In recent weeks, two Russian comedians have tricked prominent politicians into making fake video calls to Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko — now they admitted they’re being paid by a subsidiary of state-owned Gazprom. In an interview with the ARD political magazine “Contrasts”, Alexej Stoljarov said that the duo is financed by funds from the Russian platform Rutube. The YouTube copy belongs to a media subsidiary of the Gazprom group.
“We work for Rutube and are Rutube ambassadors,” says Stolyarov, aka Lexus. “So we get our money from there.” Together with his partner Wowan, he had fooled, among other things, Berlin’s governing mayor Franziska Giffey via video call. Other heads of major European cities and EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson were also duped by the alleged Klitschko talks.
At the end of June, Stolyarov denied a political motive. The duo also does not work on behalf of Russian secret services, he also said at the time “Contrasts”.
For Yanis Sarts, director of NATO’s Center of Excellence for Strategic Communications, Stolyarov’s recent admission is an important confirmation: “It means that they are clearly receiving state funds for what they are doing,” he said. The Kremlin has a great deal of interest in the actions of the two comedians if the humor is aimed exclusively at Western politicians.
The presidents of Poland and Lithuania have emphasized their countries’ readiness to defend themselves in the border area with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. Many people are now wondering whether the region NATO has dubbed the “Suwalki Gap” is safe, Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Thursday after a visit to the Multinational North-East Division in Szypliszki, Poland. “It’s safe, and that’s because of what you can observe here today: the daily, quiet, but absolutely vigilant duty of the Polish, Lithuanian and NATO soldiers.” With the planned strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank, the number of in soldiers stationed in the region from the current 40,000 to 300,000.
NATO describes a corridor on Polish and Lithuanian territory between Belarus and Kaliningrad as the “Suwalki Gap”. By taking it, Russia could cut off the Baltic states from the other NATO countries. The corridor is named after the Polish town of Suwalki.
At least one person was killed in an attack on the city of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine on Thursday. Several other people were injured, according to journalists from the AFP news agency. An explosion tore a large crater between a hotel and residential buildings. The journalists saw one dead, several injured and two burning cars.
The city’s mayor wrote on Facebook: “Air raid on the center of Kramatorsk. There are victims.” He called on residents to stay in shelters. “The danger is not over yet,” he added.
According to the Kremlin, Russia is preparing for the “worst” in its Baltic Sea region of Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg) because of the EU sanctions. Talks are being held through various channels to solve the problem of transiting goods through the Baltic EU country of Lithuania to Russian territory, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Of course we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” he said, according to the Interfax agency.
Russian forces fired two missiles at an oil tanker in the Black Sea, Ukraine said. The “Millennial Spirit” caught fire when one of the projectiles hit, the Ukrainian Task Force South announced on Thursday. The second missile missed the ship. The tanker had more than 500 tons of diesel on board.
Russian forces have again bombed areas in eastern Ukraine. At least nine civilians were killed and six others injured within 24 hours, the Ukrainian Presidential Office said. The aim was cities and municipalities in seven regions. Most of the fatalities were recorded in Donetsk province, where fighting continued. According to the information, one child was among the seven fatalities there.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov held bilateral talks ahead of the G-20 ministerial meeting. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov informed Wang on the Indonesian island of Bali “about the implementation of the most important tasks of the military special operation in Ukraine”, the aim of which is the “denazification” of the country. Both parties agreed that unilateral sanctions “bypassing the UN” were unacceptable.
China remains on good terms with Moscow, while Western states have sought to isolate Russia internationally over its attack on Ukraine and have imposed sanctions.
Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has rejected the delivery of Fuchs armored personnel carriers to Ukraine, citing Germany’s own security interests. “We support Ukraine with everything that is possible and responsible. But we have to ensure Germany’s ability to defend itself,” the SPD minister told the German Press Agency on Thursday, responding to demands from the Union.
Lambrecht further explained: “It is therefore irresponsible to want to plunder the Bundeswehr, especially in these times, and even to want to ignore the military advice of the Inspector General in ignorance.” no leeway to let Ukraine have the tanks.
