We’re starting a new week hot off the heels of the announcement that Vladimir Putin is replacing defence minister Sergei Shoigu after nearly 12 years in the post.

The long-time ally of the Russian president is set to be replaced by Andrei Belousov, a 65-year-old former deputy prime minister with a background in economics. 

Meanwhile, Mr Shoigu will become secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council, replacing close Putin confidante Nikolai Patrushev, whose new position is yet to be announced.

A former MI6 intelligence officer told us the move pointed to “serious instability” at the heart of Russian leadership – and potentially something deeper going on behind the scenes.

Thousands flee Russian offensive

The reshuffle comes after Russia renewed its offensive in northeastern Ukraine on Friday, with fighting raging over the weekend and forcing thousands of civilians to flee.

Ukraine’s military chief Oleksandr Syrskyi insisted his forces were doing all they could to contain the Russian threat, but admitted it was proving a challenge. Fierce battles have forced at least one Ukrainian unit to withdraw.

Voloydmyr Zelenskyy described heavy fighting in the Kharkiv region and to the east on Sunday, with battles reaching the edges of Vovchansk, which has become a war zone since Russia launched the surprise new offensive.

Delays in weapon supplies

The reopening of a major front in the northeast will stretch Kyiv’s already undermanned and outgunned forces as they wait for Western weapons, our security and defence editor Deborah Haynes reported.

Ukraine says serious delays by US Congress in passing a massive aid package including military support for Kyiv has cost its forces dearly on the battlefield.

There’s hope that the new aid will reach frontlines quickly in order to push back against Russia, which has capitalised on Ukraine’s shortage of manpower and shells to seize the momentum in the conflict.

‘Extremely dangerous’ moment

Lord Cameron says Russia’s surprise offensive in Kharkiv marks an “extremely dangerous” moment in the conflict, as he reiterated that the UK must to “everything we can” do help Kyiv.

Appearing on Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips programme, he lamented the amount of time the US had taken to approve its multi-billion dollar aid package but said it will make a difference.

And the foreign secretary said morale among the Ukrainians is strong despite them suffering with a lack of ammunition.

“They’re still inflicting appalling casualty rates on the Russians. If only the Russian people could see how many people they’re losing,” he said.

Russia claims Ukraine continuing to strike its territory

As Russia ramped up its attacks on Ukraine, last week was also marked by a number of further cross-border assaults in the Belgorod region that Moscow has attributed to Kyiv.

Last Monday, Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov claimed six people were killed and 35 others, including two children, were injured as Ukrainian drones hit the region.

A further attack on Thursday injured eight people and damaged scores of
residential buildings and cars, he said.

Mr Gladkov claimed cross-border shelling by Ukraine’s armed forces killed a woman and injured 29 others on Saturday, while yesterday saw at least 13 people reported dead after an apartment block collapsed in what Russia has reported to be a Ukrainian missile attack.

Source link