Ukraine war latest: Japan scrambles fighter jets to Russian military planes - as US intelligence 'casts new light on Kremlin attack' (2023)

Key points
  • US intelligence thinks Ukraine was likely behind drone attack on Kremlin
  • Pro-Russian actors 'likely' spoofed vessel data to create 'Z' symbol in Black Sea
  • Anti-Putin paramilitary group says there will be more incursions|Who are the fighters behind Belgorod incursion?
  • Russia claims warshiptargeted by Ukrainian drone boats
  • Wagner Group fighters begin withdrawal from Bakhmut
  • Your questions answered: Can the UK defend itself after sending weapons to Ukraine?
  • Got a question about the war? Ask our experts
  • Live reporting by Olive Enokido-Lineham


Mystery surrounds 'attack on Russian warship by unmanned boats'

Yesterday the Russian Defence Ministry claimed a warship, the Ivan Hurs, had been attacked by three Ukrainian unmanned boats in the Black Sea.

Military analyst Sean Bell explains why it’s difficult to verify the footage released by the ministry and what it could mean.

Sky News has not been able to independently verify the footage, which shows a small boat powering through the water while under fire. One of the shells hits the craft, creating a huge explosion.

Russia blamed Ukraine and there was no immediate comment from Kyiv.

Sean Bell says the Ivan Hurs is a communication, fleet command and electronic warfare intelligence-gathering warship and Russia claims it was operating in the Bosphorus Strait - around 500km away from Odessa.

He says the video is hard to verify as it appears to have been taken at sea but adds that the drone looks similar, but different, to that displayed by Ukrainian forces.

He adds that it looks like the alleged attack took place during daylight, which would not be ideal timing for a surprise attack.

While it remains unclear, he says it could be a Russian training video - but we just don’t know.


Japan scrambles jets to Russian aircraft over Pacific Ocean and Sea of Japan

Japan scrambled jet fightersafter spotting Russian military planes over the Pacific Oceanand Sea of Japan on Thursday.

The country's defence ministry says it detected one Russian information-gathering aircraft IL-20flying round-trip from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Pacific.

It added that it also detected another IL-20 flying toward the waters near Sado Island beforeturning toward the continent.

The Sea of Okhotsk is located north of Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, while the Sado Islands are off the west coast of Niigata.


Russia moving nuclear weapons to Belarus - as Moscow rails at NATO over 'extremely sharp escalation'

Russia and Belarus have signed a deal to formalise the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear missiles on Belarusian territory, a step Moscow said was driven by rising tensions with the West.

"In the context of an extremely sharp escalation of threats on the western borders of Russia and Belarus, a decision was made to take countermeasures in the military-nuclear sphere," TASS news agency quoted Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying.

The deployment of the missiles was first announced by Vladimir Putin in March - with the president repeatedly warning that Russia would be ready to use nuclear weapons if needed to defend its "territorial integrity".

NATO has said it does not see any need to adjust its own nuclear posture, though it says Mr Putin's nuclear rhetoric is "dangerous and irresponsible".

Mr Shoigu said Moscow would retain control over the weapons and any decisions on their use.

TASS quoted him as saying Iskander-M missiles, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, had been handed to the Belarusian armed forces, and that some Su-25 aircraft had been converted for the possible use of nuclear weapons.

"Belarusian servicemen have received the necessary training in Russian training centres," he reportedly said.

Tactical nuclear weapons refer to lower-yield weapons designed for battlefield use, as opposed to strategic ones capable of wiping out entire cities. Russia has not disclosed how many tactical nuclear weapons it has.


A glimpse into Ukraine's counteroffensive promising 'dozens of different actions'

An adviser to Ukraine's president says Kyiv's upcoming counteroffensive will include "dozens of different actions" to destroy Russian forces.

Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that the long-awaited counteroffensive will "not be a single eventthat will begin at a specific hour of a specific day with a solemn cutting of the red ribbon".

He also says that there are "dozens of different actions" to destroy Russian-occupying forces "in different directions".

There's been a lot of speculation about when Ukraine will launch its counteroffensive and Kyiv has remained tight-lipped.

During his visit to the UK two weeks ago, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country needs "more time" to prepare.

Kyiv has thousands of freshly trained troops equipped withWestern tanks and armoured vehicles, and says it aims to driveall invading Russian forces from its land.

Moscow has beendigging fortifications across the front line to defend the partsof Ukraine it claims to have annexed.


US thinks Ukraine was likely behind drone attack on Kremlin - report

US intelligence agencies believe that a drone attack on the Kremlin this month was likely orchestrated by Ukrainian spies or military intelligence, according to the New York Times.

The newspaper said the attack appeared to be part of a series of covert operations that have made officials in the US - Ukraine’s biggest supplier of military equipment - uncomfortable.

Dramatic footage from the explosion earlier this month showed plumes of smoke rising over the Kremlin.

The US assessment was based on intercepted Russian and Ukrainian communications, the newspaper said.

US officials said they did not believe Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed off on all covert operations, it added.

It is unclear to what extent he was aware of such operations in advance, the officials were quoted as saying.

The paper said the US intercepted Ukrainian conversations in which officials said they believed their country was responsible for the attack, and also tapped into Russian communications which indicated it was not some sort of false-flag operation by Russia.

In response to the report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "We immediately said that the Kyiv regime was behind this".

Mr Zelenskyy has denied any Ukrainian involvement.


