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War in Ukraine: Russian news channel RT France announces ‘closure’

At an all-day military strategy meeting on Friday (January 20) in Ramstein, Germany, Ukraine’s allies announced new arms deliveries to Kyiv. In particular, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark and even the United States promised several hundred combat vehicles and air defense systems, announcing a new tranche of aid in the amount of $2.5 billion.

But Ukraine’s western supporters have so far failed to reach an agreement on heavy tank deliveries, dampening the hopes of Kyiv, which is spurring them on. Ukraine will now have to wait for further discussions and a green light from Germany. Since its Leopard 2 heavy tanks, by far the most represented in the European armies, are currently blocked due to the lack of permission for re-export from Berlin, which “has not yet made its decision.”

RT France announces its “closure”

RT France, the French branch of Russia’s RT channel suspended in the European Union, announced this Saturday that it was closing. “After 5 years of ruthlessness, the authorities have achieved their goal: the closure of RT France […]. The General Directorate of the Treasury has decided to freeze the bank accounts of RT France, which makes it impossible to continue our activities,” Ksenia Fedorova, president and director of the channel, tweeted.

Earlier in the day, Moscow promised to retaliate against French media in Russia. They “will be remembered if the French authorities don’t stop terrorizing Russian journalists,” warned a Russian diplomatic source quoted by Russian news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS.

Heavy tanks: “indecision kills our fellow citizens even more,” Kyiv regrets

This Saturday, January 21, Ukraine expressed its regret over the “general indecision” of its Western allies, who had refused to provide it with heavy tanks the day before. “The indecision of these days is killing even more of our fellow citizens,” Mikhail Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, regretted on Twitter, urging Kyiv’s allies to “think faster.” “In any case, you will help Ukraine with the necessary weapons and you will understand that there is no other option for ending the war,” he pleaded.

On Friday evening, Volodymyr Zelensky stressed that the Allies, who have pledged to support Ukraine “for as long as necessary”, must inevitably realize that “there are no other solutions” than supplying these tanks so that Ukraine can launch a major counteroffensive. .

The door to the surrender of heavy tanks is not closed

However, the US hinted that the situation could change in the coming weeks. “Until spring, we have a window of opportunity to deliver Western tanks, when Ukraine launches its “counteroffensive,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said. Until then, various additional military aid packages promised by several countries offer Ukrainian forces “the capabilities they need to succeed” on the ground, the Pentagon chief reasoned.

The Netherlands announced on Friday, January 20, that it is joining a “group of countries, including Germany,” which is exploring the possibility of providing Kyiv with heavy tanks, including through training. His Polish colleague Mariusz Blaszczak said he was “convinced” that the Allies would eventually band together to supply German Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Washington advises a ‘big counteroffensive’ in the south

The besieged town of Bakhmut in the east of the country came under heavy shelling again on Friday, January 20, according to AFP. The now heavily devastated city became the epicenter of the fighting, with slow progress and heavy casualties on both sides. Bakhmut has become the main symbol of the fight against the Russian invasion: in December, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky even visited the front line.

A senior US administration official told AFP on Friday that Ukraine should not seek at all costs to defend the city of Bakhmut, which is already largely destroyed and wasting army resources. But it is better to focus on the preparation of a major counter-offensive on the front line in the south of the country, in particular, in the Zaporozhye region. Ukraine would also benefit, he said, by sending these very exposed soldiers to the equipment and training programs run by the United States to train more technical and well-armed units to prepare for operations in the south. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also said that in the spring Washington expects a counteroffensive from Ukraine.

The Russian army, for its part, said on Saturday that it had carried out “offensive operations” in the Zaporozhye region in southern Ukraine, which allowed it to take “advantageous positions.” “In the direction of Zaporozhye, as a result of offensive actions, units of the Eastern Military District took up more advantageous lines and positions,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, without giving further details.

The Netherlands promises equipment and training

A new promise of help from a Western ally. The Dutch government announced on Friday after the Ramstein summit that it would help Ukraine equip itself with the Patriot air defense system as Western countries speed up arms deliveries to Kyiv. According to the Dutch Ministry of Defense, the country will supply “two launchers and missiles.” The Netherlands also announced that it would take over the training of Ukrainian soldiers and the provision of 100 vehicles with anti-aircraft guns purchased from the Czech Republic.

This operation is part of a “joint project with the United States and Germany” to respond to an urgent appeal from Volodymyr Zelensky. In late December, the United States announced the delivery of a Patriot air defense system to Ukraine, and Berlin also pledged to provide one of these systems on January 5th. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov welcomed the new shipments on Twitter, thanking his American “friend and colleague” Lloyd Austin and assuring that “Bradley and the Patriots will change the course of the war.”

Wagner, US international criminal organization

A huge Russian paramilitary group of mercenaries, Wagner is now considered an international criminal organization by the White House. He is “committing huge atrocities and violations of human rights,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby denounced before the press on Friday. “We still believe that the Wagner group currently has about 50,000 employees stationed in Ukraine,” he said. Of these, 40,000 will be prisoners recruited while serving their sentences.

The official said that Washington would soon take additional sanctions against the Wagner group. He also shared satellite imagery showing Russian trains heading to North Korea to supply equipment for the Wagner group. A paramilitary group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin is very active in the fierce battles for Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

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