Day 400 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv admits that Russian Forces made Progress in Bakhmut

Ukraine | March 30, 2023, Thursday // 10:34|  views

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Day 400 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:

  • Russia detains Wall Street Journal reporter on espionage charges
  • EC: China's role in the Ukrainian conflict will be a determining factor for relations with the EU
  • Kyiv acknowledged that Russian forces had made progress in Bakhmut
  • ISW: Prigozhin may be trying to run in 2024 Russian presidential election
  • Russia and Iran: NATO uses Ukraine for subversive activities
  • Morawiecki sharply criticized the IOC for recommending that Russia and Belarus return to international competitions
  • Ukraine: The counteroffensive begins in April or May
  • Poland will limit grain imports from Ukraine
  • Putin may visit Turkey
  • The father convicted for his child's drawing was arrested in Minsk
  • Gas, uranium and diamonds. How, despite the sanctions, business with Russia continues

 

Russia detains Wall Street Journal reporter on espionage charges

 

An American reporter for the "Wall Street Journal" newspaper has been detained in Russia for espionage, Russian state agencies said, citing the FSB security service.

 

"The FSB stopped the illegal actions of the American citizen Evan Gershkovich - a correspondent of the Moscow bureau of the 'Wall Street Journal', accredited to the Russian Foreign Ministry. He is suspected of espionage in the interest of the American government," the security services reported.

EC: China's role in the Ukrainian conflict will be a determining factor for relations with the EU

China must play a role in pushing for a "just peace" in Ukraine and its role in the conflict will be vital to shaping relations with the European Union, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday, Reuters reported.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China had the responsibility to play a constructive role in achieving peace based on the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the withdrawal of invading Russian forces.

"Any peace plan that would actually consolidate Russian annexations is simply not a viable plan. We have to be frank about this," von der Leyen said in a speech in Brussels on the eve of her trip to Beijing.

"How China will continue to interact with Putin's war will be a determining factor for the future relationship between the EU and China," she stressed.

Ursula von der Leyen also noted that "the clear goal of the Chinese Communist Party is a systematic change of the international order with China at the center." She said Beijing presents an alternative vision of the world order "where security and economics take precedence over political and civil rights".

The EC chief insisted that it was "neither viable nor in Europe's interest to disengage from China" and that the two countries should instead focus on "reducing risk" and working together productively. She said that soon she will travel to Beijing with French President Emmanuel Macron for an "open and frank exchange" while the EU seeks to "balance these relations on the basis of transparency, predictability and reciprocity".

Kyiv acknowledged that Russian forces had made progress in Bakhmut

Ukraine's armed forces (VSU) have acknowledged that the Russian army and private military company Wagner have made progress in their efforts to capture Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city that has become the epicenter of fighting in the war, Reuters reported.

Yesterday, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said that Yevgeny Prigozhin's militia was gaining ground in Bakhmut.

The battle for Bakhmut has been going on for several months and is the bloodiest since the war began more than 13 months ago.

The head of the Russian mercenary group "Wagner" also said that the fighting for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut had caused serious damage to his own forces, as well as to the Ukrainian side.

The city's defenders are holding it and have repelled a large number of attacks, the Ukrainian military said. Journalists reported a noticeable drop in the intensity of Russian attacks. Russia, for its part, claims that its forces continue to gain ground in Bakhmut street by street.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that a possible fall of the key eastern city of Bakhmut could lead to international pressure on Kyiv to make unacceptable concessions for a peace deal. Zelensky also extended an invitation to Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit his country.

Yesterday, Germany approved the sending of additional military aid to Ukraine in the amount of 12 billion euros, and the International Atomic Energy Agency is developing a new concept for the protection of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The director general of the agency, Rafael Grossi, visited the headquarters in South-Eastern Ukraine in order to personally assess the security situation.

Late last night, Russia launched a satellite into space for the needs of the Ministry of Defense. The launch was carried out by the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation from a cosmodrome in the northern Arkhangelsk region. The satellite has already been launched into orbit, the Russian Defense Ministry announced early this morning.

ISW: Prigozhin may be trying to run in the 2024 Russian presidential election

The head of the private military company Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, may be using his influence in Russia to present himself as a contender in the country's 2024 presidential election, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on March 28. The Federal News Agency, which he owns, published an interview of Prigozhin with Russian journalists from RT and RIA Novosti on March 14 as well, in which the businessman was filmed mimicking the way Russian President Vladimir Putin conducts his public meetings.

