Trump lawyer: ‘Zero chance Trump will take plea deal’

An attorney representing Donald Trump said on Friday that there is “zero” chance the former president will accept a plea deal after being indicted this week by a grand jury over a hush payment made to Stormy Daniels.

Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina said in an interview with TODAY host Savannah Guthrie that there was no possibility of Trump agreeing to a plea bargain in the case.

“Zero,” Tacopina said. “President Trump will not take a plea deal in this case. It’s not going to happen, there’s no crime.”

The charges that Trump faces have not yet been made public with the New York grand jury’s indictment still under seal.

Tacopina told the morning show that he predicts the charges will be unsealed on Tuesday. He also said Trump will likely turn himself in to the Manhattan district attorney’s office next week when he is arraigned.

  • “He’ll face this,” Tacopina said, adding that he does not know if Trump is dealing with one charge or multiple charges.

“We do know it centers around a legal, very common confidentiality agreement that was signed years and years ago with Stormy Daniels, with her attorneys and [former Trump attorney] Michael Cohen,” Tacopina said. “So it’s nothing more than that, which is really what makes this shocking.

He described how “despite all the scuttlebutt and rumors and whatnot, we believed and hoped that rule of law would prevail, so he initially was shocked.”

“After he got over that, he put a notch in his belt, and he decided, we have to fight now,” the attorney said. “And he got into a typical Donald Trump posture where he’s ready to be combative on something he believes is an injustice.”

  • Trump was indicted on criminal charges in New York on Thursday for his role in organizing hush money payments made to Daniels, an adult film star, during his 2016 campaign.

The indictment marks the first time a US president has been charged in a criminal case. The move came at the same time as several law enforcement entities are investigating Trump’s conduct in numerous probes.

It is unclear how the indictment could impact Trump’s candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Source: Arutz Sheva

Ukraine dragging feet on prisoner swap – official

Ukraine appears to be attempting to derail a potential prisoner swap with Moscow, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova claimed on Friday.

In a post on Telegram, Moskalkova said she was “extremely concerned that another prisoner exchange is being disrupted.”

The commissioner stated she had received assurances around three weeks ago that 70 Ukrainian service members that Kiev did not initially want to swap “would be included in the list and repatriated,” but that not much progress had been made since.

  • “Time goes on, the list has been extended: now it has 133 names on it, but the Ukrainian side remains silent,” Moskalkova said. In a follow-up post, she published the full names and dates of birth of the service members in question.

In early March, Moskalkova said Kiev had refused to exchange as many as 70 of its soldiers.

However, she later signaled that Ukraine had changed its stance, claiming that confirmation had been provided by her counterpart in Kiev, Dmitry Lubinets.

Moscow and Kiev have conducted regular prisoner exchanges since the outbreak of hostilities more than one year ago, and they remain one of the few functioning diplomatic channels between the pair.

On March 7, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced it had secured the release of 90 servicemen who had been in “mortal danger” while in captivity.

  • Meanwhile, officials in Kiev said a total of 130 people had been returned to Ukraine.

Last week, Ukraine stated it had transferred an unspecified number of heavily wounded prisoners back to Russia without any conditions, in line with international humanitarian law.

  • The Russian Ministry of Defense did not comment on the move, although Moskalkova confirmed five injured Russian service members had been repatriated.

Source: RT

Talk of peacekeepers in Ukraine ‘extremely dangerous’ – Kremlin

A discussion about a possible deployment of Western peacekeepers in Ukraine is potentially a very dangerous idea, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has warned, in response to comments made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday.

  • “If we are talking about some kind of serious negotiations, then this is a potentially extremely dangerous discussion. In world practice, such forces, as a rule, are used only with the consent of both parties. In this case, it is potentially a very dangerous topic,” Peskov told journalists.

His statement comes after Orban revealed that EU leaders are close to having a “legitimate” discussion on the subject of whether or not member states can or should send “some kind of peacekeeping force” to Ukraine, despite a probable rebuke from Russia over such a move.

The Hungarian leader warned that the Ukrainian conflict is only getting bloodier and more brutal, and questioned why EU leaders are not focused on trying to achieve peace in Ukraine through diplomatic means rather than the provision of more deadly tools to Kiev and the fueling of hostilities.

  • “If this continues, the danger of a world war is not a literary exaggeration,” the prime minister said.

