RUSSIA GAINS MOMENTUM ON THE BATTLEFIELD (02 02 2023)
Political strategic level
Putin, the führer of a terrorist state, said yesterday that the Russian army must stop shelling Russian regions from Ukrainian territory, which he said had left many people homeless or without electricity. Mr Putin was speaking at a cabinet meeting about the reconstruction of destroyed housing and infrastructure in the regions of south-west Russia bordering Ukraine.
Mr Putin, a war criminal, cited the Russian regions of Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk, as well as Crimea, which Russia occupied and annexed in 2014, as areas where housing was damaged or destroyed.
"Many people are in a difficult situation, have lost their homes, have been forced to move in with relatives or to temporary accommodation, and have faced interruptions in the supply of water, heat and electricity," Putka said, mocking Ukraine's defence against the invading horde, and the West's attempts to provide some help.
Such terrorist language, unfortunately, means that we will see more strikes on Ukraine's civilian infrastructure, including in the western part of the country, through which military vehicles, equipment and supplies are passing.
The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on 22 individuals and legal entities in several countries, which it accused of being linked to a global sanctions-avoidance network that supports the Russian military-industrial complex. The sanctions, which are being imposed to increase pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, are part of the US effort to limit Russia's ability to generate the revenue it needs to wage war, the US Treasury Department said in a statement.
The action is aimed at a sanctions-avoidance network that the Treasury Department says is led by Igor Zimenkov, a Cyprus-based arms dealer. He and his son were sanctioned on Wednesday.
The network has been involved in projects related to Russia's defence capabilities, including the supply of high-technology following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Washington has also accused certain members of the network of supporting sanctioned Russian state defence entities. Zimenkov also supported the Belarusian military-industrial complex by helping a US-sanctioned Belarusian defence contractor make sales in Latin America, the Treasury Department said.
Sanctions have been imposed on Cypriot, Bulgarian and Israeli companies and several individuals. "Russia's desperate attempts to use proxies to circumvent US sanctions demonstrate that sanctions have made it much more difficult and expensive for Russia's military-industrial complex to supply Putin's war machine," Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.
Commendable steps, but many workarounds remain. And Russia is taking advantage of them, even if it is only in the military or in the oil sector. The financial sector and the sanctions imposed on it are also leaky. For example, Zepter, a Swiss-owned bank operating in Belarus, is proud to tell its customers that it is not subject to Russian sanctions, so that the flow of money to and from Russia via Belarus to western countries is unrestricted.
"Ukraine needs long-range missiles, first of all to prevent the invaders from building missile launchers somewhere far from the front line and destroying Ukrainian cities," said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
It may be a coincidence, but two unnamed United States defence officials told Reuters news agency that the forthcoming USD 2 billion military aid package may include some of the long-range weapons requested by Ukraine. The weapons in question are ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDBs), which have been discussed and promised several times in the past. They have a range of 150 km, double that of the HIMARS provided by the US last June. These bombs would allow Ukrainian forces to reach all the occupied and partly occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson.
This is important because Russia is learning from its mistakes and has moved its ammunition depots 80-120 km away from the front line. Vadym Skibicki, Deputy Head of Ukrainian Military Intelligence, says that "these are the centres of gravity for the Russian Federation and need to be hit to disrupt all kinds of supply systems".
Yes, of course they are. All weapons are needed, especially long-range high-precision charges, whether for artillery systems or aircraft. We need long-range unmanned aerial vehicles, ballistic and cruise missiles capable of reaching targets such as the tank factory 1 000 km from the Ukrainian border. Only with such weapons, only in this way, by striking through military-industrial complexes deep inside Russia, can we think of anything like victory.
A dozen of the European Union's most senior officials will arrive in Kyiv today to express their highest level of support for the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, following new pledges of military aid. Although the EU supports Ukraine and supports democratic and economic reforms, Kyiv's hopes of a quick accession to the 27-member EU may not be realised.
The last country to join the EU was Croatia in 2013, a decade after its formal application. Ukraine's neighbour Poland took 20 years to join in 2004. Ukraine applied to join shortly after the invasion of 24 February 2022 and last June received official candidate status from the EU, which hailed it as a bold political step.
However, in order to join, Ukraine needs to meet a number of criteria, ranging from political stability, including democratic institutions ensuring respect for the rule of law and human rights, to the economic capacity to withstand increased competition. While recognising the progress made so far, the bloc underlines that Ukraine needs to do more to achieve credible results in the fight against endemic corruption.
The EU also draws attention to the reforms needed to ensure that Ukraine is free from political interference in the judiciary and that minority rights are respected.
Another point is that, although the accession criteria do not specifically state that a country at war cannot become a member of the EU, the bloc does not want to take on the problem of territorial conflicts. An exception was made in 2004 for Cyprus, which has not controlled the whole island since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
French naval forces seized thousands of submachine guns, machine guns and anti-tank missiles in the Gulf of Oman in January, shipped from Iran and destined for Yemen's Houthi rebels, officials said on Thursday. Although Iran did not immediately confirm the seizure, photographs of the weapons released by the US military's Central Command show that they are similar to other weapons seized by American forces in other shipments linked to Tehran.
This announcement comes as Iran faces increasing pressure from the West over the shipment of drones to Russia, which the terrorist state uses to kill civilians in Ukraine.
