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Slovakia to send 13 MiG jets to Ukraine

Slovakia to send 13 MiG jets to Ukraine
Slovakia to send 13 MiG jets to Ukraine

Slovakia will donate all 13 of its MiG-29 warplanes to Ukraine, becoming the second Nato member after Poland to pledge the fighter jets despite the Kremlin warning they would be "destroyed".

"We're giving these MiGs to Ukraine so that it can protect civilians against the many bombs that fall on their houses and which are the reason why people are dying in Ukraine," Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger told journalists on Friday.

He said Bratislava would also deliver a Kub air defence system to Ukraine.

It comes just a day after Poland said it would send four Soviet-made MiG-29 jets to Ukraine "in the coming days".

Ukraine has long requested fighter jets from Western allies, although it is primarily seeking more modern US-made F-16s.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Slovakia on Friday for "a powerful package of air & air defense weapons, including MiG aircraft."

Ukraine recently declined to confirm the number of MiG-29s it has in operation. According to the World Air Forces 2023 report by Flight Global, the country had 43 at the end of last year.

The Kremlin responded by saying the fighter jets given to Ukraine by Poland and Slovakia would be targeted.

"The supply of this military equipment - as we have repeatedly said - will not change the outcome of the special military operation... Of course, all this equipment will be destroyed," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, using the official term for Moscow's military intervention.


06:22 PM

What we learnt today

It has been another busy day in the Ukraine war, with the headline being that the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin.

Putin “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation,” the court said in a statement.

Elsewhere:

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in Russia from March 20-22 for a state visit.

  • Slovakia will donate 13 MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ended months of diplomatically-charged delays and asked parliament to quickly back Finland's bid to join NATO.


06:03 PM

US welcomes Turkey's backing of Finland to NATO

A statement from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan says: "The United States welcomes President Erdogan’s announcement that he will send Finland’s NATO accession protocols to the Turkish Parliament and looks forward to the prompt conclusion of that process.

"We encourage Türkiye to quickly ratify Sweden’s accession protocols as well. In addition, we urge Hungary to conclude its ratification process for both Finland and Sweden without delay.

"Sweden and Finland are both strong, capable partners that share NATO’s values and will strengthen the Alliance and contribute to European security. The United States believes that both countries should become members of NATO as soon as possible."

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan - AP Photo/Susan Walsh
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan - AP Photo/Susan Walsh

05:45 PM

Turkey, Hungary put Finland on course to join NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ended months of diplomatically-charged delays and asked parliament to quickly back Finland's bid to join NATO.

A simultaneous decision by fellow holdout Hungary to schedule a Finnish ratification vote for March 27 means the US-led defence alliance will likely to grow to 31 nations within a few months.

NATO's expansion into a country with a 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border with Russia will roughly double the length of the bloc's current frontier with its Cold War-era foe.

But it also dashes the short-term hopes of fellow NATO aspirant Sweden - a Nordic power whose litany of disputes with Turkey ultimately has sunk its bid to join the bloc before an alliance summit in July.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Turkey's decision while stressing the importance of Sweden joining "as soon as possible".

"The most important thing is that both Finland and Sweden become full members of NATO quickly, not whether they join at exactly the same time," Stoltenberg said.


05:27 PM

'Hundreds' of children taken from Ukraine and treated as 'spoils of war'

Hundreds of children have been taken from Ukraine to Russia, the ICC's chief prosecutor Karim Khan said on Friday, in his first statement following the issuing of an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin.

"Incidents identified by my Office include the deportation of at least hundreds of children taken from orphanages and children’s care homes," he said. "Many of these children, we allege, have since been given for adoption in the Russian Federation."

He said he had visited care homes in Ukraine where children are believed to have been taken from as part of his investigation into the issue.

"The accounts of those who had cared for these children, and their fears as to what had become of them, underlined the urgent need for action," he said.

"We must ensure that those responsible for alleged crimes are held accountable and that children are returned to their families and communities.

"We cannot allow children to be treated as if they are the spoils of war."


