Ukrainian troop positions spark counteroffensive speculation

Ukrainian troop positions spark counteroffensive speculation
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Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut fire a howitzer D30 toward a Russian position on April 23, 2023. (REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova)
Ukrainian troop positions spark counteroffensive speculation
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Ukrainian troops prepare to fire a howitzer D30 toward a Russian position on April 23, 2023. (REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova)
Ukrainian troop positions spark counteroffensive speculation
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Ukrainian soldiers wave atop a passing tank on the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on April 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos)
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Updated 24 April 2023
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Ukrainian troop positions spark counteroffensive speculation

Ukrainian troop positions spark counteroffensive speculation
  • Geolocated footage from pro-Kremlin military bloggers indicated that Ukrainian troops had established a foothold near the town of Oleshky, says think tank

KYIV, Ukraine: Ukrainian military forces have successfully established positions on the eastern side of the Dnieper River, according to a new analysis, giving rise to speculation Sunday that the advances could be an early sign of Kyiv’s long-awaited spring counteroffensive.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, reported late Saturday that geolocated footage from pro-Kremlin military bloggers indicated that Ukrainian troops had established a foothold near the town of Oleshky, along with “stable supply lines” to their positions.
Analysts widely believe that if Ukraine goes ahead with a spring counteroffensive, a major goal would be to break through the land corridor between Russia and the annexed Crimean Peninsula, which would necessitate crossing the Dnieper River in the country’s south.
Responding to Ukrainian media reports proclaiming that the establishment of such positions indicated the counteroffensive had begun, Natalia Humeniuk, the spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Operational Command South, called for patience.

While neither confirming nor denying the ISW report, she said only that details of military operations in the Dnieper delta couldn’t be disclosed for operational and security reasons.
Speaking on Ukrainian television, Humeniuk added that it was “very difficult work” when “it’s necessary to overcome an obstacle such as the Dnieper, when the front line passes through a wide and powerful river.”
The Kremlin-installed head of the Kherson region, one of four parts of Ukraine that Russia said it was illegally annexing in September, denied on Sunday that Ukrainian forces have established a foothold on the east bank of the Dnieper.
In a Telegram update, Vladimir Saldo said that Russian forces are “in full control” of the area, and speculated that the images referenced by the ISW may have depicted Ukrainian sabotage units that “managed to take a selfie” across the Dnieper before being forced back.
After more than a year since the Russian invasion, recent fighting has become a war of attrition, with neither side able to gain momentum.
But Ukraine has recently received sophisticated weapons from its Western allies, and new troops freshly trained in the West, giving rise to growing anticipation of a counteroffensive.
American-made Patriot missiles arrived in Ukraine last week and military spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said Sunday on Ukrainian television that some have already gone into battlefield service.

The US agreed in October to send the surface-to-air systems, which can target aircraft, cruise missiles and shorter-range ballistic missiles such as those that Russia has used to bombard residential areas and the Ukrainian power grid.
The fiercest battles have been in the eastern Donetsk region, where Russia is struggling to encircle the city of Bakhmut in the face of dogged Ukrainian defense.
On Sunday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed Moscow’s forces had captured two more neighborhoods in the western part of Bakhmut, without providing further details or clarifying what areas were still in Ukrainian hands.
In the south, the Dnieper has for months marked the contact line in the Kherson region, where its namesake capital is regularly pummeled by shelling from Russian forces stationed across the river.
In addition to having established a foothold near the town of Oleshky, across the Dnieper delta from Kherson, ISW said that Ukrainian troops were also approaching the nearby village of Dachi, citing data from Russian military bloggers.
In Telegram posts on Thursday and Saturday, ISW said the bloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces had maintained these positions for weeks and established stable supply lines to them, indicating a lack of Russian control over the area.
The Associated Press confirmed the posts from the bloggers, but it wasn’t immediately possible to independently verify the data they shared.
Russia is also expected to launch more intensive attacks in the spring, but ISW reported that top Russian defense figures are showing signs that they may be pushing for a consolidation of existing gains in Ukraine, rather than costly new operations, as Moscow struggles with both material and manpower.




