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Ukraine war: New German anti-aircraft systems, Google fined

A Ukrainian soldier prepares a mortar shell on the frontline in the outskirts of Kreminna, Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.
A Ukrainian soldier prepares a mortar shell on the frontline in the outskirts of Kreminna, Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP, AFP
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The latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

New anti-aircraft systems

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Ukraine announced on Thursday that it had received new German Iris-T anti-aircraft systems to protect its skies, at a time when its southern and eastern regions are increasingly being targeted by distant Russian strikes.

"A big thank you to our partners for the Iris-Ts", the head of Ukraine's presidential administration, Andriï Iermak, praised on X, formerly Twitter.

He added that with these short-range air defence systems, "Our skies will be more protected."

According to data updated on Thursday on the German government's website, Berlin has delivered "two Iris-T SLS launchers" to Kyiv.

Since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has tirelessly asked its Western allies to help it protect its skies, which are largely dominated in the air by the Russian army.

Google fined

A Russian court on Thursday imposed a 3-million-ruble (€29,000) fine on Google for failing to delete allegedly false information about the conflict in Ukraine.

The move by a magistrate's court follows similar actions in early August against Apple and the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts Wikipedia.

According to Russian news reports, the court found that the YouTube video service, which is owned by Google, was guilty of not deleting videos with incorrect information about the conflict.

Google was also found guilty of not removing videos that suggested ways of gaining entry to facilities which are not open to minors, news agencies said, without specifying what kind of facilities were involved.

In Russia, a magistrate’s court typically handles administrative violations and low-level criminal cases.

Google declined to comment. However, there’s little that Moscow can do to collect the fine.

The US tech giant’s Russia business was effectively shut down last year after the conflict began. The company has said that it filed for bankruptcy in Russia after its bank account was seized by the authorities, leaving it unable to pay staff and suppliers.

Election monitoring group leader investigated

The Russian authorities have opened a criminal investigation into one of the leaders of a prominent independent election monitoring group, the target's lawyer said Thursday.

The case against Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of Russia's leading election watchdog Golos, is the latest step in the months-long crackdown on Kremlin critics and rights activists that the government ratcheted up after sending troops into Ukraine.

Melkonyants' lawyer, Mikhail Biryukov, said his client is facing charges of “organising activities" of an “undesirable” group, a criminal offence punishable by up to six years in prison.

Golos itself has not been formally deemed “undesirable", a label that under a 2015 law makes involvement with such organisations a criminal offence. But it was once a member of the European Network of Election Monitoring Organisations, a group that was declared “undesirable” in Russia in 2021.

Police raided the homes of a further 14 Golos members on Thursday in eight different cities, Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti reported. Melkonyants' apartment in Moscow was also raided, and he was taken in for questioning.

In an interview on Thursday, David Kankiya, a governing council member at Golos, linked the pressure on the group to the upcoming regional elections in Russia in September and the presidential election that is expected to take place in the spring of 2024.

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“We see this as a form of political pressure and an attempt to stifle our activities in Russia," he said.

Ukrainian official vows to retake Crimea

Ukraine's counteroffensive against invading Russian forces will continue "no matter how long it takes" until the whole of the country, including Crimea, is liberated, according to the country's foreign minister.

"Our objective is victory, victory in the form of the liberation of our territories within the 1991 borders. And it doesn't matter how long it takes," said Dmytro Kuleba in an interview with AFP news agency. 

"As long as the Ukrainian people share this objective, the Ukrainian government will move forward hand in hand with its people", he added.

The 1991 borders are those of the independent Ukraine that emerged at the fall of the USSR. They include Crimea, a peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

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Kuleba's comments were published after senior NATO official suggested at an event this week that Ukraine could give up territory to Russia in exchange for NATO membership and an end to the war. 

Stian Jenssen, the chief of staff to the NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, has since apologised for the comments. 

Sarkozy intervention condemned

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy's plea in the newspaper Le Figaro for a "neutral" Ukraine and a referendum to "ratify" the annexation of Crimea is "a terrible mistake", according to French MP Julien Bayou, who said the former premier "must be regarded as [an agent of] Russian influence".

The former head of state's wide-ranging interview, ahead of the publication of a new volume of his memoirs, stunned Mr Bayou, who said on LCI that "a former president should not say that".

By "going against the French position on the annexation of Crimea" and "sweeping aside the war crimes of which the Russians and (Vladimir) Putin are accused", the former president has committed "a terrible mistake", insisted Mr Bayou.

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UK confident of Ukraine's fuel reserves

The UK's Ministry of Defence says it is confident Ukraine will have sufficient fuel reserves to get through winter despite Russian attacks on the country's infrastructure. 

In its latest defence intelligence update, it says Ukraine has managed to mobilise its mining sector to ensure a continuous supply of coal is available, with gas stocks providing a further reserve. 

Man tried to set fire to military centre

A man in his twenties has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Russia for attempting to set fire to a military enlistment centre.

According to information from non-governmental organisation OVD-info, which reports on politically motivated trials in Russia, Andrei Petrauskas was convicted of throwing two Molotov cocktails at a military police station in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, in October 2022.

A small fire broke out, and was quickly brought under control by police officers. The man, born in 1998, was on trial for "terrorist acts", a particularly serious charge.

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Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, several people have been convicted of attempting to set fire to military recruitment centres or administrative buildings. These attempts have become more frequent since a partial mobilisation of reservists in September 2022.

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