Putin reshuffle ‘points to serious instability’ amid intense fighting around Kharkiv

In World


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.

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Nominee for Russian defence minister underlines need to take better care of soldiers

Andrei Belousov, the surprise choice of President Vladimir Putin to become Russia’s new defence minister, said on Monday that soldiers needed better access to housing, hospitals and welfare benefits.

Belousov, an economist who previously served as deputy prime minister, underlined the need to take better care of Russia’s soldiers in comments to a parliamentary committee, his first since Putin named him on Sunday to replace Sergei Shoigu.

State media quoted him as saying there was too much bureaucracy surrounding the payment of benefits to military personnel. There were also issues with housing and medical treatment.

“I think it’s a mess when participants in the special military operation who come back on vacation are driven from civilian medical institutions to hospitals which are often simply overcrowded. This issue needs to be resolved,” Belousov said.

The comments by Belousov, who has no military background, appeared aimed at demonstrating to members of the armed forces that he understands their concerns and will work to improve their conditions.

He was addressing the defence and security committee of parliament’s upper house, the Federation Council, as part of a confirmation process for a new government line-up after Putin started his fifth term as president earlier this month.

Alexander Butler13 May 2024 11:43

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Ukraine replaced military commander on Kharkiv frontline during Russian offensive

The Ukrainian commander responsible for the northeastern Kharkiv frontline was replaced during the Russian offensive, a military spokesperson said on Monday.

Nazar Voloshyn told RBC-Ukraine media that the decision to appoint Brigadier General Mykhailo Drapatyi to the position was taken on 11 May. He gave no reason.

Russian troops launched an offensive at the region’s border early on 10 May.

Alexander Butler13 May 2024 10:48

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Russian apartment block collapses in Belgorod explosion

Alexander Butler13 May 2024 10:27

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Russia ready if West wants to fight for Ukraine on battlefield, Lavrov says

If the West wants to fight for Ukraine on the battlefield, Russia is prepared for it, acting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by the state-run RIA new agency on Monday.

The Kremlin said last week that sending NATO troops into Ukraine would potentially be extremely dangerous, and that Moscow was closely watching a Ukrainian petition calling for such an intervention.

Alexander Butler13 May 2024 10:02

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Ukraine says Russian forces trying to stretch front line in Kharkiv region

Russian forces are attacking the border of Ukraine’s northern Kharkiv region in small groups in an attempt to stretch the front line, the region’s governor said on Monday.

“The enemy is trying to deliberately stretch it (front line), attacking in small groups, but in new directions, so to speak,” Oleh Syniehubov told local TV.

He added that Ukrainian forces were holding Russian troops back but there was a real threat that the fighting could spread to new settlements.

Alexander Butler13 May 2024 10:01

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Ukraine evacuates thousands of civilians as fighting rages in Kharkiv region near border with Russia

Alexander Butler13 May 2024 09:36

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Jumping into the sky over Estonia, British paratroopers train for a confrontation with Russia

Alexander Butler13 May 2024 09:12

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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

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‘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

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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



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