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https://t.me/ComAFUA/294

⚡️ DESTROYED 29 IMPACT UAVS

➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖

On the night of May 20, 2024, the occupiers attacked Kharkiv Oblast with an "Iskander-M" ballistic missile, and also used 29 "Shahed-131/136" type UAVs from the Primorsko-Akhtarsk and Kursk regions - Russian Federation.

💥 Fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft missile units of the Air Force, mobile fire groups of the Defense Forces of Ukraine and electronic warfare units were involved in repelling the enemy's air attack. As a result of anti-aircraft combat, all 29 "shaheeds" were shot down in Odesa, Mykolaiv, Poltava and Lviv regions.

Thanks for the combat work!

🇺🇦 Together to victory!

➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖

🇺🇦 Air Force Commander Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk

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Загальні бойові втрати противника з 24.02.22 по 20.05.24 (орієнтовно )

#NOMERCY #stoprussia #stopruSSiZm #stoprussicism #ВІРЮвЗСУ t.me/GeneralStaffZSU/14747

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Archived link

Kallas argued that the fears of NATO allies about sending troops to Ukraine to train soldiers drawing them into a war with Russia are unfounded. She mentioned that some NATO member states are discussing the possibility of sending military instructors or contractors to Ukraine to train troops and assist with equipment repairs. Kyiv has requested assistance from the U.S. and other NATO countries to train 150,000 soldiers closer to the front lines. Kallas emphasized that it is essential to train Ukrainian troops on their own territory and that if any personnel were to be hurt, it would not automatically trigger NATO’s Article 5 on mutual defense. Macron’s comments in February sparked the debate about the potential presence of NATO troops in Ukraine, but many countries have not ruled out sending troops for non-combat missions such as training the Ukrainian military.

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur stated on May 14 that the concept of sending Western troops to Ukraine has not progressed in Estonia or at the EU level due to a lack of clear understanding among allies of the potential outcomes. Macron mentioned that he would consider sending troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian breakthrough and a request from Ukraine. However, he clarified that such conditions did not currently exist. The U.S. and multiple European allies, along with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, have distanced themselves from Macron’s statement. While some countries have not ruled out the possibility of sending troops for non-combat missions, there is no clear consensus regarding this among NATO allies.

Kallas noted that some countries are already training soldiers on the ground in Ukraine at their own risk. She believes that assisting in the training of Ukrainian troops on their own territory, rather than elsewhere in Europe, will not escalate the war with Russia. Kallas dismissed the idea that if training personnel were to be hurt, those who sent them would immediately invoke Article 5 of mutual defense and retaliate against Russia. The debate surrounding the potential presence of NATO troops in Ukraine has been ongoing since Macron’s comments in February. Despite some countries considering sending troops for non-combat missions, there is no unanimous agreement among NATO allies on this matter.

The discussions about sending military instructors or contractors to Ukraine to train troops and assist with equipment repairs have raised concerns among NATO allies about being drawn into a conflict with Russia. Kallas maintained that these fears are not well-founded and emphasized the importance of training Ukrainian troops on their own territory rather than in Europe. She pointed out that if any training personnel were to be harmed, it would not automatically trigger NATO’s mutual defense clause. Macron’s suggestion of sending troops to Ukraine in certain conditions has not been widely supported by other NATO allies, and the idea has not advanced at the EU level. The debate around the potential presence of NATO troops in Ukraine remains ongoing, with differing opinions among member states.

In conclusion, the issue of sending NATO troops to Ukraine for training purposes remains a topic of debate among member states. While some countries are considering the possibility of sending troops for non-combat missions, others are more cautious due to concerns about being drawn into a conflict with Russia. Kallas emphasized the importance of training Ukrainian soldiers on their own territory and highlighted the lack of consensus among NATO allies on this matter. The discussions sparked by Macron’s comments in February have not led to concrete action, and the idea of sending Western troops to Ukraine has not made progress. As the situation continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how NATO will navigate its involvement in Ukraine and respond to the ongoing conflict in the region.

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Estonian MPs passed a law that enables the use of Russian assets frozen under international sanctions to compensate Ukraine for war damages.

The president must now promulgate the legislation for it to enter into force.

It enables assets of individuals and companies that have contributed to Russia's wrongful acts, which have been frozen under sanctions, as an advance payment for damages owed by Russia to Ukraine.

To seize Russian assets, Estonia would need to receive a request, and the connection of their owner to illegal acts must be sufficiently proven. The asset owner can challenge their use for Ukraine in Estonian courts.

Estonia's move is seen as an important first step as the vast majority of Russia's frozen and largely euro-denominated sovereign assets, which are worth €300 billion, are located in Europe.

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Archived link

- A St Petersburg court seized more than EUR 463mn in assets belonging to Italy's UniCredit and EUR 238mn belonging to Germany's Deutsche Bank.

- The court also seized assets of Germany's Commerzbank, but the details of the decision have not yet been made public so the value of the seizure is not known.

- The moves follow a claim from Ruskhimalliance, a subsidiary of Gazprom , the Russian oil and gas giant that holds a monopoly on pipeline gas exports.--

A St Petersburg court has seized over EUR700 mln worth of assets belonging to three western banks - UniCredit, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank - according to court documents, the Financial Times and Reuters reported Saturday.