Since Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine last year, Budapest has consistently opposed sanctions on Russian energy resources and has refused to send military aid to Kiev’s forces, citing the need to maintain and to equip Hungary’s own army.

  • Meanwhile, Russian MP Alexey Chepa has suggested that if the EU does decide to send a peacekeeping force to Ukraine, it would certainly be interpreted as a direct involvement in the conflict and an attempt to provoke a Russia-NATO war.
  • Chepa stated that in this case Russia could be forced to seek help from its Collective Security Treaty Organization partners, which include Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Source: RT

Pence: Decision to indict Trump is an ‘outrage’

Former US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday called a Manhattan grand jury’s decision to indict former President Donald Trump an “outrage.”

Speaking on CNN, Pence said,

  • “The unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States on a campaign finance issue is an outrage. And it appears to millions of Americans to be nothing more than a political prosecution that’s driven by a prosecutor who literally ran for office on a pledge to indict the former president.”

Asked whether Trump should be disqualified from being the 2024 presidential nominee or drop out of the race, Pence said, “It’s a long way to that decision.”

  • “I promise to answer that question if that approaches,” added Pence, who stated he did not want to talk about “hypotheticals.”

The comments came after a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Trump on criminal charges for his role in organizing hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign.

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as a witch hunt and previously called on supporters to protest his arrest.

Pence has been at odds with Trump since the January 6, 2021 riots on the US Capitol. Pence has been critical in the past of Trump’s conduct on the day of the Capitol riots, and recently criticized his former boss again.

“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said earlier this month.

“I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

  • Pence was ordered this week to testify in front of the federal grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s actions on the day of the Jan. 6 riots.

Source: Arutz Sheva

Russia makes ‘goodwill’ missile pledge to US

Russia will continue to inform the US about its ballistic missile launches despite Moscow suspending its participation in the New START treaty, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has stated.

  • Russia placed its participation in the New START treaty – the last remaining nuclear accord with Washington – on hold in February.

Explaining the move, President Vladimir Putin said that the 2010 deal had been signed under different circumstances, when Russia and the US did not perceive each other as adversaries.

  • The West had also denied Russian requests to inspect nuclear facilities even though this was allowed for under the treaty, Putin claimed.

Speaking about data sharing between Moscow and Washington on Thursday, Ryabkov stated that “all types of information exchanges, as well as other elements of verification activities in accordance with the New START, have been suspended.”

  • However, he noted the announcement by Moscow that it will “adhere to the basic quantitative restrictions established in the New START treaty, and will continue to implement the 1988 agreement on the exchange of notifications on missile launches.” Russia will do so “out of good will,” Ryabkov added.

The New START treaty limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by Russia and the US to 1,550.

It also confines the two nations to 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers and nuclear-capable heavy bombers, as well as to 700 ICBMs, SLBMs and strategic bombers equipped to carry nuclear armaments.

Ryabkov said that Russia had informed the US of its decision to suspend participation in the New START treaty in both verbal and written form, but that Moscow had not received any such notification from Washington.

This means that the US violated its commitments under the New START treaty when it refused to provide Moscow with a biannual report on nuclear stockpiles earlier this week, Ryabkov argued.

US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Wednesday that Washington was ready to continue exchanging information with Moscow in line with the New START treaty, but only on a reciprocal basis.

“Since they [Russia] have refused to be in compliance… we have decided to likewise not share that data,” Kirby said.

Source: RT

Moscow outlines Ukraine peace demands

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin has offered a ten-point list of steps the government in Kiev needs to take in order for hostilities to cease.

In an interview on Wednesday, Galuzin said the future of Ukraine itself will depend on how soon Kiev and its Western backers come to grips with reality.

  • For Ukraine to bring about peace, its military forces must stand down and the West must halt all deliveries of weapons to Kiev, Galuzin told the outlet RTVI.
  • Several other conditions he listed have been on the table since the hostilities escalated in February 2022, such as Ukraine’s demilitarization and “denazification,” a pledge to never join the EU or NATO, and the affirmation of Kiev’s non-nuclear status.
  • Another was added in October 2022, and involves the recognition of “new territorial realities” – commonly understood to mean the decision of Kherson, Zaporozhye and the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk to join Russia.
  • Ensuring the protection of the Russian language and the rights of Russian-speaking citizens, as well as all other ethnic groups in Ukraine was also on Galuzin’s list.