People pass by new graves of Ukrainian soldiers killed in recent battles as national and military units flags wave in a military cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine, on April 23, 2023. (AP)

The think tank cited comments from financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group — a private Russian military company whose fighters have spearheaded the offensive on Bakhmut.
On Saturday, Prigozhin’s press service posted comments he made on its official Telegram channel in which he argued that Russian forces need to “anchor (themselves) in such a way that it is only possible to tear them out with (the) opponent’s claws.”
The interview was published shortly after Western leaders meeting at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany pledged to train more Ukrainian personnel and keep up their military support for Kyiv.
As Moscow seeks to bolster its troop numbers, the UK Ministry of Defense noted Sunday in an intelligence briefing that Russian authorities had mounted a large-scale military recruitment campaign using social media, billboards and state television.
It said Russian officials are “almost certainly seeking to delay any new, overt mandatory mobilization for as long as possible to minimize domestic dissent,” while assessing that this latest effort would likely fail to meet the defense ministry’s stated goal of recruiting 400,000 new volunteers.
In attacks overnight, local authorities in eastern Ukraine reported that Russian forces had launched at least five S-300 missiles at Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city and the surrounding region.
The missiles damaged an industrial facility and private homes but caused no casualties, according to Oleh Syniehubov, the Kharkiv regional governor.
In Kherson, one civilian was killed and two were wounded as Russian troops used artillery, drones and warplanes to launch a total of 54 strikes on the province, Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram on Sunday morning.
Russian forces on Saturday and overnight also dropped five guided aerial bombs over the Kherson region, Ukraine’s Operational Command South said in a Facebook post Sunday. According to the post, the bombs were launched from drones and aircraft and damaged multiple residential buildings, but caused no casualties.
Also in the Kherson region, two women, ages 85 and 57, were hospitalized after being wounded in a Russian artillery attack that damaged a local school and about 25 residential buildings in the village of Kizomys, Prokudin said in a Telegram post.
In the neighboring Zaporizhzhia region, Russian shelling wounded a 56-year-old man in Stepnohirsk, a town on the banks of the Dnieper river, local Gov. Yurii Malashko wrote on Telegram. ___
Joanna Kozlowska reported from London.


The UK is stepping up lawmakers’ security as tensions flare over the Israel-Hamas war

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The UK is stepping up lawmakers’ security as tensions flare over the Israel-Hamas war

