Day 350 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Biden confirmed that US will Stand with Ukraine “As Long As It Takes”
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
Russia sends thousands more mobilized to Ukraine ahead of "new offensive"
Moscow's forces are intensifying fighting in eastern Ukraine by sending new recruits to the frontline at a time when Kyiv expects a more powerful advance in the northeast and south, writes "Reuters".
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security Council, told Reuters that the Kremlin is expected to launch an offensive in Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia regions in the new phase, which Kyiv (and the West) says is a matter of days. "How successful they will be (attempts to attack) depends on us," says Danilov.
"Reuters" quoted the general staff of the army, according to which 1,030 Russian soldiers were killed in 24 hours, the highest number in a day since the beginning of the war. Yesterday, Russia announced that 6,500 Ukrainian soldiers, 341 tanks, 26 planes and 7 helicopters had been killed in January and threatened an "unpredictable level of escalation" over the sending of Western weapons, although their delivery is expected after months.
Retreating if there is a risk of surrounding Bakhmut
Yesterday at a briefing at Russia's Ministry of Defense, Minister Sergei Shoigu listed settlements captured in recent weeks, including Soledar, Kleschievka, Blakhodatne and several other relatively small points - Moscow is making progress, albeit small, from the stalemate of the second half of 2022 .
However, the fighting continues for Bakhmut, close to Soledar, in the Donetsk region. Moscow's forces are trying to encircle Bakhmut, and observers say the Ukrainian army would withdraw if the risk of that increases, given the fact that the town has no major strategic value.
Attacks are also intensifying in another direction to the south, towards Vuhledar (Ugledar in Russian), a few days after Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed that one of the reasons the "special operation" (war) is continuing is that Russia does not control all of Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk regions). Vuhledar is a location of more strategic importance, where the southern and eastern fronts meet.
London: Russia wants control of the Dnieper delta
Following the withdrawal of Russia's troops from the right (west) bank of the Dnieper and Kherson rivers, fighting on islands in the river delta continues, possibly by boat, in an attempt by Moscow to maintain its presence on key islands, is said in the British Intelligence daily briefing.
Ukraine has repeatedly used long-range artillery to neutralize these Russian outposts, and is likely working with Russia to maintain a presence in the areas to control maritime access to the strategically important river. At the same time, the likelihood of Russia trying to force the Dnieper is negligible because of the complexity and high cost, London believes.
So far, Ukrainian and Western sources have not mentioned the possibility of the Dnieper being the focus of the offensive, for which, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), yesterday's meeting at the Ministry of Defense was preparation.
The ISW also believes that the Russian military command may be encouraging a hasty launch of the offensive in an "unrealistic time frame and possibly without the necessary combat power." Yesterday's assessment of British military intelligence was quoted, according to which the goal of the new phase of operations from the beginning of January is most likely to reach the administrative borders of the Donetsk region, but this cannot be achieved due to a shortage of ammunition and the necessary combat units.
Ukraine: Waiting for a large-scale Russian offensive
Fighting continues in Ukraine, which expects Russia to launch a large-scale offensive as early as this month.
Tens of thousands of Russian soldiers are concentrated in Donbas, announced the governor of Luhansk region.
The Russian military is shelling the center of the city of Kharkiv, announced the head of the local regional administration, Oleg Sinegubov. In Telegram, he wrote that 6 to 10 S-300 missiles were launched. The local mayor, Igor Terekhov, for his part, announced that shelling of an industrial enterprise in the city was confirmed. There are also reports of a fire.
Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelensky replaced the heads of administrations in several regions of the country, and the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada approved Igor Klimenko as interior minister. Until now, he was acting as interim after the death of Denys Monastyrsky. He was killed when a Ukrainian Emergency Service helicopter crashed outside Kyiv on January 18.
Ukraine will receive 80 Leopard 1 tanks this year - this is what German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius promised during his visit to Kyiv yesterday.
About 100 more tanks will be delivered next year after they are repaired.
Poland is also strengthening its army. The Pentagon has given the go-ahead for the sale of HIMARS multiple launch systems, missile systems and other weapons systems worth a total of billion.
The European institutions dispute how information about Zelensky's visit to Brussels was leaked
Officials of the European Union made mutual accusations after information was leaked about the possible visit of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to Brussels, which raised concerns about his security, writes "Guardian".
According to reports, Zelensky is planning a trip to Brussels this Thursday to speak personally with EU leaders at a summit and to address the European Parliament in an extraordinary session.
He is believed to have left Ukraine only once since Russia invaded last February - when he made a surprise visit to Washington in December. There he addressed a joint session of the US Congress and called for more military support. This trip was planned in complete secrecy due to security concerns, although details were leaked the day before.
About 48 hours before the discussed trip to Brussels, the visit was reported by Italian media and later announced in a tweet by the European People's Party (EPP), the centre-right group in the European Parliament. "We look forward to welcoming you to Brussels, Mr. President," the tweet read. The post was quickly deleted, but captured as a screenshot by Politico.
European Council President Charles Michel, who organizes EU summits, holds the European Parliament responsible for the leak. His spokesman neither confirmed nor denied the visit, saying: "There is an open invitation to President Zelensky to visit Brussels."
