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Russia Running Short of Precision Missiles, Say Western Officials




Russia is running short of precision missiles in its war against Ukraine and its arms factories lack the ability to produce enough to keep up with demand, western officials have said.

Limitations in Russia’s arms supply industry and the impact of western sanctions mean Moscow is having to transport missiles from other parts of the country to Ukraine, the officials said on Friday.

“Their stock is limited, it is being run down, and we are seeing them having to move Kalibr missiles from other strategic directions where they may be stored,” said one western official, referring to sea-launched cruise missiles. “That brings you some indications that their stock of precision weapons is being reduced.”

The assessment comes as the US and its European allies ramp up efforts to arm Kyiv and are girding for a protracted conflict, with the Biden administration looking to send $33bn more in military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

It also comes as the Kremlin continues to struggle on the ground in Ukraine, with the Pentagon saying it believes Russia is at least several days behind its goal to encircle Ukrainian forces in the Donbas.

“We believe that they meant to be much further along in terms of a total encirclement of Ukrainian troops in the east and they have not been able to link north with south,” said a senior US defence official. “In fact they’re nowhere close to linking north with south as the Ukrainians continue to fight back.”

Most Russian strikes are concentrated in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine and the coastal city of Mariupol, the US official said, adding that most of the ordinance is “dumb ordinance, not precision-guided”.

“We think that speaks to challenges that the Russians are having with [precision-guided munitions] replenishment,” the US official said.

The western official said Russia’s difficulties in resupplying guided weaponry has been caused both by the “quality of their industrial base”, but also by western sanctions that are “limiting their ability to generate more capability in the time that it would be needed to have an effect on the battlefield”.

Russian progress in the Donbas has been “slow and uneven”, as its forces meet stiff Ukrainian resistance and try to learn from past mistakes, the US official said. They have made limited advances to the south-east and south-west of Izyum and toward the towns of Slovyansk and Barvinkove.

The US believes Russia is trying to move forces north out of Mariupol, but progress there has also been slow, the US official added.

Elsewhere, Russian forces have targeted central and western Ukraine with bombardment to try to prevent Ukraine from replenishing and reinforcing their troops in the south and east, the official said.

Recent strikes in Kyiv were meant to target military production capabilities and attacks that hit residential areas “may have been misses”, the official said.

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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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