Moreover, he said Ukraine needs to reopen the border with Russia and restore the legal framework of relations with Moscow and other ex-Soviet republics, which it renounced following the US-backed coup in 2014.

  • For the first time, Moscow has demanded the lifting of all anti-Russian sanctions and the “withdrawal of claims and termination of prosecutions against Russia, its individuals and legal entities,” presumably including the recent International Criminal Court (ICC) warrants for President Vladimir Putin and the children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova.
  • The last demand on Galuzin’s list was for the West to pay for the reconstruction of civilian infrastructure destroyed by Ukraine’s military since 2014.

Ukraine’s peaceful future depends on respecting the rights of its Russian population, restoring friendly relations with all neighbors, and returning to its founding principle of neutral and non-bloc status, enshrined in the 1990 declaration of independence, Galuzin said.

  • “The future of the territories of present-day Ukraine should be determined by the inhabitants of this country themselves,” Galuzin told RTVI, noting that this includes “Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Hungarians, Moldovans, Bulgarians, Romanians, Poles, and Greeks.”
  • Moscow will simply not tolerate “an openly anti-Russian state, whatever its borders,” as a neighbor, said Galuzin. “Neither Russia, nor any other state, would accept this from the standpoint of security.”

The “peace platform” adopted by the government in Kiev includes Russia’s total withdrawal from all territories Ukraine claims as its own, payment of reparations, and war crimes tribunals for the military and political leadership in Moscow.

Source: RT

Musk demands AI pause

More than 1,100 AI researchers, tech luminaries, and other futurists have signed an open letter demanding a six-month moratorium on “giant AI experiments” since the text was posted by the nonprofit Future of Life Institute last week.

  • Notable signatories of the letter include Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and transhumanist historian Yuval Noah Harari.

The correspondence warns that “AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity.”

It also insists that rapidly advancing technology should be “planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources,” rather than allowing an “out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.”

Rather than risk losing control of a potentially civilization-ending technology, stakeholders in the AI field should “jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts,” the institute suggests, pausing the development until those protocols are in place.

Safety “beyond a reasonable doubt” rather than innovation at all costs should be the goal, it said.

  • “Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable,” the letter continues, while developers should refocus their energies on “making today’s powerful state-of-the-art systems more accurate, safe, interpretable, transparent, robust, aligned, trustworthy and loyal.”

If the developers can’t govern themselves, governments must step in, creating regulatory bodies capable of reining in runaway systems, funding safety research, and softening the economic blow when super intelligent systems begin gobbling up human jobs in earnest, the letter states.

Musk has long warned about the dangers of AI, predicting in 2020 that the singularity – the point at which machine intelligence eclipses that of humans – would arrive by 2025 and that humans risk ending up as supercomputers’ pets.

  • He initially proposed the Neuralink brain-computer interface as a tool to give humanity a competitive edge against AI.

The billionaire was also one of the founders of OpenAI, the company behind the breakthrough large language model ChatGPT.

However, he left the company in 2018, dismissing it as a profit-milking venture co-opted by Microsoft.

Musk’s rival (and Microsoft founder) Bill Gates, whose name was absent from the open letter as of Wednesday, has embraced OpenAI, recently declaring that “the Age of AI has begun.” ChatGPT now powers Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

Source: RT

Pope Francis hospitalized

Pope Francis will spend several days at Rome’s Gemelli hospital after tests found a respiratory infection, the Vatican said on Wednesday afternoon.

All of his events through Friday have been canceled, and it remains unclear whether the pontiff will be able to keep his Holy Week and Easter commitments as well.

  • “In recent days Pope Francis has complained of some breathing difficulties,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement. The tests ruled out COVID-19 but found a “respiratory infection,” Bruni added, which will “require a few days of appropriate medical therapy.”

Earlier in the day, the 86-year-old pontiff rode around Saint Peter’s Square in the “popemobile” for a scheduled general audience with the Catholic faithful, hugging the believers and kissing babies.

Bruni’s first statement described the hospital visit as a previously scheduled check-up.

The Argentinian Jesuit had part of one lung removed in his youth, due to a respiratory infection. He has had other health problems in recent years. In 2021, he had a part of his colon removed at Gemelli.

