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HomeEuropeWagner announces opening of recruitment centres in 42 Russian cities

Wagner announces opening of recruitment centres in 42 Russian cities

The head of Russian mercenary group Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin announced the opening of recruitment centres in dozens of cities on Friday. Prigozhin is currently entangled in a power struggle with the defence ministry, having several times claimed battlefield victories ahead of the Russian military, lambasted Russia’s top brass and accused the military of not sharing ammunition with his forces. Read FRANCE 24’s live blog below to see how the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

9:27pm: Ukraine orders Russian-aligned Orthodox church to leave Kyiv monastery

Ukrainian officials on Friday ordered a historically Russian-aligned wing of the Orthodox Church to leave a monastery complex in Kyiv where it is based, the latest move against a denomination regarded with deep suspicion by the government.

Kyiv is cracking down on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) – which accepted the authority of the patriarch of Moscow until after Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year – on grounds that it is pro-Russian and collaborating with Moscow. The Moscow patriarch, Kirill, has strongly backed the invasion.

The UOC says it has severed its ties with Russia and the Moscow patriarchate, and is the victim of a political witch hunt.

6:31pm: Canada bans Russian aluminum, steel imports

Canada on Friday banned the import of all Russian aluminum and steel products in a move that Ottawa said was aimed at denying Moscow the ability to fund its war against Ukraine.

“Ukraine can and must win this war. We continue to do everything we can to cut off or limit the revenue used to fund Putin’s illegal and barbaric invasion of Ukraine,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.

5:21pm: G7 renews pledge to support Ukraine energy sector, Japan says

The G7 and other like-minded organisations renewed their pledge to support Ukraine‘s energy sector, Japan‘s foreign ministry said after the group convened for a meeting on Friday.

Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Japan intends to provide about 10 autotransformers and 140 units of power-related equipment to Ukraine, according to a statement released by the Japanese foreign ministry.

During the meeting, which was co-hosted by Hayashi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Hayashi also praised Ukraine for overcoming “the harsh winter despite repeated Russian attacks on energy infrastructure.”

5:15pm: Ukraine prosecutors seek to detain top manager in graft case

Anti-corruption authorities in Ukraine are seeking the pre-trial detention of the former head of a state oil and gas giant in a case at the forefront of Kyiv‘s battle against corruption which has also attracted public criticism.

Prosecutors on Friday asked the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine to place Andriy Kobolyev, who is suspected of embezzlement while leading Naftogaz, in custody unless he posts around $10 million in bail.

Investigators from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) believe he may have broken the law by effectively awarding himself a $10 million bonus in 2018 after winning an arbitration case in Stockholm against Russia’s state gas monopoly.

5:06pm: US says Moscow aims to destabilise Moldova, bring in ‘Russia-friendly’ govt

The US on Friday accused Russia of trying to destabilise the ex-Soviet republic of Moldova, including through the use of street protests, with the goal of eventually bringing in a pro-Moscow government.

“We believe Russia is pursuing options to weaken the Moldovan government, probably with the eventual goal of seeing a more Russia-friendly administration,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Moldova’s government is seeking closer ties to Western institutions and is close to the pro-Western government of neighboring Ukraine, which has been battling a Russian invasion for more than a year.

4:49pm: Wagner’s Prigozhin says Ukraine preparing Bakhmut counter-offensive

Russia‘s Wagner mercenary group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Friday that Ukraine was preparing a counteroffensive near the city of Bakhmut.

“Yes, it is a well-known fact that the enemy is preparing a counteroffensive. Of course, we are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening,” he said on social media.

4:09pm: Ukraine rebounds from Russian barrage, restoring power supply

Ukraine‘s capital had most of its power supply restored Friday, officials said, as the country again responded swiftly and defiantly to the latest Russian missile and drone barrage targeting critical infrastructure.

In what has become a familiar Russian tactic since early October, the Kremlin’s forces struck Ukraine from afar Thursday while the ground battles in the country’s east largely remained mired in a grinding stalemate. The apparent aim of attacking power stations and other infrastructure is to weaken Ukraine’s resolve and compel the Ukrainian government to negotiate peace on Moscow’s terms.

Ukrainian authorities scrambled to counter the consequences of the latest bombardment, part of a recurring cycle of urban smash-and-repair that has brought little change in the course of the war. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said in an assessment that “these missile strikes will not undermine Ukraine’s will or improve Russia’s positions on the front lines.”

3:57pm: Russian proxy courts jail three Ukrainian soldiers

Kremlin-installed courts in Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine have sentenced three Ukrainian servicemen, including a human rights activist, to lengthy prison terms for allegedly mistreating civilians, Russian investigators said Friday.

“The supreme courts of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics issued sentences in three criminal cases against Ukrainian citizens Viktor Pokhozey, Maksym Butkevych and Vladislav Shel,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement.

Moscow last year declared the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine part of Russia following referendums denounced by Kyiv and the West.

