Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin with some of his mercenaries in Soledar in eastern Ukraine, January 10, 2023
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1728 GMT:
A Russian missile strike on Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine has killed at least five people and wounded 15.
Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported that seven more people are under the rubble of five apartment buildings and five private buildings.
A two-year-old boy who was pulled out of the rubble after the shelling of Sloviansk unfortunately died in an ambulance. My condolences to the family…
Every child is a small universe for their loved ones. Losing one is an indescribable grief. I feel this pain with you today…
— Олена Зеленська (@ZelenskaUA) April 14, 2023
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy posted, “The evil state once again demonstrates its essence. Just killing people in broad daylight. Ruining, destroying all life.”
UPDATE 1559 GMT:
Completing open source reports, a US intelligence assessment says Vladimir Putin’s invasion has decimated Russia’s special forces.
The assessment says it will take years to rebuild the spetsnaz units.
Breaking from the spetsnaz’s role of covert missions, senior commanders — sceptical of the capability of conventional forces — have sent the units into frontline combat.
Satellite images of a base used by the 22nd Separate Spetsnaz Brigade in southern Russia, confirm that “all but one of five Russian Separate Spetsnaz Brigades that returned from combat operations in Ukraine in late summer 2022 suffered significant losses”.
Analysts assess that the 22nd and two other spetsnaz brigades suffered an estimated 90 to 95% attrition rate. The 346th “lost nearly the entire brigade with only 125 personnel active out of 900 deployed”.
Only one unit — the 25th Spetsnaz Regiment — could not be tracked, and that could be because of heavy losses of personnel and equipment preventing a return to garrison.
UPDATE 1351 GMT:
US intelligence assessed that China was prepared in February to send lethal military assistance to Russia.
The assessment was based on electronic surveillance of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). It is among hundreds of documents that were allegedly leaked by a low-level National Guardsman on a Discord server.
The SVR said China’s Central Military Commission had “approved the incremental provision” of weapons and wanted the arrangement to be kept secret.
The document, “The Watch Report”, was produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Dated February 23, it is labeled top secret with highly restricted distribution.
On February 19, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China’s top diplomat Wang Yi against providing “lethal support” for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Beijing has subsequently said — including during Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 21 — that it has not and does not intend to provide military aid to any side in Russia’s invasion.
Foreign Minister Qin Gang reiterated earlier Friday (see 0922 GMT), “China will not provide weapons to relevant parties of the conflict, and will manage and control the exports of dual-use items in accordance with laws and regulations.”
A senior advisor to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Kyiv’s forces are finding an increasing amount of components from China in Russian weapons.
<"[In] the weapons recovered from the battlefield we continue to find different electronics,” said Vladyslav Vlasiuk, who oversees sanctions policy. “We’re picking [up] a lot of different stuff, China-made."
Ukrainian experts say they have found Chinese-made components in a navigation system in Orlan aerial drones on the battlefield. Thye also saw Chinese parts in the fire control system in Russian tanks.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said:
Throughout history, China has launched normal trade cooperation with all countries, including Russia, on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.
As for military item exports, China has throughout adopted a prudent and responsible attitude. China’s position and actions have always been this way.
UPDATE 1057 GMT:
The NBD Bank, one of the largest banks in the United Arab Emirates, has begun freezing the investment accounts of Russian clients.
The clients are receiving letters that their funds are being transferred to separate accounts and that withdrawals are prohibited.
The restrictions affect Russians who are not residents of the European Union, the European Economic Area, or Switzerland. There are no exceptions for Russians who have residency in the UAE.
Last year many Russians transferred their money to NBD from European deposities as the European Union imposed restrictions because of the invasion of Ukraine.
UPDATE 1019 GMT:
The Ukraine Defense Ministry says Russian attacks in the past 24 hours, on 102 settlements, have killed three civilians and wounded eight.
Two of the fatalities were in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine.
The assaults struck 62 infrastructure facilities.
UPDATE 0950 GMT:
Russia’s exports of oil and oil products are at a three-month high, rising by 600,000 barrels per day to 8.1 million bpd in March.
Much of the increase was in oil product exports, returned to pre-COVID levels as they climbed by 450,000 bpd to 3.1 million.
Revenues rose in March by $1 billion to $12.7 billion. But amid international sanctions limiting the price for Russia’s oil, they are down 43% compared to March 2022.