The seizure marks one of the biggest moves against western lenders since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 prompted most international lenders to wind down their businesses in Russia.

The moves follow a claim from Ruskhimalliance, a subsidiary of Gazprom , the Russian oil and gas giant that holds a monopoly on pipeline gas exports.

The court seized EUR463mn-worth of assets belonging to Italy's UniCredit, equivalent to about 4.5 per cent of its assets in the country, according to the latest financial statement from the bank's main Russian subsidiary.

The frozen assets include shares in subsidiaries of UniCredit in Russia as well as stocks and funds it owned, according to the court decision that was dated May 16 and was published in the Russian registrar on Friday.

According to another decision on the same date, the court seized EUR238.6mn-worth of Deutsche Bank's assets, including property and holdings in its accounts in Russia.

The court also ruled that the bank cannot sell its business in Russia. The court agreed with Rukhimallians that the measures were necessary because the bank was "taking measures aimed at alienating its property in Russia".

On Friday, the court decided to seize Commerzbank assets, but the details of the decision have not yet been made public so the value of the seizure is not known.

The dispute with the western banks began in August 2023 when Ruskhimalliance went to an arbitration court in St Petersburg demanding they pay bank guarantees under a contract with the German engineering company Linde. The banks were among the guarantor lenders under a contract for the construction of a gas processing plant in Russia with Germany's Linde which was terminated due to Western sanctions.

Ruskhimalliance is the operator of a gas processing plant and production facilities for liquefied natural gas in Ust-Luga near St Petersburg. In July 2021, it signed a contract with Linde for the design, supply of equipment and construction of the complex. A year later, Linde suspended work owing to EU sanctions.

Ruskhimalliance then turned to the guarantor banks, which refused to fulfil their obligations because "the payment to the Russian company could violate European sanctions", the company said in the court filing.

The list of guarantors also includes Bayerische Landesbank and Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, against which Ruskhimalliance has also filed lawsuits in the St Petersburg court.

UniCredit said it had been made aware of the filing and "only assets commensurate with the case would be in scope of the interim measure".

Deutsche Bank said it was "fully protected by an indemnification from a client" and had taken a provision of about EUR260mn alongside a "corresponding reimbursement asset" in its accounts to cover the Russian lawsuit.

Commerzbank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Italy's foreign minister has called a meeting on Monday to discuss the seizures affecting UniCredit, two people with knowledge of the plans told the Financial Times.

UniCredit is one of the largest European lenders in Russia [it is the second largest Western bank in Russia after Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International], employing more than 3,000 people through its subsidiary there. This month the Italian bank reported that its Russian business had made a net profit of EUR213mn in the first quarter, up from EUR99mn a year earlier. It has set aside more than EUR800mn in provisions and has significantly cut back its loan portfolio.

Legal challenges over assets held by western banks have complicated their efforts to extricate themselves. Last month, a Russian court ordered the seizure of more than $400mn of funds from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) following a legal challenge by Kremlin-run lender VTB. A court subsequently cancelled part of the planned seizure, Reuters reported.

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When Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's President who soon leaves office after eight years and hands over to her successor William Lai, swept to power in 2016, she was dismissed as a dull bureaucrat. But she stood up to an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive China under Xi Jinping; she held on to a vital US alliance under Donald Trump and buttressed it under Joe Biden. At home, she expanded the island’s defence and legalised same-sex marriage, the latter a first for Asia.

Good examples of the brand Taiwan – a democracy that the world should care about losing. “People say we are more important than Ukraine - strategically our position is more important and our place in the supply chain - and that they should shift support to Taiwan. We say no. The democratic countries need to support Ukraine,” Tsai says.

Rather than Taiwan’s wildly successful chip industry, which could be replicated, instead Tsai wields the one thing she has and the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t: the soft power of democracy. --

It is a well-known fact that the diminutive, soft-spoken president of Taiwan does not like doing interviews.

It’s taken months of quiet negotiations to sit down at Tsai Ing-wen’s dining table in her Taipei residence, not long before she leaves office after eight years and hands over to her successor William Lai.

Even so, the president seems keener to ask about me than talk about herself. She is certainly more comfortable showing us her cats and dogs than answering questions in front of a rolling camera.

“That’s Xiang Xiang,” she says, pointing to the large, grey tabby eyeing me suspiciously through the open doorway. “Would you like to meet her?”

When Tsai Ing-wen swept to power in 2016, she was dismissed as a dull bureaucrat and ridiculed as a “cat lady” - a swipe at her for being middle-aged and unmarried. She embraced the image, appearing on magazine covers holding Xiang Xiang in her arms. Soon, her supporters adopted a new sobriquet: Taiwan’s Iron Cat Lady.

Tsai admits to a sneaking admiration for Margaret Thatcher, although she’s quick to add it’s because of her toughness as a female leader, not her social policies.

In Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan found an unlikely champion. During her two terms, she carefully yet confidently reset the relationship with Beijing, which has claimed the independently governed island as its own for 75 years.

