Monday Morning News Notes
January 23, 2023
Germany appeared poised to back down in the row over sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine on Monday, signalling its willingness to let Nato allies re-export their own
Estonia said it would expel the Russian ambassador from Tallinn in retaliation for Moscow’s expulsion of the Estonian ambassador.
Tensions between Russia and its European neighbours have spiked since Moscow invaded Ukraine last year.
Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued on Monday it downgraded its diplomatic relations with Estonia, accusing the Baltic country of “total Russophobia.”
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said that conflict between Moscow and the West could no longer be defined as a “hybrid war”, but was closer to a real one, as he blasted the West for sending billions of dollars of arms to Kyiv. (Note:see nyt podcast where host implies the allies are escalating the war by sending increasingly powerful weapons.)
Moscow-backed officials say they visited destroyed Soledar
A Russian proxy official in east Ukraine claims to have visited Soledar, the destroyed town in the Donetsk region of Ukraine that Moscow said it captured this month.
Russia has suffered 180,000 casualties in Ukraine, Norwegian army says
Russia has suffered 180,000 killed or wounded in Ukraine so far, while the figure for the Ukrainians is 100,000 military casualties and 30,000 dead civilians, according to estimates by Norway’s army.
Kremlin shrugs off US sanctions on Wagner
The Kremlin has dismissed the significance of US sanctions on the Wagner mercenary group, saying they would have no practical effect.
Kremlin says Ukrainians will suffer if Europe sends tanks
The Kremlin said on Monday that the Ukrainian people would suffer if the West sent tanks to support Kyiv, as the question of whether German-made Leopard tanks will be transferred to Ukraine remained unresolved.
The United States and its allies failed during talks last week in Germany to convince Berlin to provide its Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, a key demand from Kyiv as it tries to breath new momentum into its fight against Russian forces.
Lavrov visits ally South Africa amid Western rivalry
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in South Africa on Monday for talks with one of its most important allies on a continent that is divided over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and related Western attempts to isolate it.
‘A global catastrophe’
A close ally of President Vladimir Putin said that deliveries of offensive weapons to Kyiv that threaten Russia’s territories would lead to a “global catastrophe” and make arguments against using weapons of mass destruction untenable.
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, warned that the United States and Nato’s support of Ukraine was leading the world to a “terrible war”.
“Given the technological superiority of Russian weapons, foreign politicians making such decisions need to understand that this could end in a global tragedy that will destroy their countries,” he wrote on Telegram.
Russian Wagner boss acknowledges comparison with Rasputin
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian mercenary boss, responded to comparisons between himself and the monk Rasputin who treated the son of the last tsar for haemophilia, saying on Sunday his job was not to staunch bleeding but to spill the blood of Russia’s enemies.
The Financial Times newspaper said at the weekend that Prigozhin had growing influence on the Kremlin and likened him to Orthodox monk Grigory Rasputin, who had considerable influence on the wife of Russia’s last tsar, Nikolai II.
Mr Prigozhin acknowledged only last September that he had founded the Wagner group, which has played a major role in the Russian military’s attempts to capture territory in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
“I am not very familiar with the history of Rasputin, but as far as I know, an important quality of Rasputin is that he staunched the blood flow of the young prince with incantations,” Mr Prigozhin’s press service quoted him as saying, referring to the article.
“Unfortunately, I do not staunch blood flow. I bleed the enemies of our motherland. And not by incantations, but by direct contact with them.”
Russia ordered white supremacists to letter bomb European politicians, US believes
Russia ordered white supremacists to post letter bombs to Nato targets in Europe last year, the US believes.
US intelligence officials think that a group called the Russian Imperial Movement, which has military-style training centres in St Petersburg, wanted to scare Ukraine’s allies.