The United Nations resolution prohibits the transfer of arms to Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who seized the country's capital at the end of 2014 and have been at war with the Saudi-led coalition fighting for the country's internationally-recognised government since March 2015.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the operation, which was carried out by elite French special operations forces. The French army has not commented on these actions. France has a naval base in Abu Dhabi.
The situation on the front lines in eastern Ukraine has become more complex as Russian forces intensify their offensive, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday. Russia has gained momentum on the battlefield, announcing advances north and south of the town of Bakhmut, which has been its main target for several months. The locations where fighting is being reported clearly show Russia's gradual progress.
Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maljar said earlier that fierce fighting was continuing in eastern Ukraine, where Russian troops are trying to gain a foothold near the strategically important logistics centre of Lyman. She wrote on her soctink account that despite heavy losses, the Russians are also continuing their offensive near the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
Meanwhile, Belarus reported yesterday that its armed forces, after training in Russia and exercises at home, are now independently operating Russian-supplied Iskander mobile guided missile systems capable of carrying a nuclear payload. These missiles can strike targets up to 500 km away, according to the defence ministry of Belarus, which is de facto annexed by Russia. The commander of the Belarusian missile and artillery forces said that until now they lacked an offensive weapon with a range of more than 300 km.
We do not want to be bad prophets, but if this is true, the Kremlin may force the dictator Lukashenko to use Iskander systems to strike Kyiv and its surroundings, thus cutting the communication routes from western Europe.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikoff believes that Russia may launch a new offensive on the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. In an interview with BFMTV, he said that Russians "live for symbolism" and might try to do something on 24 February. Reznikoff stressed that Ukraine does not underestimate the Russian Federation. "Officially, 300 000 (mobilisable) troops are declared, but when we see the troops on the border, our estimates are much higher," he added.
The minister believes that Russian troops may try to launch an offensive in two directions: it could be the Donbas or the south.
Ukraine's quick victory and the liberation of Crimea, promised as recently as May last year by one of the adult fairy-tale narrators so highly respected by our officials, are getting further and further away. The Pentagon believes that the Ukrainians will not be able to dislodge Russian troops from Crimea in the near future. This was stated by senior US defence officials during a secret briefing before the US House of Representatives Defence Committee, Politico reports.
"It is not clear what led to this assessment by the speakers. But according to three people with direct knowledge of Thursday's briefing, it is clear that the Pentagon does not believe Ukraine has or will soon have the ability to push Russian troops off the peninsula," the publication writes.
Ukrainian authorities raided the home of an influential billionaire as part of a move to root out corruption and help the country meet Western standards of clean governance, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky. Separate raids were carried out at the Tax Inspectorate and at the home of a former Interior Minister. Mr Zelensky promised to take further steps to ensure a clean state, referring in particular to the Ministry of Defence.
Security officials searched the home of businessman Ihor Kolomoisky, a former ally of Mr Zelensky, and the Security Service of Ukraine announced that it had uncovered more than €1 billion in fraud. The Security Service has revealed an embezzlement scheme involving more than USD 1 billion at the oil extraction company Ukrnafta and the oil refinery Ukrtatnafta, both of which were owned by Mr Kolomoisky.
Former Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Viacheslav Shapovalov has reportedly been charged with supplying products to the armed forces at inflated prices, as well as with buying low-quality bulletproof vests, helmets, clothing and other items for the Ukrainian armed forces. The potential damage amounts to one billion hryvnias (around €25 million). Khmelnytsky, another official of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, is suspected in a case concerning the purchase of low-quality bulletproof vests for more than 100 million hryvnias (about €2.5 million).
Unfortunately, this is the reality: while some fight and die in the front line, others are unjustly enriched at the expense of the first deaths.
On Wednesday evening, a Russian missile destroyed a residential building and damaged seven others in the eastern Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk, killing at least three people and injuring 20 others, regional police said. Around 21.45 local terrorists fired an Iskander-K ballistic missile. There are likely to be people under the rubble.
Yesterday, the family and friends of Ukrainian decathlete Volodymyr Androshchuk said goodbye to the promising athlete and volunteer soldier who was killed in a battle near Bakhmut. The friends of the soldier, who was mortally wounded by shrapnel, were outraged that Russians are allowed to take part in sports games and championships when Ukrainians are dying defending their country against Russian aggression.
On 1 February, Russian marauders struck 6 times with missiles, 4 of which hit civilian infrastructure in the settlements of Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and Druzhkivka (Donetsk region), as well as 4 air strikes. The occupying forces carried out 73 shelling attacks with volley fire systems. Civilians were killed as a result of enemy attacks.
The threat of Russian air and missile strikes remains high throughout Ukraine.
The enemy is actively conducting reconnaissance and preparing for a possible offensive in certain directions. Despite heavy losses, the Russians continue to attack in the directions of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Novopavlivka.
In the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk region, the enemy continues to force Ukrainian citizens to accept Russian citizenship. In Horlivka, drivers are only issued with a Russian standard driving licence, which is impossible to obtain without a Russian passport. The occupiers have imposed a deadline of 1 May 2023 for the employees of transport companies. Those who fail to comply will be dismissed.
09 January 2023. Three-month employment contracts expire in one of the occupiers' units in Luhansk region. As a result, some 300 soldiers of this unit do not receive any financial support. In addition, they are unable to withdraw from military service due to the announced mobilisation.
Yesterday, rocket and artillery units of the Ukrainian Defence Forces hit a Russian command post, 3 live meat concentration points and a fuel and lubricant depot.
Photo: Ukrainian troops near Bakhmut. Source: AP.
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