It is possible that these planes will make it easier to track the movement of weapons from Iran and the Shakorean region to Russia. These plans to supply arms to Russia were announced by US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield during a meeting of the UN Security Council.
"Both Iran and North Korea are planning to send banned weapons to Russia, including banned unmanned aerial vehicles, in violation of a UN resolution. Russia is using Iranian drones to strike Ukraine's energy infrastructure and deprive millions of Ukrainians of electricity, heating... We know that Iran is now considering transferring hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia, also in breach of the resolution. We call on Iran to stop these actions and we call on all those who support peace to call on Iran not to do so", she stressed.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has confirmed that since the start of the Russian invasion, 18,096 civilians have been affected, with 6,952 dead and 11,144 wounded. Rosemary DiCarlo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, made the statement in New York at a UN Security Council meeting to review the situation caused by Putin's war in Ukraine. "The real numbers are probably much higher," she said.
No concerns were expressed after this statement.
Operational level
Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikoff believes that movement on the front line will start in the spring. He said Russia may try to gather "forces, ammunition and weapons" for an offensive from the territories it has already captured in the south and east, while Ukraine needs time to regroup and rearm while it waits for Western arms supplies.
"Spring is the best time to renew the move. We understand that the Russians will be ready to attack, and of course we have to be ready for that," the minister said. Reznikoff doubts that the Russians could repeat an attack from Belarus.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ridiculed the fight between the Russian defence ministry and the mercenary group Wagner over who should take credit for the effort to take the city of Soledar, saying it was "a clear sign of the enemy's failure". In a video address late on Friday evening, Mr Zelensky said that the battles for Soledar and other eastern Ukrainian towns and cities were continuing despite claims by rival Wagner and the Russian government that it was their forces that had taken control of the salt mine town.
The Kremlin regime sees the fighting for Soledar and nearby Bakhmut as a key factor in its efforts to take over the entire eastern Donbas, as well as a way to weaken the best Ukrainian forces and prevent them from launching offensives elsewhere. However, Ukraine claims that its fierce defence of its eastern strongholds has helped to shackle Russian forces.
We are of the opinion that the importance of these two cities after months of bloody fighting is more symbolic than real.
Ukrainian military intelligence claims that the Russian Federation is preparing for a long-term war. This is evident from the measures aimed at restructuring the terrorist country's economy and military-industrial complex. "They are aimed at strengthening the capabilities of the Russian armed forces and at creating conditions for carrying out the operations that were planned at the beginning of the war but failed to be implemented by the Russian occupying forces," explains GUR.
Unfortunately, this is true. We have been observing this ever since Surovikin was appointed commander of the theatre of war in Ukraine. There is a war of resources, and the main resource is people, soldiers.
Tactical level
In the morning, after the explosions in Kyiv, some Telegram channels, especially propaganda channels, began to write about the alleged attack on Belarus. In reality, the morning sounds of explosions in the capital and the region were not related to military action.
However, Kharkiv was indeed shelled by terrorists from Russia. Preliminarily, four S-300 missiles hit the city's industrial district, and information on casualties and damage is being revised.
At least three powerful explosions took place near an airfield in the occupied city of Berdiansk in the Zaporizhzhya region. Russian propagandists reported that at 19.30 hours, the bombing of a building was detonated. A car belonging to Oleksiy Kichygin, head of the "military-civil administration" of the Berdiansk region, exploded in Berdiansk at 19:00. The traitor allegedly survived "by a lucky accident" because he "noticed a suspicious object on the bottom of the official car in time".
Ukrainian forces have been trying to take control of Kremina for the past few days, but yesterday, reinforcements from the 144th Motorised Rifle Division counter-attacked and pushed the defenders west of Kremina. Clashes are taking place along the road to Zaricne, near the settlement of Dibrova.
South of Bakhmut, near Kurdiumivka, the Drisks were pushing towards Časiv Yar but were stopped. The Horde's intention here is clear - to circle around Bachmut and hit the defenders from behind. It failed.
There is still fighting for Soledar, but the Ukrainian forces only control a narrow strip from the hospital north-westwards. The defenders are likely to retreat to Blahodatne in the near future, with a line of defence along the railway as well as on the northern bank of the Mokra Plotva stream.
The southern front is relatively calm. The occupiers are reinforcing intelligence and counter-intelligence measures in the temporarily occupied territories. In Velyka Lepetycha settlement in the Kherson region, local residents' phones are being randomly checked for photos and videos of Russian military equipment. Since 12 January 2023, 3 civilians have been detained and taken to an unknown location.
Over the past day, Ukrainian aviation has carried out 9 strikes on occupied territories and Ukrainian Defence Forces rocket and artillery units have hit 2 checkpoints, 8 concentration points, an anti-aircraft missile complex, 3 ammunition depots, as well as 2 other important enemy facilities.
Photo: Ukrainian paramedics near the frontline at Bakhmut ready to provide assistance (source: AP).
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