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Ukraine war: UK sanctions Russian officials, Wagner founder training volunteers, power station hit

FILE - Resident walks amid debris after a Russian attack in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Nov. 24, 2022.
FILE - Resident walks amid debris after a Russian attack in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Nov. 24, 2022. Copyright Bernat Armangue/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Bernat Armangue/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AFP
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All the latest development from the war in Ukraine.

Deaths in Kherson region after latest Russia attack

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At least three people have been killed in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson in the latest wave of Russian attacks, according to local officials.

Five residents were injured by the heavy shelling on Thursday, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram early on Friday.

Russian forces shelled the region 96 times in 24 hours, Prokudin said. The regional capital was shelled 45 times, he added.

Kherson has seen repeated shelling and several civilian casualties as it becomes the scene of intense fighting as Ukrainian forces counterattack.

UK imposes sanctions and travel bans on Russian officials

The United Kingdom has introduced new sanctions on officials over Russia's illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions last year.

London imposed an asset freeze and travel bans on officials, among others, in the occupied regions of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea.

The UK government said the sanctioned officials had been involved in the so-called "referendums" that preceded Russian President Vladimir Putin's power grab.

The claim behind the referendums had been to show people's support to join Russia. But they were deemed a propaganda exercise aimed at legitimising illegal Russian actions.

"The UK will never recognize Russia's claims to Ukrainian territory" UK Foreign Minister James Cleverly said.

Head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Alexander Kurenkov and the secretary of the Russian Central Election Commission Natalya Alekseevna Budarina are among those added to the list.

Russian power infrastructure hit as Ukraine continues drone attacks

A Ukrainian combat drone targeted an electricity substation in a Russian village while several other drones were downed, according to Russian authorities.  

The unmanned aerial vehicle "dropped two explosive devices on a substation” in Belaya, located less than 25km from the border, Kursk regional governor Roman Starovoyt said on messaging app Telegram early on Friday. 

“Five settlements and a hospital were cut off from power supply. Fire crews rushed to the scene,” he said.

Russian Ministry of Defence said two Ukrainian drones were thwarted in the neighbouring region of Belgorod. 

Local news agencies reported the downing of at least ten more enemy drones, citing the local authorities.

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Ukraine has ramped up drone attacks in recent weeks after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed they would increase.  

“Sanctions are not enough. There will be more. As long as Russia’s aggression continues, Russia’s losses must be tangible,” he said on Tuesday. 

Russia rises military spending for 'hybrid war'

Moscow announced a significant increase in its defence budget on Thursday, signalling readiness for a protracted conflict with Ukraine, at a time when Western allies are in Kyiv to discuss Ukrainian demands for military aid.

Kremlin revealed its plans to increase the military spending budget by 68% in 2024.

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That will see Russia's military budget reach 10.8 trillion rubles (€106 billion), representing around 30% of the total federal spending – a new high in post-Soviet Russia. 

“It is obvious that such an increase is necessary, absolutely necessary because we are in a state of hybrid war,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Zelenskyy met with the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, in the wake of the Russian announcement, as an international forum dedicated to defence industries is planned for Friday in Kyiv.

Prighozin's lieutenant called to action by Putin

Vladimir Putin has asked a former Wagner lieutenant to train volunteers to fight in Ukraine.

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The leader of the Russian mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin fell out of favour in the eyes of the Russian president and died in a plane crash at the end of August, many suspect it was orchestrated by the Kremlin. 

"At the last meeting, we discussed that Andrei Trochev will be involved in the training of volunteer units capable of carrying out various combat missions, mainly, of course, in the zone of the 'special military operation," Putin told on Thursday, according to a Kremlin press release published on Friday.

Trochev, nicknamed "Sedoï" (grey hair, in Russian) has the experience to carry out such a mission, according to the Russian President.

The press release comes just three months after Wagner's attempted mutiny against the Kremlin that came to an end with a deal struck between Putin and Prigozhin.

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A retired colonel, Trochev is often described as one of the founders of Wagner and is under European sanctions for having been "directly involved in the group's military operations in Syria",  and was active in the failed mutiny. 

Vladimir Putin's request, made official in the presence of Younouss-Bek Evkourov, Deputy Minister of Defense, further demonstrates the integration of Wagner veterans into the Russian army.

“He already works at the Ministry of Defense,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov confirmed to the Ria Novosti news agency.

Following Wagner's aborted mutiny, at the end of June, the Kremlin gave the group's fighters three options: Join the Russian army, return to civilian life or go into exile in Belarus, an ally of Moscow. 

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The death of Prighizin, however, is understood to have paved the way for Wagner to join hands with Russian forces as it wages a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

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