Ukraine has set up a joint defence venture with German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall AG to service and repair western weapons sent to help Kyiv against Russia’s full-scale invasion, officials said.
Ukraine expects Germany to provide it with an additional €1.4bn to enhance its air defences and help it get through a second winter at war with Russia, Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, said.
The EU is on track towards its goal of ending its reliance on Russian fossil fuels within this decade, the European Commission said.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, vowed to maintain military pressure on Russian-occupied Crimea. “We have not yet gained full fire control over Crimea and surrounding waters, but we will,” Zelenskiy told a meeting of the Crimea Platform, a diplomatic initiative he launched in 2021. “This is a question of time.”
Two people died and others were injured in Russian shelling of Kherson, the local governor claimed.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, met the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, in Tehran earlier.
Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has pledged to maintain Germany’s aid to Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion even as Berlin supports Israel in its conflict with Hamas.
Speaking at a German-Ukrainian business forum in Berlin, attended by the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmygal, and joined virtually by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Scholz vowed Kyiv would have assistance “as long as necessary”.
“We are backing Ukraine economically, financially, with humanitarian aid and also with weapons,” Scholz said.
“This support will in no way be impacted by the fact that we of course since the horrible morning hours of 7 October have focused on Israel and the Middle East with the greatest sympathy and concern.”
Military analysts say that Buryatia, as well as some of the other Russian regions which are home to Indigenous peoples, have provided a disproportionately large number of soldiers for Russia’s war effort, Reuters reports.
Civil society group Free Buryatia Foundation has said the drive to mobilise a disproportionate number of Buryats was a political choice, as the Kremlin saw Buryatia as posing less of a risk in terms of anti-government protests.
Ukraine launches joint defence venture with German arms manufacturer
Ukraine has set up a joint defence venture with German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall AG to service and repair western weapons sent to help Kyiv against Russia’s full-scale invasion, officials have said.
Announced by Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, at a German-Ukrainian business forum in Berlin, the venture will also help with the local production of some key equipment made by Rheinmetall AG, he said.
It will bring “cooperation between our countries to a qualitatively new level and will allow us to build together the arsenal of the free world”, Shmyhal told the forum, according to Reuters.
Oleksander Kamyshyn, minister for strategic industries, said Ukraine was committed to launching the production of western weapons locally to keep up with growing Ukrainian demand with the war now at the 20-month mark.
He said he met 25 major German defence producers in Berlin.
Rheinmetall said in a statement it owned a 51% stake in the venture that would operate on Ukrainian territory.
Shmyhal told reporters in Berlin:
The first project will be repairing of German equipment, tanks, heavy armoured vehicles, Panzerhaubitzers and other German equipment.
All other production projects – it’s not public information, but we have some plans what to produce in Ukraine, but the companies will announce it by themselves when the time will come.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has said his country is committed to strengthening the UN and has a “vision for its reform”.
A Russian court has rejected an appeal by an opposition activist who was sentenced to seven years in prison over social media posts that prosecutors said “justified terrorism”.
Russia has banned criticism of its military campaign and has orchestrated a huge crackdown on dissent as troops fight in Ukraine.
The activist, Mikhail Krieger, 63, was sentenced in May on charges of “justifying terrorism” and “inciting hatred”.
The charges were brought in relation to Facebook posts from 2019 and 2020, in which Krieger said the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, should be “hanged” and praised men who had attacked Russian FSB officers as “heroes”.
At the hearing on Tuesday, he denounced the Kremlin’s Ukraine offensive and – according to the rights group Memorial – shouted: “Glory to Ukraine!”
His appeal was rejected by a Russian military appeals court in the town of Vlasikha, a closed military city 20km (12 miles) west of Moscow, Memorial said on social media. Krieger spoke to the court via video link from a Moscow prison …
During his trial, he refused to apologise for his posts and said he was being persecuted for his anti-war and openly pro-Ukrainian position.
Since the beginning of Moscow’s full-scale invasion last year, Russian soldiers have damaged 21,000 private houses and pieces of “social infrastructure” across Ukraine, with 1,788 of these buildings being “completely destroyed”, the governor of the Kherson region, Oleksandr Prokudin, has said.
