Russia-Ukraine latest: Putin flies on bomber plane after claims Moscow used North Korean missiles in attacks

Russian President Vladimir Putin has flown on a new nuclear-capable Russian bomber plane following claims from Ukraine that Russia used North Korean missiles in several attacks.

Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on Thursday that Russia had used at least 20 North Korean ballistic missiles in attacks on Ukraine since late December. Investigators believe that the missiles have killed least 24 civilians and injured at least 100 in Ukraine.

It comes days after Putin gifted Kim Jong Un a new car, sparking fears about the developing relationship between the two nations.

The revelation comes as Putin took flight on a nuclear-capable strategic bomber, which has been seen as a move to be seen as a pointed reminder of Moscow’s nuclear capabilities.

Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden met with Alexei Navalny’s wife and daughter to express his “heartfelt condolences”, less than a week after the Russian opposition politican was pronounced dead in a Siberian penal colony.

Speaking at a fundraising event, Biden also called Putin a “crazy SOB [son of a b****]”, with a Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov calling the president’s “rude” remarks “a huge disgrace” to the White House

Key Points

  • Kyiv claims Russia used North Korean ballistic missiles in attacks

  • Russian forces 'take full control of Avdiivka coke plant'

  • Zelensky urges West to stop feeding ‘artificial deficit of weapons’ in Ukraine

  • Ukrainian forces pull back from Avdiivka to dodge encirclement, army chief says

  • Putin’s troops advancing along ‘entire front line’, Kyiv warns

  • Russian troops advance on more towns after fall of Avdiivka

US to hit Russia with “hundreds and hundreds” of new sanctions, says top diplomat

20:41 , Holly Evans

A senior U.S. diplomat on Thursday said the United States will impose “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds” of sanctions against Russia in a new package marking the second anniversary of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland said that some of the sanctions will target those responsible for the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, but most will hit “Putin’s war machine” and close gaps in existing sanctions.

Biden met with Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, and their daughter

20:08 , Holly Evans

US President Joe Biden has met with the wife and daughter of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died last Friday, “to express his heartfelt condolences”, the White House said.

During the meeting in California, Biden expressed his admiration for Navalny’s “extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption and for a free and democratic Russia in which the rule of law applies equally to everyone”.

Biden also affirmed that the United States will announce major new sanctions against Russia on Friday in response to Navalny’s death, Russia’s repression and aggression and its war in Ukraine, it added.

Joe Biden met with Alexei Navalny’s wife to express his condolences (Potus/Twitter)
Joe Biden met with Alexei Navalny’s wife to express his condolences (Potus/Twitter)

Navalny’s widow Yulia is the leader we need after his cold-blooded murder, says key ally of Putin critic

19:50 , Holly Evans

The widow of Alexei Navalny is the leader that Russia’s opposition needs after his “cold-blooder murder”, a key ally of the Putin critic said.

Director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation Vladimir Ashurkov said Yulia Navalnaya was her husband’s “rock” throughout his career and it was quite natural she would carry on his work.

Navalny, 47, died in an Arctic penal colony last week in what Ms Navalnaya claimed was a novichok poisoning. The Kremlin has denied any involvement in his death.

Read the full article from Alexander Butler here:

Navalny’s widow is the leader we need after his cold-blooded murder, says key ally

IMF says Ukraine needs 'timely support' from US, other donors

19:30 , Holly Evans

The International Monetary Fund on Thursday said that “timely support” for Ukraine was needed from the United States and other international donors to ensure the country’s fiscal viability as it enters a third year battling Russia’s invasion.

IMF spokesperson Julie Kozack told a regular news briefing that the global lender estimates that Ukraine will need about $42 billion of financing this year, including official donor support of about $31.9 billion.

“Timely support from the international community, including the U.S., will be vital to ensure that the country remains on the path to fiscal and external viability,” Kozack said.

A $60 billion package of U.S. military and economic aid for Ukraine remains stalled.

Russia says it has taken Pobieda village in Donetsk region

19:10 , Holly Evans

Russian troops have taken the village of Pobieda in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, the Russian defence ministry said on Thursday, but the Ukrainian military said its forces were repelling dozens of attacks in the area.

Pobieda is a village south of Maryinka, a town that has been all but levelled by months of clashes.

Russia’s defence ministry said it had taken Pobieda and improved its position in several other areas of the Donetsk region.

Ukraine’s forces are currently trying to contain the Russians in the village of Novomykhailivka (REUTERS)
Ukraine’s forces are currently trying to contain the Russians in the village of Novomykhailivka (REUTERS)

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, in its evening report on Facebook, said its troops “continue to contain the enemy” around Pobieda and a nearby village, Novomykhailivka.

“The enemy, with the support of aviation, attempted to breach our troops’ defences 31 times,” the report said.

A widely read Ukrainian military blog, DeepState, reported that Russian forces had occupied Pobieda and were advancing on two other villages.

US charges head of Russia's VTB Bank for sanctions violations

18:45 , Holly Evans

The US has charged the CEO of Russian-state owned VTB Bank Andrey Kostin and two U.S.-based associates with sanctions violations as part of a flurry of enforcement actions two years after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Kostin, who was sanctioned by the US in 2018, is accused of money laundering and sanctions violations through his maintenance of two yachts worth more than $135 million and a home in the resort town of Aspen, Colorado, according to an indictment in Manhattan federal court.

Two associates, Vadim Wolfson and Gannon Bond were arrested in the United States on charges of helping to take care of the $12 million Colorado property while concealing that Kostin owned it, U.S. Justice Department officials said.

Kostin, who is believed to be in Russia, remains at large.

The indictment was one of five criminal and civil actions the Justice Department unveiled on Thursday as part of an effort by U.S. authorities to crackdown on people with ties to the Kremlin.

Putin says Biden is preferable US president to Trump after being called ‘crazy SOB’

18:11 , Holly Evans

Russian president Vladimir Putin praised Joe Biden on Thursday for calling him a “crazy SOB”, saying that the remark showed why the Kremlin felt Biden was a preferable future U.S. president to Donald Trump.

The U.S. president made the “crazy SOB” remark as part of a sentence about threats to the world - including “that guy Putin and others”, the risk of nuclear conflict and the existential threat to humanity from climate change.

