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Ukraine-Russia war – live: Putin suffering losses on front line as ‘11,000’ troops killed in November

Ukrainian Ground Forces Command spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Volodymyr Fityo has said that 11,000 Russian soldiers were killed in November.

The troops were likely killed in the Kupyansk, Lyman, and Bakhmut directions, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War think tank.

The institute also said Russian forces “may be suffering losses along the entire front in Ukraine at a rate close to the rate at which Russia is currently generating new forces.”

Earlier Lord David Cameron, the UK foreign secretary, said the US not sending more war aid to Ukraine would be a “Christmas present” for Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping after US Senate Republicans opposed a multi-billion-dollar aid bill.

He urged allies to rally around Kyiv, describing the response to the conflict as “the great test for our generation”.

The US Congress failed to pass a $110bn (£88bn) package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel as well as other national security priorities. Republicans have suggested more money needs to be allocated to securing the US border with Mexico.

Key Points

  • 11,000 Russian soldiers killed in November

  • Lord Cameron says blocking Ukraine aid would be ‘Christmas present’ to Putin and Xi

  • Biden says ‘if Putin takes Ukraine he won’t stop there’ after aid falters

  • Ukrainian air defences down 14 of 19 missiles in Russian attack - air force

Full report: Russia faces Putin’s iron grip until at least 2030 as he stands for president again

15:02 , Andy Gregory

Russia faces the prospect of Vladimir Putin extending his two-decade stranglehold on power until at least 2030, with an announcement that he will run for president again in March 2024.

The 71-year-old Russian autocrat has been in power since 1999, bar a four-year stint as prime minister under Dmitry Medvedev, during which he was widely regarded to still be at the helm of the Kremlin.

Given Mr Putin’s domination of the Russian political and media landscape – and the jailing of opposition figures like Alexei Navalny who could challenge him on the ballot – there is little doubt about the result when the elections take place next year.

My colleague Tom Watling has more in this report:

Russia faces Putin’s iron grip until at least 2030 as he stands for president again

Kyiv authorities remove statue of Red Army commander from capital

14:09 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainian officials pressed on with a campaign to remove Soviet-era monuments on Saturday as authorities in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv dismantled a statue of a Red Army commander from a central boulevard.

Ukraine has doubled down on efforts to erase all traces of Russian rule amid a full-scale invasion by Kremlin troops, now nearing its two-year mark.

Municipal workers on Saturday carefully hoisted the hulking statue of Mykola Shchors, a Soviet field commander during the Russian Civil War, off its pedestal. The structure had occupied a prominent spot on a central artery named after Ukraine’s national poet.

“We need to educate our youth so that they know our history,” said Zoya Kobyliukova, 82, who described communism as a “utopia” that led to many people being killed. “They’re doing the right thing to be taking him down.”

Thousands of Ukrainian streets and settlements have also been renamed in recent years as part of a de-communisation campaign launched after the 2014 Maidan Revolution, which toppled a pro-Russian leader.

People gathered around the statue depicting Red Army commander Mykola Shchors after it was dismantled (Roman Pilipey/AFP via Getty Images)
People gathered around the statue depicting Red Army commander Mykola Shchors after it was dismantled (Roman Pilipey/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia puts prominent Russian-US journalist Masha Gessen on wanted list for criminal charges

13:44 , Andy Gregory

Russian police have put prominent Russian-American journalist and author Masha Gessen on a wanted list after opening a criminal case against them on charges of spreading false information about the Russian army.

The independent Russian news outlet Mediazona was the first to report Friday that Gessen’s profile has appeared on the online wanted list of Russia’s Interior Ministry, and The Associated Press was able to confirm that. It wasn’t clear from the profile when exactly Gessen was added to the list.

Russian media reported last month that a criminal case against Gessen, an award-winning author and an outspoken critic of president Vladimir Putin, was launched over an interview they did with the prominent Russian journalist Yury Dud.

In the interview, which was released on YouTube in September 2022 and has since been viewed more than 6.5 million times, the two among other things discussed atrocities by Russian armed forces in Bucha, a Ukrainian town near Kyiv that was briefly occupied by the Russian forces.

Dasha Litvinova has the report:

Russia puts prominent Russian-US journalist Masha Gessen on wanted list for criminal charges

Full report: Ukraine first lady Olena Zelenska begs US not to ‘let us die’ amid funding row

13:22 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine’s first lady has appealed to the international community to keep up financial support for its war with Russia, after Republican senators blocked the passage of a multi-billion-dollar US aid bill.

Calling the political row in America “a matter of life” for Ukrainians, Olena Zelenska said: “We really need the help. In simple words, we cannot get tired of this situation, because if we do, we die.

“And if the world gets tired, they will simply let us die.”

My colleague Namita Singh has the full report:

Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska begs US not to ‘let us die’ amid funding row

Moscow 'using lull in Kyiv offensives' to regroup in Zaporizhzhia

12:54 , Andy Gregory

Russian forces have been taking advantage of the reduced tempo of Ukrainian offensive operations in Zaporizhia – where Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces breached the frontline earlier this year – to reorganise their forces and create operational reserves, a Ukrainian military observer has said.

However, Russian forces currently cannot allocate significant resources to these reserves, Kostyantyn Mashovets was cited as saying by the Institute for the Study of War.

Vladimir Putin’s troops have recently advanced in the region, with geolocated footage published on Thursday showing that forces made an advance south of Robotyne towards Novoprokopivka, the think-tank said. The Ukrainian military said on Friday that it had repelled Russian ground attacks in the area.

 (ISW)
(ISW)

Putin ‘may have ordered capture of key city’ in time for March election

12:32 , Andy Gregory

The Kremlin may have ordered the Russian military to capture the key Donetsk city of Avdiivka in time for the presidential elections in March, the Institute for the Study of War has said.

Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Friday that he will stand again, at a military awards ceremony, suggests he could make the war in Ukraine more central to his re-election campaign than previously anticipated, the Washington-based think-tank said.

“The Kremlin may be using Putin’s military-focused announcement in an attempt to convince this large group of voters that the Russian military writ large supports Putin,” according to the think-tank’s daily update.

“Putin’s announcement may alternatively aim to demonstrate that he has the support of the Russian military in order to make any further discussion of the war in Ukraine during his campaign unnecessary.

“The Kremlin may have tasked the Russian military with capturing Avdiivka, and possibly Kupyansk, before the March 2024 elections, and this exhibition of the military’s support for Putin’s candidacy is possibly meant as a hedging strategy should the Russian military be unable to meet these given deadlines.”

Russia tells Cop28 its frozen gold reserves could but put towards climate resilience

12:11 , Andy Gregory

Russia has used the Cop28 climate conference to claim it is looking into whether its gold reserves – half of which were frozen by the West in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine – could be used to fund the climate damage fund to help developing countries.

Kyiv wants the proceeds from the $300bn in frozen Russian assets to be used to help rebuild the country – something many in the West want to happen but which has been complicated by legal questions and the move’s possible future ramifications.

“We are ready to announce that Russia is looking into the voluntary contribution of finance to the loss and damage fund from the frozen national gold reserves held by international organisations,” Ruslan Edelgeriev, Russia’s climate representative, said on the main stage at COP28 in Dubai.

“It is a step dictated by the need to close the gap between developing and developed countries.”

Ukraine condemns Russian plans to hold elections in occupied territories

11:55 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine has strongly condemned Russian plans to hold presidential elections next spring on occupied territory, declaring them “null and void” and pledging to prosecute any observers sent to monitor them.

Russia’s upper house set the country’s presidential election this week for next March, and chair Valentina Matviyenko said residents would be able to vote for the first time in four Ukrainian regions – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson – which Russia claims to have annexed despite not fully controlling any of them.

“We call on the international community to resolutely condemn Russia’s intention to hold presidential elections in the occupied Ukrainian territories, and to impose sanctions on those involved in their organization and conduct,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said.

It also warned countries against sending observers to the “pseudo-elections”, saying offenders would “face criminal responsibility”.

“Any election in Russia has nothing to do with democracy. They serve only as a tool to keep the Russian regime in power,” the ministry said.

Watch: Biden slams GOP ‘gift’ to Putin and calls for Congress to pass Ukraine funding

11:14 , Andy Gregory

Polish truck drivers are blocking the border with Ukraine. It's hurting on the battlefield

10:56 , Andy Gregory

Pickup trucks and tourniquets bound for Ukraine’s battlefield are stuck in a mileslong line at the border with Poland. Components to build drones to fight off Russian forces are facing weeks of delays.

Ukrainian charities and companies supplying the war-torn country’s military warn that problems are growing as Polish truck drivers show no sign of ending a border blockade that has stretched past a month. The Polish protesters argue that their livelihoods are at stake after the European Union relaxed some transport rules and Ukrainian truckers undercut their business.