The UK is stepping up lawmakers’ security as tensions flare over the Israel-Hamas war
LONDON: The British government said Wednesday that it is stepping up security for lawmakers after politicians reported threats and intimidation connected to the Israel-Hamas war.
The Home Office said a 31 million-pound ($40 million) fund will give every lawmaker a “dedicated named police contact” and provide money for those facing threats to pay for private security protection.
The government said some of the money will go more broadly to protecting Britain’s “democratic processes from intimidation, disruption or subversion” ahead of a general election later this year. The fund includes money for extra police patrols in areas where tensions are high.
Divisions over the conflict in Gaza have convulsed British politics, with some lawmakers saying they fear for their safety after receiving threats over their positions on the war. Reports of both antisemitic and anti-Muslim abuse in Britain have soared since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which triggered Israel’s invasion of Gaza.
A debate last week in the House of Commons on whether to call for a ceasefire descended into chaos amid allegations the speaker of the house had bent parliamentary rules in response to pressure from pro-Palestinian activists.
Conservative lawmaker Mike Freer has announced he is stepping down because of abuse and death threats linked to his support for Israel. Freer said an arson attack on his office in December was the “final straw.”
He said the money announced Wednesday was only “dealing with the symptom” rather than “going to the root cause” of why people feel emboldened to attack politicians.
“Security is welcome,” Freer told Times Radio. “But frankly, unless you get to the root cause, then you’re just going to have a ring of steel around MPs. And our whole style of democracy changes.”
British lawmakers have a tradition of meeting regularly with constituents in their local communities, but security has been tightened after several attacks in the last decade. In 2016, Labour lawmaker Jo Cox was killed by a far-right extremist, and Conservative David Amess was murdered in 2021 by an attacker inspired by the Daesh group.
In 2017 a Daesh-inspired extremist killed four people with a vehicle on Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death at the gates of Parliament. Two years later, in 2019, a neo-Nazi pleaded guilty to plotting to kill a Labour lawmaker.
Anti-war activists claimed the government was trying to stifle protest and lumping peaceful demonstrators in with violent extremists.
Home Secretary James Cleverly called on pro-Palestinian demonstrators to halt the mass protests that have drawn hundreds of thousands of people to central London almost weekly to call for a ceasefire in a conflict that has killed close to 30,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Israel says Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and abducted roughly 250, in the Oct. 7 attack.
The protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, though there have dozens of arrests over signs and chants allegedly supporting Hamas, a banned organization in Britain. Jewish organizations and many lawmakers say the mass marches have created an intimidating atmosphere for Jewish Londoners — though members of the Jewish community have been among those on pro-ceasefire marches.
“I genuinely don’t know what these regular protests are seeking to achieve,” Cleverly told the Times of London. “They have made their position clear, we recognize that there are many people in the UK that hold that position. We respect that, but the UK government’s position is a disagreement with that for very practical, well thought-out reasons.”
The government says it supports an immediate “humanitarian pause” in the fighting but says a permanent ceasefire can only happen if Hamas frees all Israeli hostages and relinquishes control of Gaza.
Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which has organized many protests, said Cleverly’s comments showed the government did not understand the role of protest “as an important part of the democratic process.”
“They regard it as a hindrance, something that should be suppressed,” Jamal said.

Ukraine’s Zelensky seeks Balkan arms, support at summit in Albania

Ukraine’s Zelensky seeks Balkan arms, support at summit in Albania
Updated 24 min 11 sec ago
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Ukraine’s Zelensky seeks Balkan arms, support at summit in Albania

Ukraine’s Zelensky seeks Balkan arms, support at summit in Albania
  • “We are interested in co-production with you and all our partners,” Zelensky told top delegations
  • “We see the problems with the supply of ammunition, which affects the situation on the battlefield”

TIRANA: President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to drum up Balkan support for his vision of peace in Ukraine and promoted the idea of joint arms production at a two-day summit of southeastern European countries on Wednesday.
The summit in the Albanian capital Tirana comes as Kyiv is trying to improve its defensive capabilities to beat back Russian forces at a time of faltering US support more than two years into Russia’s full-scale invasion.
“We are interested in co-production with you and all our partners,” Zelensky told top delegations from Albania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia and Moldova in his opening remarks at the summit.
“There are about 500 defense companies operating in Ukraine, each of them adds strength but it is not enough to win (against Russian President Vladimir) Putin. We see the problems with the supply of ammunition, which affects the situation on the battlefield.”
Zelensky proposed organizing a Ukrainian-Balkans defense forum in Kyiv or a Balkan capital to nurture arms cooperation, repeating similar initiatives conducted last year with British and US weapons companies.
Albania, North Macedonia and Montenegro are NATO members, have joined Western sanctions against Russia and sent arms and equipment to Ukraine. There are significant arms industries in parts of the Balkans, especially Serbia and Croatia, a legacy of former federal Yugoslavia.
Longtime Moscow ally Serbia has not imposed sanctions, and neither Belgrade nor Kyiv recognize the independence of Kosovo, Serbia’s former predominantly Albanian southern province which backs Ukraine and is seeking European Union and NATO membership.
Zelensky said he had invited all Balkan region leaders to take part in a summit of partners and allies in Switzerland this spring that would discuss his vision of peace, which entails a Russian military withdrawal from all of Ukrainian territory.
That diplomatic initiative — based on what is known as Zelensky’s “peace formula” — does not involve Russia and has been dismissed by Moscow as a non-starter.
Zelensky said he met Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama for talks and that the two leaders had signed an Agreement on Friendship and Cooperation between Ukraine and Albania.
“This document will contribute to the development of cooperation and strengthening of Ukraine’s position in the Balkan region,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram messenger.
His chief of staff Andriy Yermak said: “They also spoke about Ukraine’s defense needs and the possibility of joint weapons production.”
Zelensky told a news conference later that every time weapons supplies to Ukraine were delayed it was a “gift” to Russia’s Putin, an apparent allusion to the months-long impasse in US Congress over providing more assistance for Kyiv.
Zelensky, who was in Saudi Arabia for talks on Tuesday, is due to meet the leaders of Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Montenegro at the summit.
“A pivotal moment for fostering bilateral ties, and standing in solidarity with Ukraine in its heroic fight against Russia’s aggression,” Albanian Foreign Minister Igli Hasani wrote on X shortly after Zelensky’s arrival.


