The UK Ministry of Defence has published its daily intelligence update, saying yesterday’s Victory Day parades in Russia, “highlighted the materiel and strategic communications challenges the military is facing 15 months into the war in Ukraine”.
The full update reads:
On 09 May 2023, the make-up of Russia’s annual Victory Day Parade in Red Square highlighted the materiel and strategic communications challenges the military is facing 15 months into the war in Ukraine.
Over 8,000 personnel reportedly took part in the parade, but the majority were auxiliary, paramilitary forces, and cadets from military training establishments.
The only personnel from deployable formations of regular forces were contingents of Railway Troops and military police.
A vintage T-34 from a ceremonial unit was the sole tank on parade. Despite heavy losses in Ukraine, Russia could have fielded more armoured vehicles.
The authorities likely refrained from doing so because they want to avoid domestic criticism about prioritising parades over combat operations.
What are the implications of Wagner being listed as a terrorist group?
Being listed as a terrorist organisation means EU members could freeze assets of the Wagner group and its members, with European companies and citizens barred from dealing with the group.
Prigozhin had his assets in the European Union frozen in 2020 and was placed on a visa blacklist over the deployment of Wagner fighters to war-torn Libya, a decision he unsuccessfully appealed.
The French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, conceded to lawmakers on Tuesday that legally the EU terrorist label would not have any “direct supplemental effect” on the group. But “we should not underestimate the symbolic importance of such a designation, nor the dissuasive effect that it could have on states tempted to turn” to Wagner.
In the UK, the blacklisting would make it a criminal offence to belong to Wagner, attend its meetings, encourage support for it, or carry its logo in public, the Times said. It would impose financial sanctions on the group and there would be implications for Wagner’s ability to raise money if any funds went through British financial institutions.
Britain reportedly poised to formalise terrorist classification
On Tuesday, the Times newspaper reported that after two months of building a legal case, Britain would also formally list Wagner as a terrorist organisation to increase pressure on Russia.
Citing a government source, the Times said the blacklisting was “imminent” and likely to be enacted within weeks.
Britain’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
‘Enemy’ drone shot down in Kursk, says Russia
Reuters reports that Russia’s air defence forces shot down an “enemy” drone in the Kursk region bordering Ukraine, its governor said on Wednesday, adding that falling debris damaged a gas pipeline and a house.
“Debris fell in the village of Tolmachevo. No one was hurt,” the regional governor, Roman Starovoyt, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia and on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.
However, Kyiv has recently said that undermining Russia’s logistics is part of preparation for a planned counteroffensive
France calls on EU to label Wagner a terrorist organisation
The French parliament has called on the EU to formally label the Russian mercenary group Wagner as terrorists, as the UK reportedly prepares to do the same.
France’s parliament unanimously passed a non-binding resolution aimed at encouraging the 27 members of the EU to put Wagner on its official list of terrorist organisations.
“Wherever they work, Wagner members spread instability and violence,” MP Benjamin Haddad told parliament on Tuesday. “They kill and torture. They massacre and pillage. They intimidate and manipulate with almost total impunity.”
He said they were not simple mercenaries driven by an “appetite for money” but they “follow a broad strategy, from Mali to Ukraine, of supporting the aggressive policies of President [Vladimir] Putin’s regime towards our democracies”.
Welcome back to our continuing live coverage of the war in Ukraine. This is Helen Sullivan with the latest.
Our top stories this morning: the French parliament has unanimously passed a non-binding resolution aimed at encouraging the 27 members of the EU to put Wagner on its official list of terrorist organisations.
And Russia’s air defence forces shot down an “enemy” drone in the Kursk region bordering Ukraine, its governor said on Wednesday, adding that falling debris damaged a gas pipeline and a house.
We’ll have more on these stories shortly.
In the meantime, here are the other key recent developments:
Vladimir Putin has told Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine that the “whole country is praying for them”, as he used his Victory Day speech to defend his invasion of Ukraine. Speaking on the 78th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Russian president drew historical parallels between the second world war and fighting in Ukraine. “We are proud of the participants of the special military operation. The future of our people depends on you,” Putin said.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner force said he was told he and his mercenaries would be regarded as “traitors” if they abandoned their positions. Prigozhin threatened to withdraw his troops from the city in east Ukraine, which has been the site of a long-running battle since 2022 to try to capture it, because of a lack of ammunition. He then rowed back on it, but has again threatened to do so.
Arman Soldin, a 32-year-old video journalist for Agence France Presse in Ukraine, was killed by Grad rocket fire near Chasiv Yar, in eastern Ukraine, AFP said on Twitter, citing AFP colleagues who witnessed the incident.
The UK foreign secretary James Cleverly and US secretary of state Antony Blinken have urged Russia not to use hunger as a weapon of war, as discussions over the Black Sea grain deal continue.
Ukraine said its air defences shot down 23 of 25 missiles, fired overnight by Russia, chiefly at Kyiv, and there were no reported casualties. It was the second night in a row of major Russian airstrikes and fifth so far this month.
Ukraine is planning a “very important” counteroffensive against Russian forces that must “demonstrate success”, the country’s prime minister has said. Denys Shmyhal told Sky News that the operation would be launched when the time was right.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen hailed Ukraine as “the beating heart of today’s European values”. Zelenskiy discussed European integration, defence matters and sanctions against Russia at a meeting with Von der Leyen in Kyiv. He said he expected the EU to soon approve more sanctions on Russia.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said there is currently no prospect of peace between Russia and Ukraine because “both sides are convinced that they can win”. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País on Tuesday, Guterres was pessimistic about the EU and the UN’s ability to broker an end to the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion last year.
The US has announced a “new security assistance package” to help bolster Ukraine’s air defences and artillery ammunition needs. This package, confirmed by the Department of Defense on Tuesday, totals up to $1.2bn and is being provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI).
A UK-led group of European countries has asked for expressions of interest to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles. The call for responses from companies who could provide the munitions with range of up to 300km (190 miles) was included in a notice posted last week by the International Fund for Ukraine.
Germany’s foreign minister has said China could play a decisive role in ending the war in Ukraine. Speaking alongside her Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday, Annalena Baerbock said that as a permanent member of the UN security council, China had the power to be influential in the conflict and bring it to an end.
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, said Russia “will prevail” in its fight against what he described as “imperialists”, the state news agency KCNA said on Tuesday, in remarks seen to be aimed at Ukraine and its western supporters such as the US.