When asked about the “crude” Biden remark by Russian state television, Putin smiled sarcastically and bit his lip before looking at the ground.

Putin praised Biden for calling him a ‘crazy SOB’ (Sputnik)
Putin praised Biden for calling him a ‘crazy SOB’ (Sputnik)

“We are ready to work with any president. But I believe that for us, Biden is a more preferable president for Russia, and judging by what he has just said, I am absolutely right,” Putin told state television, with a slight smile.

Putin, 71, said that his previous comments saying that Biden, 81, was Russia’s preferred candidate had triggered Biden’s “adequate reaction”.

“It’s not like he can say to me, ‘Volodya, thank you, well done, you’ve helped me a lot’,” Putin said. “You asked me which is better for us. I said it then that, and I still think I can repeat it: Biden.”

Biden calls Putin a ‘crazy SOB’ and blasts Trump’s Navalny comments as he campaigns in California

17:41 , Holly Evans

Joe Biden has hit out at Russian leader Vladimir Putin in the wake of the death of opposition politician Alexei Navalny last week, also chastising Donald Trump for comparing his own legal affairs to the dissident’s tragic fate.

Speaking at a fundraising event in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday evening, President Biden told his audience: “We have a crazy SOB [son of a b****], that guy, Putin, others. And we always have to be worried about a nuclear conflict. But the existential threat to humanity is climate.”

According to CNN, the Kremlin has already reacted angrily to the comment, with Mr Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov calling the president’s “rude” remarks “a huge disgrace” to the White House and adding: “Clearly, Mr Biden is demonstrating behaviour in the style of a Hollywood cowboy to cater to domestic political interests.”

Read the full article here

Biden calls Putin a ‘crazy SOB’ and blasts Trump’s Navalny comments

Putin critic Navalny’s mother says she has finally been shown his body

17:17 , Holly Evans

The mother of Alexei Navalny has claimed she was threatened by Russian officials after being shown his body – almost a week after his death in an Arctic prison.

Lyudmila Navalnaya, 69, said that she was taken to the city morgue, and that officials told her that if she doesn’t agree to a secret funeral, they will “do something” to her son’s body

In an allegation posted on YouTube from the Arctic city of Salekhard, she accused Russian investigators of “blackmailing” her to hold a service for Putin’ s most prominent critic with no mourners present.

Read the full article here

Putin critic Navalny’s mother says she has finally been shown his body

Kyiv claims Russia used at least 20 North Korean ballistic missiles in attacks on Ukraine

15:40 , Athena Stavrou

Ukraine has claimed that Russia has used North Korean missiles in several attacks on the country since December.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on Thursday that Russia had used at least 20 North Korean ballistic missiles in attacks on Ukraine since late December. Investigators believe that the missiles have killed least 24 civilians and injured at least 100 in Ukraine.

It comes days after Putin gifted Kim Jong Un a new car, sparking fears about the developing relationship between the two nations.

Full report: Russian war blogger dies in apparent suicide after revealing Moscow’s losses

14:59 , Athena Stavrou

A Russian military blogger has died in an apparent suicide after facing criticism for revealing heavy losses in Ukraine.

Andrei Morozov, who also served as a soldier on the front line in Ukraine, said in his last post on Wednesday that he decided to “execute” himself to help his comrades in arms avoid fallout from his critical publications, which had angered the military command.

Maxim Pashkov, a lawyer who knew him, confirmed Morozov’s death in a messaging app statement. Morozov was 44 years old and his supporters have blamed Kremlin propagandists for his death.

Read the full article:

Russian war blogger dies in apparent suicide after revealing Moscow’s losses

Putin takes flight on nuclear-capable Russian bomber

14:00 , Athena Stavrou

Russian President Vladimir Putin flew on a modernised Tu-160M nuclear-capable strategic bomber on Thursday in a move likely to be seen in the West as a pointed reminder of Moscow’s nuclear capabilities.

The giant swing-wing plane is a substantially modernised-version of a Soviet-era bomber that the USSR would have deployed in the event of a nuclear war with the West to deliver nuclear weapons at long distances.

The TU-160M is capable of carrying 12 cruise missiles or 12 short-range nuclear missiles and can fly 12,000 km (7,500 miles) non-stop without re-fuelling.

After a flight on one of the aircraft, Putin said aircraft is “reliable,” RIA reported.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Denmark unveils Ukraine aid package

13:20 , Athena Stavrou

Denmark announced a new 1.7 billion crown (£195 million) military aid package for Ukraine as they made an urgent appeal to allies to step up donations.

The package will bring total donations by Denmark to Ukraine to 33.3 billion crowns since Russia’s invasion two years ago. The NATO member has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine and is among the biggest contributors of military aid relative to the size of its economy.

“It is necessary to emphasize that if they (Ukraine) are to succeed on the battlefield, more donations must come now,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters on Thursday.

“It’s in this light that we continue to make further Danish donations in the hope that more countries will do the same, not in six or 12 months, but now when the need is very, very big.”

 (Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima)
(Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima)

Russian war blogger dies in apparent suicide after revealing Moscow’s losses

12:34 , Athena Stavrou

A Russian military blogger has died in an apparent suicide after he faced criticism for posting about losses in Ukraine.

Andrei Morozov, who also served as a soldier on the front line in Ukraine, said in his last post on Wednesday that he decided to end his life. Maxim Pashkov, a lawyer who knew him, confirmed the 44-year-old’s death in a messaging app statement.

Morozov, who went by the nickname Murz, said in a recent post that about 16,000 Russian troops were killed and the military lost about 300 armored vehicles since October when the four-month battle for the eastern stronghold of Avdiivka began.

Russian troops captured Avdiivka over the weekend after Ukrainian troops pulled back.

Morozov’s death follows the loss of Putin’s main political opponent Alexei Navalny on Friday.

It comes as Russian authorities have become increasingly intolerant ahead of March’s election in which Putin is all but certain to win another six-year term.

Fish and chips at risk as Russia withdraws from 1956 fishing deal

12:00 , Athena Stavrou

Russia is withdrawing from a 1956 fishing deal struck with Britain by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, an indicator of just how deep the gulf between Russia and the West has become.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 triggered the most serious confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and each side casts the other as a perfidious enemy.