She stood up to an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive China under Xi Jinping; she held on to a vital US alliance under Donald Trump and buttressed it under Joe Biden. At home, she expanded the island’s defence and legalised same-sex marriage, the latter a first for Asia.

While Tsai shied away from the spotlight in Taiwan’s boisterous politics, Xiang Xiang became a celebrity. She played a starring role in Tsai's 2020 re-election campaign, along with the president’s other cat, a ginger tom called Ah Tsai.

Tsai has her detractors. Beijing is no fan, and neither are the many older Taiwanese, who want better relations with China, where they have family and business interests. Domestically, she has been criticised for not doing enough for the economy – the rising cost of living, unaffordable housing and a lack of jobs cost her party young voters in January's election.

And her biggest critics fear that she has made the island of 23 million more, rather than less, unsafe.

Put crudely, this is what any Taiwan leader faces: a much bigger, wealthier, and stronger neighbour, who says he owns your house, is willing to let you hand it over without a fight, but is ready to use force if you refuse. What do you do?

Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, chose conciliation and a Beijing-friendly trade deal.

But he miscalculated how young Taiwanese would react to what they saw as appeasement. In 2014, thousands took to the streets in what became known as the Sunflower Movement. When President Ma refused to back down, they occupied parliament.

Two years later Tsai Ing-wen was elected on a very different calculus: that the only language Beijing understands is strength.

Now, as she prepares to step down, she says she has been vindicated: “China has become so aggressive and assertive.”

Dear Beijing - back off

“Wow, you’re really tall,” the president exclaims, craning her neck at a lanky, young soldier standing stiffly to attention.

He tells her he is 185cm and she asks, with genuine concern, “Are the beds here big enough for you?” They are, he reassures her.

This was on a recent morning in April at a new special forces training centre on the outskirts of Taipei, which Tsai had just opened.

The relaxed and chatty president disappears when she enters the cavernous dining hall, where hundreds of crew-cut recruits stand to attention and shouted “Zong Tong Hao!”, or “Hello, President!”

She almost looks out of place in these settings. Her speech is worthy and matter of fact, with no soaring rhetoric. And yet such visits are quite frequent, to make sure the military reforms she has pushed through are paying off.

One of the most difficult was a return to a year of military service for all men over the age of 18. While she admits it is not popular, she says the public accepts it is necessary: “But we have to make sure that their time spent in the military is worthwhile.”

For a former law professor and trade negotiator, Tsai has spent a surprisingly large amount of time as president donning camouflage fatigues. In one famous image she’s seen shouldering a rocket launcher. The reason: she believes Taiwan cannot hope to fend off Beijing without a modern, well-trained military in which young Taiwanese are proud to serve.

While China's threat of invasion is not new, it is only recently that President Xi Jinping has gained the military capability to mount what would still be a huge and risky operation. His threats have also become more urgent and ominous. He has said twice that a resolution over Taiwan cannot be passed down from one generation to another, which some have interpreted to mean that he wants it done in his lifetime.

On the other side of the strait, Tsai has set about rebuilding Taiwan’s outdated, demoralised and ill-equipped ground forces. It has been an uphill struggle, but results have begun to show. Yearly defence spending has risen significantly to about $20bn (£16bn).

“Our military capability is much strengthened compared to eight years ago. The investment we have put in to military capacity is unprecedented,” Tsai says.

I have spoken to many in Taiwan’s opposition who genuinely believe Tsai’s strategy of building up the military is naive, if not dangerous. They point to China’s powerful navy, the world’s largest, and more than two million active troops. Taiwan’s forces are not even a tenth of that.

To Tsai and her supporters that is missing the point. Taiwan is not trying to defeat a Chinese invasion, they say, but dramatically increasing its price to deter China.

“The cost of taking over Taiwan is going to be enormous,” Tsai says. “What we need to do is increase the cost.”

Tsai was no stranger to Beijing, or the Chinese Communist Party, when she became president. Her unorthodox rise to power began in the mid-1990s, when she cut her teeth as a trade negotiator. She then caught the eye of Chen Shui-bian, the first president from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). He appointed her to run Taiwan’s top body for dealing with China. There she rewrote the book on how Taiwan should handle Beijing.

She has long known where the red lines are - and she believes that to resist China, Taiwan needs allies: “So strengthening our military capacity is one and working with our friends in the region to form a collective deterrence is another.”

Many in Tsai’s party, the DPP, now talk of a new alliance that stretches from Japan and South Korea to the north, through the Philippines to Australia in the south – with the US as quarterback, holding the team together. But this is theoretical at best. There is no Asian Nato and Taiwan enjoys no formal military alliances. Despite mutual antipathy towards Beijing, Tokyo and Manila are both deeply reluctant to vow support for Taiwan. Even that most important ally, Washington, has stopped short of guaranteeing it would put boots on the ground.

But Tsai is optimistic. “A lot of other countries in the region are alert and some of them may have a conflict with China,” she says, referring to rival claims by Beijing, Tokyo and Manila over disputed waters and islands.

“So, China is not an issue for Taiwan only. It is an issue for the whole region.”

