Putin sends message to West as he is sworn in for fifth term as Russian president

Vladimir Putin’s decision to replace his defence minister as part of a cabinet reshuffle points to “serious instability right at the heart” of his regime, a former MI6 intelligence officer has said.

Sergei Shoigu was rated by many as the second most powerful person in Russia, Christopher Steele told Sky News, suggesting the change goes beyond a “normal” reshuffle.

“It’s important to understand that he’s been one of Putin’s closest allies, former head of the FSB and so on for many years,” he said. “[This indicates] really quite serious instability right in the heart of this regime.”

The changes in the Kremlin come as Russia has launched a surprise new northeastern offensive into Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, which Volodymyr Zelensky said had escalated rapidly since it began on Friday.

“Defensive operations and fierce battles are taking place in the Kharkiv region along a significant border strip. Some villages have effectively turned from a grey zone to a war zone,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address.


Ukrainian soliders divided over victory, reports suggest

Ukrainian soldiers have expressed divison over the prospect of winning the war against Vladimir Putin amid a Russian advance in the east of the country.

Nikita and another soldier, Pavlo, who said he had spent 13 days digging trenches to deter Putin’s troops in northeastern Ukraine, were sure Russia would not take Kharkiv and couldn’t win the war.

But Leo, who joined the army just after the invasion in February 2022 and has spent the last two years moving across the front line, was not as sure.

He told The Sunday Times: “If the nation was united, we would have won already. Our nation, all people are too fragmented.”

Asked if his country could hope for eventual victory, he paused and slowly exhaled before replying: “No”, according to the same newspaper.

Alexander Butler13 May 2024 08:33


‘We’re not allowed to bring our baby from Ukraine’: Refugees refused after sudden UK rule change

A Ukrainian refugee couple who fled to the UK have been refused permission for their two-year-old daughter to join them after the government suddenly changed its sponsorship rules, The Independent can reveal.

Oleksandra and Yaroslav were offered shelter from Russia’s war under the Homes for Ukraine scheme in April 2022, leaving newborn Anna with her grandparents in Kyiv until they were settled in the UK with work and their own home.

But after finally overcoming the hurdles of finding accommodation and setting up their own marketing business in the UK, the couple’s submission in April for their daughter, now a toddler, to join them was refused by the Home Office, after rules for the schemes allowing Ukrainians to do so were tightened overnight in February.

“Now it seems like it’s impossible to bring Anna,” Oleksandra told The Independent. “I was almost there – and I wasn’t expecting [the legislation] to change. I’m very sad and frustrated, I don’t know what to do and how to react. If I am not able to bring Anna, we will be forced to leave everything and go somewhere else.

Arpan Rai13 May 2024 07:58


Russia deploys usual war tactic in Kharkiv as thousands flee the region

Thousands of civilians have fled Russia’s renewed ground offensive in Ukraine’s northeast that has targeted towns and villages with a barrage of artillery and mortar shelling, officials said.

At least one Ukrainian unit has been forced to withdraw from the region due to intense bombardment and fierce shelling, capitulating more land to Russia’s forces across less defended settlements in the so-called contested gray zone along the Russian border.

Analysts monitoring the war have said that the renewed Russian push is designed to exploit ammunition shortages before promised Western supplies can reach the front line.

Ukrainian soldiers said the Kremlin is using the usual Russian tactic of launching a disproportionate amount of fire and infantry assaults to exhaust Ukrainian troops and firepower. By intensifying battles in what was previously a static patch of the front line, Russian forces threaten to pin down Ukrainian forces in the northeast, while carrying out intense battles farther south where Moscow is also gaining ground.

The town of Vovchansk, among the largest in the northeast with a prewar population of 17,000, emerged as a focal point in the battle by yesterday afternoon.

Volodymyr Tymoshko, the head of the Kharkiv regional police, said that Russian forces were on the outskirts of the town and approaching from three directions. At least 4,000 civilians have fled the Kharkiv region since Friday, when Moscow’s forces launched the operation, governor Oleh Syniehubov said in a social media statement. Heavy fighting raged yesterday along the northeast front line, where Russian forces attacked 27 settlements in the past 24 hours, he said.

Arpan Rai13 May 2024 07:29


Russia says it downs 16 Ukraine-launched missiles, 31 drones

Russia’s air defence systems have destroyed 16 missiles and 31 drones that Ukraine launched at Russian territory overnight, including 12 missiles over the battered border region of Belgorod, the country’s defence ministry said today.

The drones damaged five houses were damaged in Belgorod, but according to preliminary information, there were no injuries, Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

Additionally, the Russian defence ministry claimed a dozen guided missiles were launched from a Ukrainian Vilkha multiple rocket launcher.

The ministry also said four Storm Shadow aircraft guided missiles and seven drones were downed over Crimea, eight drones were destroyed over the Kursk region and four were intercepted over the Lipetsk region.

A drone sparked a short-lived fire at an electrical substation in the Kursk region, Igor Artamonov, the governor of the region in Russia’s south, wrote on Telegram.

“There are no casualties. The fire in the territory of the electrical substation is being extinguished,” Mr Artamonov said.