ISW experts suggest that Prigozhin is either mocking Putin or hinting that he could become the Russian president. This style is unusual for the businessman, as his public video statements are usually not in such a sterile format. Prigogine usually chose to shoot himself in wide shots on battlefields or in dynamic but staged videos to portray him as candid and raw. Prigozhin also used the interview to repeat his previous arguments about the need to instill hard-line ideology in Russian fighters and to suggest that the Russian Ministry of Defense was deliberately depriving the Wagner of ammunition.

Prigozhin made a sarcastic statement on March 11 announcing that he would run for president of Ukraine in 2024. In doing so, according to a prominent Russian scholar quoted by ISW, he was implicitly promoting the narrative that he would run in the presidential election in Russia in the same year.

Prigozhin directly attacked Putin's presidential administration on January 18, suggesting that some of its officials were traitors who wanted Russia to lose the war in Ukraine. He also denied the Kremlin's claims that Russia is fighting NATO in Ukraine and cast doubt on whether there really are Nazis in Ukraine, as the Kremlin - and Putin in particular - has consistently claimed.

Former Russian officer and convicted war criminal Igor Girkin (one of Prigozhin's critics) joked on March 26 that Prigozhin was like Julius Caesar, except that the Roman achieved military victories before agitating for political elevation—probably referring to Prigozhin's failure to fulfill his promise to capture Bakhmut by September 2022.

Wagner boss admits "serious damage" to his forces

The head of the Russian private military company "Wagner" said yesterday that the fighting to take control of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut "virtually destroyed" the Ukrainian army, but also "caused serious damage" to its forces, Reuters reported, quoted by BTA.

"The battles for Bakhmut today have practically destroyed the Ukrainian army, but unfortunately they have also caused serious damage to the private military company Wagner," said the head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

It should be noted that TASS pays attention to only part of Prigozhin's statement - the one about the "destruction of the Ukrainian army", without noting the damage sustained by the head of "Wagner".

The British Ministry of Defense gives another view of the battles for Bakhmut - that Ukrainian troops have pushed back Russian mercenaries seeking to control an important supply route for Kyiv’s army, DPA reported.

British military experts note that the Wagner mercenaries were previously "several hundred meters" from the road.

The Ministry of Defense in London also noted that there was a shortage of manpower in the ranks of "Wagner" after 5,000 of the prisoners hired to fight were released from the mercenary army.

Is Russia changing the commander of the Eastern Military District?

Russian and Ukrainian sources speculate that Lt. Gen. Sergey Kuzmenko will replace Col. Gen. Rustam Muradov as commander of the Eastern Military District, ISW said. Kuzmenko previously served as commander of the 6th General Army from 2015 to 2019, and most recently served as head of the department at the Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

Kuzmenko has never held a command position comparable to that of a military district commander, and his appointment would be an unusual step, ISW argued. Russian military authorities reportedly fired Muradov due to battlefield failures and significant losses in the Donetsk region. There is no indication that Kuzmenko would be better prepared to succeed in organizing offensive operations. ISW notes, however, that it has seen no indication that such a cast has taken place.

Russia and Iran: NATO uses Ukraine for subversive activities

The foreign ministers of Russia and Iran criticized Western arms supplies to Ukraine, DPA reported, quoted by BTA.

"Once again, we draw attention to the subversive activities of NATO countries, which have been involved in the conflict in Ukraine for a long time," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference.

He announced that NATO countries are involved in the conflict and are fighting on the side of Kyiv. A favorite prop of the Kremlin is the suggestion that the West is participating in the war on the side of Ukraine. By spreading it, two goals are achieved - they justify the failures of the vaunted Russian army, supposedly facing the collective might of NATO; accuse Western countries of bearing the blame for the continuation of the conflict. In fact, Ukraine's allies provide it with financial and military support, but do not send their own soldiers to the front. Even the head of "Wagner" Prigozhin denounced this lie.

In reality, the war could end today if the Russians leave the occupied territories in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Tehran's top diplomat Hossein Amir Abdollahian offered Iran's support for mediating a peace deal.