3:53pm: Zelensky leads tributes to revered Ukrainian fighter killed in Bakhmut

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky led tributes on Friday to Dmytro Kotsiubailo, a renowned commander known as “Da Vinci” who won public affection for committing his entire adult life to fighting Russia and its proxies.

The 27-year-old, whose unit is called Da Vinci’s Wolves, was killed this week in Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city that has since August experienced the deadliest fighting of the war and remains fiercely contested.

Zelenskiy appeared with the visiting Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, at the ornate, golden-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral in central Kyiv to lay flowers on Kotsiubailo’s coffin.

“It hurts to lose our heroes. Brave, courageous, strong. Loyal to themselves and to the state,” Zelensky said on the Telegram app.

2:57pm: Wagner announces opening recruitment centres in 42 Russian cities

The head of Russian mercenary group Wagner, who has been entangled in a power struggle with the defence ministry, announced Friday the opening of recruitment centres in dozens of cities.

“Recruitment centres for PMC Wagner have opened in 42 Russian cities,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a statement. “Despite the colossal resistance of the Ukrainian armed forces, we will move forward.”

Fighters will be recruited in sports centres and martial arts clubs, according to a list released by Prigozhin. “Despite the colossal resistance of the Ukrainian armed forces, we will move forward,” he said.

Prigozhin has several times claimed battlefield victories ahead of the Russian military, lambasted Russia’s top brass and accused the military of not sharing ammunition with his forces.

11:29am: Russia says Georgia protests subject to US ‘provocation’

Russia said on Friday it was watching events in Georgia “with great concern” and suggested without providing evidence that the United States was stirring up anti-Russian sentiment there.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was speaking after Georgia’s parliament, following three nights of protests, dropped a draft bill similar to the “foreign agents” law that Russia has used to crack down on opponents for the past decade.

He reiterated that Moscow had nothing to do with the situation in Georgia but said it was significant that Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili had been in the United States this week.

“It’s not from Georgia that she’s addressing Georgians. She’s addressing them from America. And someone’s visible hand is trying to add an anti-Russian element again here,” he said.

“Yes, this is fraught with provocations, we are watching this very attentively and with great concern.”

The choice of words echoed Peskov’s phrasing from a briefing earlier this week. After China’s foreign minister said an “invisible hand” was prolonging the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin spokesman said the “hand” referred to was obviously that of Washington.

11:25am: Kyiv restores ‘most’ of its power supply, officials say

Ukraine’s capital restored most of its power supply on Friday, officials said, as the country again responded to the latest Russian missile and drone barrage targeting critical infrastructure.

Power and water were restored in Kyiv, said Serhii Popko, the head of the city’s military administration. Popko said that about 30% of consumers in the capital remained without heating and that repair work was ongoing.

The electricity supply was restored to more than nine in 10 consumers in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, local officials said, while power was also restored to a third of consumers in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region.

9:46am: Macron, Sunak expected to vow more support for Ukraine

France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are set to meet in Paris on Friday to aim to iron out differences over migration and deepen military ties on Friday.

The two leaders are expected to vow more support for Ukraine, Downing Street said.

Ties between France and Britain, which have often been rocky since Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, have been fortified by the countries’ support for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.

A French presidential adviser said the summit’s priority was for the two NATO allies to reconnect.

8:35am: Putin congratulates Xi on new term, commends ‘strengthening ties’ with Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday congratulated Xi Jinping on his third term as China’s leader, hailing the strengthening ties between the two countries.

“Dear friend, please accept sincere congratulations on the occasion of your re-election,” Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

“Russia highly values your personal contribution toward the strengthening of ties … and strategic cooperation between our nations.”

“I am certain that working together, we will ensure the development of fruitful Russian-Chinese cooperation in all sorts of different areas. We will continue to coordinate joint work on the most important regional and international issues.”

With Russia’s relations with the West reaching Cold War-era lows after Moscow sent troops to Ukraine, the Kremlin has sought to shore up its ties with China.

7:11am: Pope says war in Ukraine driven by ‘several empires’, not only Russia

The war in Ukraine is driven by the interests of several “empires” and not just Russia’s, Pope Francis said in an interview published on Friday.

Francis said the conflict was fuelled by “imperial interests, not just of the Russian empire, but of empires from elsewhere”.

He expressed a readiness to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin to call for peace.

The pontiff was speaking to Italian Swiss television RSI, in an interview due to be broadcast on Sunday. Extracts were published Friday by Italian dailies La Repubblica, La Stampa and Corriere della Sera.

6:00am: Russia pounds Ukraine with barrage of rare hypersonic missiles

Nine people were killed across Ukraine on Thursday, as Russia unleashed a barrage of high-precision missile and other attacks that triggered a wave of power cuts, including at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant.

The blackout at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant prompted the UN nuclear agency’s chief to issue a dire warning that next time “luck will run out”, while President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West to impose sanctions on Russia’s atomic industry.

Russia said the strikes, involving rare hypersonic missiles, were retaliation for a border incursion earlier this month.

Source : France24

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