Latest news on Russia and war in Ukraine

Russia beefing up defenses in Belgorod needlessly, UK says

The British Ministry of Defense said that Russia’s decision to extend defensive positions along its international border with Ukraine, and inside the Belgorod border region, reflected a mistaken belief that Ukraine might try to attack Russia.

A view of damaged structures in Belgorod in Russia after a suspected attack, seen on November 6, 2022.

Anatolian Agency Anatolian Agency Getty Images

Britain said in its latest intelligence update that the recent increase in defenses in Belgorod could be due to Russian authorities wanting to promote the baseless idea that Ukraine could invade.

“There is a realistic possibility that the Russian authorities promote defense preparations on the territory of Russia recognized internationally to burnish the patriotic feeling. However, it probably illustrates some Russian decision-makers’ genuine (but false) belief that there is a credible threat of invasion by Ukrainian forces,” said English.

“Paucity in strategic assessment is one of the critical weaknesses in the architecture of the central Russian government: as highlighted by Russia’s original decision to invade Ukraine,” it noted, adding: “Official analysis is almost always undermined by a tendency towards group-think . and useful political conclusions.”

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said trench digging has been reported in Belgorod since at least April, “but the new construction seems to be a more complex system, designed to resist mechanized attacks.” In addition, the governor of Belgorod announced on Tuesday that he established a local “self-defense unit”.

Russia has accused Ukrainian forces of shelling Belgorod and other border areas several times during the war, killing a number of civilians in the process. Ukraine does not claim responsibility for any incident in Russian territory, and at one point accused Russia of staging the attack to whip up anti-Ukrainian sentiment.

– Holly Elliott

Belarus to transfer military equipment, personnel to check response to ‘terrorism’

A Ukrainian border guard scout with a monocular near the Ukrainian border with Russia and Belarus in November. The Ukrainian army has expressed alarm over the “growing threat” of a Russian attack through Belarus.

Sergei Supinsky Afp | Getty Images

Belarus moved its military equipment and security forces on Wednesday and Thursday to examine its response to possible “acts of terrorism.”

The state news agency BelTA quoted the country’s Security Council as saying that during the investigation it temporarily restricted the movement of citizens on certain public roads, and said that the use of imitation weapons for training purposes was planned.

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Any military activity by Belarus is closely watched in Ukraine for signs that its forces may enter the war and help its ally Russia. Belarus appears reluctant to fight with Russia in Ukraine but conducts joint military exercises with Russia and has joint units with its neighbors.

– Holly Elliott

Pro-Russian officials say the situation is ripe for the capture of Bakhmut

Pro-Russian official Denis Pushilin, head of the separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, has admitted that Russian forces in the region – arguably the most hotly-contested region in the Ukrainian war at the moment – could soon be in. advance position and capture Bakhmut.

Denis Pushilin (C), the separatist leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) arrives to deliver a press conference in Donetsk, on April 11, 2022.

Alexander Nemenov AFP | Getty Images

Pushilin told the TASS news agency that “liberating” Mayorsk near Horlivka, just to the south of Bakhmut, “created the prerequisites for the advance to Dzerzhinsk.” [known as ‘Toretsk’ in Ukrainian] and then surrounded Artemovsk” – the Russian name for Bakhmut.

He said a unit of Russia’s state-sanctioned private military company, the Wagner Group, was working “in Bakhmut” and had seen “certain success,” citing comments by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu who said on Tuesday that a number of settlements were near Bakhmut. had been controlled by the Russian armed forces.

Fighting in Donetsk has been reduced to bloody trench warfare in recent months with fierce battles over every mile of territory and settlements around Bakhmut.

Russia is believed to see the city as a key target, believing that its capture will allow it to cut off Ukrainian supply lines and allow its forces to advance towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk to the north of Bakhmut.

CNBC was unable to verify Pushilin’s claims. The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Wednesday morning that Russian forces continued to focus their efforts on “carrying out offensive operations” in the area around Bakhmut.

This is not the first time Pushilin has claimed that Bakhmut is close and surrounded, having said the same thing last week. Ukraine vehemently denies that it is even close to being semi-encircled, with one official telling CNBC that Russia has seen mass losses of personnel in the area, and little gains, although the official admits the fight is intense.

– Holly Elliott

Blinken said the US did not encourage or allow Ukraine to attack inside Russia

The United States is not encouraging or enabling Ukrainians to attack inside Russia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, but reiterated Washington’s determination to ensure Kyiv has the tools it needs to defend itself.

A third Russian airfield came under fire from a drone strike, a day after Ukraine demonstrated its new ability to penetrate hundreds of miles (km) inside Russian airspace with attacks on two Russian airbases. Kyiv did not immediately claim responsibility for the strike, but still celebrated it.

— Reuters

At the United Nations, the US and Russia accused each other of having no interest in the Ukrainian talks

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia speaks to reporters about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, USA, April 4, 2022.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

The United States and Russia have accused each other of not being interested in Ukraine peace talks as calls grow at the United Nations for a ceasefire and diplomacy to end the war that began with Moscow’s invasion nine months ago.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said at a UN Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine that Moscow had noted the “interest of the majority” of UN member states in a diplomatic settlement.

“We react to this very seriously. We confirm our desire to carry out negotiations,” he said, but added that the goal will be “eradicating the root cause that forced us to start our special military operation (SMO)”.

— Reuters

Turkey says Finland should end the arms embargo to join NATO

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks at a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey, on November 3, 2022.

Shadati | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Finland must publicly declare that it is lifting its arms embargo on Turkey to get Ankara’s approval for membership to NATO, Turkey’s foreign minister said.

Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comments ahead of a visit by Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen, who will discuss his nation’s bid to join a military alliance with Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Thursday.

“The visit of the Finnish defense minister to Turkey is important because we have not heard a statement from Finland saying that they have lifted the arms embargo against us,” Cavusoglu told reporters. “We expect such a statement from there.”

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Sweden and Finland abandoned their long-standing policy of military nonalignment and applied for membership in the alliance after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, amid concerns that Russia would target them next.

– Associated Press

Hungary vetoes 18 billion euro EU aid package for Ukraine

Hungary vetoed an 18 billion euro ($18.9 billion) EU aid package for Ukraine, meaning it could not go ahead and the European Commission had to find other ways to continue giving aid to Ukraine until 2023.

“Orban is heading for full escalation,” a member of the European Parliament’s Green Party tweeted in response to the news.

The move is seen as a way for Hungarian President Viktor Orban, a longtime ally of Putin, to force the EU to give Hungary a share of the recovery funds, some of which the EU has blocked due to violations of the bloc’s laws.

The European Commission will now examine ways to “provide the necessary solutions for Ukraine already in January,” said EU budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

Czech Finance Minister Zbynek Stanjura said he asked his European Union colleagues to work on “a solution supported by 26 member states” that could override Hungary’s veto.

“We cannot adopt the package as a whole but we will not be discouraged,” Stanjura said. “Our ambition remains that we will start disbursements to Ukraine in January.”

– Natasha Turak

The Kremlin says there are no prospects for peace talks with Ukraine at the moment

Moscow says it agrees with the United States that lasting peace is needed in Ukraine, but it sees no prospects for talks in that direction at this time.

“The result should be a just and lasting peace, one can agree with this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the press, referring to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks on Monday. Blinken said that Ukraine’s war “will end with diplomacy” and that a “just and lasting peace” is essential.

“But regarding the prospects for some kind of negotiations, we don’t see anything at the moment,” Peskov said.

He added that for negotiations to proceed, Russia must complete the objectives of its “special military operation”, a term the Kremlin has used since February to describe a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

– Natasha Turak

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