"The West continues to arm Ukraine, which complicates the situation," he said.

The two foreign ministers also talked about attempts to revive the Iran nuclear deal and strategic cooperation between the countries.

Morawiecki sharply criticized the IOC for recommending that Russia and Belarus return to international competitions

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki slammed the International Olympic Committee, which on Tuesday recommended that athletes from Russia and Belarus be allowed to compete in international competitions under a neutral flag.

Poland has been one of Ukraine's staunchest supporters since the war with Russia began in February last year, and Morawiecki described the IOC's decision as "shameful". He added that his country would organize an action to review this decision.

"We will form a coalition of countries that will demand that the IOC withdraw from a bad and completely wrong decision," Morawiecki said at a press conference in Warsaw.

Olympic boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine has said that International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach is serving Russian interests over a proposal to re-admit athletes from Russia and Belarus to international sports competitions.

Former heavyweight world champion and 1996 Atlanta Olympics gold medalist Klitschko called the IOC's decision "wrong."

"Thomas Bach serves the interests of Russia. This decision has nothing to do with the Olympic spirit and is like this war: stupidity," wrote the Ukrainian on Twitter.

On Tuesday, the IOC offered to readmit athletes from Russia and Belarus, who have been banned from almost all sporting events since the start of Russia's military invasion of Ukraine. The International Olympic Committee is adamant that Russian and Belarusian athletes may participate under a neutral flag and under other strict conditions.

There is still no chance that the teams from Russia and Belarus will be returned to the team sports tournaments.

The Kremlin said the criteria announced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which could allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in international competitions, contained "elements of discriminatory treatment".

Athletes from Russia and Belarus, an ally of Moscow, were banned from competing last year because of the war in Ukraine.

The Kremlin will continue to work with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to protect the rights of Russian athletes, said the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov, quoted by TASS.

"As for us, we will continue to protect the interests of our athletes in every way. Of course, contacts with the International Olympic Committee will continue precisely to protect the interests of our native athletes," said Peskov.

After the first day of the meeting of the IOC Executive Committee, the president of the headquarters, Thomas Bach, clarified that the recommendations do not mean that Russians and Belarusians will be able to participate in the Olympic Games in Paris 2024 and the Winter Games in 2026.

Athletes contracted by the Russian or Belarusian military or national security services cannot compete, the same applies to team events in which athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports cannot participate, the IOC said.

Russian politicians and sports leaders have criticized as insufficient the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) plans to re-admit Russian athletes, DPA reported.

"The recommendations of the IOC are the participation of Russian athletes are arbitrary, and the separate decision for team sports is openly discriminatory. Our athletes are invited to go through the open door, but at the same time additional difficulties are created for them," Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said on the ministerial channel on the Telegram social network.

"Athletes train hard to compete ... it's their job, it's their life, and it would be inhumane to have that opportunity taken away from them," he added.

The president of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), Stanislav Pozdnyakov, commented to the TASS agency that "the announced parameters are absolutely unacceptable."

Neutral status is a violation of human rights, which was pointed out by an expert from the United Nations. We consider the proposed terms unfounded, legally unjustified and excessive. We categorically do not agree with additional anti-doping procedures for Russian athletes."

Athletes from Russia and Belarus have been banned from most international sporting events since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, and Russians have only been allowed to compete as neutrals at the last Olympics in 2018, 2021 and 2022 due to doping-related issues. sanctions.

Ukraine: The counteroffensive begins in April or May

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine plans to launch a counteroffensive in the spring, and this will likely be in April or May. This was said by Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in comments to Estonian broadcaster ERR.

According to Reznikov, in 2023 there will be "many positive changes for Ukraine". "I am confident that we will continue to liberate territories, as was done in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Kherson," he added a day after President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he had visited the border with Russia in the Sumy region.

Reznikov's comments follow mixed signals from authorities in Ukraine about when the counteroffensive will begin, most likely targeting the south of the country and positions in the partially occupied Melitopol in the Zaporozhian region. Ukrainian and Russian sources also reported a strike on Melitopol yesterday. According to Reznikov, the attack is planned in several directions, but the final decision is in the hands of the General Staff.

