Day 343 of the Invasion of Ukraine: US will provide Long-Awaited Longer-Range Weapons (UPDATED)
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
Moscow: Russian troops surround the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut
Russian troops are encircling Bakhmut and fighting to establish control over the highway connecting the city with the neighboring town of Chasov Yar, a Russian-appointed representative in eastern Ukraine said, quoted by Reuters.
"Bakhmut is in operational encirclement, our forces are tightening the ring around the city," Yan Gagin, an adviser to Russia's appointed high-ranking envoy Denis Pushilin, said on state television. "Now there are battles for control over the Chasov Yar - Bakhmut highway."
Reuters notes that these claims cannot yet be independently verified.
Russia claims to have established control over several towns around Bakhmut, where for months its troops and mercenaries from the private military company Wagner have been fighting a fierce battle for the town with units of the Ukrainian army, with one side trying to wear down the other.
Ukraine fired the entire management of customs
Ukraine has fired the entire customs leadership in an apparent next step in an anti-corruption campaign, the parliamentary leader of the ruling party said, quoted by the news website NV.
The announcement comes against the background of others - for searches of a former interior minister and one of the richest Ukrainians.
David Arakhamia, chairman of the parliamentary faction of the Servant of the People party, announced in Telegram a series of steps that the authorities have taken.
In addition to the removal of the entire customs leadership, they include searches of the offices of former Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and businessman Ihor Kolomoyskyi.
The tax administration was also raided, and officials from the Ministry of Defense were served with notices that they were suspected in an investigation into abuses in the purchase of food for the army.
"The country will change in time of war. If someone is not ready for changes, the state itself will come and help him change," Arakhamia wrote.
According to NV, the search of Avakov is related to the crash of a French-made helicopter in January, in which the entire top management of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, led by Minister Denis Monastirsky, died.
Arakhamia specified that the search of Kolomoyskyi was related to a scandal in the company "Ukrnafta".
Biden to meet with Zelensky in Poland?
US President Joe Biden is expected to visit Europe and Poland will be one of his stops. The Polish newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna wrote today that it is possible that Biden will meet with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in Warsaw or Rzeszów.
Meanwhile, the United States is preparing a .2 billion military aid package for Ukraine, including for the first time longer-range missiles, as well as other ammunition and weapons, Reuters reported, citing BTA.
The agency cited statements from two US officials briefed on the matter.
The arms aid is expected to be announced as early as this week, US officials said.
The package is likely to include support equipment for Patriot anti-aircraft systems, precision-guided munitions and Javelin anti-tank weapons, they said.
According to Reuters, the package will also include surface-to-surface missiles with a range of up to 150 kilometers. So far, the US has given Ukraine missiles with a range of up to 80 kilometers.
The White House declined to confirm this information.
Meanwhile, an American arms concern offered Ukraine two high-tech Reaper MQ-9 drones at the symbolic price of each, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The US has sent nearly .2 billion worth of military aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, Reuters recalls.
The main US combat drone has been offered to Ukraine for
US arms maker General Atomics is offering the government of Ukraine two Reaper MQ-9 drones for one dollar in a bid to help Kyiv against a possible Russian offensive.
This is reported by the "Wall Street Journal", and the White House refuses to comment.
Ukraine would still have to pay about 10 million dollars for preparation and delivery, and about 8 million per year - for maintenance. Confirmation of the information - which does not guarantee US approval, however - would create the possibility that a flagship US Air Force drone, albeit in small numbers, could end up in Ukrainian hands.
Refusal to sell Reaper and Predator to NATO allies such as Turkey for many years was among the factors that led to the development of this industry in the country and to the appearance of the world-famous "Bayraktar". Just one MQ-9 Reaper, without the additional costs, would cost about million; for comparison, the price of one Bayraktar TB2 is about 5 million dollars.
More than 700 small combat drones, including tactical Switchblades, have been delivered to Ukraine in recent years, but the Reaper has far greater capabilities, with a wingspan of 20 meters and the ability to be in flight for more than 24 hours. The missile that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan last year may have been launched with this drone.
The only thing that General Atomics confirms is that "it has been discussing the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces with the Ukrainian government for many months," writes the West Street Journal.
Netanyahu is considering sending military aid to Ukraine
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that his country is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, while at the same time wanting to play the role of a mediator between Kyiv and Moscow, "AFP" reported.
"Yes, we are thinking about that," Netanyahu said in an interview with US broadcaster CNN, when asked if Israel was considering sending aid to Ukraine, such as its Iron Dome air defense system.
So far, Netanyahu has refrained from expressing unequivocal support for Ukraine, as Russia controls the airspace of Syria, which borders Israel, and often turns a blind eye to the Jewish state's operations against Iran, notes "AFP".
The Israeli leader confirmed that the United States had sent Ukraine artillery munitions that had previously been in Israel, and made it clear that the Jewish state would take the necessary measures to prevent Iran from producing weapons for Russia.
Ukrainian and Western officials accuse Iran of supplying drones to Russia, which it uses in Ukraine. Tehran claims this is not true.
Netanyahu also said he was asked to act as an official mediator between Moscow and Kyiv after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February last year, but did not act because he was in opposition at the time.
The Israeli prime minister said he was ready to mediate if the parties to the conflict and the United States asked him to do so.
Russia is violating the last landmark nuclear deal since the Cold War
The United States has accused Russia of violating the New START treaty, the last major pillar of nuclear arms control between the two countries since the Cold War, the Guardian reported.
According to the US, Moscow refuses to allow inspection activities on its territory. The treaty, which took effect in 2011 and was extended in 2021 for another five years, limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads the United States and Russia can deploy, as well as the deployment of surface- and submarine-launched missiles and bombers that deliver them.
The two countries, which during the Cold War were constrained by a network of arms control agreements, still jointly possess about 90 percent of the world's nuclear warheads. Washington is seeking to preserve the treaty, but ties with Moscow complicated by the invasion of Ukraine complicate the task.
"Russia's refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of US-Russian nuclear arms control," a State Department spokesman said in emailed comments.
In August, Moscow suspended cooperation with inspections under the treaty, citing travel restrictions imposed by Washington and its allies, but said it still abided by the treaty's provisions.
Talks between Moscow and Washington to renew New START inspections were due to take place in November in Egypt, but Russia postponed them, accusing the United States of "toxicity and hostility". Neither side has set a new date.
Russia told the United States on Monday that the treaty could expire in 2026 without a replacement as it says Washington is trying to inflict a "strategic defeat" on Moscow in Ukraine. Asked whether Moscow allowed there might be no nuclear arms control treaty after 2026, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the state-run RIA news agency: "It's a completely possible scenario."
The US has provided over billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion. This includes over 1,600 Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems, 8,500 Javelin anti-tank missile systems and 1 million 155 mm artillery shells.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, reviving Cold War-era fears of an apocalyptic war. Shortly after taking office, Biden extended New START by five years to 2026 to allow time for negotiations while preserving what the administration considered an important existing treaty.
The previous administration of Donald Trump ended previous arms control agreements and was hesitant to keep New START in its current form. Trump has said that any nuclear deal must include China, whose arsenal is growing rapidly but still far below that of Russia and the United States.
Reuters: US gives Ukraine long-awaited longer-range weapons, prepares billion package
The United States is preparing more than billion in military aid to Ukraine, which is expected to include for the first time longer-range missiles as well as other ammunition and weapons, two US officials familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
The aid is expected to be announced this week and will also include support equipment for Patriot air defense systems, precision-guided munitions and Javelin anti-tank weapons, they added.
Part of the .725 billion package will come from a fund known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). It allows President Joe Biden's administration to obtain weapons from industry rather than from the US weapons stockpile.
USAI funds will be used to purchase a new weapon, a small diameter ground bomb (GLSDB) manufactured by Boeing, which has a range of 150 km. The US has rejected Ukraine's requests for ATACMS missiles with a range of 297 km.
GLSDB's greater reach could allow Ukraine to strike targets that were previously out of reach and help it continue to emphasize its counterattacks by disrupting Russian operations further behind its lines.
The GLSDB is jointly produced by SAAB AB and Boeing. It combines the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with the M26 rocket engine, which are common in the US inventory.
Spain plans to send between four and six German Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, writes El Pais, citing unnamed government sources. The actual number will depend on the condition of the battle tanks in storage and how many other countries end up supplying Ukraine, the sources told El Pais. The information has not been officially confirmed - a spokesman for the Spanish Ministry of Defense did not respond to the publication's request for comment.
Spain will deliver 4 to 6 Leopard tanks to Ukraine
Spanish authorities plan to provide Ukraine with 4 to 6 upgraded Leopard 2A4s as part of the first delivery. This was reported by El Pais, citing government sources.
It is noted that the final figure will depend on the condition of the 53 war machines stored for about 10 years in Zaragoza. The Ministry of Defense of Spain is negotiating the urgent recovery of the tanks. So far, Germany has announced the transfer of 14 such tanks "as a first step", and Canada - 4.
According to the newspaper, the cost of repairing the Spanish Leopard tanks may exceed half a million euros per unit. The expected period for the recovery of the tanks - two and a half months - coincides with the duration of the course developed by the army of the kingdom to train Ukrainian tank drivers. It will be held at the National Training Center in Zaragoza.
As specified in the publication, the Ministry of Defense can also supply Kyiv with a set of spare parts for the Leopard. The supply of ammunition, 120 mm shells, is more difficult to implement, since Spain does not produce them and, as a result, will recourse must be had to the army reserves of the kingdom.
Earlier, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles said that Madrid could send tanks to Kyiv in the spring, but the exact number of combat vehicles was not yet specified. On January 17, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares assured that the Spanish government is not considering the possibility of transferring these war machines to Kyiv. The very next day, the minister stated that an appropriate decision was to be taken together with the kingdom's allies.
In the summer of 2022, the Spanish press reported that the Spanish government was considering the possible transfer of 10 Leopard tanks to Ukraine. However, in August, Spanish authorities said they were in poor condition and could not be transferred to Kyiv for the time being.
Francois Hollande: Putin is not crazy, just radically rational
Vladimir Putin is a "radically rational" leader who is betting that Western countries will tire of supporting Ukraine and agree on a favorable end to the conflict for Russia, former French President Francois Hollande told Politico.
Hollande, who served from 2012 to 2017, has extensive first-hand experience with Putin. He led the negotiations with the Russian leader, together with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, within the framework of the so-called Normandy format in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backed pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region.
But those efforts at dialogue have proved fruitless, revealing Putin as a leader who understands only the language of force, casting doubt on all later attempts at talks — including the controversial stand-alone effort led by current French President Emmanuel Macron, Hollande said in an interview
"He [Putin] is a radically rational man or a rationally radical man, as you like," the former French leader said when asked if Putin might try to expand the conflict beyond Ukraine. "He has his own reasoning, and within that he's willing to use force. He's only able to understand the dynamics [of force] that we're able to create against him."
On the eve of the anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Hollande added that Putin would try to "consolidate his successes to stabilize the conflict, hoping that public opinion will tire and that Europeans will fear escalation to raise the prospect of negotiations at this stage".
But unlike when he was in power and Paris and Berlin led the talks with Putin, this time the mediation task will likely fall to Turkey or China - "which will not be reassuring for anyone," Hollande said.
Macron, who was Hollande's economy minister before leaving his government and winning the presidency in 2017, tried to conduct diplomacy with Russia himself, holding numerous one-on-one talks with Putin both before and after the invasion his in Ukraine.
But the contacts did not produce clear results, drawing criticism from Ukraine and eastern Europeans, who also objected to Macron's words that Russia would demand "security guarantees" after the end of the war.
Hollande refrained from criticizing his successor for contacts with Putin. It made sense to talk to Putin before the invasion to "deprive him of any arguments or pretexts," he said. But after a "short period of uncertainty" after the invasion, "the question [of the benefit of dialogue] was unfortunately settled".
Disappointment with French and German leadership, or the lack of it, during the Ukraine war has fueled arguments that power in Europe is shifting east into the hands of countries like Poland, which have most strongly supported Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden has shown "exemplary solidarity and fully justified its role in the transatlantic alliance. But tomorrow, with another US president and a more isolationist Congress, or at least less willing to spend, will the United States have the same attitude? We have to convince our partners that the European Union is about principles and political values. We should not deviate from them, but the partnership can also offer valuable and solid security guarantees," Hollande added.
Hollande was one of France's most unpopular presidents while in office, with a single-digit approval rating. But since leaving the Elysée Palace, he has enjoyed something of a resurgence and is now the country's second most popular politician after former prime minister Edouard Philippe, five places ahead of Macron - in keeping with the adage that the French prefer their leaders when they are in a safe place outside of power.
The period of his rule was filled with crises. In addition to botched diplomacy on Ukraine, Hollande presided over France's response to a series of terrorist attacks, presided over Europe's sovereign debt crisis with Merkel and faced mass street protests against labor reforms.
On the latter question, Macron is now feeling some of the heat that Hollande felt in the final months of his presidency. More than one million French citizens have joined the marches against the planned reform of the pension system and further strikes are planned. Hollande criticized plans for a reform that would raise the retirement age to 64 as poorly planned.
"Has the president chosen the right moment? Given the series of crises and with high inflation, the French want to be calm. Has the government proposed the right reform? I don't think so either - it is seen as unfair and brutal," Hollande said. "But now that the parliamentary process is in motion, the executive will have to reach a compromise or risk going all the way and raising the level of anger."
A notable difference between him and Macron is the quality of Franco-German relations. While Hollande and Merkel have tried to display a form of political friendship, under Macron the two sides are clearly at odds.
"In these moments when everything is being redefined, the Franco-German couple is the indispensable core that guarantees the cohesion of the EU. But it is necessary to redefine the contribution of both countries and set new goals - including for European defense," said Hollande.
"It is not about seeing each other more often or talking more openly, but about taking into account the new situation, because if this work is not done and if this political basis is not secure, and if misunderstandings continue, we will have no only bilateral disagreements between France and Germany, and the European Union at a standstill," he said, adding that he "hopes" the recent Franco-German summit had "cleared up the misunderstandings".
The Socialist leader also criticized Macron for the way he is trying to rally Europeans for a tough response to Biden's Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which offers big subsidies to the US green industry. Several EU countries have spoken out against plans put forward by Paris to create a "Buy European Law" and raise new funds to support EU industry.
Another issue that has rocked European politics recently is the "Qatargate" corruption scandal, in which current and former MEPs, as well as lobbyists, are accused of taking money in exchange for influencing the work of the European Parliament in favor of Qatar and Morocco.
Hollande recalled that his own administration was hit by scandal when his minister was caught lying about Swiss bank accounts he failed to disclose to tax authorities. The scandal led to Hollande's creation of the High Authority for Transparency of Public Life (Haute autorité pour la transparence de la vie publique), an independent body that checks public officials and has the right to refer potential violations to the prosecutor's office.
"Now is the right time for the EU to follow suit and set up its own independent ethics body," Hollande said.
"I think it's a good institution that would have a role in Brussels," he said. "Some countries will be completely in favor because integrity and transparency are part of their core values. Others, like Poland and Hungary, will see a challenge to their sovereignty," he added.
Oryx: Ukraine has lost more than 450 tanks since the start of the war
Ukraine has lost more than 450 tanks since February 24, when Russia invaded its territory in an undeclared war, until today, reported the analytical portal dealing with the armaments of the world Oryx. To compensate for these losses, Kyiv has received 450 tanks from NATO member countries and is expected to receive another 100.
At the same time, the Armed Forces captured 546 trophy Russian tanks. Military bloggers comment that it is not known how many of them are fit to return to combat in the ranks of the Ukrainian army. Oryx claims that the data has been visually confirmed by the Ukrainian side. Among the losses were 1 T-64A tank which was captured, 2 T-64B – one captured and one destroyed and 198 T-64BVs, the majority of which were destroyed. A total of 453 main battle tanks (Main Battle Tank - MBT) 269 were destroyed, 24 damaged, 16 abandoned and 144 captured.
Military analyst Chris Flaherty, referring to open sources, believes that at the moment, quite indicatively, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have 1,119 tanks in service compared to the 900 with which the war began. Among them are 395 T-72s, 318 modernized Polish T-72s, 6 T-84s and 400 usable captured Russian T-62s. About 98 Western tanks are expected - 30 M1 Abrams from the USA, 14 Challenger-2 from Great Britain, 14 Leopard2 from Poland, 18 Leopard2 from the Netherlands, 14 from Germany and 8 from Norway. Flaherty's figures are close to those announced by Oryx.
Lithuania is against the presence of Russian ambassadors in EU countries
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis spoke yesterday against the presence of Russian ambassadors in the countries of the European Union, AFP reported, quoted by BTA.
"There is no benefit from having Russian ambassadors in European capitals," Landsbergis said at a press conference in the Latvian capital, Riga.
The Lithuanian minister made this statement against the backdrop of growing diplomatic tensions between Moscow and the Baltic countries.
"In most cases, it is not a diplomatic institution, but a propaganda institution that covers up war crimes," Landsbergis pointed out.
Lithuania downgraded its diplomatic relations with Moscow by expelling the Russian ambassador to Vilnius in April last year.
Last week, Estonia said it would expel Russia's ambassador to Tallinn after the Kremlin declared Estonia's ambassador to Moscow persona non grata.
Latvia announced that it would expel the Russian ambassador in solidarity with Estonia and that it would recall its ambassador to Moscow.
Ukraine criticized the Croatian president for speaking about Crimea
Ukraine sharply criticized the president of Croatia - Zoran Milanovic for saying that Crimea will never return to Ukrainian control. Yesterday, Zoran Milanovic made a series of statements in an attempt to criticize Croatia's decision to give military aid to Ukraine.
Yesterday, Zoran Milanoviц participated in a ceremony for the sending of a Croatian contingent to Lithuania within the framework of strengthening NATO's eastern flank. After the ceremony, the Croatian president said that Kosovo was "separated by force from Serbia" and regarding Crimea - "since the Russians are cynics, naturally they will refer to the annexation of Kosovo".
"What the West is doing is extremely immoral," he believes. In his words, "German tanks will unite the Russians even more and bring them closer to the Chinese."
According to Milanovic, Croatia should only send humanitarian aid to Ukraine and should not become a party to the conflict.
"We consider the statements of the president of Croatia to be unacceptable. He really questions the territorial integrity of Ukraine," wrote on Facebook the spokesperson of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Oleg Nikolenko.
In the same post, Nikolenko thanked the Croatian people for military aid to Ukraine.
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