The May 1956 fishing deal was signed in London at a turning point in the Cold War: Khrushchev had that year denounced Josef Stalin, proposed peaceful co-existence with the West and even visited Britain in April.

The 1956 fishing deal allowed British vessels into the rich fishing grounds of the Barents Sea, the coast of the Kola Peninsula and along the coast of Kolguyev Island.

Today, the view from Moscow is harsher.

“When Nikita Khrushchev accepted this deal in 1956, it is difficult to say what guided him but it was definitely not national interest,” Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma lower house of parliament, said in a statement.

Last chance to sign up for our Ukraine panel event

11:47 , Athena Stavrou

There’s still limited time to sign up to The Independent’s panel event as we look back on the two years of war in Ukraine.

Hosted by The Independent’s award-winning chief international correspondent Bel Trew, the panel of experts will be looking at key moments as well as looking ahead to what is likely to happen next:

Two years of war in Ukraine: Sign up to our free expert panel event

Russia takes the village of Pobieda in Donetsk region, defence ministry says

11:04 , Athena Stavrou

Russia has claimed that their troops have taken the village of Pobieda in Ukraine’s Donetsk region as they continue to push on following the fall of Avdiivka.

The Ukrainian military said it was continuing to repel attacks there.

Pobieda is a village south of Maryinka. Russia’s defence ministry said it had taken the village and improved its position in several other areas of the Donetsk region.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said before the Russian statement that Ukrainian troops were repelling attacks near the village and continuing to “contain the enemy”

Russia has fired more than 8,000 missiles in war so far

11:00 , Athena Stavrou

Russia has launched more than 8,000 missiles and 4,630 drones at targets in Ukraine since the start of the war in February 2022, Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said on Thursday.

Ukraine has received advanced air defence systems, including several units of the Patriot system, from Western allies throughout the invasion, enabling it to shoot down more missiles

Russian threatened to shoot down French planes

10:13 , Athena Stavrou

Russian forces threatened to shoot down French flights patrolling last month in international airspace over the Black Sea, France’s defense minister said Thursday.

Sebastien Lecornu didn’t give specific details about the French flights or aircraft involved in the threatened shoot-down, but said Russia is returning to a “particularly aggressive” posture reminiscent of the former Soviet Union’s behavior during the Cold War.

“A month ago, to give you a very concrete example, a Russian air traffic control system threatened to shoot down French aircraft in the Black Sea when we were in a free international zone where we patrol,” he said on RTL radio.

“The behavior of Russia in 2024 bears no relation to what we saw in 2022 and, obviously, before the aggression in Ukraine,” the minister said. “It is explained by the fact that Russia is in difficulty on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

Kremlin responds to Biden calling Putin a ‘crazy SOB'

09:18 , Athena Stavrou

he Kremlin said on Thursday that Joe Biden had debased the United States by calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “crazy SOB”, casting the U.S. president’s remark as part of a failed “Hollywood cowboy” act.

The US president made the “crazy SOB” remark as part of a sentence about threats to the world - including “that guy Putin and others”, the risk of nuclear conflict and the existential threat to humanity from climate change.

“The use of such language against the head of another state by the president of the United States is unlikely to infringe on our president, President Putin,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. “But it debases those who use such vocabulary.”

Peskov said the remark was “probably some kind of attempt to look like a Hollywood cowboy. But honestly I don’t think it’s possible.”

“Has Mr Putin ever used one crude word to address you? This has never happened. Therefore, I think that such vocabulary debases America itself,” Peskov said, adding that such language was a disgrace for the United States.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Russian troops advance on more towns after fall of Avdiivka

07:45 , Athena Stavrou

Russian troops are reportedly pressing on toward towns and villages near Avdiivka after they took the key eastern city.

Russian forces secured Avdiivka after months of bombardment reduced the town to rubble. It was Russia’s biggest battlefield victory since its forces captured Bakhmut in May 2023.

Ukrainian soldiers said Putin’s troops are continuing to assault their positions.

“It doesn’t end with them taking Avdiivka. They continue assaulting (our positions),” said Andriy, a Ukrainian drone pilot of the 47th Mechanised Brigade, sitting quietly in a darkened area.

“After Avdiivka, the villages nearby are next. And then, Myrnohrad and Pokrovsk, the nearest larger towns.”

Humanitarian appeal only 10% funded

07:00 , Jane Dalton

The UN’s humanitarian appeal to meet needs in Ukraine is only 10% funded for 2024, the country’s resident coordinator has said, putting in jeopardy crucial assistance needed to reach those in need across frontline areas.

Denise Brown, the UN’s top representative in Ukraine, said an estimated 8.5million Ukrainians living in dire conditions near combat zones risk going without basic humanitarian deliveries, including food and water. The UN’s annual appeal for Ukraine is $3.1billion.

“If we don’t receive that money, I don’t know where that money is going to come from,” Brown said.

Without the funds, “we won’t be able to sustain the high number of colleagues that we have here who are absolutely dedicated to humanitarian support.”

As the future of military aid to Ukraine hangs in the balance, Brown is lobbying the international community and private sector to remember that humanitarian needs are also high.

Recap: Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine with military helicopter shot dead

05:45 , Jane Dalton

A Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine last year with a Mi-8 helicopter has been found dead in an underground garage in Spain, Ukrainian officials said this week.

Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine with stolen military chopper shot dead in Spain

Ukraine and IMF working on disbursement deal

04:00 , Jane Dalton

International Monetary Fund officials are negotiating with Ukrainian officials in Warsaw, Poland, this week about a follow-on disbursement of $890million from the country’s $15.6billion loan, a source familiar with the process has said.

Negotiations are ongoing, the source said, noting the IMF mission, which began on Saturday, ends on Thursday.

Movement on fresh IMF funds comes as the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives continues to hold up some $61billion in aid for Ukraine.

The Senate in a bipartisan vote earlier this month passed a $95billion aid package that includes funds for Ukraine, but the measure is stalled in the House, which Republicans control by a narrow 219-212 margin.

