Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin (R) with China’s Vice Premier He Lifeng, Shanghai, May 23, 2023 (Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty)
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1254 GMT:
Yevgeny Prigozhin says his Wagner Group lost more than 20,000 mercenaries in their six-month assault on Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
He said about 20% of the 50,000 Russian prisoners whom he recruited to fight had been killed.
The Russian State has only acknowledged losing just 6,000 troops in its 15-month invasion.
UPDATE 1248 GMT:
The assembly of the World Health Organization has condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, including attacks on healthcare facilities.
The vote was 80-9, with 52 abstentions and 36 countries absent.
The motion seeks an assessment of the impact of the Russian invasion on the health sector.
A Russian counter-proposal, recognizing the health emergency in Ukraine but not making its role in creating that crisis, was defeated 62-13.
UPDATE 0904 GMT:
Writing about Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s trip to Shanghai on Tuesday, Global Times, the outlet of China’s ruling Communist Party, has emphasized:
China and Russia moving closer on economic cooperation should not be associated with the ongoing Ukraine crisis, nor should be seen as China skewing towards a certain party.
Mishustin told a Shanghai business forum that Russian-Chinese bilateral trade could reach $200 billion in 2023.
Trade rose almost 30% to a record $190 billion in 2022, mainly because of China’s purchases of discounted Russian gas and oil. There was a further 41% increase in the first four months of this year, according to Chinese customs figures.
UPDATE 0832 GMT:
Russian authorities have sentenced migrant rights activist Bakhrom Khamroyev to 14 years in a maximum-security penal colony over his Facebook posts.
Khamroyev, 59, was detained on February 24, 2022, the day Russia invaded Ukraine. He was accused of “terrorism”.
The activist was a member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning civil rights group Memorial. The organization was ordered to disband in 2021, and its staff have been regularly subjected to police raids.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed Khamroyev had published six Facebook posts expressing support for Hizb ut-Tahrir, a pan-Islamist organization that Russia banned as a terrorist group in 2003.
Khamroyev said he defended the rights of Muslims accused of ties to Hizb ut-Tahrir and was never a member of the group.
UPDATE 0815 GMT:
The latest Russian attacks across Ukraine have killed two civilians and injured 17.
The two fatalities, along with three injuries, were in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine. The other wounded civilians were in the Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Mykolaiv regions.
UPDATE 0731 GMT:
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, says nine people are still in hospital — three of them seriously injured — after Monday’s raids of villages and a border post by an anti-Kremlin militia.
Gladkov said utility supplies are still disrupted and more than 550 people are displaced in in temporary shelters.
The governor said drone attacks continued overnight, with damage to a gas pipeline, cars, private houses, and office buildings but no casualties.
On Tuesday night, Gladkov said he had lifted “anti-terrorist measures” announced in the aftermath of the raids.
Another drone dropped an explosive device on the Center for Youth Initiatives in Borisovka, #Belgorod Region.
Two cars and the facade of the building were damaged. pic.twitter.com/Zp8GQXZ2Jw
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) May 24, 2023
Ukraine is formally denying any involvement in the raid, but at least one official has told journalist Christopher Miller that Kyiv is working with the anti-Kremlin Freedom of Russia Legion.
NEW: Russian far-right militias on Ukraine’s side who stormed Belgorod used US tactical vehicles. Ukraine denied direct involvement in the raid, but a military intel official acknowledged “co-operating” with the militias. And I spoke to a militia leader. https://t.co/lNHTxU57FV
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) May 23, 2023
UPDATE 0618 GMT:
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries, has stepped up his verbal assault on the Russian Defense Ministry.
As he proclaimed that his Wagner fighters control the city of Bakhmut after a six-month assault — but will soon withdraw — Prigozhin said that Russia’s conventional army under Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has degraded because of the “system of sycophancy”.
Meanwhile, with Ukraine successfully reforming its military, “we can lose Russia”, he said. The Ukrainian forces are “highly organized, highly trained, their intelligence is on the highest level, and they can operate any military system with equal success, including Soviet and NATO ones”.
The mercenary leader said the situation can be saved by changing the Defense Ministry’s leadership: “I listen to Putin, but Shoigu should be removed.”
He said the invasion’s commander, Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, should be replaced with former commander Sergey Surovikin.
Saying there will be “hundreds of thousands of victims” in the Russian invasion, Prigozhin called for introducing martial law in Russia, use of the death penalty, a new mobilization, a wartime economy to war, and “a few years to live in the image of North Korea”.
He also commented on Monday’s raid by an anti-Kremlin militia into Russia’s Belgorod region, saying the Russian military was “absolutely not ready to resist them”.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Continuing its political and diplomatic maneuvers between Russia and Ukraine, China has again avoided public support of Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is visiting Beijing this week. The trip comes less than a month after China put Moscow and Kyiv on the same level of “strategic relationship”, following a call between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
On Tuesday, Chinese Premier Li Qiang gave Mishustin soothing words about pragmatic cooperation in various fields being taken to a “new level”. He spoke of a “good” trend of development, with a continuous upgrade in the scale of investment.
Mishustin echoed the platitudes, “Today, relations between Russia and China are at an unprecedented high level.”
But Li was careful not to make any specific military or economic commitments, as Russia faces difficulties on the battlefield and the squeeze of international sanctions.
In February, having intercepted claims from Russia intelligence that China’s military aid was being negotiated, the US warned Beijing of a “red line” over any provision of lethal weapons to Moscow.
While individual Chinese companies have provided items such as components for drones — and have been sanctioned by the US for doing so — Beijing has avoided any substantial State aid to prop up Putin’s failing invasion.
On the eve of Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow on March 21, Fu Cong, China’s Permanent Representative to Europe, said Beijing did not support the invasion. Furthermore, China did recognize Putin’s annexations of four Ukrainian regions: Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.
When the Chinese Ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, appeared to deny Ukraine’s sovereignty, the Chinese Foreign Ministry walked backed the remarks: “China respects the sovereign status of the former Soviet countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.”
Beijing has continued to seek a role as a diplomatic broker of a resolution to the invasion, promoting 12 general points about “peace”.