Sat, 03 Jun 2023

Ukrainian authorities raided an influential billionaire's home on Wednesday in what an ally of President Volodymyr Zelensky touted as a sweeping wartime clampdown on corruption that would change the country. Follow FRANCE 24's liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are in Paris time (GMT+1).

5:17pm: Ukraine hails French gift of radar as 'cherry on the cake'

Ukraine's defence minister said Wednesday that Ukrainian lives will be saved by a sophisticated air-defence radar that France is supplying and which is powerful enough to spot incoming missiles and exploding drones in the skies over all of Ukraine's capital and its surrounding region.

The minister, Oleksii Reznikov, was so enthusiastic about what he called Ukraine's new "electronic eyes" that he quickly coined a nickname for the Ground Master 200 radar - the "Grand Master."

Speaking through an interpreter at a handover ceremony for the radar with his French counterpart, Reznikov described the French-made GM200 as a "very effective" improvement for Ukraine's network of about 300 different types of air-defence radars.

5pm: Moscow warns Israel against supplying arms to Ukraine

Russia on Wednesday warned Israel against supplying weapons to Ukraine after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was considering military aid for Kyiv and was willing to mediate in the conflict.

"We say that all countries that supply weapons (to Ukraine) should understand that we will consider these (weapons) to be legitimate targets for Russia's armed forces," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.

Since the beginning of the Russian offensive in Ukraine in February last year, Israel has adopted a cautious position towards Moscow, seeking to maintain neutrality

4:48pm: Ukraine has enough gas for winter, minister says

Ukraine has sufficient gas reserves to see it through the winter with 11 billion cubic metres (bcm) in storage as of February 1, the energy minister said on Wednesday.

The country also has about 1.2 million tonnes of coal for its power plants, German Galushchenko said in a statement.

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"These are sufficient volumes to get through and complete this very difficult heating season for our country," the minister said

3:32pm: Russia calls Macron's comments on Ukraine arms 'absurd'

Russia on Wednesday criticised comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who refused this week to rule out delivering fighter jets to Ukraine but also warned against the risk of escalation.

"Forgive me but this is absurd. Is the president of France really certain that if arms, heavy weapons and aircraft are supplied to the Kyiv regime to conduct combat operations, this will not lead to an escalation of the situation?" foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters

3:09pm: Russia unveils Stalin bust ahead of WWII commemorations

A bust of dictator Joseph Stalin was unveiled in the southern Russian city of Volgograd on Wednesday on the eve of commemorations of the Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad.

The bronze bust was unveiled ahead of President Vladimir Putin's visit to Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, on Thursday, for high-profile celebrations that will include a military parade.

Most monuments to Stalin, who presided over purges known as the Great Terror, have been taken down in countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.

1:16pm: Ukraine has gas stocks to see it through the winter, says energy minister

Ukraine has sufficient gas reserves to see it through the winter with some 11 billion cubic metres (bcm) in storage as of February 1, the energy minister said on Wednesday.

The country also has around 1.2 million tonnes of coal for its power plants, German Galushchenko said in a statement. "These are sufficient volumes to get through and complete this very difficult heating season for our country," the minister said.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said last month the situation in the energy sector remained difficult but under control after a months-long Russian campaign of drone and missile strikes on critical infrastructure that damaged about 40% of the energy system.

1:14pm: Top Ukrainian official confirms raids on homes of billionaire, ex-minister in graft clampdown

A top governing party official confirmed on Wednesday that security officials had raided the homes of one of Ukraine's richest men and a former interior minister, and said the country would change during the war with Russia.

David Arakhamia, head of the Servant of the People party's parliamentary faction, said there were also searches at Ukraine's Tax Office and that the management team of the Customs Service would be dismissed.

"The country will change during the war. If someone is not ready for change, then the state itself will come and help them change," he wrote on the Telegram messaging in app.

11:14am: Belarus says Russian Iskander missiles now in service

Belarus said on Wednesday that it had taken Russian Iskander ballistic missile systems into service after its operators had received training in Russia.

The missiles are capable of hitting targets at a range of up to 500 km (310 miles), Minsk's defence ministry said.

"Having completed the theoretical course, the artillerymen carried out practical training at the Belarusian firing ranges," it added.

10:58am: US has 'destroyed basis' for New START arms control treaty, says Kremlin

Russia said on Wednesday that the United States had destroyed the legal basis for the New START arms control treaty between the two countries, but that the agreement remained "very important" for Russia, regardless of the present situation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was responding after the United States on Tuesday accused Russia of violating the treaty - the last major pillar of post-Cold War nuclear arms control between the two countries - by refusing to allow inspection activities on its territory.

10:53am: Zelensky aid says talks underway on longe-range missiles

A senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday talks were under way on securing longer-range missiles and attack aircraft from foreign partners to help repel Russian forces.

