Monday, 21 November 2022 06:08

What to know after Day 271 of Russia-Ukraine war

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RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Western weapons could be trafficked out of Ukraine and into the hands of criminals and terrorists, UK National Crime Agency (NCA) Director General Graeme Biggar told the Sunday Times. Earlier, Moscow estimated that up to $1 billion worth of arms are funneled out of Ukraine every month.

“As with any conflict, when weapons pour in there is a risk of blowback,” Biggar said on  Sunday. “At the end of the conflict, there are surplus weapons that get into the hands of criminals or terrorists.”

Biggar, who took over at the helm of the NCA in August, said that police in the UK and Europe are watching out for pistols, machine guns, and grenades turning up on the streets. 

Despite receiving assurances from Ukraine’s national police chief that Western arms are being accounted for, he said that Europol and other European law enforcement agencies are “all on the lookout for this.”

Biggar said that the NCA has not yet seen any evidence of criminals obtaining weapons from Ukraine. However, Interpol and Europol have both warned that arms will inevitably leave the country and end up on the black market. 

Ukraine’s Western backers have admitted that they can’t track most of their arms shipments once they enter the country, and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated last month that up to $1 billion worth of these weapons are funneled from Ukraine to criminals and terror groups in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia every month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned that by sending tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine, the West is making itself a de-facto participant in the conflict. Last month, Putin claimed that “cross-border criminal groups” have obtained “powerful weapons, including portable air defense systems and precision weapons” from Ukraine.

** The Russian military has targeted the Motor Sich plant in the city of Zaporozhye, the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

“A high-precision strike by the Russian Aerospace Forces in the city of Zaporozhye has destroyed a line assembling engines for aircraft of the Ukrainian Air Force,” the Russian military said.

While the statement did not elaborate on when exactly the strike took place, the attack on the facility apparently occurred early Saturday. According to Vladimir Rogov, a senior Zaporozhye Region official, the strikes targeted an ammunition depot in the city, as well as a manufacturing line that produces aircraft engines, including those used in Turkish Bayraktar attack drones.

The official also shared unverified footage on his Telegram channel taken amid the strikes, with the videos purporting to show multiple blasts and a massive fire at the site. 

Zaporozhye Region, as well as three other former Ukrainian territories, officially became part of Russia in early October following referendums that saw the majority of residents vote in favor of accession. Kiev and its Western backers have rejected the referendums, dismissing them as “sham” elections and the city of Zaporozhye itself, remains under Ukrainian control.

The Motor Sich plant was recently taken over by Kiev under wartime authority. The move prompted an international scandal, with Beijing Skyrizon Aviation Industry Investment, a Chinese company engaged in a legal battle over plant’s majority stake, accusing Ukraine of “shameless” actions and “plunder” of assets belonging to foreign investors.

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is under Russian control, was rocked by shelling on Sunday, drawing condemnation from the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog who said such attacks risked a major nuclear disaster. Moscow and Kyiv both blamed the other for the shelling of the facility.

POWER SUPPLIES

* Ukrainian electricity supplies are under control despite Russian attacks on power-generating infrastructure and there is no need to panic, the energy ministry said on Saturday, a day after authorities in Kyiv warned that the capital could face a "complete shutdown" of the power grid as winter sets in.

KHERSON RESIDENTS

* Hundreds of Kherson residents flocked to buy groceries at the first Ukrainian supermarket to open since the city was retaken by pro-Kyiv forces earlier this month. Earlier on Saturday, jubilant Ukrainians rolled into Kherson by train on Saturday for the first time in more than eight months.

* Citing damage done by Russian forces, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced on Saturday that evacuations of people who want to leave Kherson and the surrounding areas would soon begin.

FIGHTING

* Russian forces are pounding Ukrainian positions with artillery fire and in the eastern region alone launched almost 400 strikes on Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address.

* Around 60 Russian soldiers were killed in a long-range Ukrainian artillery attack this week, Kyiv said on Saturday, the second time in four days that Ukraine claimed to have inflicted major casualties in a single incident. The Russian defence ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

* Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield reports.

DIPLOMACY, WAR AIMS

* Britain's new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made his first visit to Kyiv on Saturday, pledging to continue the firm support for Ukraine that was a focus of his predecessors, and providing a new air defence package to help shoot down Russian drones.

* Russia's surge in missile strikes in Ukraine is partly designed to exhaust Kyiv's supplies of air defenses and finally achieve dominance of the skies above the country, a senior Pentagon official said on Saturday.

OIL, GAS SUPPLY

* European traders are rushing to fill tanks in the region with Russian diesel before an EU ban begins in February, as alternative sources remain limited.

 

Reuters