05:13 PM

UK says ICC decision is 'welcome step'

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the UK welcomed the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for Putin.

He added that: "Those responsible for horrific war crimes in Ukraine must be brought to justice".


04:56 PM

Putin should 'use ICC arrest warrant as toilet paper', says key ally

A key ally of Vladimir Putin has said the Russian President should use the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court as toilet paper.

"No need to explain WHERE this paper should be used," said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and former president and prime minister of Russia.


04:37 PM

Warrant against Putin meaningless as Russia does not belong to ICC, says Kremlin

Russia said on Friday that an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes was meaningless.

"The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel.

"Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it."

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian commissioner for children's rights, was like Putin accused by the ICC of the war crime of illegal deportation of children from Ukraine.

"It's great that the international community has appreciated this work to help the children of our country: that we don't leave them in war zones, that we take them out, that we create good conditions for them, that we surround them with loving, caring people," she told journalists, according to the state-run RIA news agency.


04:20 PM

Watch: ICC issues arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin over war crimes

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin for war crimes because of his alleged involvement in the abduction of children from Ukraine.


04:01 PM

Maxim machine guns used on the frontlines

Ukrainian troops are Maxim machine guns over a century old as they continue to resist Russian advances around the eastern city of Bakhmut.

An old machine gun "Maxim" in position near Kharkiv, Ukraine - Mykhaylo Palinchak/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
An old machine gun "Maxim" in position near Kharkiv, Ukraine - Mykhaylo Palinchak/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

03:42 PM

Ukraine chief prosecutor hails 'historic' ICC warrant for Putin

Ukraine's prosecutor general on Friday hailed a decision from the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the "unlawful deportation" of Ukrainian children.

"The world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable," Ukraine's Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said in a statement on social media. "This is a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire system of international law."


03:24 PM

ICC judges issue arrest warrant for Putin over Ukraine

The International Criminal Court on Friday announced it had issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin for the "unlawful deportation" of Ukrainian children.

The Hague-based ICC said it had also issued a warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's presidential commissioner for children's rights, on similar charges.


03:04 PM

Ukraine insists on 120-day extension of Black Sea grain deal

Ukraine insists on a 120-day extension of an agreement allowing the safe export of grain from Black Sea ports, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Friday.

"We insist that the grain agreement be open-ended and automatically extended for 120 days," Shmyhal told a government meeting. "Attempts by the aggressor to reduce the extension period are a manipulation to continue further blackmail and deepen a global food crisis. We have to prevent this."

The agreement is due to expire on Saturday. It was brokered between Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Turkey in July - and renewed in November - to combat a global food crisis that was fuelled in part by Russia's Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine and a blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports.


02:39 PM

US says Chinese call for Ukraine ceasefire would aid 'Russian conquest'

The United States opposes Chinese calls for a ceasefire in Ukraine, saying this would simply consolidate "Russian conquest" and give the Kremlin a chance to prepare for a new offensive, a White House spokesman said Friday.

"We don't support calls for a ceasefire right now," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters ahead of next week's visit to Moscow by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.


02:19 PM

US officials will watch China-Russia meeting 'closely'

US officials will be watching next week’s meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping closely for signs that China could send weapons to Russia.

Although the summit was not a surprise to officials, there are deep concerns that the “no limits” partnership between the pair could increase during the talks, according to CNN.

Officials have been monitoring intelligence on a daily basis to catch any indications that Xi could be moving forwards with such a plan.

It is thought next week’s meeting could provide an opportunity for such an announcement.

“It's something that we will watch for,” Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, said this week.

“Obviously, Russia has its own interests in trying to pull other countries into this conflict if it can, but our position is the same whether or not they meet.”

At the same time, US officials are looking to organise a phone call between Xi and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"We think that it's important that China has the perspective of Ukraine," Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told CNN.

"Clearly, Russia's motivations are nefarious. They illegally invaded and have occupied Ukraine. We hope that President Xi and the Chinese government would be able to have the benefit of understanding what exactly the impact of their support to Russia is having.”


