Breaking information about Russia and the conflict in Ukraine

Russia is unnecessarily beefing up defenses in Belgorod, Britain says

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia’s decision to expand defense positions along its international border with Ukraine and deep in the Belgorod border region reflects a misguided belief that Ukraine may be attempting to invade Russia.

A view of damaged structures in Belgorod, Russia, following suspected attacks, seen November 6, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The UK, in its latest intelligence update, said the recent beefing up of defenses in Belgorod could be because Russian authorities wanted to spread an unfounded idea that Ukraine might invade.

“There is a realistic possibility that the Russian authorities will encourage defensive preparations on internationally recognized Russian territory to boost patriotic sentiment. However, this likely illustrates the genuine (but false) belief of some Russian decision-makers that there is a credible threat of invasion by Ukrainian forces,” the UK said.

“The lack of strategic judgment is one of the critical weaknesses of central Russia’s governmental architecture, as Russia’s initial decision to invade Ukraine highlighted,” she noted, adding, “Unbiased official analyzes almost certainly are often swayed by bias.” to undermine groupthink and politically meaningful conclusions.”

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry noted that trenching had been reported in Belgorod since at least April, “but the new designs are likely to be more sophisticated systems designed to thwart mechanized attacks.” In addition, the governor of Belgorod announced on Tuesday that local “self-defense units” would be set up.

Russia has accused Ukrainian forces of repeatedly shelling Belgorod and other border regions during the war, killing a number of civilians. Ukraine has not accepted responsibility for any incidents on Russian territory and once accused Russia of staging an attack to stoke anti-Ukrainian sentiment.

— Holly Ellyatt

Belarus is said to be transporting military equipment and personnel to check ‘terrorism’ response

A Ukrainian border guard uses binoculars to scout near Ukraine’s border with Russia and Belarus in November. The Ukrainian army has expressed concern over the “growing threat” of a Russian offensive from Belarus.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

Belarus is moving military equipment and its security forces on Wednesday and Thursday to review its response to possible “acts of terrorism”.

The state-run BelTA news agency quoted the country’s Security Council as saying it would temporarily restrict citizens’ movement on certain public roads during checks and said it plans to use fake weapons for training purposes.

Any military activity by Belarus is being closely watched in Ukraine for signs that its forces might enter the war and help its ally Russia. Belarus seems reluctant to fight alongside Russia in Ukraine, but it is conducting joint military exercises with Russia and sharing a unit with its neighbor.

— Holly Ellyatt

The pro-Russian official claims are ripe for the capture of Bakhmut

Pro-Russian official Denis Pushilin, acting head of the separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, has claimed that Russian forces in the region – currently arguably the most hotly contested region in the Ukraine war – could soon be in a position to advance and to conquer Bakhmut.

Denis Pushilin (C), leader of the separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), arrives for a news conference in Donetsk, April 11, 2022.

Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images

Pushilin told the TASS news agency that the “liberation” of Mayorsk near Horlivka, just south of Bakhmut, “sets the stage for the advance to Dzerzhinsk [known as ‘Toretsk’ in Ukrainian] and the subsequent encirclement of Artemovsk” – the Russian name for Bakhmut.

He said units of Russia’s state-sanctioned private military company Wagner Group were “working in Bakhmut” and were seeing “certain successes,” echoing comments from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said on Tuesday that a number of settlements near Bakhmut had fallen under the control of Russian forces.

Fighting in Donetsk has descended into bloody trench warfare in recent months, with fierce fighting for every kilometer of territory and settlements surrounding Bakhmut.

Russia is believed to view the city as a prime target as it believes its capture will allow it to cut Ukraine’s supply lines and allow its forces to advance towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk north of Bakhmut.

CNBC was unable to verify Pushilin’s claims. The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Wednesday morning that Russian forces would continue to focus their efforts on “conducting offensive operations” in the Bakhmut area.

