Ukraine war latest: British troops 'to prevent Russian invasion' of European country; businessman 'positioning himself as credible Putin alternative' (2023)

Key points
  • US intelligence thinks Ukraine was likely behind drone attack on Kremlin
  • Prigozhin 'positioning himself as credible alternative' to Putin
  • Pro-Russian actors 'likely' spoofed vessel data to create 'Z' symbol in Black Sea
  • Anti-Putin paramilitary group says there will be more incursions|Who are the fighters behind Belgorod incursion?
  • Russia claims warshiptargeted by Ukrainian drone boats
  • Wagner Group fighters begin withdrawal from Bakhmut
  • Your questions answered: Can the UK defend itself after sending weapons to Ukraine?
  • Got a question about the war? Ask our experts
  • Live reporting by Olive Enokido-Lineham (earlier) and James Robinson


Sweden could allow Ukrainian pilots to train in its own fighter jets - as it softens stance on sending aircraft

Sweden could allow Ukrainian pilots to test its own fighter jets - the JAS-39 Gripen.

The country's defence minister Pal Jonsson says the government is considering whether to let Ukrainian pilots test the Swedish jets.

It is a significant softening of policy from Sweden and comes after the US agreed to allow Western nations to export American-made F-16s to Ukraine.

The Nordic country has previously ruled out sending any Gripen fighters, saying they are needed for its own territorial defence.

But, speaking to Swedish media, Jonsson says the country is looking with a “positive spirit” on a Ukrainian request to allow its pilots to try out the Swedish plane.

“That could, for example, mean test flights, using simulators, learning more about the extensive ground system that is part of the Gripen system," he says.

However, he reiterates that Sweden has no immediate plans to transfer Gripen planes to Ukraine.

The Gripen is a single-engine aircraft designed to take off and land from dispersed bases and even highways, which some analysts say would make it a good fit for Ukraine's air force, which currently relies on Soviet-era fighters.


Russian fighter jet deployed to prevent two US bombers 'violating' its border - state media reports

Russia says it has deployed a fighter jet to prevent two US bombers from "violating" its border, according to Russian state media agency TASS.

It is the second time this week that Russia's defence ministry has launched a fighter jet due to claims of US activity near its borders.

On Tuesday, the ministry claimed that two US B-1 Lancers had deployed flown towards its airspace over the Black Sea.

The Pentagon responded, saying that the bombers were taking part in a planned exercise in Europe and the Russian fighter’s interaction with the planes was “safe and professional”.


Residents living beside reservoir fear rising water levels after Russians damage flood gates

Residents living beside a Ukrainian reservoir face losing their homes after nearby flood gates were damaged by Russian troops.

Those living near to the waters of the southern Kakhovka Reservoir, nearZaporizhzhia, say their houses are under threat from the rising water levels.

Russian forces destroyed the Nova Kakhovka road and bridge deck last November, damaging some of the sluice gates in the process.

Since mid-February, the water level in the reservoir has steadily increased, according to data from Theia, a French geospatial analytical organization

Pictures show homes perilously close to being flooded by the rising waters.

Ihor Medyunov, whose yard is now a small patch of swampy grass, said: "There is nowhere to go.

"We will wait for a better time to rebuild, repair. It’s really painful."

David Helms, a retired meteorologist who has been monitoring the reservoir levels during the war, said the floods are being caused because, the flow through the dam system on the Dnipro is not adjusting to the river's seasonal flow.

He said this is being done either deliberately or through neglect.

"The Russians simply aren’t actively managing and balancing the water flow,” Helms said, comparing it to a bucket with a small hole that is now being filled by a hose.


Tactical nuclear weapons already on their way to Belarus hours after deal struck, claims Lukashenko

Russia has already begun the transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, according to Alexander Lukashenko.

It comes after the two countries announced a deal to deploy the weapons - designed to be used in battlefield situations - in Belarus.

Belarus's president Alexander Lukashenko said the transfer of the weapons had already begun, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

The deployment of the missiles was first announced by Vladimir Putin in March - with the president repeatedly warning that Russia would be ready to use nuclear weapons if needed to defend its "territorial integrity".

Details of when the transfer of the weapons would start were not revealed.

However, TASS reported today that a deal had been struckabout the storage of the warheads at a special facilitythat should be finished in just over a month's time.

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the move was due to an "extremely sharp escalation of threats on the western borders of Russia and Belarus".

Mr Shoigu said Moscow would retain control over the weapons and any decisions on their use.

TASS quoted him as saying Iskander-M missiles, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, had been handed to the Belarusian armed forces, and that some Su-25 aircraft had been converted for the possible use of nuclear weapons.

"Belarusian servicemen have received the necessary training in Russian training centres," he reportedly said.

NATO has said it does not see any need to adjust its own nuclear posture, though it says Mr Putin's nuclear rhetoric is "dangerous and irresponsible".

Tactical nuclear weapons refer to lower-yield weapons designed for battlefield use, as opposed to strategic ones capable of wiping out entire cities.

