Extremists left Germany to fight for Russia
Saturday, July 29, 9:14 a.m.: Dozens of extremists from Germany have traveled to the war zone since the Russian attack on Ukraine began. This was announced by the Federal Ministry of the Interior at the request of “Welt am Sonntag”. Overall, the security authorities registered the departure of 61 people “who have a link to extremism or politically motivated crime,” the newspaper quoted the ministry as saying.
In the case of 39 people, there are actual indications that they had left the country “with the intention of participating in combat operations”. Of these, 27 are pro-Russian and twelve are pro-Ukrainian.
For the clear majority of this group of people, the authorities had concrete information that they had taken part in combat operations. This includes both right-wing and left-wing extremists. However, most people assign authorities to the “foreign ideology” phenomenon area. A breakdown into specific groups is not possible due to a lack of data, according to the ministry.
In principle, participation in combat operations in Ukraine is not punishable, a spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Justice told the newspaper. This applies “as long as they do not act as mercenaries, but as members of the regular armed forces or equivalent volunteer corps and militias”. However, this does not protect against investigations into possible war crimes.
According to the report, the Federal Prosecutor General did not want to comment on whether corresponding proceedings would be conducted against fighters who had left the country.
Rocket strikes Ukrainian city of Dnipro – three injured
10 p.m.: According to preliminary information from the authorities, three people were injured in a rocket attack in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. “Russian terrorists aimed at a high-rise building,” Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko wrote on his Telegram channel on Friday evening. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the building of the Ukrainian secret service SBU was hit in addition to the high-rise building.
Videos show severe damage. The low number of injured was explained in the Ukrainian media by the fact that many apartments in the high-rise had not yet been occupied.
A few hours earlier, a dozen people were injured in a rocket attack in the center of the southern Russian city of Taganrog on the Azov Sea near Ukraine. The Russian authorities blamed Kiev for this. Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called on the international community to condemn “the terrorist methods used by the Ukrainian regime” while threatening to reserve the right to take “severe countermeasures”.
Egyptian president calls for ‘urgent solutions’ to grain shipments
9.40 p.m.: More than a week after Moscow pulled out of the grain deal, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called on Russia and Ukraine to find “urgent solutions” to grain shipments to African countries. This is important “to deliver food and fertilizer at prices that will help Africa overcome this crisis,” al-Sisi said on Friday on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg.
He is aiming for “an amicable solution” to the agreement on grain exports from Ukraine, which “takes into account the demands and interests of all parties in order to put an end to the price increase,” al-Sisi said.
Last week, Russia pulled out of the international grain deal that had allowed Ukraine to ship goods through the Black Sea despite the conflict. Ukraine was thus able to bring almost 33 million tons of grain to the world market via the Black Sea. This helped stabilize global food prices and averted shortages in Africa as well.
Poland and Lithuania are considering closing borders with Belarus
4:48 p.m.: Fearing provocations by Russian Wagner mercenaries in Belarus, Poland and Lithuania are considering closing their borders with the neighboring country. “These considerations are real. There is a possibility of closing the border,” Lithuania’s Deputy Interior Minister Arnoldas Abramavicius told journalists on Friday.
The day before, Poland’s Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski spoke of the possibility of “complete isolation from Belarus”. Regular traffic at the border is already extremely restricted due to the sanctions imposed on each other by Warsaw and Minsk.
Lithuania and Poland had repeatedly warned their NATO allies that Wagner mercenaries could pose as asylum seekers, among other things, in order to get into the EU. “These could be groups of refugees, irregularly returned migrants, with the aim of creating some kind of disturbance at the border,” Abramavicius said.
After the aborted march of the Wagner mercenaries under their boss Yevgeny Prigoshin on Moscow in June, the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had declared his willingness to accept the fighters.
At a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend, Lukashenko stressed that Minsk had the situation “under control”. “They are asking to move to the West, … to Warsaw, Rzeszow,” Lukashenko told Putin. “But of course I keep them in the center of Belarus, as we agreed.”
Insider: US officials regularly hold secret talks with Kremlin employees
11:54 am: A former US official has revealed that the US and Russia are holding secret talks. As he told the independent Russian newspaper Moscow Times, there are diplomatic talks between senior US officials and Kremlin officials. These take place at least twice a month, he reports and says that he was involved himself.
