Russian forces in Melitopol in southern Ukraine, April 2022
Sunday’s Coverage: International Agreement to Prosecute Russia’s “Crimes of Aggression”
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 0726 GMT:
The Belarus regime of Alexander Lukashenko, one of the few international allies of Vladimir Putin, has given exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya a 15-year prison sentence.
Tsikhanouskaya has been convicted in absentia for treason and “conspiracy to seize power”. The former English teacher moved to Lithuania in 2020 after her candidacy against Lukashenko, as the rigged election led to widepsread protests.
15 years of prison.
This is how the regime “rewarded” my work for democratic changes in Belarus.
But today I don't think about my own sentence. I think about thousands of innocents, detained & sentenced to real prison terms.
I won't stop until each of them is released. pic.twitter.com/9kQREV0sgl
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) March 6, 2023
The court in Minsk also imposed an 18-year prison sentence to Pavel Latushko, a prominent member of the Belarusian opposition council, and 12 years on three other activists.
Last Friday, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and human rights activist Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
UPDATE 1022 GMT:
The head of the Wagner Group mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigozhin, says the 10-month Russian assault on Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine could fail because of lack of ammunition.
Continuing his battle with the Russian Ministry of Defense, Prigozhin said Russia’s frontlines could be broken if his fighters do not get munitions promised in late February.
The mercenary chief said on Telegram on Sunday, “For now, we are trying to figure out the reason: is it just ordinary bureaucracy or a betrayal?”
He continued, “If Wagner retreats from Bakhmut now, the whole front will collapse. The situation will not be sweet for all military formations protecting Russian interests.”
Prigozhin claimed on Monday that his representative had been denied access to Russian military headquarters and had his pass cancelled.
Ukraine War, Day 364: Wagner’s Prigozhin Accuses Russian Military Leaders of “Treason”
EA on Australia’s The World: Ukraine War — Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Battle Inside Moscow
Prigozhin issued his warning during Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s three-day photo opportunity visit, purportedly to Russian positions in eastern Ukraine and then to the occupied port city of Mariupol in the southeast.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and senior commanders discussed the situation on Monday. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, “spoke in favour of continuing the defensive operation and further strengthening positions in Bakhmut”.
UPDATE 0955 GMT:
Andrey Novashov — the first journalist prosecuted under Russian legislation trying to shut down reporting about the invasion of Ukraine — has been sentenced to eight months of corrective labor.
A court in the city of Prokopyevsk in southern Russia condemned Novashov for “spreading fake news about the Russian army”. He is also prohibited from engaging in journalism for a year.
UPDATE 0934 GMT:
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says China has declared it will not supply weapons to Russia for its war on Ukraine.
We all agree that there should be no arms deliveries, and the Chinese government has declared that it will not deliver any either.
We insist on this and we are monitoring it.
At their joint press conference, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the European Union has received “no evidence” so far from the US that China is considering the supply of lethal support to Moscow.
Last week Scholz urged Beijing to refrain from the supply of weapons such as attack drones and ammunition. Instead, he said, China should convince Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine.
He said in an interview with CNN that any Chinese military aid to Russia “would have consequences, but we are now in a stage where we are making clear that this should not happen”.
He added, “I’m relatively optimistic that we will be successful with our request in this case, but we will have to look at and we have to be very, very cautious.”
UPDATE 0904 GMT:
The Ukraine Air Force says it downed 13 of 15 Russian drones launched overnight.
Four of the drones were shot down over the Dnipropetrovsk region in south-central Ukraine.
UPDATE 0744 GMT:
The center-right Reform Party of Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has won by a large margin in national elections.
Reform defeated the far-right opposition EXRE, which campaigned against further arms deliveries to Ukraine.
Reform won 31.6% of the vote, with EKRE second with 16%. The Centre Party received 14.7%; Estonia 200 took 13.5%; the Social Democrats 9.4%; and Isamaa (Fatherland) 8.3%.
Kallas has been an international leader in mobilization of financial and military support for Ukraine. She said after the vote, “This is much better than we expected. We have ruled out a coalition with EKRE and I stand by my words.”
EKRE leader Martin Helme snapped that the election was fraudulent: “We didn’t do anything wrong. We did everything right and with honesty, unlike those who stole our well-deserved victory.”
UPDATE 0733 GMT:
UK military intelligence says Russia’s armored units, including the premier 1st Guards Tank army, may be re-equipped with Soviet-made T-62 tanks first deployed in 1954.
The analysts say there is a “realistic” possibility” of the supply of the T-62s after a significant portion of Russian armor has been destroyed or captured by Ukrainian forces. About 800 T-62s have been taken from storage and retrofitted.
The 1st Guards Tank army had been expected to receive the next-generation T-14 Armata main battle tank from 2021.
The T-62s do not have modern explosive reactive armor for defense against modern anti-tank systems.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Ukrainian forces have reportedly struck Russian positions, both in occupied territory and inside Russia.
Two large explosions were heard on Sunday night in the occupied port city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine. Claims are circulating that the targets were Russian military bases.
The exiled mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, said in a TV interview that the blasts were in the northern part of the city. He asserted that the bases were “destroyed” and “hundreds” of Russian soldiers may have been killed.
“The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will provide more detailed information,” the mayor said.
With a pre-war population of 150,000 people, Melitopol was overrun last February 26, two days after the start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
With Ukraine’s liberation of Kherson city to the west in November, Melitopol has taken on even more importance, including for its strategic location near the Sea of Azov and on the way to Russian-occupied Crimea.
Striking Inside Russia
The Ukrainian special forces unit Kraken reported that it attacked inside Russia’s Bryansk region, destroying a military watchtower with a kamikaze drone.
The observation post is used by Russian personnel to monitor part of the Ukrainian border.
A video, published by Kraken, shows the tower being destroyed on the second attempt.
Bryansk is a key staging point for the Russian invasion. There have been periodic explosions damaging oil depots and other supply and logistic points; however, the Ukrainian government and military normally do not claim the operations.