Russia celebrates Victory Day; Britain reportedly set to blacklist Wagner mercenary group
Vladimir Putin has told Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine that the “whole country is praying for them”, as he used his Victory Day speech to defend his invasion of Ukraine. Speaking on the 78th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Russian president drew historical parallels between the second world war and fighting in Ukraine. “We are proud of the participants of the special military operation. The future of our people depends on you,” Putin said.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary force said he was told he and his mercenaries would be regarded as “traitors” if they abandoned their positions. Prigozhin threatened to withdraw his troops from the city in east Ukraine, which has been the site of a long-running battle since 2022 to try to capture it, because of a lack of ammunition. He then rowed back on it, but has again threatened to do so.
Britain is set to formally blacklist Wagner as a terrorist organization to increase pressure on Russia, The Times newspaper reported on Tuesday. After two months of building a legal case, proscription or a formal blacklisting of the group was “imminent” and likely to be enacted within weeks, the newspaper reported citing a government source.
Arman Soldin, a 32-year-old video journalist for Agence France Presse in Ukraine, was killed by Grad rocket fire near Chasiv Yar, in eastern Ukraine, AFP said on Twitter, citing AFP colleagues who witnessed the incident.
The UK foreign secretary James Cleverly and US secretary of state Antony Blinken have urged Russia not to use hunger as a weapon of war, as discussions over the Black Sea grain deal continue.
Ukraine said its air defences shot down 23 of 25 missiles, fired overnight by Russia, chiefly at Kyiv, and there were no reported casualties. It was the second night in a row of major Russian airstrikes and fifth so far this month.
Ukraine is planning a “very important” counteroffensive against Russian forces that must “demonstrate success”, the country’s prime minister has said. Denys Shmyhal told Sky News that the operation would be launched when the time was right.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen hailed Ukraine as “the beating heart of today’s European values”. Zelenskiy discussed European integration, defence matters and sanctions against Russia at a meeting with Von der Leyen in Kyiv. He said he expected the EU to soon approve more sanctions on Russia.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said there is currently no prospect of peace between Russia and Ukraine because “both sides are convinced that they can win”. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País on Tuesday, Guterres was pessimistic about the EU and the UN’s ability to broker an end to the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion last year.
The US has announced a “new security assistance package” to help bolster Ukraine’s air defences and artillery ammunition needs. This package, confirmed by the Department of Defense on Tuesday, totals up to $1.2bn and is being provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI).
A UK-led group of European countries has asked for expressions of interest to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles. The call for responses from companies who could provide the munitions with range of up to 300km (190 miles) was included in a notice posted last week by the International Fund for Ukraine.
Germany’s foreign minister has said China could play a decisive role in ending the war in Ukraine. Speaking alongside her Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday, Annalena Baerbock said that as a permanent member of the UN security council, China had the power to be influential in the conflict and bring it to an end.
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, said Russia “will prevail” in its fight against what he described as “imperialists”, the state news agency KCNA said on Tuesday, in remarks seen to be aimed at Ukraine and its western supporters such as the US.