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War in Ukraine: rampage in Russia against top military, killer drones, Sweden joins NATO

origin 1A billboard with a portrait of a Russian soldier awarded for action in Ukraine and the words ‘Glory to Russia’s heroes’ in St. Petersburg, Russia on Tuesday, January 3, 2023. ©Dmitri Lovetsky/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

1. Russian fury over devastating attack on troops in Ukraine

The Russians have called for military commanders to be punished after dozens of Russian soldiers were killed in a Ukrainian attack.

Nationalist bloggers and lawmakers accuse Russian leaders of ignoring the risk of a Ukrainian attack and putting the troops in a dangerous situation.

In a rare revelation, Russia’s Defense Ministry said 63 soldiers were killed on New Year’s Eve, following a major explosion that destroyed a temporary barracks in Makiivka, a city in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Donetsk region. Oriental.

Kiev said the death toll was around 400 Russian soldiers killed and another 300 injured in the incident, making it one of the deadliest attacks of the war so far.

Russian critics said the soldiers were being hosted by military commanders next to an ammunition depot, amplifying the devastation wrought by the Ukrainian attack.

Russian anger grows over strike that killed dozens of soldiers in Ukraine

The site was hit by four rockets fired from US-made HIMARS launchers, according to Russia’s defense ministry.

Russian military bloggers, who wield considerable influence in the country, also condemned the top brass for knowing the site was within range of Ukrainian rockets.

Many of the victims were recently mobilized troops, meaning they were recalled by Russian authorities, rather than volunteering to fight.

Igor Girkin, one of Russia’s most high-profile military bloggers, said hundreds of men were killed or wounded. The ammunition had been stored at the site and the military equipment was not camouflaged, he said.

“What happened in Makiivka is awful,” wrote Archangel Spetznaz Z, another Russian blogger with more than 700,000 followers. “Who had the idea to place personnel in large numbers in a building, where even a fool understands that even if they strike with artillery, there will be many wounded or dead?”

The commanders “couldn’t care less,” he added.

2. Putin orders to check documentaries about the war in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered his government to show “documentary films” about the war in Ukraine.

The Ministry of Culture is now to show domestic documentaries in cinemas on topics related to what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine and the fight against “Ukrainian neo-Nazis”, reads a message posted by the website of the Kremlin.

Russia justifies its war in Ukraine as an attempt to “denazify” the country, denouncing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the leaders of Kiev as ultra-nationalists.

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Experts have disputed the claim that Ukraine is ruled by the Nazis as false, calling it a lie.

This decision to control the video on Ukraine comes amid several Russian setbacks over the battle filed. In recent months, Moscow’s forces have abandoned the northeastern region of Kharkiv and Kherson, a city in the south.

Since the invasion began in February, Russia has passed several laws controlling information about the war in Ukraine.

A law severely punishes all those who spread what the authorities consider “lies” about the Russian military.

3. France reaffirms support for Sweden’s candidacy for NATO

During a trip to the Nordic nation on Tuesday, French President Emmanual Macron expressed his country’s continued support for Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

Meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Stockholm, Macron reiterated his desire to see Sweden and Finland join the Western military alliance.

Sweden, together with Finland, launched a bid to join NATO in May 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While the two were closely allied with the US-led alliance, they were not formally part of NATO.

Their membership is currently blocked by Turkey and Hungary.

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Macron said he wants Sweden’s accession to become a reality “as soon as possible”, while his Swedish counterpart has expressed a desire to strengthen cooperation with France in the fields of defense and space.

“You can count on the support and solidarity of France,” Macron insisted.

The two leaders reaffirmed Europe’s determination to support Ukraine in the face of the Russian offensive and the arrival of winter.

“Ukrainians need our support more than ever,” Macron said.

“Ukraine’s victory is existential for Europe and for the whole world,” added Ulf Kristersson.

Macron was visiting Sweden to explore, among other things, the possibility of building a new nuclear power plant in the Nordic country.

It was his first visit to an EU capital since Sweden took over the six-monthly rotating presidency of the EU Council on 1 January.

4. Drone advances in Ukraine could lead to the dawn of killer robots

Advances in drones in Ukraine have accelerated a long-awaited technology trend that could see the world’s first fully autonomous robots take to the battlefield

Military analysts and researchers warn that the longer the war lasts, the more likely it is that drones will be used to identify, select and attack targets without the help of humans.

Such a development could usher in a new era of warfare, marking a revolution in military technology as profound as the introduction of the machine gun.

Ukraine already has semi-autonomous strike drones and anti-drone weapons using artificial intelligence. Russia also claims to possess AI weapons, although this is unproven.

To date, there are no confirmed cases of a country deploying combat robots that have completely killed themselves.

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Experts say it may only be a matter of time before either Russia or Ukraine deploys them.

“Many states are developing this technology,” said Zachary Kallenborn, a weapons innovation analyst at George Mason University. “Clearly, it’s not that difficult.”

Ukraine’s Minister for Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov agrees that fully autonomous killer drones are “a logical and inevitable next step” in weapons development.

He said Ukraine is doing “a lot of research and development in this direction”.

“I think the potential for that is great over the next six months,” Fedorov told reporters in a recent interview.

Ukraine’s military leaders currently prohibit the use of completely independent lethal weapons, although that could change.

5. Bulgaria frees itself from Russian gas by signing an agreement with Turkey

Bulgaria signed an energy deal with Turkey on Tuesday in a bid to diversify supplies after supplies of Russian gas ceased due to the war in Ukraine.

“This [deal] it will allow us to buy gas from all international producers and unload it in Turkey, where it is convenient for us,” said Bulgarian interim energy minister Rossen Hristov.

According to Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez, the contract covers the next thirteen years and could mean up to 1.5 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are transported each year.

This amount of gas corresponds to about half of Bulgaria’s needs.

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The deal between Bulgarian public gas operator Bulgargaz and Turkish public gas company Botas provides access to both the country’s terminals and Turkish transit networks.

It also contains a commitment to “increase the security of [gas] deliveries” throughout the Balkan region.

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Moscow supplied EU member Bulgaria with almost all the gas it needs, which is estimated at 3 billion cubic meters of gas.

Russia suspended deliveries in April 2022, as Sofia was one of the countries that refused to pay for gas in rubles as requested by Russia in retaliation for EU sanctions.

Currently, Bulgaria imports around one billion cubic meters of natural gas from Azerbaijan.

In July, it inaugurated a new pipeline linking Greece and LNG supplies from the United States.