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Ukraine war: Western tanks 'priority' target, cluster bombs arrive, Wagner declined mutiny offer

Smoke and flame rise over a field during the Union Courage-2022 Russia-Belarus military drills at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground in Belarus, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022.

Western tanks key target for Russia in war - Putin

Foreign-made tanks will be a "priority target" for the Russian military in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday. 

In an interview broadcast on state television, Putin maintained that Western weapon supplies will not change the course of the war, adding Ukraine's NATO membership threatens his country's security. 

Putin blamed the military alliance for further escalating and prolonging tensions between the warring sides. 

Slamming France's decision to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles, he said Ukraine will not make any significant gains from the new weapons.   

"Yes, they cause damage, but nothing critical happens in the war zone with their use," he added. 

Although countries have the right to bolster internal security, it shouldn't come at the cost of another country, Putin said. 

His comments followed US President Joe Biden's claim the Kremlin had "already lost the war." 

“There is no possibility of him winning the war in Ukraine,” Biden said on Thursday in his first visit to Helsinki since Finland joined NATO. 

Biden also supported Ukraine's NATO membership, assuring "it’s about when they can join" rather than "whether they should or shouldn't join". 

Pentagon says cluster munitions have arrived in Ukraine

Cluster munitions provided by the United States have now arrived in Ukraine, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The bombs - which open in the air and release scores of smaller bomblets - are seen by Washington as a way to of bolstering Kyiv's offensive and break through the Russian front lines.

However, the decision has been widely criticised by US politicians, NATO allies and rights groups, since the widely banned weapons are notorious for their indiscriminate nature and killing civilians long after a conflict has finished. 

US leaders debated the thorny issue for months before President Joe Biden made the final decision last week.

US leaders have said the country will send a version of the munition that has a reduced “dud rate,” meaning fewer of the smaller bomblets fail to explode. 

Washington has said it will provide thousands of cluster munitions but provided no specific numbers.

It is not clear when Ukrainian troops will begin using them. 

Over 120 countries across the world — but not the US, Russia or Ukraine — have signed an international convention banning the production of cluster munitions and discouraging their use.

Both Moscow and Kyiv have deployed cluster bombs during the war. Ukrainian regional officials have regularly accused Russian forces of using them to target civilians.

Wagner boss declined mutiny offer, claims Putin

Yevgeny Prigozhin declined an offer to serve in Russia after the mutiny last month, Russia's president alleged on Thursday. 

Putin told Russian daily Kommersant that he sat with some three dozen Wagner mercenaries and Prigozhin for negotiation after the revolt. 

“All of them could have gathered in one place and continued their service,”  he said.   

The offer also included a clause to continue operating under Progozhin for 16 months before aligning with Moscow troops. 

"And nothing would have changed. They would have been led by the same person who had been their real commander all that time,” he added. 

The offer was declined by Prigozhin outright, saying "the boys won't agree with such a decision" according to the Russian newspaper. 

As a consequence of the fallout, Putin admitted to Wagner's doomed future in Russia. 

“Wagner does not exist,” he told Kommersant. “There is no law on private military organisations. It just doesn’t exist.”

Wagner mercenaries have not been fighting in Ukraine ever since they marched towards Moscow demanding better support from Russia's military leadership. 

Posted on 14 Jul 2023 09:07 link