Wagner head says Russian forces facing ammunition shortages – as it happened

Date:

Wagner has opened recruitment centres in 42 Russian cities, says Prigozhin, voicing concerns about ammunition supplies

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, said on Friday he had thanked the Russian government for a “heroic” increase in production of ammunition, but he was still worried about shortages for his fighters and the Russian army as a whole.

Prigozhin also said Wagner had opened recruitment centres in 42 Russian cities.

“In spite of the colossal resistance of the Ukrainian armed forces, we will go forward. Despite the sticks in the wheels that are thrown at us at every step, we will overcome this together,” he said.

Reuters reports Prigozhin said his men had started to receive ammunition deliveries labelled as produced in 2023. He said ammunition was now being produced “in huge quantities, which cover all the necessary needs”.

In the same audio message he also expressed concerns by saying: “I am worried about ammunition and shell shortages not only for the Wagner private military company but for all units of the Russian army.”

Key events

Summary of the day so far …

As the time approaches 9pm in Kyiv, that’s all for today, after the founder of the Russian Wagner mercenary group warned about a shortage of ammunition despite increased production, and Ukrainian cities restored power following a wave of rocket attacks on Thursday.

  • Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, said on Friday he had thanked the Russian government for a “heroic” increase in production of ammunition, but that he was still worried about shortages for his fighters and the Russian army as a whole. Prigozhin also said Wagner had opened recruitment centres in 42 Russian cities. “In spite of the colossal resistance of the Ukrainian armed forces, we will go forward. Despite the sticks in the wheels that are thrown at us at every step, we will overcome this together,” he said.

  • Most of Kyiv’s power supply has been restored, officials said, as Ukraine again responded swiftly and defiantly to the latest Russian missile and drone barrage targeting critical infrastructure, Associated Press reports.

  • US thinktank the Institute for the Study of War said in its daily update on Thursday that Wagner appeared to be taking a “tactical pause” in Bakhmut. The ISW believes that Wagner is waiting until enough reinforcements of conventional Russian troops have arrived before taking a back seat in the fierce battle.

  • Oleh Synyehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region, said the energy situation was difficult following Russia’s barrage of attacks on Thursday. In a message on Telegram, he said “the energy system has suffered significant damage. Nevertheless, critical infrastructure has already been restored in the city, and water supply has been almost completely restored.” However, public transport remained closed.

  • Switzerland’s government said it would not change its longstanding policy banning the transfer of Swiss-made arms to a third country despite growing pressure from countries to export them to Ukraine. “The federal council is committed to the values of Swiss neutrality and will continue to work to ensure the benefits of neutrality are realised,” it said in a statement.

  • The UN nuclear watchdog’s 35-country board of governors backed the reappointment of Argentina’s Rafael Grossi to a second four-year term as director general, diplomats at the closed-door meeting said.

  • Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, visited Kyiv and met the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. They attended a church service at St Michael’s Golden Dome Cathedral in memory of the soldier Dmytro Kotsiubailo.

  • Thousands of people gathered in Kyiv to attend the funeral of the well-known Ukrainian military commander Dmytro Kotsiubailo, nicknamed ‘’Da Vinci’’ and hailed as a national hero and symbol of resistance. Kotsiubailo, who in 2021 was awarded the top military honour of the Order of the Golden Star by Zelenskiy, giving him the title “Hero of Ukraine”, was killed near Bakhmut on Tuesday at the age of 27.

  • The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said the war in Ukraine would end at the negotiating table. Sunak said he would support Zelenskiy to be in the “best possible place to have those talks”.

  • Ukraine handed suspicion notices to three former senior managers of the aircraft manufacturer Antonov for obstructing the country’s military and allowing Russia to destroy the giant Mriya cargo plane at the start of the war.

  • The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, congratulated Xi Jinping after the Chinese leader secured an unprecedented third term as president. In a telegram, Putin said he was sure the two leaders could advance their cooperation on the most important regional and international issues.

  • The Kremlin said it saw risks of possible “provocations” in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two Russian-backed breakaway regions of Georgia, after days of protests in Georgia over a “foreign agents” bill. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said Moscow was watching the situation “with concern”.

