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Putin’s troops unable to seize key ground in last 24 hours – UK defence chiefs

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AFP via Getty Images

Vladimir Putin’s forces have failed to seize any “significant ground” in the battle for Severodonetsk in the last 24 hours despite attacking the Ukrainian city from three fronts, British defence chiefs said on Wednesday morning.

They stressed that Ukrainian defences were “holding” in the industrial city in the Luhansk province of the eastern Donbas region.

Fierce street by street fighting has been taking place in the city with Russian troops ourtnumbering Ukrainian soldiers.

However, there are reports that Mr Putin’s army may be running short of artillery shells for long range bombardment of Severodonetsk.

The UK defence chiefs also stressed that with the Russian president focusing his military campaign on Severodonetsk and some other parts of the Donbas, it had left his forces in the south of Ukraine vulnerable to counter-attacks

Ukrainian forces had succeeded in some offensives in the Kherson region including “regaining a foothold” on the eastern side of one river bank, they added.

In its latest intelligence update, the Ministry of Defence in London said: “Russia continues to attempt assaults against the Severodonetsk pocket from three directions although Ukrainian defences are holding. It is unlikely that either side has gained significant ground in the last 24 hours.

“While Russia is concentrating its offensive on the central Donbas sector, it has remained on the defensive on its flanks.

“Ukrainian forces have recently achieved some success by counter-attacking in the south-western Kherson region, including regaining a foothold on the eastern bank of the Ingulets River.”

The UK military chiefs explained: “With the frontage of the occupied zone stretching for over 500km, both Russia and Ukraine face similar challenges in maintaining a defensive line while freeing up capable combat units for offensive operations.”

They added: “In the occupied Kherson region, Russia is forcibly aligning its administration with that of the Russian Federation by introducing the Russian rouble as legal tender and employing Russian teachers to introduce the Russian curriculum and language to schools.

“Russia will highly likely claim its occupation of Kherson as evidence of delivering improved governance and living standards to the Ukrainian people.”

Britain and other counties in the West supporting Ukraine are fighting an information war against Russia over how the conflict is unfolding.

Evening Standard

International

Massive explosions rock Russian base in Crimea in major blow to Putin

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Huge columns of smoke were seen rising above the Crimean air base (Picture: Reuters)

Huge explosions have rocked an air base in occupied Crimea, a symbolic blow to Vladimir Putin’s war effort.

Ukrainian authorities have stopped short of formally confirming its missiles hit the target but an advisor to Volodymyr Zelensky strongly hinted this was the case.

It would mark the first major strike on a Russian asset in the peninsula since the February invasion began.

At more than 200km away from any territory held by Ukraine, it will also be seen as a vindication of the West’s strategy to provide Kyiv with long range missiles.

Kremlin troops have occupied the area since 2014 and have used it as a staging ground for its assault on the south of Ukraine.

Tourists at nearby resorts were reportedly evacuated as huge pillars of black smoke rose over the skyline.

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Russian authorities said at least one person was killed when munitions blew up at Saki air base.

The defence ministry insisted the installation had not been shelled, a similar approach to denials issued in the wake of the sinking of the Moskva ship by a Ukrainian missile.

TASS, a Russian news agency, reported a military source claiming it was caused ‘only [by the] violation of fire safety standards.

The Kremlin has consistently claimed a fire which spread to munitions sunk the Moskva, the Black Sea fleet flagship which went down in April and gave Ukrainians a major morale boost.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to the Ukrainian president, wrote on Twitter after the Crimea blast: ‘Demilitarization of the Russian Federation — an integral part of global security ensuring.

‘The future of the Crimea is to be a pearl of the Black Sea, a national park with unique nature and a world resort. Not a military base for terrorists. It is just the beginning.’

Crimea’s head Sergei Aksyonov said ambulances and medical helicopters were sent to the Saki air base and the area was sealed off within a radius of three miles.

It remains to be seen how the Kremlin will response after it previously threatened to strike ‘decision-making centres’ in Kyiv if Crimea was targeted.

