Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

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UK calls on China to tell Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine during Xi visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to China’s President Xi Jinping during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders’ summit in Samarkand on Sept. 16, 2022.

Sergei Bobylyov | AFP | Getty Images

The UK is calling on China to ask Russian leader Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine during Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s Russia visit next week.

“If China wants to play a genuine role in restoring sovereignty to Ukraine, then we would obviously welcome that,” a spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.

“We’re clear that any peace deal which is not predicated on Ukraine’s sovereignty and self determination is not a peace deal at all. So we will continue to call on China, as we have done before, to join other countries across the world in calling on Putin to withdraw his troops,” the spokesperson added.

China’s foreign ministry and the Kremlin both confirmed Friday that Xi would be making a visit to Moscow from March 20 to 22, at Putin’s invitation, which will be the Chinese premier’s first visit to Russia since the full-scale war in Ukraine began.

The two countries celebrated a partnership with “no limits” in early 2022, just before Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. Beijing still refuses to call Russia’s actions an invasion or take part in Western sanctions against Russia.

— Natasha Turak

Slovakia to send 13 MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine

Two Polish MiG-29s sit at an airbase in Malbork, Poland, in this file photo from August 2021.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Slovakia’s government approved a measure to send its Soviet-era MiG jets to Ukraine, officials said. The jets are in varying states of readiness and were retired last summer, so will likely need substantial maintenance to be operational.

The Eastern European NATO member announced it would send 13 of the jets to Ukraine, one day after Poland said it would supply Kyiv with four of its jets. Ukraine has long requested fighter jets in order to protect its skies against Russian attacks and combat Russian forces in the country.

“#Slovak gov. just approved sending 13 #MiG29s to #Ukraine! Promises must be kept&when ZelenskyyUa asked for more #weapons incl. fighter jets, I said we’ll do our best. Glad others’re doing the same,” Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger wrote on Twitter.

NATO allies’ granting of Kyiv’s request more than a year into the war signals a significant shift in their willingness to send Ukraine advanced weaponry that could further provoke Russia as well as give Ukrainian forces a major edge in the fighting.

— Natasha Turak

Russian and Wagner Group forces gaining ground in Bakhmut, but broader offensive is slowing: UK MoD

Russian and Wagner Group forces have gained ground in the embattled city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, where brutal fighting has continued for months, Britain’s Ministry of Defense wrote in its daily intelligence update.

“In recent days, Russian and Wagner Group forces have obtained footholds west of the Bakhmutka River in the centre of the contested Donbas town of Bakhmut. Over the preceding week, the river had marked the front line. Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to defend the west of the town,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.

However, it added, “more broadly across the front line, Russia is conducting some of the lowest rates of local offensive action that has been seen since at least January 2023.”

That’s likely because “Russian forces have temporarily depleted the deployed formations’ combat power to such an extent that even local offensive actions are not currently sustainable,” and Russian leaders “will likely seek to regenerate the offensive potential of the force once personnel and munition stocks are replenished,” it said.

— Natasha Turak

China’s Xi set to visit Russia next week in first visit since Putin ordered invasion of Ukraine

Poland to send Ukraine 4 MiG-29 jets in coming days, says president

An army MiG-29 aircraft exhibited at the presentation of the aircraft AWACS E-3A Component from the Geilenkirchenand the F-16 and MiG-29 from the 31. and 33.

Darek Majewski | Gallo Images | Getty Images

Poland will send Ukraine four MiG-29 fighter jets in coming days, the president said on Thursday, making it the first of Kyiv’s allies to provide such aircraft.

One of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, Warsaw has taken a leading role in persuading sometimes hesitant allies to provide Kyiv with heavy weaponry. It has said that any transfer of jets would be as part of a coalition.

“Firstly, literally within the next few days, we will hand over, as far as I remember, four aircraft to Ukraine in full working order,” Andrzej Duda told a news conference.

“The rest are being prepared, serviced.”

On Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that deliveries could be made in four to six weeks. Duda said that Poland had roughly 10-20 MiG 29 jets.

NATO allies in the former communist east such as Poland and Slovakia have been particularly vocal supporters of Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

Slovakia has also been considering whether to send MiG-29 jets to Ukraine but has yet to reach a decision. Poland has sent 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Asked last week how many MiG-29 planes Warsaw might supply, the head of the president’s office, Pawel Szrot, said it would “certainly not” be as many as 14.

— Reuters

Zelenskyy calls for tribunal to punish Russia for alleged war crimes

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signaled Kyiv is preparing its soldiers for counteroffensives and praised soldiers for defending the country despite the “insane pressure” Russian forces have been putting on them.

Julien De Rosa | Pool | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy again called for a tribunal to punish Russia for war crimes alleged to have been committed over more than a year of its invasion of Ukraine.

“The day will come and a tribunal will be created that will restore justice to our people. A tribunal that will punish this aggressor in the same way that past aggressors were punished,” he said in a nightly address, according to an NBC News translation.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine is “mobilizing all partners necessary for this.”

A U.N.-backed inquiry accused Russia of war crimes including torture and attacks on civilians.

Russia has previously said it does not target civilians.

— Jacob Pramuk

Blinken says it’s ‘imperative’ that Russia allow Black Sea grain deal to continue

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken attends the Freedom of Expression Roundtable, in New York, U.S., September 19, 2022. 

Craig Ruttle | Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it is “imperative” that Russia allow the deal that reopened key Ukrainian ports to continue.

Speaking during a trip to Niger, the top U.S. diplomat said the Black Sea Grain Initiative has helped to alleviate food insecurity caused by the war and a Russian naval blockade, which held up critical Ukrainian agriculture exports to the world.

“So millions of people around the world and especially here in Africa, rely on this initiative to help deal with food insecurity. It’s imperative that it continue, and it’s imperative that Russia allow it to continue,” he said, according to NBC News.

Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations are holding discussions on extending the agreement.

— Jacob Pramuk

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