Putin’s mission is to fully conquer Ukraine, Western officials say

02:45 , Jane Dalton

Vladimir Putin still wants to fully conquer Ukraine and impose regime change in the belief that Russia’s greater numbers in weaponry and soldiers will prevail at the end, according to Western officials.

Putin’s mission remains to fully conquer Ukraine, Western officials say

Fighting spirit

01:00 , Jane Dalton

Ukraine’s ministry of defence has revealed extraordinary footage of a soldier apparently playing the violin while standing on top of a military vehicle in Donbas.

Seizure of Russian bank assets would be lawful, say legal experts

Wednesday 21 February 2024 23:57 , Jane Dalton

The seizure of frozen Russian central bank assets to aid Ukraine would be lawful given Russia’s “ongoing breach of the most fundamental rules of international law”, according to a letter signed by international legal experts, it’s been reported.

Western countries immobilised around $300 billion of the Russian Central Bank’s assets at the start of the full-scale invasion. According to the World Bank, the estimated cost of Ukraine’s post-war recovery and reconstruction is $486 billion.

The letter, obtained by Bloomberg, was signed by 10 legal experts from the US, UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.

EU agrees on new sanctions against Russia

Wednesday 21 February 2024 21:52 , Jane Dalton

European Union countries on Wednesday agreed on a new package of sanctions against Russia to target individuals and businesses suspected of assisting Moscow in its war against Ukraine, including Chinese companies.

EU agrees on new sanctions against Russia days before the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine

Ukraine’s Zelensky asks Polish leaders for talks over farmer protest

Wednesday 21 February 2024 19:00 , Lydia Patrick

Ukraine‘s Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday called on Poland’s leaders and European Union officials to come to the Polish-Ukrainian border for talks over repeated blockades by Polish farmers angry at what they say is unfair competition from Kyiv.

Polish Farmers staged a major day of protest on Tuesday, blocking almost all traffic on the border with Ukraine, angering Kyiv, in an escalation from previous demonstrations.

Warsaw has been a staunch supporter of Kyiv in its fight to repel a full-scale Russian invasion launched in 2022, but protests from farmers complaining of unfair competition have strained ties.

“We have had enough misunderstanding. We should not humiliate each other, we should not humiliate either Ukrainian or Polish farmers. We need unity. We need solutions between us, Ukraine and Poland, and at the level of the whole of Europe,” Zelensky said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from the offices of Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk or President Andrzej Duda.

Zelensky added Ukraine could not accept the appearance of slogans supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the protests, after one such banner was displayed on Tuesday.

FILE Romanian truck drivers and farmers slowed traffic around several cities, including the capital Bucharest, voicing a string of grievances from high tax rates to slow compensation payouts. In their fifth day of action (AFP via Getty Images)
FILE Romanian truck drivers and farmers slowed traffic around several cities, including the capital Bucharest, voicing a string of grievances from high tax rates to slow compensation payouts. In their fifth day of action (AFP via Getty Images)

BAE Systems sees record order backlog amid wars in Gaza and Ukraine

Wednesday 21 February 2024 18:00 , Lydia Patrick

Weapons manufacturer BAE Systems saw its order backlog soar to a record of nearly £70 billion as countries around the world continued to try to build up their military capacity last year.

Amid wars in Ukraine, Armenia and Gaza the business said it had taken in £37.7 billion in new orders, meaning it now had £69.8 billion worth of vehicles, missiles, submarines and other equipment to deliver in the years to come.

The business said it now had “a high level of visibility of our revenues for many years to come”, with some of the programmes running “well into the next decade”.

Read the full story here...

BAE Systems sees record order backlog amid wars in Gaza and Ukraine

Watch - Tucker Carlson says Boris Johnson demanded $1m for an interview about Ukraine

Wednesday 21 February 2024 17:00 , Lydia Patrick

Ukraine anti-graft police probing dozens of defence-related cases

Wednesday 21 February 2024 16:00 , Lydia Patrick

Anti-corruption authorities in Ukraine are investigating more than 60 cases related to the defence sector, a top law enforcement official said on Wednesday.

Cleaning up graft in the military, which has been hit with scandals in recent months, is crucial for Kyiv as it struggles to fend off Moscow’s nearly two-year-old invasion and seeks more Western aid.

Semen Kryvonos, head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), said his agency has prioritised cases involving procurement during the past two years and has sought help from foreign partners in its investigations.

“Theft in the army at this time is an extraordinarily terrible crime, and investigations in this sphere are one of the most important priorities of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau,” he told reporters in Kyiv.

Defence Minister Rustem Umerov suspended a senior official earlier this month after another agency, the Security Service of Ukraine, named him as a suspect in an alleged $40 million embezzlement scheme.

Umerov’s predecessor, Oleksii Reznikov, was dismissed last September following procurement-related scandals at his ministry, which he described as smears. He was not personally accused of corruption.

Ukraine, which ranks 104th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, has made fighting graft across the public sector a top priority as it seeks membership of the European Union.

Kryvonos said anti-corruption authorities had delivered their best-ever results last year, but called for the establishment of a dedicated forensics centre to process cases more quickly and more transparently.

FILE Ukrainian servicemen of the 65th Mechanised Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are seen at a position near the front line village of Robotyn (REUTERS)
FILE Ukrainian servicemen of the 65th Mechanised Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are seen at a position near the front line village of Robotyn (REUTERS)

Iran sends Russia hundreds of ballistic missiles, sources say

Wednesday 21 February 2024 15:15 , Lydia Patrick

Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, six sources told Reuters, deepening the military cooperation between the two U.S.-sanctioned countries.

Iran’s provision of around 400 missiles includes many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, three Iranian sources said. This road-mobile missile is capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700 km (186 and 435 miles), experts say.

Iran’s defence ministry and the Revolutionary Guards - an elite force that oversees Iran’s ballistic missile programme - declined to comment. Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The shipments began in early January after a deal was finalised in meetings late last year between Iranian and Russian military and security officials that took place in Tehran and Moscow, one of the Iranian sources said.

An Iranian military official - who, like the other sources, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information - said there had been at least four shipments of missiles and there would be more in the coming weeks. He declined to provide further details.

Another senior Iranian official said some of the missiles were sent to Russia by ship via the Caspian Sea, while others were transported by plane.

