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Europe News

Ukraine war: foreign fighters, EU increases war kitty, ‘repression’ of Russian opposition

1. A Frenchman who stepped on a mine while fighting in Ukraine awaits repatriation

A Frenchman injured in fighting alongside Ukrainian soldiers in late November is awaiting repatriation, according to the French Foreign Ministry.

Maxime Bronchain, 32, stepped on a mine while fighting Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, where fighting is still raging.

He told reporters the blast had “seriously injured” his left foot, while an American comrade was hit by a second mine coming to his rescue.

This man died during his evacuation, said the French, who were part of a reconnaissance unit made up of about twenty foreign fighters.

Five other Frenchmen were part of his international team, he said.

Bronchain has had 5 surgeries since his injury. He refused amputation but now fears losing his foot.

In contact with the French Embassy in Ukraine, the French volunteer is now waiting to be repatriated home.

“There are high risks of infection, and Ukrainians lack morphine,” said his brother Florent.

The French Embassy in Ukraine, in conjunction with the country’s crisis and support center, is providing all the necessary assistance to the injured soldier, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

“As we do for all French people in difficulty abroad,” he added.

The ministry has issued a warning on the “risks associated with traveling to Ukraine”, which it has classified as a “red zone”, which means that all travel is strictly discouraged.

Before the war, Bronchain worked in the restaurant business in eastern France.

He decided to leave for Ukraine in May “to respond to the call of the President [Volodymyr] Zelensky,” who openly invited foreigners to join an “international legion” to defend Ukraine, he said.

Bronchain had military experience, having been in the French army for a year when he was 18.

“I wanted to be useful,” he said. “The people here welcome us as liberators, they take us in their arms”.

Bronchain intends to marry a Ukrainian from Odessa whom he met during the war.

2. EU replenishes kitty for military aid to Ukraine

The European Union agreed on Monday to increase its kitty for military support to Ukraine, according to the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell.

EU member states will add €2 billion to the European Peace Facility (EPF), which is being used to fund the bloc’s armed assistance to Kyiv as it battles Russian forces.

“We are today increasing the financial ceiling of the European Peace Facility by €2 billion in 2023,” Borrell tweeted, adding that “the agreement will be formalized in early 2023.”

There was a “possibility of a further increase later”, Borrell continued, suggesting that the ETH could reach 5.5 billion euros by 2027.

“Today’s decision will ensure that we have the necessary funds to continue to provide concrete military support to the armed forces of our partners,” Borrell said.

Complemented by contributions from EU member states, the EPF has received €5.7 billion for the period 2021-2027 to fund operational actions under the bloc’s common foreign and security policy.

It was used shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine to fund kyiv’s arms supply.

Military support from EU member states to Ukraine amounts to almost 9 billion euros, Borrell said. This figure includes bilateral transfers between different countries and Kyiv.

3. Paris “very concerned” about the repression of the opposition in Russia

France is “very concerned” by what it called a campaign of repression by Russia against critics of the war in Ukraine, according to the Foreign Ministry.

“France is very concerned about the campaign of repression carried out by the Russian authorities against critical voices of power and its war of aggression against Ukraine,” a spokesman for the ministry said on Monday.

Paris also said it “strongly” deplored the sentencing of opponent Ilya Yashin.

A Moscow court sentenced him to eight and a half years in prison on Friday for criticizing the military offensive in Ukraine, following a trial that highlights the climate of repression in Russia.

Yashin’s trial was closely watched in Russia, as he was one of the last prominent opponents of the war not to have fled the country or been imprisoned.

Arrested last June, the 39-year-old man was arrested after criticizing “the killing of civilians” in the Ukrainian town of Bucha on Youtube.

Bucha, near kyiv, is a site where the Russian army is accused of torturing and massacring hundreds of Ukrainian civilians. Moscow denies it.

The French ministry also condemned “attacks on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, which have multiplied in recent months” in Russia.

He called on “the Russian authorities to respect (…) fundamental freedoms, to release all political prisoners and to drop the legal proceedings against them”.

4. Body of Zambian killed fighting for Russia returns home

The body of Lemekani Nyirenda, a Zambian student who died fighting for Russia in Ukraine, has been flown home.

He arrived in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, on Sunday.

The 23-year-old had studied nuclear engineering in Russia. He was convicted of drug trafficking in April 2020 and sentenced to 9 years in prison.

But during a special amnesty, he was pardoned on the condition that he go to fight in Ukraine.

The Zambian government has asked Moscow for more details on how Nyirenda was killed.

“We were told that on August 23 he was conditionally pardoned and allowed to participate in a special military operation in which he was killed in September,” the Zambian foreign minister said in a statement.

“We then demanded that officials provide details, not just about his recruitment.”

He said DNA tests to confirm his identity had been carried out and that Russian compensation would be paid to his family.

“The pain of losing a loved one in obscure circumstances is unbearable. How can Russia start recruiting our citizens who are studying on scholarships to fight their war? It is definitely not fair and our government should make sure it protects the lives of our citizens in Russia,” said Catherine Mwenya, a resident of Lusaka.

Another Zambian urged the government to condemn Russia for the death.

“This death compels the government to firmly censure Russia and tell them to stop sacrificing our young people studying there to wage this unwanted war with Ukraine. I just hope they do and draw a clear line for what can be tolerated or not,” Kendricks Phiri said.

Family spokesman Ian Banda said the body will be taken to the mortuary at Lusaka University Hospital, where doctors will perform forensics on the body from Monday.

Banda said the burial program will only be announced after the pathology results are established.

5. Vladimir Putin cancels traditional year-end press conference amid war in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin kicked off what has become a traditional year-end press conference in 2001.

The only period he did not appear was between 2008 and 2012, when he was Russian Prime Minister.

But now he has abandoned it as Moscow’s war rages in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the decision in a telephone press briefing on Monday, noting that Putin had spoken to the press on other occasions, including while traveling abroad.

Bringing together hundreds of Russian and foreign journalists, the annual press conference usually lasts several hours, with the Russian leader answering live questions on everything from diplomacy to everyday Russian issues.

The president’s responses to the media often boil down to orders given to the government or regional authorities.

The decision not to hold the year-end press conference comes as Russia, which launched a military offensive against Ukraine in February, suffered several military setbacks in recent months and declared a partial mobilization in September.

euronews Gt

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