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UKRAINE UPDATE: 8 FEBRUARY 2023

Allies pledge more tanks to Kyiv as Russia claims gains in Bakhmut; BP slows retreat from oil

Allies pledge more tanks to Kyiv as Russia claims gains in Bakhmut; BP slows retreat from oil
A Leopard 2 A6 main battle tank during a visit by German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius to the Bundeswehr’s Panzerbataillon 203 tank squadron in Augustdorf, Germany, on 1 February 2023. (Photo: Sascha Schuermann / Getty Images)

Ukraine will receive another batch of German-made battle tanks as Russia’s defence chief said Kremlin forces were ‘advancing successfully’ in a battle for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands will supply Kyiv with as many as 178 older-generation Leopard 1 battle tanks. In a joint statement on Tuesday, the defence ministers said the first deliveries would arrive in Ukraine in “a few months” in a package that includes training, spare parts and ammunition.

President Vladimir Putin’s government is meanwhile pressuring the Bank of Russia to be more upbeat about the economic outlook and signal it’s ready to loosen monetary policy. Ahead of the bank’s first board meeting of the year, officials want it to send a clearer hint that interest rates may come down later in 2023, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

Key developments

On the ground

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said border troops shot down a Russian fighter jet covering the infantry’s advance over Bakhmut with a portable anti-aircraft missile system. Russia carried out six missile strikes and 24 air attacks over the past day, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook. Kremlin forces also unleashed 75 barrages from multiple-launch rocket systems, hitting civilian targets in the Kharkiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Kherson regions, according to the statement. Ukrainian troops repelled assaults near 10 settlements in Donetsk and Luhansk, the General Staff said.

Ukraine to get as many as 178 Leopard 1 tanks from EU allies  

“Within the coming months, Ukraine will receive at least 100 Leopard 1 A5 battle tanks,” Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands said in a statement. Germany’s Defence Ministry said that the final number could reach 178.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius, making an unannounced visit to Kyiv, was quoted by German public broadcaster ZDF as saying the deliveries would be made in stages, with “about 20, 25” to arrive by the European summer and more than 100 by early next year.

US drone maker’s Latvian plant catches fire

A drone-making factory in Latvia belonging to Edge Autonomy caught fire at around 3pm local time, near the capital, Riga, the Leta newswire reported, citing the fire and rescue department. The cause of the fire wasn’t known, nor the extent of the damage, it said.

Edge Autonomy provides “innovative autonomous systems, advanced optics, and resilient energy solutions to the US Department of Defense, US Federal Civilian Agencies, allied governments, academic institutions, and commercial entities,” according to its website.

 

 

 

Russia’s latest information war tactic: Spoofing foreign media 

The Russian government is supporting operations that impersonate international media outlets as part of its disinformation campaigns, which have become more sophisticated and active since its invasion of Ukraine, according to a European Union study.

Print and TV media are the most frequent targets of Moscow’s impersonation, with magazines seeing their entire style copied by Russian actors to give legitimacy to the content, in particular when targeting Ukraine, said a report on foreign information manipulation published on Tuesday by the EU’s External Action Service.

Russia’s central bank pressed to signal looser policy

Governor Elvira Nabiullina and her colleagues so far are unwilling to suggest any imminent easing because of risks of higher inflation, people familiar with the matter said, and instead are likely to indicate that rates have little room to fall.

Read more: Putin’s government leans on central bank to signal looser policy

But they are open to improving forecasts, with the government content if the central bank delivers a message that puts it on a track toward looser policy in the months ahead, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the unusual conflict within the economic team.

Russia warns of ‘unpredictable’ consequences

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu warned the West that its beefed-up military aid for Ukraine could lead to “unpredictable” consequences, according to the Tass state news service.

The US and its allies are supplying Kyiv with “heavy offensive weapons” and openly calling for the capture of Russian territory, Shoigu said, according to Tass. “These steps are dragging Nato countries into the conflict and could bring the escalation to an unpredictable level.”

The US and European nations have agreed to supply battle tanks and longer-range missiles to Ukraine in a bid to help it decisively roll back Russian forces occupying its territory this year.

Storms force Russian warships into port 

Heavy storms on the Black Sea have forced Russia to return some of its warships armed with cruise missiles to their bases, according to Natalia Humenyuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military.

Two Russian navy vessels that are not armed with missiles remain on duty on the Black Sea, while the Kremlin’s navy is not present on the Azov Sea because of the weather conditions, Humenyuk said.

BP slows retreat from oil

BP said it would cut its oil and gas output more slowly this decade after the supply disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine boosted prices and delivered record profits.

Read more: BP slows retreat from oil as Russia war drives record profit

While the British company said it was doubling down on the transition to cleaner energy with an additional $8-billion of spending to 2030, it will ramp up investments in fossil fuels by the same amount.

 

 

 

Ukraine sees no sign Russia is ready for peace talks

Ukraine’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Andriy Melnyk, told the German broadcaster ZDF that Ukraine’s most urgent need is for aircraft like the Eurofighter or Tornado, urging Chancellor Olaf Scholz to move quickly. He also said Ukraine had received no indications from the Kremlin that Russia was ready to engage in genuine peace talks.

“You need two for a dance and you also need two for peace talks,” Melnyk said. “They are talking constantly about negotiations, but at the same time they’re bombing cities and apartment buildings,” he added. “So we need the weapons to try to force Putin’s hand.”

He declined “for security reasons” to say whether President Volodymyr Zelensky would accept an invitation to attend this week’s EU summit in Brussels, but said his presence there was under discussion.

Russia ‘lacks munitions, troops’

Russia has been trying to restart major offensive operations in Ukraine since early last month with the aim of capturing the parts of the Donetsk region it does not already occupy, according to the latest UK Ministry of Defence intelligence update.

Russia’s military had only managed to gain a few hundred metres of territory per week, almost certainly because it lacks munitions and troops, the ministry said, adding that Russia could still accumulate the forces it needs in the coming weeks to “substantially affect the outcome of the war”.

China urges quick end to war

A Chinese envoy to the United Nations called for a swift end to the conflict and an immediate halt to the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as well as “maximum efforts to stop the conflict from escalating to a nuclear crisis”, according to a report by state news agency Xinhua.

“China once again calls on relevant parties to bear in mind the interest of the people, strive to promote peace, and try every possible way to push parties to the conflict to resume peace talks and end the war at an early date,” Dai Bing, China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, told a Security Council briefing, Xinhua reported. DM

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