Russia has not disclosed how many tactical nuclear weapons it has.


British troops ready 'to prevent Russian invasion' of European country

British troops are ready to defend Estonia from any potential Russian invasion, according to the country's prime minister.

Kaja Kallas told The Daily Telegraph that British troops, along with NATO allies, have learnt to defend the country's forests.

She said it could help to deter any potential Russian invasion because Vladimir Putin will know "you can't win here".

"For me, it is important that we are able to defend our country from the first minute," she told the paper.

"Therefore, NATO’s plans need to work in practice. I see that this could function.

"If our adversary also knows this, it takes down the will to attack us because you can’t win here."

As many as 1,500 British troops are currently training in Estonia as part of the biggest NATO training exercise ever held in the country.

Estonia's entire eastern border is with Russia - with the border town of Narva just 100 miles from Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg.


Zelenskyy thanks Finland after announcement of more military aid

More from this story on Finland agreeing extra military aid for Ukraine.

Zelenskyy thanks Finland for the extra equipment, which includes anti-aircraft weaponry and ammunition.

In a post on Twitter, he writes: "I thank Finland and President Niinisto personally for the prompt implementation of our agreements reached in Helsinki.

"The 16th package of defence assistance to Ukraine, which will include anti-aircraft systems and ammunition, is urgently need on the battlefield.

"Together to victory!"


'We are on the right side of history': Cyprus's president says country will continue sanctions - but urges support for industry

Cyprus has committed to upholding EU sanctions on Russia - but urged support for those industries impacted by a loss of trade.

PresidentNikos Christodoulides says Cyprus has implemented the sanctions "right from the start" and will continue to do so because "we are on the right side of history".

But he also urges support for industries, such as shipping, which she says have faced knock-on impacts from the sanctions.

Speaking after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, he says: "Right from the start, Cyprus has been implementing all the sanctions related to the Russian invasion to Ukraine.

"We're on the right side of history and we will continue in the same direction.

"Where there is a cost for the European industries due to the decisions that we take - the right decisions that we take - the European Union should intervene to support those sectors."


Ukrainian defence chief confirms Russian troops are replacing Wagner forces in Bakhmut

More on our report earlier about Russian private military group Wagner seemingly pulling out of Bakhmut.

Ukraine's deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, says intelligence suggests that troops from Russia's armed forces are now replacing Wagner troops.

Her comments appear to - at least partially - confirm an announcement by Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin that his group had started withdrawing from the eastern Ukrainian city.

Wagner have been heavily involved in the fighting for Bakhmut which has been at the centre of one of the longest and most bloody battles in the war so far.

"In Bakhmut's outskirts, the enemy has replaced Wagner units with regular army forces.

"Inside the city itself Wagner fighters remain," Ms Maliar wrote in comments on the Telegram app.

Mr Prigozhin said in a video that the withdrawal of his unitshad begun early on Thursday and that a handover of Wagnerpositions would continue until 1 June.


Finland to send more military equipment to Ukraine

Finland will send more military gear to Ukraine, it has been announced.

The country, which shares an eastern border with Russia, has committed to sending 109 million Euros (£94.6million) worth of equipment.

The equipment includes anti-aircraft weaponry and ammunition, the government said.

However, it refused to give any further details for "operational reasons and in order to ensure the safedelivery of assistance".

Finland joined NATO in April in response to Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.


Prigozhin 'positioning himself as credible alternative' to Putin

A common theme of the conflict in Ukraine has been Yevgeny Prigozhin's willingness to issue very public criticism of both Russian elites and Moscow's military leaders.

Military analyst Sean Bell says the Wagner Group chief appears to be "positioning himself as a credible alternative" to the Russian president.

Bell told Sky News that the businessman and paramilitary chief was "savouring victory" in Bakhmut - the eastern city where his fighters claim to have taken control.

He has previously called the Wagner Group the "best army in the world" and Bell says Mr Prigozhin has "undermined Russian Army leadership".

"Prigozhin blamed his usual targets, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu and chief of the general staff army general Valery Gerasimov, for being the main problem within the Russian Ministry of Defence and for blocking support and supplies to Wagner," he says.

The Wagner chief previously threatened the Kremlin, saying his troops would pull out of Bakhmut if he was not given more ammunition, and took aim at the "elites".

And Bell says Mr Prigozhin "appears to be positioning himself as a credible alternative to Putin" - describing him as a "hard-liner".

He says: "They delivered their objective (that the Russian Army could not) and they'll move on to the next challenge".

"More likely, Prigozhin knows Putin needs his mercenaries (despite the threat) to deliver battlefield success".

This could indicate that the Wagner Group will be back, and Bell says they could be used for general defensive duties - although the Russian Army is "well-placed to do that role".

So where could they go? Bell says Russia's so-called special military operation appears to be focused on the Donbas and Crimea.

He says that if Wagner leaves the Russian army to focus on land bridge defences if they fail, it may demonstrate that Mr Prigozhin's approach has "merit" and could "increase his influence".


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