Good evening. In heavy criticism of Russia’s military prowess, Ben Wallace has said that Russia is “currently being taken apart by cheap drones, poor leadership and equipment that doesn’t really work”.
The Defense Secretary added that Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, “should go to military school” over Moscow’s tactical mistakes.
It comes as a Russian military helicopter violated Finnish airspace on Wednesday morning, as experts warned the country could face acts of interference from Moscow as it considers applying for Nato membership.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, has divided the EU over plans to ban Russian oil imports across the bloc, with Kyiv accusing any country opposing the move as being “complicit” in Russian crimes.
Below are the key developments from this afternoon – and you can follow the latest on our live blog here.
1. Ben Wallace takes aim at Russia’s military
Ben Wallace has said that Russia is “currently being taken apart by cheap drones, poor leadership and equipment that doesn’t really work”, in heavy criticism of the country’s military capabilities.
He made the comments during a joint news conference with Antti Kaikkonen, Finland’s Minister of Defence.
The Defense Secretary said that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “should go to military school” due to Moscow’s military mistakes.
“What we have learned is the so-called Russian military hardware is not really much worth the money they pay for it,” Mr Wallace said.
I have added that British-made NLAWs (anti-tank missiles) had helped to decimate Russian tanks.
2. Russian helicopter violates Finnish airspace
A Russian military helicopter has violated Finland’s airspace, the country’s defense ministry said on Wednesday.
It comes as the country considers an increasingly-likely Nato membership bid.
“The aircraft type is a Mi-17 helicopter and the depth of the suspected violation is about four to five kilometers,” a ministry spokesman said.
Experts have warned that Finland and Sweden would likely be subjected to Russian acts of interference as they consider whether to join the military alliance as a deterrent against aggression from their eastern neighbour.
3. Britain sanctions Russian war correspondents
Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, has announced that Britain will sanction three Russian war correspondents in an effort to crack down on disinformation and propaganda supporting the Kremlin’s war efforts.
Evgeny Poddubny, a correspondent for the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, has been sanctioned alongside Alexander Kots and Dmitry Steshin, who both work for the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Both Mr Stots and Mr Steshin have reportedly been banned from entering Ukraine since 2014, “due to violation of the law on the status of foreigners and stateless persons” while reporting on the Euromaidan protests.
However, both have been extensively reported on the ground during the current conflict.
RT and Sputnik online have also been hit with sanctions, along with All‑Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting, InfoRos, SouthFront and The Strategic Culture Foundation.
Read the full story here.
4. EU divided over plans to ban Russian oil
The EU is split after Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, announced the bloc would hit the Kremlin’s energy sector with fresh sanctions.
Slovakia and Hungary, which are up to 100 per cent reliant on Russian oil, were granted exemptions until the end of 2023. But it appears that may not be enough to prevent them from vetoing the embargo.
Budapest said in a statement: “We don’t see any plan or guarantee on how even a transition could be managed on the basis of the current proposals, and what would guarantee Hungary’s energy security.”
EU sanctions need full unanimity from all 27 EU member states in order to come into force.
Kyiv has accused any EU country that blocks Ms von der Leyen’s plans of being ‘complicit’ in Russian crimes.
Read the full story here.
5. Russia ‘planning Second World War parade’ in Mariupol
Ukraine has accused Russia of planning to hold a military parade in the captured city of Mariupol on May 9 to celebrate victory over the Nazis in the Second World War.
Kyiv said an official from Russia’s presidential administration had arrived in the strategic southern port city, which has been largely destroyed in Russia’s more than two-month invasion of Ukraine, to oversee plans for the Victory Day parade.
“Mariupol will become a center of ‘celebration’,” Ukraine’s military intelligence said in a statement on social media.
“The central streets of the city are urgently being cleaned of debris, bodies and unexploded ordnance.”
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko later told Ukrainian television there were ongoing “works” in the city, as if the Russians were preparing for something.
“They are removing signs of the crimes they have committed,” he said.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.