Moment Russian jet crashes into US drone
Slovakia will send its 13-strong fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, becoming the second Nato member behind Poland to answer president Volodymyr Zelensky’s pleas for planes to help Kyiv repel Russia’s invasion.
Prime minister Eduard Heger announced his government’s unanimous decision on Friday to send the grounded fleet of Soviet-era jets, just hours after Poland’s Andrzej Duda declared plans to send four jets within days, with more to follow.
The Kremlin retorted on Friday that the fighter jets would be destroyed and would not make a difference to the course of the conflict.
China and Russia struck a “no limits” partnership in February 2022, just weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, and Beijing has recently offered to broker peace in the war.
Meanwhile, Russia was likely trying to recover debris from the US surveillance drone it allegedly intercepted over the Black Sea, according to the Pentagon.
Ukrainian soldiers sent to defend Bakhmut ‘fear they are being sent to their deaths’
Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Bakhmut fear “they are being sent to their deaths” amid a relentless push by Russian forces to capture the city, my colleague Martha McHardy reports.
Vladimir Putin’s forces are said to outnumber Ukrainians by two or three times on the Bakhmut front, where an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 troops are currently fighting.
“When they drive us to Bakhmut, I already know I’m being sent to death,” a Ukrainian soldier named Volodymyr told the Kyiv Independent.
The 54 year-old, an infantryman from the 93rd Mechanized Brigade, said he struggled to eat after fighting for months. “[The Russians] keep firing at us, but we don’t have artillery,” he said. “So we have nothing to attack them back with. I don’t know if I will return or not. We are just getting killed.”
Andy Gregory17 March 2023 12:29
Fighter jet deliveries shows Nato members ‘increasing direct involvement’ in war, says Kremlin
The Kremlin has described the fighter jets pledged by Poland and Slovakia as another example of Nato members “raising the level of their direct involvement in the conflict”.
“The equipment deliveries naturally won’t have any impact on the outcome of the special military operation but it may bring more misfortune to Ukraine and Ukrainian people,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Andy Gregory17 March 2023 12:01
Kremlin accuses Kyiv of ‘illegally attacking’ Ukrainian Orthodox Church
The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of “illegally attacking” the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), after officials in Kyiv ordered the church to leave the 980-year-old monastery complex in the capital where it is based.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders have accused the long-established Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) – which accepted the authority of the patriarch of Moscow until last year’s invasion – of undermining Ukrainian unity and collaborating with Russia.
“With these illegal attacks on the church, the Kyiv regime is once again demonstrating its character, the very character we are fighting, the very character that we must stop through the [military] operation that is taking place,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Since October, the Security Service of Ukraine has carried out searches at UOC churches, imposed sanctions on its bishops and financial backers, and opened criminal cases against dozens of clergymen.
Andy Gregory17 March 2023 11:29
What is China’s peace proposal on how to end Ukraine war?
China has offered a 12-point peace proposal to end the war in Ukraine, with China’s president Xi Jinping set to visit Moscow next week.
Beijing foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Mr Xi’s visit to Russia – his first in nearly four years – was in part to promote “peace”.
My colleague Matt Mathers has this report on the contents of China’s peace proposal:
Andy Gregory17 March 2023 11:02
Kremlin vows to destroy Slovakian and Polish fighter jets
Following Slovakia and Poland’s pledges to send Ukraine fighter jets, the Kremlin has retorted that it will destroy the Soviet-era planes and that they will make no impact on the course of the war.
Announcing the decision, Estonia’s prime minister Eduard Heger said that his government is “on the right side of history.” Earlier, Mr Heger tweeted that military aid was key to ensuring Ukraine can defend itself and all of Europe against Russia.
Defense minister Jaroslav Nad said Slovakia will receive €200m from the European Union as compensation and unspecified arms from the United States worth €700m in return for sending its 13-strong fleet – which was grounded last year – to Kyiv.
Andy Gregory17 March 2023 10:40
Slovakia to give Ukraine fleet of fighter jets
Slovakia has become the second Nato member to approve plans to send fighter jets to Ukraine.
Prime minister Eduard Heger announced his government’s unanimous decision to give Ukraine its fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets – which Slovakia no longer uses.
On Thursday, Poland’s president said his country will give Ukraine around a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets.
President Andrzej Duda said Poland will hand over four of the Soviet-made warplanes in the coming days and others that need servicing later.
Andy Gregory17 March 2023 09:50
Russia decorates pilots for intercepting US drone
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu presented pilots with awards for preventing a US drone from entering the area of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Russian state media has reported, citing Moscow’s defence ministry.
The drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday after being intercepted by Russian fighter jets, according to Washington.
Russia denies that its jets came into contact with the drone, but said it would seek to recover the debris from the Black Sea – an attempt the US insisted was highly unlikely to be successful.
Andy Gregory17 March 2023 09:19
Russian losses mean commanders face choice between offensives and ‘conducting credible defence’, says UK
Russia’s combat power is so depleted that Vladimir Putin’s commanders “will likely be forced to choose between carrying out offensive operations and conducting a credible defence of the full line”, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has claimed.
Russian and Wagner Group forces have obtained footholds west of the Bakhmutka River in the centre of Bakhmut in recent days, with Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to defend the west of the town, according to UK intelligence,
“However, 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,” the ministry said.
“This is most 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.
“Russian leaders will likely seek to regenerate the offensive potential of the force once personnel and munition stocks are replenished. In the meantime, commanders will likely be forced to choose between carrying out offensive operations and conducting a credible defence of the full line.”
Andy Gregory17 March 2023 08:55
Russia likely trying to recover US drone debris in Black Sea, Pentagon says
The Pentagon has said it has “indications that Russia is likely making an effort to try to recover” the US drone it alleges was intercepted by Moscow’s fighter jets over the Black Sea.
Russia had previously stated its intention to look for debris in deep waters near Crimea, and a US official told Reuters that Russian ships had been seen near the area where the drone had crashed, though they did not appear to have recovered any parts of the drone yet.
The Pentagon said it believed it was “very unlikely that they would be able to recover anything useful”.
Andy Gregory17 March 2023 08:27
Xi’s state visit aims to deepen bilateral trust with Russia, says China
China’s president Xi Jinping will exchange opinions on major international and regional issues with Vladimir Putin during his state visit to Russia, China’s foreign ministry has said.
The objective of the visit is to further deepen bilateral trust, spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a news briefing.
Andy Gregory17 March 2023 07:59