The Union faction wants to demand a short-term delivery of 200 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine with a decision by the Bundestag on Thursday. The parliamentary group also refers to a decision taken jointly with the traffic light coalition in the Bundestag at the end of April to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine.
“For the Ukrainian army, it is about the rapid delivery of reliable material that can be used immediately on the front line. Such material is in the inventory of the Bundeswehr and is to be withdrawn from use by the Bundeswehr: the Fuchs armored transport vehicle,” says the application.
Russia has cheered with glee media reports of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s expected resignation. “Ukraine’s best friends” are leaving. “Victory” is in danger!” wrote the deputy head of the Russian Security Council, ex-President Dmitry Medvedev, in the Telegram news service. Johnson’s departure was the “rightful result of British audacity and mediocre politics. Especially in the international arena,” said Medvedev.
Medvedev wrote that perhaps more of Ukraine’s allies could break away. “We are waiting for news from Germany, Poland and the Baltic States,” said the former head of state. However, the governments there are not shaking.
In the face of a serious economic crisis, Sri Lanka’s government has asked Russia for help. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa asked his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin in a telephone call, among other things, for a loan to buy gasoline, as he wrote on Twitter. An employee of the Ministry of Energy in Sri Lanka said that two representatives of Russian oil companies had already arrived in the capital, Colombo.
The island state south of India is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in decades. Faced with a lack of foreign exchange, the country is struggling to import enough fuel, gas, medicine and food. The highly indebted country is also hoping for help from the International Monetary Fund.
According to observers, Russia could temporarily weaken its offensive in Ukraine. The US think tank Institute for the Study of War said the Russian military had not reported any territorial gains in Ukraine the previous day – for the first time in 133 days. This could be an indication of an operational break, but it does not mean a complete cessation of the attacks.
“Russian forces are likely to limit themselves to relatively small offensive actions,” the institute said. At the same time, they tried to regroup their forces for larger attacks.
Serhij Zhadan, winner of the Ukrainian Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, condemns the demands of prominent Germans for negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. In an article for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, the 47-year-old wrote that the biggest fallacy of the people demanding this was to believe that the Russians wanted to negotiate. “We cannot give up our resistance, otherwise we will be destroyed. We must demand weapons from the West, otherwise we will be destroyed,” said the writer.
In another open letter last week, German celebrities such as Juli Zeh and Richard David Precht called on politicians to end the Ukraine war through negotiations. This appeal was also published in Die Zeit.
Zhadan replied: “By clinging to a misconceived pacifism – which reeks of cynical indifference – the authors legitimize the Putinian propaganda narratives that say Ukraine has no right to freedom, no right to exist, no right to a… voice of his own because her voice might irritate the great and terrible Putin.”
Ukrainian soldiers have again hoisted the Ukrainian flag on the symbolic Snake Island in the Black Sea, deserted by Russian troops. The spokesman for the military administration of the Odessa region Serhiy Brachuk published several photos in the Telegram news service. The flag was also signed by Odessa’s military governor, Maxym Marchenko. It also bears the inscription: “Remember, ‘Russian warship’, the island belongs to Ukraine!”
Before the maintenance work on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline begins next Monday, Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck has publicly appealed to the Canadian government to have a turbine affected by the sanctions against Russia sent back to Germany to operate the plant.
The minister and vice-chancellor said in a Bloomberg interview on Wednesday evening that returning the turbine, which is in Canada for maintenance, would deprive Vladimir Putin of an excuse not to put the pipeline back into service after the maintenance. In such a case, Germany would have difficulty filling up its gas storage facilities before winter.
Russia is now allowed to transport a cargo stopped at the Norwegian border to the island of Spitsbergen. Norway initially halted supplies to Russian miners, citing sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine. “We are obliged to comply with the sanctions, so we had to stop the trucks,” said a spokeswoman for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the German Press Agency. “But it was never our intention to prevent the people of Barentsburg from getting the goods they need.”
Kazakhstan wants to diversify its oil supply routes to reduce dependence on Russia, according to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. A Russian court had previously ordered the so-called Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) to halt oil supplies across the Black Sea for 30 days.