While drones will make it to the front line, they’re delayed by two to three weeks, said Oleksandr Zadorozhnyi, operational director of the Kolo foundation, which helps the Ukrainian army with battlefield tech, including drones and communications equipment.

“This means that Russian army will have the ability to kill Ukrainian soldiers and terrorize civilians for several weeks longer,” he said.

Hanna Arhirova, Karl Ritter and Monika Scislowsk have the full report:

Polish truck drivers blocking border with Ukraine

Navalny ‘missing’ days after being handed new charges by Russian prosecutors

10:37 , Andy Gregory

Warnings that Alexei Navalny has not been heard from for three days after falling ill in prison come days after the Vladimir Putin critic was handed new charges by Russian prosecutors.

The 47-year-old is already serving more than 30 years in prison after being found guilty of crimes including extremism – charges that his supporters characterise as politically motivated. In comments passed to his associates, Mr Navalny said he had been charged under article 214 of Russia’s penal code, which covers crimes of vandalism.

“I don’t even know whether to describe my latest news as sad, funny or absurd,” he wrote in comments on social media Friday via his team. “I have no idea what article 214 is, and there’s nowhere to look. You’ll know before I do.”

He said that the charges were part of the Kremlin’s desire to “initiate a new criminal case against me every three months”, joking that “never before has a convict in solitary confinement for more than a year had such a rich social and political life”.

Russia brings new charges against jailed Kremlin foe Navalny

War crimes probe opened as civilian killed in Kherson

10:04 , Andy Gregory

One civilian was killed and another wounded after Russian forces dropped an explosive from a drone on a town in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, authorities said on Saturday.

Prosecutors opened a war crimes investigation into the incident, which occurred at around 10am in the town of Beryslav. Both victims had been walking on the street at the time of the attack, authorities said.

Russian forces have regularly attacked the western part of the Kherson region, particularly its eponymous capital, since retreating across the Dnipro River late last year.

Ukraine faces ‘mortal danger’ if West backs down, warns first lady

09:33 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainians face “mortal danger” if the West backs down over financial support for the resistance against Vladimir Putin’s forces, Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska has warned.

Ms Zelenska argued that people in her country will be left to die if the world gets tired of providing support, in an interview with the BBC, saying: “We really need the help. In simple words, we cannot get tired of this situation, because if we do, we die.

“And if the world gets tired, they will simply let us die.”

Ukraine’s first lady warns of ‘mortal danger’ if West backs down over support

Ukraine's human rights envoy calls for a faster way to bring back children deported by Russia

09:14 , Samya Kullab

Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman has voiced hope that a coalition of countries formed to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children illegally deported by Russia will be able to come up with a faster mechanism to repatriate them.

Over 19,000 children are still believed to be in Russia or in occupied regions of Ukraine.

Dmytro Lubinets spoke to reporters following the first meeting of the National Coalition of Countries for the Return of Ukrainian Children, which was formed based on a recommendation by Canada, in Kyiv.

Read more in this report:

Ukraine's human rights envoy calls for a faster way to bring back children deported by Russia

Putin critics plan ways to undermine president as he stands for re-election

08:55 , AP

Although they believe Vladimir Putin will be declared the winner in March’s presidential elections no matter how voters cast their ballots, Russian opposition figures are still hoping to undermine the widespread public support he enjoys and turn popular opinion against the war in Ukraine.

“No one but us will step into this battle for the hearts and the minds of our fellow citizens. So we need to do it and win,” imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said in a recent online statement relayed from behind bars.

“Our task is to make sure that the issues we will be able to raise and bring into the public agenda in January, February, March stick — stick with Russians even after the election,” said Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s top strategist, who left Russia several years ago.

To that end, Mr Volkov and his team launched a project called “Navalny’s Campaigning Machine.” The idea is simple — talk to as many Russians as possible, either by phone or online, and convince them “to turn against the candidates we hate: candidate Putin and candidate ‘War,”’ as Navalny himself put it in an online post announcing the project in June.

In late October, the project already had about 170 volunteers making the calls, Volkov said, and was conducting a survey to figure out the specific grievances and needs of people in order to tailor talking points they would use in future phone calls.

M Volkov said that out of the thousands of calls already made, only a handful of people said they were completely content with everything happening in Russia and beyond. “Someone is discontented over the war, someone is discontented with the economic situation, someone is unhappy with the health care system, social justice — lots of things,” Mr Volkov said.

On the eve of Mr Putin’s announcement, the team placed a number of billboards – in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities – that read “Russia” and “Happy New Year,” with links and QR codes leading to a website titled “Russia without Putin.” The website urges people “to convince at least 10 people to act against Putin” and talks about various ways to campaign.

The Anti-War Committee — another opposition force that unites prominent activists in exile such as former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, chess legend Garry Kasparov and former lawmakers turned opposition politicians Gennady Gudkov and his son, Dmitry Gudkov — also plans a campaign called “No to Putin!”

Gennady Gudkov told AP that the general goal of the campaign is to explain to Russians “what the future could be like without Putin” – no war, no repressions, with the government focusing on things like the economy, science and education.

A possible election day tactic, Mr Gudkov said, could be to urge Mr Putin’s critics to go to the polls at a specified time so that long lines form to show how many people oppose him: “If the country, the elites, the world will see long queues of people who clearly disagree with Putin’s policies, it will be enough.”

Navalny ‘missing for three days’ in prison after ‘serious health incident’

08:33 , Andy Gregory

Vladimir Putin’s jailed arch-critic Alexei Navalny has not been heard from in three days after suffering a “serious health-related incident”, according to allies who fear his “life is at great risk”.

The Russian opposition politician’s press secretary said his lawyers stood all day outside the penal colony where he is detained – but were denied entry – after he collapsed in his cell.

“We don’t know what it was, but given the fact that he’s not being fed, is being kept in a punishment cell with no ventilation and the time for walks has been reduced to a minimum, it looks like a hunger faint,” said Kira Yarmysh.

“Since this incident, the lawyers have seen Alexey and he has been relatively well. But now it’s the third day that we don’t know where he’s. Before that, there were at least occasional letters from him, albeit censored ones, but there have been no letters all week.”

Maria Pevchikh, chair of Mr Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said: “Navalny's life is at great risk. He is in complete isolation right now.”

Kremlin dismisses ‘peace talks’ report

07:00 , Jane Dalton

The Kremlin has said the idea that Russia would engage in peace talks with Ukraine on Kyiv’s terms next year was unrealistic.

It was responding to a media report which said Washington wanted such a scenario to unfold.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the idea “absolutely unrealistic”.

Ukraine claims assassination of ‘traitor’ ex-MP who fled to Russia

06:00 , Jane Dalton

In case you missed it: Ukraine’s security service has been accused of being behind the assassination of a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who fled to Moscow after Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Ukraine claims assassination of ‘traitor’ ex-MP who fled to Russia

Kyiv passes bills to start talks on joining EU

05:00 , Jane Dalton

The Ukrainian parliament has approved three bills necessary to start European Union accession talks, including one on national minorities’ rights - a demand from Hungary which opposes Ukraine’s bid.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, who signed all three bills into law, described them as a key step in Ukraine’s application.

An EU summit next week is to consider whether to start negotiations on membership with Ukraine, and neighbouring ex-Soviet Moldova.

EU leaders must unanimously approve the move.

“We expect that Ukraine‘s efforts will be duly appreciated by leaders of the European Union and the corresponding European promises to Ukraine will be fulfilled,” Mr Zelensky said.

Ukraine, he said, had “done everything expected of us” in taking on EU recommendations.

Russian missiles devastate separate towns

04:00 , Jane Dalton

A Russian missile struck Pavlohrad, eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)
A Russian missile struck Pavlohrad, eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)
A Russian missile struck Kharkiv on Friday (REUTERS)
A Russian missile struck Kharkiv on Friday (REUTERS)

Putin’s plane escorted by fighter jets on rare trip out of Russia

03:00 , Jane Dalton

In case you missed it: Four Sukhoi fighter jets escorted Vladimir Putin‘s presidential plane on Wednesday as he arrived in the UAE for a rare trip outside of Russia.

Putin’s plane escorted by four fighter jets on rare trip out of Russia

Coalition meets to repatriate Ukrainian children taken by Russia

02:00 , Jane Dalton

Ukraine’s human-rights ombudsman has voiced hope that a coalition of countries formed to bring back Ukrainian children illegally deported by Russia will be able to come up with a faster mechanism to repatriate them.

More than 19,000 children are still believed to be in Russia or in occupied regions of Ukraine.

The National Coalition of Countries for the Return of Ukrainian Children, which was formed based on a recommendation by Canada, held its first meeting in Kyiv.

Some 72 representatives of countries and international organisations attended.

Addressing the participants, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that such deportations were “not something unsystematic, but the organised work of Russia’s state system”.