01:54 PM

Kremlin praises China's 'restrained' position on Ukraine

The Kremlin on Friday praised China's "restrained" position on Ukraine ahead of next week's summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's leader Xi Jinping.

"Of course, the Ukraine conflict will be discussed. We highly value the restrained, considered position of the Chinese leadership on this issue," the Kremlin's foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.


01:31 PM

Putin and Xi to sign declaration on 'new era' ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader President Xi Jinping will sign an agreement ushering in a "new era" of ties during talks in Moscow next week, a Kremlin official said Friday.

"The leaders will sign... a joint statement on strengthening comprehensive partnership and strategic relations entering a new era," Kremlin foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.


01:02 PM

Rishi Sunak urges China to use meeting for de-escalation

Britain has urged China to use President Xi Jinping’s trip to Moscow to motivate Vladimir Putin to stop his invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier today China and the Kremlin confirmed next weeks official visit, which Russia said was “at the invitation of Vladimir Putin”.

Xi’s trip to Russia will be the first time he has visited Putin since last year’s invasion.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, told reporters:

“If China wants to play a genuine role in restoring sovereignty to Ukraine, then we would obviously welcome that.

“We’re clear that any peace deal which is not predicated on Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-determination is not a peace deal at all.

“o we will continue to call on China, as we have done before, to join other countries across the world in calling on Putin to withdraw his troops.”


12:42 PM

Ministry of Defence shares latest map

The Ministry of Defence has shared the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine.


12:20 PM

Ukrainian politicians on Slovakia's jets: 'Who's next?'

Ukrainian politicians are starting to respond to Slovakia’s announcement that it will send Kyiv its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets.

Andrij Melnyk, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote on Twitter: This barbaric Russian war shows that our Eastern European allies - foremost Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia - have played a LEADING role to stop 🇷🇺aggression.

He continued: “Dear Germany, please send 🇩🇪Eurofighter & Tornado jets to help Ukraine liberate our soil.”

Kira Rudik tweets her thanks to both Slovakia and Poland, adding: “Who is next?”

Inna Sovsun used the news to appeal to the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Britain, Germany, Finland and the US to send more fighter jets.

“Slovakia will supply 13 MiG-29 fighters to #Ukraine. This is in addition to 4 MiG-29 that Poland announced yesterday,” she said.

“Dear Dutch, Swedes, French, British, Germans, Finns, Americans, what about you?

F-16, F/A-18, Eurofighter, JAS39, Rafale and Tornado would help us win faster!”


12:01 PM

Ukraine in pictures

Here is a roundup of the latest pictures from Ukraine:

A civilian walks past destroyed buildings in Siversk, a city north of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk province of eastern Ukraine - Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
A civilian walks past destroyed buildings in Siversk, a city north of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk province of eastern Ukraine - Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Ukrainian servicemen cover their tank with a camouflage net at a position near a frontline - REUTERS
Ukrainian servicemen cover their tank with a camouflage net at a position near a frontline - REUTERS
Damaged buildings are being demolished by heavy duty machine as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Mariupol's Russian-controlledAnadolu Agency via Getty Images territory - Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Damaged buildings are being demolished by heavy duty machine as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Mariupol's Russian-controlledAnadolu Agency via Getty Images territory - Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Ukrainian soldier aims a machine gun in Chasiv Yar, Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast - Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Ukrainian soldier aims a machine gun in Chasiv Yar, Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast - Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

11:44 AM

Kremlin says Ukraine 'illegally attacking' Orthodox Church

The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of "illegally attacking" the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).

The UOC is a key point of tension between Russia and Ukraine. Until recently, the UOC accepted the authority of the patriarch of Moscow and that this confirmed the need for its "special military operation".

Tensions grew last week as Ukrainian officials ordered the UOC to leave the monastery complex in Kyiv where it is based, with the Kremlin quickly condemning the move.

