Ukraine war latest: Putin's narrative 'could be helped' after attack on Russian villages claimed by armed opposition groups (2023)

Key points
  • Russian forces still engaged with apparent opposition groups who stormed villages in Belgorod region
  • Attacks 'could help Putin's narrative'
  • US officials accuse Wagner of plotting to buy military equipment and move it to Russia through Mali
  • Why the battle for Bakhmut could be blown open in days | Sean Bell
  • Your questions answered: How much of the information out there can be relied upon?
  • Got a question about the war? Ask our experts
  • Live reporting by Samuel Osborne


'Ukrainian militants' still active in Belgorod, Kremlin claims

The Kremlin said "Ukrainian militants" were still active in Russia's border region of Belgorod, a day after local authorities declared a counter-terrorism operation there to repel what they called a sabotage group with Ukraine.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia's military campaign in Ukraine had been launched to prevent such incursions and more efforts were needed from the Russian side to prevent such incidents.

Kyiv has claimed it "has nothing to do with" the attacks in Belgorod, but said it was monitoring the situation.


8,900 civilians killed in Ukraine war and 15,100 injured, UN says

The war in Ukraine has killed 8,900 civilians and left 15,100 injured, according tothe Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

It said the figures were likely higher "as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration,” the OHCHR said.

UN data showed of those killed, 40 were men, 2,403 were women, 275 were boys and 218 were girls, while the gender of 30 children and 1,929 adults had not been determined.

Among the wounded were 445 boys and 314 girls, with 276 children whose gender has not yet been determined.


Belgorod will not be last insurrection in Russia, Ukrainian official says

Fighting in the Russian region of Belgorod will not be the last time insurrection is seen within Russia's borders, a Ukrainian official has said.

Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s minister of defence, told Times Radio: "It is quite surprising to us that it has taken so long for Russian insurgents and Russian partisans to become more active in terms of trying to get rid of the terrorist regime which is inflicting death and destruction on Ukraine, which is isolating Russia internationally.

"Over 200,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. Apparently the breaking point has been reached."

He added: "Why is it happening now? Because Ukrainian armed forces have exposed that Russia is a paper tiger. We have exposed that Russia can and should be beaten on the battlefield. This is what we are doing in Ukraine.

"And we are confident that this has encouraged Russian partisans and those Russian citizens who hope to change something, and don’t want to be part of this crime of aggression.

"Russians who don’t want to be associated with this terrorism. Who don’t want their children to, you know, live with this eternal shame and disgrace because of what a group of people in the Kremlin are doing to Ukraine and the world."

Mr Sak said Ukraine and the partisans share similar aims of demilitarising the border region of Russia, adding: "This is in line actually with our objectives. Because we believe that for Ukraine to be safe and for Europe to be safe, after we defeat Russia on the battlefield we will need to all establish a demilitarised zone of some form in parts of Russia."


Russia opens 'terrorism case' over Belgorod attacks

Russian investigators says they have opened a terrorism investigation after what they called a cross-border attack on Russia's Belgorod region by Ukrainian armed groups.

Kyiv has denied they are behind the attacks across the Ukrainian border, instead blaming Russian partisans who - as we have been reporting through the morning - have claimed responsibility.


Germany looking into how to support F-16 coalition

Germany is looking into options to support a coalition of countries planning to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets, defence minister Boris Pistorius has said.

However, any potential German contribution could be minor because Germany itself does not own the US-built jet, he added.

It comes after Joe Biden authorised US allies to train Kyiv's forces on how to operate the fighter jets and eventually provide the aircraft themselves.

Poland, the Netherlands and Denmark have F-16s and could potentially provide the jets to Ukraine.


Drones shot down over Belgorod amid fighting, governor says

Drones have been shot down over the Belgorod region by anti-aircraft weaponry amid fighting there, the region's governor has said.

Vyacheslav Gladkov also posted an update on civilians wounded in the area, writing on Telegram: "The couple was taken to the city hospital No 2. The woman has shrapnel wounds of the lower extremities, the state of traumatic shock is severe.

"The man with abdominal wounds is in a state of moderate severity. Now they are in the emergency department under the close supervision of doctors. All necessary medical assistance is provided."

Earlier, he said: "Unfortunately, a woman born in 1941 died yesterday during evacuation measures. Most sincere condolences to loved ones. Anything you need, of course, we will help. I understand that no one can bring back a loved one.

"There is information that in those settlements that the enemy entered, there are two wounded civilians.

"So far, the security forces have not been able to reach them. That is the top priority this morning. I hope that we will be able to evacuate them as soon as possible and deliver them to a medical facility."

Russian officials have blamed a Ukrainian "sabotage group", something Kyiv has denied, instead blaming Russian guerrilla groups supporting Ukraine. As we have reported, those groups have claimed responsibility.


Fighting in Belgorod will help Ukrainian offensive, former chief of general staff says

Fighting in the Belgorod region of Russia will help any offensive Ukraine is planning against Moscow's forces, the former chief of the general staff has told Sky News.

Amid competing claims about who carried out the attacks - Ukrainian saboteurs or Russian partisans, Lord Dannatt, said "in a sense it doesn't really matter who" was behind them because it would lead Russian people living in the border villages to ask Vladimir Putin for greater protection.

"So then he's got to respond to that, which means he's got to provide greater security in that area. Where is he going to get those troops from? Well, from elsewhere in Russia. Maybe he's got to pull some back from Ukraine itself," he said.

"It's another example of precursor moves before the offensive. Kyiv is denying their involvement. I think one listens to that with a slightly raised eyebrow."

Discussing Ukraine's much-anticipated offensive, he said: "Well, we'll see it when they're ready and they shouldn't launch it before they're ready. They're integrating the weapons and the advice and the equipment and the training the West has been giving them.

"And I'm quite certain at the moment of their choosing - and I think the time is getting quite close now - and at a place of their choosing... they have the chance if they strike some decisive blows on the Russians to have a significant effect."

Lord Dannatt said it did not mean the war would be over in days or weeks, comparing it to D-Day being the start of the Normandy campaign during the Second World War.


Zelenskyy visits front line to congratulate troops

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he has visited frontline troops to congratulate them on the Day of the Ukrainian Marines.

Mr Zelenskyy posted photos showing him presenting awards and posing for a group photograph with marines.

"Our defenders. Frontline. Today I am here tocongratulate our warriors on the Day of the Ukrainian Marines,"he wrote on Telegram.


Ukraine still controls area in Bakhmut, deputy defence minister says

Ukraine still controls an area on the southwestern edge of the city of Bakhmut, Kyiv's deputy defence minister has said.

Hanna Maliarwrote on Telegram that Kyiv's forceshad made some progress "on the flanks to the north and south ofBakhmut".

She said fighting had decreased inside the city while Russian forces continue to clear areas under their control.

Moscow claims Russian forces have captured the city in its entirety after more than nine months of fighting, but Ukraine has contested this.

This is the latest territorial picture according to the Institute for the Study of War...


Ukraine will get F-16 fighter jets in 'several months at best', US Air Force secretary says

It will take "several months at best" for Ukraine to get F-16 fighter jets,US Air Force secretary Frank Kendall has said.

Joe Biden announced somewhat of a U-turn last week, saying the US would allow its allies to train Ukrainian forces on how to operate F-16 fighter jets and eventually provide the aircraft themselves.

"It's been in the works, and there's obviously been interest from Ukraine in getting that kind of capability," Mr Kendall told reporters at the Defense Writers Group, according to CNN.

"We are not under any circumstances going to get F-16s or another Western fighter in significant numbers into the hands of the Ukrainian Air Force in something less than at least several months."

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