Ukrainian premier asks US, again, for fighter jets; leaked US documents ‘appear to benefit Russia’

Ukrainian premier asks US, again, for fighter jets; leaked US documents ‘appear to benefit Russia’
Japan's F-15 fighters and US Air Force F-16 fighters fly during a joint training in reaction to the launch of North Korea's ballistic missile, in the skies over Japan, 19 February 2023 (issued 20 February 2023). EPA-EFE/JAPAN'S DEFENSE MINISTRY JOINT STAFF

The leaked trove of classified US documents on Ukraine is a mixture of true, false and outdated information, said the country’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov. The leak would clearly appear to benefit Russia and its supporters, he said.

The UK and US imposed sanctions on key advisers to Russian billionaires Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov, accusing them of having helped the oligarchs hide their assets to avoid financial penalties linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The US also imposed sanctions on the Russian-controlled International Investment Bank in Budapest.

Ukraine’s prime minister visited the Pentagon and, once again, asked the US for fighter jets it has so far declined to provide.

Key developments

Ukrainian premier asks Austin, again, for fighter jets 

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met at the Pentagon with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, as the Biden administration attempts to repair damage from the major leak of documents, including classified appraisals of US allies and adversaries.

A Pentagon readout of the meeting didn’t mention the leak, which is said to include pessimistic assessments about Ukrainian weapon supplies and air defences.

But in brief remarks to reporters, Shmyhal did pointedly mention Ukraine’s unfulfilled request for fighter jets that the US has repeatedly declined to provide. “America can, once again, demonstrate its leadership by providing Ukraine with F-15 or F-16 aircraft,” he said.

World Bank providing $200m to fix energy infrastructure 

The World Bank announced $200-million in grant financing to help repair Ukraine’s war-damaged energy infrastructure, saying that an additional $300-million was expected in grants and other contributions for the project.

US sanctions Russian-controlled bank in Hungary 

The US imposed sanctions on the Russian-controlled International Investment Bank, saying its presence in Budapest allowed Moscow to expand its ability to spy, conduct “malign influence activities” and engage in corruption from within the European Union and Nato.

The US Treasury Department also designated for sanctions three current or former executives of the bank.

The bank, which relocated from Moscow to Budapest in 2018, describes itself as a multilateral lender seeking to boost economic ties between its members, mostly former communist states such as those in eastern Europe. But critics said the move to Hungary — the EU member with the closest ties to Moscow — was dangerous to the US and its allies. 




US and UK impose sanctions on ‘enablers’ of Abramovich, Usmanov 

In one of the first big moves against so-called enablers, the UK said a pair of Cypriots helped to shield the billionaires’ wealth from asset freezes by moving their funds to family members and offshore trusts. An overlapping but not identical list of sanctions by the US targeted other members of a Cypriot network, including a trust created by Usmanov and his sister.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the US was imposing sanctions on more than 120 individuals and entities in 20 countries linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Spanish Leopard tanks heading for Ukraine 

Six Spanish Leopard 2 A-4 tanks are on the way to Ukraine and another four will also be there soon after being repaired, Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles said in a news conference with her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov. 

Also on the way are 20 TOA armoured personnel carriers. Reznikov said the country’s main priorities were to bolster its air defence systems, including combat aircraft, and also supplies of artillery and ammunition. Spain’s experience in amphibious operations could also be helpful to Ukraine, he said.

Leaked documents appear to benefit Russia, says Reznikov 

The content of a leaked trove of classified documents on Ukraine is a mixture of true, false and outdated information, the country’s defence minister, Reznikov, said in a news conference in Madrid. The leak would clearly appear to benefit Russia and its supporters and is aimed at undermining the trust between allies including the US, he said. 

Reznikov said he was sure the US would do all it could to limit the impact of the leak and ensure nothing similar happens in the future. Asked whether Nato military personnel were in Ukraine, he said that wasn’t true. He also noted the confidence expressed by US officials on prospects for a counter-offensive against Russian forces.

The US has started a criminal investigation over the leak of the intelligence secrets, which contain information about Ukraine’s armed capabilities as well as other confidential matters.

Most urban Belarusians are against Russian nuclear weapons — poll

Only a quarter of Belarusian city residents would support placing Russian nuclear weapons in their country while the rest are against it, according to a poll by Chatham House.

There is only marginal support for Belarus potentially taking part in Russia’s war against Ukraine, according to the poll. About half of the country’s urbanites are explicitly against Russia’s actions in Ukraine while a quarter refused to provide a direct answer. The survey showed 56% would support an immediate end to the fighting.

Chatham House polled 804 residents of Belarusian cities from March 15-27 through the internet. Belarusian authorities effectively ban any non-government polls in the country.




Crimea, border regions cancel May 9 parade over security fears  

The occupied Crimea Peninsula on Wednesday cancelled the annual May 9 World War 2 victory parade, citing “security considerations” ahead of an expected Ukrainian counter-offensive. The decision followed moves by two regions bordering Ukraine, Kursk and Belgorod, whose localities have often come under shelling, to scrap the event this year.

The May 9 parades, which include a display of military might on Moscow’s Red Square and commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany, have huge symbolic significance inside Russia. The Kremlin has used comparisons to World War 2 to justify its invasion of Ukraine. 

Ukraine says alleged execution of a prisoner is a ‘war crime’  

Ukraine is appalled by a video allegedly of Russian troops decapitating a prisoner of war and urges the International Criminal Court to investigate immediately, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement on its website. 

“This is not the first instance of the Russian army treating Ukrainian prisoners inhumanely,” it said, adding that killing a POW is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, a war crime and can also be qualified as a crime against humanity.

Russia has first to verify the authenticity of “these horrible images”, and then probe whether the crime happened and if it happened, who committed it and where, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Tass.

In response to allegations the beheading could have been done by Wagner’s mercenary force, Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin said that “it’s bad when people’s heads are cut off, but I have not found anywhere that this is happening near Bakhmut and that the Wagner fighters are involved in the execution”.

Estonian spy agency warns of Russian efforts to recruit refugees  

Russian security services are attempting to recruit Ukrainian refugees travelling to Estonia, the Baltic nation’s counterintelligence agency said in an annual report.

Ukrainian refugees are regularly interrogated by Russian spy agencies such as the Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, in filtration camps and border points, according to the report released by Estonia’s Internal Security Service on Wednesday.

“The FSB has also systematically worked to recruit war refugees arriving from Russia before they enter Estonia, both by threatening and bribing them,” the report said.

Russia says US intelligence leaks may aim to deceive it  

The leak of a series of highly classified US intelligence assessments may be a deliberate effort to mislead Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to the state Tass news service. The online appearance of the documents may be “an intentional leak” by the US, Ryabkov said. “It’s possible that such techniques are being used to deceive their opponent, the Russian Federation.”

South Korea ‘to provide artillery to US to aid Ukraine’ 

The South Korean government signed an agreement to provide 500,000 155mm artillery shells to the US, which will free US reserves to send shells to Ukraine, according to the newspaper DongA Ilbo.

The lending process allows South Korea to maintain the principle of not directly providing lethal weapons to Ukraine while acknowledging repeated requests for assistance from the US, according to the newspaper.

Blinken assails Russia over access to detained reporter  

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that the detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich still hasn’t had access to US diplomats.

“It sends a very strong message to people around the world to beware of even setting foot there lest they be arbitrarily detained,” Blinken said at a briefing on Tuesday. DM


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