“There will be more shipments,” the second Iranian official said. “There is no reason to hide it. We are allowed to export weapons to any country that we wish to.”

U.N. Security Council restrictions on Iran’s export of some missiles, drones and other technologies expired in October. However, the United States and European Union retained sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme amid concerns over exports of weapons to its proxies in the Middle East and to Russia.

A fourth source, familiar with the matter, confirmed that Russia had received a large number of missiles from Iran recently, without providing further details.

FILE Footage shows what appears to be the aftermath of a strike on a Russian shopping centre (REUTERS)
FILE Footage shows what appears to be the aftermath of a strike on a Russian shopping centre (REUTERS)

Watch - Sunak says government ‘considering all options for Putin’ after Alexei Navalny’s death

Wednesday 21 February 2024 14:00 , Lydia Patrick

Sunak says government ‘considering all options for Putin’ after Navalny’s death

The army of British knitters bringing joy to Ukrainians during two years of war

Wednesday 21 February 2024 13:01 , Lydia Patrick

An army of knitters across the UK have been diligently knitting hats, blankets and booties for babies in Ukrainian hospitals for almost two years, bringing joy to their families in the war-torn country.

At least 20 knitting groups gather in town halls and libraries on a regular basis to knit gifts that get delivered to new mothers often giving birth in dire circumstances.

Sue Stafford, a retired nurse, has been helping gather items like clothes, food and medicines for Ukrainians since the beginning of the war, but recently decided to expand her activities into organising a knitting group in Broughton, Chester.

Ms Stafford said: “I put on the village website that it was my idea to start knitting blankets for Ukraine but, ‘I’m rather a slow knitter, could anybody help?’

Read the full story here...

The army of British knitters bringing joy to Ukrainians during two years of war

Zelensky says foreign aid delay making war ‘very difficult’ as Putin vows to push further into Ukraine

Wednesday 21 February 2024 12:00 , Lydia Patrick

Russia is being allowed to make significant advances in Ukraine because of delays in arms deliveries from Western nations, the besieged country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky warned.

Russia has captured the key strategic city of Avdiivka in recent days and has also amassed troops at several points along the 1,500km frontline, Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address late on Monday, adding that these forces are apparently aiming to pounce on any perceived defensive weaknesses among Ukrainian forces.

“The situation is extremely difficult in several parts of the frontline, where Russian troops have amassed maximum reserves. They are taking advantage of the delays in aid to Ukraine,” Mr Zelensky said in his address, calling the concerns “very tangible issues”.

He admitted Ukraine is facing a deficit of artillery. “There is a need for frontline air defence and for a longer range of our weapons,” the Ukrainian president said.

Read the full story here...

Zelensky says foreign aid delays making war ‘very difficult’ as Putin eyes more gains

Navalny issued chilling warning about second Trump term in final letters from prison

Wednesday 21 February 2024 11:00 , Lydia Patrick

Alexei Navalny issued a chilling warning about what a second presidential term for Donald Trump could mean in one of his final letters before he died in an Arctic prison last week.

The staunch opponent of Vladmir Putin also read voraciously from Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov and Solzhenitsyn to occupy his mind and prevent himself from sinking into despair amid the brutal conditions in which he was held.

In one 3 December letter to Evgeny Feldman, a photographer who covered his attempted run for president in 2018 and now lives in exile in Latvia, Navalny wrote that he feared that if anything should happen to President Joe Biden – a distinct possibility, he felt, given the American’s advanced age – “Trump will become president”.

Read the full story here...

Navalny issued chilling warning about second Trump term in final letters from prison

Russia's top general visits troops in Ukraine to discuss next steps

Wednesday 21 February 2024 10:00 , Lydia Patrick

Russia’s top general, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, visited troops fighting in the war in Ukraine to discuss the next steps after the taking the town of Avdiivka, state media reported on Wednesday.

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Russian troops would push further into Ukraine to build on their success on the battlefield after the fall of the town of Avdiivka where he said Ukrainian troops had been forced to flee in chaos.

Gerasimov was shown awarding medals to Russian troops involved in taking Avdiivka and he was given a report by the commander in charge of the Russian assault on Avdiivka, Colonel-General Andrei Mordvichev, state media said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN that Avdiivka would not have fallen had Kyiv received weapons held up by the U.S. Congress’ failure to approve a large aid package.

After the failure of Ukraine to pierce Russian front lines in the east and south last year, Moscow has been trying to grind down Ukrainian forces just as Kyiv ponders a major new mobilisation.

Ukraine Hungary Foreign Ministers (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Ukraine Hungary Foreign Ministers (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LA woman detained in Russia on suspicion of treason for giving funds to Ukraine

Wednesday 21 February 2024 09:45 , Lydia Patrick

A Los Angeles woman has been detained in Russia on accusations of treason for allegedly giving funds to Ukraine, according to Russia’s FSB security services.

The woman, a 33-year-old dual American-Russian citizen, was not identified in a statement issued by the FSB, which said she “was involved in providing financial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against the security of our country.”

The FSB in the central Urals city of Yekaterinburg accused her of taking part in pro-Ukraine protests outside of Russia and of sending aid to Kyiv.

It said the woman had been “proactively collecting funds... which were subsequently used to purchase tactical medical items, equipment, means of destruction and ammunition for the Ukrainian armed forces.”

Read the full story here...

LA woman detained in Russia on suspicion of treason for giving funds to Ukraine

A Russian court extends the pretrial detention for an American reporter accused of spying

Wednesday 21 February 2024 09:15 , Lydia Patrick

A court in the Russian capital ruled Tuesday to keep Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in custody pending his trial on espionage charges that he denies.

The Moscow City Court rejected an appeal against Gershkovich’s detention filed by his lawyers, upholding an earlier ruling to keep him behind bars until the end of March.

That means Gershkovich, 32, will spend at least a year behind bars in Russia after his arrest in March 2023 while on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains.

Gershkovich and the Journal have denied the espionage allegations, and the U.S. government has declared him to be wrongfully detained. Russian authorities haven’t detailed any evidence to support the charges.

Read the full story here...