He said forcible deportation was one of the war’s most heinous crimes and “a clear indicator of Russia’s genocidal policy”.

Bulgaria votes to send Kyiv more missiles

01:00 , Jane Dalton

Bulgaria’s parliament has approved the provision of additional military aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia.

A majority of 147 MPs voted to supply Ukraine with portable anti-aircraft missile systems and surface-to-air missiles of various types intended to bolster Ukraine’s air defence capabilities, the state-run BTA news agency reported.

Military experts said the missiles, which are either defective or redundant, cannot be repaired in Bulgaria, but Ukraine has the facilities to fix them or use them for spare parts.

Some 55 lawmakers from pro-Russian groups in parliament voted against sending the aid, underscoring the divisions in the country over helping Ukraine.

Bulgaria joined Nato in 2004, but maintains stocks of Soviet-designed weapons.

In addition, parliament approved the use of Bulgarian airspace for training of Ukrainian F-16 pilots and allowed up to four rotating infantry or mechanized Ukrainian army units of up to 160 people per year to transit or stay in Bulgaria for training.

In a separate vote, MPs overrode a veto by the country’s pro-Russian president on providing Ukraine with 100 Soviet-era armored personnel carriers and available armament, as well as spare parts.

In pictures: Fighting in Bakhmut

Friday 8 December 2023 23:59 , Jane Dalton

Ukrainian forces are still fighting to retake Bakhmut. Last month Russian forces started ramped up attacks in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to gain ground near Avdiivka and around Bakhmut.

Ukrainian tank driver (Getty Images)
Ukrainian tank driver (Getty Images)
28th Separate Mechanised Brigade in Bakhmut (Getty Images)
28th Separate Mechanised Brigade in Bakhmut (Getty Images)
A Ukrainian T-64 tank on combat duty in Bakhmut district (Getty Images)
A Ukrainian T-64 tank on combat duty in Bakhmut district (Getty Images)

Russia puts Russian-US journalist on wanted list

Friday 8 December 2023 22:50 , Jane Dalton

Russian police have put prominent Russian-American journalist and author Masha Gessen on a wanted list after opening a criminal case against them on charges of spreading false information about the Russian army:

Russia puts prominent Russian-US journalist Masha Gessen on wanted list for criminal charges

Finland refuses to extradite Russian suspect to Ukraine as ‘jails overcrowded'

Friday 8 December 2023 21:34 , Jane Dalton

Finland will not extradite to Ukraine a Russian man suspected of terrorism in Ukraine, Finland’s supreme court has ruled, citing the risk of inhuman prison conditions in Ukraine.

Yan Petrovsky was taken into custody by Finnish authorities in August after a Ukrainian court issued an arrest warrant for him. He is suspected of participating in a terrorist organisation in Ukraine.

Social media channels linked to Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries said in August that Petrovsky was a top fighter in Rusich, a far-right subunit affiliated to Wagner.

Rusich identified Petrovsky as a founding member and leader of the unit who has been under EU and US sanctions.

The Supreme Court cited an earlier decision by the European Court of Human Rights which found Ukrainian prisons overcrowded and materially deprived over long term, concluding extradition to Ukraine could lead to inhuman and degrading treatment for Petrovsky.

The court ordered him to be released but he was immediately taken into custody by the Finnish Border Guard.

An official in Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s office said Kyiv would press requests for Petrovsky’s extradition. “We are continuing to seek ways of detaining and extraditing this suspect to Ukraine,” said Andriy Gulkevych, deputy head of the office’s international legal section.

Mr Gulkevych said Ukraine was working towards ensuring greater success for its extradition requests, often turned down on grounds that the country could not provide suitable conditions of detention while it is at war.

Ukraine says Putin arrest warrant helped it return children

Friday 8 December 2023 20:25 , Jane Dalton

Ukraine’s human-rights commissioner says two arrest warrants issued for Vladimir Putin and another official over the unlawful wartime deportation of children to Russia had helped to return some of them.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued warrants in March for the arrest of Putin and children’s ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova on war crimes charges related to the abduction of Ukrainian children. The Kremlin rejects the allegations.

Kyiv says it has officially confirmed the deportation of 19,546 children, and that the figure could be higher.

“In my opinion, after the two arrest warrants were issued by the International Criminal Court for Putin and Lvova-Belova, it has become easier to return children,” said Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian human-rights commissioner.

On Wednesday, eight children were brought back to Ukraine from Russia and Moscow-occupied territories, under a deal brokered by Qatar.

Mr Lubinets said Ukraine had so far managed to return 387 children from Russia and some more from Moscow-occupied territories.

Moscow says it transported thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia to protect minors abandoned in a conflict zone.

Mr Lubinets said Russia was now carrying out more deportations through ally Belarus to complicate the process of tracking and verifying the whereabouts of children.

Dmytro Lubinets (AFP via Getty Images)
Dmytro Lubinets (AFP via Getty Images)

Olympics chiefs to let Russian athletes compete as ‘neutrals'

Friday 8 December 2023 19:40 , Jane Dalton

Ukraine’s foreign minister described as “shameful” the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the Paris Games as neutrals, and urged partners to condemn it.

Such a decision undermines Olympic principles, Dmytro Kuleba said.

Vladimir Putin meeting boxing and kickboxing competitors in the Urals city of Perm in October (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin meeting boxing and kickboxing competitors in the Urals city of Perm in October (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Fears for jailed Alexei Navalny’s health

Friday 8 December 2023 18:50 , Jane Dalton

Aides to jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny say they are seriously worried about his health and have been unable to contact him for three days.

Mr Navalny, 47, is imprisoned in a penal colony east of Moscow and has been sentenced to a total of more 30 years on what he says are trumped-up charges to silence his criticism of President Vladimir Putin.

His aides said his lawyers had stood all day outside the colony but been refused entry to see him, and he did not appear at scheduled judicial hearings about his case.

“We have learned that last week he had a serious health-related incident. Navalny’s life is at great risk. He is in complete isolation right now,” Maria Pevchikh, chair of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, posted on social media.

Mr Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said prison staff had put him on a drip last week after he suffered a dizzy spell and lay down on the floor of his cell in what she said looked like a “hunger faint”.

ICYMI: Democrats and Republicans go into overtime on Ukraine-immigration talks

Friday 8 December 2023 18:00 , Matt Mathers

Senate Democrats and Republicans appear ready to go into overtime for negotiations on exchanging restrictions to immigration in exchange for aid to Ukraine.

Republicans have insisted on adding restrictions to legal immigration – particularly asylum and parole, wherein someone who otherwise would not be allowed into the United States is granted temporary status – in exchange for aid to Ukraine.

Erica Garcia reports:

Democrats and Republicans go into overtime on Ukraine-immigration talks

Why so many of Nepal’s Gurkhas end up fighting for Russia in Ukraine

Friday 8 December 2023 17:00 , Matt Mathers

Nearly 200 Nepalese nationals are serving as mercenaries in the Russian army – but it’s not only a phenomenon benefitting the Kremlin’s military recruitment, as Namita Singh explains

Read Namita’s full piece here:

Why so many of Nepal’s Gurkhas end up fighting for Russia in Ukraine

Russia faces Putin’s iron grip until at least 2030 as he stands for president again

Friday 8 December 2023 16:05 , Matt Mathers

Russia faces the prospect of Vladimir Putin extending his two-decade stranglehold on power until at least 2030, with an announcement that he will run for president again in March 2024.

The 71-year-old Russian autocrat has been in power since 1999, bar a four-year stint as prime minister under Dmitry Medvedev, during which he was widely regarded to still be at the helm of the Kremlin. Given Putin’s domination of the Russian political and media landscape – and jailing opposition figures like Alexei Navalny who could challenge him on the ballot – there is little doubt about the result when the elections take place next year.

Tom Watling reports:

Russia faces Putin’s iron grip until at least 2030 as he stands for president again

ICYMI: Ukraine actor dies after battling frontline wounds for months

Friday 8 December 2023 16:00 , Matt Mathers

Ukrainian actor Vasyl Kukharskyi died on Thursday nearly three months after suffering severe injuries on the frontline while fighting against Russia’s troops. He was 42.

“Vasily Kukharsky passed away. He never made it back to life,” announced Kyiv-based Theater on Podil in a statement on Facebook.

Full report:

Ukraine actor dies after battling frontline wounds for months

Finland’s supreme court blocks extradition of Russian terrorism suspect to Ukraine

Friday 8 December 2023 15:21 , Matt Mathers

Finland will not extradite to Ukraine a Russian man suspected of terrorism in Ukraine, Finland’s supreme court ruled on Friday, citing the risk of inhuman prison conditions in Ukraine.

Russian national Yan Petrovsky was taken into custody by Finnish authorities in August after a Ukrainian court issued an arrest warrant for the man who is suspected of participating in a terrorist organisation in Ukraine, Finnish court documents seen by Reuters showed.

