Kyiv and Wagner dispute Blahodatne control in Ukraine – DW – 01/29/2023

Kyiv and Wagner dispute Blahodatne control in Ukraine – DW – 01/29/2023

Ukraine’s military and the Russian Wagner Group private military group both claimed to control the Blahodatne area in the eastern region of Donetsk on Sunday.

“Units of Ukraine’s Defense Forces repelled the attacks on the occupiers in the areas of … Blahodatne … in the Donetsk region,” the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in its daily briefing, referring to fighting on Saturday.

It listed another 13 settlements in the Donetsk region where Ukrainian troops had repelled attacks.

Meanwhile, the Wagner Group, designated by the US as a transnational criminal organization, said on the Telegram messaging app that its units were in control of Blahodatne in eastern Donetsk.

DW could not verify the specifics of either side’s claims.

Fighting has intensified in the Donetsk region and in particular around Bakhmut, well to the north of Blahodatne.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had described it as “acute” in his video briefing late on Friday.

Here are other updates on the war in Ukraine on Sunday, January 29:

Ukraine: Three killed by Russian shelling of Kherson

Russian shelling of residential areas in Ukraine’s southern city of Kherson left at least three people dead, local authorities said.

“Enemy artillery pounded the city’s residential areas,” the Kherson regional administration said on social media. The attacks left two men and one woman dead, and six others wounded, the administration said.

It added that civilian facilities were damaged, including the Kherson Regional Clinical Hospital, a school, a bus station, a post office, a bank and residential buildings.

Kherson was occupied by Russian troops from the early days of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine until its recapture by Ukrainian forces in November. Since its liberation, the city has regularly been shelled by Russians.

Scholz, Putin would be ‘open’ to direct phone call

Russian President Vladimir Putin would be open to speaking with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state RIA Novosti news agency on Sunday.

“For now, there are no agreed talks [with Scholz] in the schedule. Putin has been and remains open to contacts,” Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

The last time that Putin and Scholz spoke by phone was in early December, 2022.

“I will also speak to Putin on the phone again, because it is necessary to talk to each other,” the German chancellor told newspaper Tagesspiegel in an interview published on Sunday.

“But of course it is also clear: as long as Russia continues the war in unchecked aggression, the current situation will not change,” Scholz said.

He said he had kept in relatively regular contact with Putin, that the calls had not been impolite in tone, but that they had been far apart in their views.

“You can’t have any illusions,” Scholz said. “Putin wants to annex parts of his neighboring country by force. And that is absolutely unacceptable.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has also made repeated direct contact with Putin since the invasion, sometimes facing criticism from allies for doing so.

US President Joe Biden and Putin held a video call in December.

New Czech President Pavel calls Zelenskyy

New Czech president and former NATO general Petr Pavel called Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy on Sunday after winning the second round runoff on Saturday.

Pavel’s team said he spoke to Zelenskyy by phone, having already said on the campaign trail that he wanted to visit Ukraine at the earliest opportunity if elected.

Czech presidents customarily visit Slovakia in their first foreign engagement, but Pavel had said he would visit Ukraine next, hopefully with his Slovakian counterpart.

Zelenskyy also shared news of the call and said he had issued an invitation to Pavel.

“I personally congratulated Petr Pavel on winning the Czech presidential elections,” Zelenskyy wrote in English on Twitter. “Thanked him and the Czech people for their unwavering support. Invited him to visit Ukraine.”

Ukraine sanctions more Russian, Belarusian firms

Kyiv announced that it had imposed sanctions on 182 Russian and Belarusian companies, as well as three individuals. It was the latest of a series of attempts by President Zelenskiy to sever Belarusian and Russian links to his country.

The sanctioned companies were said to be involved in the transport of goods, vehicle leasing and chemical production, according to the list published by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

It includes Russian potash fertilizer producer and exporter Uralkali, Belarus state-owned potash producer Belaruskali, Belarusian Railways, as well as Russia’s VTB-Leasing and Gazprombank Leasing both dealing with transport leasing.

“Their assets in Ukraine are blocked, their properties will be used for our defense,” Zelenskiy said in a video address.

Pyongyang denies arms dealing with Russia

North Korea has denied providing arms to Russia. It comes after the US said Pyongyang had supplied rockets and missiles to Russia’s private military group Wagner, which Washington has labeled a “transnational criminal organization.”

Among the evidence, The White House showed US intelligence photographs of Russian rail cars entering North Korea, picking up a load of infantry rockets and missiles, and returning to Russia, according to national security spokesman John Kirby.

Senior North Korean official for US policy, Kwon Jong Gun, said the accusations were a “self-made rumor.”

In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, he warned that the US would face a “really undesirable result” if it persisted in spreading the rumor.

“Trying to tarnish the image of [North Korea] by fabricating a non-existent thing is a grave provocation that can never be allowed and that cannot but trigger its reaction,” said Kwon.

Germany’s Rheinmetall to boost production

German weapons company Rheinmetall said it was ready to increase the output of tank and artillery munitions, in order to satisfy strong demand in Ukraine and the West.

In an interview with Reuters, CEO Armin Papperger said the company may even start producing HIMARS multiple rocket launchers in Germany.

“We can produce 240,000 rounds of tank ammunition (120mm) per year, which is more than the entire world needs,” Papperger said.

Demand for munitions has risen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine due to their frequent use on the battlefield. But demand has also risen as Western militaries backfill their own stocks, bracing for what they see as a heightened threat from Moscow.

Papperger’s remarks come ahead of an expected meeting between Germany’s defense industry bosses and the country’s new defense minister Boris Pistorius.

Rheinmetall makes a range of defense products. The company is famous for manufacturing the 120mm gun of the Leopard 2 tank.

Erdogan hints Turkey might approve Finland on NATO and not Sweden

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday appeared to say his country might be willing to approve Finland joining NATO, but not Sweden.

Joining NATO requires unanimous approval from existing members.

Turkey has tried to use this for leverage in a longstanding dispute with the Nordic countries taking in often Kurdish Turks fleeing Turkey, many of whom Turkey considers separatist terrorists.

Last week, Turkey put the process with both countries on ice, angered at Sweden in particular after two public protests — the first by pro-Kurdish groups who burned an effigy resembling Erdogan and the second by far-right groups who burned copies of the Quran in response to Turkey’s threat to hold NATO membership.

Yet on Sunday, Erdogan spoke mainly in generalities about Sweden “extraditing terrorists.”

“We may deliver Finland has a different message [on their NATO application] and Sweden would be shocked when they see our message,” Erdogan said in a televised speech. “But Finland should not make the same mistake Sweden did.”

More on the war in Ukraine on

Russia has announced plans to revamp and expand its military. But are the plans realistic, can they be funded, and could hundreds of thousands of new recruits or conscripts be equipped? DW’s Russian language service dug deeper.

This DW video takes a look at the Wagner Group’s practice of using convicts promised clemency if they go to the front lines.

Wagner Group mercenaries – unfulfilled hopes for freedom

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And here’s more on the Wagner Group and its financiers from Marina Miron, a security analyst and honorary research fellow at King’s College London.

Wagner Group’s financial has political ambitions: Defense expert Marina Miron

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The attention may have been on German Leopard 2 tanks and M1 Abrams vehicles from the US, but Morocco also appears to be the first African country sending military equipment to Ukraine. We took a closer look at what would be a change in foreign policy.

You can also read more on the western tank deliveries to Ukraine in recent weeks here.

msh, jcg/dj (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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