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Poland has promised a significant increase in defence budget, citing the conflict in Ukraine as justification. It is the most recent nation in Europe to announce an increase in military spending due to the conflict.

Just under 2.5% of Poland’s GDP is allocated to the military, but the prime minister intends to raise that percentage to 4% this year. Mateusz Morawiecki pleaded with Germany last week to permit the export of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.

In addition, he noted that increasing defence spending to 4% “could mean that this will be the highest percentage… among all Nato countries.” Poland, which shares a border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, previously announced that it would purchase 116 US-made Abrams tanks, with the first deliveries scheduled to begin this spring.

Numerous Western nations have reviewed and, in many cases, increased their military spending as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Beginning in 2024, members of the Nato Western military alliance will spend at least 2% of their GDP, a measure of a nation’s economic output, on defence. The alliance has long sought to achieve the percentage of 2%.

Recently, France announced plans for a significant expansion of its armed forces, partially in response to the conflict in Ukraine. France said the next seven-year budget will rise from €295 billion to €413 billion (£360 billion) from 2024 to 2030.

As part of their efforts to join NATO, Sweden and Finland have pledged significant increases in their military spending.

Germany committed an additional €100 billion of the budget to the military forces in the days following the invasion in February 2022.

Additionally, the UK committed to raising spending to 2.5% of GDP in June under former prime minister Boris Johnson.

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Oleksiy Arestovych, a presidential adviser for Ukraine, has submitted his resignation after alleging that Kiev shot down a Russian missile that struck a building in Dnipro and killed 44 people.

Mr. Arestovych expressed regret and admitted to having made a “basic error.” The original comment incited intense resentment throughout the nation, and Russian officials used it as an excuse to accuse Ukraine.

The adviser is well-known due to his regular YouTube updates, which are viewed by millions of people. Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, has yet to respond to Mr. Arestovych’s resignation.

Mr. Arestovych initially stated that it looked that the Russian missile had fallen on the structure after being shot down by Ukrainian air defences hours after Saturday’s missile strike on an apartment building in Dnipro. The structure was allegedly struck by a Russian Kh-22 missile, which Ukraine claimed was exceedingly inaccurate and beyond its ability to shoot down.

When Mr. Arestovych made his original remarks, the Ukrainian public responded strongly, with some claiming he had strengthened the position of Russian propagandists. A petition advocating for Mr. Arestovych’s dismissal as a government official was signed by certain Ukrainian lawmakers. Later, he published a statement announcing his retirement and admitting that he had committed a “fundamental error.”

“I offer my sincere apologies to the victims and their relatives, the residents of Dnipro and everyone who was deeply hurt by my prematurely erroneous version of the reason for the Russian missile striking a residential building,” he wrote in a longer post on Telegram.

One of the war’s most well-known Ukrainian faces is Mr. Arestovych, who regularly holds debates on the conflict on his YouTube channel. His videos frequently receive more than 200,000 views, and the channel has more than 1.6 million subscribers. He speaks in Russian instead of Ukrainian, which is unusual for Ukrainian officials.

Before he offered to leave, Russian authorities had used his words to attribute the strike to Kiev.

Russian attacks “do not damage residential buildings,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who also claimed that “certain officials of the Ukrainian side” had come to the same conclusion.

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After a protracted conflict with Ukrainian forces, the majority of the salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine is “possibly” now under Russian control, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

In the last four days, Russian troops and the mercenary Wagner Group, according to the UK, have advanced. Soledar is close to Bakhmut, the scene of another violent conflict with Ukraine.

According to President Zelensky, Soledar had “no full walls left” and “virtually no life.” He added, “The entire terrain around Soledar is littered with the occupiers’ corpses.”

Oledar, which prior to the conflict had a population of about 10,000, may be considered primarily as a stepping stone to seizing Bakhmut, and its strategic worth is debatable.

The creator of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, seeks ownership of the region’s significant salt and gypsum mines, a US official claimed last week.

The 200 km long abandoned tunnels were the subject of some fighting, according to the UK, and both Russia and Ukraine “are likely concerned that they could be exploited for infiltration behind their lines.”

