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Ukrainian ‘kamikaze drone’ targets Russian tank in Kharkiv Oblast
Ukrainian troops have told of being “sent to their death” in Bakhmut – the small eastern city at the centre of Russia’s winter campaign.
Amid reports of heavy losses within Moscow’s ranks, Kyiv forces have spoken of their own desperate fight for survival against Russia’s “infinite” stocks of artillery and personnel.
It comes as Russian-US relations continue to deteriorate, after an American drone was downed after an incident with one of Moscow’s fighter jets.
Russian forces reached the site of the downed surveillance drone in the Black Sea on Wednesday, US officials told CNN, as the Kremlin vowed to recover it from deep water around 70 miles from Crimea.
And in a separate incident, a Russian aircraft was intercepted by RAF and German fighter jets near Estonian airspace in the first joint exercise between the two Nato allies.
Two British and German Typhoon jets were scrambled on Tuesday when a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft failed to communicate with Estonian air traffic control.
The UK Ministry of Defence stressed the “routine” nature of the mission, but it comes amid tensions between the West and Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian troops being ‘sent to death’ in Bakhmut
Ukrainian troops have told of being “sent to death” in Bakhmut – the small eastern city at the centre of Russia’s ever-intensifying winter campaign.
Amid reports of ”heavy losses” within Moscow’s ranks, Kyiv forces have spoken of their own desperate fight for survival against Russia’s “infinite” stocks of artillery and personnel.
“When they drive us to Bakhmut, I already know I’m being sent to death,” one Ukrainian soldier told The Kyiv Independent during a short stay in nearby Kramatorsk, some 25km west of the front line.
“(The Russians) keep firing at us, but we don’t have artillery – so we have nothing to attack them back with,” said Volodymyr, whose surname was withheld to protect his identity. “I don’t know if I will return or not. We are just getting killed.”
Russia’s advance has relied heavily on members of the Wagner group – often referred to as Vladimir Putin’s “private army” — who have made slow gains in Bakhmut, but at an immense cost.
Moscow first attempted to win the brutal conflict with a “human wave” of assaults using battalions of convicts, before sending in elite mercenary troops.
It comes after president Volodymyr Zelensky and his top military command agreed to continue to defend Bakhmut.
“It’s a pity that probably 90 per cent of our losses are from artillery – or tanks and aviation. And much less (casualties) from shooting battles,” Valeriy, another solider, told the news site a few hours after leaving Bakhmut.
He said “only a few” of the original 27 members of his platoon got out of the city with him, but explained that most of them were wounded, not killed.
“The Russians have so many weapons, and there are so many of them,” Valeriy said. “They are firing at us all the time. Sometimes, you hear an incoming (shell) every second.”
Emily Atkinson15 March 2023 15:21
Russia’s Oscar-winning opposition mired in conflict
Kremlin critics were cheered this week when a Western documentary about jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny won an Oscar, but his political movement is in turmoil and some Ukrainian politicians say the award is undeserved.
Mr Navalny, president Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile domestic critic, is serving 11-1/2 years in jail in Russia after being convicted of fraud in two cases he and the West say were trumped up to silence him, and his anti-corruption organisation has been banned as extremist.
His supporters cast him as a Russian version of Nelson Mandela who survived an assassination attempt and will one day be freed from unjust imprisonment to lead Russia. The lawyer-turned-activist remains a fierce Kremlin critic, releasing regular statements via his lawyers from behind bars.
But his Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF), which now operates outside Russia, is reeling after his Chief of Staff Leonid Volkov admitted he had – without his colleagues’ knowledge – lobbied the European Union to lift sanctions on Mikhail Fridman, one of Russia’s richest men.
Volkov apologised for what he said was “a big political mistake” and said he was taking a break from his role as chairman of the ACF.
Yet some fellow opposition members were furious, saying the ACF should be trying to hasten Putin’s political demise rather than helping wealthy businessmen.
Namita Singh16 March 2023 04:00
Ukraine wants to bring home tycoon to face corruption charges
Ukrainian tycoon Kostyantyn Zhevago said his record of investing in his homeland was proof of innocence ahead of today’s extradition hearing in a French Alpine town over accusations of embezzling tens of millions of dollars.
Mr Zhevago’s case comes as Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky seeks to clip the wings of oligarchs dominating the economy since the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago.
The 49-year-old billionaire, who controls London-listed iron pellet producer Ferrexpo, was arrested at a ski resort in December at the request of Ukraine which wants him over the disappearance of $113m from the now bankrupt lender Finance & Credit Bank.
Mr Zhevago, a former lawmaker and former beneficiary owner of Finance & Credit Bank, was released on bail for €1mn and due to appear at an appeals court in the nearby town of Chambery.
“If I had actually embezzled $100mn as I am falsely accused of doing in Ukraine, I would have parked the money abroad,” he told Reuters.
“Instead, I have systematically invested in my public companies in recent years,” he added, saying he had ploughed $500mn into Ukraine over the past five years.
