Ukraine war: Macron blasted; Russia ‘to besiege Bakhmut’; and Estonia to boost defence capabilities

1. Macron criticized by saying that Moscow needs Western “guarantees” to end the war

French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement on Saturday that the West should consider how to address Russia’s need for security guarantees to end the war in Ukraine drew sharp criticism from some countries, ruling out concessions to the Kremlin after nearly 10 months of war. .

In an interview with French TV channel TF1 last week during his state visit to the United States, Macron said that Europe must prepare its future security architecture.

“This means that one of the fundamental things we have to pay attention to – as President (Vladimir) Putin has always said – is the fear that NATO is coming to its door and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia,” Macron said.

People like the former Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius spread the idea that the Kremlin needs to make concessions.

“Russia has all security guarantees if it does not attack, annex or occupy its neighbors,” Linkevičius wrote on the social network Twitter on Sunday.

“If anyone wants to create a new security architecture that allows a terrorist state to continue its methods of intimidation, they should think again, it (won’t) fly.”

2. Biden rejects Putin talks as EU, G7 support crude oil price cap

US President Joe Biden has no plans to talk to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about ending the war in Ukraine because the conditions for such discussions are not currently there, the White House said on Friday.

“We’re not at a point now where negotiations are a fruitful path,” national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

His comments underscored the gulf between Ukraine and its main backer Russia over more than nine months of negotiations after Putin’s invasion, which has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions and devastated cities and towns.

As part of a multi-pronged international campaign to curb Russia’s ability to make war, the Group of Seven (G7) and Australia announced on Friday they had agreed to cap the price of Russian seaborne crude at $60 (56.9 euros) a barrel.

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The G7 and Australia said in a statement that the cap would come into effect on December 5. or very soon after. It aims to reduce Russia’s income from the sale of oil and at the same time prevent a spike in global prices.

EU governments, which have settled their differences and agreed to the cap, will now have to formally approve it over the weekend.

3. Putin calls Scholz, says Western approach to Ukraine war is ‘destructive’

Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call on Friday that the German-Western line in Ukraine was “destructive” and urged Berlin to reconsider its approach, the Kremlin said.

His readout call helped highlight the gulf between Russian and Western governments over Ukraine, although Moscow and Washington have said in the past day they are broadly open to talks.

“Attention has been drawn to the destructive line of Western states, including Germany, which are arming the Kiev regime and training the Ukrainian army,” the Kremlin said.

“All this, as well as full political and financial support for Ukraine, leads to the fact that Kiev completely rejects the idea of ​​any negotiations.”

Kiev says that peace talks are possible only if Russia stops attacking Ukrainian territory and withdraws its troops from Ukrainian territory.

After Putin announced the annexation of Ukrainian territory in September, President Volodymyr Zelensky said negotiations would not be possible as long as Putin remained in power, although Ukraine has not emphasized that condition in recent weeks.

Putin “called on Germany to reconsider its approach in the context of events in Ukraine,” the Kremlin added.

It said Putin defended Russia’s missile strikes on targets in Ukraine as a coercive response to Ukrainian attacks on Russian infrastructure, including a key bridge between Russia and Crimea.

He also said Russia should be allowed to participate in the investigation into what it called “terrorist” attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

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4. Moscow and Minsk officials meet to discuss “military cooperation and security”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko met in Minsk on Saturday, where they reportedly discussed military cooperation and regional security.

According to the Minsk leader, Russia and Belarus are ready for peace, but Ukraine does not seem to want to negotiate.

Speaking at the meeting, A. Lukashenka stated that “if they want to fight to the end, that’s their business, their right”, adding that “currently neither I nor our special services see that they want to negotiate”.

Although Lukashenko has consistently said he will not go to war in Ukraine, Moscow has previously used Belarus as a staging ground for its invasion.

Russia and Belarus are formally part of a “union state” and are closely linked economically and militarily.

5. Russia prepares to lay siege to Bakhmut, UK MoD says

Russia is likely planning to encircle the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region with tactical moves from the north and south, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Saturday.

Taking the city would have limited operational value, but could allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the ministry added in a daily intelligence briefing.

“There is a real possibility that Bakhmut’s arrest became primarily a symbolic, political goal for Russia,” the ministry said in an update posted on Twitter.

Russian forces continued to launch rocket attacks on infrastructure and airstrikes against Ukrainian military positions along the contact line, Ukraine’s general staff said on Friday, adding that Moscow’s military efforts were focused on a dozen towns, including Bakhmut and Avdiivka, key Russian targets in the subdued east. .

Moscow’s troops have been bombing Ukraine’s most important infrastructure since October, leaving millions without electricity in the cold winter weather.

6. The exiled Russian television station operating in Latvia investigated the aid to Russian soldiers

Statements by independent Russian television station Dozhd sparked suspicions that it is aiding Moscow’s troops in the war in Ukraine, prompting an investigation by Latvia’s state security service on Friday.

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Dožd, or TV Rain, broadcasts from Latvia and elsewhere after Russian authorities forced the closure of its studio in Moscow on the grounds that it had deliberately spread false information about Russian military actions in Ukraine.

The State Security Service said that on Thursday, the moderator of the Dožd news program expressed hope that the station had already helped provide many Russian soldiers with basic equipment and amenities.

It is not clear whether this statement means that the television helped to improve their conditions through its reporting, or whether it actively participated in the purchase of said equipment.

“The statements … raise suspicions about a TV channel providing aid to soldiers of the Russian occupation forces,” the press release said.

7. Estonia buys the US-made HIMARS missile system

NATO member and Russian neighbor Estonia is boosting its defense capabilities by acquiring an advanced US missile artillery system in the Baltic country’s largest-ever arms procurement project, defense officials said Saturday.

The deal signed Friday for a high-mobility artillery missile system is worth more than $200 million.

The package includes HIMARS missiles with a range of 70 to 300 kilometers, the Estonian Defense Investment Center said in a statement. Lockheed Martin Corp. is expected to make its first deliveries in 2024.

“The HIMARS missile launchers are an important new step in the development of Estonia’s defense capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Kaarel Mäesalu, Head of the Capability Development Department of the Estonian Defense Forces.

“This allows us to decisively affect the enemy even before contact with our infantry units.”

Estonia’s Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania have or are in the process of acquiring their own HIMARS.

Washington provided Ukraine with missile launchers during the Russian invasion of the country.

The Estonian Defense Ministry said the HIMARS systems “helped destroy Russian military ammunition depots, transport hubs and command and control centers with pinpoint accuracy exceeding the range of howitzers used by Ukraine.”

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