The power of soft power

Painting China as a big, bad bully is not hard for a Taiwan president. The trickier job is to find allies who would risk irking the world’s second largest economy.

And that’s why Taiwan leads such an increasingly lonely diplomatic existence. In the last decade China has put the squeeze on many of the island’s allies who still recognise it – only 12 remain now, most of them tiny Pacific Island and Caribbean micro-states.

Tsai believes the way out of this diplomatic isolation is to build alliances with what she calls “like-minded democracies”.

To that end she hosts dozens of parliamentary delegations from all over the world, a loophole for meeting foreign dignitaries from countries that don’t see Taiwan as one. Last month I attended Holocaust Memorial Day. There was music and poetry, and an impassioned speech to never forget by the representative from Germany.

There are also more unusual events. Earlier this week, while Xi Jinping was getting ready to welcome Vladimir Putin in Beijing, Tsai Ing-wen hosted a drag performance by Taiwanese-American Nymphia Ward. “This is probably the first presidential office in the world to host a drag show,” Nymphia reportedly told Tsai.

Both are examples of brand Taiwan – a democracy that the world should care about losing.

“People say we are more important than Ukraine - strategically our position is more important and our place in the supply chain - and that they should shift support to Taiwan. We say no. The democratic countries need to support Ukraine,” Tsai says.

Rather than Taiwan’s wildly successful chip industry, which could be replicated, instead Tsai wields the one thing she has and the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t: the soft power of democracy.

In the run up to January’s election, the rainbow flag was hard to miss at every DPP rally.

“In Taiwan we are free to live how we choose. We could not do this in China,” one couple told me.

It’s a remarkable change from when I was a student here more than 30 years ago. Taiwan was still emerging from four decades of military rule. I remember a gay friend desperately looking for a way to get to America. Back then, if you were found to be homosexual during your military service you could get thrown in jail or a psychiatric ward.

That changed but Tsai Ing-wen’s government went further than any in Asia when it pushed through legislation legalising same-sex marriage in 2019. A little over half the population still opposed it. Some, including church and family groups, ran a vociferous campaign against it. It was a big political risk, and one that could have cost her re-election.

Tsai calls it a “very difficult journey” but one she saw as necessary: “It's a test to society to see to what extent we can move forward with our values. I am actually rather proud that we managed to overcome our differences.”

Taiwan is still conservative and patriarchal. I ask Tsai if she’s worried it might return to being a “boys club” once she, the island’s first female president, steps down. “I have a lot of opinions about that boys club!” she says but does not elaborate.

The island’s strength, in her opinion, is its mixed heritage – it’s a society of immigrants.

The Chinese came in many waves, sometimes centuries apart, and they joined hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples.

“In… [such a] society, there are a lot of challenges,” Tsai says. “People are less bound by the traditions. The main goal is to survive [as a society]. This is why we have been able to move from an authoritarian age to democracy.”

And that is why she hopes Taiwan’s most important alliance – with the world’s most powerful country and democracy - will last no matter who makes it to the White House after November.

Best friends forever?

After Donald Trump’s stunning victory in 2016, Tsai Ing-wen rang to congratulate him – and she was put through. No US President since Jimmy Carter had taken a call from the president of Taiwan. Tsai has described the call as short but intimate, and wide-ranging.

The truth is Trump is a wild card for Taiwan. He’s criticised the island for “stealing America’s semiconductor industry”, but, as Tsai points out, he has also approved more arms shipments to Taipei than any of his predecessors. But she doesn’t want to discuss him, or the possibility of his return to the Oval Office.

What she does want to emphasise is the perception of a growing China threat.

“The rest of the world is telling China that you can't use military means [against Taiwan]. No unilateral action is allowed and no non-peaceful means is allowed and… I think China got the message,” she says.

That might be wishful thinking. There has been no noticeable decrease in military pressure. Rather, China regularly sends dozens of military aircraft and ships across the median line that divides the waters and airspace of the Taiwan strait. In 2022, Beijing declared that it no longer recognises what was effectively the border. The trigger was one of Tsai’s diplomatic coups.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic visit in 2022 was celebrated in a Taiwan starved of international recognition. But China was furious, firing ballistic missiles over the island, and into the Pacific Ocean, for the first time ever.

It was a warning. Even some inside Tsai’s own administration worried quietly that Pelosi’s visit had been a mistake.

“We’ve been isolated for such a long time,” she says. “You just can't say no to a visit like that of Speaker Pelosi. Of course it comes with risks.”

You can feel the tension in her voice. Her opponents say the Pelosi visit was reckless and left Taiwan more exposed. Even President Biden is thought to have opposed the trip.

But Tsai says this is the line Taiwan must walk.

“I had to turn a party of revolutionaries into a party of power,” Tsai Ing-wen says of her time at the DPP’s helm.

When she took over, she was an economics graduate leading a party of older, male radicals who had spent their early lives fighting for Taiwan independence – or behind bars for it.

There is no need for Taiwan to hold a referendum or declare independence, she says, because it is already an independent, sovereign nation.

“We are on our own. We make our own decisions; we have a political system to govern this place. We have a constitution, we have laws, we have a military. We think that we are a country, and we have all the elements of a state.”

