Ukraine Russia war latest: Zelensky’s corruption purge takes axe to several ministers

Boris Johnson visits Ukraine amid fresh sleaze allegations

Vladimir Putin faces “ruin” if a fresh offensive by Russian troops during the spring fails, a top Ukrainian military official has said.

There are fears in Kyiv that the Russian president could order his troops to go for broke in the months ahead following a number of setbacks in the war.

“If the major Russian offensive planned for this time fails, it will be the ruin of Russia and Putin,” Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, said.

Front lines in the war have been largely frozen in place for two months despite heavy losses on both sides.

Western countries pledged billions of dollars in military aid last week, but have yet to respond to Kyiv’s request for hundreds of heavy battle tanks, which it says it needs to break through Russian lines and recover occupied territory.

Elsewhere, a number of top Ukrainian officials have resigned from their government jobs after President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered a crackdown on corruption.

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Spring could be decisive in war

Front lines in the war have been largely frozen in place for two months despite heavy losses on both sides.

Western countries pledged billions of dollars in military aid last week, but have yet to respond to Kyiv’s request for hundreds of heavy battle tanks, which it says it needs to break through Russian lines and recover occupied territory.

Most defence experts say the most suitable tanks available in sufficient numbers are German-made Leopards. But Berlin has so far held back from sending them, or from committing to let allies such as Poland send them.

Germany was not blocking the re-export of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the European Union’s top diplomat said on Monday.

Ukraine and Russia are both widely believed to be planning spring offensives to break the deadlock in what has become a war of attrition in eastern and southern Ukraine.

“If the major Russian offensive planned for this time fails, it will be the ruin of Russia and Putin,” Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, said in an interview with news site Delfi.

Matt Mathers24 January 2023 11:45

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Britain will not dictate to allies over their support for Ukraine, says No 10

Britain will not dictate to its allies what form their support for Ukraine should take, Downing Street has said, as Germany faces increasing pressure to approve the transfer of Leopard 2 battle tanks.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg became the latest to urge the speedy delivery of “heavier and more advanced” weapons systems to Ukraine, after talks with the new German defence minister Boris Pistorius in Berlin.

But Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said the UK government would not “dictate to other countries exactly what they should or should not provide – first and foremost that must be for those countries”.

He added: “We look to work with our allies in lockstep as much as possible. Our approach has borne fruit. You’ve seen the huge amounts of equipment, material and financial support that has been provided to Ukraine since the start of the war.”

Andy Gregory24 January 2023 14:11

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Medvedev seeks to downplay claims Moscow running low on missiles

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has sought to discredit Western military reports that Moscow’s stockpiles of missiles and artillery are running low.

“Our opponents are watching, they periodically make statements that we don’t have this or that … I want to disappoint them. We have enough of everything,” Mr Medvedev said during a visit to a Kalashnikov factory in Izhevsk, some 620 miles east of Moscow.

In a video posted on his Telegram channel, Mr Medvedev – now the chair of Russia’s security council – was seen inspecting Kalashnikov rifles, artillery shells, missiles and drones.

(Sputnik/Ekaterina Shtukina/Pool via REUTERS )

Andy Gregory24 January 2023 13:54

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Ukraine appoints new supervisory board for state gas giant

Ukraine has appointed a new supervisory board to oversee state-owned natural gas monopoly Naftogaz, prime minister Denys Shmyhal said on Tuesday, meeting a requirement of a financial assistance programme from the International Monetary Fund.

Shmyhal told a government meeting that the new board consisted of four independent members and two representatives of the state, according to a video of the meeting posted on his Telegram channel.

Ukraine’s economy is heavily dependent on foreign aid since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the country on 24 Feb.

Naftogaz is Ukraine’s largest national oil and gas company and its subsidiary, Ukrtransgaz, operates a pipeline system that carries Russian gas to Europe.

Naftogaz’s recently appointed CEO, Oleksiy Chernyshov, promised late last year to boost international investors’ confidence in the firm.

