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Ukraine sacks commander as it faces fierce battles with Putin’s forces – war live

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

Ukrainian troops are locked in pitched battles with fierce fighting ongoing, as Russian troops make gains in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

However, a former MI6 intelligence over said 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.

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 comes as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky sacked Kharkiv’s commander and replaced him with brigadier general Mykhailo Drapatyi amid a surprise attack by Russia.

The surprise northeastern offensive was launched 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.


Blinken arrives in Ukraine in show of US solidarity

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reached Kyiv today, marking the first high-level visit from the US since Congress passed a long-delayed $61bn military aid package for the country last month.

Blinken arrived in Kyiv by train in the early hours today and hopes to “send a strong signal of reassurance to the Ukrainians who are obviously in a very difficult moment,” said a US official who briefed reporters travelling with Mr Blinken on condition of anonymity.

“The Secretary’s mission here is really to talk about how our supplemental assistance is going to be executed in a fashion to help shore up their defences (and) enable them to increasingly take back the initiative on the battlefield,” the official said.

Artillery, long-range missiles known as ATACMS and air defence interceptors approved by president Joe Biden on 24 April were already reaching the Ukrainian forces, the official said.

He added that Mr Blinken will reassure Ukrainian officials including president Volodymyr Zelensky of enduring US support and deliver a speech focused on Ukraine’s future, the official said.

Arpan Rai14 May 2024 03:50


Battles ‘dynamic and complicated’ as Russia makes progress

The Kharkiv incursion has effectively pinned Ukrainian forces in the region, while potentially drawing precious reserves away from heavy battles in the Avdiivka and Chasiv Yar areas of the Donetsk region, where Russia’s advance has been far more significant and strategically important.

Ukrainian local officials said they feared Vovchansk’s fate may mirror that of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, Ukrainian cities where fierce fighting and scorched earth tactics forced Ukrainian withdrawals.

Russian forces were inching closer to Vovchansk, and heavy battles were ongoing on the town’s outskirts.

Using assault infantry units Russian forces are attempting to secure positions in three directions, as Ukrainian forces attempt to dislodge them using firepower. Ukrainian commanders describe the battles as dynamic and complicated.

Sam Rkaina14 May 2024 03:27


US aid to Ukraine starting to trickle in

Small batches of U.S. military aid have started to trickle into the front line in the form of much-needed artillery, said Federenko, whose unit received some of the aid.

But it will take at least two months before incoming supplies will meet Kyiv’s needs to hold the line, he said. Until they arrive, Ukraine won’t be able to seize the battlefield initiative, he said.

“They now have an opportunity to attack us while we cannot properly reply,” he said.

Russia’s offensive seeks to take advantage of this window of time. “In order to achieve success, in my opinion, in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the enemy needed to spread … our defense forces.

Accordingly, the enemy started the campaign in Kharkiv region specifically,” Federenko said.

Top Biden administration officials and Ukrainian national security officials held a 90-minute call on Monday to discuss the situation on the ground in Ukraine as Russia intensifies its bombardment around Kharkiv.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke with Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, and head of the office the president Andriy Yermak, according to Sullivan.

“It was a detailed conversation about the situation on the front, about the capabilities that they are most in need of, and a real triage effort to say, ‘Get us this stuff this fast so that we can be in a position to effectively defend against the Russian onslaught,” Sullivan told reporters at a White House briefing.

Sullivan added that a new influx of U.S. weaponry for Kyiv was expected to be announced by the U.S. administration in the coming days.

Sam Rkaina14 May 2024 02:27


Fears for new front in Sumy region

Russian forces claimed to have taken an additional 90 square kilometers (35 square miles), though this has not been independently confirmed.

Opening a new front from two points along the border with the Russian region of Belgorod was the easiest tactic to pin down and divert Ukrainian forces from heavy battles raging in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Russia’s most sought-after prize.

“The enemy identified the most geographically convenient place … the state border line,” said Yurii Federenko, commander of the ACHILLES battalion of the 92nd brigade. His unit was among others rotated into the northeast from the Donetsk region to stabilize the northeast front, he said.

He fears a similar front may be opened in the Sumy region, which also shares a border with Russia.

The string of villages captured along the contested gray zone, where enemy shelling precludes the building of fortifications, were also the easiest for Moscow’s forces to nab.

Their momentum will likely slow as they approach better-fortified settlements, Ukrainian commanders said on Monday.

Sam Rkaina14 May 2024 01:30


Advances blamed on poor fortifications and ammo shortages

Poorly built fortifications and long-term ammunition shortages enabled Russia’s sweeping advance in the area since Friday, local officials and soldiers said.

The Kremlin’s forces were seeking to divert and distract Ukrainian troops across the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line until a big batch of new military aid for Kyiv from the U.S. and European partners arrives on the battlefield in the coming weeks and months, Ukrainian commanders and analysts said.