It’s not the first time Puschilin has claimed Bakhmut is close to encirclement, after saying the same thing last week. Ukraine vehemently denies it is even remotely half-encircled, with an official telling CNBC that Russia is seeing massive personnel losses and small gains in the region, though the official admitted fighting was intense.

— Holly Ellyatt

Blinken says the US does not encourage or enable Ukraine to attack inside Russia

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken attends the Roundtable on Freedom of Speech in New York, the United States, September 19, 2022.

Craig Ruttle | Reuters

The United States has neither encouraged nor enabled Ukrainians to strike inside Russia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, but reiterated Washington’s determination to ensure Kiev has the equipment it needs to defend itself.

A third Russian airfield was ablaze in a drone attack a day after Ukraine demonstrated what appeared to be a new ability to penetrate hundreds of kilometers deep into Russian airspace with attacks on two Russian air bases. Kiev did not directly claim responsibility for the strikes, but celebrated them nonetheless.

– Reuters

At the United Nations, the US and Russia accuse each other of not being interested in Ukraine talks

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia addresses journalists about the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, the United States, April 4, 2022.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

The United States and Russia have accused each other of being uninterested in peace talks in Ukraine, while calls have grown at the United Nations for a ceasefire and diplomacy to end the war started by the invasion of Moscow nine months ago became.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told a UN Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine that Moscow had noted the “interest of a significant majority” of UN member states in a diplomatic agreement.

“We’re taking it very seriously. We reiterate our readiness to negotiate,” he said, but added that the goal is to “remove the root causes that compelled us to launch our Special Military Operation (SMO).”

– Reuters

Turkey says Finland must end arms embargo to join NATO

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a news conference in Istanbul’s Turkiye, November 3, 2022.

Shadati | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Finland must publicly declare that it is lifting an arms embargo on Turkey to win Ankara’s approval of its NATO membership, Turkey’s foreign minister said.

Mevlut Cavusoglu was speaking ahead of the visit of Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen, who is due to discuss his country’s bid to join the military alliance with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Thursday.

“Finnish Defense Minister’s visit to Turkey is important because we have not yet heard a statement from Finland that they have lifted their arms embargo on us,” Cavusoglu told reporters. “We expect such a statement from there.”

Sweden and Finland abandoned their long-standing policy of military non-alignment and applied to join the alliance after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, amid fears Russia might target them next.

— Associated Press

Hungary vetoes 18 billion euro EU aid package for Ukraine

Hungary has vetoed an EU bailout package worth 18 billion euros ($18.9 billion) to Ukraine, meaning it can’t go ahead and the European Commission must find other ways to unload aid Ukraine to continue until 2023.

“Orban is in full escalation,” tweeted a member of the Greens in the European Parliament in response to the news.

The move is seen as a way for Hungarian President Viktor Orban, a longtime Putin ally, to force the EU to give Hungary its share of salvage funds, some of which have been blocked by the EU for violating the bloc’s laws.

The EU Commission will now examine ways “to provide Ukraine with the necessary solution as early as January,” said EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

Czech Finance Minister Zbynek Stanjura said he had asked his EU counterparts to work towards “a solution supported by 26 member states” that could bypass Hungary’s veto.

“We couldn’t accept the package as a whole, but we’re not discouraged,” said Stanjura. “Our goal remains that we start disbursements to Ukraine in January.”

— Natasha Turak

The Kremlin says there is currently no prospect of peace talks with Ukraine

Moscow says it agrees with the US on the need for a lasting peace in Ukraine, but sees no prospect of talks in that direction at this time.

“One can agree that the result should be a just and lasting peace,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the press in reference to statements by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday. Blinken said that the war in Ukraine “would almost certainly end in diplomacy” and that a “just and lasting peace” was essential.

“But in terms of prospects for any kind of negotiations, we don’t see any at the moment,” Peskov said.

He added that for talks to take place, Russia must have achieved the goals of its “special military operation,” the term the Kremlin has been using since February to describe its all-out invasion of Ukraine.

— Natasha Turak

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