  • The war in Ukraine is driven by the interests of several “empires” and not just the “Russian empire”, Pope Francis said in an interview.

  • The newly installed president of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides, denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, barely 10 days after he assumed power. In his first interview with a foreign TV channel, Christodoulides told Greece’s state broadcaster, ERT, that opposing Moscow’s self-styled “special military operation” put the island on the “right side of history”.

Canada has banned the import of all Russian aluminium and steel products in a move aimed at denying Moscow the ability to fund its war against Ukraine.

“Ukraine can and must win this war. We continue to do everything we can to cut off or limit the revenue used to fund Putin’s illegal and barbaric invasion of Ukraine,” the Canadian finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement, Reuters reports.

Here are some photographs of the scenes outside the funeral of Dmytro Kotsiubailo in Kyiv earlier on Friday

Thousands of people gathered in Kyiv on Friday to attend the funeral of the well-known Ukrainian military commander, Dmytro Kotsiubailo, nicknamed ‘Da Vinci’ and hailed as a national hero and symbol of resistance. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian
A soldier holds a picture of Dmytro Kotsiubailo
A soldier holds a picture of Dmytro Kotsiubailo outside the service in Kyiv. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian
A large crowd of soldiers and civilians walks along a street
Crowds in central Kyiv as the funeral gets under way. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Helena Smith

Helena Smith

Here’s a dispatch from Helena Smith in the Greek capital, Athens, after Cyprus’s new president criticised the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Anti-Putin graffiti
Anti-Putin graffiti in the centre of Athens. Photograph: Helena Smith/The Guardian

Over in Cyprus the newly installed president, Nikos Christodoulides, has gone out of his way to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, barely 10 days after he assumed power.

In his first interview with a foreign TV channel, Christodoulides told Greece’s state broadcaster, ERT, that opposing Moscow’s self-styled “special military operation” put the island on the “right side of history”.

“As a country that has suffered something similar, we could not have a different stance,” he said, referring to the 1974 Turkish invasion, which saw the northern third of the island being seized by troops sent in by Ankara.

The invasion was ordered after Greek rightwingers staged a coup aimed at uniting the Mediterranean country with Greece – a move that prompted Ankara to invade in the name of protecting the island’s Turkish Cypriot community. Talks aimed at reuniting the island have repeatedly foundered ever since.

Before last year’s invasion, Greek Cypriots enjoyed strong ties with Russia, so much so that the island had earned the moniker of “Moscow on the Med”. Limassol, the republic’s second-largest city, has long been home to a flourishing Russian community including companies closely connected to allies of Putin.

The extent of the ties are such – economically, politically and culturally – that the new president’s predecessor, Nicos Anastasiades, hesitated condemning the invasion last February.

Cyprus’s about–turn as an EU member state has incensed Russia, as has that of Athens. Unlike Greece, Cyprus is not a Nato member. As a member of the alliance, Greece has not only criticised the invasion but allowed US bases on its soil to be used to deliver weapons, including tanks, to Ukraine.

Hours before the ERT interview was aired, Moscow’s ambassador to Cyprus, Murat Zyazikov, a former KGB operative and close Putin ally, told Russia’s state-run news agency he believed relations between the two countries were still strong despite “temporary political adventures”.

In a noticeable change of tone that may speak to Moscow’s increasing sense of isolation, Zyazikov said: “I’d like to stress that the people of Cyprus were, are, and will always remain friendly with us. These are not just words … The friendship between our two peoples is based on mutual feelings of affinity between common people, on the close historic, spiritual and cultural relations between our two countries over centuries. I don’t think that any temporary political adventures can hurt this friendship.”

Most of Kyiv’s power supply has been restored, officials said on Friday, as Ukraine again responded swiftly and defiantly to the latest Russian missile and drone barrage targeting critical infrastructure, Associated Press reports.

In what has become a familiar Russian tactic since early October, the Kremlin’s forces struck Ukraine from a distance on Thursday while the ground battles in the country’s east largely remained mired in a grinding stalemate.

The apparent aim of attacking power stations and other infrastructure is to weaken Ukraine’s resolve and compel the Ukrainian government to negotiate peace on Moscow’s terms.

