Wednesday, February 8

Zelensky claims Ukraine is inflicting “biggest blow to the Russian army in decades”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a video address on March 12.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a video address on March 12. (Facebook)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that Ukrainian forces are inflicting the “biggest blow to Russia’s army in decades.” 

In a Facebook video address Saturday Zelensky said 31 Russian tactical battalion groups have lost capability, and more than 360 Russian tanks have been lost.

Zelensky added that groups of Russian troops were surrendering to Ukrainian forces, but that Russia is now recruiting fighters, reservists, conscripts, and mercenaries to “outnumber” Ukrainian forces.They are using terror to break us, to break our faith in Ukraine’s victory, I am confident they will not succeed,” Zelensky added. 

Addressing the city of Mariupol, Zelensky said that Ukrainian forces will guarantee a ceasefire along the evacuation corridor out of the city to allow supplies into the city, and to facilitate civilian evacuations.

Zelensky’s remarks come after a Russian airstrike on Mariupol’s maternity and children’s hospital on Wednesday left 17 people injured, including children, women and doctors, according to Mariupol city officials. Three people died, the city council said Thursday, among them, a child.

A pregnant woman, Mariana Vishegirskaya, whose rescue from the Mariupol maternity hospital this week was captured in a viral AP photo, has since given birth to a baby girl, her family confirmed to CNN. 

Flying on Russian planes is about to get much more dangerous

As Russia’s economy gets pummeled by increasingly severe western sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine, the country’s crucial airlines have been essentially cut off from much of the world.

But that is the least of the industry’s problems. Russia’s domestic airline industry could soon become a mere shell of its former self due to restrictions on its operations.

Sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union mean that the world’s two major aircraft makers, Boeing (BA) and Airbus (EADSF), can no longer supply spare parts or maintenance support for Russian airlines. The same is true of jet engine makers.

“Within a year Russia will cease to have any kind of viable airline industry,” said Richard Aboulafia, managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory.

He said the country’s airline industry could soon find itself somewhere between the heavily sanctioned industries in Iran and North Korea.

That poses a serious problem for Russia’s overall economic activity.

Russia is the world’s largest nation by landmass, more than twice the size of the continental United States. It needs to have a viable airline industry to keep its economy working, said Charles Lichfield, the deputy director of GeoEconomics Center at the Atlantic Council, an international think tank.

“It is an important part of Russia’s economy. They need that backbone. They need some basic domestic [airline] industry to remain in place,” Lichfield added.

Flying on Russian planes is about to get much more dangerous

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Call between Putin and French and German leaders is underway

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have started a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine, an Elysée source told CNN on Saturday.

The three men previously spoke on Thursday when Macron said that the conditions put forth by Russian President Vladimir Putin for a ceasefire in Ukraine were “not acceptable to anyone,” without specifying what Putin’s conditions were. 

Macron has spoken frequently to Putin in the last month but has had little success in deescalating the crisis.

Italy’s finance police seize Russian oligarch’s mega yacht

The Italian finance police seized Russian oligarch Andrey Melnichenko’s mega yacht in Trieste, Italy on Friday evening.

The Guardia di Finanza made the announcement in a statement released on Friday evening. Called “SY A,” the yacht was in storage at the Port of Trieste, the statement says.

It’s worth approximately €530 million or $578 million, the statement added. It is one of the largest superyachts in the world, according to the manufacturer Nobiskrug.

Video published by the finance police shows agents boarding the yacht.

Melnichenko was sanctioned by the European Union on March 9 as part of expanded sanctions on Russian oligarchs. According to the EU, he owns the major fertilizer producer EuroChem Group and SUEK, a coal company. 

In the EU’s Council decision, which authorized sanctions against Melnichenko, they noted he and 36 other business leaders met with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion into Ukraine to discuss the potential economic impact of EU and American sanctions.

“The fact that he was invited to attend this meeting shows that he is a member of the closest circle of Vladimir Putin and that he is supporting or implementing actions or policies which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, as well as stability and security in Ukraine,” the EU Council decision reads. 

“It also shows that he is one of the leading businesspersons involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the government of Russia, which is responsible for annexation of Crimea and ​destabilization of Ukraine.”

The news comes as numerous Russian elites have been scrambling to move and sell assets amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Just days after Russian oligarch and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich announced that he would sell the football club, the UK added the 55-year-old to its list of sanctioned individuals as part of its efforts to “isolate” Putin.

On March 3, France’s finance ministry announced the country had seized a yacht owned by Russian oligarch and CEO of Russian oil giant Rosneft Igor Sechin.

The European Union had sanctioned Sechin earlier that week, describing him as one of Putin’s “most trusted and closest advisors, as well as his personal friend.”

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