One of the findings: “They don’t know how to define victory or defeat,” says the ex-official. “in fact, some of the elites we spoke to never wanted the war from the start and even said it was a complete mistake.”
However, the problem is not the elites, but above all Russia’s president. “Putin is the greatest obstacle to any progress.” According to the US official, the US government has made at least one attempt to speak directly with the Kremlin. However, Putin is said to have declined, which is why the US government has begun to address Russian elites who have spoken out against the war.
The US government immediately denied the reports. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson denied that current or former US officials had been asked to establish secret channels of communication with the Kremlin. “When we say ‘no talks without Ukraine’, we mean it.”
Zelenskyy visits destroyed Transfiguration Cathedral in Odessa
11.30 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the Transfiguration Cathedral in the southern port city of Odessa, which was badly damaged in a Russian attack. Zelenskyj said on Thursday evening on his website that he had been informed of the extent of the destruction in the church, which is located in the old town of Odessa, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Now specialists are to examine the possibilities for the restoration of the famous building. It was damaged last Saturday night when Russia repeatedly bombed the Black Sea city.
Zelenskyj reports liberation of village in south-eastern Ukraine
9:06 p.m.: Ukraine has reported the liberation of the village of Staromajorske in the south-east of the country. “Our south! Our boys! Glory to Ukraine!” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram on Thursday evening. He also published a video that is said to have been recorded in the town in the south of the Donetsk region.
It shows several soldiers introducing themselves as fighters from the 35th Brigade and holding a Ukrainian flag. One of the men says they completely liberated Staromajorske.
Wagner recruits in Belarus for “combat operations” in Lithuania and Poland
7:59 p.m.: During their exercises in Belarus, the Wagner squad is apparently looking for new recruits and training the Belarusian military. This is reported by the Center for National Resistance of Ukraine.
The new recruits had to give their willingness to “participate in hostilities on the territory of the neighboring states of Belarus, especially Poland and Lithuania”. The Wagner mercenaries have been in Belarus since the middle of the month – also to train the local defense forces.
Kiev: Funds to defend grain infrastructure are lacking
7:10 p.m.: According to Ukraine, it lacks crucial resources to defend against Russian airstrikes on its grain infrastructure on the Black Sea. Kiev doesn’t need “reinforced, powerful, modern” missile and air defenses “in two or three months” to “repel the types of missiles that the enemy is using against us,” Ukrainian army spokeswoman Natalia Gumenyuk told AFP. Otherwise there may soon be no more Ukrainian ports.
In particular, the Ukrainian army needs US F-16 fighter jets capable of targeting Russian weapon systems and ships used for attacks on southern Ukraine, Gumenyuk said.
Since Moscow pulled out of the international agreement on the transport of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea last week, Russia has repeatedly attacked the port cities of Odessa and Mykolaiv, according to Ukrainian sources. Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of targeting locations for Ukrainian grain exports.
According to Ukrainian sources, the most recent attack damaged the infrastructure of a cargo terminal. Last week Ukraine announced that 60,000 tons of grain had been destroyed in Russian air raids on the Odessa region.
Prolonged martial law prevents Ukrainian parliamentary elections
5.10 p.m.: The extension of martial law decided by the Ukrainian parliament until mid-November also makes the constitutionally planned parliamentary elections impossible. “There will be no parliamentary elections in Ukraine at the end of October,” opposition MP Oleksiy Honcharenko told Telegram on Thursday. Martial law in force prohibits the holding of elections.
Parliament had previously extended martial law by 90 days. The Verkhovna Rada also approved the motion of the deputy of the presidential party “Servants of the People” Yuriy Aristov to resign from his mandate early. In July, Aristov extended a business trip by a week’s vacation in a luxury hotel in the Maldives, drawing criticism – also because of the war suffering of many people in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian constitution prescribes regular parliamentary elections for the last Sunday of October in the fifth year of the parliament’s term. That would be the case on October 29 of this year. In Ukraine, however, it was generally expected that this election date could not be met. In the event of a prolonged war, the presidential election scheduled for March 31, 2024, according to the constitution, may also be postponed. Government officials have repeatedly stressed that all elections not held will be scheduled within 90 days of the lifting of martial law, according to the law.