A Russian court extends the pretrial detention for an American reporter accused of spying

Death was everywhere: Edinburgh man delivers aid to frontline Ukrainian villages

Wednesday 21 February 2024 08:45 , Lydia Patrick

An Edinburgh charity founder who has personally delivered aid to “decimated” frontline villages in Ukraine and helped thousands of civilians has urged Britons to continue to care for ordinary people impacted by war in the country.

Oleg Dmitriev, 43, told the PA news agency he was compelled by the “feeling of injustice and the catastrophe” to start helping deliver aid to Ukraine two weeks after Russia’s full-scale invasion began on February 24 2022.

Since then he has established his own charity, Sunflower Scotland, which has helped more than 11,700 people in Ukraine’s frontline villages, people in liberated areas and hospitals.

Almost two years on, Mr Dmitriev has travelled to at least 16 frontline villages and towns to deliver aid to people living in the most dangerous and impoverished circumstances.

He first visited the city of Kharkiv, which he said was a “heartbreaking experience”.

Read the full story here...

Death was everywhere: Edinburgh man delivers aid to frontline Ukrainian villages

Ukraine’s air force says it downs 13 out of 19 Russia-launched drones

Wednesday 21 February 2024 08:27 , Lydia Patrick

Russia launched 19 attack drones at Ukraine overnight and six missiles, with the Ukrainian air defence systems destroying 13 of the drones and one missile, Ukraine‘s air force said on Wednesday.

Some of the drones that were not destroyed did not reach their targets, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app, without providing further detail. It said that the 13 drones that were destroyed were downed chiefly over regions close to the frontline.

The air force also said that it destroyed a Kh-59 air-to-surface guided air missile in the Poltava region. It said that Russia launched five other missiles, but it did not say whether the missiles that were not destroyed reached their targets.

Reuters could not independently verify the Ukrainian air force’s report. There was no immediate comment from Russia.

FILE -  This photograph taken on February 15, 2024 shows a crater next to a destroyed house following a Russian missile attack in Chuhuyiv, Kharkiv region (AFP via Getty Images)
FILE - This photograph taken on February 15, 2024 shows a crater next to a destroyed house following a Russian missile attack in Chuhuyiv, Kharkiv region (AFP via Getty Images)

Kyiv disputes Moscow’s claims they have captured a key village

Wednesday 21 February 2024 08:18 , Lydia Patrick

Russia claimed they captured the key village of Krynky, territory they have fought over Ukraine with for months.

Ukraine rejected Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu’s claims they had taken full control of the area, labelling it “a falsification of the facts”.

Nukes in space: What have Russia and the United States said?

Wednesday 21 February 2024 08:05 , Lydia Patrick

Unidentified sources in the United States say Russia is developing a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon but President Vladimir Putin said he opposes nuclear weapons in space and Moscow has flatly denied the U.S. assertions.

The United States believes Russia is developing a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon whose detonation could disrupt everything from military communications to phone-based ride services, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was his understanding the system would involve a nuclear explosive device placed into orbit.

Reports about possible Russian development emerged after the Republican chair of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee on Feb. 14 issued a cryptic statement warning of a "serious national security threat."

The clearest public sign Washington thinks Moscow is working on a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon was a White House spokesperson's comment on Thursday that the United States believes the system being developed would violate the Outer Space Treaty.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was his understanding the system would involve a nuclear explosive device placed into orbit.

Reports about possible Russian development emerged after the Republican chair of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee on Feb. 14 issued a cryptic statement warning of a "serious national security threat."

The clearest public sign Washington thinks Moscow is working on a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon was a White House spokesperson's comment on Thursday that the United States believes the system being developed would violate the Outer Space Treaty.

Russia Cosmonaut Record (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Russia Cosmonaut Record (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Putin gifts petrol head Kim Jong-un a new luxury car for his collection

Wednesday 21 February 2024 06:58 , Andy Gregory

Vladimir Putin has gifted a Russian-made limousine to his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un, the latest signal of deepening relations between two countries that are otherwise increasingly isolated on the global stage.

North Korean state media said the car was hand-delivered by a Russian delegation over the weekend, and on Tuesday the Kremlin confirmed that Mr Putin had sent a full-sized luxury sedan limousine by Aurus, Russia’s first luxury car brand.

Mr Putin’s present to Mr Kim is likely to be in violation of Moscow-backed United Nations Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang, which prohibit the supply of luxury goods including all “transportation vehicles” to the East Asian nation.

KCNA reported that the car was received on 18 February by Mr Kim’s sister and close aide, Kim Yo-jong, as well as other senior North Korean officials.

My colleague Shweta Sharma has the full report here:

Pelosi speaks out on Putin's leverage over Trump: 'It's probably financial'

Wednesday 21 February 2024 05:47 , Andy Gregory

Belarusian opposition leader calls for boycott of upcoming elections

Wednesday 21 February 2024 04:33 , AP

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is in exile in neighboring Lithuania after challenging Alexander Lukashenko in the 2020 ballots, has called for boycotting the upcoming election in Belarus.

“We are calling for a boycott of this cynical farce because this imitation of election has nothing to do with democracy,” Tsikhanouskaya told The Associated Press. “Belarusians inside the country hate this regime, but they can’t openly say that due to brutal repressions.”

Speaking during a meeting Tuesday with top Belarusian law enforcement officials, Mr Lukashenko alleged that Western countries were pondering plans to stage a coup in the country or try to seize power by force. He claimed, without offering evidence, that Polish authorities in particular could use blackmail and threats to try to convince senior Belarusian officials to switch allegiances.

Valery Karbalevich, an independent Belarusian political analyst, observed that Lukashenko treats the election as a “military operation.”

“This is the continuation of the concept of election as a war, a military operation in which the Belarusian leader is fighting internal and external foes,” Mr Karbalevich said. “Authorities in Belarus see any election as a threat and a pretext to step up repressions and tighten the screws.”

Lukashenko accuses West of trying to undermine his rule ahead of contentious Belarus elections

Wednesday 21 February 2024 03:24 , Andy Gregory

Belarus’s authoritarian leader of nearly 30 years, Alexander Lukashenko, has accused the West of trying to foment protests during parliamentary and local elections this month in order to undermine his rule.