Russia FM to attend Turkiye diplomacy forum: ministries

Russia FM to attend Turkiye diplomacy forum: ministries
Updated 35 min 22 sec ago
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Russia FM to attend Turkiye diplomacy forum: ministries

Russia FM to attend Turkiye diplomacy forum: ministries
  • Lavrov will meet Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan at the gathering
  • Turkiye, which like Ukraine and Russia borders the Black Sea, has succeeded in maintaining links to both sides in the conflict

ISTANBUL: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will attend a diplomacy forum in Turkiye from Friday, the countries’ governments said, following criticism of Ankara over its support for Moscow during the Ukraine war.
The Antalya Diplomacy Forum (ADF) in southern Turkiye began in 2021 as a place for policymakers, businessmen, researchers and academics to exchange ideas and views on diplomacy, policy and business.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that Lavrov will meet Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan at the gathering and Turkish ministry spokesman Oncu Keceli confirmed as much to AFP.
Lavrov, an Antalya participant in 2022, just weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, last visited Turkiye in April last year, when he met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.
Turkiye, which like Ukraine and Russia borders the Black Sea, has succeeded in maintaining links to both sides in the conflict.
It has played a key role in the export of Ukrainian grain by sea, via a secure corridor under the aegis of the UN, but has also been singled out for helping Russia get around some Western sanctions.
Sixteen Turkish entities were targeted in the latest round of sanctions unveiled last week by the White House. Washington accused individuals and companies of helping to supply Russia’s industry and furthering Moscow’s ability to wage war against Ukraine.


Food aid from Indonesia enters Gaza amid Israeli blockades

Food aid from Indonesia enters Gaza amid Israeli blockades
Updated 28 February 2024
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Food aid from Indonesia enters Gaza amid Israeli blockades

Food aid from Indonesia enters Gaza amid Israeli blockades
  • Aid convoys have been targeted by Israeli military, Indonesian volunteer says
  • Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are on the brink of famine

JAKARTA: Some trucks carrying humanitarian assistance from Indonesia have managed to enter Gaza, Indonesian volunteers confirmed, despite Israeli attacks on convoys and the blocking of critical aid.

Thousands of aid trucks have been waiting to enter Gaza on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, with the UN saying on Tuesday that convoys carrying humanitarian assistance have been targeted by Israeli attacks and prevented from reaching people in need.

Several trucks carrying wheat flour and food packages from the Indonesian NGO Medical Emergency Rescue Committee, or MER-C, are among the few that managed to enter Gaza recently, volunteers from the organization said.

The volunteers, Fikri Rofiul Haq and Reza Aldilla Kurniawan, chose to stay in Gaza when Israeli attacks on the besieged territory escalated in October. They were volunteering at the MER-C-funded Indonesia Hospital in northern Gaza. When the hospital was destroyed by the Israeli military, they sought safety in the southern part of the enclave.

