World

UKRAINE UPDATE: 12 FEBRUARY 2024

Russia ‘using Starlink terminals’ on the front line; Zelensky replaces more generals

Russia ‘using Starlink terminals’ on the front line; Zelensky replaces more generals
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.(Photo: EPA-EFE / SERGEY DOLZHENKO)

Ukrainian military intelligence said Russian forces were increasingly using Starlink terminals on the front line, a new twist in Kyiv’s uneasy relationship with Elon Musk’s internet service.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a new batch of top commanders, widening the military overhaul started last week in a bid to revive momentum in a war soon to enter its third year. 

Nato’s top official joined the White House in slamming comments by Donald Trump that as president he told a member of the alliance he might encourage Russia to invade countries which hadn’t met defence-spending commitments.

Trump said the war started by Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine must end and reiterated his disapproval of sending more aid overseas as the Senate attempts to move forward with a package to provide emergency funding for Ukraine and Israel.

Russia attacked the northeastern city of Kharkiv and the Odesa region close to Ukraine’s border with Romania overnight with at least 31 drones, the largest drone strike so far in February.  

Russia using Musk’s Starlink terminals on front line – Ukraine

Ukrainian military intelligence said Russian forces were increasingly using Starlink terminals on the front line, a new twist in Kyiv’s uneasy relationship with Elon Musk’s internet service.

Intercepted conversations between Russian troops in the occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine indicate they had Starlink devices installed for internet access, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry intelligence directorate said on Sunday on its website.

“This is starting to become systemic,” the RBC-Ukraine news site quoted military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov as saying on Saturday about Russian forces’ use of Starlink. 

Talk about Russian troops using the satellite service bubbled up on Ukrainian social networks and media last week. Starlink isn’t active in Russia, meaning the service will not work in that country, the company said on Thursday on Musk’s X social media platform, formerly Twitter.  

Starlink’s statement didn’t specify whether the prohibition would also apply to the four large areas of eastern and southern Ukraine that Russia illegally annexed in 2022, where hundreds of thousands of Russian troops are believed to be deployed. In the past, it has restricted the use of internet services in Russian-occupied territories.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Sunday, citing Ukraine’s military intelligence, that Russian forces were using the satellite internet system in occupied Ukraine.   

Musk activated the Starlink satellite service in Ukraine during the early months of Russia’s full-scale invasion, responding to Kyiv’s plea. Soon, the devices became a vital part of the country’s infrastructure, providing internet services in areas of fighting and beyond.

Read more: Musk and Starlink are in this war. like it or not: Marc Champion 

Zelensky replaces more generals as military shakeup expands

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a new batch of top commanders, widening the military overhaul started last week in a bid to revive momentum in a war soon to enter its third year. 

Lieutenant-General Oleksandr Pavlyuk, who was in charge of repelling Russia’s onslaught on the city of Kyiv during the early months of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion, was appointed on Sunday as commander of Ukraine’s land forces. He takes the place of Oleksandr Syrskyi, recently named as commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces. 

Zelensky also replaced the heads of the country’s territorial defence, assault troops, and united forces — the special command which oversees strategic operations in Ukraine as well as peacekeeping missions abroad. 

Read more: Ukraine’s new army chief bets on drones and logistics in war

On Saturday, Zelensky named a set of new deputies to the recently appointed chiefs of army and general staff. One of them, Colonel Vadym Sukharevskyi, will oversee unmanned combat systems and drones — the sphere which Zelensky and his new commander have identified as a key priority.  

Most of the latest appointees are officers with direct combat experience little known to the general public outside the military sphere. 

Read more: Zelensky’s ugly fight with general exposes split in Ukraine 

Ukraine’s much-anticipated counteroffensive ran aground in 2023 against heavily entrenched Russian defence lines. Unrelenting attacks by Moscow’s forces, uncertainty over supplies of military aid from Western allies, a growing shortage of ammunition and troops, and increasing tension between the country’s president and the previous army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi climaxed in last week’s major overhaul.  

Nato joins White House in rejecting Trump’s remarks on alliance

Nato’s top official joined the White House in slamming comments by Donald Trump that as president he told a member of the alliance he might encourage Russia to invade countries which hadn’t met defence-spending commitments.

“Nato remains ready and able to defend all allies. Any attack on Nato will be met with a united and forceful response,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday. 

“Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,” he added.  

Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, said at a campaign rally in South Carolina on Saturday that the decades-old military alliance had been “busted” until he came along and forced members to “pay up”.

When a European leader at an unspecified Nato meeting asked if the US would protect them if they were delinquent on spending, Trump said he responded by saying he would tell Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to those who weren’t meeting their obligations.

Pushback from the Biden administration was swift. “Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged — and it endangers American national security, global stability, and our economy at home,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said.  

European Council President Charles Michel said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that “reckless statements” about Nato’s security and solidarity only serve the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

European Commissioner Thierry Breton told LCI television that Europe would be able to deal with the US if Trump were elected, but that US democracy was “sick. We in Europe cannot play heads or tails every four years depending on the outcome of this or that election.”   

Trump had already shown that “he values being close to Putin more than to democratic transatlantic partners, and is accordingly prepared to disregard international obligations,” Omid Nouripour, a co-leader of Germany’s Greens party and part of the ruling coalition, was quoted as saying on Sunday by the Funke media group.   

Read more:

Trump says war in Ukraine must end even as US aid advances

Trump said the war started by Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine must end and reiterated his disapproval of sending more aid overseas as the Senate attempts to move forward with a package to provide emergency funding for Ukraine and Israel.

“We’ve got to get that war settled and I’ll get it settled,” Trump, the Republican front-runner for the 2024 presidential nomination, said at a campaign rally on Saturday in Conway, South Carolina. 

He called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “the greatest salesman in history” and sought to suggest that the US could be “out hundreds of billions of dollars” if Ukraine made a deal with Russia — which invaded the country two years ago — and “all of a sudden they don’t want to deal with us any more”.  

Russia targets Kharkiv, Odesa in biggest drone attack of month

Russia attacked the northeastern city of Kharkiv and the Odesa region close to Ukraine’s border with Romania overnight with at least 31 drones, the largest drone strike so far in February. 

The drones targeted port infrastructure in the border region as well as civilian targets, according to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry and local governors. 

Russia has kept up attacks all winter with hundreds of drones and missiles targeting regions across Ukraine since late December, as the invasion of its neighbour nears the two-year mark with no clear end in sight.  

Shahed drones hit a petrol filling station in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, causing a fire in which seven people died and 15 private homes were destroyed or damaged, mayor Ihor Terekhov and regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram.   

The casualties from the fire included a family with three children aged between six months and seven years who were killed in their home. Three people were injured.

The Odesa region came under three waves of drone attacks, injuring four people, governor Oleh Kiper said on Telegram. Nine drones were downed but debris fell on a technical building which is a part of the Odesa port infrastructure. 

Later in the night, drones targeted port infrastructure on the Danube River, which forms part of the border between Ukraine and Romania. Industrial and service facilities, roads, trucks and passenger cars as well as private homes were damaged in Izmail, a large port in Ukraine’s Danube Delta region. 

Ukraine’s Air Force intercepted 12 drones in the area and a total of 23 drones were downed in the Odesa and Kharkiv regions in total.  

Russian forces continued pressing on the battlefield in Ukraine’s east, making small advances in areas such as Avdiivka, where 21 Russian attacks were repelled in the past 24 hours, the General Staff said on Facebook. DM

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