The Perfect Enemy | Putin admits China has ‘concerns’ over Ukraine invasion; Russia’s Wagner Group is recruiting convicts
September 29, 2022

Putin admits China has ‘concerns’ over Ukraine invasion; Russia’s Wagner Group is recruiting convicts

Putin admits China has ‘concerns’ over Ukraine invasion; Russia’s Wagner Group is recruiting convicts  CNBC

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Four vessels set to depart Ukraine carrying 69,600 metric tons of agricultural products

An aerial view of “Glory” named empty grain ship as Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkiye and the United Nations (UN) of the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) conduct inspection on vessel in Istanbul, Turkiye on August 09, 2022. 

Ali Atmaca | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said it has approved four vessels to leave the besieged country.

The Joint Coordination Center, an initiative of Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey, said that the vessels are carrying 69,600 metric tons of grain and other food products.

The ships are expected to depart tomorrow and are destined for Germany, Romania, Greece and Egypt.

Since Ukraine’s ports were reopened, more than 2.2 million metric tons of grain and other food products have been exported.

— Amanda Macias

More than 400 bodies found in mass graves in Izium, Zelenskyy says

This photograph taken eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022 shows crosses at a burial site in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum.

Juan Barreto | AFP | Getty Images

EDITORS NOTE: This post shows graphic content of mass graves uncovered near Izyum, Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that more than 400 bodies have been discovered in mass grave sites in the city of Izium.

Two forensic technicians dig near a cross in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022.

Juan Barreto | AFP | Getty Images

“More than 400 bodies were found at the mass burial site in Izyum with signs of torture. Children, those killed as a result of missile attacks, warriors of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in English on the Telegram messaging app.

“Russia leaves only death and suffering. Murderers. Torturers. Deprived of everything human. You won’t run away. You won’t hide. Retribution will be justly dreadful. For every Ukrainian, for every tortured soul,” he added.

Forensic technicians dig a grave in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022. – Ukraine said on September 16, 2022 it had counted 450 graves at just one burial site near Izyum after recapturing the eastern city from the Russians. 

Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Forensic technicians carry a body bag in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022. 

Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

Forensic technicians uncover a coffin in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022. – Ukraine said on September 16, 2022 it had counted 450 graves at just one burial site near Izyum after recapturing the eastern city from the Russians.

Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

The Kremlin has previously denied that its forces target and kill civilians, which is a violation of international humanitarian law.

— Amanda Macias, Adam Jeffery and Getty Images

Ukraine war has pushed 70 million people closer to starvation, UN says

KHMELNYTSKYI, UKRAINE – AUGUST 05: A combine harvesters of Astarta-Kyiv agri-industrial holding harvests wheat on August 5, 2022 in the Khmelnytskyi region of Ukraine. In normal times, Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters, but the Russian invasion and naval blockade has trapped millions of metric tons of grains here, raising fears of a global food crisis. On Monday, a ship full of corn was the first such vessel to leave Ukraine’s southern port of Odessa following a deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, to ensure the safe passage of grain to foreign ports. (Photo by Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

Alexey Furman | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing nearly seven months of war have thrown millions of people around the world into food insecurity and brought many of those closer to starvation, the head of the U.N.’s World Food Program warned.

“What was a wave of hunger is now a tsunami of hunger,” WFP chief David Beasley said, noting that the number of people suffering from acute food insecurity had doubled since the Covid-19 pandemic first hit. The war in Ukraine has sent food inflation soaring, as Russian warships have largely blocked Ukraine’s vital Black Sea ports, through which huge proportions of the world’s grain and other staple food products are shipped.

Beasley said that the surge in costs of food, fuel and fertilizer has brought 70 million people closer to starvation.

Turkey in July brokered an agreement that enabled Ukrainian grain to be exported from three Black Sea ports that had been blocked by Russia, and efforts are continuing to get more produce out to markets, as well as Russian fertilizer, the export of which is hampered by Western sanctions.

Still, Beasley said, “there is a real and dangerous risk of multiple famines this year.”

— Natasha Turak

Milley and national security advisor Jake Sullivan hold calls with Ukrainian counterparts

US General Mark Milley attends a meeting with members of a Ukraine Security Consultative Group at the US Air Base in Ramstein, western Germany, on April 26, 2022.

Andre Pain | AFP | Getty Images

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and national security advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with their Ukrainian counterparts.

“They discussed the unprovoked and ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine and international support for the Ukrainian armed forces,” according to a Pentagon readout of the call with Ukrainian Armed Forces Gen. Valery Zaluzhny and Ukraine’s Andriy Yermak.

The call comes as Ukrainian forces carried out lightning advances in the country’s east and south and as the Biden administration readied a new security assistance package.

The latest package, the 21st such installment, is worth approximately $600 million.

— Amanda Macias

Kyiv criticizes Germany for failing to send the heavy weapons it promised

A new Leopard 2 A7V heavy battle tank Bundeswehr’s 9th Panzer Training Brigade stands during a visit by German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht to the Bundeswehr Army training grounds on February 07, 2022 in Munster, Germany.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine’s relations with Germany have soured this week, with Kyiv asking why Berlin reneged on its promise to provide heavy weaponry.

Tensions over Germany’s provision of Leopard tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine — or lack thereof — came to a head this week when Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba publicly asked why Berlin was backtracking on a pledge made to send these weapons to Ukraine.