Ukrainian authorities scrambled to counter the consequences of the latest bombardment, part of a recurring cycle of urban smash-and-repair that has brought little change in the course of the war, which recently entered its second year.

The Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said the Russians were striking civilian infrastructure because they could not efficiently target Ukrainian military assets.

“The Russians lack data about the location of Ukrainian troops and weapons, so they are targeting civilian infrastructure and using the same old methods of attacking civilians to sow fear and panic in the society,” he said. “Ukraine has survived the winter and Russia’s strikes on the energy system in the spring hardly make any sense.”

Power and water were restored in Kyiv, said Serhiy Popko, the head of the city’s military administration. Popko said that about 30% of consumers in the capital remained without heating and that repair work was continuing.

The electricity supply was restored to more than nine in 10 consumers in Ukraine’s north-eastern Kharkiv region, local officials said, while power was also restored to a third of consumers in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region.

In another sign of normality quickly returning, Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Friday.

Marin echoed other western leaders who have accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine and said Russian soldiers and leaders would be held accountable in a courtroom.

“Putin knows he will have to answer for his crime of aggression,” the Finnish leader said during a news conference. “The future tribunal must bring justice efficiently and answer Ukrainians’ rightful demands.”

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

Thousands of people gathered in Kyiv on Friday to attend the funeral of the well-known Ukrainian military commander Dmytro Kotsiubailo, nicknamed ‘’Da Vinci’’ and hailed as a national hero and symbol of resistance.

Kotsiubailo, who in 2021 was awarded the top military honour of the Order of the Golden Star by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, giving him the title “Hero of Ukraine”, died near Bakhmut on Tuesday at the age of 27.

In 2014, he was seriously wounded by a tank shell in Pisky, Donetsk oblast. ‘’After recovery and three months of rehabilitation, he returned to the front, where he continued to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the Ukrainian armed forces said.

St Michael’s Golden Dome Cathedral reached full capacity owing to the large number of mourners who arrived from several regions to pay their last respects and bring flowers.

As a result, hundreds of people were forced to attend the funeral from the courtyard outside the church.

After the ceremony at the cathedral, a military procession carried his casket to the Maidan (Independence Square) for a larger public memorial.

In 2016, Kotsiubailo became the youngest commander in the history of the Ukrainian army.

Zelenskiy attended the funeral at the church as well, alongside Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, who is the latest foreign leader to visit Kyiv. “One of the youngest heroes of Ukraine. One of those whose personal history, character and courage have forever become the history, character and courage of Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said.

More than a year after the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian resistance continues to seek examples to boost the morale of its troops grappling with the bloody and uncertain battle of Bakhmut.

On Tuesday, the Servant of the People party announced it had sent an appeal to Zelenskiy to posthumously grant the title of Hero of Ukraine to another soldier, the Ukrainian prisoner of war shot dead by Russian troops in a graphic 12-second clip that spread quickly across Ukraine and much of the world.

The video, allegedly posted to Telegram by Russian soldiers on Monday, has led to a war crimes investigation and, within Ukraine, contention over the man’s identity, which has not yet been conclusively established because of the low quality of the video. As a result, two families, two battalions and two different home towns have each to varying degrees claimed the man as their own. Military authorities are considering exhuming a soldier’s body in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

Wagner has opened recruitment centres in 42 Russian cities, says Prigozhin, voicing concerns about ammunition supplies

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, said on Friday he had thanked the Russian government for a “heroic” increase in production of ammunition, but he was still worried about shortages for his fighters and the Russian army as a whole.

Prigozhin also said Wagner had opened recruitment centres in 42 Russian cities.

“In spite of the colossal resistance of the Ukrainian armed forces, we will go forward. Despite the sticks in the wheels that are thrown at us at every step, we will overcome this together,” he said.

Reuters reports Prigozhin said his men had started to receive ammunition deliveries labelled as produced in 2023. He said ammunition was now being produced “in huge quantities, which cover all the necessary needs”.

In the same audio message he also expressed concerns by saying: “I am worried about ammunition and shell shortages not only for the Wagner private military company but for all units of the Russian army.”

Switzerland says it will not change policy prohibiting re-export of arms to Ukraine

Switzerland’s government said on Friday it will not change its longstanding policy banning the transfer of Swiss-made arms to a third country despite growing pressure from countries to export them to Ukraine.