He later used a wheelchair and a cane to walk after a knee injury, ruling out surgery because he had reacted poorly to the general anesthesia.

  • The pope’s hospital stay comes just ahead of the Catholic Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday celebrations this weekend and culminating with the Easter vigil and mass on April 9.

Francis became pope in 2013, when his predecessor Benedict XVI announced he was retiring – the first pontiff to do so since 1415 – due to advanced age.

  • He was 85 at the time, a year younger than Francis is now. Benedict spent the next decade as “pope emeritus” until his death at the end of December 2022.

Source: RT

Header: Pope Francis helped to get on his car at the end of weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, March 29, 2023 ©  AP / Alessandra Tarantino

French woman arrested for insulting president – media

A French woman is reportedly facing jail time for allegedly referring to President Emmanuel Macron as ‘trash’ in a social media post. That’s according to local outlet La Voix du Nord, which named the woman as “Valerie” from St. Martin, on Tuesday.

Charged with contempt of a public official, she insists she didn’t even mean to describe Macron that way, blaming her phone’s autocorrect, and claims the government is “making an example” of her.

The Yellow Vest protester was arrested on Friday after three police officers appeared at her apartment door, she told the news outlet.

  • Demanding to know if it was a prank – she had never been arrested before, she said – Valerie was taken to the local police station, where she was reportedly told she was suspected of writing “Macron ordure” (Macron trash) on a wall in Arques.

“I was just photographed in front of it, smiling,” she explained, denying the accusation.

She was also confronted with a Facebook post from earlier that week, which read, “The trash will speak tomorrow at 1pm, for the people who are nothing, it is always on TV that we find trash.” It was dated the day before Macron was scheduled to give a televised interview to two major French news outlets.

  • However, Valerie told La Voix du Nord she had not meant to call Macron trash, blaming her phone’s autocorrect for messing up an attempted play on words.

She meant to write “hard gold” (l’or dur) but it changed to “trash” (l’ordure), she explained, but neglected to proofread before sending. The police were not convinced.

While Valerie acknowledged that she posts “a lot of videos of police violence or political violence” and speaks her mind on social media, she insisted that she always complies with the law.

Still, she said, she regularly comes across posts like hers insulting Macron in the same way, and few if any are ever prosecuted. “They want to make an example of me. I am not public enemy number one,” she said.

  • Despite the arrest, she has vowed to continue protesting against “this totally unfair pension reform,” in reference to Macron’s latest austerity measure raising the retirement age by two years, which has proven enormously unpopular with the French.

Weeks of violent protests and a heavy-handed police crackdown have roiled the country, while two attempted no-confidence votes failed to unseat Macron’s beleaguered government.

Amnesty International recently condemned the French government for convicting thousands of people on “contempt of public officials” charges similar to Valerie’s every year, using the offense to quash peaceful dissent even as the Elysee waxed poetic about freedom of speech.

Source: RT

Here’s why Human Rights Watch deliberately only scratched the surface in exploring Ukraine’s use of banned ‘petal’ mines

Since Ukraine dropped thousands of mines on the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in July, 104 people have fallen victim to the internationally-banned PFM-1 ‘petal’ (otherwise known as ‘butterfly’) devices. Nine of them are children. Of which three died.

  • Among the most recent civilians to be injured, on March 19, were two 60-year-old men. On February 26, a woman in her sixties was wounded in her neighborhood. On February 14, a teenager stepped on a petal mine near a school. These are just a few documented examples from recent weeks.
  • The first wave of over 40 victims came within the first few weeks after Ukrainian forces deployed the mines over Donetsk en masse in July 2022, and the number has more than doubled since.

Since then I, along with other reporters on the ground, have documented their lingering presence and the civilian victims.

NGO reports… selectively

After signing the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty in 1999, Kiev was obligated to destroy its stockpile of 6 million PFM-1s.

It denies using them, but abundant evidence incriminates Kiev in this particular war crime. While the West has yet to turn its attention to the victims of the petal mines in the Donbass, reports of Ukraine using them elsewhere have emerged.

  • In its January 2023 report on banned landmines, the Human Rights Watch NGO notes, “In 2021, Ukraine reported to the UN secretary-general that 3.3 million stockpiled PFM mines still need to be destroyed.” HRW then advised Ukraine to investigate itself for its use of the prohibited mines.