Ukrainian officials earlier confirmed three people were killed and 23 more wounded in various shelling incidents, including near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Metro

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Kenya Elections 2022: Raila Odinga and William Ruto in Tight Race for President

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Kenyans are choosing their next president after an intense campaign dominated by debates about living costs, unemployment and corruption.

Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, having served the constitutionally limited two terms, is backing one-time foe Raila Odinga, 77, to succeed him.

His decision followed a falling out with Deputy President William Ruto, 55, who had expected to be endorsed.

More than 22 million Kenyans have registered to vote.

There are several other elections happening at the same time and a mix-up of ballot papers in some areas for some of those votes has again raised questions about the organisation of the general election.

Polls are open for 11 hours from 06:00 local time (03:00 GMT). Anyone still in the queue at closing time will be allowed to vote.

The results of the last presidential election in 2017 were annulled after the Supreme Court ruled that the electoral commission had not followed the law when it came to the electronic transmission of the vote tallies from the polling stations.

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Judges ruled that “illegalities and irregularities” had taken place.

A re-run was won by Mr Kenyatta, but boycotted by Mr Odinga – the main opposition candidate at the time.

The chairman of the electoral commission, Wafula Chebukati, who was also in charge of the 2017 vote, has frequently tried to reassure Kenyans that his team will be up to the task this time.

But Monday’s logistical problems have increased the pressure on him.

Baba v Hustler

This election looks like it will be a tight race between frontrunners Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto.

Mr Odinga – a long-serving opposition leader, nicknamed Baba (“father”) by his supporters, is running for president for a fifth time. Mr Ruto, who has tried to emphasise his connection with ordinary Kenyans by calling himself a “hustler”, will be taking his first stab at the presidency.

Two other candidates – David Mwaure and George Wajackoya – are also in the race.

Despite the campaign being dominated by issues, ethnic loyalty may also play a part in determining how people vote.

For the first time in the multi-party era none of the main candidates are from the country’s largest ethnic group – Kikuyu.

But knowing that those votes are vital, both have chosen Kikuyu running mates.

Voting process

To win the presidential race in the first round, a candidate needs:

  • more than half of all the votes cast across the country
  • at least 25% of the votes cast in a minimum of 24 counties.
Voters will also be choosing MPs and senators to go to the national parliament, county governors and county assembly members, as well as 47 women’s representatives to sit in the National Assembly.

On election day, voters will have their fingerprint scanned to check their identity but a printed register can also be used if the machines fail.

Each voter will then be given colour-coded ballot papers for each of the elections, which they will mark in a private booth and drop in the relevant ballot boxes.

Counting will start at the polling stations shortly after voting ends. Officials will then take a photo of the final tally and send the image to both the constituency and national tallying centres.

To ensure transparency the media, political parties and civil society groups have been urged to run their own tallies using final results declared at the more than 40,000 polling stations.

But only the electoral commission can declare the winner of the presidential election after verifying the physical and digital forms sent to the national tallying centre.

The main presidential candidates have vowed to respect the result of the elections.

NPO

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Donald Trump says FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago home

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Donald Trump

Federal investigators searched the contents of Donald Trump’s safe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the former president said in a statement on Monday, the latest indication of an intensifying criminal investigation by the justice department into his affairs.

The FBI executed a search warrant around 6pm ET at Trump’s residence, which appears to have been related to an investigation into Trump unlawfully taking White House documents with him to Mar-a-Lago after his presidency, according to a source familiar with the matter.

“My beautiful home, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump said in a bitter statement lashing out at the raid, adding: “They even broke into my safe!”

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During his presidency, Mar-a-Lago was known as Trump’s “winter White House”. Donald and Melania returned to the Florida resort after leaving Washington and since then, the president has made it the center of his political dealings.

The raid comes as Trump has been laying the foundations for another presidential run in 2024, and in the wake of a series of damning public hearings that laid out his and his allies’ role in the events leading up to the storming of the US capitol on 6 January.

In a furious statement, Trump compared the FBI raid to “Watergate” and blamed it on “Radical Left Democrats” who he said “desperately don’t want me to run for president in 2024 … who will do anything to stop Republicans and Conservatives in the upcoming midterms elections”.

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