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Ukraine war: North Korea 'fully supports' invasion, Moldovia expels Russian diplomats, US spy drones

A worker adjusts the flag of Russia and North Korea along the road in Russky Island, off the southern tip of Vladivostok, Tuesday, April. 23, 2019
A worker adjusts the flag of Russia and North Korea along the road in Russky Island, off the southern tip of Vladivostok, Tuesday, April. 23, 2019 Copyright Naoya Osato/Kyodo News
Copyright Naoya Osato/Kyodo News
By Euronews with AFP/AP
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All the latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

Moldova curbs Russian diplomatic activity

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Moldova announced on Wednesday it was expelling a sizeable number of staff from the Russian embassy, amid allegations of espionage.

"Forty-five diplomats and technical personnel must leave the country", said a spokesman for the Moldovan Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, setting a deadline of "15 August".

"This decision follows many unfriendly actions towards Moldova as well as attempts at destabilisation," the government said in a statement.

On Monday, Molodvian media alleged Russian secret services were wiretapping the embassy in the capital Chisinau.

Moldova's pro-Western president, Maia Sandu, recently spoke out about interference and coup attempts by the Kremlin.

His country, now a candidate for the European Union, is located between Romania and Ukraine.

Russia sees North Korea as key ally - defence minister

Russia's defence minister on Wednesday called North Korea an "important partner", during a visit to the country. 

Delegations from Moscow and Beijing are due to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, the first known official foreign visits since the pandemic. 

Pyongyang offered a "warm welcoming atmosphere" for Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, state media reported on Wednesday. 

North Koreans "fully support" Russia which is "fighting to defend their country's sovereign rights, development and interests," wrote the Korean Central News Agency. 

Russia, a historic ally of Pyongyang, is one of the few countries to maintain friendly relations with the North. 

Its leader Kim Jong Un has backed Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, supplying rockets and missiles, says the US.  

According to Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, the Russian defence minister's trip was "very significant".

"Kim Jong Un may have felt the need to show his people something during the Victory Day celebrations," he told AFP, while the Russian minister has said he wants to "strengthen cooperation". 

The presence of the Chinese during the trip could send a "strong and unified message" to the United States, Park added. 

Moscow court jails top cyber security executive

A court in Russia on Wednesday convicted top cybersecurity executive, Ilya Sachkov, of treason and sentenced him to 14 years in jail in a high-security penal colony.

The case against him was held behind closed doors, but it is believed it was centred on allegations that he passed classified information to foreign spies.

The 37-year-old, who has been detained since September 2021, has denied the charges.

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At the time of his arrest, his company was focusing on investigating high-tech crimes and online fraud in Russia and elsewhere.

Zelenskyy vows to crackdown on corruption

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday he would take a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, as the country struggles to fend off Russia's grinding invasion. 

He denounced "the betrayal" of deputy Yuri Aristov, spotted at a five-star luxury hotel in the Maldives in July - enraging ordinary Ukrainians. 

In his nightly address, the Ukranian president alluded to Aristov's opulent vacation, saying it was a "betrayal" during a time of war. 

"Any internal betrayal... or any personal enrichment instead of [defending) the interests of Ukraine will provoke at least rage", he hammered in the speech. 

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"You must work in Ukraine and for the interests of the Ukrainian people," he said to deputies, civil servants and other state agents.

Corruption is a deep-seated evil in Ukraine. Kyiv wants to show it is taking serious steps to curb the problem, fearing it could hamper Western military assistance and its eventual bid to join the EU. 

UK criticised for ignorance about Wagner in Africa

The UK government has been slammed by its Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) for underestimating the dangerous growth of the Russian Wagner mercenary group. 

In a scathing report, the group of MPs - from across the political spectrum - said the government had "a dismal lack of understanding" about Wagner's activities on the African continent. 

The report listed seven states where the mercenary group has been detected: Ukraine, Syria, the Central African Republic (CAR), Sudan, Libya, Mozambique and Mali.

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On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch accused Wagner and the Malian armed forces of executing civilians, forcibly disappearances, torture and looting. 

Wagner, headed by the infamous Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been involved in shady business on the African continent for years. 

It has accrued a massive fortune "protecting weak African regimes in exchange for their gold mines", Mark Beissinger, Professor of Politics at Princeton University, told Euronews back in March. 

This is mostly at the expense of the local population.

Around 3000-10,000 mercenary fighters recently set up in Belarus, suggesting they could make a cross-border raid into Poland, a NATO state. 

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Washington announces new military aid - including spy drones

The United States announced on Tuesday a new tranche of military aid for Ukraine amounting to 360 million euros. 

The package will include Patriot air defence systems, HIMARS rocket launchers, Stinger missiles, artillery ammunition, armoured vehicles and other equipment from US stockpiles, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense.

Black Hornet surveillance drones will also be given for the first time. 

The support will "strengthen the courageous Ukrainian forces on the battlefield" and "help them retake territories" occupied by Russian forces, said top US diplomat Antony Blinken in a press release. 

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The new package of aid comes amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive, which is trying to dislodge Russian forces in the east and south. 

Since the start of the war in February 2022, the US has provided more than 39 billion euros in military aid to Kyiv.

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