US says Russia and Iran becoming full partners

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Iran’s shipments of drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine is transforming relations between Tehran and Moscow into a “full fledged defense partnership, the US State Department said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise visit to Bakhmut, a city hailed by his deputy defense minister as “our eastern fortress amid heavy fighting over the past few weeks. Zelenskyy’s prime minister said the authorities plan to triple the number of emergency aid stations to help people cope with blackouts, warning that Russia was prepared to do “everything to leave Ukrainians in darkness. Emergency power cuts in 11 regions are being enforced after Russian drones and missiles attacks, Denys Shmyhal told a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

The Ukrainian government also said it had reached a deal with Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to get thousands more of its Starlink antennas to help keep people online despite Russia’s attacks on infrastructure.

Russia continues to move increasing numbers of mobilized servicemen and military equipment, munitions and fuel from its far east toward Ukraine, the Ukrainian General Staff said. Russian forces continue to concentrate their offensive efforts on the Bakhmut and Avdiyivka directions in the Donetsk region, it said in an update.

Iran’s shipments of drones to Russia for use in its war in Ukraine is transforming the relationship between Tehran and Moscow into a “full-fledged defense partnership, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

The supply of unmanned aerial vehicles, which Russia has used to attack Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, has prompted Russia to provide an “unprecedented level of military and technical support to Iran, Price said, and that should concern Iran’s neighbors.

The US is engaged in “active discussions with Russia over securing the freedom of Paul Whelan, the former US Marine who has been held in Russia for the last four years, National Security Council Communications Director John Kirby said.

“There are active conversations that we continue to have with our Russian interlocutors about trying to secure Paul’s release, Kirby told reporters. “We’re just not going to detail like you know, who’s calling who and what day and what the details are.

The Biden administration came in for criticism after it agreed to trade convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout for WNBA star Brittney Griner without also securing Whelan’s release. US officials said Russia insisted on a one-for-one release or none at all.

Ukraine is seeking to boost the number of locations where Ukrainians can get uninterrupted access to power and heating from the current 5,000, Prime Minister Denys Shmyha said.

The premier earlier told a cabinet meeting Tuesday that two-thirds of the funds that Ukraine have received since the start of the invasion have come from the US and European countries.

“We really appreciate this help and are working together to continue it next year, the premier said.

Finland’s government agreed to send its 11th package of defense materials, valued at €28.8 million ($31 million), to Ukraine. The package brings Finland’s total military aid to €189 million, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

An explosion hit a Russian natural-gas pipeline that goes to Ukraine for further supply to Europe. The blast occurred on a section of the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod link, though the local unit of Gazprom PJSC said transportation of fuel was being provided to consumers in full through parallel pipelines.

The Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod is one of the oldest gas conduits linking Russia and Europe via Ukraine. Flows through Ukraine are scrutinized by the market as it remains the last route delivering Russian fuel to western Europe amid the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. Gas nominations for Wednesday transit via Ukraine so far remain unchanged, grid data show.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked Xi Jinping to “use his influence on Russia to end the war in Ukraine in an hour-long phone call with the Chinese president to mark 50 years of bilateral relations between Germany and China on Tuesday, Steinmeier’s office said in a statement.

Ukrainian soldiers in Bakhmut handed over the flag of Ukraine to the president, asking for it to be passed on to “our brothers in America.

“We have a difficult situation, the enemy is increasing its numbers, Zelenskyy said in comments shown on the Freedom TV channel. “We will pass on to the US Congress, to President Biden, our gratitude for their support.

Damage caused by Russia’s shelling is being fixed and water supply is resuming in Kyiv, according to mayor Vitali Klitschko. The power situation remains “critical for the whole region, with 80 percent of residents still facing blackouts, the region’s military authorities said on their Telegram-channel.

Less than half of power demand in Kyiv city is being met on Tuesday following Russian drone attacks, national grid operator Ukrenerego said on Telegram.

City authorities are prioritizing the supply of electricity to key infrastructure as the country’s energy system continues to experience a significant power deficit, Ukrenergo said.

President Vladimir Putin said the situation in southeastern Ukrainian regions occupied by Russia is “extremely difficult, following Ukraine’s success in wresting back control of an increasing part of this territory.

Putin referred to Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporozhzhia and Kherson as “new regions of Russia, in a video address on Tuesday marking a holiday dedicated to the country’s security agencies.

Russia annexed the four provinces in September but has been steadily losing ground there in the face of a Ukrainian counter-offensive. Last month Russia withdrew from Kherson City, the only regional capital it controlled since invading Ukraine 10 months ago.

“SpaceX and Musk quickly react to problems and help us, Mykhailo Fedorov, deputy prime minister and minister for digital transformation, said in an interview in Kyiv, adding that he spoke directly with Musk.

“Musk assured us he will continue to support Ukraine. When we had a powerful blackout, I messaged him on that day and he momentarily reacted and has already delivered some steps. He understands the situation. More than 10,000 devices, which provide internet service beamed down from satellites, will be sent to Ukraine, according to Fedorov.

Starlink played an important early role in the war, as Russia’s military focused on destroying communications. But Musk, SpaceX’s chief executive officer, drew the wrath of Ukrainians in October when he tweeted that Kyiv should remain neutral — an apparent suggestion that it not join military alliances like NATO — and should cede territory to Russia in exchange for a peace deal.

Periods of power cuts will be extended in the capital, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram. There is enough power to supply critical facilities and about 20 percent of residents.

The oldest line of Kyiv’s subway network was partially closed for passengers due to a voltage drop, the subway operator said on Telegram. Two other lines resumed operation.

The International Monetary Fund’s management approved a new four-month program for Ukraine that doesn’t envisage lending money but may serve as a bridge to a multibillion-dollar loan package.

The IMF executive board discussed so-called program monitoring with board involvement, or PMB, for the war-torn nation on Monday, the Washington-based lender said on its website.

The PMB “is tailored to Ukraine’s exceptional circumstances, and helps the nation’s government implement prudent policies and catalyze donor financing, IMF First Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath said.

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