Early balloting began on Tuesday in the tightly-controlled parliamentary and local vote, in which only those who follow Mr Lukashenko’s political course were allowed to compete. Most candidates belong to the four officially registered parties, which all support Lukashenko’s policies.

It marks the first election in Belarus since the contentious 2020 presidential vote which handed Lukashenko his sixth term in office and triggered an unprecedented wave of mass demonstrations.

This month’s election takes place amid a relentless crackdown on dissent. Over 1,400 political prisoners remain behind bars, including leaders of opposition parties and renowned human rights advocate and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski.

The Viasna human rights centre reported on Tuesday that Ihar Lednik, one of the leaders of the opposition Social Democratic Party, had died in prison at age 64. Lednik, who was serving a three-year sentence after being convicted of slandering Lukashenko, has died of cardiac arrest following a surgery in prison.

Viasna said that Lednik’s death marked the fifth death of a political prisoner in custody over the last three years.

Avdiivka would not have fallen if Kyiv had received stalled US aid package, Ukraine’s Kuleba says

Wednesday 21 February 2024 02:17 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has lamented that Avdiivka would not have fallen had Kyiv received weapons held up by the US Congress’s failure to approve a large aid package.

“We wouldn’t [have lost] Avdiivka if we had all the artillery ammunition that we needed to defend it. Russia does not intend to pause or withdraw ... Once Avdiivka is under their control, they undoubtedly will choose another city and begin to storm it,” Mr Kuleba told CNN.

Ukrainian troops, he said, were “making miracles ... but the reason they have to sacrifice themselves and die is that someone is still debating a decision. I want everyone to remember that every day of debate in one place means another death in another place.”

The US Senate passed a $95bn aid package earlier this month that includes funds for Ukraine, but House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson has declined to bring it up for a vote on the floor of the House.

Putin claims Russia will push further into Ukraine after seizing Avdiivka

Wednesday 21 February 2024 01:09 , Andy Gregory

Vladimir Putin has claimed that Russian troops will push further into Ukraine to build on their success on the battlefield after the fall of the town of Avdiivka, where he said Ukrainian troops had been forced to flee in chaos.

The town, which once had a population of 32,000, fell to Russia on Saturday, marking Mr Putin’s largest battlefield victory – and the most costly – since Russian forces captured the city of Bakhmut last May.

“As for the overall situation in Avdiivka, this is an absolute success, I congratulate you. It needs to be built on,” Mr Putin told defence minister Sergei Shoigu in the Kremlin.

“But that development must be well-prepared, provided with personnel, weapons, equipment and ammunition,” Mr Putin said. “It seems to be self-evident, but nevertheless I draw your attention to it.”

Rishi Sunak accuses Putin of setting off ‘energy and a food price bomb’

Wednesday 21 February 2024 00:05 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine rejects Russian claim to have wrested control of Dnipro village

Tuesday 20 February 2024 23:11 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine’s military has dismissed a claim by Russia’s defence minister that Moscow’s forces have secured full control over the village of Krynky, on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in southern Kherson.

A statement on Telegram by the Ukrainian military’s southern district said Russian forces had made no headway on the eastern bank and that Sergei Shoigu’s statement was a “falsification of the facts.”

Russian troops abandoned the western bank of the Dnipro in Kherson region in late 2022, but remain in areas on the eastern bank. Ukrainian forces captured some districts on the eastern bank last November.

Joanna Lumley hails ‘great feeling of unity’ at Ukraine event

Tuesday 20 February 2024 22:06 , PA

People in the UK sometimes “don’t know how to focus” their help for Ukraine, Dame Joanna Lumley has suggested as she read a poem at a theatre event to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country.

The 77-year-old joined more than 1,000 others at London’s Palace Theatre for an evening which featured performances by Ukrainian poets, a ballerina and musicians in a show of support for the war-torn country.

The actress read the English translation of a poem by Ukrainian poet and medic Yuliia Paievska, who was imprisoned by Russian soldiers between March and June 2022.

The Absolutely Fabulous star told the PA news agency afterwards: “The house was packed, it was extraordinary, there was a great feeling of unity. I think the important thing about the world, which is very fragmented, is that if you see how strong people are together, it weakens the opposition.”

When asked if Britons were doing enough to support Ukraine, she said: “If somebody said ‘collect milk bottles’ or something like that, or ‘collect tin cans’, we would all do it all the time, but sometimes it’s too nebulous and people don’t know how to focus their aid.

“I know that this country stands absolutely behind Ukraine and we long for what will happen.”

Ukraine and US defence ministers discuss ammunition and war’s front line

Tuesday 20 February 2024 20:41 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainian defence minister Rustem Umerov has said that he and the new forces commander Oleksandr Syrsky discussed the war’s front line and ammunition supplies with US defence secretary Lloyd Austin.

Writing on Facebook, Mr Umerov described the call as “productive”

“General Syrskyi gave updates on the current dynamics on the frontline,” he wrote. “The common understanding of the situation and the action plan were discussed. The ammunition supply was in focus as well.”

Ukraine probes alleged shooting of captured Ukrainian soldiers near Robotyne

Tuesday 20 February 2024 20:05 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine has begun an investigation into the alleged shooting by Russian troops of three Ukrainian soldiers captured on the southern front line, prosecutors have said, marking the second such inquiry announced since Sunday.

According to the prosecutor’s general office, the three Ukrainian prisoners of war were shot dead on Sunday near Robotyne, a village in Zaporizhzhia wrested back from Russian forces during last year’s painstaking counteroffensive.

A criminal proceeding is looking into “the fact of violation of the laws and customs of war, combined with premeditated murder”, prosecutors said.

On Sunday, Kyiv said it was investigating the alleged fatal shooting by Russians of six unarmed Ukrainian soldiers after Ukrainian forces withdrew from the embattled town of Avdiivka, in Russia’s biggest battlefield success in nine months.

Jon Stewart reacts to Tucker Carlson getting 'radicalised' following his Russian shopping trip

Tuesday 20 February 2024 18:44 , Andy Gregory

US seeking information on reported arrest of US-Russian ballerina

Tuesday 20 February 2024 16:57 , Andy Gregory

The Biden administration is aware of and seeking information about the reported arrest in Russia of a ballerina who is a dual Russia-US citizen, White House spokesperson John Kirby has said.

