Putin to visit Saudi Arabia and the UAE on Wednesday; receive Iran’s president on Thursday

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Saudi Arabia’s Prince and Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman al Saud (L) attend bilateral talks at the G20 Osaka Summit 2019 on June 29, 2019.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin will on Wednesday visit Middle East allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, before receiving Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow the day after.

The Kremlin announced the scheduled meetings, according Reuters and Google-translated comments reported by Russian state news agency Tass on Telegram.

Putin previously visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE in October 2019, according to Tass. It is unclear if the Russian leader will formally attend the U.N.’s COP28 climate conference, which is taking place in major UAE hub Dubai until Dec. 12.

Putin has been selective in his foreign travel since the March issuance of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant over his alleged responsibility for the unlawful deportation and transfer of children during Moscow’s war in Ukraine. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have yet to ratify the Rome Statute that defines the ICC’s purview.

The Kremlin specified that Putin’s engagements in Saudi Arabia and the UAE will discuss topics including the oil market and the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Moscow, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Tehran are policy-setting partners in the OPEC+ oil producers’ alliance, and Putin’s visit comes amid an ongoing slump in oil prices that the Thursday announcement of a spate of voluntary supply cuts have so far failed to resuscitate. The three Middle Eastern countries were also invited to join the Russia and China-led BRICS bloc of emerging markets in August.

Initially more restrained in its criticism of Israel, Russia has since joined the three Middle Eastern countries in expressing concern over casualties in the Gaza Strip throughout the Israel-Hamas conflict. Iran outright sponsors the Palestinian militant group, but denied involvement in its terror attacks of Oct. 7.

Ruxandra Iordache

Two killed in Russian strike on Ukraine’s Kherson

At least two people were killed and three wounded after Russian forces shelled the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, authorities said on Tuesday.

Regional prosecutors opened a war crimes investigation into one of the strikes, which occurred around 9 a.m. and killed a 48-year-old man and a woman who had not yet been identified.

ODESA, UKRAINE – NOVEMBER 19: Kherson patrol police shoulder sleeve patch is seen on a shoulder of a policeman on November 19, 2023 in Odesa, Ukraine. (Photo by Les Kasyanov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“Terrorists,” Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, posted on Telegram along with two images of bodies laying on a sidewalk.

Kherson Mayor Roman Mrochko said two doctors had been wounded in a separate artillery strike on a medical facility early on Tuesday.

Reuters could not independently confirm the details of either incident. Russian forces have regularly shelled Kherson since retreating from the regional capital late last year to the other side of the Dnipro River.

— Reuters

Around 300,000 Russian personnel likely wounded or killed in war, UK says

Britain’s Ministry of Defense estimated that official Russian Ministry of Defense forces have likely suffered between 180,000 and 240,000 personnel wounded and approximately 50,000 killed since the start of the war in February 2022.

Mercenaries fighting within the private military company known as the Wagner Group have likely suffered approximately 40,000 wounded and 20,000 killed, it added in an intelligence update Monday.

“Therefore, overall, the Russian side has likely suffered around 220,000-280,000 wounded and approximately 70,000 killed,” the ministry said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Ukrainian forensics experts examine the body of a Russian soldier exhumed in the village of Zavalivka, west of Kyiv, in a refrigerated rail car stacked with the Russian dead on May 11, 2022.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

“This gives an estimated range of between 290,000 and 350,000 total Russian combatant casualties.” The median of the estimate range is 320,000 total Russian combatant casualties, it noted.

“Even amongst Russian officials there is likely a low level of understanding about total casualty figures because of a long-established culture of dishonest reporting within the military.”

Accurate casualty numbers are impossible to obtain given the chaotic nature of the war and secrecy on both sides over the number of personnel they have lost, respectively. Meanwhile, both sides have an incentive to exaggerate the losses they say they’ve inflicted on each other.

— Holly Ellyatt

Debates on Ukraine’s EU membership to start Tuesday

Envoys of the European Union’s member countries are set to start debating a proposal to begin membership talks with Ukraine on Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing officials and diplomats.