The disruption in supplies that transport oil from Kazakhstan’s vast Tengis field through Russia to the Black Sea would further weigh on the global oil market. About one percent of the world’s oil is transported via the CPC pipeline, and Western oil companies such as Chevron and Shell are also involved. According to information from the President’s Office, Tokayev has now ordered a study into the construction of a pipeline through the Caspian Sea. Then Kazakh oil could be pumped west via Azerbaijan by pipeline – bypassing Russia.
According to information from Kyiv, Russian troops are still fighting for complete control of the already largely conquered Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine. For this purpose, the Russians moved some of their units, the Ukrainian General Staff said.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Hajday had previously stated that even after the fall of the strategically important city of Lysychansk, fighting would continue in the outskirts. Moscow, on the other hand, has been saying for days that its own troops have taken complete control of Luhansk.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Bali for a meeting of foreign ministers from the G-20 group of countries. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who is due to arrive on the Indonesian island on Thursday evening (local time), is also taking part in the consultations. Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is expected to overshadow the meeting of the group of leading and emerging economic powerhouses.
According to Robert Habeck, the federal government will use all means to ensure the gas supply in Germany. When asked about a possible collapse of the market, Habeck said on the ZDF program “Markus Lanz” that that would not happen. “Now this is this ‘whatever it takes’ moment, it’s not going to happen,” he said, echoing statements by former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi. The Italian had once promised to save the euro with this “whatever is necessary”.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has accused the UN Security Council of failing to respond to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Ardern said in a speech in Sydney that the Security Council’s failings in dealing with the Russian invasion of Ukraine are due to the fact that Russia has a veto right in the body.
Russia is using its position on the Security Council to represent a “morally bankrupt position in the wake of a morally bankrupt and illegal war,” New Zealand’s PM said. New Zealand will work to reform the highest UN body to prevent its values and relevance from falling.
According to the United Nations, the explosion in food and energy prices has pushed an additional 71 million people into poverty in just three months. They have to make do with less than four euros per day and person. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reported that ‘spread-aid’ aid — through tax cuts or blanket energy subsidies — is less effective than direct payments to those most affected to keep people out of poverty.
“The report concludes that targeted cash transfers are fairer and more cost-effective than blanket subsidies,” the UNDP said. Flat-rate subsidies include a temporary reduction in energy taxes to make petrol cheaper, as in Germany.
Political advisor Richard Gowan, who works for the United Nations, believes that Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is also having a serious impact on the supply of starving people in Syria. “Russia’s veto power could set a number of conditions at the last minute in the UN Security Council for the continuation of cross-border aid deliveries from Turkey to north-western Syria,” Gowan told the Evangelical Press Service (epd).
Gowan, the Crisis Group’s director of UN affairs, is considered one of the leading experts serving the world body. In 2021, the US and Russia would still have negotiated quite constructively on cross-border aid, he said. Since the invasion of Vladimir Putin’s troops in Ukraine in February of this year, however, there have been hardly any bilateral contacts on this topic. Relations between the two countries collapsed because of the war in Ukraine.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Eva Högl (SPD), would like the Bundeswehr to repair more weapons themselves. “We should make more use of the skills of our troops, who want to repair their devices themselves,” Högl told the “t-online.de” portal. “We’re at a high level there, so we should rely more on our own abilities.”
So far, according to the portal, the army has only been allowed to repair almost half of the approximately 50 main weapon systems itself for legal reasons. The aim of an expansion must be to “improve operational readiness,” said Högl. “In order for this to succeed, we should also rethink the issue of stocking spare parts and tools.”
The general secretary of the craftsmen’s association ZDH, Holger Schwannecke, considers it appropriate to switch off leisure activities first in the event of a gas emergency. Everyone should ask themselves what they would be willing to do without so that “other, important elements in the value chain can continue to be supplied with gas,” Schwannecke told the newspapers of the Funke media group.
“In such an exceptional situation and in view of the goal of ensuring that production and services of general interest can be maintained, I think it is appropriate that products and offers for leisure activities should first be taken ‘off the grid’ first.”