The report is titled “Ukraine: Banned Landmines Harm Civilians. Ukraine Should Investigate Forces’ Apparent Use; Russian Use Continues,” implying that not only is Russia also deploying the petal mines, but that Russia’s use of them is beyond question, while Kiev’s use is open to debate.

Yet, much like in 2020, when the UN accused Russia of war crimes in Syria based on “we say so” and unnamed sources, you won’t find proof of Russia’s use of petal mines in the HRW report. In fact, buried there is a HRW admission that it “has not verified claims of Russian forces using PFM mines in the armed conflict.”

  • This is a standard media tactic: boldly state one thing in a headline and quietly clarify the opposite in the body of the article, which most people won’t bother reading.

On the other hand, HRW claims it interviewed over 100 people, “including witnesses to landmine use, victims of landmines, first responders, doctors, and Ukrainian de-miners,” regarding Ukraine’s use of the objects in Izium (a city in the Kharkov region, north of Donetsk) while it was briefly under Moscow’s control. The HRW team entered the city after Russian forces withdrew in September. Everyone interviewed, the report noted, “said they had seen mines on the ground, knew someone who was injured by one, or had been warned about their presence during Russia’s occupation of Izium.”

The testimony records that the areas were all, “close to where Russian military forces were positioned at the time, suggesting they were the target,” and that residents in Izium said that rocket attacks, “happened frequently during the Russian occupation.”

  • The report cited 11 civilian mine-casualties, and noted that HRW had seen “physical evidence of PFM antipersonnel mine use,” including, “unexploded mines, remnants of mines, and the metal cassettes that carry the mines in rockets.”

It has to be noted that HRW has been banned in Russia since April 2022, making it impossible for the organization to gather evidence on the ground in areas controlled by Russian forces. However, lack of access to evidence has not stopped it from using its report to carry accusations against Russia, citing Ukraine’s former prosecutor general Irina Venediktova’s claim that “Russian forces used PFM mines in the Kharkivska region as early as February 26”.

  • In contrast, the numerous credible reports of Kiev’s use of petal mines in Donetsk, available through open sources, are absent from the report.

HRW’s history of targeted condemnations

Human Rights Watch is one of many Western-funded NGOs with a history of whitewashing NATO and its allies’ crimes while pretending to be a neutral observer. Over the years, I’ve pointed out the hypocrisy of Ken Roth, who was the George Soros-funded NGO’s executive director from 1993-2022. In March 2021 he pushed Washington’s propaganda about Russia starving Syria. More glaringly, in 2015, Roth used footage from an eastern Gaza neighbourhood (Shuja’iyya) that had been flattened by Israel, to claim the footage depicted Syria’s Aleppo.

  • He went on to likewise push the 2013 Ghouta “chemical” narrative, which had long been widely-discredited by journalists and by the so-called “rebels” themselves.

If dubious claims from HRW or its representatives aren’t indication enough of their allegiances to Western narratives, then their links to the US government should be. The vice chair of its board of directors, Susan Manilow, according to this 2014 article, describes herself as “a longtime friend to Bill Clinton,” who helped manage his campaign finances. Bruce Rabb, also on the board, lists in his biography that he “served as staff assistant to President Richard Nixon” from 1969-70 – the period in which his administration secretly and illegally carpet-bombed Cambodia and Laos.

The article further notes that the advisory committee for HRW’s Americas Division has even boasted the presence of a former Central Intelligence Agency official, Miguel Díaz. According to his State Department biography, Díaz served as a CIA analyst and also provided “oversight of US intelligence activities in Latin America” for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

  • So, when HRW recently decided to finally discuss Ukraine’s deployment of the insidious petal mines (tens of thousands of which have been fired into the Donbass by Ukraine over the course of the past year), it is not because the body has suddenly become neutral and impartial, but it is rather a grasp at credibility: reporting what is widely known – that, in violation of international law, Ukraine has been deploying Petal mines – but avoid providing the whole story.

By downplaying and ignoring Kiev’s widespread use of petal mines throughout the DPR, HRW is deliberately downplaying war crimes, much like the entirety of Western corporate media.

Kiev’s Western supporters may even have to deal with its use of the petal mines at their own expense down the line – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently announced his country would invest $2.2 million into de-mining Ukraine. Of course, no mention was made of the Ottawa Treaty-banned munitions which will have to be cleared.