Mr. Prigozhin has acknowledged his interest in the mines, referring to them as “the icing on the cake” for the Bakhmut region’s strategic importance.

He described them as a “network of underground cities” that can hold “a big group of people at a depth of 80-100 metres”, and can also allow tanks and other military vehicles to move freely.

Due to Ukraine’s “solid defence lines,” Russia is “unlikely” to soon seize Bakhmut, according to Britain.

Soledar is currently in Russian hands, according to a senior military officer from the US Department of Defense, who stated this on Monday.

Since Bakhmut has been the scene of fighting for months, the US source referred to the most recent skirmishes as “savage.” Two British nationals who were last spotted travelling to Soledar have vanished in the area.

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One of the biggest bombardments since the war started has seen a wave of Russian missile attacks target cities all around Ukraine. Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko reported that explosions in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv resulted in the hospitalisation of at least three individuals, among them a 14-year-old girl.

In the cities of Kharkiv, Odesa, Lviv, and Zhytomyr, blasts were also audible. According to the Ukrainian military, 69 missiles were fired, 54 of which were shot down by air defences. Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential adviser, earlier claimed that more than 120 missiles had been fired towards infrastructure used by civilians.

Maksym Marchenko, the regional governor of the southern province of Odesa, described a “huge missile attack on Ukraine” after the airstrike, which lasted for about five hours.

Russia allegedly assaulted Ukraine from “different directions with air and sea-based cruise missiles,” according to the Ukrainian Air Force. It further mentioned that several Kamikaze drones had been used. In an operational briefing, Brig Gen Oleksiy Hromov stated that the attacks had targeted energy infrastructure all around the nation.

According to the municipal military authority, debris from thwarted missiles damaged two homes in Kyiv. According to Mr. Klitschko, air defences shot down 16 missiles above the city.

Governor Vitaly Kim said that air defences in the southern district of Mykolaiv stopped five missiles, while Mayor Andriy Sadovy reported that many explosions had been recorded in the western city of Lviv.

Mr. Marchenko reported that the Ukrainian military shot down 21 missiles in the Odesa region. A residential building had been struck by missile fragments, he continued, but there had been no injuries.

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Nika Selivanova, 13, formed a heart shape with her hands as she waved goodbye to her closest friend Inna, who was leaning against the glass wall separating the waiting room from the entry hall of Kherson’s train station.

They had just hugged while their eyes were filling with tears. Asia, a tan dachshund puppy carried by Nika in her arms and covered in a warm blanket, had received a kiss from Inna. When they might meet one another again was unknown to the females.

The family of Nika was evacuating Kherson while unsure of their ultimate destination. For the time being, they were travelling to Khmelnytskyi in western Ukraine in the hopes that they would find assistance there. The past few days in Kherson had simply been too much for Nika’s mother Elena.

“Before, they [Russian forces] shelled us seven to 10 times a day, now it’s 70-80 times, all day long. It’s too scary.” Elena said. “I love Ukraine and my dear city. But we have to go.”

More than 400 people, including Elena and her three daughters, have evacuated Kherson since Christmas Day as a result of a substantial escalation in the Russian military’s bombardment of the city.

A hospital’s maternity ward was shelled on Tuesday. Although nobody was wounded, the situation has increased people’s concern. In an evacuation made possible by the Ukrainian authorities, Elena departed via train. A line of automobiles containing horrified bystanders is forming at the checkpoint leading out of Kherson while hundreds of individuals leave on their own.

We approached Iryna Antonenko’s car to speak with her, but she was in tears. We are at our breaking point. The shelling is really heavy. We believed it would last the entire time we were here.

The gateway to Crimea, or Kherson, is a strategically significant area. Many commentators claim that Russia has now been compelled to take a defensive stance in this situation.

It’s difficult to understand what it wants to achieve by pummeling Kherson. In addition to mortar shells, we have also witnessed the employment of incendiary weapons, which shower down burning sparks on the city in an effort to ignite objectives.