"Each war stage requires certain weapons. Amassing RF's (Russia's) reserves in the occupied territories require specifics from (Ukraine) & partners," political adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

10:52am: Kremlin welcomes 'bounty payments' offer for destroying Western tanks in Ukraine

The Kremlin on Wednesday welcomed a Russian company's offer of "bounty payments" for soldiers who destroy Western-made tanks on the battlefield in Ukraine, saying it would spur Russian forces to victory. The Russian company Fores this week offered 5 million roubles ($72,000) in cash to the first soldiers who destroy or capture US-made Abrams or German Leopard 2 tanks in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian troops would "burn" any Western tanks that were delivered to Ukraine, adding the bounties were extra encouragement for Russian soldiers.

10:49am: Kremlin says any new longer-range rockets from US would escalate Ukraine conflict

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that longer-range rockets reportedly included in an upcoming package of military aid from the United States to Ukraine would "escalate" the conflict but not change its course.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told reporters that there were no plans for Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold talks with US President Joe Biden.

The US package of military aid, worth $2.2 billion, is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time, two US officials briefed on the matter said on Tuesday.

9:52am: Japan preparing to host online G7 summit to mark anniversary of Ukraine invasion

Japan is preparing to host a Group of Seven (G7) summit meeting online timed to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed officials.

9:43am: Moscow-installed official says Russian forces encircling Bakhmut

Russian forces are encircling Bakhmut and are battling to take control of the highway that connects the city to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar, a Russian-installed official in eastern Ukraine said on Wednesday.

"Bakhmut is now operationally surrounded, our forces are closing the ring around the city," said Yan Gagin, an aide to senior Russian-installed official Denis Pushilin. "Fighting for control of the Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut highway is now underway," he said on state television.

FRANCE 24 could not independently verify these assertions.

Russia claims to have taken control of several locations around Bakhmut, where its troops and mercenaries from the Wagner group have been locked in a battle of attrition with Ukrainian forces for months.

9:33am: Russian journalist sentenced in absentia to 8 years in jail for 'fake news'

Prominent Russian journalist Alexander Nevzorov was sentenced in absentia to eight years in jail by a Moscow court on Wednesday after it found him guilty of spreading 'fake news' about the Russian army, state media reported.

Investigators opened a case against Nevzorov last year for posts on social media in which he accused Russia's armed forces of deliberately shelling a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, an assertion Moscow said was false.

Nevzorov's wife wrote on Instagram in March that she and her husband were in Israel.

8:33am: Spain to send Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine: media

Spain plans to send between four and six Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, newspaper El Pais reported Wednesday, citing unidentified government sources.

The actual number will depend on the condition of the battle tanks in storage and how many other countries will eventually supply to Ukraine, the sources told El Pais.

A spokesperson for the Spanish defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kyiv secured pledges from the West this month to supply main battle tanks to help fend off Russia's invasion, with Moscow mounting huge efforts to make incremental advances in eastern Ukraine.

7:43am: Russia claims control of Blahodatne, near Bakhmut

"The latest reports suggest that Russian forces are making a fresh push on two villages, Vuhledar and Pavlivka, some 30km southwest of Donetsk city in eastern Ukraine. At the same time, the Russian defence ministry is claiming that its forces not far from there have captured the village of Blahodatne," FRANCE 24's Andrew Hilliar reports from Kyiv.

"We have not been able to independently verify those claims, but looking at the bigger picture, this could all be part of a new Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine."

5:45am: Netanyahu considering military aid, mediation for Ukraine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview aired Tuesday he was considering military aid to Ukraine and was willing to serve as a mediator, following US calls for more active involvement.

Netanyahu was asked in an interview with CNN if Israel could provide assistance to Ukraine such as Iron Dome, the US-backed technology that defends Israel from air attack. "Well, I'm certainly looking into it," Netanyahu said.

He confirmed that the United States has shifted a little-known stockpile of artillery it stations in Israel to Ukraine and he cast the Jewish state's own operations against Iran as part of a similar effort. "The US just took a huge chunk of Israel's munitions and passed it on to Ukraine. Israel also, frankly, acts in ways that I will not itemise here against Iran's weapons productions which are used against Ukraine," he said.

He said he was willing to mediate if asked by the parties and the United States. "I've been around long enough to know that there has to be a right time and the right circumstances. If they arise, I'll certainly consider it," he said.

The remarks come after a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who called for calm following a flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians and also nudged Israel to boost support to Ukraine.

5:26am: US defence firm General Atomics offers to sell advanced drones to Ukraine for one dollar and shipping costs

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that a US defense company, General Atomics, has offered to sell Kyiv two Reaper MQ-9 drones for a dollar as it prepares for an expected Russian offensive.

Under the deal, Kyiv would have to spend about $10 million to ship the aircraft to Ukraine, and about $8 million each year for maintenance, the Journal said, citing a letter from General Atomics to a Ukrainian diplomat.

There was no immediate comment on the report from Washington.


Originally published on France24

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