Mr Zhevago added Finance & Credit was one of dozens of banks to lose vast sums of money after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Namita Singh16 March 2023 03:30
Canada announces new military aid
Canada will send about 8,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and a dozen air defense missiles as part of Ottawa’s latest military aide to Kyiv, the Canadian defense ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Ottawa will also provide Ukraine with more than 1,800 rounds of training ammunition for Leopard 1 battle tanks donated by Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, one of Ukraine’s most vocal international supporters, has committed over C$1bn (£600m) in military aid to Kyiv since the start of the Russian invasion last year.
Canada has already announced it is donating eight Leopard 2 main battle tanks, which are expected to be in Ukraine in the coming weeks, the ministry said.
Liam James16 March 2023 03:00
US drone ‘will be hard to recover from sea’
A US surveillance drone brought down over the Black Sea after a Russian military intercept probably broke apart and would be difficult to recover given the depth of the water in the area, the top US general said on Wednesday.
Russia’s defense ministry blamed “sharp manoeuvering” by the drone for the crash and said its jet did not make contact.
“It probably sank to some significant depths, so any recovery operation from a technical standpoint would be very difficult,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley told reporters.
He cautioned that it would take several days before the United States would know for certain the size of the debris field in waters as deep as 4,000 to 5,000ft, Milley said.
Russia said it would try to retrieve the remains the drone but appeared to acknowledge the challenges.
Liam James16 March 2023 01:00
Russian forces reach US drone crash site in Black Sea, say reports
Kremlin has vowed to recover drone after it crashed in international waters.
Graeme Massie15 March 2023 23:57
Russia warns drone flights near Crimea ‘could lead to escalation’
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin on Wednesday that operating drone flights near Crimea was provocative and could lead to an escalation, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
“It was noted that flights by American strategic lethal drones by the Crimea coastline were provocative in nature and created pre-conditions for an escalation of the situation in the Black Sea zone,” a ministry statement said of Shoigu’s telephone conversation with Defense Secretary Austin.
Russia, the statement said, “had no interest in such a development but will in future react in due proportion”.
US says drone crash ‘likely unintentional’
A US military surveillance drone’s crash into the Black Sea after being intercepted by Russian jets was likely an unintentional act from Russia’s side, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday.
Moscow has warned Washington to keep well away from its air space after the incident from a day earlier,
which took place in international air space near territory Russia claims to have annexed from Ukraine.
“I think the best assessment right now is that it probably was unintentional. It probably was the result of profound incompetence on the part of one of these Russian pilots,” Price said in an interview on MSNBC.
“This incident demonstrates a lack of competence, in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,” Price added.
The U.S military MQ-9 surveillance drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday after a Russian Su-27 jet struck its propeller, the Pentagon said, the first such incident since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over a year ago.
Russia has denied that any contact was made and says the drone crashed after “sharp maneuvering”.
The US State Department spokesperson also confirmed there is surveillance video of the incident and that the Department of Defense was determining whether to release it to the public.
The Russian and US defence ministers held a phone call on Wednesday, the Russian defense ministry said. Russia has said it will try to retrieve the remains of the drone while White House spokesman John Kirby said the drone may never be recovered.
Sam Rkaina15 March 2023 22:45
Ransomware could impact Ukraine’s supply lines
Microsoft found that a particularly sophisticated Russian hacking team, known within the cyber security research community as Sandworm, was testing additional ransomware-style capabilities that could be used in destructive attacks on organizations outside Ukraine that serve key functions in Ukraine’s supply lines.
A ransomware attack typically involves hackers penetrating an organization, encrypting their data and extorting them for payment to regain access.
Historically, ransomware has also been used as cover for more malicious cyber activity, including so-called wipers that simply destroy data.
Since January 2022, Microsoft said it had discovered at least nine different wipers and two types of ransomware variants used against more than 100 Ukrainian organizations.
These developments have been paired with a growth in more stealthy Russian cyber operations designed to directly compromise organizations in countries allied to Ukraine, according to the report.
“In nations throughout the Americas and Europe, especially Ukraine’s neighbors, Russian threat actors have sought access to government and commercial organizations involved in efforts to support Ukraine,” said Clint Watts, general manager for Microsoft’s Digital Threat Analysis Center.
Sam Rkaina15 March 2023 21:50
Microsoft warns of new Russian cyber attack on Ukraine
Russian hackers appear to be preparing a renewed wave of cyber attacks against Ukraine, including a “ransomware-style” threat to organizations serving Ukraine’s supply lines, a research report by Microsoft said on Wednesday.
The report, authored by the tech giant’s cyber security research and analysis team, outlines a series of new discoveries about how Russian hackers have operated during the Ukraine conflict and what may come next.
“Since January 2023, Microsoft has observed Russian cyber threat activity adjusting to boost destructive and intelligence gathering capacity on Ukraine and its partners’ civilian and military assets,” the report reads. “One group appears to be preparing for a renewed destructive campaign.”
The findings come as Russia has been introducing new troops to the battlefield in eastern Ukraine, according to Western security officials. Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov last month warned that Russia could accelerate its military activities surrounding the February 24 anniversary of its invasion.
Experts say the tactic of combining physical military operations with cyber techniques mirrors prior Russian activity.
“Pairing kinetic attacks with efforts to disrupt or deny defenders’ ability to coordinate and to use cyber-dependent technology is not a new strategic approach,” said Emma Schroeder, associate director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative.
Sam Rkaina15 March 2023 20:55
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