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According to Moscow, three people have died as a result of an attack by a Ukrainian drone on a bomber airbase in southern Russia. The drone was shot down by air defences close to the Engels base, but the falling debris killed three technical workers, according to the defence ministry.

Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out a similar strike on the airbase earlier this month, where aircraft that have launched missile attacks against Ukraine are stationed. Nearly 650 kilometres (400 miles) lie between the base and the Ukrainian border.

Although the air force spokesman, Yuriy Ihnat, claimed the explosions were a result of what Russia was doing on Ukrainian soil, the Ukrainian military did not formally acknowledge the latest strike.

Hours afterwards Russia’s FSB security service announced it had killed a four-strong “sabotage group” trying to enter the Russian border region of Bryansk from Ukraine armed with improvised explosive devices and German-made submachine guns. The FSB released video of what it said was the “liquidation” of the group, although there is no independent confirmation of the incident.

The most recent drone strike inside of Russia will humiliate Russian authorities because it occurred so quickly after the two attacks on December 5 that occurred hundreds of kilometres away from the front line, at the Engels base and in the Ryazan region. At the time, Russia also attributed the deaths of three military members and what it claimed as minor damage to two planes on falling debris.

Early on Monday, footage of explosions and air sirens near Engels Airfield were shared on social media.

The drone was downed by Russia’s air defences at around 1:00 AM on Monday, according to the country’s defence ministry (22:35 GMT Sunday).

Saratov governor Roman Busargin expressed his condolences to the men’s families and friends, and said there was “absolutely no threat to residents” in the town of Engels itself.

The full extent of Monday’s attack’s destruction will soon be seen in satellite imagery of the airfield, the spokesman for the Ukrainian air force said, adding that earlier explosions had damaged planes at the facility.

Since Moscow began its full-scale invasion on February 24, the Russian military has frequently launched missile attacks on numerous targets in Ukraine from the Engels air base. Although the Kremlin has previously accused Ukraine of invading its territory, the most recent instances occurred much farther into Russian territory.

There were many calls for increased security surrounding Russian military stations following the attacks on December 5; but, the most recent attack implies that has not happened.

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Vladimir Putin asserts that both countries are “sharing a sorrow” and that Russia is not to blame for the conflict in Ukraine. The Russian president stated that he still views Ukraine as a “brotherly nation” in a televised talk with senior military leaders.

He asserted that rather than being the outcome of Russian policy, the conflict was “the product of the policy of third countries.” Outside of Russia, the theory—which contends that Western expansion is the reason—has consistently been refuted. President Putin asserted that the West had “brainwashed,” beginning with Ukraine, the post-Soviet republics.

He said: “For years, we tried to build good-neighbourly relations with Ukraine, offering loans and cheap energy, but it did not work.

“There’s nothing to accuse us of. We’ve always seen Ukrainians as a brotherly people and I still think so.

“What’s happening now is a tragedy, but it’s not our fault.”

President Putin’s persistent worries appear to be related to Nato’s expansion since the Soviet Union’s fall in 1991.

Although the Kremlin has long contended that NATO’s admission of former Soviet allies as members endangers the alliance’s security, Nato’s primary purpose was to thwart Russian expansion following World War Two.

Following the fall of pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 as a result of months of public unrest, tensions between the Kremlin and the West grew.

Military personnel vowed to continue the alleged “special military operation” through 2023 during the speech. The amount of money Russia was willing to spend was unbounded, President Putin added.

Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s minister of defence, suggested raising the minimum age requirement for conscription.

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In an effort to raise morale, Russia claims it will send musicians to the front lines of its conflict in Ukraine. This week, the defence ministry made an announcement about the creation of the “front-line creative brigade,” saying it would include musicians and singers.

In a Sunday intelligence update, the UK’s ministry of defence emphasised the formation of the brigade. According to the government, Sergei Shoigu, the Russian minister of defence, visited Ukrainian frontline troops. The Russian military’s advanced positions in the area of the special military operation were verified by Mr. Shoigu, according to a statement sent to Telegram by the defence ministry.

Although it was noted that he “spoke with troops on the frontline” and at a “command post,” the BBC is unable to confirm the timing of the visit or whether Mr. Shoigu actually travelled to Ukraine. Low morale is reportedly still a “major weakness throughout most of the Russian army,” according to UK defence experts.