Social media channels linked to Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries said in August that Petrovsky was a top fighter in Rusich, a far-right subunit affiliated to Wagner.

Rusich identified Petrovsky as a founding member and leader of the unit who has been under European Union and United States sanctions since last year.

In Finland, Petrovsky has used the name Voislav Torden, court documents showed.

"The Supreme Court has stated in its opinion today that the extradition request regarding Torden cannot be agreed to," the court said in its decision.

Putin announces he will seek another term next year

Friday 8 December 2023 14:19 , Matt Mathers

Vladimir Putin has moved to prolong his repressive and unyielding grip on Russia for another six years, state media said, announcing his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election that he is all but certain to win.

Mr Putin still commands wide support after nearly a quarter-century in power, despite starting an immensely costly war in Ukraine that has taken thousands of his countrymen’s lives, provoked repeated attacks inside Russia - including one on the Kremlin itself - and corroded its aura of invincibility.

A short-lived rebellion in June by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin raised speculation that Mr Putin could be losing his grip or that it would mar his strongman image.

But he has emerged with no permanent scars, and Mr Prigozhin’s death in a mysterious plane crash two months later reinforced the view that Mr Putin was in absolute control.

Mr Putin announced his decision to run in the March 17 presidential election after a Kremlin award ceremony, when war veterans and others pleaded with him to seek re-election.

"I won’t hide it from you - I had various thoughts about it over time, but now, you’re right, it’s necessary to make a decision," Mr Putin said in a video released by the Kremlin after the event.

"I will run for president of the Russian Federation."

File photo: Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a ceremony to receive diplomatic credentials from newly appointed foreign ambassadors at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow (via REUTERS)
File photo: Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a ceremony to receive diplomatic credentials from newly appointed foreign ambassadors at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow (via REUTERS)

Ukraine’s parliament approves minorities bill, seen as key for EU talks

Friday 8 December 2023 13:15 , Matt Mathers

The Ukrainian parliament on Friday approved three bills necessary to start European Union accession talks, including one on national minorities’ rights, a critical demand from Hungary which opposes Ukraine’s EU bid, officials said.

Lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak said on Telegram messenger that members of parliament voted in the final reading for the bill regarding minorities’ rights, taking into consideration the expert assessment of the European Council.

Budapest has clashed with Kyiv over what it says are curbs on the rights ethnic Hungarians in west Ukraine, in particular regarding education.

The other two bills adopted concern staff increases in the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and additional power for the National Agency on Corruption Prevention on assets checks.

"Just now Ukrainian parliament passed three out of four laws by constitutional majority identified by the European Commission as leftovers in the EU Enlargement report," Deputy prime minister Olha Stefanishyna said on X.

She added that a fourth requirement - a law on lobbying - was approved by the cabinet on Tuesday.

Post-summit news conferences highlight the divide between China and the EU

Friday 8 December 2023 12:30 , Matt Mathers

From trade to human rights, the leaders of China and the European Union differed on a wide range of issues at a summit this week in the Chinese capital.

China, which sees Europe as an important export market, raised concerns about trade protectionism and “de-risking,” the EU initiative to reduce its reliance on any one country — such as China — for vital raw materials and products.

Full report:

Post-summit news conferences highlight the divide between China and the EU

Ukrainian troops train in Poland for harsh winter warfare

Friday 8 December 2023 11:34 , Matt Mathers

In a snow-covered field in western Poland, Ukrainian soldiers are being trained in trench warfare, just days before being sent to the front in what has become a grinding war of attrition against Russia.

Media organisations were invited this week to watch the training, which was conducted by soldiers from Poland, France and Belgium, in Wedrzyn, around 40 kilometres from the German border.

"Most of the people have actually no military experience and they are taught how to execute some basic tactics," said one Ukrainian soldier. "We are taught how to use weapons in urban areas and in trenches."

The training was conducted by the Combined Arms Training Command, which was established as part of the European Union’s efforts to aid Ukraine’s military. Exercises have been held in 24 out of the bloc’s 27 member states.

"We will keep adapting because the situation on the battlefield is changing every day," said Lieutenant General Michiel van der Laan, Director General European Union Military Staff.

 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

Russian missiles kill one, wound four in air strike on Ukraine - Kyiv

Friday 8 December 2023 11:00 , Matt Mathers

Russian warplanes fired 19 long-range missiles at targets in Ukraine on Friday morning, killing one civilian in a central region, wounding four more and damaging an industrial facility, Kyiv officials said. The strike was the first big salvo of missiles Russia has fired at targets, including the Ukrainian capital, in weeks. Russia has mainly been using drones for its overnight attacks in recent weeks.

"Unfortunately, one person is dead. Preliminarily, four people are wounded. They are all in hospital. Two people are in severe condition," Dnipropetrovsk’s regional governor Serhiy Lysak said on the Telegram messaging app. Air defences shot down 14 incoming missiles over the region outside Kyiv and the central region of Dnipropetrovsk, air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said in televised comments.

The strike damaged an unnamed industrial facility and more than a dozen homes in the towns of Pavlohrad and Ternivka and the village of Yuryivska, Lysak said.

Russia used seven Tu-95 bombers to launch missiles at different regions across the country, the air force said in a statement. Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, said the Ukrainian capital had been targeted in the attack but that all the missiles were downed by air defences as they approached. Missile debris damaged privately-held homes in several settlements in Kyiv region, smashing windows and destroying some walls, governor Ruslan Kravchenko said.

Air alerts were announced at about 0700 a.m. (0500 GMT) and lasted for over 2 hours. Officials reported an earlier overnight missile attack that struck the northeastern Kharkiv region.Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said rescuers and police were clearing rubble after the attack damaged a five-story residential building, at least seven residential homes and 20 cars.

An apartment building damaged at night by Russian missile strike is seen, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine (Reuters)
An apartment building damaged at night by Russian missile strike is seen, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine (Reuters)
 (Reuters)
(Reuters)
 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

Russia used US celebrity Cameo videos to spread propaganda, says report

Friday 8 December 2023 10:30 , Matt Mathers

Russia tricked American celebrities into providing video messages that were later edited to discredit Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a new report from Microsoft.

Celebrities such as Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood were paid to record a message on Cameo for someone named “Vladimir”, asking them to find help for alcohol and substance abuse.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar reports:

Russia used US celebrity Cameo videos to spread propaganda, says report

Ukrainian air defences down 14 of 19 missiles in Russian attack - air force

Friday 8 December 2023 09:30 , Matt Mathers

Ukrainian air defences shot down 14 out of 19 missiles fired by Russia during a morning air strike on Friday, Ukraine’s air force spokesman said.

The missiles were shot down in the region outside Kyiv and the central region of Dnipropetrovsk, the military official, Yuryi Ihnat, said on television.

11,000 Russian soldiers killed in November

Friday 8 December 2023 08:58 , Matt Mathers

Ukrainian Ground Forces Command spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Volodymyr Fityo has said that 11,000 Russian soldiers were killed in November.

The troops were presumably killed in the Kupyansk, Lyman, and Bakhmut directions, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

The institute also said Russian forces “may be suffering losses along the entire front in Ukraine at a rate close to the rate at which Russia is currently generating new forces.”

Russian missile attack kills one civilian in Ukraine's Dnipropetrovsk region

Friday 8 December 2023 07:14 , Matt Mathers

A Russian missile attack killed one civilian and injured four others in Ukraine’s central region of Dnipropetrovsk on Friday, the region’s governor, Serhiy Lysak, said.

"Unfortunately, one person is dead. Preliminarily, four people are wounded. They are all in hospital. Two people are in severe condition," Lysak said on the Telegram messaging app.

Blocking Ukraine aid would be ‘Christmas present’ to Putin and Xi, Cameron says

Friday 8 December 2023 07:06 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Blocking a package of support for Ukraine would be a “Christmas present” for Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, Lord David Cameron has warned after Senate Republicans opposed a multi-billion-dollar aid bill.

The Foreign Secretary urged allies to rally around Kyiv, describing the response to the conflict as “the great test for our generation” as he delivered a speech at the Aspen security conference in Washington DC on Thursday.

The US Congress failed to pass a $110bn (£88bn) package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel as well as other national security priorities.

More here.

Blocking Ukraine aid would be ‘Christmas present’ to Putin and Xi, Cameron says

UN: Russia intensifies attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities, worsening humanitarian conditions

Friday 8 December 2023 07:04 , Maira Butt

Intensifying Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities are worsening humanitarian conditions across the war-torn country, where heavy snow and freezing temperatures have already arrived, U.N. officials said Wednesday.

Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenca told the UN Security Council that Russia’s continuing daily attacks on Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure have resulted in civilian casualties, and Moscow recently escalated its barrages in populated areas including the capital, Kyiv.

“All attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop immediately,” he said. “They are prohibited under international humanitarian law and are simply unacceptable.”

