Mar 18, 2023 at 10:34 PMUpdate: 2 minutes ago
NU.nl regularly gives you an overview of the situation in Ukraine. With this time: confusion about the grain deal and Russia is introducing a new law that makes criticism of ‘war volunteers’ punishable. Discrediting soldiers fighting in Ukraine is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The grain deal between Ukraine and Russia was due to expire today, but was extended at the last minute. Ukrainian Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov (Infrastructure) said this on Saturday. Ukraine and Russia do not seem to agree on the duration of the extension.
Ukraine was talking about an extension of 120 days. But Maria Zakharova, spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, talks about 60 days. Russia would have informed all parties involved, Zakharova told Russia’s RBC.
The United Nations (UN) and Turkey are involved in the deal and confirmed the extension, but did not specify a term.
Criticism of Russian soldiers in Ukraine punishable
It was already a criminal offense to criticize the regular Russian army, but now criticizing ‘war volunteers’ is also punishable. This refers to Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.
A conviction under the new law carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years. The law was published on Saturday in the official law portal of the Russian government.
The tightening of the law is mainly due to a demand from Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the notorious Wagner mercenary army. He has recruited serious criminals for the war against Ukraine. He asked the Russian government to protect the mercenaries, who are formally regarded as volunteers, from libel.
In recent months, the Russian government has severely curtailed freedom of expression in its own country. Opponents of the war have been sentenced to several years in prison in recent months for allegedly discrediting the Russian military or spreading false information. Internationally, many of them are considered political prisoners.
Wagner Group wants to recruit 30,000 new mercenaries
To stick with Wagner for a moment: the Russian mercenary army wants to have recruited 30,000 new mercenaries by mid-May. Prigozhin reports this via the Telegram messaging service.
In the past week, Wagner is said to have opened recruitment centers in 42 Russian cities. The mercenary army has suffered heavy casualties in the war in Ukraine, especially in the months-long battle for the city of Bakhmut.
In January, the United States released estimates that 50,000 mercenaries were active for Wagner in Ukraine, 40,000 of whom were recruited from Russian prisons. Ukrainian officials claim some 30,000 mercenaries deserted, killed or wounded in the war. These figures have not been independently verified.
Putin pays surprise visit to Crimea
Exactly nine years after Russia annexed Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a surprise visit to the peninsula in southern Ukraine. Putin visited, among other things, an art academy in Sevastopol, the largest city in Crimea, and was given a tour by the governor.
Since the invasion, Putin has not been this close to the front in Ukraine. In December 2022, the Russian president was also briefly in Crimea. He then showed that the Crimean Bridge, which connects the peninsula to the Russian mainland, had been restored after a Ukraine attack two months earlier.
Leave a Reply