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Putin Will Renew Attacks on ‘symbolic’ Kyiv, Says City Mayor Vitali Klitschko




Russian forces are likely to renew their attacks on Ukraine’s capital city if they succeed in their fresh offensive in the east of the country, the mayor of Kyiv said.

Vitali Klitschko said President Vladimir Putin was unlikely to be satisfied with victory in the Donbas region, where Russia has redeployed the bulk of its forces to seize territory and inflict a crushing blow on Ukraine’s army.

“Putin likes symbols . . . from the beginning Kyiv [has been] a symbol of an independent Ukraine,” the former heavyweight boxing champion said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Klitschko, elected Kyiv mayor in 2014, said he did not want inhabitants who fled the capital to return, given the risks from Russian artillery and unexploded munitions, as well as the difficulty in providing services to the full population.

Authorities were struggling to restore electricity and water to all parts of the city, which is in effect under military control. Klitschko’s message to those who escaped in the wake of Russia’s invasion on February 24: “Take your time, please don’t come back.”

Klitschko, 50, said Moscow was trying systematically to demolish Ukraine’s infrastructure as it pulverised Kyiv’s food distribution centres and targeted oil refineries.

“Russia destroyed our infrastructure to destroy our economy. It’s not a war against military forces, it’s a war against the whole Ukrainian population,” he said.

He appealed for fire engines and medical staff and said Kyiv needed to rebuild its supplies of food and water in view of the risk of another Russian ground offensive.

“Nobody knows how long will be this war. Weeks? Months? I hope not years. We need reserves and support, and not just right now — for a couple of weeks.”

Mayor Vitali Klitschko, centre, inspects the damage caused by Russian shelling in Kyiv last month © Emin Sansari/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Until recently Klitschko was to the outside world Ukraine’s best-known politician, thanks to his boxing prowess. But he has been eclipsed by President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose resilience and wartime leadership have turned him into a heroic figure.

The two men have not always seen eye to eye. Klitschko was previously aligned with former president Petro Poroshenko, who lost the election to Zelensky in 2019. The new president took steps to remove Klitschko from office following his victory, but ultimately decided against it.

The mayor paid tribute to Zelensky and his determination to remain in the capital despite threats to his safety. But he took issue with the president’s attempts to strike a peace deal with Moscow, which would trade Ukrainian neutrality for a ceasefire and security guarantees.

“Giving up a big part of our territory is a compromise? For me personally, and for millions of Ukrainians, it’s not,” he said.

“We’re ready to talk about compromise and negotiations just after the point when the last Russian soldier has left Ukraine.”

Moscow was one of the signatories of the 1994 Budapest memorandum, under which a newly independent Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in return for guarantees of its security.

“Our neutral status was our weakest point,” Klitschko said.

The former boxer spent much of his sporting career in Germany and has been sharply critical of Germany’s prevarication over providing Ukraine with weaponry and reducing its imports of Russian energy.

“They [the Germans] were a little bit late to understand they were economic hostages to Russian politicians,” he said. “If you’re sending money it means you support the war.”

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Iceland Helps Families This Half Term With Free School Meal Initiative – With Added Bonus




The promotion launched this week to help “ease pressure” on families over half-term.

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Scholz Airs Frustration Over Allies’ Stance on Tanks for Ukraine





Chancellor Olaf Scholz has admonished Germany’s allies for failing to deliver tanks to Ukraine after having spent months urging Berlin to do so.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, the German leader who was long criticised for his hesitancy in arming Ukraine, was asked if he was now pushing other nations to provide the heavy weaponry they had promised.

Scholz replied: “That’s a question I have to ask to others, especially those who were so much urging [me] to act.”

The three-day gathering was opened by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who compared his country to the biblical David in a fight to the death with Russia’s Goliath.

“It’s not just about Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in his speech via video link. “The point is that Goliath must lose and there is no alternative to this.”

He said the west must pick up the pace of its support for Ukraine. “Delayed decisions are a resource that Putin’s dictatorship lives on.”

Scholz’s comments highlighted growing German frustration with its allies. The chancellor faced months of pressure to set up and lead a consortium of countries capable of supplying German-made Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine. But in the weeks after Berlin finally agreed to send 14 Leopard 2s, few other countries have committed any of their own stockpiles of the tank.

In his conference address, Scholz urged “all those who can supply main battle tanks to really do so”. He said German defence minister Boris Pistorius and foreign minister Annalena Baerbock would be using the Munich conference to encourage allies to fulfil their commitments on tanks.

Germany would, he added, “do what it can to make this decision easier for our partners — say by training Ukrainian soldiers here in Germany, or providing support in terms of supplies and logistics”.

In a further indication of international differences on Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged that the west had failed to win backing from countries ranging from Africa to Latin America and Asia.

“I am struck by how we have lost the trust of the global south,” Macron said to an audience made up of top officials from both developed and developing countries. He argued that the world’s response to the war showed the need to rebalance the global order and make it more inclusive.

Macron called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “neocolonialist and imperialist” attack that “broke all taboos” and called on leaders of the global south to join the west in condemning the war.