“The aid delivery went through many obstacles, including a long authorization process and also lengthy inspection by Israeli officials, which have resulted in many of the food packages going bad,” Haq told Arab News on Wednesday.

Thousands of food packages were distributed last weekend in central and southern Gaza. MER-C volunteers steered clear from the enclave’s north as they feared being targeted by the Israeli military.

“All this aid from the Indonesian people through MER-C faces potential attacks by Israel,” Haq said. “Until this very second, Israeli forces continue to attack and they are attacking randomly — we never know when they might launch their assault.”

About 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza. The UN has warned that hundreds of thousands of people are now on the brink of famine as the enclave’s population relies on inadequate food aid to survive.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said on Monday that the number of food aid trucks entering Gaza had decreased by about one-third since the International Court of Justice ruled last month that Israel must do everything to prevent genocidal acts in the besieged territory, and take “immediate and effective measures” for aid provision.

“Israel continues to obstruct the provision of basic services and the entry and distribution within Gaza of fuel and lifesaving aid, acts of collective punishment that amount to war crimes and include the use of starvation of civilians as a weapon of war,” HRW said in a statement.


Prince Harry loses case against UK government over security

Prince Harry loses case against UK government over security
Updated 28 February 2024
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Prince Harry loses case against UK government over security

Prince Harry loses case against UK government over security
  • Lawyers for the government rejected claims that Harry was ‘singled out’ and treated ‘less favorably’

LONDON: Prince Harry lost a court challenge against the UK government on Wednesday over a decision to change the level of his personal security when he visits the country.
The youngest son of King Charles III launched legal action against the government after being told in February 2020 that he would no longer be given the “same degree” of publicly-funded protection when in Britain.
“The ‘bespoke’ process devised for the claimant in the decision of 28 February 2020 was, and is, legally sound,” High Court judge Peter Lane said in his 52-page judgment.
Harry sensationally left Britain in 2020 with his wife Meghan, eventually settling in California in the United States.
The prince told a hearing at London’s High Court in December that security concerns were preventing visits back to the United Kingdom.
“The UK is my home. The UK is central to the heritage of my children,” he told court in a written statement read out by his lawyers.
“That cannot happen if it’s not possible to keep them safe.
“I cannot put my wife in danger like that and, given my experiences in life, I am reluctant to unnecessarily put myself in harm’s way too,” he added.
Harry’s mother Princess Diana was killed in a high-speed car crash in Paris in 1997 as she tried to escape paparazzi photographers.
Lawyers for the government rejected claims that Harry was “singled out” and treated “less favorably” or that a proper risk analysis was not carried out.
James Eadie, for the interior ministry, told the court that it was decided Harry would not be provided the same level of protection as before because he had left life as a working royal and mostly lived abroad.
In May 2023, Harry lost a bid for a legal review of another government decision refusing him permission to pay for specialist UK police protection himself.
The interior ministry argued then that it was “not appropriate” for wealthy people to “buy” protective security when it had decided that it was not in the public interest for such taxpayer-funded protection.
London’s Metropolitan Police also opposed Harry’s offer on the grounds that it would be wrong to “place officers in harm’s way upon payment of a fee by a private individual.”
It is one of many legal cases launched by Harry.
Earlier this month, he settled a long-running lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), whose journalists he accused of being linked to deceptive and unlawful methods, but vowed to continue his legal battles with several other UK media outlets.
Harry is one of seven high-profile people, including Elton John, bringing legal action against the publisher of the Daily Mail over allegations of unlawful information gathering.
He and actor Hugh Grant are also suing News Group Newspapers (NGN), part of Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire and publisher of The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World tabloids, over similar claims.
However, Harry last month dropped his libel case against UK newspaper the Mail on Sunday over an article on his legal battles with the UK government.