Jan 27: Buonasera Mag
Day 338: UASitRep HolocaustMemDay Wagner Ru-NWF Lavrov IMF UNCHR EU FRjets BND IOC-A&Ps-ISW Kyslytsya Boffey Wintershall Burgess Foley Barr Weiss Tokariuk Kubilius SiliconPod Myroniuk Gilli Scarr
Hop over the Scott Lucas’s EA Worldview for the latest up-dates from the US and the Middle East as well as Europe.
Stories we’re following…
Ukrainian air defences shot down 47 of the 55 missiles Russian forces fired at Ukraine, the country’s top general said on Thursday. Reuters reported that Moscow used the Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missile, among other models, general Valery Zaluzhny said on his Telegram channel. Twenty of the incoming missiles were shot down around the area of the capital Kyiv, he added.
Ukraine’s army claims to have killed 109 Russian soldiers and wounded a further 188 in one day during fighting around the village of Vuhledar in the eastern Donetsk oblast. Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for the eastern operational command of the Ukrainian armed forces, said the bloody death toll was recorded on Thursday.
Energy infrastructure hit in Odesa, Zaporizhzhia oblasts. Russian missiles hit an energy infrastructure site in Zaporizhzhia Oblast overnight, the Zaporizhzhia Regional State Administration reported on the morning of Jan. 26.
Ministry: Ukraine's grain exports reach record low due to Russian obstruction. The ministry said that “on average" two or three cargo ships have been leaving Ukrainian Black Sea ports every day in January.
The Russian military appears to be shifting its focus towards conventional forces and away from the non-traditional force structure of the Wagner Group, potentially in preparation for a decisive effort in Luhansk Oblast.
ISW: A recent altercation between Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin & former Russian officer Igor Girkin is exposing a new domain for competition among Russian nationalist groups for political influence in Russia against the backdrop of Russian military failures in Ukraine.
Russia’s finance ministry on Thursday proposed scrapping liquidity restrictions for spending on “anti-crisis” investments from its National Wealth Fund (NWF), citing the need to support key sectors amid challenging geopolitical conditions.
The focus of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's visit to South Africa, eSwatini, and Angola this week has been the portrayal of Russia as a partner for the continent’s development and security, especially in the energy sector. The tour also had an overtly propagandistic element aimed at bolstering Russia's tattered global image as it seeks to cultivate closer ties with African states against the backdrop of its disastrous invasion of Ukraine in February.
The EU paid more to Russia in 2022 than in 2021, despite reducing its dependence on Russian energy. The EU imported $50 billion worth of Russian gas, fuelling Russia's war machine and helping fund war crimes in Ukraine.
Bloomberg: IMF exploring new Ukraine aid package worth up to $16 billion. The International Monetary Fund is considering the possibility of providing Ukraine with a multiyear aid package worth as much as $16 billion to help cover the country’s needs.
Russia is violating the “fundamental principles of child protection” in wartime by giving Ukrainian children Russian passports and putting them up for adoption, the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) chief told Reuters in an interview.
Nuland: US auditors arrive in Ukraine to ensure ‘no aid or weapons are diverted.’ This week, the U.S. has its auditors working in Ukraine alongside the World Bank and Deloitte consultants to ensure that “no aid or weapons are diverted,” U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said on Jan. 26.
EU has legal authority to use frozen Russian assets to rebuild Ukraine. The EU has the "legal authority" to use at least 33.8 billion euros" of frozen assets of Russia's central bank for the reconstruction of Ukraine, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources.
The European Union wants swift accountability for “horrific” crimes in Ukraine, EU justice ministers have said. But the member states differ over how to bring prosecutions, seek evidence or fund war damage repairs.
Vĕra Jourová, the European Commission vice-president in charge of values and transparency, said the EU had a moral duty to support democratic ideals in Russia: she has called for a “Radio Free Russia” to help independent Russian media distribute content in their home country and evade heavy censorship.
Belgium has announced a package of an additional €93.6m (£84.5m / $104.7m) in military aid for Ukraine. PM De Croo said that taking into account previous spending, it amounted to the biggest ever military aid package given to another country by Belgium.