What they are waiting for, she says, is for the world to recognise it.

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https://t.me/ssternenko/28802

The Russians have a new EW system for individual protection - the bucket.

It was the bucket that one of the Katsaps put on his head when the Ronin launched your drone at them🔪 It didn't help.

UPD: they write that it is not a bucket. And part of the washing machine😂

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Russia has launched an offensive into the Kharkiv region, and it has created a lot of alarmist news reports. In reality it is difficult to see what Russia's plan is, and it is not self-evident that it is a smart use of resources. In this video I discuss whether we might be seeing a return to the fragmented command structures that Russia had in the beginning of the war.

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https://t.me/strikedronescompany/234

Instant detonation of a Russian tank💥💥💥

The FPV drone, assembled in Ukraine from Chinese components, combined with a Soviet cumulative grenade destroys the occupiers' tank.

Enjoy watching friends. Thanks for support!

Every day, new videos on the channel of the 47th OMBr attack UAV company channel ⬇️⬇️⬇️

https://t.me/strikedronescompany

Subscription is mandatory 🔝🔝🔝

We publish only our work. Without politics, news and other unnecessary things.

Let's destroy 💥 Russian 🐽 together 🚁 🛩

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cross-posted from: https://lemmit.online/post/2950586

This is an automated archive made by the Lemmit Bot.

The original was posted on /r/ukrainianconflict by /u/Independent_Lie_9982 on 2024-05-19 06:41:34+00:00.

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Загальні бойові втрати противника з 24.02.22 по 19.05.24 (орієнтовно)

#NOMERCY #stoprussia #stopruSSiZm #stoprussicism #ВІРЮвЗСУ t.me/GeneralStaffZSU/14724

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https://t.me/ComAFUA/292

⚡️ DESTROYED 37 IMPACT UAVS

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On the night of May 19, 2024, the Russian occupiers attacked Ukraine with 37 Shahed-131/136 attack drones from the Primorsko-Akhtarsk and Kursk regions - Russian Federation.

Anti-aircraft missile units of the Air Force, mobile fire groups of the Defense Forces of Ukraine and electronic warfare units were involved in repelling the enemy's air attack.

💥 As a result of anti-aircraft combat, all 37 "shaheeds" were shot down in Kyiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Sumy, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Cherkasy and Kherson regions.

To everyone who secured this result, thank you for your hard work!

🇺🇦 Together to victory!

➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖

🇺🇦 Air Force Commander Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk

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Media is barred from hearing as 71-year-old man appears in closed session over attempted assassination of prime minister.

While the attack on PM Fico has sparked fears in other European capitals that similar incidents could occur there, some in Slovakia say they were anxious the attack would embolden the authorities to launch assaults on the media, civil society and the opposition parties.

Other European leaders close to Fico like Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán have appeared to be eager to capitalise on his shooting, raising conspiracy theories. Fico is widely considered a divisive and populist official who has been criticised by the opposition for lashing out at independent media outlets and scrapping a special prosecutor’s office. --

The suspect in the shooting of Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico appeared in a closed court hearing on Saturday outside Bratislava amid growing fears about the future of the deeply divided nation.

The media was barred from the hearing, and reporters were kept behind a gate by armed police officers wearing balaclavas.

Fico, shot several times at point-blank range during a rally in the mining town of Handlová, had more surgery on Friday as the country reeled from the most serious attack on a European leader in decades.

The government has released only sparse details about the assailant or the health of the prime minister , who remains in a stable but serious condition.

Slovak media identified the attacker as Juraj Cintula, 71, who the authorities described as a “lone wolf” who had recently been radicalised.

A poet and former security guard, Cintula was known in his home town of Levice in provincial Slovakia as an eccentric but likable man.

His political views appear to have developed erratically. He is seen railing against violence in one YouTube clip, but later praising a violent pro-Russian paramilitary group on Facebook for their “ability to act without approval from the state”. He later adopted staunchly pro-Ukrainian views, which grew increasingly strong after Russia’s invasion.

In his published writing and personal conversations, Cintula expressed xenophobic views about the Romany community in Slovakia, a popular topic among the country’s far-right parties.

Neighbour and friend Mile L’udovit said the pair would occasionally discuss politics and that Cintula had been angry about the growing attacks on free speech under Fico’s leadership, a major topic of concern for the Slovakian leftwing opposition.

“No one knows why he did it, but I think it was a ticking timebomb before something like this would happen,” said Pavol Šimko, a 45-year-old history teacher, speaking in central Bratislava on Friday.

Wednesday’s assassination attempt in Handlová, 112 miles from the capital, has shone a light on what officials and many Slovaks say should be seen as a wider symptom of the country’s polarised political environment.

“We are now truly becoming the black hole of Europe,” added Šimko, referring to comments made by former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who coined the phrase to describe Slovakia in 1997 after the abduction of the son of then president Michal Kováč and the murder of a key witness in the case, police officer Róbert Remiáš.

Acts of political violence have become a grim fixture in recent Slovak history, but this latest is by far and away the most serious.