That makes this period a window of opportunity for Moscow and one of the most dangerous for Kyiv in the two-year war, they said.

By intensifying offensive operations, Russia seeks to stretch Ukraine‘s forces thin and forge breakthroughs.

Sam Rkaina14 May 2024 00:30


Russia’s ground offensive in Vovchansk

Russian troops were locked in intense battles with Ukrainian soldiers around the embattled town of Vovchansk in the northeast of the country on Monday.

Putin’s forces pushed ahead with a ground offensive that opened a new front and put more pressure on overstretched Ukrainian forces.

Moscow’s renewed northeast offensive, launched late last week, was the most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began.

In just two days, Moscow has captured from 100 to 125 square kilometers (38 to 47 square miles) that include at least seven villages, most of them already depopulated, according to two open source monitoring analysts.

Vovchansk, among the largest towns in the area whose pre-war population of 17,000 had dwindled to just 2,500 before Russia renewed its ground assault last week, has emerged as a key focus of the pitched battles engulfing the Kharkiv region.

By Monday, only 200 to 300 residents remained, said Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Syniehubov, as Russian forces closed in from three sides.

Sam Rkaina13 May 2024 23:45


Labour pledges ‘ironclad’ commitment to Ukraine during Kyiv visit

Labour has affirmed its “ironclad” commitment to Ukraine during a visit to Kyiv on Monday.

David Lammy and John Healey met Ukraine’s defence minister and President Volodmyr Zelensky’s top aide on the visit, during which they travelled to suburbs scarred by Russia’s occupation early in the war and paid their respects to victims in the towns of Bucha and Irpin.

“If there is a change in government at the election in Britain this year, there will be no change in Britain’s resolve to stand with Ukraine, to confront Russian aggression and to pursue Putin for his war crimes,” Healey told Reuters.

As the war grinds through its third year, Ukraine is on the back foot after delays in foreign military aid supplies and mounting pressure from Russia on the battlefield.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced an increase in British support for Ukraine and said he would lift overall defence spending to 2.5% of GDP a year by 2030.

Healey said the Labour Party “matches the government’s ambition on raising defence spending to 2.5%” as soon as possible, and would hold a strategic defence review in the first year Labour is in power.

Before coming to Ukraine, Lammy visited Washington, a key ally of Kyiv, that holds a presidential election in November that pits incumbent Joe Biden against former president Donald Trump.

“I am really pleased that Donald Trump seemed to signal the importance of granting that $61 billion [in Ukraine aid] and what we are hearing is that the aid is now beginning to come into Ukraine,” Lammy said.

Sam Rkaina13 May 2024 22:42


Multiple dead as Russian building collapses near Ukraine border

Multiple people have been killed and more than a dozen wounded after a 10-storey apartment block in the Russian region of Belgorod collapsed – in what the Kremlin claimed, without providing evidence, was a Ukrainian missile strike.

The region, which shares a border with the Ukrainian oblast of Kharkiv, has been hit several times over the past few months as Russian forces continue to attack across the border.

Footage from Belgorod showed the building collapsing after the entrance to the block appeared to give way.

Read the full article here:

Holly Evans13 May 2024 22:00


Putin nominates economist for defence job in surprise move

With zero military experience, Andrei Belousov, a wiry white-haired economist and Orthodox churchgoer who enjoys rock climbing, seems an odd pick to be Russia’s new defence minister at a time when Moscow is waging war against Ukraine.

But six sources, some of whom have worked with Belousov, described a tough-talking and professional government insider who once led a campaign to wring more money out of big business for the state, proving he had sharp enough elbows to navigate the system.

In wartime, Russia’s defence minister must oversee vast financial flows and economic and industrial planning while leaving the day-to-day battlefield management to others. Belousov’s ability to get things done – having raised around 300 billion roubles ($3 billion) with a tax on corporate windfall profits – is likely to have impressed President Vladimir Putin.

And his appointment suggests to many that Putin is reshaping Russia for a long war in Ukraine.

“(Belausov) is very organised, systematic, tough. He likes to control everything,” said one government source who has worked with Belousov, who declined to be named because of the matter’s sensitivity.

Andrei Belousov has been picked as Russia’s new defence minister (AP)

Holly Evans13 May 2024 21:00


Ukraine’s soldiers battle to stop Putin’s forces advancing around Kharkiv

Moscow’s forces have captured a number of villages and sent thousands of people fleeing their homes. They are trying to broaden the area of its most recent attack, which seemed to take Ukrainian forces by surprise and caused some to retreat from their lightly fortified positions.

The Independent spoke to a colonel from the Ukrainian general staff, who did not want to be named. He said: “The situation is serious and dynamic. It has the potential to develop dangerously very swiftly and the next few days will be critical.”

Read the full article from Askold Krushelnycky here:

Holly Evans13 May 2024 20:00

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