Thu, 30 March 2023
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Ukraine updates: Putin threatens to boost nuclear forces

Update : 23 Feb 2023, 17:08

Russia's President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would pay "increased attention" to strengthening its nuclear forces. Meanwhile, the war is set to dominate a controversial OSCE meeting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday spoke of maintaining increased attention to strengthening Moscow's nuclear forces.

Putin's remarks were issued by the Kremlin to mark Thursday's Defender of the Fatherland public holiday. They came two days after he announced that Russia would suspend its participation in a key nuclear disarmament treaty.

"As before, we will pay increased attention to strengthening the nuclear triad," Putin said, referring to nuclear missiles on land, sea and air.

He added that the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are able to carry multiple nuclear warheads, would be deployed this year. A CNN report had cited US officials as saying the Sarmat had seemingly failed a test this week.

"We will continue mass production of air-based hypersonic Kinzhal systems and will start mass supplies of sea-based Zircon hypersonic missiles," Putin said.

"A modern, efficient army and navy are a guarantee of the country's security and sovereignty, a guarantee of its stable development and its future."

On Tuesday, Putin suspended the New START pact with the US, as he accused Ukraine's Western allies of turning the war into a global conflict by arming Kyiv.

US President Joe Biden called the move a "big mistake," and Ukrainian officials decried Russia's "nuclear terrorism."

Finland to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Sweden 'open' to do the same

The Finnish Defense Ministry said Helsinki will send three Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.


 "We will send more defense materiel and participate in the Leopard cooperation together with our partners," Finland's Defense Minister Mikko Savola said in a statement.

The aid package will also include "training related to their use and maintenance," the statement added.

Separately, Sweden's Defense Minister Pal Jonson told local news agency TT that the Nordic country is preparing to present another aid package to help Ukraine.

Jonson said Sweden's main contribution in terms of ground warfare equipment will be armored infantry fighting vehicles, which will be included in the new package.

As support in the Swedish parliament grows to contribute with some of the country's 120 German-made Leopard tanks, Jonson said: "We are open to that and we are in close dialogue with above all Germany about it."

US says sanctions have 'very' significant effect on Russia

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said ahead of a G20 meeting in India that sanctions have had a negative impact on Russia. 


"The way I see it, our sanctions have had a very significant negative effect on Russia so far. While by some measures the Russian economy has held up better than might initially have been expected, Russia is now running a significant budget deficit," she said.

Yellen told reporters that Moscow was "finding it extremely difficult" to get the material it needed to replenish its munitions and repair 9,000 tanks that were destroyed in the war.

"Russia is running down its holdings in its sovereign wealth fund so... the price cap that we have put on Russian oil is clearly substantially reducing Russia's revenues," she said.

Sanctions against Russia have proved to be challenging for the Russian economy, but it has performed far better than expected.

Although the Kremlin made a lot of key economic data classified after it launched the war on Ukraine, the collapse many predicted has seemingly not materialized.

Russia's official statistics agency has said the economy had contracted by 2.1% in 2022, having predicted a contraction of 12%.

UK: Russia could be preparing for offensive in Vuhledar

The British Defense Ministry said in its regular intelligence update that Russian forces were likely preparing to attack the Donetsk town of Vuhledar, in eastern Ukraine.

The report said the town has experienced heavy shelling recently, noting that Russia suffered "costly failed attacks" in the area in early February and late 2022.

It added that the Russian commander who is likely responsible for the Vuhledar operation, Colonel General Rustam Muradov, "is likely under intense pressure to improve results following harsh criticism from the Russian nationalist community after previous setbacks.

"However, it is unlikely that Muradov has a striking force capable of achieving a breakthrough."

After row with Russian army, Wagner says to receive ammunition

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who leads the Wagner Group of mercenaries, said that his fighters were set to receive additional supplies of ammunition

"Today at 6 a.m., it was announced that the shipment of ammunition has started," Prigozhin said in a statement on Telegram.

"Most likely, the ball is now rolling. So far, it's all on paper, but, as we were told, the principal documents have already been signed."

Earlier this week, Prigozhin had accused Russia's defense minister of "treason," claiming that the military bosses had denied Wagner ammunition out of personal spite to him. 

But on Thursday, he wrote: "Many thanks to those who acted various ways — to those ordinary citizens who did everything they could, and to those, including those in high offices, who exerted pressure and made decisions ... so that they began to give us ammunition."

Spanish PM visits Kyiv

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has arrived in the Ukrainian capital in a show of support before of the one-year anniversary of Russia's war in Ukraine.

"Returning to Kyiv today, one year since the start of the war," Sanchez tweeted with a video of him stepping off the train in Kyiv. "We will stand with Ukraine and its people until peace returns to Europe," he wrote in Spanish and Ukrainian.

Sanchez is due to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles had confirmed a day earlier that Madrid would deliver six of its German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Moldova denies Russian claims Ukraine is trying to invade Transnistria

Moscow has accused Kyiv of planning to invade Transnistria, a Moldovan breakaway region bordering Ukraine. The Moldovan government denied the claims via its Telegram channel and urged its citizens to remain calm.

Russian media quoted Russia's Defense Ministry as saying that Ukraine would try to carry out an armed operation "under a false flag" in Transnistria in the near future.

The ministry also claimed that the Ukrainian Azov Regiment was planning to use a pretext for the invasion by on staging an by alleged Russian forces.

Moscow did not provide any evidence backing its allegations, but said it was ready to respond to any change on the border between Ukraine and Transnistria.

Russian troops have been stationed in Transnistria since the 1990s.

Moldova accused Russia in December of planning to invade its territory. Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, recently warned that Moldova could meet the same fate as Ukraine.

OSCE meeting to be dominated by war in Ukraine

Lawmakers from member countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are holding a two-day meeting that is set to focus on the war in Ukraine.

The gathering of around 300 parliamentarians comes as Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters one year.

Ukraine and Lithuania are boycotting the meetings to protest the attendance of Russian delegates.

Margareta Cederfelt, president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, has said the summit would not become a platform for Russia's propaganda.

More on the war in Ukraine

Yevgeny Prigozhin has admitted to leading the Wagner Group of mercenaries and a massive internet troll farm. But is he a threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin, or is he just doing what the Kremlin leader wants?

For a year now, weapons have not stood still in Ukraine and thousands have been killed. With campaigns becoming more sophisticated and spreading through numerous channels, DW takes a look at how disinformation has changed in the past 12 months, on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides. Watch the full report below.

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