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Ukrainian troops ‘rationing shells’ as ammunition shortage bites

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4:08PM

The US Justice Department has launched an investigation into the possible release of Pentagon documents that were posted on several social media sites and appear to detail US and Nato aid to Ukraine, but may have been altered or used as part of a misinformation campaign.

The documents, which were posted on sites such as Twitter, are labelled secret and resemble routine updates that the US military’s Joint Staff would produce daily but not distribute publicly. 

They are dated ranging from Feb 23 to March 1, and provide what appears to be details on the progress of weapons and equipment going into Ukraine with more precise timelines and amounts than the US generally provides publicly.

3:39PM

Pro-West Slovakia last month became the second country in central and Eastern Europe after Poland to donate fighter jets to Ukraine, writes James Kilner

Slovakian MiG-29 fighter jets given to Ukraine are faulty and can’t fly combat missions because Russian technicians sabotaged them, Slovakia’s defence minister has said.

Jaroslav Nad, the minister, said that the only broken parts in the warplanes had been installed by Russian technicians who worked at the Slovakian air force base until last year.

“They are able to fly, but that doesn’t mean they are also capable of combat,” he said in parliament, according to local media. “The police are investigating based on our suspicions.”

Slovakia joined Nato in 2004, 11 years after Czechoslovakia split up, and the admission that Russian technicians have tampered with its air force planes will be hugely embarrassing.

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3:17PM

Hundreds of supporters including Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of mercenary outfit Wagner, turned out Saturday for the funeral of a high-profile Russian military blogger killed in a bomb attack.

Last week an explosion ripped through a cafe in Russia’s second city Saint Petersburg, killing 40-year-old Vladlen Tatarsky and wounding dozens. Investigators have accused Ukraine and members of Russia’s embattled opposition of being behind the blast.

Mourners, some carrying flowers, gathered at the prestigious Troyekurovskoye cemetery in western Moscow for the closed-casket funeral amid beefed-up police presence.

2:59PM

More than 30 children abducted by Russia from territory it occupies have been brought back to Ukraine. 

“The fifth rescue mission is now ending, and 31 children will arrive in Kyiv in a few hours,” said Mykola Kuleba, CEO of Save Ukraine charitable foundation

He added that with each mission, “the number of hours of FSB interrogations, [number of] ordeals that families have to go through to get their children back, increases.”

2:02PM

Ukrainians in the eastern city of Kramatorsk on Saturday laid flowers at a small memorial at the central train station one year after Russian missiles hit the transport hub, killing dozens.

The strikes on April 8 last year killed 61 people and injured more than 160 in one of the single deadliest attacks of the war, which targeted civilians fleeing Russia’s advance.

“What is there to say? My close friend and her daughter and their dog died. What more can be said?” 67-year-old Tetiana Syshchenko told AFP, tearing up.

1:59PM

Ukraine is drastically rationing its ammunition as stocks run critically low, with soldiers now firing a fraction of the artillery they were earlier in the war.

The revelation follows warnings by Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg who has said the prolonged and intense fighting in Ukraine is expending ammunition faster than the west can supply it.

According to a report by the Washington Post, Ukraine is firing around 7,700 shells per day, roughly one every six seconds. One artillery platoon, the 59th Motorized Brigade in eastern Ukraine, is firing one, two or none per day compared with more than 20 or 30 per day previously.

“We don’t have a lot of ammunition, so that’s why we don’t work a lot,” one commander told the Post.

12:45PM

Following the @iocmedia decision to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in the Olympics, Ukraine is considering boycotting the Games.

The IOC said that Ukrainian athletes who still decide to compete, “could count on the direct support of the Olympic Movement’s… pic.twitter.com/3sJ1QxXGmQ

— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) April 8, 2023

12:20PM

Moscow formally protested to Canada on Friday after the country’s UN envoy described a murdered Russian blogger as “a vitriolic propagandist” and a hate-monger, the foreign ministry said.

Bob Rae, Canada’s permanent representative to the United Nations, made the remarks after Vladlen Tatarsky – a cheerleader for Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine – died in a bomb blast in St Petersburg last Sunday.

In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry said it summoned a senior Canadian diplomat to strongly protest about Rae’s remarks, which it described as “yet another manifestation of the Russophobia being fomented in Canada.”

11:56AM

Despite the French president and Ursula von der Leyen’s pressuring him to lean on Putin, Xi Jinping won’t be dictated to by the West, writes Sophia Yan

China has not changed its position on Ukraine despite overtures made during a three-day visit by Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president.

China’s Xi Jinping reiterated his willingness to speak with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, but did not specify a timeframe.

Instead, he only said such a conversation would happen when the “conditions and time are right”, recalled Ms von der Leyen.

Those few words underscore Beijing’s position – that Mr Xi will do what he feels necessary, when he feels necessary, regardless of what anyone says.

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11:09AM

British military intelligence said on Friday that Russian forces were threatening a key supply route to Bakhmut, the focus of their assault for months which Ukraine has said it is defending to wear the invaders down before its counter-offensive. 

The Ukrainian military said it was holding on in the city but the situation was difficult.

10:49AM

The journalist for The Wall Street Journal is currently being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day at the notorious Lefortovo prison, writes James Kilner

Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter working for The Wall Street Journal, has been formally charged with espionage in Russia.

Agents for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested the respected Moscow-based correspondent on a reporting assignment in Yekaterinburg, near the Ural mountains, at the end of March.

“Gershkovich has been charged,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying.

Mr Gershkovich is currently being held at the notorious Lefortovo prison in Moscow. Joe Biden, the US president, has demanded his release and hundreds of newspapers around the world have signed a petition under the banner: “Journalism is not a crime.”

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10:31AM

A missile fired from Ukraine was shot down over the Black Sea town of Feodosia in Russian-controlled Crimea, the Russian head of Crimea’s administration said on Saturday.

“A missile launched from Ukraine was shot down over Feodosia,” Sergei Aksyonov said on Telegram.

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Kyiv has demanded that Moscow hand it back.

9:59AM

A Ukrainian minister will visit India from Sunday in the first face-to-face talks between the two countries since war broke out.

India imports much of its military hardware from Russia, and is walking a delicate balancing act between its increased security cooperation with Western countries and its reliance on Russia for defence and oil imports.While India has called for an end to hostilities in Ukraine, it has refused to condemn the invasion.

Emine Dzhaparova, Kyiv’s first deputy foreign minister, will “exchange views on the current situation in Ukraine” with a senior member of India’s foreign ministry.

9:31AM

Russia or pro-Russian elements were likely behind the leak of several classified US military documents posted on social media that offer a partial, month-old snapshot of the war in Ukraine, three US officials told Reuters on Friday.

The documents appeared to have been altered to lower the number of casualties suffered by Russian forces, the US officials said, adding their assessments were informal and separate from an investigation into the leak itself.

The US officials spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter and declined to discuss the documents in any detail.