Moscow promises to retaliate over border raid
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has vowed a “harsh response”, after the border region of Belgorod came under attack on Monday.
Though Kyiv has denied involvement, the two-day incursion – which Moscow says it has now defeated – was the largest raid on Russian territory since the war began.
The Kremlin released images of damaged and discarded Western military vehicles, including US-made Humvees, after the attack.
However, Washington insisted earlier today it does not “encourage or enable strikes inside of Russia”.
A US state department spokesman acknowledged allegations that US-supplied weapons had been used were “circulating on social media and elsewhere”, but said Washington was “sceptical at this time of the veracity of these reports”.
Two Russian anti-Putin paramilitary groups claimed responsibility for the raid in the southwest border region, saying at one stage they were in control of a piece of Russian territory.
Moscow says it killed more than 70 “Ukrainian nationalists”.
The incursion could force the Kremlin to divert troops from the front lines as Kyiv prepares for a major counter-offensive and deal Moscow a psychological blow, military analysts told the Reuters news agency.
Half of US public approves of arms deliveries to Ukraine
US public support for their government’s backing of Ukraine has faded a little but remains widespread, a new survey has found.
The research by the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and NORC showed more than half of Americans approve of sending weapons to Ukraine, with the war well into its second year.
That level is nearly unchanged in the past year, while about a quarter are opposed to sustaining crucial military assistance that has now topped €34 billion.
Has a deeply unpopular invasion been forced upon ordinary Russians, or is this wishful thinking? #UkraineWar️ https://t.co/JNLDUhPl04
— Josh Askew (@jweaskew) May 4, 2023
Western military support is seen as a vital pillar of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion.
There have been fears US public support would nosedive as the war dragged on, with Ukraine assistance becoming a partisan issue between Democrats and Republicans, though the poll suggests this is not yet happening.
Big majorities among both Democrats and Republicans believe Russia’s attack on Ukraine was unjustified, according to the research gathered last month.
“There’s no ground-swelling of American Ukraine fatigue here, and that has always been the fear,” said Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corp. research centre.
Russia extends arrest of US journalist Evan Gershkovich
A Russian court on Tuesday extended the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich by three months in a closed-door hearing.
AP news agency said the court hearing was emblematic of the secrecy that has marked the case against the first United States correspondent since the Cold War to be detained in Russia on spying charges.
Gershkovich, a 31-year-old American citizen, was ordered held until 30 August.
He was arrested in March on espionage charges during a reporting trip in Russia – something he, his employer and the US government deny.
Russian authorities haven’t detailed what – if any – evidence they have gathered to support the espionage charges.
Wagner boss reveals devastating losses in Bakhmut
The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin says his force lost more than 20,000 fighters in the drawn-out battle for Bakhmut.
About 20% of the 50,000 prisoners recruited to fight in the 15-month war have died in the eastern Ukrainian city, which has been likened to a “meat grinder”, he added.
🇷🇺 Could ruthless Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin replace Vladimir Putin and become Russia’s next president? https://t.co/L6eqyUFxPt
— euronews (@euronews) April 18, 2023
The figure stands in stark contrast to the hotly disputed public figure from Moscow that it lost just over 6,000 troops in the war.
Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman, is well known for his incendiary comments and obscenity-filled threats – some of which he has later backtracked on.
If true, the figure would be higher than the official estimate of the Soviet losses in the Afghanistan war of 15,000 troops between 1979-89.
Ukraine hasn’t said how many of its soldiers have died since Russia invaded in February 2022.
Analysts believe the nine-month fight for Bakhmut alone has cost the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers, who reportedly received little training before being sent to the front.