Kiev’s deadly delivery

  • In one incident I witnessed first hand, an attack took place just after 9 pm on July 30, 2022. Ukraine fired rockets, each packed with over 300 mines, onto Donetsk, its suburbs, and other cities, including Yasinovataya, Makeevka and Gorlovka.

The rockets exploded in the air to ensure greater distribution of devices on the ground. The attack mirrored previous ‘deliveries’ to the hard-hit Donetsk districts of Kievskiy, Kirovsky and Kuibyshevkiy.

  • The morning after, I walked the central Donetsk streets extremely carefully, wary of every leaf or piece of cardboard which could be obscuring or covering a Petal mine, so difficult are they to pick out from their surroundings. They cannot seriously damage military vehicles, which means that scattering them over Donetsk only has one purpose – to target and maim civilians. Some models of the petal mines have a self-destruct timer. Others, including those used by Kiev, can stay on the ground for years.

The innocent victims of Donbass

Since reporting the initial bombardment in late July, I have been following up on the methodical destruction of these mines by Russian sappers, as well as on civilians harmed by the illegal munitions. One of the more recent victims was 14 year old Nikita. His foot was blown off when in early November, 2022, he stepped on a mine in a playground while on his way to visit his grandmother.

  • RT journalist Roman Kosarev recently spoke with another recent teenage victim, who stepped on a petal mine when getting into a car.

Kosarev also spoke to the Director of the Donetsk Republic’s Trauma Center, Andrey Boryak, who said: “The injury from such a mine is very severe, and immediately leads to a handicap. It’s almost impossible to save the foot and the lower part of the leg.”

HRW has had over 6 months to investigate Ukraine littering the DPR with Petal/PFM-1 mines… but it has not, and will not. It’s once again the case that the lives of Donbass civilians don’t matter when it comes not only to Western media reporting but also to supposedly-neutral human rights bodies. Even worse still is the knowledge that in spite of the valiant efforts of sappers in the DPR, the mines will inevitably claim more innocent civilians as their victims.

  • The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Source: Eva Bartlett – RT

Ukrainian army ‘almost destroyed’ – Wagner chief

The head of the Wagner Group private military company (PMC) Evgeny Prigozhin has described Ukraine’s losses in the battle for the city of Artryomovsk as almost fatal for Kiev’s entire military.

The sacrifices being made by his group for the sake of Russia were, he added, worth it.

“As of today, the battle for Bakhmut has almost destroyed the Ukrainian army,” Prigozhin said in a statement on Wednesday, using the name by which Kiev calls the city. His own Wagner Group companies also took “a serious beating,” he acknowledged.

He called the battle the “general engagement” of the entire conflict where Wagner troops were pitted against Ukrainian armed forces and “foreign units installed into them.” A victory by his troops would be “a turning point” and a historic event, securing a Russian victory, Prigozhin predicted.

“The Russian army alone will be left on the chessboard, and all other pieces will be removed,” he forecast.

“Even if PMC Wagner is destroyed in the Bakhmut [sic] meat grinder but takes the Ukrainian army with it … it would mean that we have accomplished our historic mission.”

The fight for Artyomovsk has emerged as one of the most intensive and bloody engagements of the armed conflict in Ukraine, with both sides reportedly suffering significant casualties. Western officials have claimed that the city poses no strategic military value, but

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky pledged to defend it as long as possible after proclaiming the city a fortress.

The Ukrainian leader explained to The Associated Press earlier this week that if Russia were to capture Artyomovsk, his government would come under international and domestic pressure to seek peace with Moscow.

“Our society will feel tired,” he told the news agency, “Our society will push me to have compromise with them.”

Source: RT

US Congress reveals where Ukraine money ends up

Most of the money the US Congress has designated for aiding the government in Kiev has actually gone to the military-industrial complex, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee admitted during an oversight hearing on Wednesday.

  • “Of the $113 billion appropriated, across four supplementals, approximately 60% is going to American troops, American workers, and on modernizing American stockpiles,” said Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican.

“In fact, only 20% of the funding is going directly to the Ukrainian government, in the form of direct budgetary assistance.”

McCaul is a staunch supporter of arming Ukraine, and insisted that his oversight of the aid is not intended “to undermine or question the importance of support” for Kiev, but to let American taxpayers know how their money was being spent.