UN: Russia intensifies attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities, worsening humanitarian conditions

Why so many of Nepal’s Gurkhas end up fighting for Russia in Ukraine

Friday 8 December 2023 06:50 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A few months ago, a Ukrainian official posted a video of a man who had been captured while fighting for Russia. The man was neither trained by Russia nor a resident of that country, and he had no direct stake in the Ukraine war. Yet he had flown over 4,000km to serve in “one of the Russian Airborne Forces brigade”, the video said.

Belonging to the landlocked Himalayan state of Nepal, which has a growing population and rising unemployment, Bibek Khatri admits to joining the Russian forces solely for the money.

He blames his decision on financial woes back home, according to a clip posted by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the minister of internal affairs in Ukraine.

“My family is in trouble. My mother doesn’t work, we need money. So, I went for it (joining the Russian Army),” Khatri says in the video. He says his friends suggested that he join up as a mercenary. “I wanted to return to my mom as a successful man. So, I joined.”

Khatri is not the only one being drawn by lucrative offers from Moscow. Nearly 200 Nepalese nationals are believed to be serving in the Russian army as mercenaries.

Namita Singh has more.

Why so many of Nepal’s Gurkhas end up fighting for Russia in Ukraine

Ukraine claims assassination of ‘traitor’ ex-MP who fled to Russia

Friday 8 December 2023 06:02 , Maira Butt

Tom Watling reports:

A pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who fled to Moscow after Vladimir Putin’s invasion has been shot dead, with Ukraine’s security service said to be behind the assassination.

Illia Kyva, 46, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament, was shot in a park in Odintsovo region, southwest of Moscow, according to Russian investigators.

A Ukrainian source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the SBU security service was responsible.

Andriy Yusov, spokesperson for Ukraine’s GUR, another intelligence agency, said on Ukrainian television Kyva was “finished” but did not say who was behind his death.

Another source with knowledge of the killing told the Financial Times that Kyva had been killed with a “small arms” weapon.

Ukraine claims assassination of ‘traitor’ ex-MP who fled to Russia

Slovakia warned by US on plan to scrap corruption prosecutor

Friday 8 December 2023 05:10 , Maira Butt

The United States on joined the European Commission on Thursday in urging Slovakia not to rush into plans to scrap a special prosecutor’s office focused on corruption, saying the change and other reforms “require a thorough and sound analysis”.

Slovakia’s new government led by populist Robert Fico approved a plan on Wednesday to end the special prosecutor’s office, using a fast-track procedure that could be completed in weeks.

Fico, who has already battled with some leading media outlets and stopped Slovak military aid to Ukraine, has accused the institution of violating human rights and said it must be disbanded.

“We support the European Commission’s recommendation not to advance the intended amendments nor resort to a fast-track procedure without proper and thorough consultation with stakeholders at the national and European level,” the US embassy said in a statement on its website.

Mariupol Reborn: One year on from regeneration scheme in Ukrainian seaside city where thousands were killed

Friday 8 December 2023 04:14 , Maira Butt

A major project to rebuild Ukraine‘s famous seaside city of Mariupol has made progress one year on.

Tens of thousands of Mariupol residents were killed in the six weeks after the full-scale invasion in February 2022 as a direct consequence of Russian aggression. Hundreds of thousands of Mariupol residents have been displaced.

Vadym Boychenko, the mayor of Mariupol, said: “People are our greatest assets. Lost lives are our greatest pain. Mariupol’s struggle will go down in history as an example of extraordinary heroism.

“They deserve the best home to return to and our goal is to create that. We know the government of Ukraine and our military will return Mariupol to Ukrainians. And when that happens, we will be ready to start work on Day One.”

The Fast Recovery Plan will get the city running, prioritizing housing and utilities. Russian forces are alleged to have destroyed 90% of the city’s infrastructure, half the apartment buildings, 15 hospitals, 63 schools and 40,000 houses have been damaged.

In pictures: The latest in Ukraine

Friday 8 December 2023 03:03 , Maira Butt

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries responds to a question during a press conference on Thursday. Supplemental aid to Ukraine and Israel has been stalled in Congress over disputes about the US Southern border security funding and policy (EPA)
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries responds to a question during a press conference on Thursday. Supplemental aid to Ukraine and Israel has been stalled in Congress over disputes about the US Southern border security funding and policy (EPA)
Ukrainian medical team from 'Austriyka' bus evacuate and treat wounded Ukrainian solders in Donbas (Anadolu via Getty Images)
Ukrainian medical team from 'Austriyka' bus evacuate and treat wounded Ukrainian solders in Donbas (Anadolu via Getty Images)
Foreign secretary David Cameron spoke at the Aspen Security Forum (Getty Images)
Foreign secretary David Cameron spoke at the Aspen Security Forum (Getty Images)

After failed test vote, prospects dim for new Ukraine aid in US Congress

Friday 8 December 2023 02:06 , Maira Butt

US Senate leaders vowed on Thursday to keep trying to reach an agreement to provide billions of dollars in new security aid to Ukraine, but faced uncertainty about doing so quickly after Republicans blocked a sweeping foreign security assistance bill.

Senate Republicans voted unanimously on Wednesday to block the emergency spending bill to provide $110.5 billion in funds for Ukraine, Israel and other security needs, to press their demands for more control of immigration via the US border with Mexico.

The result, which had been expected, threatened Democratic President Joe Biden’s effort to provide new aid before the end of 2023. It came after Democrats and Republicans had negotiated for weeks to add immigration policy changes to the security bill to win enough Republican votes to pass.

Those talks broke off last Friday, and emotions ran so high that a classified Senate briefing on Ukraine on Tuesday erupted into a shouting match from which several Republicans stormed out.

Zelensky marks first night of Hannukah in Kyiv

Friday 8 December 2023 01:03 , Maira Butt

Ukraine’s President Zelensky joined representatives of the Jewish clergy on Thursday to mark the first night of Hannukah celebrations.

He took part in the Hannukah candle-lighting ceremony and lit the first candle in Kyiv.

He said: “The sacred Hanukkah lights, lit these days, remind us once again that light always prevails over evil. And of the value of life, which is worth fighting for. My best wishes to the Jewish community on Hanukkah”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marks the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah by lighting the first candle in Kyiv, Ukraine (AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marks the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah by lighting the first candle in Kyiv, Ukraine (AP)

Japan pledges $4.5B more in aid for Ukraine, including $1B in humanitarian funds

Friday 8 December 2023 00:04 , Maira Butt

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged $4.5 billion to Ukraine, including $1 billion in humanitarian aid to help support the war-torn country’s recovery effort in an online summit of leading industrial nations.

Kishida made the announcement late Wednesday in Tokyo while hosting his last Group of Seven summit as this year’s chairperson.

The $1 billion humanitarian and recovery aid includes funding for generators and other power supplies for the Ukrainian people to survive the winter, as well as measures to clear mines planted by Russia, the Foreign Ministry said. The remaining $3.5 billion includes funding for credit guarantees for World Bank loans to Ukraine.

“This is significant support for the recovery of Ukraine and our economy, said Japan stands firmly with Ukraine and our people,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his message posted on X, formerly Twitter, “We will keep working together to bring our common victory closer.”

Japan pledges $4.5B more in aid for Ukraine, including $1B in humanitarian funds

‘Excess profits’ by large companies following Ukraine invasion could have worsened cost-of-living

Thursday 7 December 2023 23:00 , Maira Butt

“Excess profits” made by large international companies could have exacerbated inflation and passed on higher costs to consumers, according to a report.

Researchers from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Common Wealth – both British think tanks – analysed the financial statements of 1,350 firms listed on the UK, US, German, Brazilian and South African stock markets.

They found that UK-listed firms such as Shell, Glencore, Vodafone and Barclays saw their profits outpace inflation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while ordinary families’ real incomes plummeted.

Carsten Jung, senior economist at IPPR, said: “Our research finds that markets aren’t working efficiently, enabling large companies to make profits that likely amplified inflation.

“This has made the cost of living crisis worse for most people, and for many smaller firms across the economy.

“The original inflation spike was driven by global supply chains gumming up post-pandemic, and then by the energy price shock following the Ukraine invasion.”

Cameron positive that US will come through with funding for Ukraine

Thursday 7 December 2023 22:20 , Maira Butt

UK foreign secretary David Cameron said in a joint press conference with US secretary of state Anthony Blinken that he is sure that the US will provide more funding for Ukraine.

He said: “I believe the US will come through with supplemental funding for Ukraine.

“I’m sure that goodwill will prevail and the money will be voted through.”

Lord Cameron: ‘No more important relationship for Britain than with US’

Thursday 7 December 2023 22:07 , Maira Butt

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said there is “no more important” relationship for Britain than its partnership with the US.

