Russia accuses Ukraine of recruiting youth for ‘sabotage’

The head of Russia’s Federal Security Service has accused Ukraine and the West of recruiting young Russians to stage armed attacks and “sabotage”.
A United Nations body says nearly 8,500 civilians have been killed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the actual figures likely much higher.
On Monday, the Department of State formally classified the reporter as “wrongfully detained” – a status that puts the case in the hands of the special envoy for hostages, Roger Carstens.

Gershkovich, an experienced reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Russia, was detained in Yekaterinburg, some 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) east of Moscow.Hungary agrees to new energy deals with Russia amid Ukraine war
Hungary signed new agreements Tuesday to ensure its continued access to Russian energy, a sign of the country’s continuing diplomatic and trade ties with Moscow that have confounded some European leaders amid the war in Ukraine.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Russian state energy company Gazprom had agreed to allow Hungary, if needed, to import quantities of natural gas beyond the amounts agreed to in a long-term contract that was amended last year.

The price of the gas, which would reach Hungary through the Turkstream pipeline, would be capped at 150 euros ($163) per cubic metre, Szijjarto said, part of an agreement that will allow Hungary to pay down gas purchases on a deferred basis if market prices go above that level.

Szijjarto’s trip to Russia’s capital was unusual for an official from a European Union country. Most members of the 27-nation bloc have distanced themselves from Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine and sought to wean their countries off of Russian fossil fuels.

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US Blinken ‘reaffirmed the ironclad US support’ for Ukraine: Kuleba
Ukraine’s foreign minister says US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has assured him that Washington still backs Kyiv’s effort to win the war.

The minister, Dmytro Kuleba, made a comment after a recent Washington Post report detailed a downbeat assessment by US intelligence officials of Kyiv’s ability to retake Russian-occupied territory.

“During our call today, [Blinken] reaffirmed the ironclad U.S. support and vehemently rejected any attempts to cast doubt on Ukraine’s capacity to win on the battlefield,” he tweeted.

“The U.S. remains Ukraine’s trustworthy partner, focused on advancing our victory and securing a just peace.”

Crimea on guard for possible Ukrainian counteroffensive
The Moscow-appointed leader of Crimea said the region is on guard for a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Sergey Aksyonov told reporters that Russian forces in Crimea had built “modern, in-depth defences” and had “more than enough” troops and equipment to repel a possible assault after 13 months of war following Russia’s full-scale invasion.

“We cannot underestimate the enemy, but we can definitely say that we are ready [for an attack] and that there will be no catastrophe,” he said.

An analysis of satellite images by Al Jazeera also confirmed that Russian forces are fortifying the Crimean Peninsula through an extensive network of trenches that extend across the border villages.

Wagner forces control ’80 percent’ of Bakhmut, says Wagner boss
The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said that his forces controlled more than 80 percent of Bakhmut.

In a video published by a Russian military blogger on Telegram, Prigozhin is seen showing on a map of the area how his forces are continuing their encirclement of the city.

“In Bakhmut, the larger part, more than 80 percent is now under our control, including the whole administrative centre, factories, warehouses, the administration of the city,” said Prigozhin.

He used a red marker pen to highlight the relatively small, mainly residential area of the city that remained to be captured by Russian forces.

“There, the war continues,” he said.

Prigozhin’s comments come a day after the Russian-installed head of Donetsk visited Bakhmut and said, “More than 75 percent of the city is under the control of our units.”

Bakhmut has seen the heaviest fighting in the nearly 14-month war.Europe cannot ‘turn its back’ on China: Spain
Spanish Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said that Europe could not ignore China’s role as a key trading partner and geopolitical player that could help end the war in Ukraine.

“I think we cannot just turn our back to China and try to ignore it,” Calvino told an Atlantic Council event in Washington, DC.

“We have a shared interest, I think, in ensuring that they engage constructively to put an end to the war in Ukraine as soon as possible and to avoid global market fragmentation, which is going to be lose-lose for everyone,” he said.Russian parliament backs move for digital draft papers
Russia will introduce electronic military draft papers for the first time in its history, making it harder for men to avoid being drafted.

The State Duma backed the necessary legislation in two separate votes, but some lawmakers complained the changes were being rushed through without giving them enough time to scrutinise them.

The move is part of a push by Moscow to perfect a system it has used to bolster its military forces in Ukraine, though government officials say there are currently no plans to compel more men to fight in Ukraine.

“We need to perfect and modernise the military call-up system,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a news briefing, in which he also recalled “problems” experienced last year with the mobilisation campaign.Russia may see wider budget deficit as global isolation continues: IMF
Russia may experience a wider budget deficit and a smaller current account surplus this year, while global isolation dampens its economic growth prospects, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said.

The IMF raised its 2023 Russia GDP forecast to growth of 0.7 percent from 0.3 percent, but lowered its 2024 prediction to 1.3 percent from 2.1 percent, saying it also expected labour shortages to further harm affect the economy.

By 2027, the IMF expects Russia’s economic output to be 7 percent lower than forecasts made before Moscow invaded Ukraine.

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