  • The witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing on “oversight, transparency, and accountability of Ukraine assistance” included the acting or permanent inspectors-general at the Pentagon, the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The trio was featured in a Wall Street Journal report last month about American auditors going into Ukraine to ensure the weapons, equipment and cash are not “diverted” for unintended use. They told McCaul on Wednesday that, so far, there haven’t been any “substantiated” instances of diverting US aid.

  • “Every dollar counts,” said McCaul, arguing the oversight would promote the efficiency and effectiveness of Ukraine funding, in service of US interests. He also noted that the multinational consulting company Deloitte is working with the Ukrainian government to verify the expenditure of US cash sent to prop up Kiev’s state budget.
  • “I don’t think the US has ever been engaged in anything quite like this,” McCaul said later in the hearing, referring to the “pipeline” of NATO weapons headed to Ukraine through Poland.

Moscow has repeatedly warned the West that supplying Ukraine with weapons and equipment only prolongs the war and raises the risk of direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.

The US and its allies insist that sending over $100 billion worth of weapons to Kiev doesn’t make them a party to the conflict, even as many public officials described it as a proxy war that Russia “must lose.”

Source: RT

‘Netanyahu made a gross miscalculation on judicial overhaul,’ says senior US official

A senior Biden administration official said Israeli’s prime minister made a “gross miscalculation” in his handling of the judicial reform plan, in particular with regards to anxieties in the White House regarding the implications of the overhaul.

Speaking with the left-leaning Forward in an interview published Wednesday morning, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer for their failure to anticipate the Biden administration’s cold reception to the judicial reform.

The two made a “gross miscalculation” in gauging the White House’s reaction, the official said.

  • On Tuesday, President Joe Biden openly criticized the Israeli government, saying it “cannot continue” on its present trajectory.

“Like many strong supporters of Israel, I’m very concerned. I’m concerned that they get this straight. They cannot continue down this road. I’ve sort of made that clear,” Biden said, adding that he has no plans to invite Netanyahu to the White House – despite the tradition of meeting with newly-elected Israeli premiers.

Netanyahu responded by noting his long friendship with Biden, the strength of the US-Israel relationship, and Israel’s rights as a sovereign nation.

“I have known President Biden for over 40 years, and I appreciate his longstanding commitment to Israel. The alliance between Israel and the United States is unbreakable and always overcomes the occasional disagreements between us.”

  • “Israel is a sovereign country which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends,” Netanyahu added.

Following the spat, the senior Biden administration official said it was clear that the Israeli government had erred in its judgment, chilling relations with the White House at a particularly crucial time for Jerusalem.

“There’s no way Jerusalem wanted to be where they are today. As the president indicated, what happens next is up to Ron and Bibi.”

The official also took aim at Netanyahu’s right-wing allies, saying they “can try to smear the Biden administration however they’d like,” but “it’s not helpful.”

“There’s no need for Bibi to cut the baby in half.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) fired back Wednesday morning, at Biden over his comments, criticizing the president’s statement during an interview with Galei Tzahal.

  • “We respect the democratic system there [in the US], but… they need to understand that Israel is an independent country and not just another star on the American flag.”
  • “It needs to be clear to countries around the world, the people here had an election and expressed their will.”

Source: Arutz Sheva

Header: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Minister of the Interior and Health Aryeh Deri, Minister of Defence Yoav Galant, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Ministers during the swearing in ceremony of the new israeli government at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption

Watch: Russia trains strategic missile forces

Russia is testing the combat readiness of its strategic missile forces with a training exercise involving around 3,000 troops and road-mobile Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday.

The maneuvers are being conducted by the Novosibirsk Rocket Division, a unit headquartered in the Western Siberian city of the same name. The force belongs to one of Russia’s three army-level units of its ground-based strategic deterrence branch.

  • The ministry released footage of Yars launchers and support vehicles rolling out of their hangars, and a statement said that around 300 pieces of military hardware will be involved in the exercise.

In addition to demonstrating their skill at deploying nuclear weapons, troops will train at concealing their movements from enemy reconnaissance, the ministry added. The latter part of the mission will be conducted in cooperation with other sections of the Russian military, including the Air and Space Forces.

The statement stressed that the use of drones will be a crucial part of the drills.