At the same time, a warning came from the Ukrainian authorities a few days ago that only the president, the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff can talk about the upcoming operations in the course of the war. There were also comments that the messages about the counter-offensive were deliberately mixed in order to mislead the Russian forces (in RIA "Novosti", for example, the information already appeared in the search engines with a title according to which Reznikov revealed "details").

Operations may also be affected by weather conditions. "In the spring, our land is very wet. We can only use caterpillar equipment," according to Reznikov.

"I think we will be able to see them (Leopard tanks) in April-May," the minister said when asked when the Leopard and other new Western equipment, which Kyiv has been demanding and has started arriving, will be seen at the front.

In recent days, the delivery of Western tanks and other equipment, which Kyiv identifies as necessary for the counteroffensive, has accelerated; this week, President Volodymyr Zelensky explained that more is needed to start it.

Poland will limit grain imports from Ukraine

Poland is insisting that the European Union use all the tools at its disposal to limit the amount of Ukrainian grain entering the bloc's market. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressed his country's readiness to help export this production to Africa.

"During the last European Council, I agreed with the Prime Ministers of several countries of the European Union - those that border Ukraine, that we will send a letter to Ursula von der Leyen, requesting immediate action. Immediate use of all available tools, procedures and regulations to limit the impact of Ukrainian grain on the markets of Ukraine's neighboring countries," Morawiecki said.

And he added: "We are ready to help, to take this grain and export it to Africa. But we do not agree that it should be sold on the Polish market, on the Romanian market. The president and the prime minister of Romania, with whom I spoke, were of the same opinion".

Putin may visit Turkey

Russian President Vladimir Putin may take part in the ceremony at Turkey's Akkuyu nuclear power plant.

This was announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an interview with the Turkish TV station A Haber, BTA reports.

"The Akkuyu nuclear power plant project has been successfully implemented. There is a possibility that Mr. Putin will come (to Mersin, southern Turkey) for the ceremony on April 27. It is also possible that we will participate in the ceremony together in an online format" , Erdogan said late last night.

On Monday, the Kremlin denied reports in Turkish media that Putin was planning a visit to Turkey. On Saturday, the Kremlin said that Putin and Erdogan discussed during a telephone conversation the successful implementation of joint strategic projects in the energy sector, including the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant.

Yesterday, the President of Turkey announced that the nuclear fuel will be loaded into the first unit of the Akkuyu NPP on April 27, after which the facility will officially become a nuclear site.

The project to build the first nuclear power plant in Turkey - Akkuyu NPP - is implemented by Akkuyu Nuclear Company, in which more than 99 percent of the shares are owned by the Russian company Rosatom, based on an intergovernmental agreement signed between Russia and Turkey in 2010 .

The ceremony for laying the groundwork for the nuclear power plant took place in April 2018.

Akkuyu NPP is expected to produce 35 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually, which will cover about 10 percent of the country's electricity consumption.

The construction of the first unit of the nuclear power plant is scheduled to be completed this year.

The father convicted for his child's drawing was arrested in Minsk

Alexey Moskalev, the single father who was sentenced to two years in prison for his daughter's anti-war drawing, was arrested in the Belarusian capital Minsk, the Russian website Mediazona reported.

Moskalev managed to escape before the verdict was pronounced.

"Mediazona" refers to the lawyer of the convicted person, who says that according to indirect data, Moskalev has been detained and he no longer has contact with him.

A source was quoted as saying that Moskalev switched on his mobile phone in the Minsk accommodation where he was hiding, which allowed the authorities to trace his whereabouts.

The verdict of the court was pronounced in the absence of the defendant by the Efremov district court in the Tula region on Tuesday. The spokesperson of the court announced after the end of the session that Moskalev had escaped from house arrest the night before the decision.

In addition to his daughter's drawing, which depicts a woman and a child under the Ukrainian flag with missiles aimed at them, Moskalev was also convicted of posts about Russian atrocities against the civilian population in Bucha at the beginning of the war, Mediazona said.

According to Russian media, 13-year-old Masha Moskalova was taken from her father after the investigation began and is in a children's shelter.

Gas, uranium and diamonds. How, despite the sanctions, business with Russia continues

Sixty consecutive rounds of sanctions imposed on Russia in the year since its invasion of Ukraine, the EU is in the worst punitive campaign against a foreign country since its creation. Brussels says the sanctions are aimed at reducing Moscow's revenues and its access to key technologies. However, according to the European Parliament, the impact of the sanctions "is not severe enough to limit Russia's ability to wage war in Ukraine."