The dispute has embarrassed the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, whose officials have been blamed for the leak. She is also a member of the EPP group that publicized the visit.
A spokesman for Metsola said there had been an open invitation for Zelensky to address parliament for more than a year, but declined to comment on how information about a possible visit this Thursday became public.
Last week, Zelensky played down hints of a trip to Brussels, saying "there are big risks if I go anywhere".
The dispute reveals how competing EU institutions are struggling to show solidarity with Ukraine and demonstrate their support for Zelensky, the Guardian commented.
Separately, EU diplomats said Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen were racing to show support for Ukraine. The two spoke passionately about Ukraine's prospects for joining the EU. But many member states say the union's leaders need to tone down their public rhetoric to avoid raising hopes of a quick accession to the bloc.
Visit to Great Britain
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's office announced today that Zelensky will travel to Great Britain on Wednesday to meet with the Prime Minister, Reuters reported.
Zelensky will visit Ukrainian soldiers currently undergoing training in the UK and address the British Parliament, the statement said.
Sunak's office announced plans to expand water and air training for Ukraine's armed forces and accelerate the delivery of military equipment.
"President Zelensky's visit to Great Britain is a testament to his country's courage, determination and fighting spirit, it is a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our countries," Sunak said in a statement.
According to him, the prime minister will offer the UK's support for Zelensky's plans to work for a just and lasting peace for Ukraine.
Britain will also impose additional sanctions later in the day targeting those who have helped Russian President Vladimir Putin "build his personal wealth and companies that profit from the Kremlin's war machine," the statement said.
The government has already imposed sanctions on hundreds of Russians and Russian companies since February.
The US will sell HIMARS systems to Poland for billion
The United States has announced it is approving the billion sale of 18 HIMARS precision-guided munitions systems, ammunition and other equipment to NATO ally Poland, which borders conflict-ridden Ukraine.
"The proposed sale will enhance Poland's military capacity to modernize capabilities while further improving interoperability with the US and other allies," the Defense and Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.
"Poland intends to use these defense products and services to modernize its armed forces and expand its capabilities to strengthen homeland defense and deter regional threats," the statement added.
The HIMARS launchers played a key role in Ukraine's fight against Moscow's invasion, allowing Kyiv forces to launch precision strikes on supply depots and other Russian positions.
The announcement of the sale of the missile launchers to Poland - which shares a long border with Ukraine - comes almost a year after the start of the Russian invasion.
The State Department approved the potential sale, and on Tuesday the Department of Defense and Security provided the necessary notification to Congress, which still needs to sign off on the deal.
The M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) is an upgraded, lighter and more agile wheeled version of the tracked M270 MLRS developed in the 1970s for US and allied forces.
The HIMARS carries one preloaded pod with six 227 mm guided missiles or one large pod loaded with an ATACMS tactical missile.
Ukraine has repeatedly requested ATACMS from the US, which has refused to provide them, but the sale to Poland includes 45 of them.
In late January, Poland announced a sharp increase in defense spending to four percent of gross domestic product, with the prime minister saying the country needed to arm itself "faster" in light of Russia's war in Ukraine.
In 2022, Warsaw spent the equivalent of 2.4% of its GDP on military purposes, the third highest rate among NATO countries, according to data from the transatlantic alliance.
Other European countries have also announced budget increases for their armies after Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.
Poland, which is also a member of the European Union, has signed a number of arms deals in recent months to boost its defense capabilities.
Russia is forced to sell gold and currency reserves
The state budget of Russia lacks billions. Due to the deficit in January, the country was forced to turn to its gold and foreign exchange reserves. The Russian Ministry of Finance, quoted by TASS, reported that in January Moscow sold 2.27 billion Chinese yuan on the foreign exchange market, which is equivalent to about 309 million euros, writes Deutsche Welle.
Also sold were 3.6 tons of gold from the state reserve, which corresponds to about 200 million euros.
Russia's oil and gas revenues plunge 46%
According to official data from Russia, the budget deficit in January was 1.76 trillion rubles, or about 23 billion euros. Last month, the country's spending rose to 3.1 trillion rubles - 59% more than in the previous January.
Russian authorities have not given an official reason for the rise in spending. But it is supposed to be due to the war in Ukraine, which has been going on for almost a year now. Due to economic and financial sanctions, Russia's income is limited.
In the last month alone, the country received 46% less from the sale of oil and natural gas compared to the previous year.
The deficit will grow
Therefore, foreign currency and gold reserves are likely to be used again in the coming months. According to the Ministry of Finance, Russia currently has reserves of 10.4 billion euros, 307.4 billion yuan and 551.2 tons of gold.
Already at the end of last year, the government warned that the deficit would increase significantly. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Russia's budget deficit could exceed the projected two percent.
Biden: US will stand with Ukraine "as long as it takes"
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (local time) said that America will stand with Ukraine “as long as it takes”.
Delivering his first major speech to a divided Congress after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, Biden said, "We're gonna stand with you -- as long as it takes," addressing the Ukrainian ambassador to the US, who was in attendance. "Our nation is working for more freedom, more dignity, more peace -- not just in Europe, but everywhere," he said in his second State of the Union address at the US Capitol.
