Ukraine-News: ++ Selenskyj declares the liberation of occupied territories a priority ++

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Dhe Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has reported on the creation of new military units against the background of the expected counter-offensive by Kiev. “We are also actively preparing new brigades and units that will prove themselves at the front,” the 45-year-old said in his daily video address on Friday. His meetings with the General Staff are about providing all means to liberate Ukraine from Russian occupation.

“All of us in Ukraine must understand that the main task of the state is to liberate our territories, to bring back our land and our people from Russian captivity.” State resources are primarily used for this, said the head of state. The front has top priority, he emphasized.

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He also thanked the Western partners who are helping Ukraine to defend itself as part of the Ramstein format. “Your determination fully reflects the actual situation and needs on the battlefield,” said Zelenskyy.

Ukraine has been resisting Russian attacks and occupation for nearly 14 months and is largely dependent on Western support for military equipment. On Friday, the Western Allies discussed further aid in Ramstein, Rhineland-Palatinate.

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All developments in the live ticker:

01:01 – Spain wants to deliver tanks to Ukraine in the next few days

According to Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares, Spain wants to deliver six Leopard tanks out of a total of ten promised to Ukraine in the coming days. “After that there will be a second package with four more tanks,” Albares told the Funke Mediengruppe newspapers (Saturday). These are older Type 2A4 Leopard tanks.

“We will support Ukraine for as long as it needs,” Albares said, referring to Russia’s war of aggression. “This includes humanitarian aid, the reception of refugees and the delivery of defensive weapons.” These were used for self-defense and to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity. “And within the internationally recognized borders, including Crimea. But the final decision is in the hands of the Ukrainian government,” Albares added.

In the past few weeks, 55 Ukrainians have been trained as crew members and technicians on Leopard main battle tanks in Spain. In total, the country has 347 Leopard tanks. Of these, 108 belong to the older variant 2A4 and 239 to the newer type 2A6, which is called 2E in Spain. So far, however, Spain does not want to hand over any of these newer, more powerful tanks to Ukraine. They would be needed for their own national defense.

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00:35 – Ukrainian refugees demonstrate in Portugal against Lula

On Friday evening in Lisbon, Ukrainians demonstrated in front of the Brazilian embassy on the occasion of the visit of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula arrived in Portugal on Friday for a five-day visit. His recent comments on the Ukraine war drew criticism for implying that both Ukraine and Russia were to blame for the conflict. In recent days, Lula has condemned Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and once again called for an end to the war.

11:40 pm – Moscow classifies Bulgarian investigative journalist as “foreign agent”.

Russia has classified Bulgarian investigative journalist and longtime Kremlin critic Christo Grozev as a “foreign agent”. The 53-year-old’s name appeared in the Russian Interior Ministry’s regularly published list on Friday. According to Russian news agencies, a Moscow court ordered the arrest of Grozev, who is not in Russia.

RIA Novosti news agency quoted a source as saying that investigators accused Grozev of helping Russian journalist Roman Dobrochotov “illegally cross the border”. The domestic secret service FSB accused Grozev of supporting the Ukrainian secret service.

For the investigative platform Bellingcat, Grozev researched, among other things, the poisoning of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who has since been imprisoned, and Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine. Bellingcat also investigated the 2014 downing of the MH17 passenger plane over eastern Ukraine that killed nearly 300 people.

7:34 p.m. – Ukraine confirms desire for western fighter jets in Ramstein

After the Ukraine Contact Group meeting at the US Air Force Base in Ramstein, Ukraine reaffirmed its desire for Western fighter jets. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Resnikov said on Friday after the talks that he was certain that Kiev would receive modern fighter jets “according to NATO standards” from the allies for its air defense. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was confident that Kiev would recapture more of the territory occupied by Russia. Meanwhile, Germany, Ukraine and Poland have agreed to set up a joint repair center for Leopard 2 tanks.

7:19 p.m. – Russia deploys new Baltic and Pacific fleet chiefs

Russia’s naval formations in the Baltic Sea and in the Pacific Ocean each have a new commander. The former head of the Baltic Fleet, Admiral Viktor Liina, is now in charge of the Pacific Fleet, according to the Interfax news agency on Friday. “The Deputy Chief of General Staff, Vice-Admiral Vladimir Vorobyov, has been appointed Commander of the Baltic Fleet. The relevant documents have been signed,” Interfax reported, citing military circles.

The replacement of the previous head of the Pacific Fleet, Sergei Avakyants, was announced on Thursday. The news caused resonance, especially in connection with the timing: just a few days ago, the Pacific Fleet had started an unannounced major maneuver. Although President Vladimir Putin praised the course of the exercises at a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in the Kremlin, Avakyants was given a leave of absence before the end.

Officially, the 65-year-old Awakjanz was retired because he had reached retirement age. Independent media, on the other hand, pointed to the high losses that parts of the fleet under Avakyants’ leadership are said to have suffered in Ukraine. In the future he is to lead a staff for military-sports and patriotic training.

Russia has four fleets. The largest is the so-called Northern Fleet, which includes a heavy aircraft carrier and two missile cruisers. The second largest fleet is the Pacific Fleet, followed by the Black Sea and Baltic Fleets. Members of all four naval units are also fighting in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine – mostly as marines.

5:58 p.m. – G7 countries discuss further tightening of sanctions against Russia

According to diplomats, further restrictions on trade with Russia are being discussed in the group of leading western industrial nations (G7). According to information, the USA, among others, is open to banning exports to the country in principle and only making exceptions possible for carefully selected products. This could be, for example, agricultural products and pharmaceuticals.

So far, export bans have only been imposed on selected products in response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. In the EU, these include, for example, aircraft, luxury goods and certain computer chips. In principle, exports to Russia are still permitted.

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