New foreign secretary David Cameron meets Zelensky
Vladimir Putin will set out Russia’s view of the “deeply unstable world situation” in a shock G20 speech this week, the Kremlin has said, as Ukraine claimed growing numbers of Moscow’s troops were deserting the frontline in Donetsk.
Ukraine’s military has been bracing for a “third wave” of Russian assaults on the key city of Avdiivka – but a spokesperson claimed Moscow was being forced to rely increasingly on penal recruits and reservists due to its soldiers refusing to take part in casualty-heavy assaults.
Further south, Kyiv’s forces claimed to have pushed Mr Putin’s forces three to eight kilometres back on the banks of the Dnipro River, in what would mark the first significant advance by Kyiv’s forces months into a grindingly slow counteroffensive.
Ukrainian and Russian forces have been entrenched on opposite sides of the vast waterway in Kherson for more than a year, until Kyiv claimed last week to have finally established multiple footholds on the river’s eastern bank.
Analysis | Russia’s plan B in Ukraine is working – now is not the moment for the West to turn away
In this Independent Voices piece, James Nixey – director of Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia Programme – writes:
When Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, was fooled recently by two well-known Russian “comics” – surely paid-up Kremlin agents – into saying she was “tired” of the war in Ukraine and that everyone would soon be looking for a “way out”, too many of her counterparts in the West would have tacitly agreed (and perhaps sympathised: she is hardly the first to be pranked by these two).
But Ms Meloni deserves no sympathy. She thought she was talking to the head of the African Union Commission so this should have been a chance to exercise statecraft and reason with the supposed representative from the Global South and argue that Russia’s war in Ukraine is nothing if not colonialist itself – a desperate attempt to maintain its empire.
But Ms Meloni’s admission was worse than just not showing moral leadership. She was also playing into Russia’s hands by parroting its narrative: being tired and looking for a way out of the war is precisely what Vladimir Putin now wants from the Western world.
Andy Gregory20 November 2023 12:27
Nato concerned by secessionist rhetoric and Russian influence in Bosnia
Jens Stoltenberg has said Nato is concerned by secessionist rhetoric and Russian influence in Bosnia, after months of Serb leaders increasingly saying they want to split and join Serbia.
Bosnia emerged from civil war in 1995 with a federal structure uniting a Serb-dominated republic and a federation of Croats and Bosniak Muslims. But the leader of Serbian entity, Milorad Dodik, has increasingly said in recent months that he aims to secede and join neighbouring Serbia.
“We are concerned by secessionist and divisive rhetoric as well as … foreign interference including Russia,” the Nato chief told reporters in Sarajevo, during a tour of the western Balkans region.
“This undermines the stability and hampers reform,” Mr Stoltenberg said, adding that all political leaders must work to preserve unity, build national institutions and achieve reconciliation.
Nato had deployed about 60,000 troops in Bosnia after the war, which were replaced by an EU peacekeeping force in 2004. Last year, the EU almost doubled its size to 1,100 troops, amid fears that instability from the Ukraine war could spill over to the western Balkans.
Andy Gregory20 November 2023 11:58
Putin to address G20 summit this week, Kremlin says
Vladimir Putin will set out Russia’s view of what it sees as the “deeply unstable world situation” when he addresses an upcoming virtual G20 summit, the Kremlin has said.
Russian state TV presenter Pavel Zarubin said on his Telegram channel on Sunday that it would be the “first event in a long time” including both the Russian president and Western leaders.
According to the state RIA news agency, the G20 virtual summit will be held on Wednesday.
Andy Gregory20 November 2023 11:15
Russia relying on penal recruits to stem increase in deserters on Donetsk frontline, Ukraine claims
Growing numbers of Russian soldiers are deserting the frontline in Donetsk, Ukraine’s military has claimed as it braces for a long-awaited “third wave” of attacks by Moscow’s forces in Avdiivka.
The Institute for Study of War think-tank cited Ukrainian Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun as saying that Russia may soon intensify artillery preparations for the new wave of assaults on the strategically key city.
Moscow’s forces have not actively used heavy military equipment Avdiivka in recent days, have decreased aviation use in the area, and are increasingly using infantry, he said, claiming that Russia’s significant losses mean only 10 to 15 percent of some detachments’ original personnel remain.
In remarks on Sunday, Mr Shtupun claimed there were growing numbers of Russian deserters and personnel who refuse to conduct offensive operations, leading Russian commanders to use physical force and barrier troops to push Russian forces to fight, with an increased reliance on mobilised reservists and penal recruits.
Andy Gregory20 November 2023 11:06
EU sanctions tend to have ‘boomerang effect’, Russia claims
The Kremlin has claimed that European Union sanctions tend to have a “boomerang effect”, as Moscow faces the prospect of an EU ban on imports of Russian diamonds.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that such a move had been anticipated for a long time, but was likely to backfire.