“And this is only in the de-occupied territory,” he posted on Telegram.
“At the same time, the shelling does not stop. So we have more and more destruction. And people need somewhere to live. To restore homes. They want to stay and work in their native land.”
Finnish police have said they retrieved a large anchor from the seabed near where a Baltic Sea gas pipeline ruptured earlier this month, and were investigating whether it belonged to a Chinese container vessel, Reuters reports.
Police have previously said damage to the Balticconnector subsea gas pipeline and two Baltic Sea telecoms cables was cause by external mechanical force and were investigating whether this was a deliberate sabotage or caused by accident.
Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday said they were focusing their probe on the Chinese NewNew Polar Bear container vessel which had travelled above the pipeline and the cables at the time of the damage.
The NBI on Tuesday said they had established that the NewNew Polar Bear was in fact missing one of its front anchors, and said they had tried unsuccessfully to contact the ship to ask whether this was the one retrieved in the Gulf of Finland.
The damage to a telecommunications cable running under the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Estonia was “purposeful”, Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, has said.
“We will not be more precise than that as of today,” Kristersson said at a press conference, after Swedish divers had investigated the seabed, the Associated Press reports.
A spokesperson for the Swedish navy, Jimmie Adamsson, told the Swedish public broadcaster SVT that “we see seabed tracks nearby, but we don’t know if it’s deliberate or an accident”.
On 17 October, Sweden reported damage to an undersea telecommunications cable that authorities believe occurred at the same time as damage to an undersea gas pipeline and telecommunications cable between Finland and Estonia.
Sweden’s civil defence minister, Carl-Oskar Bohlin, said at the time that the cause of the damage was unclear, adding that it was “not a total cable break” but “partial damage”.
Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, told the press conference on Tuesday that member countries had:
Tens of thousands of kilometres of internet cables, of gas pipelines over power cables, all the oil pipelines crossing the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and of course, these types of undersea critical infrastructure [are] vulnerable.
The military alliance was working “closely with the private sector”, Stoltenberg added, because “most of this critical infrastructure is owned by private companies, operated by private companies”.
Russia scrambled an Su-27 fighter jet after two US B-1B strategic bombers approached its border over the Baltic Sea, the Russian state news agency RIA has reported.
As the fighter jet approached, the US bombers “performed a U-turn” away from the Russian border, the defence ministry said, according to Reuters.
An airstrike by Russian forces has damaged a hospital and a fire station in the Kherson region, Ukrainian authorities have said.
The State Emergency Service, posting on Facebook today, shared pictures of the roof and windows of what it said was a local fire station, which appeared to have sustained damage.
The regional military administration said more than 50 windows, the roof and doors of the hospital were damaged in overnight shelling. It added that two women, aged 63 and 66, sustained injuries.
Ukraine expects new €1.4bn 'winter aid package' from Germany, PM says
Ukraine expects Germany to provide it with an additional €1.4bn to enhance its air defences and help it get through a second winter at war with Russia, Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, has said.
“Germany is preparing a €1.4bn winter aid package for Ukraine, including air defence equipment,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.
Kyiv has been pushing its western partners for additional air defence systems, fearing that Moscow plans to increase the number of airstrikes on energy facilities as the temperature tumbles, according to Reuters.
Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, met the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and discussed support for Ukraine during an official visit to Germany on Tuesday, the Kyiv Independent reported the government’s press service as saying.
Shmyhal said at the meeting:
Germany plays an important role in strengthening Ukraine’s defence capabilities, as well as in cooperation with the European Commission. Thank you for this, and we count on your continued unwavering support.
Slovakia’s president, Zuzana Caputova, will appoint a new government led by the three-time prime minister Robert Fico on Wednesday, her office said in an emailed statement.
Fico, whose party won the country’s general election last month, has backed humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Ukraine but no further military supplies. He has also called on the EU to force peace talks, a line similar to that of Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, but rejected by Ukraine and its western allies.
Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, has said it is gratifying that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has submitted a bill approving the Nordic country’s Nato membership bid to Turkey’s parliament for ratification.