The discussions are part of the preparations for the European Council meeting on Dec. 14-15, when leaders are set to consider potential EU accession for countries including Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Bosnia.

A draft agreement on potential accession talks is set to be debated Tuesday and is expected to change following discussions, diplomats and officials said.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Ukraine is changing its strategic tactics, presidential aide says

Ukraine is shifting its military tactics as a result of the arrival of winter and an analysis of Russia’s resource capabilities, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Monday.

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, Podolyak said: “On the frontline and in the cities, we are already moving to a different tactic of warfare – effective defense in certain areas, continuation of offensive operations in other areas, special strategic operations on the Crimean peninsula and in the Black Sea waters, and significantly reformatted missile defense of critical infrastructure.”

Resources will be directed to increasing domestic arms production and speeding up negotiations with allies to increase equipment supplies for the “new stage” of Ukraine’s offensive operations, he said, particularly missile defense systems, long-range missiles, drones, and electronic warfare systems.

Russia has increasingly focused on drones this year, Podolyak added.

This year has also seen numerous reports of drones being shot down by Russia.

— Jenni Reid

Bulgarian president blocks delivery of armored transport vehicles to Ukraine

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev on Monday blocked a deal, signed in August, that would have provided armored transport vehicles to Ukraine, news agency Novinite reported.

Radev said parliamentarians did not fully understand the specifics of the donation, and that the vehicles could play a role in safeguarding Bulgaria’s borders and aiding its own citizens in emergencies, according to Novinite.

He also said that recent floods that required military support showed the need for increasing, rather than reducing domestic supplies.

The agreement will now return to parliament for further debate.

It comes as Ukrainian officials stress their need for reinforcements amid struggles to make progress in occupied areas, and as frontline fighting progresses into winter.

The White House on Monday warned that the U.S. will no longer be able to provide additional military equipment to Ukraine by the end of the year, unless Congress approves further funding.

There are also rumblings of discontent over support for Ukraine within the European Union. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has threatened to block all EU funding for Ukraine unless the coalition holds a review of its strategy, while Slovakia’s new Prime Minister Robert Fico has suspended the provision of all military aid.

— Jenni Reid

White House says Ukraine funding will run out soon without congressional approval

Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young speaks at the daily press briefing at the White House on September 29, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A senior White House official on Monday warned that the U.S. would run out of resources to supply Ukraine with more weapons and equipment by the end of the year unless Congress approves additional funding.

“There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money—and nearly out of time,” Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a letter to congressional leaders.

Young said cutting off U.S. supplies would “kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield,” risk it losing gains already made and increase the likelihood of Russian military victories.

U.S. packages of security assistance and aid deliveries have already become smaller, she said.

Congress has so far approved $111 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine, by far the largest such support of all Ukraine’s allies, but the issue has become increasingly contentious in the U.S. legislature.

President Joe Biden has expressed staunch support for Ukraine and the continuation of U.S. support, and in October the White House requested more than $105 billion from Congress for security needs across Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the U.S. southern border.

Young said Monday that support for Ukraine would advance domestic national security interests by preventing larger conflict in the region that could involve NATO and U.S. forces, and by deterring future aggression.

— Jenni Reid

Russia trying to capture Avdiivka ‘at any cost,’ Ukrainian official says

A view of Ukraine’s Avdiivka city as an airstrike on the Metinvest coke plant is seen in the background on Oct. 30, 2023.

Libkos | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian forces have launched new fronts in the fierce battle for Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, an Ukrainian official noted.

“The current third wave of enemy assaults differs from the previous two in that they have conditionally opened two new directions,” the head of Avdiivka’s military administration, Vitaliy Barabash said. “The launching of new directions proves that the enemy has been given a command to capture the city at any cost.”

In comments to state media, Barabash said these latest events were an attempt to distract Ukrainian defences and close a gap west of the town that would see it entirely encircled. Independent military analysts have said that about 1,300 civilians remain in the town, which was once home to about 30,000 people.

The industrial town in eastern Ukraine has been under constant Russian fire in a bid by Moscow to capture it. Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of assaulting Avdiivka, in the eastern Donetsk region, from two new directions, AFP reported.

— Jenni Reid

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