Other European leaders close to Fico, a divisive and populist official who has been criticised by the opposition for lashing out at independent media outlets and scrapping a special prosecutor’s office, have appeared to be eager to capitalise on his shooting.

Speaking on state radio on Friday morning, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, drew a link between Fico’s views on the war in Ukraine and the attempted assassination.

Since Fico’s return to power, “Slovakia started on the path of peace, and this was a big help for Hungary,” Orbán said. “We have now lost this support. We know that the perpetrator was a pro-war person,” he added, without providing any evidence.

The Hungarian prime minister, who often employs conspiratorial narratives, has spent more than a decade nurturing a relationship with the Kremlin and has repeatedly argued the west should stop providing support to Ukraine.

*"Of course [Fico] he became the target. There are only a few like him in Europe. And they need to take care of their own safety." *- Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president

In his radio interview, he suggested – again without evidence – that the shooting in Slovakia was part of a geopolitical struggle. “The combinations that connect the assassination attempt with the war are not unjustified,” he said.

“The pro-war parties are negotiating with each other, which is why the head of the [George] Soros empire and the US secretary of state also went to Kyiv,” Orbán said.

In Moscow, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev praised the Kremlin-friendly Fico, also implying that he was targeted for his views on the Ukraine war. “Of course, he became the target. There are only a few like him in Europe. And they need to take care of their own safety,” he said.

Ľudovít Ódor, opposition party Progressive Slovakia’s lead candidate for the European parliamentary elections, said that foreign politicians “should not misinform foreigners and should not make political capital out of this for themselves”.

In an interview with independent Hungarian news outlet Partizán, Ódor, who briefly served as Slovakia’s caretaker prime minister last year and comes from Slovakia’s Hungarian-speaking minority, warned that “we have seen how this just comes back like a boomerang to us”, noting that many people in southern Slovakia watched Hungarian media.

The attack has also raised questions about a possible failure by the Slovak security services and sparked fears in other European capitals that similar incidents could occur there.

Slovak authorities have opened an investigation into the response of security forces at the scene. A source said that the security services were caught off guard and that Cintula was not known to them.

“Other European security services will be looking at their measures, realising that the danger can come out of nowhere,” the source said.

Polish PM Donald Tusk said on Thursday he received threats after the assassination attempt on his Slovakian counterpart, with a media outlet reporting his security protection would be strengthened.

In Belgium, prime minister Alexander De Croo filed a police complaint against a radio presenter who urged listeners to “take him out”.

“You see that it is possible to shoot down a prime minister. So I would say: Go ahead,” the radio presenter told his listeners on a station that airs from the Belgian province of West Flanders.

Some in Slovakia said they were anxious the attack would embolden the authorities to launch assaults on the media, civil society and the opposition parties.

“I worry that the ruling coalition will now use the shooting as a pretext for a big crackdown. They already started blaming the opposition and the media for it,” said Lenka Szabóová, a student in Bratislava. “This should be a time of coming together. But it seems like it will only tear us apart.”

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An amazing combination of strategic commentary, drone footage and helmet cam footage.

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Archived link

The national security advisor to the Estonian president is the latest NATO nation official to weigh into the debate over the wisdom of foreign forces in Ukraine, while a senior British officer said it's still "not a path that the [UK] Prime Minister wants to go down".

The government of Estonia is “seriously” discussing the possibility of sending troops into western Ukraine to take over non-direct combat, “rear” roles from Ukrainian forces in order to free them up to fight on the front, though no decision is imminent, Tallinn’s national security advisor to the president told Breaking Defense.

Madis Roll said the executive branch is currently undertaking an analysis of the potential move, and though he said Estonia would prefer to make any such move as part of a full NATO mission — “to show broader combined strength and determination” — he didn’t rule out Estonia acting in a smaller coalition.

“Discussions are ongoing,” he said on May 10 at the presidential palace here. “We should be looking at all the possibilities. We shouldn’t have our minds restricted as to what we can do.” He also emphasized that it’s “not unthinkable” that NATO nations opposed to such a move would change their minds “as time goes on.”

Following publication of this report, Madis clarified that such a decision is not pending before the Estonian prime minister or her cabinet specifically, and he meant only that the discussion “is not dead” and is “ongoing in Estonia in general.” “We have not excluded any option in the future,” he said.

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur on May 14 told the European news outlet ERR such talks haven’t “gone anywhere” in Tallin.

“There is nothing new here. When France came up with the idea of considering whether Europe and the allies could do more, it has been floated in various discussions, but it has not gone anywhere, because at the moment there is no clear understanding among the allies of what it adds,” Pevkur said. “There is certainly no initiative by Estonia and certainly Estonia alone is not going to do anything.”

Roll’s boss, Estonian President Alar Karis, holds a position with many ceremonial duties relative to the nation’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, but he is ultimately Estonia’s commander-in-chief and is a key figure in foreign policy.

Roll’s comments came after the head of Estonia’s defense forces, Gen. Martin Herem, told Breaking Defense earlier last week there had been discussions in the military months ago about sending troops to western Ukraine to take on jobs like medical services, logistics or air defense for some western cities, but the air had gone out of those talks after the idea became a public lightning rod.

