Russia reaches site of downed US drone in Black Sea

Ukrainian servicemen on a 2S7 Pion tank change positions near Bakhmut – ARIS MESSINIS/AFP

Russia has reportedly reached the site of the US drone downed in the Black Sea in the race to retrieve the wreckage, it has been reported.

The MQ-9 Reaper drone was downed after an encounter with two Russian fighter jets, according to US officials.

Two officials, briefed on the incident, said Russia’s ministry of defence gave the order for their aircraft to harass the drone over the Black Sea, CNN reported.

As Russia vowed to recover the wreckage, General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said it may never be founded.

After a rare telephone call with his Russian counterpart, General Milley said the drone “probably sank to some significant depths, so any recovery operation from a technical standpoint would be very difficult”.

Asked if the collision was deliberate, he replied: “We know that the aggressive behaviour was intentional, we also know it was very unprofessional and very unsafe.”

10:21 AM

One year ago today – Russia bombed the Mariupol theatre

At around 10:00am on 16 March, 2022, Russian warplanes dropped two 500kg bombs on Mariupol’s theatre, despite clear indications that civilians were sheltering in there.

People had been using the building as a refuge from the relentless siege of the southern city and a large sign saying “children” had been daubed in Russian at the front and back of the theatre.

'Children' written in Russian either side of the Mariupol theatre - MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES

‘Children’ written in Russian either side of the Mariupol theatre – MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES

Some 1,200 people were inside the Donetsk Regional Academic Drama Theatre when the bombs struck.

Ukrainian authorities believe 300 people were killed but an AP investigation said the number was closer to 600. Many of the bodies were found in the basement.

A view of the damage to the Mariupol theatre on April 10, 2022. - REUTERS/Pavel Klimov

A view of the damage to the Mariupol theatre on April 10, 2022. – REUTERS/Pavel Klimov

The attack has been condemned as a clear war crime.

Since then, occupying Russian forces in the city have begun to demolish the theatre and rebuild it.

The sealed-off Mariupol theatre in December, 2022. - SERGEI ILNITSKY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The sealed-off Mariupol theatre in December, 2022. – SERGEI ILNITSKY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The city’s exiled Ukrainian mayor, Petro Andryushchenko, said the Russians were planning to leave the front of the theatre intact and destroy the rest of the structure, to build a new theatre “on the bones of Mariupol’s people”.

Earlier this year, The Telegraph visited the site of the theatre and found fabric-covered scaffolding hiding what remains of what was once the city’s architectural centrepiece until it became a “big mass grave”.

09:35 AM

Germany pledges to help Ukraine get more ammo quickly

Ukraine must be given more ammunition as soon as possible in order to resist Russia’s invasion, said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday, as he pledged quick EU action.

“It is very important that we quickly supply Ukraine with the necessary munitions,” Mr Scholz told the lower house of parliament, promising action at a summit in Brussels next week.

He said member states would “pass measures to ensure even better, continuous supplies”.

“And we are prepared to open up our procurement projects to other member states as well,” he said.

Ukraine’s Western backers warn that Kyiv is facing a critical shortage of howitzer shells as it fires thousands each day in its fight against a grinding Russian offensive.

Kyiv has told the EU it needs 350,000 shells a month to help fight back the Russian assault and allow it to launch its own counter-offensives.

EU countries are currently wrangling over details like who would be responsible for placing the orders and whether they can only buy from European producers.

09:24 AM

Poland dismantles Russian spy ring that had placed hidden cameras on railway routes

Polish counterintelligence has dismantled a Russian spy ring, Poland’s defence minister said on Thursday.

“The whole network has been dismantled,” Mariusz Blaszczak told Polish public radio PR1. “It was an espionage group… collecting information for those who attacked Ukraine.”

“The threat was real,” he added, without giving further details.

Poland’s interior minister is due to hold a press conference on the alleged spy ring operation at 11 am local time.

Private Polish radio station RMF, citing unnamed sources, said Wednesday that the ABW, Poland’s counter-espionage service, had arrested six foreigners working for the Russian secret service and allegedly preparing for sabotage in Poland.

The suspects were reportedly arrested after the discovery of hidden cameras, which were placed on important railway routes and junctions, recording and transmitting data on traffic.

According to RMF, “dozens of devices” of this type were installed, mainly on sections of railways leading to the country’s southeast, including near an airport that is one of the main transfer points for Ukraine-bound Western weapons and ammunition.

Authorities are now on high alert and the security of railroads and strategic infrastructure has been reinforced, according to RMF.

08:09 AM

Russia loses almost 1,000 men for each kilometre gained in Bakhmut

Ian Stubbs, a British military advisor, said Russia had lost between 20,000 and 30,000 troops in the attempt to capture the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Speaking at the OSCE in Vienna, he said Russian military leaders had sacrificed military units, mainly mercenaries from the Wagner Group, and squandered strategic resources for small tactical gains.

“Over the past week, we have seen intensive combat as Russia continues its grinding offensive in the Donbas. Russia is suffering extremely heavy casualty rates. Since May last year, between 20 – 30,000 Wagner and regular Russian forces have been killed and wounded in the area around Bakhmut alone – a huge loss of human life for a total territorial advance of approximately just 25km,” Mr Stubbs said.

“That is over 800 Russian personnel killed or wounded for each kilometre gained, the vast majority of them Wagner fighters.”