UPDATE 0922 GMT:
China has reiterated that it will not sell weapons to Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.
At a Friday news conference in Beijing alongside German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, Foreign Minister Qin Gang said China is willing to bring about negotiations to end the conflict. He added that all parties should remain “objective and calm”.
Regarding the export of military items, China adopts a prudent and responsible attitude.
China will not provide weapons to relevant parties of the conflict, and will manage and control the exports of dual-use items in accordance with laws and regulations.
Baerbock said, that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has a special responsibility to help end the invasion.
She challenged, “I have to be honest and say I ask myself why China’s positioning doesn’t include the call on aggressor Russia to stop the war”.
Qin also implicitly pushed back on the invasion while upholding the “security interests”, presumably of Ukraine as well as Russia: “Territory is indivisible, and security is equally indivisible. Without recognition of the security interests of a particular party, crises and conflicts are inevitable.”
Beijing also announced that Defense Minister Li Shangfu will visit Moscow from Sunday to Tuesday, meeting Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu and other officials.
Russian State outlet TASS said the talks will cover defence cooperation and global and regional security issues.
UPDATE 0734 GMT:
UK military intelligence assesses that Russian fighters have advanced inside Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine as Ukrianian forces make “orderly withdrawals” from positions.
Russian forces have stepped up their artillery bombardment in the past 48 hours, and conventional units are now working more effectively with the Wagner Group’s mercenaries.
Ukrainian defenders still holds the western districts of Bakhmut. Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed earlier this week that his mercenaries control 80% of the city.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said earlier this month that military commanders will withdraw if necessary for the security of their troops.
Bakhmut night: Russians raining incendiary munitions down the city
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) April 14, 2023
UPDATE 0701 GMT:
The Sakharov Center, a leading human rights organization in Russia, is closing to the public from this weekend.
Amid the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent, the Center has been shut by an eviction order from local authorities in Moscow.
The organization was launched in 1996 in honor of Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov.
“Without these two buildings, we are no longer a public center,” said Vyacheslav Bakhmin, the chairman of the Center’s board.
Russia’s oldest human rights organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group, was closed by court order in January. Memorial, a joint winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, was forced to halt operations last year. Eight of its top members were targeted in police raids last month.
UPDATE 0643 GMT:
A senior Ukrainian military official says Russia is facing serious issues with mobilization of men, as Russians are increasingly aware of the high casualty rates in Ukraine.
Brig. Gen. Oleksiy Hromovare said Russia’s Volgograd region has only met 7% of its target, with 134 of a goal of 7,800 recruits for January-March 2023. The Saratov region is at 14%, with 270 of 7,600 recruits.
The general noted Moscow is creating “alternative” private military companies, but added that the mercenaries will not be as powerful as the Wagner Group in the near future.
However, Hromov said Ukraine and its allies must not underestimate Russian capabilities in the long run for a protracted war of attrition.
This week the Russian Parliament adopted the Kremlin’s proposal for crypto-mobilization. The digital unified register will issue mandatory summonses through the mining of personal identification information of Russian citizens, including medical, educational, and residence history; foreign citizenship status; and insurance and tax data.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Bolstering the latest wave of international sanctions over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has again listed Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries.
The EU blacklisted Wagner for “actively participating in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine”.
Wagner, which has provided the frontline fighters for Russia’s “human wave” assaults in eastern Ukraine, was put on another EU sanctions list in February for violations of human rights and its “destabilising” of countries in Africa.
Thursday’s citation was “for actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”.
The European Council added that the double designation of Wagner “underscores the international dimension and gravity of the group’s activities, as well as its destabilising impact on the countries where it is active.”
The European Council also sanctioned Russian media outlet RIA FAN. The channel is part of the Patriot Media Group, whose board of trustees is led by Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin.
On Tuesday, Canada imposed sanctions on another 14 Russian individuals and 34 entities, including some with links to Wagner.
On Wednesday, the US added more than 120 individuals and entities to its sanctions list. The targets — in more than 20 countries and jurisdictions such as Turkey, the UAE, and China — They include another Russian mercenary group and entities connected with Russia State nuclear company Rosatom.
The US and UK cited a network around Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, including his company, USM Holdings, and multiple firms associated with it. The UK also blacklisted entities linked with oligarch Roman Abramovich.