Indeed, trade between the 27 EU member states and Russia continues as a result of intense lobbying, the EU's reluctance to take a more serious economic hit and concerns about the impact on global supply chains.

And instead of imposing new sanctions, the EU now intends to focus on compliance with those already announced by "weak links" such as the UAE, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Reuters summarizes the sectors in which trade between the EU and Russia more or less continues.

Trade flows

In 2021, Russia was the EU's fifth largest trading partner, with turnover reaching 258 billion euros, according to data from the European Commission. The EU mainly imported fuels, wood, iron, steel and fertilizers.

Since the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, the value of Russian imports into the EU has halved to around €10 billion in December.

In total, from March 2022 to the end of January 2023, the EU imported 171 billion euros worth of goods from Russia, according to Eurostat data.

This is well above the 60 billion that the EU claims to have allocated to Ukraine during the year. However, the amount does not include the cost of modern tanks, which are already beginning to arrive in the attacked country.

Natural gas

Last year, the EU imposed sanctions on coal and oil transported by sea from Russia. Natural gas is not subject to sanctions, but Moscow itself has halted most pipeline supplies. In 2022, the EU received about 40 percent less Russian gas than in previous years.

The picture is different for liquefied natural gas. Since the start of the war, supplies of such gas from Russia to the EU have increased to 22 bcm in 2022, up from 16 bcm. m in 2021

The volumes are still significantly smaller than pipeline deliveries, which reached 155 billion cubic meters per year before the war. But their growth has forced some member states to seek legal grounds for limiting them.

Nuclear power plants

The EU has not imposed restrictions on Russia's nuclear industry either, and Hungary, where Rosatom is about to expand the Paks nuclear power plant, and Bulgaria openly oppose such sanctions.

Imports of products of the Russian nuclear industry to the EU in 2022 amount to 750 million euros, according to Eurostat data. According to Euroatom, Russia supplied about a fifth of the uranium used in the EU in 2021.

However, France's energy ministry disputed a recently released Greenpeace report that said Paris had sharply increased its imports of enriched uranium from Russia since the start of the war. France, however, admitted that suspending existing contracts with Moscow would be more expensive than terminating them.

Diamonds

Last year, the EU bought about 1.4 billion euros worth of diamonds from Russia, with neither the import of precious stones banned nor the state-owned company Alrosa placed under sanctions.

Belgium, home to the world's largest diamond market, Antwerp, has openly lobbied that the EU does not need to impose sanctions on Russian diamonds on its own.

The EU, the US and the G-7 countries are currently developing a diamond tracking system to control the Russian trade in them. According to the World Diamond Trade Center in Antwerp, it must include India to be effective.

Chemicals and raw materials

Fertilizer imports from Russia to the EU last year totaled 2.6 billion euros, or 40 percent more than in 2021, as rising prices offset falling volumes, Eurostat said.

Potassium carbonate, also known as potash, from Russia and Belarus is heavily restricted or even banned in the EU, but other fertilizers, such as nitrogen compounds, are not subject to sanctions, says Sean Mackle of Fertilizers Europe.

Among the raw materials that are not subject to sanctions is nickel, mainly used in steel production. In 2022, the EU imported Russian nickel worth a total of around 3.2 billion euros, according to Eurostat data.

Big names, secondary sanctions

"Alrosa" and "Rosatom" are missing from the EU's blacklist, which currently includes about 1,700 companies and individuals whose access to the Community is prohibited. It also does not include Gazprombank, the financial wing of the monopoly Gazprom, as well as Russia's second-largest oil producer, Lukoil.

Transparency International has long called for Russia's access to EU lobbying to be cut off and for secondary sanctions to be imposed on those who help those sanctioned to circumvent the restrictions. A similar measure has long been in place in the US.


Novinite is still the only Bulgarian media that publishes a summary of events and highlights related to the conflict, every single day. Our coverage began on day one - 24.02.2022 and will not stop until the war has concluded. Despite the pressure, our independent media will continue to provide its readers with accurate and up-to-date information. Thank you for your support! #stayinformed

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Tags: Ukraine, Russia, Bakhmut, Putin

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