The US has pledged more than USD 29 billion dollars since the war began between Russia and Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, according to the Pentagon.
Biden announced the latest package worth more than USD 2.17 billion on Friday that includes longer-range missiles for the first time.
Last month, the US committed to providing Ukraine with 31 advanced M-1 Abrams tanks, a decision made in concert with European countries providing German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
It was a reversal of a red line previously held by the US and other Western countries, like Germany. The tanks are powerful new tools, allowing Ukraine to go on the offensive and retake territory seized by Russia, reported CNN.
At the time of the announcement, Biden insisted the tanks should not be viewed by Moscow as an "offensive threat." However, last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the West was threatening Moscow "again" with German-made Leopard fighter tanks, reported CNN.
One thing that still remains off the table for the US is fighter jets. Biden previously answered "no," if he would send jets to Ukraine.
US and allied officials say jets would be impractical, both because they require considerable training and because Russia has extensive anti-aircraft systems that could easily shoot them down.
All this comes as Kyiv has ramped up pressure on allies to send more aid and weapons - especially fighter jets - ahead of a possible Russian offensive in the spring. Even now, heavy fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, with Russian attacks often targeting civilian targets, reported CNN.
Moreover, US and Western officials are urging Ukraine to shift its focus from the brutal, months-long fight in the eastern city of Bakhmut and prioritize instead a potential offensive in the south, using a different style of fighting that takes advantage of the billions of dollars in new military hardware recently committed by Western allies.
Kadyrov: Poland, it's time for a referendum in Silesia. Russia can help
“Poland, it's time for a referendum in Silesia. Russia can help.”
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov announced this on his Telegram profile. At the beginning of another essay slamming the West and Poland in particular, the dictator mocked Warsaw because, according to him, it was left without weapons.
"Now Poland will also ask the United States for arms. This decision was announced by Marcin Przydacz, head of the International Policy Bureau in the Office of the Polish President. As part of the support for Ukraine, Warsaw managed to exhaust its own military resources and is now confused: what if, after the successful completion of the SVO, Russia begins to denazify and demilitarize another country? After all, after Ukraine, Poland is on the map!"
Kadyrov has repeatedly stated that "the fight against Satanism must continue throughout Europe and first of all on the territory of Poland".
"So the Poles caught on in time. Yes, and the political situation with them is now complicated. In July, the annual March for the autonomy of Silesia will take place, which attracts more and more participants every time.
For me, this region of Poland deserves a special independent status, and there is an urgent need for a referendum, during which Russia can provide organizational assistance. Pray, Poland, pray to your masters".
Earlier, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the idea of supporting Ichkeria (Chechen Republic of Ichkeria - a separatist state entity that existed on the territory of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic from 1991 to 2000). Kadyrov hastened to answer:
"I want to comment on the words of a schizophrenic - the Polish Prime Minister. He claims that Ichkeria should be supported," Kadyrov said with a broad smile. "I have a question: Where were you when we fought for Ichkeria? When we defended the interests of independence? Why did the European countries, including Ukraine, not support us, but now they decided to support a non-existent state?" he asked and hastened to explain that today independence was impossible, "because a population of 1.5 million needs to be fed, clothed, educated ..."
EU creates a platform against disinformation from Russia and China
The European Union will create a new platform to counter disinformation campaigns by Russia and China, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced on Tuesday, as quoted by EURACTIV.
The so-called Information Sharing and Analysis Center within the EU diplomatic service will seek to track the manipulation of information by foreign actors and coordinate its actions with the 27 member states and civil society.
"Authoritarian regimes try to create disinformation and manipulate it. We have created tools to detect and expose this manipulation, but this is not enough and we need to go further," Borrell said at an event on the topic in Brussels.
He warned of a "new wave" of misinformation of fabricated images, videos and websites posing as media spreading "at the speed of light on social networks and messaging apps".
"We need to understand how these disinformation campaigns are organized in order to identify those involved in the manipulation of public opinion," Borrell added.
The idea is to have a decentralized platform for real-time information exchange with countries, cyber security agencies and NGOs, allowing for a better understanding of emerging threats and disinformation. The goal is to react to them faster.
The pressure comes as, almost a year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the EU is fighting against Russia's attempts to manipulate and distort information about the war.
Beyond the platform, Borrell also announced plans to bolster EU delegations abroad with disinformation experts "so that our voice can be heard better", in "a long-term battle" that "will not be won overnight night".
"This is one of the battles of our time and this battle must be won," he said.
The EU's existing disinformation unit, the Stratcom arm of the EU diplomatic service, noted in its first report that most of the manipulation of foreign information in 2022 focused primarily on claims supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The report compiled information from 100 cases about tactics, techniques and procedures that Russia and China use to manipulate information.
According to a sample, the techniques used are mostly image and video based, multilingual and spread through a dense network of users.
Harmful content is often spread through cross-posting across platforms, communities and groups, the report said.
In addition, the report found that Russian and Chinese diplomatic channels were also involved, particularly through platforms such as Twitter, with disinformation and other information manipulation rarely appearing in just one language.
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