He said he was glad to see the so-called special relationship was “stronger than ever” and that it was all the more important in the “dangerous and insecure and unstable world in which we currently live”.

At a press conference alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he said: “There is no more important relationship for Britain than this partnership with the United States.”

Lord Cameron said Europe and the US were “rightly” sharing the financial burden of supporting Ukraine.

Mr Blinken earlier said: “Our countries are in lockstep when it comes to continuing to do everything possible to ensure that Putin’s aggression remains a strategic defeat and failure for Russia.”

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said there is “no more important” relationship for Britain than its partnership with the US.

 (AP)
(AP)

Blinken: UK’s leadership has been ‘absolutely essential' in support of Ukraine

Thursday 7 December 2023 22:03 , Maira Butt

Secretary Blinken praised the UK’s commitment to supporting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

He said: “The UK’s leadership has been absolutely essential. The UK has committed the second most after the United States in terms of military assistance and across the board.

“This is a global coalition in support of Ukraine. “

Video: Fox News host clashes with US presidential candidate Vikek Ramaswamy over Ukraine policy

Thursday 7 December 2023 22:01 , Maira Butt

Presidential candidate Ramaswamy clashed with a Fox News host as he defended his position on Ukraine on Thursday.

“I think we have to play hardball there and make a hard deal that requires any reneging on that deal to have major consequences. The clear principles are this war doesn’t advance US interests,” he said while suggesting that US priority should be on border control.

The Fox News host suggested a “world war could enfold” if eastern Europe were “given up”.

Secretary of State Blinken: US and UK ‘in lockstep’ to ensure Putin’s aggression remains a failure

Thursday 7 December 2023 21:56 , Maira Butt

US secretary of state Anthony Blinken addressed a White House press conference along with foreign secretary Lord David Cameron.

He opened his address with a nod to the UK and US’s “special relationship” which he said “has never been more important than it is now.”

He added: “Our countries are in lockstep when it comes to continuing to do everything possible to ensure that Putin’s aggression remains a strategic defeat and failure for Russia and we are determined to ensure that Ukraine stands strongly on its own feet as a sovereign independent country.”

Secretary Blinken added that there remained “unwavering support” for Ukraine across the Nato alliance.

The US and UK remain in ‘lockstep’ said Secretary Blinken (AP)
The US and UK remain in ‘lockstep’ said Secretary Blinken (AP)

‘Blocking Ukraine aid would be Christmas present for Putin and Xi’ says Cameron

Thursday 7 December 2023 21:00 , Maira Butt

Blocking a package of support for Ukraine would be a “Christmas present” for Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, Lord David Cameron has warned after Senate Republicans opposed a multi-billion-dollar aid bill.

The Foreign Secretary urged allies to rally around Kyiv, describing the response to the conflict as “the great test for our generation” as he delivered a speech at the Aspen security conference in Washington DC on Thursday.

The US Congress failed to pass a 110 billion dollar (£88 billion) package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel as well as other national security priorities.

The White House has sounded the alarm about what might happen if further funding is not approved soon, suggesting Ukraine‘s military would be stalled or overrun.

Activists post billboards asking citizens to vote against Putin

Thursday 7 December 2023 20:01 , Maira Butt

Opposition activists in Russia have dodged censorship laws while urging citizens to vote against President Putin using billboards disguised as holiday greetings.

The Anti-Corruption Foundation founded by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny paid for billboards in Moscow, St Petersburg and other Russian cities which said “Russia” and “Happy New Year.” But a website address and QR code printed on the signs led to a site titled “Russia without Putin.”

There, voters were encouraged to oppose the longtime Russian leader on March 17, the day that Russian lawmakers have set for the presidential election. The website says the election is important for Putin as a referendum on whether Russians approve of his war in Ukraine, rather than a real contest for the presidency.

Ivan Zhdanov, the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s director, told The Associated Press the billboards had been up for two days and it seems unlikely the agency that put them up checked the contents of the website ahead of time. Journalists for the Associated Press saw several of them were swiftly removed Thursday.

Zhdanov acknowledged the campaign was unlikely to kick Putin out of office — “Nothing will change on election day,” he said.

“Ninety-nine percent of opposition figures who opposed Putin are now either in prison or abroad,” Zhdanov said.

Navalny, 47, who is Putin’s biggest political opponent, is currently serving a term of more than 30 years for convictions on extremism and other charges that his supporters characterize as politically motivated.

This photo taken from video released by telegram channel Navalny's team on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, shows a billboard with the words Happy New Year and the QR code in Moscow, Russia (AP)
This photo taken from video released by telegram channel Navalny's team on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, shows a billboard with the words Happy New Year and the QR code in Moscow, Russia (AP)

Putin hosts Iranian President in round of Middle East diplomacy

Thursday 7 December 2023 19:02 , Maira Butt

Vladimir Putin has hosted Iran’s president as part of a round of Middle East diplomacy that also included visits to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in efforts to raise Moscow’s profile as a power broker in the region.

The Russian president has cast the Israel-Hamas war as a failure of US diplomacy and suggested Moscow could be a mediator, thanks to its friendly ties with both Israel and the Palestinians.

“It’s very important for us to exchange views of the situation in the region, particularly regarding the Palestinian situation,” Mr Putin said as he welcomed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the start of their talks in Moscow.

Mr Raisi emphasised the need to quickly stop the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, declaring that “a child is killed there every 10 minutes”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow (EPA)
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow (EPA)

Cameron urges US to approve Ukraine aid package

Thursday 7 December 2023 18:00 , Maira Butt

Foreign Secretary David Cameron used a visit to Washington on Thursday to urge politicians in the United States to approve a fresh package of military aid for Ukraine.

Senate Republicans blocked legislation on Wednesday that would have provided billions of dollars in security assistance for Ukraine over disputes around border policy.

“I’m not worried about the strength and unity and consensus and bravery of the Ukrainian people. I’m worried that we’re not going to do what we need to do,” Cameron said.

“We’ve got to make sure we give them the weapons, the economic support, the moral support the diplomatic support, but crucially, that military support that can make a difference.”

Addressing concerns among some in the US that Europe was not doing enough, Cameron said Europe was now doing twice as much as the United States in terms of economic and military support.

David Cameron visited Washington on Thursday and urged support for Ukraine (AP)
David Cameron visited Washington on Thursday and urged support for Ukraine (AP)

Ukraine and US companies to jointly produce 155-caliber ammunition

Thursday 7 December 2023 17:05 , Maira Butt

Ukraine has agreed on joint production of vital 155mm artillery shells with two American companies, a Ukrainian official said on Thursday.

Demand for 155mm artillery rounds skyrocketed following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The US and allies have sent Kyiv more than 2 million rounds of it and were aiming to increase production to refill depleting stocks.

“We have agreements with two leading American companies to jointly produce in Ukraine 155-caliber ammunition,” Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukrainian minister for strategic industries, said in televised comments.

However, he said that implementation of the deal would take years.

“To produce 155-caliber, the process takes a minimum of two years, a maximum of three. And to start this production, we need technologies that our partners own. Ukraine has never produced this caliber,” he said.

Biden says ‘history will judge’ the US if it doesn’t pass more aid to Ukraine

Thursday 7 December 2023 15:49 , Tom Watling

US President Joe Biden has said “history will judge” the US if they do not pass further aid to Ukraine.

Mr Biden issued a plea on X to Republicans who voted down a proposed package of further aid on Wednesday night.

You can view his plea below.

British MoD release video detailing destruction to eastern Ukraine town

Thursday 7 December 2023 15:30 , Tom Watling

The British Ministry of Defence has published a video detailing the destruction wrought by Russian forces in the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka.

You can view the video below.

Ukraine to use trains to move blocked lorries across Polish border

Thursday 7 December 2023 15:00 , Tom Watling

Ukraine aims to bypass a border blockade by Polish truck drivers by bringing in lorries on train platforms, Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted an official from the national railways company as saying on Thursday.

Protests by Polish truckers started last month against the terms of EU access for Ukrainian lorries. They blocked the main land corridors into Ukraine, leading to higher prices for fuel and some food items as well as delays to drone deliveries to the Ukrainian army.

“Now we have a loaded train standing at the crossing with Hrubeshuv (on the Ukrainian-Polish border). We already have 23 loaded container wagons with lorries,” Valeriy Tkachov, deputy director of the commercial department at the railway, was quoted as saying.

He said that the Ukrainian and Polish sides were currently harmonising technical issues.

“As soon as this test train passes and all is well, we will launch this on a mass scale,” Tkachov said.

Ukrainian authorities say about 3,000 lorries are blocked on the Polish side of the Polish-Ukrainian border and so far the authorities have not been able to agree with the protesters on terms to stop the action.

Polish hauliers’ main demand is to stop Ukrainian truckers having permit-free access to the European Union, something that Kyiv and Brussels say is impossible.