While western countries have rallied to help Ukraine, many Asian, Latin American and African countries have been at best lukewarm in their support for Kyiv in what they see as a European war that is far from their daily concerns. The French president insisted that was not the case.

“To close your eyes [to the invasion] is to legitimise neocolonialism and imperialism around the world,” Macron told the conference. “It is a vision of the world that has broken all taboos, not only violating the UN charter . . . but also murders, rapes, war crimes and the systemic destruction of civilian infrastructure.”

He added that the global south would be needed to eventually seal a sustainable end to the conflict.

First, however, the west needed “to intensify our support and our efforts to the resistance of the Ukrainian people and its army and help them to launch a counter-offensive which alone can allow credible negotiations, determined by Ukraine”, Macron said.

More than 40 heads of state and 60 ministers are attending the so-called Davos of defence, which has also attracted the biggest US congressional delegation in the event’s history. Kamala Harris, the US vice-president, will be taking part in the event that runs until Sunday and is expected to focus heavily on the war in Ukraine and its implications for the global security order.

Last year’s conference was held just days before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, and world leaders used it to urge President Vladimir Putin to desist from his war plans — pleas that fell on deaf ears. No Russian officials have been invited this year.

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Russia’s ‘big’ Ukraine Offensive Advancing in ‘metres Not Kilometres’, Says UK Defence Secretary





The Russian army is suffering huge losses in Ukraine, shows no sign it has improved its “meat grinder” tactics and is struggling to sustain a stuttering offensive that is “advancing, if at all, in metres not kilometres”, Britain’s defence secretary Ben Wallace said on Friday.

Despite fears that Russia is poised to launch a huge attack around the first anniversary of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Wallace said there was “no evidence of a big massing of Russian forces” akin to the assault on February 24 last year.

Speaking to the Financial Times on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Wallace said the best Moscow had managed so far was a series of probing attacks along the frontline reinforced with recruits following a recent mass mobilisation. But he said those assaults had only led to high Russian casualties.

He added that Kyiv’s western allies were “more resolved than ever” to help Ukraine repel Russian forces and one clear sign was a strengthening of support from the US, which is now “committed to seeing the conflict through to the end”.

“There is no evidence to date of a great, big Russian offensive,” Wallace said. “What we have seen is an advance on all fronts, but at the expense of thousands of lives . . . We should actually question the assertion that they [the Russians] can go on.”

There has also been a shift in attitude about military aid among Kyiv’s western allies. This time last year, he said, they were debating whether to send anti-tank missiles to Kyiv. Now they are sending western main battle tanks.

“What has changed is that the US has decided to be more assertive,” Wallace said, pointing to the almost $8bn of military aid Washington has committed this year.

“Just think about it: we [western allies] have convened twice in the past three weeks [to discuss military aid], at the Ramstein [US air base in Germany] and at the Nato defence ministers meeting this week. That is a big change.”

One bridge that Kyiv’s allies have not yet crossed, however, is the provision of western fighter jets to Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an eloquent plea for “wings for freedom” during an unexpected visit to London earlier this month.

But Wallace cautioned such supplies were still a long way off and that the modern fighter jet training the UK had offered to Ukrainian pilots was a “long-term resilience measure for after the war when Ukraine needs to defend itself”.

Wallace’s assessment of the state of the battlefield comes as Moscow’s full-scale invasion approaches its first anniversary next week. Since the start of the war, more than 180,000 Russian troops had been killed or wounded and, according to US estimates, two-thirds of the army’s tanks had been lost, he said.

Despite these losses, Wallace said there was no sign that the Russian army had changed its approach. He cited reports that 3,000 Russian soldiers had died during a three-day attack last week on the southern Ukrainian town of Vuhledar.

“Russian recruits are still being shoved into the meat grinder,” Wallace said. “And I am not sure that is sustainable, even for Russia, because 180,000 people have wives, mothers, sisters and friends and it becomes impossible for the scale of that loss to be hidden from the Russian people.”

Western officials also believe that Russia is struggling to source weapons and other materiel for its war effort. They cite the long gaps between its missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, and “active rationing” of shells for Russian artillery on the front line.

Kyiv’s western allies are similarly struggling to maintain supplies of artillery shells and other munitions and weaponry to Ukraine.

Wallace said that, while Ukraine might be suffering some shortages, this was a timing issue and Kyiv’s western backers had no strategic problem in continuing to supply Ukraine’s war effort.

“There’s always been a sense of shortages on [Ukraine’s] front line, but I don’t see any sign of strategic shortages . . . although there is a bit of a time lag” in getting supplies through, Wallace said.

The challenge, he added, was for Ukrainian forces to be precise in their use of weaponry and to continue fighting using western methods. “Do you need 100 artillery shells to blow up a Russian position, or just five? If you can be accurate, you don’t need 100 shells,” he said.

“Russia still has significant forces at its disposal,” Wallace said. “But what we have discovered is that when they muster them, they get whacked . . . They’re struggling.”

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