Sweden applied last year to join the alliance, but Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve its bid.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has reiterated that preparing for negotiations for his country to join the EU is a top priority.
“Our Europe is at a special moment”, he said. “For decades, it has been separated into two territories: one where our common values are protected by European institutions, and another where they are not. Now, at last, we are a few geopolitical steps away from eliminating this division.
“Ukraine has been implementing the [European] Commission’s seven recommendations as quickly as possible to open accession talks this year. We have done a lot. More than could be expected from a country at war. But Ukraine isn’t seeking political discounts, we’re demonstrating the necessary pace.
“This is a top priority for Ukraine, being ready for the political decision to begin Ukraine’s EU accession negotiations this year. And I hope the same can be said for the European Union. We have laid a solid foundation for this.”
EU on track to end Europe's reliance on Russian fossil fuels, Commission says
The EU is on track towards its goal of ending its reliance on Russian fossil fuels within this decade, the European Commission has said.
The continent is heading into its second winter with scarce Russian gas, after Moscow slashed deliveries last year following its invasion of Ukraine – inflicting an energy crisis of record-high gas prices in Europe.
In a report published on Tuesday, Brussels said the EU expected imports of Russian gas to drop to 40bn-45bn cubic metres this year, compared with 155bn in 2021, the year before the Ukraine war. The 27-country bloc has imposed sanctions on Russian coal and seaborne oil imports.
“The worst effects of the crisis may now be behind us but there is no room for complacency,” the commission said. “Energy markets remain vulnerable, fossil fuel subsidies have increased during the crisis, the inflation is still high and our critical infrastructure needs to be protected, including from sabotages.”
Volodymyr Zelenskiy says he will keep up military pressure on Russian-occupied Crimea
The Ukrainian president has vowed to maintain military pressure on Russian-occupied Crimea.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s comments came in a video address to a security conference in Prague on Tuesday that was marred by technical glitches and a possible hacking, Reuters reports.
Kyiv has ramped up strikes on Russian forces in the Black Sea and Crimea, which was seized and annexed by Moscow in 2014, as Ukrainian forces press on with a near five-month counteroffensive.
In remarks disrupted by technical faults, including one that intermittently modulated his voice to a higher pitch, Zelenskiy said the “illusion” of Russia’s domination of Crimea and the Black Sea had been shattered.
The Russian (Black Sea) fleet is no longer able to operate in the western part of the Black Sea and is gradually fleeing from Crimea. And this is a historic achievement.
Ukrainian attacks in and around Crimea have included strikes on a Russian airbase on the peninsula, a Black Sea fleet command post in Sevastopol, and the only bridge linking Crimea to Russia.
“We have not yet gained full fire control over Crimea and surrounding waters, but we will,” Zelenskiy told a meeting of the Crimea Platform, a diplomatic initiative he launched in 2021. “This is a question of time.”
A spokesperson for the Czech parliamentary speaker said the website for the event, which brought together lawmakers from various countries, “had come under a hacking attack” but did not specify by whom.
The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has said he wants to place EU support for Ukraine on a sustainable footing by the end of the year to help Kyiv on its path to joining the bloc.
The “Ukraine facility” would bundle grants, loans, private and public investments alongside the grants Ukraine already had access to as a candidate for EU accession, he told a forum in Berlin aimed at encouraging German businesses to invest there.
Anyone who invests in Ukraine now is investing in a future EU member state that will be part of our legal order and our internal market.
He said more than 2,000 German businesses were operating in Ukraine despite the war, with 35,000 employees working at suppliers to Germany’s automotive sector. Berlin would host a Ukraine reconstruction conference in June, he added.
Moldova has blocked access to more than 20 Russian media websites because of what it called an information war being waged against the country.
An Intelligence and Security Service decree listed 22 Russian news resources subject to the restriction, including well-known ones such as NTV, Russia Today, Ren TV, the state media holding VGTRK and others.
Ukraine’s gross domestic product could grow by more than 4% in 2023 and at least 5% next year, the prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, has said at a business forum in Berlin.