Arpan Rai13 May 2024 06:57


Putin’s cabinet rejig shows ‘serious instability in heart’ of Kremlin

Vladimir Putin’s latest move to reshuffle his cabinet to replace trusted defence minister Sergei Shoigu and security chief Nikolai Patrushev shows “serious instability right in the heart” of the Russian regime, a former MI6 intelligence officer has said.

“It’s important to understand that he’s been one of Putin’s closest allies, former head of the FSB and so on for many years… and was rated by people to be probably the second most powerful man in Russia after Putin himself,” Christopher Steele told Sky News.

He added: “I think what this indicates is not just a reshuffle along normal governmental lines. It’s really quite serious instability right in the heart of this regime.”

Mr Putin began a cabinet shakeup yesterday, proposing the replacement of Sergei Shoigu as defence minister as he begins his fifth term in office.

In line with Russian law, the entire Russian Cabinet resigned on Tuesday following Putin’s glittering inauguration in the Kremlin, and most members have been widely expected to keep their jobs, while Mr Shoigu’s fate appeared uncertain.

Mr Putin signed a decree yesterday appointing Mr Shoigu as secretary of Russia’s national security council, the Kremlin said. The appointment was announced shortly after Mr Putin proposed Andrei Belousov to become the country’s defence minister in place of Mr Shoigu.

Arpan Rai13 May 2024 06:39


Vovchansk residents escape amidst shelling as Russian troops advance in outskirts of Ukraine town

Barney Davis13 May 2024 06:06


Active ‘war zone’ spreading in Kharkiv, warns Zelensky

Russia’s offensive in the frontline region of Kharkiv is escalating, Volodymyr Zelensky said, with more villages engulfed in active fighting.

“Defensive operations and fierce battles are taking place in the Kharkiv region along a significant border strip. Some villages have effectively turned from a grey zone to a war zone. Occupiers are attempting to seize control of some of them while using others to advance,” he said in his nightly address.

He added: “Our goal is clear: inflict as many losses as possible on the occupiers. The situation is also very difficult near Vovchansk. The city is under constant Russian fire. Our military continues to counter Russian attacks. Locals continue to receive assistance.”

Mr Zelensky has urged everyone in the Kharkiv region to stand firm. “Both those in the military, defence forces, local governments, and communities. Our resilience and Ukrainian results in combat are key,” he said in his nightly address.

This comes as Russian forces attacking the Kharkiv region reached the outskirts of the border town of Vovchansk.

Vladimir Putin’s troops smashed into the Kharkiv region on Friday, opening up a northeastern front in the 27-month war that has long been waged in the south and east. Kharkiv, Ukraine‘s second largest city, is 30 km (18 miles) from the Russian border.

Arpan Rai13 May 2024 05:30


Ministry of defence must be ‘open to innovation’ after appointing Andrei Belousov

Putin’s press secretary Dmitriy Peskov said the president decided the ministry of defence should be headed by a civilian to be “open to innovation and advanced ideas”.

He said: “The one who is more open to innovations is the one who will be victorious on the battlefield.”

Mr Peskov also claimed the change made sense because Russia was “approaching a situation like the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, when the military and law enforcement authorities accounted for 7.4% of state spending”.

Barney Davis13 May 2024 05:06


Death toll in Russia’s Belgorod climbs to 15

At least 15 people were killed and 20 injured on Sunday when a section of a Russian apartment block collapsed after being struck by fragments of a Soviet-era missile, launched by Ukraine and shot down by Russia, Russian officials said.

Russia’s defence ministry said the attack took place at 8.40am GMT and involved at least 12 missiles.

The attack is one of the deadliest to date on the region of Belgorod, involving Tochka ballistic missiles and Adler and RM-70 Vampire (MLRS) multiple launch rocket systems.

“Fragments of one of the downed Tochka-U missiles damaged an apartment building in the city of Belgorod,” the Russian ministry said.

Visuals from the scene showed at least 10 storeys of the building collapsing. Later, as emergency services scoured the rubble for survivors, the roof collapsed and people ran for their lives, dust and rubble falling behind them.

Russia’s emergency ministry updated the death toll from 13 to 15 in the early hours today. Local reports said at least 20 people were injured and at least once child was among the missing. Rocket sirens went off as emergency workers searched the rubble.

Both Ukraine and Russia say they do not target civilians in the war, which Russia launched at its smaller neighbour in February 2022. Its invasion has killed thousands, displaced millions and turned Ukrainian cities into rubble.

Arpan Rai13 May 2024 05:02


Ukrainian drones attack several Russian regions in early morning

A fire was reported at a Russian electrical substation in Lipetsk region after the facility came under Ukrainian drone attack this morning, while attacks were also reported in the bordering Belgorod and Kursk regions, officials said.

“There are no casualties. The fire in the territory of the electrical substation is being extinguished,” Igor Artamonov, the governor of the Kursk region in Russia’s south, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia said it destroyed at least eight drones over the Kursk region that borders Ukraine, the region’s administration. It was not immediately clear whether there were casualties or serious damage.

Several “air objects” were also downed over the Belgorod region, south of Kursk, also along the border with Ukraine, governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram.

The attack damaged five houses, he added, but according to preliminary information there were no injuries.

Ukraine does not typically comment on these reports of drone attacks but says that targeting Russia’s military, transport and energy infrastructure undermines Moscow’s war effort and is an answer to the countless deadly attacks by Russia.

Arpan Rai13 May 2024 04:39

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