A man offers food for sale to lorry drivers held up because of striking customs officers near Kukuryki at the Polish-Belarus border (REUTERS)
A man offers food for sale to lorry drivers held up because of striking customs officers near Kukuryki at the Polish-Belarus border (REUTERS)

Teenage girl kills classmate and herself in Russia school shooting

Thursday 7 December 2023 14:35 , Tom Watling

A Russian schoolgirl has shot dead a classmate – and injured five others – before killing herself, local authorities have said.

The 14-year-old girl walked into her school in Bryansk, in western Russia, close to the Ukrainian border, with a shotgun registered in the name of her father, according to local authorities.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said the teenager killed one of her classmates and that it looking into a motive.

Teenage girl kills classmate and herself in Russia school shooting

Russian nationalist who wanted to run against Putin to stay in detention

Thursday 7 December 2023 14:00 , Tom Watling

Russian nationalist Igor Girkin, who had said he wanted to challenge Vladimir Putin in a presidential election in March, had his detention extended for six months on Thursday as he awaits trial on charges of inciting extremism.

The ruling, announced by a Moscow court, extinguishes the already faint prospect that Girkin might be allowed to run.

The 52-year-old is known in the West for his role in the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 with the loss of 298 passengers and crew. A Dutch court last year convicted him in absentia of murder. Girkin has denied involvement.

The former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer had organised pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine since early 2014. Also known as Igor Strelkov, he has repeatedly said Russia faces upheaval unless the military leadership fights more effectively in Ukraine.

He could be jailed for five years if convicted of “public calls to commit extremist activity”.

Ex-Russian officer Igor Girkin said Putin’s troops were ‘deteriorating’ in Ukraine (AP)
Ex-Russian officer Igor Girkin said Putin’s troops were ‘deteriorating’ in Ukraine (AP)

Why so many of Nepal’s Gurkhas end up fighting for Russia in Ukraine

Thursday 7 December 2023 13:35 , Tom Watling

Nearly 200 Nepalese nationals are serving as mercenaries in the Russian army – but it’s not only a phenomenon benefitting the Kremlin’s military recruitment, as Namita Singh explains.

Why so many of Nepal’s Gurkhas end up fighting for Russia in Ukraine

Russia detains man it accuses of blowing up trains on Ukraine’s orders

Thursday 7 December 2023 13:05 , Tom Watling

Russia’s FSB security service said on Thursday it had detained a Belarusian man who had blown up two trains in Siberia on the orders of the Ukrainian intelligence services as part of a sabotage campaign against Russia’s critical infrastructure.

The two attacks in Russia’s Buryatia region, which borders Mongolia and is thousands of kilometres from Ukraine, occurred on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30.

A Ukrainian source told Reuters at the time that the operations were conducted by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) which wanted to disrupt railway lines in Siberia that Russia uses for military supplies.

Reuters could not independently verify whether the rail routes were used for military supplies.

In the first attack, explosives were detonated on a cargo train that was moving through the Severomuysky Tunnel. At 9.5 miles (15.3 km) long, the tunnel on the Baikal-Amur Mainline railway is Russia’s longest, excluding urban underground railway tunnels.

The second attack hit a freight train as it crossed the Chertov Bridge in the same region on a railway line used as a backup when trains are diverted from the Severomuysky Tunnel.

Russian spies hack high-profile politicians and former spy chief in ‘grey warfare’ campaign

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:35 , Tom Watling

British politicians and civil servants have been hacked by a group “almost certainly” linked to Russia’s security service, a UK foreign minister has said.

Leo Docherty issued a statement in the Commons reporting that they had discovered a cyber influence campaign perpetrated by a group known as Star Blizzard, suspected of being a subordinate of an FSB cyber unit.

The group had “selectively leaked and amplified information” since 2015, conducting an exercise known as spear-phishing to steal information from a “significant” number of parliamentarians from multiple political parties.

Mr Docherty said the Russian ambassador was summoned to the foreign office (FCDO) to be told “these actions have consequences”.

Russian spies hack high-profile politicians and former spy chief

Putin’s plane escorted by four Su-35 fighter jets on rare trip out of Russia to Middle East

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:04 , Tom Watling

Four Sukhoi fighter jets escorted Vladimir Putin‘s presidential plane on Wednesday as he arrived in the UAE for a rare trip outside of Russia.

The Su-35 fighter jets of the Russian Air Force formed a tight safety net around Mr Putin’s plane as they escorted him all the way from Russia to Abu Dhabi, landing at the commercial airport there. Less than 30km away is the Al-Dhafra Air Base, is a major US military hub in the region.

The Russian president has become increasingly isolated on the world stage since launching his invasion of Ukraine and his solo trip to the Middle East, flanked by an unusually heavy air force escort, could not have contrasted more strongly with the show of international unity on display at the Cop28 climate talks nearby.

Russia says White House is ‘demonising' it to win over Congress

Thursday 7 December 2023 11:39 , Tom Watling

The Kremlin has accused the White House of playing the Russian threat card in order to secure money from Congress, after President Joe Biden said Russia would eventually attack a NATO member country unless it was defeated in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Biden wanted to “continue burning taxpayers’ money in the furnace of war”.

He accused the White House of demonising Russia and said that, if Washington were to stop backing Kyiv, all other Western countries would also turn away from it.

President Biden warned congress aid to Ukraine ‘cannot wait' (Getty Images)
President Biden warned congress aid to Ukraine ‘cannot wait' (Getty Images)

Ukraine claims assassination of ‘traitor’ ex-MP who fled to Russia

Thursday 7 December 2023 11:05 , Tom Watling

A pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who fled to Moscow after Vladimir Putin’s invasion has been shot dead, with Ukraine’s security service said to be behind the assassination.

Illia Kyva, 46, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament, was shot shot in a park in Odintsovo region, southwest of Moscow, according to Russian investigators.

A Ukrainian source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the SBU security service was responsible.

Andriy Yusov, spokesperson for Ukraine’s GUR, another intelligence agency, said on Ukrainian television Kyva was “finished” but did not say who was behind his death.

Ukraine claims assassination of ‘traitor’ ex-MP who fled to Russia

Ukraine suffering power deficit due to cold weather - grid operator

Thursday 7 December 2023 10:30 , Tom Watling

Ukraine‘s power grid operator Ukrenergo said on Thursday that cold weather had pushed power usage 2.7% above forecast levels, causing a deficit in the power system which was being filled by imports from Poland, Slovakia and Romania.

Ukrenergo said in a statement on the Telegram app that 700 MW of power would flow into Ukraine from neighbouring countries from 11:00 to 19:00 local time (0900 to 1700 GMT) on Thursday.

Ukrainian service members help to clear a highway and release cars stuck in snow following a heavy snowstorm in Odesa region (via REUTERS)
Ukrainian service members help to clear a highway and release cars stuck in snow following a heavy snowstorm in Odesa region (via REUTERS)

Russian schoolgirl shoots classmates, killing one

Thursday 7 December 2023 09:58 , Tom Watling

A Russian schoolgirl shot several of her classmates, killing one person and injuring five others, before killing herself, state news agencies and authorities have said.

The shooting happened at a school in Bryansk, in a region that borders Ukraine, Russia’s Investigative Committee said.

Children were reportedly among the wounded.

One of the people injured was in a serious condition, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said.

Video shared by RIA Novosti showed children cowered in a classroom behind a door barricaded with upended desks and chairs during the attack.

Occupied Ukraine could take part in Russian presidential elections, says Kremlin

Thursday 7 December 2023 09:00 , Tom Watling

The Russian central election commission has said that it will make a decision by 12 December on whether the four regions of occupied Ukraine, which Vladimir Putin claimed as Russian territory last September, will take part in presidential elections next year.

Interfax quotes the head of the commission, Ella Pamfilova, saying:”Having weighed all the pros and cons, we will make such a decision.

“If we accept it, then the next step will be to adopt the procedure for holding elections there; of course, it will be somewhat different, as the law provides for this, from voting in other constituent entities of the Russian Federation.”

The Russian Federation claimed to annex Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson from Ukraine in late 2022, despite not fully controlling the territory of any of the regions.

In September 2023, the four occupied regions held elections as part of Russia’s 2023 regional elections.

Zelensky thanks Japan for billion-dollar package

Thursday 7 December 2023 08:30 , Tom Watling

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed gratitude to his Japanese counterpart for a billion-dollar pledge.

In a message on X, Mr Zelensky wrote: “I am grateful to Japan and Prime Minister

Fumio Kishida for the decision to provide an additional $1 billion in assistance to Ukraine as well as their readiness to further increase the total to $4.5 billion.

“This is significant support for the recovery of Ukraine and our economy.”

The Japanese pledge comes as the support of other countries, such as the US, has been cast in doubt.

Russia confirms next presidential election

Thursday 7 December 2023 08:00 , Tom Watling

Russia’s upper house of parliament has voted to set the date for Russia’s presidential election for 17 March , 2024.