“As a rule, it turns out that a boomerang effect is partially triggered: the interests of the Europeans themselves suffer. So far, we have been able to find ways to minimise the negative consequences of sanctions,” he claimed.
EU diplomatic sources told Reuters last week that the proposal under discussion was to ban direct diamond imports from Russia from 1 January, and to implement a traceability mechanism by March which would prevent imports of Russian gems processed in third countries.
Andy Gregory20 November 2023 10:54
Exclusive: Andriy Shevchenko urges the world not to forget Ukraine
On the morning of 24 February 2022 – a date etched in every Ukrainian’s mind – Andriy Shevchenko was woken by a phone call from his mother. She told him through tears that Russia was invading. Shevchenko was in London, where he lives with his wife and four sons; his mother and wider family were in Ukraine, under attack.
Shevchenko has barely slept since. “It’s almost impossible,” he says. “It’s going to be almost two years since the full war started, and every day I wake up, check the phone – what’s the news? Are we going to be attacked in Kyiv? Are we going to be attacked in a different city? How many drones? How many rockets? Where have the rockets hit? And then, talking to my friends – who’s dead? It’s a normal day for us.”
Shevchenko is using his platform as one of Europe’s greatest footballers, a Ballon d’Or winner and a Chelsea cult hero to keep the spotlight on Ukraine at a time when the world’s attention has turned to the Middle East. In the West, the initial shock caused by Russia’s invasion has subsided, and a sense of normalisation has crept in. He is understandably worried that Ukraine’s cause might be forgotten.
“I hope not,” he says. “Because for us, it’s everything. For us, it’s exist or not exist.”
Our senior sports writer Lawrence Ostlere has the full exclusive interview here:
Andy Gregory20 November 2023 10:29
Kremlin ‘deeply regrets’ Finland’s border closures
The Kremlin has said it deeply regrets Finland’s decision to close crossings along the two countries’ vast border on Saturday.
Finland closed four crossings on Saturday in a bid to halt the flow of asylum-seekers, having accused Moscow of funnelling migrants to the frontier in retaliation for Helsinki’s ascension to Nato and increased Western military cooperation since the invasion of Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied Finland’s accusation on Monday and insisted that Russian border guards were carrying out their duties in line with the rules.
Asked about the closure of the four crossings, Mr Peskov told reporters: “This causes nothing but deep regret, because we had long-standing, very good relations with Finland, pragmatic, based on mutual respect.
“And of course, we regret that these relations were replaced by such an exclusively Russophobic position, which the leaders of this country began to espouse,” he said.
Andy Gregory20 November 2023 10:08
Moscow protest shows lengthy Russian deployments to frontline ‘unsustainable’, says UK
Protests in Moscow by the wives of Russian soldiers show that their lengthy deployments to the front line are increasingly viewed as unsustainable, Britain’s Ministry of Defence suggested.
Russian wives and mothers have been making daily online appeals protesting against the conditions of their loved ones’ service since the invasion of Ukraine last February.
“However, Russia’s draconian legislation has so far prevented troops’ relatives from coalescing into an influential lobbying force, as soldiers’ mothers did during the Afghan-Soviet War of the 1980s,” said the ministry”.
But on 7 November, they held a rare street protest in Moscow’s central Teatralnya Square, unfurling banners demanding the rotation of their partners away from the frontline.
Police broke up the protest within minutes, according to the ministry, which added: “However, the protestors’ immediate demand is notable.
“The apparently indefinitely extended combat deployments of personnel without rotation is increasingly seen as unsustainable by both the troops themselves and by their relatives.”
Andy Gregory20 November 2023 09:44
US defence secretary’s visit to Kyiv is his first since early months of war
US defence secretary Lloyd Austin has made an unannounced visit to Kyiv today, as he pushes to keep money and weapons flowing to Ukraine.
Mr Austin travelled by train from Poland, and is scheduled to meet with senior Ukrainian officials.
It marks his second trip to Kyiv – with his first having taken place in April 2022, just two months after Russia’s invasion.
Andy Gregory20 November 2023 09:21
Two killed in Kherson after Russia shells parking lot, officials say
Two people have been killed this morning after Russian forces shelled a parking lot in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, according to officials.
Regional prosecutors said they had opened a war-crimes investigation into the artillery strike, which occurred at around 9am and injured one other person.
Kherson governor Oleksandr Prokudin said the two dead were drivers for “a private transport business”.
Images posted on Telegram showed firefighters dousing cars that had been blasted apart, one day after a separate strike on the city wounded five people, including a 3-year-old girl.
Russian forces have regularly shelled Kherson from across the Dnipro River since the city was liberated last November by Ukrainian troops – who are now seeking to push Moscow’s troops away from the river after establishing a foothold on the opposite bank.
Andy Gregory20 November 2023 08:55