"With these illegal attacks on the church, the Kyiv regime is once again demonstrating its character, the very character we are fighting, the very character that we must stop through the (military) operation that is taking place," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.

The Kremlin has claimed that one of its motivations for invading was to defend Russian speakers and Russian culture from persecution, something Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss as a baseless pretext for a war of aggression.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian leaders have accused the UOC of undermining Ukrainian unity and collaborating with Moscow.

Since October, the Security Service of Ukraine has carried out searches at UOC churches, imposed sanctions on its bishops and financial backers, and opened criminal cases against dozens of clergymen.


11:26 AM

Details of Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow released

Details have been released about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow next week.

The schedule will be jam-packed, with a one-on-one meeting set for Monday followed by an “informal lunch”.

On Tuesday, negotiations are set to take place, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The visit is a significant show of Beijing’s support for Moscow and will set Western capitals on high alert following growing concern about the two nation’s deepening relations as the war in Ukraine rages on.


11:12 AM

Watch: A day in the life of the last soldiers in Bakhmut

Ukraine's military has released footage showing troops of the volunteer First Assault Battalion on the outskirt of Bakhmut. The video shows destroyed houses along the way and conditions at the frontline.

"Ruined houses and deserted villages. Thaw in the trenches and damp fields," the military said in a description of the video.

The footage was uploaded on Thursday but The Associated Press had no means of verifying when or where it was filmed.


10:54 AM

Polish and Slovak jets delivered to Ukraine will be 'destroyed', Kremlin says

The Kremlin said Friday that fighter jets given to Ukraine by Poland and Slovakia would be destroyed, and repeated that Western arms deliveries to Kyiv would not change Russia's military aims.

"The supply of this military equipment - as we have repeatedly said - will not change the outcome of the special military operation... Of course, all this equipment will be destroyed," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, using the official term for Moscow's military intervention.

Slovak Air Force MiG 29 - Shutterstock
Slovak Air Force MiG 29 - Shutterstock

10:40 AM

Wagner boss 'left out in cold' by Kremlin

Back to the latest from Bakhmut.

As the battle rages on, it looks like Yevgeny Prigozhin, the combative leader of Russia’s Wagner private military group, has been left out in the cold by Moscow.

Yevgeny and his Wagner mercenaries have led the fight for Bakhmut, with Yevgeny betting their lives on raising the Russian flag over the city.

He recruited an extra 40,000 to launch into battle, but even with these men, after months of fighting in what has been called the “meat grinder” of the war, he is struggling to replenish Wagner’s ranks.

Throughout his struggles on the frontline, he has repeated complaints that the Kremlin is working to strangle his force. He voiced some of these just yesterday.

"Shells are being made, but we don't have any for some reason. But the global reason, I think, is the following. Wagner PMC is the most effective unit, and all the military know this," Prigozhin said.

Analysts have said his suspicions do have some basis in fact, including the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The think tank said that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu “is likely seizing the opportunity to deliberately expend both elite and convict Wagner forces in Bakhmut in an effort to weaken Prigozhin and derail his ambitions for greater influence in the Kremlin”.

Blaming Prigozhin also helps the defence ministry to deflect from its own failures.


10:23 AM

Slovakia to donate 13 MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine

Slovakia will donate 13 MiG-29 warplanes to Ukraine, the Slovak prime minister said Friday, making it the second NATO member to announce such a shipment following a similar move by Poland.

"We will hand over 13 of our MiG-19 jets to Ukraine," Slovak premier Eduard Heger told journalists, adding that Bratislava would also deliver a Kub air defence system to Ukraine.


10:08 AM

Russia steps down fighting in Bakhmut due to depleted combat power, says MoD

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has released its daily update on the war in Ukraine.

According to the MoD, Russian and Wagner Group forces have obtained footholds west of the Bakhmutka River in the centre of the contested Donbas town of Bakhmut.

The battle for Bakhmut has been raging since August, in what has become the longest and costliest battle of the war.