  • The RS-24 Yars ICBM is the latest version of the Topol-M missile family currently in service in the Russian military. The solid-propellant projectile can be deployed in silos or on road-mobile launchers, and is believed to carry up to four nuclear warheads.

Source: RT

Zelensky explains why he won’t withdraw from key Donbass city

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has said that if his troops were to surrender the city of Artyomovsk, known as Bakhmut in Ukraine, his government would come under domestic and international pressure to seek peace with Russia.

  • “Our society will feel tired,” he told the Associated Press (AP) in an interview released on Wednesday. “Our society will push me to have compromise with them.”

Western officials have described Artyomovsk, the scene of fierce fighting for several months, as lacking in military importance. Behind closed doors, they – along with Zelensky’s own military leadership – have reportedly urged the president to order a withdrawal, so that his forces can focus on preparing a counteroffensive with heavy weapons provided by the US and its allies.

Speaking to AP mostly in English, during what the agency described as a “morale-building journey” by train across Ukraine, Zelensky suggested that Russia would be emboldened if it were to capture Artyomovsk.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin would “sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran,” he predicted. “If he will feel some blood – smell that we are weak – he will push, push, push.”
  • “We can’t lose the steps because the war is a pie – pieces of victories. Small victories, small steps,” Zelensky added.

The battle for Artyomovsk, a key logistics hub, has been one of the fiercest and bloodiest in the Ukraine conflict so far. According to media reports, Kiev has lost some of its most experienced troops while holding the city.

It has also allegedly been pouring in newly conscripted, untrained soldiers, to shore up the defensive line, leading to significant casualties.

In the interview, Zelensky also complained about his lack of contact with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who visited Moscow last week. The Ukrainian leader claimed that as president he chose to “unite” the country rather than divide it.

Zelensky was elected in 2019 on a promise to end ongoing hostilities in Donbass and reintegrate the then-breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics into a federalized Ukrainian state. However, while in office, he maintained the policy of his predecessor Pyotr Poroshenko by stonewalling the so-called Minsk Agreements.

  • Poroshenko later admitted the accords were used by Kiev to buy time to rebuild its military.
  • Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022, days after recognizing the two republics as independent states and demanding that Kiev withdraw its troops from them. Zelensky rejected the call.

Source: RT

Germany reveals reason for boosting aid to Ukraine

Heavy losses of equipment in battle mean that Ukraine’s military needs more tanks, artillery and air defenses, as well as maintenance for them, according to a letter from the German treasury to the parliament revealed by Der Spiegel on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner wrote to the Bundestag on Monday, and the parliamentary budget committee met on Tuesday in secret to consider his request, according to the German outlet.

He is asking for 3.2 billion euros ($3.47 billion) more this year and another 8.8 billion ($9.54bn) for “ongoing commitments,” on top of 2.2 billion ($2.39 bn) already spent on Ukraine.

“Due to the high material losses of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, new supplies of material are required,” the treasury wrote, further arguing that a number of procurement and maintenance contracts for “needs-based sustainable equipment” of Kiev’s military need to be concluded immediately.

  • The letter specifically says the Ukrainians need more air defense, armored tracked vehicles – including tanks – and ammunition for tanks and artillery. Supplying the weapons systems also creates a “follow-up obligation” to provide ammunition, service and maintenance, the treasury added.
  • The additional expenses are “objectively unavoidable,” Lindner argues, because “without ongoing support to Ukraine, there is a serious danger of it losing” in the conflict against Russia, “with unforeseeable consequences for peace in Europe.”

Even so, Lindner did not want to submit a supplementary budget request for this funding, but asked the parliamentarians to find unspent money in other departments, including the funds appropriate for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Spiegel.

Asked about the Spiegel revelations on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Berlin’s decision to boost aid to Kiev “does not bode well.”

“Current relations between Russia and Germany leave much to be desired,” Peskov added. “Germany takes an active part in pumping up Ukraine with weapons, directly and indirectly increasing its level of involvement in the conflict.”

The Russian Defense Ministry estimated that the US and its allies had spent over $100 billion to prop up the Ukrainian military by the end of 2022.

Multiple Western officials have publicly declared that Russia “must lose” or be “strategically defeated,” while insisting that their countries were not actually taking part in the conflict.

Source: RT