The French have not ruled out sending fighter jets to Ukraine but on condition it does not lead to an escalation of war, undermine national or European security and that it is of use to Ukrainians, an influential MP and close ally of president Emmanuel Macron has said. “We must study requests on a case by case basis and leave all the doors open” Thomas Gassilloud, chair of the National Assembly’s national defence and armed forces committee told reporters in London.
Poland will send an additional 60 tanks to Ukraine on top of the 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks it has already pledged, the former’s prime minister has said.
Politico: A second arrest has been made in an espionage scandal at the German foreign intelligence agency, authorities said Thursday. According to the Public Prosecutor General in Karlsruhe, a German citizen who is “strongly suspected” of acting as a courier for a double agent has been arrested on suspicion of treason. The second person arrested is believed to be an accomplice of the alleged double agent and to have delivered sensitive information to Russia. He was arrested at Munich airport on Sunday as he entered the country from the United States and is not a BND employee.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) made it clear on January 25 that it wants Russians to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutral athletes in defiance of President Zelensky’s call to exclude them entirely. Citing a “unifying mission” during a time of war, the IOC said no athlete should face discrimination based only on the passport they held. It said: “A pathway for athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored."
Italian Defence: On January 25, MOD Guido Crosetto outlined his vision for the evolution of Italy’s entire military instrument. In the past years, the Armed Forces were mainly employed in peacekeeping missions. However, he argued, shifts in the global context and the reemergence of conflicts call for a radical rethink. That rethink – geared at enabling the men and women in uniform to face these challenges – must entail the development of capabilities and technologies, preferably national, to be stimulated through investments. Italy must change its pace within the major alliances.
Daniel Boffey, Cleaning house in Ukraine
The arrest of a high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence agent accused of spying for Russia has highlighted the urgent need for a cleanout of the country’s key security service, a former deputy head of the agency has said.
The Ukrainian security service (SBU) reported on Thursday that they arrested a lieutenant colonel in their ranks on suspicion of “high treason” and published a photograph of bundles of cash found in his home.
The unnamed man is said to have used his mobile phone to photograph documents detailing the location of military checkpoints in Zaporizhzhia, a frontline region in the south-east of the country, and sending the information via an email account registered on a Russian domain.
NVOU, Prigozhin’s star fades, Putin bets on Russian army again- Yahoo News
Apparently, Putin decided to give Prigozhin and Surovikin a chance to show what they could do on the battlefield, using mobilized prisoners on the one hand, and a brutal campaign of airstrikes against Ukrainian infrastructure on the other.
Both attempts failed, as Prigozhin’s attempts to capture Bakhmut reached a climax, and Surovikin’s air campaign achieved nothing more than inflicting suffering on the Ukrainian civilian population and expending much of Russia's remaining stockpile of precision missiles.
“Prigozhin seems to have decided in this period that his star really was on the ascendant and that he could challenge Gerasimov and even Shoigu for preeminence in Russian military affairs. Those hopes now seem to have been delusional,” ISW wrote.
Christopher Burgess, Former FBI Special Agent Arrested for Ties to Russian Oligarch- Clearance Jobs
It truly is a sad day when someone who enjoyed the highest level of trust from the United States breaks that trust and the law. And that is just what happened in the case involving Charles McGonigal. Today, the Department of Justice announced the indictment of McGonigal, a veteran of the FBI (1996-2018) whose career path allowed him to ascend to one of the most sensitive positions within the FBI. He was a Special Agent in charge of the New York Counterintelligence Division, and according to the indictment, he’s charged with violating U.S. sanctions on Russia.
It was illegal.
Whether McGonigal and Shestakov knew of the illegality of their arrangement is quickly answered when you unravel the daisy chain of cutouts and forged signatures of unwitting third parties to hide their hand but to get them their money. Not surprisingly, given Russian methodologies, the funds traveling into the U.S. for the two came via a bank located in Cyprus – seemingly a favorite banking locale for moving funding in support of Russian intelligence operations.
The courts will decide if the relationships predate the singular instance of attempting to place within NYPD a Russian national, the daughter of Deripaska’s representative.