Herem and Pevkur were referring to the outcry that followed French President Emmanuel Macron’s declaration that Western nations must be open to discussing sending their troops in to aid Ukraine. (Kallas, the Estonian PM, in March appeared to defend Macron’s statement, noting that he wasn’t talking specifically about sending ground troops into combat. “In the exact same way, I can assure you that our soldiers will not go there to fight,” she said.)

Also earlier last week a key Estonian lawmaker, Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Marko Mihkelson, told Breaking Defense that European nations “have to start thinking about a coalition of the willing” to more directly help Kyiv, potentially with direct combat forces. (The Estonian officials spoke last week to an audience from the Kaplan Public Service Foundation; Breaking Defense accepted accommodation in Estonia from KPSF.)

The willingness of different nations to send some forces into Ukraine is a potential dividing line inside NATO. Although each member of the alliance is free to send forces where it feels it must for its national interests, some nations have been clear they see more risk than reward in doing so.

Notably, Germany and the US have flatly rejected the idea of sending in troops. The US Ambassador to Estonia, George Kent, pointed Breaking Defense to the Biden administration’s policy of aiding Ukraine through significant aid packages, but a firm commitment not to send in American soldiers.

Asked May 9 in Washington how Russia could react to NATO-nation forces being in Ukraine, British Chief of Defense Adm. Sir Tony Radakin was evasive, saying, “I won’t go into too much commentary on your question, if you don’t mind … The UK position is very clear in terms of, that’s not a path that the Prime Minister wants to go down.

However, he emphasized that the UK position is not “being governed by how Russia will react.” Instead, he said, it is based around what the UK views as the best approach overall: “I think that what you’ve seen all the way through, is a UK that has done the right thing, based on its judgment of what’s needed to be done.”

In contrast, there is Macron’s statement, as well as Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Simonytė who recently told the Financial Times she was open to sending Lithuanian troops into Ukraine to train Kyiv’s forces there. The FT wrote that Simonytė predicted Russia could see the move as an escalation, but added, “If we just thought about the Russian response, then we could not send anything. Every second week you hear that somebody will be nuked.”

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‘Adversaries know migration is our vulnerability,’ says Kaja Kallas, spelling out negative consequences to Europe of Ukrainian defeat

Vladimir Putin is seeking to weaponise the threat of mass migration to divide and weaken Europe as supporters of Ukraine struggle to maintain unity to defeat Russia, Kaja Kallas, the Estonian prime minister, says.

“What our adversaries know is migration is our vulnerability,” she said. “The aim is to make life really impossible in Ukraine so that there would be migration pressure to Europe, and this is what they are doing.”

Speaking in Tallinn on Friday, she said Russia had already created the migration pressure through disruption in Syria and in Africa via the Wagner group.

“I think we have to understand that Russia is weaponising migration. Our adversaries are weaponising migration.

“They push the migrants over the border, and they create problems for the Europeans because they weaponise this since with human rights, you have to accept those people. And that is, of course, water to the mill of the far right.”

Kallas admitted the plight of the Ukrainians on the front was “very serious” and European promises of extra weapons had not been delivered, something that could be rectified if Nato took charge of coordinating weapons delivery. “The problem is that our promises do not save lives,” she said.

Kallas is one of many European politicians trying to spell out the many negative consequences to Europe of a Ukrainian defeat, and rebut those who claim such a reverse could be contained.

She was speaking the day after the former Estonian president Toomas Ilves predicted that if Ukraine fell to Russia as many as 30 million Ukrainians would seek to flee. “That is the threat we face due to our inaction,” he said, adding that Europe had a “complete meltdown” when faced with 2 million refugees from the Middle East in 2015.

A pamphlet produced by pro-Ukrainian NGOs has detailed how Russian shelling between October 2022 and January 2023 had increased migration out of Ukraine by a quarter compared with the previous year.

The recent round of attacks has targeted electricity generation rather than transmission. Olena Halushka, board head at the international centre for a Ukrainian Victory, said: “Right now they are trying to bomb Ukraine into the stone age,” adding that in the past two months more damage had been inflicted than the whole of the winter of 2023.

She said: “Europe needs to think about Kharkiv, a city the size of Munich without energy this winter and then think about the financial implications of tens of millions of Ukrainians fleeing the war due to fear of occupation”.

Kallas said Russian assaults were now targeting Ukrainian cities every day and night.

She conceded that, based on geography and history, some countries in Europe did not see the threat of a Ukrainian defeat in the same way. “They don’t see and they don’t believe that if Ukraine falls Europe is in danger, the whole of Europe, maybe some countries, but not the whole of Europe”.

She said she feared a mistake was being made similar to the late 1930s, when linked conflicts were seen as isolated events. Kallas, tipped as a possible successor to Josep Borrell as EU high commissioner for foreign policy, cited links between the conflicts in Azerbaijan and Armenia, the Middle East, and the South China Sea. She said the same error was made in the 1930s about the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, the German occupation of Austria and the Sino-Japanese war.

“The lesson from 1938 and 1939 is that if aggression pays off somewhere, it will be taken up elsewhere. Ukraine’s defeat is something all aggressors will learn from. They will learn that in 2024, bluntly, you can just colonise another country and nothing happens to you.”

