Ukraine war latest: 'Murky goings-on' as Russian official claims Ukrainian 'sabotage group' crossed into Belgorod - but Kyiv denies any involvement (2023)

Key points
  • Governor of Russia's Belgorod claims Ukrainian 'sabotage group' crossed into country| Ukraine denies any involvement
  • Who are the groups supposedly behind incursions into Russia? | Diana Magnay
  • Bakhmut is a 'mouse trap' for Russian forces, Ukrainian MP says
  • Why the battle for Bakhmut could be blown open in days | Sean Bell
  • Watch:Mercenaries raise Russian flag in Bakhmut
  • Your questions answered: How much of the information out there can be replied upon?
  • Got a question about the war? Ask our experts
  • Live reporting by James Robinson


F-16 fighter jets key to short and long-term future of Ukraine, says ambassador

Ukraine's ambassador to the US says Kyiv being sent F-16 fighter jets is critical to the country's short and long-term future.

“This is a capability that we definitely need," says Oksana Markarova, speaking at an address at Boston College.

The US has agreed to help train pilots in Ukraine to fly F-16s.

But it has provided few details and said decisions on when, how many, and who will supply the F-16s will be made in the months ahead.

Some military experts have suggested it could take up to a year before the fighter jets will be ready for deployment in Ukraine.

Ms Markarova also uses her speech to criticise Russia's invasion, which she describes as "a genocidal attack aimed to destroy Ukraine’s statehood".

"A strong, successful, democratic, European Ukraine is the worst nightmare Russia had," she adds.


Western sanctions are not enough to stop Putin, says exiled Russian businessman

An exiled Russian businessman has warned Putin cannot be stopped unless countries stop buying Russian goods like oil and gas.

Evgeny Chichvarkin - once one of the richest young entrepreneurs in Russia - said current sanctions are also not proving effective.

"While Western and Eastern countries (are) still purchasing oil, gas, wood, nickel, a lot of other things, from Putin, he will be comfortable, because the financial situation in Russia is quite stable," he tells Sky News.

"The sanctions do not work properly - the GDP of Russia only has dropped about two per cent despite these record sanctions.

"That means these means sanctions do not work."

Asked if he thinks Putin can be defeated, he says: "That depends, unfortunately, Ukraine has to be supported by cash because the economy of Ukraine cannot be independent for the moment.

"A lot of tanks, a lot of missiles, rockets... have to be delivered to Ukraine."

Mr Chichvarkin, 48, made millions through his mobile phone retail firm, before leaving the country in 2008 after campaigning against corruption in Russia. He also criticised Putin directly.

Now living in London, where he runs a wine shop in Mayfair, Mr Chichvarkin is helping to raise money to fund medical supplies for Ukraine.


What is the F-16 fighter jet - and why does Ukraine want them?

We reported a little earlier today about the F-16 fighter jets and how intelligence suggested Russia may form an "elite" air group in response to the US allowing for the aircraft to be sent to Ukraine.

But what exactly are F-16s - and why does Ukraine want them?

The F-16 is a high-tech fighter jet built by the American defence contractor Lockheed Martin.

It is a multi-role fighter aircraft created for the United States Air Force and can travel at speeds up to 1,500mph and has a range of more than 2,002 miles.

In 1991, during the Gulf War, F-16s were used to attack airfields, military production facilities and other targets.

It has also been used and flown in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and the Persian Gulf.

But the F-16s are steadily being retired, replaced by even more advanced jets, including by the next generation F-35s.

However, the F-16s would still provide a significant boost to Ukraine's military capabilities, in terms of both air defence and aiding counter-offensives.

You can read more about the F-16s in the article below.


Aid taken home on bikes in town bombed by Russian rockets

In the town of Orikhiv, to the southeast ofZaporizhzhia, life goes on despite the backdrop of destruction.

Residents of the town wheel humanitarian aid they have collected from a bombed-out public building on their bicycles.

Zaporizhzhia has been a point of conflict between Russian and Ukrainian troops, with the maintenance of the city's nuclear power station a point of wider international concern.


US officials accuse Wagner of plotting to buy military equipment and move it to Russia through Mali

US officials have accused the Wagner mercenary group of plotting to secretly buy military equipment from foreign suppliers and then move it to Russia through Mali.

The accusations were made by the US State Department, which said it had not seen evidence that the plot had been carried out.

"There are indications that Wagner has been attempting to purchase military systems from foreign suppliers and route these weapons through Mali as a third party," a spokesperson told reporters in Washington.

"We have not seen as of yet any indications that these acquisitions have been finalised or executed, but we are monitoring the situation closely."


NATO members discuss plans to ramp up security on eastern flank

More NATO news here - with defence ministers and officials from 12 European countries meeting in Poland today.

Plans to step up deterrence and security on the military alliance's eastern flank are among the items being discussed.

"We are looking for joint solutions to ensure security," Poland's defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak says.

He says his country are also moving forward with plans to obtain early warning planes from Sweden.

Officials are also discussing preparations for the NATO summit in Vilnius in July, where officials are expected to gauge prospects for Ukraine's membership.

Today's meeting also marks Finland's first participation as a NATO member.

The country, which shares a border with Russia, joined in April in response to Putin's invasion of Ukraine.


Sweden should be allowed to join NATO in July, says Norway's PM

Sweden could be the next nation to join NATO in the wake of Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine.

According to Norway's prime minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, it should have its membership approved at its summit in Vilnius in July.

Neighbouring Finland, which shares a border with Russia, became a member in April.

Sweden also wants to join the military alliance. But it has longstanding diplomatic issues with Turkey, which is already a NATO member.

Sweden's military spending is also short of NATO's guidelines of 2 per cent of its GDP.

Mr Stoere's comments come as NATO forces, alongside troops from non-Nato member countries, begin a two-week training exercise in Albania and Kosovo.


'No coincidence' that Russia is setting up elite air group as West discusses sending F-16s

We reported earlier on British intelligence that suggests Russia is preparing to set up a new "elite" air attack unit.

It comes after the US authorised Western allies to give F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Our military analyst Sean Bellsays the timing of Russia's new unit is "no coincidence".

Speaking to The News Hour with Mark Austin, he says: "It will be formed of SU-24 fighters - a 1960s vintage fighter - and the SUV-25 - which is a 2014 fighter - and also attack helicopters.

"All designed to do close air support. In other words, they are designed to have a go at the Ukrainian forces on the ground as they mount their attack.

"They are even recruiting, apparently, retired aviation teams to fly these things, which is really odd, because you think any air force worth its salt would actually have close air support at its core.

"Really that shows the state of the air force that they are having to recruit people to what should be a core role."

He also says that while F-16s are ready to be sent over to Ukraine now, he expects that they will not be in use until next year due to the need to train pilots and build up spare parts.



War entering a 'critical stage', Sunak says

Rishi Sunak said the Ukraine war was "entering a critical stage" as he updated MPs after his visit to the G7 summit in Japan.

He said he welcomed tighter restrictions on exports that aid the "Russian war machine" - referring to additional sanctions imposed by the UK to coincide with the summit.

He also said the West was behind Ukraine and that "freedom must win".

"Putin should know we are not going anywhere," he said.

The PM also reiterated the UK's support for Ukraine, adding: "We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes."

Similarly, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer reiterated his party's support for Ukraine.

He said: "As I told President Zelenskiy when I met him in Kyiv, whichever party is in power in the UK, there will be no letup in Britain’s resolve.

"We will continue to support Ukraine’s military and its people in its quest for freedom, peace and justice."

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