The country’s economy shrank by about a third last year due to the war with Russia.
Putin body doubles claim 'absurd hoax', Kremlin says
The Kremlin has rejected speculation about Vladimir Putin’s health, saying the president is fit and well.
In a regular call with reporters, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, , also denied suggestions that the Russian leader was using body doubles, calling them an “absurd hoax”.
Journalists had asked Peskov about Putin’s health after an unsourced report by a Russian Telegram channel, picked up by some western media, that the president had experienced a serious health episode on Sunday evening.
Separately, he said the Kremlin was aware of a new package of western sanctions being prepared against Moscow over its military actions in Ukraine but they could not frighten Russia.
Russia had been living under sanctions for a long time and was ready to live under them for another five to 10 years, Peskov added.
He also said the west’s resources to support Ukraine with weapons and ammunition were limited. Commenting on a Washington Post report headlined “Ukrainian spies with deep ties to CIA wage shadow war against Russia”, Peskov said Russia had long known that the Ukrainian special services were under the “close control” of the US and UK.
The use of convicts in the Russian army shows the “extreme difficulty” the country has in generating combat infantry, the UK Ministry of Defence has said.
In an intelligence update posted this morning, the ministry said Russia largely continued to rely on specially designated Shtorm-Z units for local offensive operations in Ukraine.
“These company-sized groups were likely first fielded in 2022. There is a realistic possibility that Russia originally envisioned them as relatively elite organisations which could seize the tactical initiative”, the MoD posted on X, formerly Twitter.
“However, since at least spring 2023, Shtorm-Z have effectively become penal battalions, manned with convicts and regular troops on disciplinary charges. Multiple accounts suggest the units are given the lowest priority for logistical and medical support, while repeatedly being ordered to attack.
“Russian troops have often conducted an effective defence. However, the existence of Shtorm-Z highlights the extreme difficulty Russia has in generating combat infantry capable of conducting effective offensive operations.”
Russia has lost almost 300,000 personnel since the start of the war, Ukraine has claimed.
The Defence Ministry of Ukraine said this morning that Russia had lost 295,510 personnel, an increase of 810 since Monday. It claimed the losses included 5,105 tanks, 7,081 artillery, 320 aircraft and 9,447 vehicles and fuel tanks.
Ukraine’s postal service will be offering its depots as bomb shelters, amid fresh Russian air strikes, according to reports.
The national news agency Ukrinform spoke to the co-founder of Nova Poshta, who confirmed the service would arrange the additional shelters.
Volodymyr Popereshniuk said: “We have built bomb shelters at all depots. But now it’s about making small bomb shelters inside the buildings so people can be as close to them as possible.
“In the case of Kharkiv, a strike takes place in less than a minute, literally 30-40 seconds. You need to manage to hide during this time.”
Ukrainian authorities feel newly empowered to prosecute the once-powerful tycoons known as oligarchs, thanks to shifting political realities and the war with Russia, Kyiv’s justice minister has said.
Denys Maliuska spoke to Reuters in an interview on Monday as investigators were looking into several prominent billionaires for crimes including embezzlement, fraud and money laundering in cases mostly opened during the Russian invasion.
“Everyone was afraid of the consequences of indicting oligarchs but this is no longer the case,” he said.
Ukraine had long struggled to shake off the influence of its shadowy tycoons, who used the huge industrial wealth they amassed after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union to gain political influence and power.
But Russia’s invasion has eaten into their influence, destroying industrial assets in the east and south, while the television channels they controlled have been broadcasting under a centralised signal since Moscow’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022.
Two die in Russian shelling of Kherson, Ukranian governor says
Two people have died and a further 14 were injured, including one child, in Russian shelling of Kherson, the local governor claims.
Oleksandr Prokudin, posting on Telegram, said Russia had launched 101 attacks, firing 597 shells over the past day.
He said: “The Russian military targeted the residential quarters of the populated areas of the region; a critical infrastructure facility and plant in Beryslav; the territory of the park in Kherson.
“As a result of the Russian aggression, two people died, another 14 were injured, including one child.”