“The federal council is committed to the values of Swiss neutrality and will continue to work to ensure the benefits of neutrality are realised,” Reuters report it said in a statement.

The Russian state-owned news agency, Tass, is reporting more words from Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, this time about Georgia and Moldova. In particular, Lavrov accused the west of hypocrisy in its attitude to the situations.

Tass quotes Lavrov as saying on Russian television that “in Moldova protests against the current government are condemned”, but that the west is supporting protest in Georgia “because the opposition in Georgia reflects western interests, and the opposition in Moldova reflects other interests”.

He put the blame on demonstrations in Georgia on outside interests, saying: “Events in Georgia, of course, are orchestrated from outside. This is the same desire to create an irritant on the borders of Russia.”

Lavrov compared the situation to Ukraine in 2013, saying: “Moreover, the irritant in a country where the current government, just like the government of [ex-president of Ukraine Viktor] Yanukovych in 2013, thinks primarily about the economic interests of the country and refuses to join anti-Russian sanctions. Motivating not at all by the fact they are pro-Russian politicians, but by the fact of their economic and trade relations with the Russian Federation.”

War will end in talks, says Sunak

Also from the journey to the summit in Paris, the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has said the war in Ukraine will end at the negotiating table.

Sunak said he would support president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to be in the “best possible place to have those talks”.

Britain’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, attend the French-British summit at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Friday.
Britain’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, attend the French-British summit at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Friday.
Photograph: Reuters

While the prime minister indicated that now is not the time for those peace talks, he recommitted to providing additional support to Ukraine to ensure they have an advantage on the battlefield.

Sunak’s comments on his way to the first UK-France summit in five years, marked a clear divide in stance on how the war against Russia will end from that of his predecessor Boris Johnson. The former prime minister heaped pressure on Sunak, urging the UK to send jets and tanks to help Ukraine “finish the job”.

Speaking on the Eurostar to Paris hours before meeting his “friend” Emmanuel Macron, Sunak said: “We’re providing training to use those capabilities. That’s all under way, as well as just helping defend themselves against the attacks that they’re facing, particularly on their critical national infrastructure. Now, that should be everyone’s focus.

“Of course, this will end, as all conflicts do, at a negotiating table, but that is a decision for Ukraine to make. And what we need to do is put them in the best possible place to have those talks at an appropriate moment that makes sense for them.

“But at the moment, the priority has got to be giving them the resources the training and the support they need to push forward and create advantage on the battlefield.”

Security in Europe is “intertwined” with peace in the Indo-Pacific, the UK prime minister has said, as he warned China to stay out of Ukraine-Russia conflict.

During the UK-France summit in Paris, Rishi Sunak and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, are expected to unveil a plan for increased allied activity in the Indo-Pacific.

No 10 said it will include establishing France and the UK as the “backbone” to a permanent European maritime presence there. The approach will include coordinating regular deployment of France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier and the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales carriers across the region.

Sunak, speaking to reporters on board the Eurostar to the summit, according to PA Media, said Paris and London were aligned when it came to their approach to the Indo-Pacific, with both declaring they want to be “active participants in the region”.

Sunak confirmed he and Macron wanted to stress to China and other countries “not to be providing support to Russia” after its invasion of Ukraine.

The prime minister said he would be discussing the west’s approach to Beijing before the French president’s visit to China, a trip he said was due to happen soon.

He said: “One thing that we’ve talked about previously in our G7 meetings as well, is a) about our collective economic security, but also ensuring that, as we support Ukraine, part of that is making sure that other countries – we’d urge all countries not to be providing support to Russia, or trying to circumvent sanctions.”

Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, is the latest foreign leader to visit Kyiv, and has met the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, on Friday morning.

They attended a church service at St Michael’s Golden Dome Cathedral in memory of soldier Dmytro Kotsiubaylo who was killed near Bakhmut on Tuesday.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who arrived to Kyiv today on a visit, also came to say goodbye to the Ukrainian Hero Dmytro Kotsiubaylo

He was at war since 2014, became the youngest awarded commander. He leaves behind his bride Alina who is also fighting. pic.twitter.com/BCek5XJYMp

— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) March 10, 2023

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