The decision was passed unanimously by 162 votes in the Federation Council.

“With this decision, we are effectively launching the start of the election campaign,” Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council, said.

While few expected anyone but Vladimir Putin to win the election - he has held effective charge of Russia for nearly a quarter of a century - the autocrat will still have to campaign in the run-up to next March.

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Wednesday (Sputnik)
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Wednesday (Sputnik)

What’s happening this morning in Ukraine? Day 652

Thursday 7 December 2023 07:46 , Tom Watling

Ukrainian soldiers were dealt a serious blow overnight - not from the Russian forces across the field, rather from Republican Senators across the Atlantic.

Senate Republicans blocked the advance of tens of billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine and Israel on Wednesday, remaining concerned about shoring up the border with Mexico, with President Joe Biden calling the move “stunning” and dangerous.

US military aid will run out by the end of the year if this is not unblocked. Max Bergmann, a Ukraine and Russia expert, told The Independent “many Ukrainians will die” if this is not remedied.

You can read more on this here.

On the frontline

Russian forces made confirmed, though marginal, gains southeast of Avdiivka, a town in eastern Ukraine that has become a flashpoint on the frontline. Ukrainian forces made confirmed counterattack gains northwest of Avdiivka.

In Ukraine

A driver has been killed and grain infrastructure damaged after a Russian drone attack on Ukrainian grain infrastructure near the Danube River slipped through air defences, the governor of Odessa region has said.

The governor said the drones attacked over two hours overnight, and that while most were shot down, some got through, damaging a storage building, an elevator and trucks.

In Russia

A former Ukrainian lawmaker regarded by Kyiv as a traitor has been shot dead near Moscow and a Ukrainian source said he was killed by the country’s security service.

Illia Kyva was a pro-Russian member of Ukraine’s parliament before Moscow invaded in February 2022, but had been in Russia throughout the war and frequently criticised Ukrainian authorities online.

In Europe

A top Ukrainian official, Andriy Yermak, has said he wants to arrange a meeting between the Ukrainian and Hungarian leaders amid Budapest’s opposition to a proposal to start talks on European Union membership for Kyiv.

Unanimous approval at an EU summit next week is needed to proceed with membership talks for Ukraine and ex-Soviet Moldova as recommended by the European Commission. Kyiv sees EU membership as a key step, 21 months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, of moving closer to the West.

Ukraine-US talks on Wednesday were undermined by Republican Senators voting down a bill on further aid (Getty Images)
Ukraine-US talks on Wednesday were undermined by Republican Senators voting down a bill on further aid (Getty Images)

Here are some of the latest photos from Ukraine

Thursday 7 December 2023 07:24 , Tom Watling

Below are some of the latest photos from Ukraine.

A dejected US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken leaves Capitol Hill after the Senate voted down additional funding to Ukraine (EPA)
A dejected US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken leaves Capitol Hill after the Senate voted down additional funding to Ukraine (EPA)
Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko takes selfies with people in the St. Sophia square, next to a newly built Christmas tree in Kyiv (AP)
Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko takes selfies with people in the St. Sophia square, next to a newly built Christmas tree in Kyiv (AP)
Russian investigators are seen at Illia Kyva’s house, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who was assassinated yesterday near Moscow (AP)
Russian investigators are seen at Illia Kyva’s house, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who was assassinated yesterday near Moscow (AP)

Putin visits UAE and Saudi Arabia in bid to boost Moscow’s clout

Thursday 7 December 2023 07:12 , Maira Butt

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in a lightning tour intended to raise Moscow’s profile as a Middle East power broker, even as his war in Ukraine grinds on.Putin landed in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Emirates, that is hosting the United Nations’ COP28 climate talks. It was his first trip to the region since before the coronavirus pandemic and the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.Speaking at the start of his talks with UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Putin offered to discuss energy cooperation, the conflict in the Middle East and the “Ukrainian crisis.”

He praised the current state of Russia‘s relations with the UAE and congratulated the country for hosting the COP28 climate talks.

President Vladimir Putin visited Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud (EPA)
President Vladimir Putin visited Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud (EPA)

G7 bans Russian diamonds from January in show of solidarity to Zelensky

Thursday 7 December 2023 06:22 , Arpan Rai

The Group of Seven (G7) nations will ban direct imports of Russian diamonds starting next year as a punitive measure against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

There will be phased-in restrictions on indirect imports of Russian gems from March, a joint statement yesterday after the G7 nations’ meeting said. The measures were announced as Joe Biden and leaders of the G7 countries met Volodymyr Zelensky virtually in a show of solidarity.

The new measures will ensure a ban on non-industrial diamonds from Russia by 1 January and on third-party nations which sell Russian diamonds from March.

The move was being mulled as a part of fresh sanctions by the European Union last month. The G7 will phase in restrictions on indirect imports from a targeted date of March and introduce a “robust traceability-based verification and certification” mechanism for rough diamonds within the G7 by 1 September 2024. The ban excludes diamonds for industrial use.

Read more here:

G7 bans Russian diamonds from January in show of solidarity to Zelensky

In pictures: US sends military aid but warns it could be ‘last’ unless congress approves additional funding

Thursday 7 December 2023 06:15 , Maira Butt

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomes Ukraine’s Defense Minister Rustem Umerov with an official ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, United States on Wednesday (Anadolu via Getty Images)
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomes Ukraine’s Defense Minister Rustem Umerov with an official ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, United States on Wednesday (Anadolu via Getty Images)
President Biden warned congress aid to Ukraine ‘cannot wait' (Getty Images)
President Biden warned congress aid to Ukraine ‘cannot wait' (Getty Images)
Zelensky thanked Biden and the American people for their support (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)
Zelensky thanked Biden and the American people for their support (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Senate Republicans and Bernie Sanders block vote on Ukraine and Israel aid

Thursday 7 December 2023 06:03 , Arpan Rai

Senate Republicans and Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) blocked a vote on a supplemental bill that would have provided aid to Ukraine and Israel as Republicans continue negotiations to tie restrictions on immigration with aid to Ukraine.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had put the supplemental legislation – which included $110.5bn in aid to Ukraine and Israel as well as humanitarian assistance for Gaza--to a floor vote in an attempt to pressure Republicans.

“To show our Republican colleagues that we care about this issue deeply and are serious about moving forward in a bipartisan way, we are willing to give them an amendment here on the floor on any border proposal of their choice, at sixty votes,” Mr Schumer said in a speech before the vote.

Senate Republicans and Bernie Sanders block vote Ukraine and Israel aid

Russia amps up attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities, says UN

Thursday 7 December 2023 05:40 , Arpan Rai

Intensifying Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities are worsening humanitarian conditions across the war-torn country, where heavy snow and freezing temperatures have already arrived, UN officials said yesterday.

Russia’s continuing daily attacks on Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure have resulted in civilian casualties, and Moscow recently escalated its barrages in populated areas including the capital, Kyiv, assistant secretary-general Miroslav Jenca told the UN Security Council.

“All attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop immediately,” he said. “They are prohibited under international humanitarian law and are simply unacceptable.”

UN: Russia intensifies attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities, worsening humanitarian conditions

Zelensky ‘grateful’ for new US aid package

Thursday 7 December 2023 05:16 , Maira Butt

The US sent a $175 million aid package to Ukraine on Wednesday in what Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, called “the last” of such packages unless Congress approved supplemental funding for Ukraine’s war against the Russian invasion.

Following the support, President Zelensky took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to thank the American government and express his gratitude.

He said: “I am grateful to @POTUS Joe Biden, Congress, and the American people for the new military aid package announced today.

“Additional ammunition for air defense, HIMARS, and artillery is much needed on the frontlines.

“Continued support allows for a robust defense of freedom.”

Ukrainian MP who supported Russia found shot dead in Moscow suburb

Thursday 7 December 2023 04:15 , Maira Butt

A former Ukrainian lawmaker regarded by Kyiv as a traitor was shot dead near Moscow on Wednesday and a Ukrainian source said he was killed by the country’s security service.

Illia Kyva was a pro-Russian member of Ukraine’s parliament before Moscow invaded in February 2022, but had been in Russia throughout the war and frequently criticised Ukrainian authorities online.

Russian investigators said Kyva died on the spot after being shot in a park in Odintsovo region, southwest of Moscow, and they had opened a murder hunt.

The Ukrainian source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the SBU security service was responsible.

Andriy Yusov, spokesperson for Ukraine’s GUR, another intelligence agency, said on Ukrainian television Kyva was “finished” but did not say who was behind his death.

Kyva had been sentenced in absentia by a Ukrainian court to 14 years in prison for charges including treason and incitement to violence.

Several pro-war Russian figures have been assassinated since the start of the war in operations blamed by Moscow on Ukraine, including journalist Darya Dugina and war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky.