The presidential election season in Russia kicked off ahead of schedule in the country's northernmost territory, the Franz Josef Land archipelago located in the Arctic Ocean
Day 719 of the Invasion of Ukraine: US Senate Advances Aid Bill Despite Trump’s Opposition
Day 719 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- The new Finnish president promised full support for Ukraine
- Russia sanctions British officials, historians and academics who "demonize" it
- Kyiv Institute of Forensic Expertise: Russia attacked Ukraine with a Zircon missile
- Ukraine shot down 14 Russian drones
- The US Senate has advanced the Ukraine aid bill despite Trump's opposition
- "We are not an ally of Russia" in the war against Ukraine, said the Prime Minister of Armenia
- Russian disinformation will be the main topic of today's meeting of the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland
- AFP on the human toll of the two years of war in Ukraine
The new Finnish president promised full support for Ukraine
Alexander Stubb, Finland's new president, promised his voters that he would be a "Western president in many ways" and lean towards the United States, Britain and northern neighbors when it comes to setting the tone for foreign policy. He assured that would place "no limits" on Finland's support for Ukraine.
Stubb won Finland's presidential election on Sunday. With more than 99% of the votes counted, he has 51.6% against 48.4% for his opponent Pekka Haavisto, a former foreign minister. Stubb will take over on March 1 from his predecessor, Sauli Niinisto, one of Europe's most experienced statesmen and diplomats.
The winner will be the 13th head of state and the first president of Finland as a member of NATO. Last month, in an interview with Reuters, Stubb said that relations with Russia would no longer have the weight they were given for decades when the country was non-aligned.
"Politically, there will be no relationship with the president of Russia or with the Russian political leadership until they stop the war against Ukraine," he said.
In his new position, the former investment banker will be responsible for the country's foreign policy, security policy and will represent Finland at NATO meetings.
"It is very important that we in Europe take care of our own defense," the 55-year-old president-elect told Reuters shortly before the vote yesterday. He also indicated that he agreed with his predecessor Sauli Niinisto, "who said that we need a more European NATO".
The Scandinavian country joined the Western military alliance in April last year.
During his election campaign, Stubb said that Finland should be an active member of NATO and seek to have NATO troops stationed on its territory. He also thinks it would allow nuclear weapons to be transported across the country — though not stored there.
"Sometimes nuclear weapons are a guarantee of peace," he said during a debate.
55-year-old Alexander Stubb has had a long career in the Finnish government, but after 2017 he decided to go into international politics.
In 2018, he was a candidate for President of the European Commission, but lost the battle for this post to German MEP Manfred Weber, who ultimately failed to head the EC, and after long negotiations in 2019, the position was entrusted to Ursula von der Layen.
Stubb entered politics in 2004, when he was elected to the European Parliament from Finland. In 2008, however, he was urgently called back to the country to take over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after a sex scandal led to the resignation of Ilkka Kanerva.
A staunch supporter of EU development, Stubb continued his career as Minister for European Affairs and Trade after 2011, and in 2014 became leader of the National Coalition party and Prime Minister of Finland.
Stubb says the tension during his tenure as prime minister was almost "unbearable" because of constant arguments with the finance minister, who is a Social Democrat. He lost the election in 2015, but remained in the new cabinet as finance minister.
A year after his appointment, Stubb was forced to resign from the government and from the party leadership after internal controversies. In 2017, he also left the Parliament of Finland to become vice president of the European Investment Bank.
In 2020, he was elected director of the School of Transnational Management at the European University Institute in Italy. Stubb also became chairman of the Crisis Management Initiative of the late Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari.
Alexander Stubb is the father of two children, his wife Susan is English and a lawyer by profession.
He says that he accepted the nomination for president despite his decision not to deal with domestic politics anymore, because "when the country calls you, you have to respond".
"I can say, with my hand on my heart, that before the start of the war in Ukraine, the thought of my candidacy as president was not on the agenda. In this world political situation, my answer is clear," he also says.
Russia sanctions British officials, historians and academics who "demonize" it
On Monday, Russia imposed sanctions on 18 British citizens, including senior academic figures and experts on Russian politics and history, Reuters reported. Through the sanctions, Moscow is responding to what it describes as "an attempt to demonize Russia and fuel the war in Ukraine."
"We are forced to state that the Russophobic representatives of Great Britain do not shy away from trying to discredit the constitutional system and socio-political processes in our country," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It claims that "the so-called think tanks, operating on the basis of the largest British and Western educational institutions, have a significant contribution to the subversive work of London in the Russian direction."
Personal sanctions were announced against British Under Secretary of Defense James Cartlidge, Deputy National Security Adviser Sarah Mackintosh and Director of Submarines Simon Asquith.
Stuart Peach, the special envoy of the British Prime Minister for the Western Balkans, as well as Lords Daniel Hannan and Michael Ashcroft are also targeted.
"I am honored to join so many good friends on the Russian sanctions list..." wrote Prof. Garton Ash - historian, essayist, commentator, professor of European studies at Oxford University - in X.
Kyiv Institute of Forensic Expertise: Russia attacked Ukraine with a Zircon missile
During its attack on Ukraine on February 7, Russia fired a 3M22 Zircon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile with a thermonuclear engine, the head of the Kyiv Research Institute of Forensic Science said on Monday.
"The proof of this is the marking on the parts and fragments, the identification of the components and parts, and the characteristics of the corresponding type of weapon," the director of the institute, Alexander Ruvin, wrote on his Telegram channel, referring to a preliminary analysis.
"In general, Russian missiles have parts that can be used in different models, while others are components in only some. In this case, we see elements that are specific to the 3M22 Zircon missile," explains Ruvin.
Ukraine shot down 14 Russian drones
Ukraine announced that it had destroyed 14 of 17 drones launched by Russia last night, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the Ukrainian Air Force. One X-59 cruise missile was also destroyed.
Russia has also fired surface-to-air missiles with a long range from S-300 systems into the territory of Ukraine, BTA points out. Ukrainian forces did not say how many such missiles were fired or whether they hit any targets on Ukrainian territory.
The US Senate has advanced the Ukraine aid bill despite Trump's opposition
The US Senate moved closer to passing a .34 billion financial and military aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan on Sunday, showing undiminished bipartisanship despite opposition from GOP hardliners and Donald Trump, Reuters reported.
The Democratic-led Senate voted 67-27 in a special session Sunday to clear a final procedural hurdle and move the foreign aid measure to a final passage vote in the coming days.
The funds are seen as decisive by Kyiv.
But passage in the Senate would send the bill to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where it faces an uncertain future.
Eighteen Republican senators supported the legislation, although Trump, the dominant Republican candidate for the White House, criticized the bill on social media, saying foreign aid should be in the form of a loan. Trump has also sparked outrage at home and abroad by saying he would authorize aggression against NATO allies who default on their obligations to the alliance. This statement of his caused a number of critics, including from a number of Republicans.
Ahead of Sunday's vote, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell chided those he said would ignore US global interests, complain about American leadership and bemoan international commitments.
"This is an empty job for empty minds and has no place in the United States Senate. American leadership matters. And it is in question," McConnell said.
The next Senate action is expected Monday night, when lawmakers must hold two procedural votes: one to pass the foreign aid package as an amendment to the main House bill; and second - to limit debate before the final vote, which could happen on Wednesday, reports Reuters.
The legislation includes billion for Ukraine, billion in support for Israel in its war against Hamas, and .83 billion to support partners in the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan, and deter aggression by China. It will also provide .15 billion in humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and other conflict zones around the world.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican who has a slim majority of 219 to 212 Democrats, has indicated he may try to split the relief provisions into separate measures once the bill reaches the Senate.
During a visit to Kyiv on Friday, a bipartisan delegation of House lawmakers pledged to do their part to pass the measure.
Senate Republicans believe bipartisan passage will help drum up support among House Republicans. Republican support for the measure could grow and the pace of progress could accelerate if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and McConnell can reach an agreement allowing the Republican amendments to be voted on.
Republicans want amendments that could deal with the record flow of migrants across the US-Mexico border and waive humanitarian aid provisions, limiting foreign aid to weapons and supplies.
But some Republicans who oppose more aid to Ukraine have vowed to delay the review by forcing the Senate to comply with a "maze" of time-consuming parliamentary rules.
"We are not an ally of Russia" in the war against Ukraine, said the Prime Minister of Armenia
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in an interview published last night that his country is not an ally of Russia in its war against Ukraine and stressed that Armenian military cooperation projects are not directed against any country, Reuters reported.