She pointed to what she described as baby steps to strengthening the European defence architecture, including a European defence fund, the increase in individual nation state defence spending, and the proposal for a shared defence debt bond to boost spending. She denied Estonia had had any serious discussions about sending troops to Ukraine, while arguing at the same time it was better to keep Putin guessing about Europe’s plans.

She said it was also a valid criticism that Ukraine was not moving fast enough to mobilise more troops.

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry warned the west it was playing with fire by allowing Ukraine to use western missiles and weapons to strike Russia, and said it would not leave such actions unanswered.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that it saw the hand of the US and Britain behind a recent spate of attacks, and blamed Washington and London for escalating the conflict by authorising Ukraine to use long-range rockets and heavy weapons they had supplied against Russian targets.

“Once again, we should like to unequivocally warn Washington, London, Brussels and other western capitals, as well as Kyiv, which is under their control, that they are playing with fire. Russia will not leave such encroachments on its territory unanswered,” the ministry said.

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Загальні бойові втрати противника з 24.02.22 по 18.05.24 (орієнтовно)

#NOMERCY #stoprussia #stopruSSiZm #stoprussicism #ВІРЮвЗСУ t.me/GeneralStaffZSU/14709

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TLDR: - China's president Xi wants to maintain an alliance with Putin's Russia, while also knowing that close ties with a pariah puts at risk his stable ties with the West which he needs to help his ailing economy.

- The costly war in Ukraine has changed their relationship, exposing the weaknesses in Russia’s army and its economy.

- China’s interests are not Russia’s interests. As the senior partner in this relationship, Mr Xi will likely co-operate when it suits him – even if his “dear friend” and ally needs him.

Vladimir Putin’s state visit to China this week was a show of strength. It was a chance for the Russian president to prove to the world that he has a powerful ally in his corner.

The Russian leader is widely regarded as a pariah after ordering the invasion of Ukraine. But to China’s President Xi Jinping, he is a key partner in seeking a new world order that is not led by the US.

And Mr Xi made his guest welcome. He rolled out the red carpet, the band played old Red Army songs, and cheering children greeted both leaders as they strolled through Tiananmen Square. There was even a brief hug for the cameras.

Russian and Chinese state media focused heavily on the camaraderie between the two leaders. But in truth, this is no longer a partnership of equals.

Mr Putin came to China cap in hand, eager for Beijing to continue trading with a heavily sanctioned and isolated Russia. His statements were filled with honeyed tones and flattering phrases.

He said that his family were learning Mandarin – this was particularly noteworthy because he very rarely talks about his children in public.

He declared that he and Mr Xi were “as close as brothers” and went on to praise China’s economy, saying it was “developing in leaps and bounds, at a fast pace”. This will likely play well with Beijing officials worried by a sluggish economy.

But Mr Xi himself did not echo the tone of these lofty compliments. Instead, his remarks were more perfunctory – even bland. Mr Putin, he said, was a “good friend and a good neighbour”. For China, the welcome ceremony and show of unity is in its interests, but lavishing its guest with praise is not.

The costly war in Ukraine, which shows no signs of ending, has changed their relationship, exposing the weaknesses in Russia’s army and its economy. Mr Xi will know that he is now in charge.

The war has isolated Russia. China’s ties with the West may be tense, but Beijing has not cut itself off from the world like Russia, nor does it want to.

While the public statements may have lacked enthusiasm, President Xi did hint at the importance that China places on the relationship.

He invited Mr Putin to his official residence, Zhongnanhai. Few leaders are afforded that honour - US President Barack Obama being among them back in 2014, when ties between the two were at their best.

President Xi is attempting a fine balance - he wants to maintain an alliance with Mr Putin, while also knowing that close ties with a pariah puts at risk his stable ties with the West which he needs to help his ailing economy.

The fact is, this visit was all about the money: Mr Putin needs China’s support for his war in Ukraine.

The make-up of the Russian leader’s entourage was a sign of what he hoped to get out of the trip: he brought with him the governor of Russia’s Central Bank, his finance minister and his economics advisor.

The joint statement released to mark the visit also contained some eye-catching ideas to increase trade – building a port on an island which the two countries once wrangled over for more than 100 years, and speaking to North Korea to see if Chinese ships could navigate through a key river to reach the Sea of Japan.

It mentioned the word “co-operation” 130 times.

All of this will, of course, have been carefully watched by the US. Last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China to stop fuelling Russia’s war and trading in components that could be used in Russian drones and tanks.

So they will not have missed the fact Mr Putin toured a state-backed university famous for its cutting-edge defense research during Friday’s visit to the city of Harbin.

The tour - and the ceremony and symbolism surrounding this visit - certainly appears to suggest Mr Xi is determined to prove that he will not be swayed by pressure from the West.

But behind the scenes of this show of unity, there may be limits to how far Mr Xi is prepared to go.

After all, China’s interests are not Russia’s interests. As the senior partner in this relationship, Mr Xi will likely co-operate when it suits him – even if his “dear friend” and ally needs him.

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