The UK claimed the new creative brigade is in keeping with the historical use of “military music and organised entertainment” to promote morale. This comes after a recent campaign inviting the public to donate musical instruments to troops. However, they questioned if the new brigade would actually divert troops from their main concerns, which were “extremely high mortality rates, weak leadership, pay problems, shortage of equipment and ammunition, and lack of clarity about the war’s objectives”.

Heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces has been going on in the area for months as Russia tries to hold onto its territory after suffering a series of setbacks in eastern Ukraine early this year.

Russian attacks on the town, according to earlier claims made by Western intelligence sources, are being led by the Wagner Group, a private military contractor. In order to launch operations on the Ukrainian-held cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, Moscow intends to utilise the town as a staging area.

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Both sides of the conflict have launched attacks on southern Ukraine, with Russia firing drones at Odessa and Kiev retaliating near Melitopol. The Ukrainian army claimed to have shot down 10 drones on Saturday, but an additional five struck electrical infrastructure, knocking out electricity for about 1.5 million people.

Later, the exiled mayor of Melitopol, a Ukrainian, claimed that an attack had been conducted on the city under Russian control. There is a large fire seen in pictures posted by a Russian official there. According to Ukrainian officials, Russia used drones built in Iran in its drone strike on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa.

“The situation in the Odesa region is very difficult,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “Unfortunately the hits were critical, so it takes more than just time to restore electricity. It doesn’t take hours, but a few days.”

Moscow has been employing heavy missile and drone assaults against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since October.

Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor, claimed that scores of “invaders” had been slain while pro-Moscow officials in Melitopol claimed that a missile attack had killed two persons and injured ten others.

“Air defence systems destroyed two missiles, four reached their targets,” Yevgeny Balitsky, the Moscow-appointed governor of the occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on the Telegram messaging app.Oleksiy Arestovych, a presidential counsellor, described Melitopol, which Russia has held since March, as essential to the defence of the south.

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The US claims that there is now a full-fledged defence alliance between Russia and Iran. According to John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, Russia is providing an unheard-of amount of military assistance.

The US is aware of rumours that the two nations are thinking about producing lethal drones together, he continues. It comes despite initial denials from Tehran after Ukraine charged Iran with providing Russia with “kamikaze” drones used in fatal assaults on October 17.

Later, the Middle Eastern nation acknowledged providing Moscow a small number of drones “several months” prior to the conflict. Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, responded by claiming that this was untrue and that many more Iranian drones were in use.

In the early hours of Saturday, the Ukrainian air force claimed to have shot down 10 of the 15 such drones being deployed to strike southern regions. The majority of his territory experienced power outages, according to the governor of Odesa.

Australia has issued sanctions on three Iranian individuals and one Iranian company for providing drones to Russia for use against Ukraine.

Speaking on Friday, Mr. Kirby asserted that a joint drone-production venture between Iran and Russia would be detrimental to Ukraine, Iran’s neighbours, and the global community.

“Russia is seeking to collaborate with Iran in areas like weapons development, training,” he said, adding that the US fears that Russia intended to “provide Iran with advanced military components” including helicopters and air defence systems.

“Iran has become Russia’s top military backer…” he said. “Russia’s been using Iranian drones to strike energy infrastructure, depriving millions of Ukrainians of power, heat, critical services. People in Ukraine today are actually dying as a result of Iran’s actions.”

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly responded to Mr. Kirby’s remarks by claiming that Iran had turned into one of Russia’s primary military allies and that their alliance was endangering international security.

Iran has sent hundreds of drones to Russia as part of the “sordid negotiations” between the two nations, he claimed. Australia’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, issued the following statement on Saturday: “The sale of drones to Russia is proof of Iran’s contribution to the weakening of international security. This listing emphasises that individuals who give Russia material help will suffer the repercussions.”

Following the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in jail earlier this year, she also announced actions against 19 additional people and two companies, including Iran’s Morality Police, for the cruel treatment of anti-government protestors.

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