Ukraine war briefing: anti-Putin forces behind raids into Russia speak out | Ukraine

  • In the US, the Republican congressman Ken Buck has become the first of his party to sign a discharge petition that would force the Ukraine aid bill to a vote. Buck is retiring but his signature will remain valid after he appeared on Thursday as the 188th signatory out of 218 needed on the Democratic petition to override the House speaker, Mike Johnson, who is obstructing the bill, which would put about $60bn into Ukraine’s defence against the Russian invasion.

  • The International Monetary Fund has confirmed it will pay out $880m to Ukraine in the third phase of a $15.6bn aid package to support the war-torn Ukrainian economy.

  • EU leaders at their Brussels summit yesterday agreed in principle to commandeer a large majority of the profits generated from frozen Russian assets and give them to Ukraine – around €3bn this year. Potentially the first transfer would be in July. Ursula Von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, also revealed the EU is looking at increasing tariffs on Russian grain, including stolen Ukrainian grain, entering into the EU market.

  • The summit in Brussels came as Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, dealt with the aftermath of a massive missile attack. Russia fired more than 30 missiles at Kyiv early on Thursday. Ukraine’s air force said it shot them all down; regardless, 17 people were wounded in the city and surrounding region by falling debris. A later strike on the southern city of Mykolaiv killed one woman and injured six, Ukraine’s emergency services said.

  • A coalition of Russians fighting for Ukraine has vowed to continue cross-border raids into Russia. The anti-Putin fighters held a press conference in Kyiv after carrying out armed attacks in Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk border regions. “It’s probably no exaggeration to say we’ve opened up a second front, taking full-scale military action into the enemy territory,” said Denis Nikitin, leader of one of the groups involved, the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK).

  • The RDK has allied with the Freedom of Russia Legion, which says it has a more moderate conservative agenda and is seeking to recruit followers of the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny. They are also fighting alongside the recently created Siberian Battalion, made up of members of the region’s ethnic minorities as well as leftwing activists.

  • Nikitin and his allies claim their raids forced Russia to divert troops from frontlines to defend the border regions and foiled a planned advance timed to coincide with Russian elections. Last summer, RDK and Freedom of Russia Legion jointly entered the Bryansk region of Russia on foot. They said the latest operation is much more serious and backed by Ukraine, which provides reconnaissance support and ammunition. Nikitin admitted they were “not strong enough” to seize territory long-term. “We are not in the phase where we are ready to seize district centres and towns and hold on to them.”

  • Nato’s military committee chief Rob Bauer, visiting Kyiv on Thursday, said allies should not be too pessimistic about Ukraine’s ability to repel Russian troops and called for important aid to be delivered quickly. Bauer led the first official visit to Kyiv by a Nato military delegation since the February 2022 invasion. “Time in Ukraine is not measured in days, weeks or months. It is measured in human lives,” said Bauer. Bauer also met Ukraine’s commander in chief, Col Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi, who said ammunition supplies and air defences were discussed.

  • The EU and allies are considering steps including further sanctions to address the export from China of goods that could help Russia’s military, according to the EU’s sanctions coordinator, David O’Sullivan. “We see increasing focus on Hong Kong, China as the source of these products. And we also see western production hubs in south-east Asia as a source of supply,” he said.

  • Russia’s defence ministry claimed on Thursday to have captured the village of Tonenke in east Ukraine, around 10km from the city of Avdiivka, which fell to Russian forces in February.

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