The Russia Probe: latest revelations…
Leader Of Group Of Mothers And Wives Of Russian Soldiers Detained En Route To Moscow- RFL/RE
Olga Tsukanova, the leader of the Council of Mothers and Wives of Russian Soldiers, was detained at the airport in the city of Samara on January 22. Tsukanova was on her way to Moscow, where she planned to hand to the Prosecutor-General's Office complaints from around 700 women in connection with what is happening with their sons and husbands who have been sent to fight in Ukraine. Tsukanova was released by police hours later but ordered to return for questioning. She says she may face a charge of discrediting the Russian armed forces. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
The Influence industry at work…
On January 24, I listened into a Twitter space that triggered an extreme emotional response in every cell of my body. The hosts and speakers raised every Russian talking point known to us but the one that received the most applause was the idea that by giving Ukraine tanks, this would certainly escalate the war. Nuclear armaggedon was immanent. Today’s frontpage of Repubblica (tweet below) raises the same talking point, in part to grab reader attention and sell more copies. Apparently, we have the attention span of a baby squirrel.
The influence vectors working for Russia are in full swing at the moment. Their intent is to distract and instill fear in us so that we just sit still, and watch Ukrainians get slaughtered without doing anything. I’ve raised this issue in past posts: unilateral disarmament has been one of the most effective arguments pushed into the infosphere in the Western press and social media environments.
Andrius Kubilius, What does the West want? - The Lithuanian Tribune
The fundamental question of the future course of this war is, paradoxically, not about Ukraine but rather about Russia. It is about the West’s attitude towards post-war Russia. Because Western fears, linked to the future of post-war Russia, determine and control the decisions that the West takes today in relation to support for Ukraine.
Theoretically, the answer is that the West wants Ukraine to win and that it is up to Ukraine to decide what it wants, but it remains unclear whether the West wants Russia to lose in a crushing way.
The words about the outcome of the war being for Ukraine to decide sound like the position of a bystander; such words do not reflect any strategic interest of the West: do they want a crushing victory for Ukraine or just the preservation of the ‘status quo’?
I believe that at this stage of the war, the crucial question is whether the West has a strategy for the outcome it wants in Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. And this question is not so much about the scale of the Ukrainian military victory but rather about the impact of that victory on Russia’s future after a lost war. Does the West want Russia to undergo a fundamental transformation into a normal state after the war, or does the West not believe in such a transformation and fear that Russia’s future after the war may be even worse than its present with Putin?
Anna Myroniuk, A rare glimpse into covert arms sales world: How Western companies make a fortune on brokering deals for Ukraine- The Kyiv Independent (must read)
Editor’s Note: This story is a collaborative project of the Kyiv Independent (Ukraine), Eesti Ekspress (Estonia), Die Welt (Germany), Lighthouse Reports, and The Investigative Desk (the Netherlands).
Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine had driven arms prices times up
High demand has allowed some private brokers to secure arms deals for Ukraine to earn two to four times more than usual
One European company has allegedly gained excessive profits for brokering a deal for Ukraine with a Western firm Ukraine has been working with directly for years
First a Dutch, then an Estonian, and finally, a Czech company got involved in providing Ukraine with much-needed ammo.
The supplier that appears to be the final one in the chain, a Czech company called Excalibur International, is well known to Ukraine’s military industry. Ukraine’s state-owned arms company Ukroboronprom has been working with the company for years. Yet, in this case, Excalibur International’s supplies to Ukraine have taken place through a chain of intermediaries.
Geraldine Scott, Links to campuses at heart of China’s military ambitions- The Times
When Cambridge University signed a “joint research initiative” with President Xi’s alma mater in 2019, it said it was “delighted”.
Less than four years on, the deal looks less wise, with Tsinghua University linked to cyberattacks and high levels of defence research for Beijing.
The partnership between one of Britain’s leading institutions and Tsinghua is the tip of the iceberg. A Times investigation has revealed the full extent of UK links with Chinese institutions deemed very high risk for their links to military and security research.
In Britain, 42 have links with institutions considered a concern. In 22 cases British universities have agreements with Chinese institutions deemed “very high risk” by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) think tank.