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UKRAINE UPDATE: 27 FEBRUARY 2023

Saudi foreign minister makes surprise Kyiv visit; Russia faces ‘eternal struggle’ with West— Putin

Saudi foreign minister makes surprise Kyiv visit; Russia faces ‘eternal struggle’ with West— Putin
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Kyiv on Sunday, 26 February 2023. (Photo: Twitter)

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud met officials including President Volodymyr Zelensky during a surprise trip to Kyiv on Sunday. In a TV interview taped last week, Vladimir Putin said Russia faced an ‘eternal struggle’ with the West.

Vladimir Putin said Nato arms supplies to Ukraine make the alliance a “participant” in the conflict. It’s not a new thought, but one Russia’s president hasn’t followed through on, even as Western allies provide Kyiv with more sophisticated armaments.

In a TV interview taped last week, Putin said Russia faced an “eternal struggle” with the West. “They have one goal: to disband the former Soviet Union and its fundamental part — the Russian Federation.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan al Saud met officials including President Volodymyr Zelensky during a surprise trip to Kyiv on Sunday.

Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus will make a three-day state visit to China starting Tuesday, days after Beijing called for a Russia-Ukraine cease-fire in a 12-point position paper roundly dismissed by the US and Europe.

Read more: Russia’s war in Ukraine: key events and how it’s unfolding

Key developments

On the ground: 

Ukraine’s military staff said Russian troops are reinforcing defence in annexed Crimea, including building fortifications. Russia continues its offensive on the Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Shakhtarske axes in Ukraine’s east, while Kremlin forces launched 14 missile and 19 air strikes, 57 strikes from multiple launch rocket systems, with the shelling causing civilian casualties. Two people were killed and seven injured in Kherson oblast in the past day.

US says China’s in ‘awkward’ position over Ukraine

China’s stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine puts it in an “awkward” position internationally, and any weapons support to Russia would come with “real costs”, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.

In three US television interviews on Sunday, Sullivan said the Biden administration doesn’t have evidence that China is giving “lethal support” to Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Saudi foreign minister visits Kyiv

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan visited Kyiv on Sunday for meetings with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, and other top officials.

Andriy Yermak, chief of Ukraine’s presidential office, told reporters that the officials discussed energy and investment cooperation, possible cooperation on grain exports, and war-related issues such as Saudi help to secure further prisoner swaps with Russia.

The officials also signed agreements on how $400-million in Saudi aid to Ukraine announced in October will be allocated.

 

 

 

Ukraine aims to divide Russian troops in south

Ukraine’s goal in a renewal of its counteroffensive this spring will be to divide Russian troops in the nation’s south, Vadym Skibitskyi, a top defence official, told Germany’s DW in an interview.

Skibitskyi, deputy chief of defence intelligence, said the timing of Ukraine’s next moves would depend in part on the arrival of Western weapons supplies. One of the main goals would be “to drive a wedge in Russia’s front in the south, between Crimea and Russia’s mainland,” he said.

China to host Lukashenko on heels of cease-fire plan

China will host the president of Belarus for a state visit from Tuesday, welcoming an ally of Vladimir Putin as the US expresses concerns that Beijing may yet decide to provide weapons support to Russia that would assist it in its war in Ukraine.

Alexander Lukashenko is visiting at the invitation of President Xi Jinping, China’s foreign ministry said.

The visit comes days after China called for a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine in a position paper on ending the war. But several of the 12 points outlined by Beijing offer clear benefits to Putin and were dismissed by US and European officials.

Croatia will send 14 helicopters to Ukraine

Nato member Croatia is preparing 14 transport helicopters to send to Ukraine, via Poland, with delivery expected in March, Zagreb-based Juranji List reported, citing people it didn’t identify.

The Soviet-designed aircraft will be stripped of Croatian insignia to become part of Ukraine’s force. Seven will be transported by land and the rest will fly to a destination in Poland before reaching Ukraine, according to the report.

Ukraine hopes to resume electricity exports

Ukraine is no longer facing power shortages, prompting speculation that the war-torn nation may soon resume electricity exports to the European Union.

After months of regular Russian missile attacks, the electricity situation is improving due to lower consumption, higher production and repairs, according to the grid operator NPC Ukrenergo.

“This issue is on the table now,” Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said in a TV interview. “If we see a stable surplus of electricity in our system, no doubt, the question of exports will be considered.”

Putin says arms supplies make Nato a ‘participant,’ Tass reports

President Vladimir Putin said arms supplies to Ukraine by Nato countries make the alliance a “participant” in the conflict, reiterating his allegations that the US and its allies are seeking to destroy Russia, Tass reported.

In an interview on a weekly state TV programme, Putin said the US-led West is attempting to break up his country, warning that the “Russian people” may not survive: “They have one goal: to disband the former Soviet Union and its fundamental part — the Russian Federation.”

The US and its allies reject such a characterisation, which the Kremlin has turned to as it tries to muster public support for the year-long invasion. Moscow has threatened direct retaliation against Nato if the alliance joins the fight, but so far has targeted only Ukrainian forces amid Western warnings of a massive response to any attack.

Three Nato members ‘float defence pact’ with Ukraine

The UK, France and Germany are floating the idea of a defence pact between Nato and Ukraine as a way to prod Kyiv to start peace talks with Moscow, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing officials with the three governments.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reportedly laid out a blueprint for ways to give Ukraine broader access to advanced military equipment, and wants the proposal to be discussed at Nato’s July meeting, the newspaper said.

The reported plan “falls far short of the protections Ukraine would receive from Nato and could reflect a desire to press Ukraine to accept a negotiated settlement on unfavourable terms,” said the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

 

 

 

French defence company on hiring spree as orders climb

The multinational French defence company Thales SA plans to hire 12,000 new workers this year — for a net headcount gain of 4,000 — as demand is driven higher by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Read more: France’s Thales plans to hire 12,000 as defence orders surge

CIA head reinforces warning to China

CIA Director William Burns said the Biden administration is confident that China’s leaders are considering providing lethal equipment to Russia in its war against Ukraine, echoing comments by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden over the past week.

China hasn’t made a decision yet and the US hasn’t seen evidence of such shipments, Burns said in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation, recorded on Friday. That’s why Blinken and Biden “have thought it important to make very clear what the consequences of that would be as well,” Burns said.

Ukrainian general visits embattled Bakhmut

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskiy, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, visited the contested city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region on Saturday, the forces said on Facebook.

Russian troops have been trying since August to capture the city as a springboard to wider territorial gains in Ukraine’s east. Fighting continues on the outskirts of Bakhmut, the ground forces said.

Kremlin forces likely made “marginal territorial gains” in the area on Friday, according to the Institute for the Study of War, which noted that Russian sources are again claiming the capture of nearby villages. DM

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