Russia’s main security agency said on Tuesday that it had arrested the ballerina on accusations of committing state treason by raising funds for Ukraine, according to the New York Times.

Spanish police suspect bullet-riddled body belongs to Russian defector

Tuesday 20 February 2024 16:34 , Andy Gregory

Spanish police suspect the bullet-riddled body of a man found in Spain is that of a Russian defector who escaped across the front line and into Ukraine last year with an army helicopter.

The body was found last Tuesday in La Cala, near Alicante, according to police. The man had been shot half a dozen times and was run over by the car, according to the Spanish state news agency Efe.

Spain’s Civil Guard said they found documents on the body that identified the man as a 33-year-old Ukrainian. But police now believe it could be Maksim Kuzminov, who defected last year by flying into Ukraine in a Mi-8 army helicopter with the help of Ukrainian intelligence.

Andrii Yusov, a representative of Ukrainian military intelligence, confirmed to local media that the former Russian pilot had died in Spain, but didn’t provide details. It is not clear how or why Kuzminov would have traveled to Spain.

The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, told Russian journalists that Maksim Kuzminov was a “traitor and criminal” who became a “moral corpse” as soon as he started planning “his dirty and terrible crime,” according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Swedish PM to visit Hungary before vote on Nato bid

Tuesday 20 February 2024 15:53 , Andy Gregory

Swedish premier Ulf Kristersson will travel to Budapest on Friday to meet Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban before Hungary’s parliament votes on Sweden’s Nato membership bid next Monday.

Hungary is the only Nato member that has yet to ratify the Nordic country’s accession, with Mr Orban’s nationalist party repeatedly delaying a vote, citing grievances over Sweden criticising Hungary over its record on rule-of-law standards.

Mr Orban said on Tuesday that it would be a “pleasure” to welcome Mr Kristersson in Budapest.

“We are planning to discuss how to strengthen the defence and security policy cooperation between Hungary and Sweden, as well as our plans for the Hungarian presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the EU’s Strategic Agenda,” Orban said in a post on X/Twitter.

Mr Orban’s Fidesz party proposed on Tuesday that Hungary’s parliament should vote to ratify Sweden’s bid to join Nato.

Footage shows a key eastern Ukrainian frontline city of destroyed by war

Tuesday 20 February 2024 15:10 , Tom Watling

Footage published by the Russian ministry of defence has shown the newly-occupied city of Avdiivka completely destroyed by war.

In the footage, posted below, the cityscape is seen bombed out and wholly, with a church cupola broken in pieces and the roads ahead strewn with burn out tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs).

The city was taken over by Russian forces over the weekend after a five month-long assault, first led by tanks and then by infantry. It may now act as a springboard for more Russian attacks in Donetsk Oblast.

Western estimates suggest Russia lost hundreds of vehicles and tens of thousands of personnel in the last half a year. The battle, however, began in earnest a decade ago, during the Donbas war.

Videos shared in the final weeks of Russia’s assault on the city showed dozens of glide bombs being dropped on the city, destroying what was left of Avdiivka. Ukrainian journalist Yuri Butusov, one of the last journalists to visit the city before it fell, estimated that 600 bombs were dropped on Avdiivka in January alone.

Officials believe that not a single building remains intact.

Finland says thousands of migrants are seeking to enter via Russia

Tuesday 20 February 2024 14:40 , Tom Watling

Finland has claimed that “thousands” of third-country migrants were waiting to cross the border onto its territory from Russia.

Finland closed all crossings on its 830-mile border with Russia late last year amid a growing number of arrivals who lacked valid documents to enter the European Union. Helsinki accuses Moscow of funnelling migrants to the border, a claim the Kremlin has denied.

“We have information that thousands of people on the Russian side are waiting to get to Finland,” Interior Minister Mari Rantanen told a news conference, adding that this represented “a threat to society”.

Rantanen declined to say how Finnish authorities had obtained the information.

While Finland’s forested border areas have seen freezing temperatures and deep snow during the winter months, Rantanen said she believed more migrants may seek to cross illegally as spring arrives and temperatures gradually increase.

Rantanen said existing EU legislation did not offer solutions for handling situations like the one faced by Finland.

The Finnish border authority has said more than 1,300 asylum seekers from nations including Yemen, Somalia and Syria had entered Finland from Russia between August and December last year, 900 of them in November alone. In comparison, the number before last August had averaged just one person a day.

Finland’s immigration authority told Reuters in January that it had not been able to locate some 160 of the migrants and that they had probably continued to another European country.

Relations between Russia and Finland, once relatively cordial, have deteriorated sharply since Helsinki’s decision to join NATO following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

The Finnish Interior Ministry said on Monday it would swiftly draft legislation to strengthen border security and combat attempts by Moscow to pressure Finland in the form of instrumentalised migration.

The government will present its proposal to parliament next month, it added.

Russia places US senator Graham on 'terrorist and extremist' list - TASS

Tuesday 20 February 2024 14:00 , Tom Watling

Russia’s financial monitoring agency, Rosfinmonitoring, has included US Senator Lindsey Graham on its “list of terrorists and extremists”, the Russian state-owned TASS news agency reported.

United States Senator Lindsey Graham attends a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill (Anadolu via Getty Images)
United States Senator Lindsey Graham attends a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill (Anadolu via Getty Images)

Russian drones kill five people, damage industrial facility, Ukraine says

Tuesday 20 February 2024 13:45 , Tom Watling

Russian drone attacks on Tuesday killed five people from one family and damaged an industrial facility in Ukraine‘s northern and central regions, local authorities said.

A drone of Lancet type hit a residential building in the northerly Sumy region in the morning, killing a mother, her two sons and two other relatives, the regional military administration said on the Telegram messenger app.

Earlier on Tuesday Ukraine‘s military said that Russia had launched 23 Shahed drones overnight and its air defences had destroyed all of them, including over the central Poltava region.

But the head of the regional military administration said an industrial facility caught fire after a drone attack overnight on the Kremenchuk district, where an oil refinery is located.

He did not specify the type of drones used or whether the fire was caused by falling debris from the downed weapon.

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