One of Chernyshov’s predecessors is currently under investigation by Ukraine’s anti-corruption authorities on suspicion of embezzling the equivalent of around $10 million.

Matt Mathers24 January 2023 13:00

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Russian lawmakers to consider booking system to cross land borders

Russian lawmakers are preparing legislation that will make it mandatory for people to book a time and place in advance to cross the border, raising fresh fears that the Kremlin could impose more restrictions on travel in and out of the country.

Amendments to a transport law, introduced to parliament on Monday, stipulate that “vehicles belonging to Russian transport companies, foreign transport companies, citizens of the Russian Federation, foreign citizens, stateless persons and other road users” would have to reserve a date and time “in order to cross the state border of the Russian Federation”.

Following speculation that the measures could be used to make it harder for ordinary Russians to leave the country, Russian news agencies quoted the transport ministry as saying the curbs would only apply to cargo trucks, and only be enforced at some, not all, of Russia’s land border crossing points.

“The main purpose of the bill is to streamline the movement of trucks flowing through checkpoints and reduce the congestion of cargo transport near border checkpoints,” the RIA Novosti news agency cited the transport ministry as saying.

Matt Mathers24 January 2023 12:42

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Two more deputy ministers resign in Ukraine government shake-up

Two deputy ministers resigned from Ukraine’s Ministry of Communities and Territories Development on Tuesday amid a broader exit of senior officials from the government.

Vyacheslav Negoda and Ivan Lukerya both confirmed the moves on their Facebook pages.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said he was planning to streamline his wartime government and crack down on corruption.

Matt Mathers24 January 2023 11:24

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Decision on supplying tanks to Kyiv ‘purely political’ – German chief of defence

The decision about the delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine will be taken solely at the political level, Germany’s chief of defence Eberhard Zorn said on Tuesday.

“This is purely a political decision,” he said at a defence conference in Berlin organised by Handelsblatt.

Berlin has for days been under pressure to provide tanks to Kyiv after several European countries vowed to do so.

Matt Mathers24 January 2023 11:03

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Senior Ukrainian officials step down in rare purge in Kyiv

Several senior Ukrainian officials resigned on Tuesday in the biggest leadership shakeup of the war with Russia so far, in what an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky called an answer to public calls for “justice”.

Some, though not all, of the resignations were linked with corruption allegations. Ukraine has a history of graft and shaky governance, and is under international pressure to show it can be a reliable steward of billions of dollars in Western aid.

“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – regarding officials at various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in law enforcement,” Zelensky said in an overnight video address.

(Ukraine President’s Office)

Matt Mathers24 January 2023 10:30

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Finland and Sweden Nato talks ‘need pause’

Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said official talks between Turkey, Finland, Sweden and Turkey on the two Nordic nations’ plans to join the Nato military alliance needed to pause for a few weeks.

Turkey’s president said yesterday that Sweden should not expect his country’s support for Nato membership after a protest near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm at the weekend including the burning of a copy of the Koran.

“A timeout is needed before we return to the three-way talks and see where we are when the dust has settled after the current situation, so no conclusions should be drawn yet,” Ms Haavisto told Reuters. “I think there will be a break for a couple of weeks,” he added.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join North Atlantic Treaty Organization after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They now need the backing of all current Nato states to progress with their application.

But alliance member Turkey has said Sweden in particular must take a clearer stance against what Ankara sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

Liam James24 January 2023 10:00

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Covid-19 cut human trafficking, Ukraine war may reverse this

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the first drop in the known number of human-trafficking victims in 20 years as trafficking opportunities and policing were reduced, but the Ukraine war has probably now caused a new surge, a UN report said.

The number of detected trafficking victims fell 11 per cent in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available in most countries, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its seventh Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

Conflicts tend to increase trafficking and the war in Ukraine is unlikely to be an exception, it added.

Liam James24 January 2023 09:30

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