Slovakia sends Soviet jets to Ukraine as Xi meets Putin – live

A Russian jet crashes into a US drone

Slovakia will send its 13-strong fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, becoming the second NATO member after Poland to accede to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s requests for planes to help Kiev repel the Russian invasion.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger on Friday announced his government’s unanimous decision to deploy the ground-based fleet of Soviet-era jets, just hours after Pole Andrzej Duda announced plans to deploy four jets within days, with more to come.

The Kremlin replied on Friday that the fighter jets would be destroyed and would not change the course of the conflict.

It came as Moscow announced that China’s President Xi Jinping accepted an invitation from Vladimir Putin on a state visit to Russia on Monday.

China and Russia forged a borderless partnership in February 2022, just weeks before invading Ukraine, and Beijing recently offered to mediate peace in the war.

Meanwhile, Russia was likely trying to recover debris from the US surveillance drone it allegedly intercepted over the Black Sea, according to the Pentagon.


China’s foreign minister rarely calls his Ukrainian counterpart

my colleague Alisha Rahaman Sarkar has more on the news that China’s foreign minister made a rare call to his Ukrainian counterpart ahead of Xi Jinping’s state visit to Russia.

Qin Gang told Dmytro Kuleba that Beijing is concerned that the war in Europe is spiraling out of control and called for talks with Russia to find a solution, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 1:03 PM


Ukrainian soldiers sent to defend Bakhmut ‘fear they will be sent to their deaths’

Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Bakhmut fear “they will be sent to their deaths” amid a relentless push by Russian forces to capture the city, my colleague Martha McHardy reports.

On the Bakhmut front, where an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers are currently fighting, Vladimir Putin’s forces are said to outnumber the Ukrainians by two or three times.

“If they drive us to Bakhmut, I already know that I will be sent to my death,” said a Ukrainian soldier named Volodymyr Kyiv independent.

The 54-year-old, an infantryman with the 93rd Mechanized Brigade, said he was having trouble eating after months of fighting. “[The Russians] keep firing at us, but we don’t have artillery,” he said. “So we have nothing to attack them with. I don’t know if I will return or not. We are about to be killed.”

Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 12:29 p.m


Deliveries of fighter jets show NATO members “increasing direct involvement” in war, Kremlin says

The Kremlin has cited the fighter jets pledged by Poland and Slovakia as another example of NATO members “raising the level of their direct involvement in the conflict.”

“The supplies of equipment, of course, will not affect the outcome of the special military operation, but they could bring even more misfortune to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Dmitry Peskov attends a press conference at the Kremlin

(Sputnik/Valeriy Sharifulin/Pool via REUTERS)

Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 12:01


The Kremlin accuses Kiev of “illegally attacking” the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of “illegally attacking” the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) after officials in Kiev ordered the church to leave the 980-year-old monastery complex in the capital, where it is based.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian leaders have accused the long-established Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) – which accepted the authority of the Patriarch of Moscow until last year’s invasion – of undermining Ukraine’s unity and colluding with Russia.

“With these illegal attacks on the Church, the Kiev regime is once again demonstrating its character, the very character we are fighting, the very character we must stop [military] Operation that is taking place,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Since October, Ukraine’s Security Service has conducted searches at UOC churches, imposed sanctions on their bishops and donors, and launched criminal cases against dozens of clergy.

Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 11:29 am


What is China’s peace proposal to end the Ukraine war?

China has put forward a 12-point peace proposal to end the war in Ukraine, with Chinese President Xi Jinping set to visit Moscow next week.

Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Mr Xi’s visit to Russia – his first in almost four years – is partly to promote “peace”.

my colleague Matt Mathers has this report on the content of the Chinese peace proposal:

Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 11:02 am


Kremlin vows to destroy Slovak and Polish fighter jets

After pledges by Slovakia and Poland to send fighter jets to Ukraine, the Kremlin has responded that it will destroy the Soviet-era planes and that they will not affect the course of the war.

Announcing the decision, Estonia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger said his government was “on the right side of history”. Earlier, Mr. Heger tweeted that military aid is key to ensure Ukraine can defend itself and all of Europe against Russia.

Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said Slovakia will receive €200 million in compensation from the European Union and €700 million in unspecified weapons from the United States in return for sending its 13-strong fleet – which was grounded last year – to the United States stayed – to Kiev.

Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 10:40 am


Slovakia hands over fighter jet fleet to Ukraine

Slovakia is the second NATO member to agree to plans to send fighter jets to Ukraine.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger announced his government’s unanimous decision to hand over to Ukraine its fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, which Slovakia no longer uses.

On Thursday, Poland’s president said his country would provide Ukraine with about a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets.

President Andrzej Duda said Poland would hand over four of the Soviet-made fighter jets and others that would need servicing later in the coming days.

Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 9:50 am


Russia awards pilots for intercepting US drones

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu presented awards to pilots for preventing a US drone from entering Russia’s war zone in Ukraine, Russian state media reported, citing the Moscow Defense Ministry.

The drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday after being intercepted by Russian fighter jets, Washington said.

Russia denies its jets made contact with the drone but said it would attempt to retrieve the debris from the Black Sea – an attempt the US insisted was highly unlikely.

Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 9:19 am


Russian casualties mean commanders face a choice between going on the offensive and “a credible defense,” UK says

Russia’s combat capability is so exhausted that Vladimir Putin’s commanders “will likely be forced to choose between conducting offensive operations and conducting credible full-line defenses,” the UK Ministry of Defense has claimed.

Russian and Wagner Group troops have gained a foothold west of the Bakhmutka River in central Bakhmut in recent days, while Ukrainian forces continue to defend the west of the city, according to British intelligence.

“More broadly, however, Russia is conducting some of the lowest rates of local offensive action since at least January 2023,” the ministry said.

“This is most likely due to the fact that the Russian armed forces have temporarily decimated the combat effectiveness of the deployed formations to such an extent that even local offensive actions are currently unsustainable.

“Russian leaders are likely to seek to regenerate the force’s offensive potential as soon as personnel and ammunition stocks are replenished. In the meantime, commanders will likely be forced to choose between conducting offensive operations and conducting credible full-line defenses.”

Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 8:55 am


Russia likely trying to recover US drone debris in Black Sea, Pentagon says

The Pentagon said it had “indications that Russia is likely making efforts to try to retrieve the US drone” allegedly intercepted by Moscow’s fighter jets over the Black Sea.

Russia had previously stated its intention to search for debris in deep waters near Crimea, and a US official told Reuters that Russian vessels had been seen near the area where the drone went down, although they apparently hadn’t recovered any parts of the drone yet.

The Pentagon said it thought it was “very unlikely that they would be able to recover anything useful.”

Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 08:27

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