War in Ukraine: millions without electricity, interview with the “merchant of death”, hunt for “collaborators”
1. Russia increases production of ‘powerful’ weapons, Medvedev says
Russia is producing more destructive weapons to counter Western countries that support kyiv, Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday.
“Our enemy is entrenched… in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and many other places that have sworn allegiance to the Nazis of today,” wrote the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council on Telegram.
“That is why we are increasing the production of the most powerful means of destruction, including those based on new principles,” he said.
Russian officials often refer to Ukrainian leaders as “Nazis”, using this as justification for their invasion. This claim that Ukraine is ruled by the far right has been dismissed as a “outright lie” by specialists.
Medvedev said the weapons would be based on “new physical principles”, without detailing exactly what they were.
AFP reported that this may be in reference to a new generation of hypersonic weapons that Moscow has been developing in recent years.
These weapons fly at exceptionally high speeds, making them extremely difficult for defensive systems to intercept.
As Russia’s president between 2008 and 2012, Medvedev became one of the West’s most vocal critics in the Russian government, denouncing Western sanctions and alleged Russophobia.
The specter of nuclear war has returned since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, with Russian President Vladimir Putin discussing how Russia would use nuclear weapons as a “means of defence”.
Russian setbacks on the battlefield in recent months have raised fears that Moscow is planning to use such weapons to reverse its fortunes.
The US State Department condemned Putin’s comments, saying “any discussion, however vague, of nuclear weapons is absolutely irresponsible.”
2. Freed Russian arms dealers praise Putin’s war with Ukraine
Viktor Bout, an infamous arms smuggler nicknamed the ‘dealer of death’, praised Putin, supported Moscow’s assault on Ukraine and gave a damning assessment of the West, during his first public interview since his release from prison.
Speaking to the Kremlin-backed RT channel, Bout said he kept a portrait of Putin in his prison cell in the United States.
“I’m proud to be a Russian and our president is Putin,” he said. “I know we are going to win.”
Bout – a former Soviet Air Force pilot – was released from the United States on Friday in a prisoner swap deal with American basketball star Britney Griner this week.
His turbulent past inspired Nicolas Cage’s film Lord of War, which depicts the life of an unscrupulous arms dealer.
Since his release, Bout said he has been enjoying the snow and the “air of freedom”.
Bout was interviewed by Maria Butina, who herself served a short prison sentence in the United States for acting illegally as a foreign agent for Russia.
Bout, 55, said he “fully” supports the Russian military offensive in Ukraine and would have volunteered to go to the front if he had “the opportunity and the necessary skills”.
“Why didn’t we do it sooner?” he said, referring to Putin’s decision to launch the invasion.
Bout, who has been accused of arming rebels in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts, was arrested in Thailand during a US sting operation in 2008. He was extradited to the country and convicted in 2012 25 years in a maximum security prison.
He complained about the quality of the food while incarcerated in the United States, saying he missed the taste of garlic and strawberries.
Bout also gave a damning assessment of the Western world, saying developments there looked like civilizational suicide.
“What is happening in the West is simply the suicide of civilization. And, if this suicide is not prevented, at least in the non-Western world, in the world which is not controlled by the Anglo-Saxons, then the whole planet to commit suicide. And that can happen in any field, with drugs and LGBT+ among them,” he said.
3. Ukraine hunts Russian “collaborators” in Kherson
Ukrainian authorities are chasing Russian “collaborators” from the southern city of Kherson, AFP reports.
Kherson, which was liberated from Russian forces in November, has been placed under strict police control, with continuous patrols by security personnel and tight checkpoints at entrances and exits to the city.
“These people have been here for more than eight months,” Kherson region governor Yaroslav Yanushevich told AFP. “They worked for the Russian regime and now we have information and documents on each of them.”
“Our police know everything about them and each of them will be punished,” he added.
Kherson, a strategic port city on the Black Sea, was one of the first major cities seized by Russian troops as they crossed the border. It had a pre-war population of almost 300,000, although large numbers fled to seek refuge elsewhere.
Checks are carried out in the industrial and port areas, along the railway station, which some residents of Kherson still use to evacuate the city by daily train.
On some city roads, large propaganda posters praising Russia have been torn down and replaced with others glorifying the liberation of Kherson.
Other posters have appeared urging residents to denounce people they believe have collaborated with the Russians.
“Provide information on traitors here,” read one of the posters, displaying a QR code linking to a website where reports can be made and a phone number.
“It helps us to identify them, whether they are in the territory we control,” the governor of Kherson said.
“Most of the information is received from the local population during simple conversations… We are also analyzing social media accounts and continuing to monitor the Internet,” said Andriï Kovanyi, head of public relations at the police of the region. Kherson.
The Ukrainian security services (SBU) resume investigations, after the police.
According to Deputy Interior Minister Yevgen Yenine, more than 130 people have already been arrested for collaboration in the Kherson region.
4. Russian drones destroy Odessa’s power grid, leaving millions without power
All non-critical infrastructure in Ukraine’s port of Odessa was left without power after Russia used Iranian-made drones to strike two energy facilities, officials said on Saturday.
The crippling strikes reportedly left 1.5 million people without power, in cold and damp conditions.
“The situation in the Odessa region is very difficult,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.
“Unfortunately, the hits were critical, so it takes more than time to restore power…It doesn’t take hours, but a few days, unfortunately.”
Since October, Moscow has been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with large waves of missile and drone strikes.
Norway has received more than 100 million euros to help restore Ukraine’s energy system, Zelenskyy said, thanking the country.
Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odessa regional administration, said electricity for the city’s population will be restored “in the next few days”, while full restoration of networks could take two to three months.
Bratchuk said an earlier Facebook post by the region’s administration advising some people to consider evacuating was being investigated by Ukrainian security services as “an element of the war hybrid” led by Russia.
This post has since been deleted.
“Not a single representative of the authorities of the region called for the evacuation of residents of Odessa and the region,” Bratchuk said.
Odessa had more than a million inhabitants before February 24.
5. 10,000 Russian soldiers died in Ukraine: BBC investigation
The Russian military suffered more than 10,000 confirmed deaths during its brutal invasion of Ukraine, according to research by the BBC and independent Russian media outlet Mediazona.
Published on Friday, it revealed that 10,002 servicemen had been killed.
But the true figure is likely much higher than that verified by research, the BBC added.
Dozens of those casualties were elite servicemen from airborne units, as well as more than 100 pilots and 430 recruits recruited by the Kremlin in October following Russian efforts to boost the number of troops in Ukraine.
Base soldiers suffered the greatest casualties overall, with infantry units made up of less trained and inexperienced recruits accounting for 17% of the death toll.
Russia has been accused of sending newly recruited troops to the frontlines with only days of training, helping to fuel a death toll already well above that recorded in Russia’s past wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya. .
Some of Russia’s poorest regions provided a disproportionate number of recruits to the war in Ukraine.
While soldiers from the Moscow region account for only 54 verifiable deaths in the research, the figure for the Siberian republic of Buryatia is six times higher at 356.
This Far Eastern region has a seventh of the population of the Moscow region.
About 15% of Russian dead in the conflict are officers, including four generals and 49 colonels, according to the survey.
One of the factors behind this is thought to be the breakdown in communication between the Russian ranks, which forced commanders to go directly to the front lines.
In December, a senior official put the number of Ukrainian casualties at 13,000.
“We are open to talking about the death toll,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, adding that Zelenskyy would release the official data “when the time comes.”