The fight is significant: If the Kremlin manages to roll back Kyiv’s forces, it would be the victory Vladimir Putin needs to spur on morale both at home and on the frontlines.

But the MoD explained that Russia has stepped down its fighting in Bakhmut, reducing it to the “lowest rates of local offensive action that has been seen since at least January 2023”.

The MoD said this is likely the result of Russian forces temporarily depleting the deployed formations’ combat power to such an extent that even local offensive actions are not currently sustainable.

“Russian leaders will likely seek to regenerate the offensive potential of the force once personnel and munition stocks are replenished,” the MoD said.

In the meantime, it’s thought that Russian leaders will likely seek to regenerate the offensive potential of the force once personnel and munition stocks are replenished.


09:47 AM

China and Russia: What you need to know

The latest update from Russia has revealed that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is set to make a visit to Moscow this month. It’s big news for the pair and marks a new escalation in the “no-limits” friendship Jinping and Vladimir Putin declared in February last year.

The context here is key: Since the invasion China has refused to criticise Russia, choosing instead to blame the advance of Nato for causing the conflict, echoing the Kremlin’s stance.

China has also offered diplomatic support for Moscow, increasing economic and military links.

Here’s a timeline of the key events:

  • In February, China’s top diplomat Wang Yi paid a visit to Putin, just days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

  • In that meeting, Putin told Wang that their friendship was “reaching new milestones”, while Wang promised to “further strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership”.

  • The visit came as US officials voiced concerns about how China’s growing links with Russia could impact Ukraine and hours after Putin delivered a key speech on the conflict. In that, he announced plans to suspend Russia’s final remaining nuclear arms treaty with the US.

  • In December 2022, Putin and Xi held a virtual meeting. Putin said relations between the pair were “the best in history,” adding that they could “withstand all tests”. An official invitation to visit Moscow was extended to Xi.

  • In 2019, Xi described Putin as a “best friend”. They have met in person 39 times since Xi became China’s leader.


09:26 AM

Russian defence ministry decorates pilots for downing US drone

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu presented pilots with awards for preventing a U.S. drone from entering the area of Russia's military campaign in Ukraine, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported on Friday.

The drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday after being intercepted by Russian jets.

Onboard footage from a US Air Force MQ-9 drone as it is approached the first time by a Russian SU-27 aircraft - USEUCOM/AFP via Getty Images
Onboard footage from a US Air Force MQ-9 drone as it is approached the first time by a Russian SU-27 aircraft - USEUCOM/AFP via Getty Images

09:16 AM

Germany cancels World Cup event after Russia readmitted

Germany's fencing federation has cancelled a women's foil World Cup event after the sport's global governing body (FIE) reversed a ban on athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus, it said on Thursday.

Athletes from the two countries were banned from many international competitions after Russia invaded Ukraine last February in what Moscow calls a "special military operation".

More than 60 per cent of nations voted to allow Russians and Belarusians to resume competing in FIE events at last week's extraordinary congress.

German federation (DFB) President Claudia Bokel, a team epee silver medallist at the 2004 Olympics, said the decision had triggered "heated discussions".

"Our solidarity goes to the people of Ukraine who are suffering from the war of aggression," Bokel said. "The German Fencing Federation accepts last Friday's decision.

"We now want to give a clear signal that we would have liked a different result and that we still see a large number of open implementation questions from the world federation, which make it impossible to carry out the tournament."


09:15 AM

China's Xi to visit Russia

Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in Russia from March 20-22 for a state visit after he was invited by President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Friday.

The visit comes as China offers to broker peace in Ukraine, an effort that has been met with scepticism in the West given Beijing's diplomatic support for Russia.

"During the talks, they will discuss topical issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China," the Kremlin said.

"A number of important bilateral documents will be signed," it added.

China and Russia struck a "no limits" partnership in February 2022, when Putin was visiting Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics, weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The two sides have since continued to reaffirm the strength of their ties. Trade between the two countries has soared since the invasion, and China is Russia's biggest buyer of oil, a key source of revenue for Moscow.