Ukraine shoots down 36 Iranian-made drones in 'massive' overnight attack

Ukraine says it has shot down 36 Iranian-made drones in a "massive" overnight attack.

The Ukrainian Air Forces said Russia attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed drones launched from northern and southern directions.

The force said it destroyed all the drones and presumed Russia aimed to attack critical infrastructure and military facilities in western regions.

Adviser to Ukraine's internal affairs ministry, Anton Gerashchenko, described the attack as "massive" and claimed it was the 12th attack on Kyiv this month.

Since last October, Moscow, which launched its full-scale invasion in February last year, has regularly sent waves of drones to attack targets in Ukraine.

Although they are slow, drones are cheaper and more expendable than advanced missiles.


Wagner Group fighters begin withdrawal from Bakhmut

Fighters in the Wagner Group have begun withdrawing from the eastern city of Bakhmut, the mercenary group's chief says.

Yevgeny Prigozhin made the announcement in a video posted today on Telegram.

The group had already said that it would leave the city after it claimed Russia had taken full control of Bakhmut on Saturday - a claim which Kyiv denies.

In the video, Prigozhin is seen standing by a tank shaking hands with a group of men.

Wagner members have been heavily involved in the fighting for Bakhmut which has been at the centre of one of the longest and most bloody battles in the war so far.

Both Russia and Ukrainian forces have suffered huge losses and satellite imagery of the city shows the scale of devastation left by the fighting. But some analysts suggest the group's withdraw could leave Russian forces vulnerable.

Military analyst Sean Bell says there is potential for Kyiv's soldiers to capitalise on the Russian transition to encircle the city.

"That would leave Russian forces very vulnerable - as limited infrastructure was left to support forces in the city."

He adds that we have "probably not yet heard the last of the battle for Bakhmut".


Who are the fighters who claimed responsibility for the Belgorod incursion?

Over the past few days we've heard a lot about the cross-border incursion into Russia's Belgorod region, which has been labelled humiliating and embarrassing for the Kremlin.

While Moscow has blamed Ukrainian armed groups and Kyiv has claimed it has nothing to do with it, two groups - the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) and Freedom of Russia Legion - have claimed responsibility.

Here is what we know about them...

Russian Volunteer Corps

The RVC was founded by a far-right Russian nationalist last August and comprises Russians who have been fighting in and for Ukraine against their own country.

The group has previously claimed responsibility for a raid in March in the Russian region of Bryansk - as well as the incursion into Belgorod on Monday.

The commander of the RVC, Denis Kapustin (also known as Denis Nikitin), has been described as a "Russian neo-Nazi who lived in Germany for many years".

They are based in Ukraine but say their ultimate goal is the elimination of the Putin regime.

He has admitted his group is right-wing, but when asked if he minded being labelled a Nazi, he didn't "think it's an insult" but said he would "never wave a flag with a swastika".

The Ukrainian military intelligence agency says the RVC is an independent underground group inside Russia that also has a unit in the Ukrainian Foreign Legion. The Foreign Legion says it has nothing to do with the RVC.

Mr Kapustin said he "cannot reveal upcoming things", but the group have said they will launch more incursions in the future.

Freedom of Russia Legion

The Freedom of Russia Legion describes itself as an anti-Kremlin militia seeking to liberate Russia from Vladimir Putin.

It says it cooperates with the Ukrainian armed forces and operates under Ukrainian command. It has claimed responsibility for the attack in Belgorod and says it has been fighting in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military intelligence agency's spokesperson said on Monday that the attacks in Belgorod only involved Russian citizens and that they were creating a "security zone" to protect Ukrainian civilians.

He did not confirm or deny that the forces operating there are a Ukrainian unit. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.


Zelenskyy: First Ukrainian F-16 jet will be a 'signal' that Russia has 'lost'

Ukraine's president has said his country is doing "everything we can" to reduce the time until new aircraft with Ukrainian pilots emerge in the skies.

In his nightly address, Mr Zelenskyy said the first Ukrainian F-16 fighter jet will be "one of the strongest signals" that "Russian terror has lost."

He said: "We are doing everything we can to reduce the time until the result is achieved, until new and powerful aircraft with Ukrainian pilots emerge in the Ukrainian skies.

"The first Ukrainian F-16 will be one of the strongest signals from the world that Russia will only lose because of its own aggression, becoming weaker and more isolated.

"This will be a signal that Russian terror has lost, and our world, which is based on respect for independent nations and the right of peoples to choose their own path, has endured."

Ukraine has long pushed for the sophisticated fighter jets, which can travel at speeds up to 1,500mph and have a range of more than 2,002 miles.

While the US has authorised Western allies to give F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine - and endorsed the training of Ukrainian pilots to fly the warplanes, the Biden administration is still examining whether it will directly provide its own F-16s to Ukraine.


Russia's FSB detains two Ukrainian 'saboteurs'

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) - the successor agency to the KGB - said it haddetained two Ukrainian saboteurs plotting to blow up the power lines of two nuclear powerstations.

The FSB claimed that the saboteurs working forUkrainian foreign intelligence had laid explosives on a total of11 pylons of the Leningrad and Kalinin nuclear power stations.

It said the attacks were due to take place on the eve of the 9 May anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany.

It didnot say when the men had been arrested.

The Leningrad station is Russia's biggest atomic powerplant and is located on Gulf of Finland close to St Petersburg.

While the Kalinin nuclear power station is 350 km north of Moscow.

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