Pashinyan also expressed hope that Armenia's neighbor and longtime rival, Azerbaijan, would remain committed to a lasting peace treaty, despite the Azerbaijani president's statements on border demarcation.
In the last 30 years, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two major wars over Karabakh, Reuters recalls. The region has long been recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and in September last year, Azerbaijani troops secured full control over it.
In recent months, Pashinyan has said that Armenia can no longer rely on Russia for its defense needs because his country has not received the help it needs from Moscow.
In his comments to Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, Pashinyan indicated that he had said from the very beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that Armenia could not stand by Moscow as an ally.
"I said that in the situation in Ukraine we are not an ally of Russia. And this is the reality," Pashinyan told the newspaper.
"But I also want to tell you that with the US or with France or with other partners, our security cooperation is not directed against our other partner in the security sector," added the Armenian Prime Minister
According to him, Armenia approaches relations in its alliances in the field of security "by speaking with our partners as transparently as possible about their common interests."
Pashinyan also said that Armenia has no intention of considering NATO membership and that this "is not an issue that we have discussed or are discussing". However, he reiterated that Armenia is considering whether to remain in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Regarding the prospects for reaching a long-term peace agreement with Azerbaijan, Pashinyan said that the "basic architecture" of the agreement was reached last year, "and at the end of last year it seemed to us that we were finally very close to the final text of the agreement."
However, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who was re-elected last week, said in an interview in January that his troops would not be withdrawn from the border areas, according to Reuters. He also rejected the use of Soviet-era maps in the negotiations, as he said territorial concessions had been made to Armenia in the past century.
Russian disinformation will be the main topic of today's meeting of the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland
The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland - Stephane Sejourne, Annalena Baerbock and Radosław Sikorski - will meet this afternoon in the Paris suburb of La Celle Saint Cloud to discuss deepening cooperation in foreign affairs and security, DPA reported.
The agency said the main topics of the meeting, known as the Weimar Triangle, are expected to be Russian disinformation and support for Ukraine.
Sejourne said he and his colleagues will focus on Russia's attempts to weaken and divide European democracies by interfering in elections by spreading false information. He added that all three countries have fallen victim to Moscow's destabilizing strategy.
DPA recalls that Sejourne took up his post a month ago amid government reshuffles in France, while Sikorski became Poland's foreign minister in December last year, after heading Polish diplomacy between 2007 and 2014, in the previous government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
AFP on the human toll of the two years of war in Ukraine
It will soon be two years since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to Ukrainian and Western sources, at least 10,000 civilians and nearly 200,000 Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have died in the conflict. But the exact data are secret and are therefore approximate, notes Agency France Presse.
In a January 15 report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights estimated civilian casualties in Ukraine at more than 10,000. Of these, nearly 8,000 people were in areas controlled by Ukraine and more than 2,000 in areas occupied by Russia. Wounded civilians numbered over 19,000.
The Ukrainian police reports that the dead civilians are nearly 10,000 civilian victims. According to her data, 11,000 were injured, and 7,000 people disappeared without a trace. The data are for the areas under Ukrainian control and are as of January 31.
However, Ukrainian authorities believe that thousands more civilians were killed in the siege of Mariupol (February to May 2022). Today, this large city in southern Ukraine is under Russian control. An adviser to the mayor assured in February 2023 on Ukrainian television that at least 25,000 people were buried in the city in mass graves.
On the Russian side of the border, the death toll is at least 138, according to Russian news site 7x7, which did the count.
For both sides, the military losses are data about which the general staffs remain silent, notes AFP.
The latest official figures are from a year and a half ago and are for 5,937 Russian servicemen killed, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who reported this figure in September 2022. According to Kiev, the Ukrainian military killed were 9,000, but this information is from the end of August 2022 Mr.
Last August, the New York Times, citing American officials, estimated military losses at 70,000 killed and between 100,000 and 120,000 wounded on the Ukrainian side, as well as 120,000 killed and between 170,000 and 180,000 wounded on the Russian side. country.
On January 29, in a written reply addressed to a British MP, British Defense Secretary James Heappey indicated that losses on the Russian side totaled 350,000 people - killed and wounded.
Last Thursday, the Ukrainian military reported more than 392,000 Russian servicemen killed and wounded in two years, without specifying whether that figure included losses among pro-Russian separatists from eastern Ukraine and Wagner forces.
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