Russian naval forces destroyed three uncrewed Ukraine-launched boats in the northern part of the Black Sea off the Crimean peninsula, Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday.
“Anti-sabotage missiles and bombs hit the area where the unmanned boats were detected,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app. It added that an anti-mining and an “anti-sabotage” operation was being carried out off Sevastopol port, which is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
It was not immediately clear whether the incident caused any casualties or damage.
Reuters could not independently verify the report. There was no immediate comment from Kyiv.
Russia’s Black Sea fleet was early on Tuesday “repelling” a Ukrainian attack on Sevastopol, a Moscow-installed governor of the Black Sea port said.
(When Russia says its forces “repelled” for “foiled” the Ukrainians, we tend to conclude only that they were “attacked by” the Ukrainians, with the outcome not stated.)
Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, said it was likely a Ukrainian “underwater sabotage” attack.
Russia's foreign minister meets Iranian president in Tehran
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has met the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, in Tehran.
Iran has supplied Shahed kamikaze drones to Russia for the war on Ukraine. Kyiv has urged Tehran to stop supplying the drones, which Moscow uses to attack Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.
The US has said it is concerned by the “burgeoning defence partnership” between Iran and Russia, which poses risks not only to Ukraine but also to Iran’s neighbours. Lavrov went to Tehran shortly after an Asia trip to China and North Korea – the latter also a supplier of arms to Russia for use against Ukraine.
Lavrov’s trips are partly a Russian effort to foster support for Moscow’s complaint that “the collective west” is trying to break up Russia.
Officially, Lavrov discussed energy and logistics projects with the Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian.
Few details were provided, but predictable banalities issued forth from Russia’s foreign ministry:
In a traditionally trusting atmosphere, current aspects of the bilateral agenda were substantively discussed with an emphasis on further building up the entire complex of multifaceted Russian-Iranian partnership.
Lavrov was also there for regional talks hosted by Iran about the south Caucasus region after Azerbaijani forces in September recaptured the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh and thousands of ethnic Armenians fled.
Good morning, this is the Guardian’s daily live blog covering Russia’s war in Ukraine. The day begins against the backdrop of these developments:
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has met with the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, in Tehran.
Damage to a telecommunications cable between Sweden and Estonia this month was caused by “external force or tampering”, the Swedish government said.
Three residents of Kherson oblast were arrested for allegedly helping Russian forces target locations for strikes in the city of Kherson, the regional prosecutor’s office announced on Monday, according to the Kyiv Independent.
In an intelligence update, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russian government spending had become increasingly focused on the costs of its war on Ukraine.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Vladimir Putin’s Russia “is the most heinous evil the world has witnessed since WWII” and that the Russian president and other “Russian perpetrators must face justice for their crimes”.
Kuleba cited Forbes as reporting that Russia has spent around $167bn (£137bn) on the war between February 2022 and August 2023, with which it could have built almost 24,000 kindergartens across Russia, or more than 4,500 maternity wards, or about 17,000 schools. “Instead, Russian war criminals have bombed Ukrainian kindergartens, maternity wards, schools, and hospitals, destroying almost 120,000 civilian structures in all.”
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has submitted a bill for Sweden’s Nato membership to parliament for ratification, the Turkish presidency said. Turkey and Hungary are the only Nato members yet to ratify Sweden’s membership request.
Trade between Russia and India in the first eight months of 2023 more than doubled from the previous year, reaching a record high of almost $44bn, the Kyiv Independent cited Russian state-run media RIA Novosti as having reported.
The US has sought forfeiture of a $300m superyacht, Amadea, that it says is controlled by sanctioned billionaire Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov. The yacht was seized in Fiji and is docked in San Diego. The case is before court in Manhattan. Kerimov and his family are worth $10.7bn, according to Forbes.
A lioness rescued from a zoo in Ukraine could be rehomed in the UK with her cubs. BBC News reported that Aysa was pregnant when she was abandoned at a private zoo in the Donetsk region at the start of Russia’s invasion. She was moved to another facility and gave birth to cubs Teddi, Emi and Santa. All four are temporarily homed at Poznan zoo in Poland.