Russia’s assault on the fiercely contested eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has “largely stalled”, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said. In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said: “This is likely primarily a result of extreme attrition of the Russian force. Ukraine has also suffered heavy casualties during its defence.”
The ministry said Russia’s situation was likely to have been worsened by “tensions between the Russian ministry of defence and Wagner Group, both of whom contribute troops in the sector”.
The battle over Bakhmut has been the longest and bloodiest of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The UK ministry said Russia had probably shifted its operational focus towards Avdiivka, south of Bakhmut, and to the Kremina-Svatove sector in the north – “areas where Russia likely only aspires to stabilise its frontline”. This suggests an overall return to a more defensive operational design after inconclusive results from its attempts to conduct a general offensive since January 2023.
Meanwhile, Russia’s parliament speaker on Saturday proposed banning the activities of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after the court issued an arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin, accusing him of the war crimes. Vyacheslav Volodin, an ally of Putin’s, said that Russian legislation should be amended to prohibit any activity of the ICC in Russia and to punish any who gave “assistance and support” to the ICC. Mr Volodin said that the United States had legislated to prevent its citizens ever being tried by the court in The Hague, and that Russia should continue that work.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant earlier this month accusing Mr Putin of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. It said there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility. Russian officials have cautioned that any attempt to arrest Mr Putin, Russia’s paramount leader since the last day of 1999, would amount to a declaration of war against the world’s largest nuclear power.
Police in Russia have placed a former speech writer for Mr Putin on a wanted list for criminal suspects, the latest step in a sweeping crackdown on dissent, the Associated Press reports. Abbas Gallyamov wrote speeches for Putin during the Russian leader’s 2008-12 stint as prime minister, and later became an outspoken political consultant and analyst who was frequently quoted by Russian and foreign media. He has lived abroad in recent years.
On Friday, Russian news outlets and an AP reporter discovered Mr Gallyamov listed in the interior ministry’s database. His entry said he was wanted “in relation to a criminal code article” but did not include the law he was accused of breaking. Russia’s justice ministry added Mr Gallyamov last month to its register of foreign agents, a designation that brings additional government scrutiny and carries strong pejorative connotations aimed at undermining the recipient’s credibility.
The ministry said Mr Gallyamov “distributed materials created by foreign agents to an unlimited circle of people, spoke out against the special military operation in Ukraine [and] participated as an expert and respondent on information platforms provided by foreign structures”.
Mr Gallyamov told AP on Friday that he learned he was on a wanted list from the media. No law enforcement agency had been in touch, so he didn’t know what charge he faced in Russia. He said in a phone interview: “I presume that formally it’s the offence of discrediting the army. It is being used against anyone who refuses to amplify the Kremlin’s playbook and tries to conduct an objective, impartial analysis of what’s going on.”