“Disappointing signals from Germany while Ukraine needs Leopards and Marders now — to liberate people and save them from genocide,” Kuleba said on Twitter, adding that there was “not a single rational argument on why these weapons can not be supplied, only abstract fears and excuses.”

“What is Berlin afraid of that Kyiv is not?” he added.

Read the full story here.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian mercenary firm Wagner Group is recruiting convicts for Ukraine war

Russian mercenary firm Wagner Group is recruiting criminal convicts and has been doing so since at least July, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence update posted via Twitter.

“Kremlin-linked Russian private military company Wagner Group has been conducting a campaign to recruit Russian convicts for service in Ukraine since at least July. Prisoners have been offered commutation of their sentences as well as cash incentives,” the ministry wrote.

A mural praises the Russian Wagner group and its mercenaries fighting in Ukraine on March 30, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images

The Wagner Group has been notorious for its fighting on behalf of Russian interests in places like Libya, Syria, and parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Kremlin denies links to the group.

The group’s recruitment campaign has been “reinvigorated,” the report added, citing a recently posted video “highly likely showing Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin making a recruitment pitch to prisoners.”

Prigozhin in the video says he is only seeking “fighters for assault units.”

This, in addition to Russia’s military academies shortening the training time for cadets and moving their graduation dates forward, “suggests that two of the most critical shortages within the military manning crisis are probably combat infantry and junior commanders,” Britain’s Defense Ministry wrote.

— Natasha Turak

Berlin takes control of Rosneft’s German unit

The German government is taking control of Russian oil and gas giant Rosneft’s operations in Germany, its Ministry for Economic and Climate Affairs announced.

Germany’s federal network agency BNetzA will take over the local units — RN Refining & Marketing GmbH and Rosneft Deutschland GmbH — which make up roughly 12% of Germany’s oil processing capacity, the ministry said.

In a statement, the German economy ministry said:

“The continuation of the business operations of the affected refineries was in danger due to the ownership of the companies. Central critical service providers such as suppliers, insurance companies, IT companies and banks, but also customers, were no longer willing to work with Rosneft.”

The move is “a further step to assuring our energy security,” state secretary Jorg Kukies wrote in a tweet.

— Natasha Turak

Reports of mass grave site outside recaptured city of Izium

Ukrainian servicemen search for land mines at a burial site in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022.

Juan Barreto | AFP | Getty Images

A site of mass burials has been found in a forest near the recently liberated city of Izium, the Associated Press reported, revealing the latest iteration of a well-documented pattern of actions suspected to have been carried out by Russian forces that occupied the region for more than six months.

The site was marked by wooden crosses and a marker on a larger grave said 17 Ukrainian soldiers had been buried there. Ukrainian forces recaptured the city in an operation that saw thousands of Russian forces retreat.

“We haven’t counted them yet, but I think there are more than 25 or even 30,” Oleg Kotenko, a Ukrainian government official, told the AP.

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / TOPSHOT – Two forensic technicians carry a body bag in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022.

Juan Barreto | AFP | Getty Images

The news agency quoted a local resident, Sergei Gorodko, who said that scores of adults and children killed in a Russian strike on a residential building were among the hundreds of people buried in individual graves.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has not yet commented publicly, and has not responded to a CNBC request for comment.

— Natasha Turak

U.S. announces new $600 million security assistance package for Ukraine

US M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers fire salvoes during the “African Lion” military exercise in the Grier Labouihi region in southeastern Morocco on June 9, 2021.

Fadel Senna | AFP | Getty Images

The Biden Administration has approved another arms package worth $600 million to further assist Ukraine in its ongoing battle against Russia, according to the Department of Defense.

The package is said to include additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), artillery rounds, vehicles, and counter-unmanned aerial systems, among other equipment.

It marks the 21st drawdown of equipment from Department of Defense inventories since August last year.

So far, Washington has sent more than $15.1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine.

— Natalie Tham

Putin acknowledges China’s concerns over Ukraine in sign of friction

China’s President Xi Jinping (R), Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Mongolia’s President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh (unseen) hold a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders’ summit in Samarkand on September 15, 2022. China and Russia’s relationship may not necessarily be on equal footing, said an associate professor from Griffith University, Matthew Sussex.

Alexandr Demyanchuk | AFP | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he understood China’s Xi Jinping had concerns about the situation in Ukraine, a surprise acknowledgement of friction with Beijing over the war after a week of stunning Russian losses on the ground.

Since Russia’s invasion, China has trod a careful line, criticizing Western sanctions against Russia but stopping short of endorsing or assisting in the military campaign.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) talks to Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) while visiting the Moscow’s Zoo in Moscow, Russia,, June,5, 2019. Chinese leader Xi Jinping is having a three-days state visit to Russia.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis,” Putin told Xi at their first meeting since the war began.

“We understand your questions and concern about this. During today’s meeting, we will of course explain our position.”

Xi did not mention Ukraine in his public remarks, nor was it mentioned in a Chinese readout of their meeting, which took place in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of a regional summit.

Beijing’s support is widely seen as essential for Moscow, which needs markets for its energy exports and sources to import high tech goods as it faces sanctions imposed by the West.

The last time the two men met they signed a “no limits” friendship agreement between their two countries. Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Russian president’s comments suggested a Chinese shift towards a more critical stance, in private at least. Ian Bremmer, political science professor at Columbia University, said they were the “first public sign of Putin recognizing pressure to back down.”

— Reuters

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