Overview:

  • Zelensky to meet with leaders in Berlin and Paris to ink deals on defense
  • AI-produced video affected French President's plans to visit Kyiv
  • Investigators say Alexander Smirnov fabricated claims that Hunter Biden demanded bribes
  • Reports come in that the Kremlin is sending elite troops to Avdiivka to finish the job
  • Russian air strikes kill and injure more civilians in Donetsk region
  • Moscow's troops also continuing advance on the Bakhmut front

Zelensky signs bilateral security pacts with Germany and France

President Volodymyr Zelensky will meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday to sign separate security packages with the EU’s two largest economies.

AFP reported that Zelensky and Scholz will sign a bilateral security pact on Friday in Berlin covering “long-term security commitments and support,” according to a statement from the German government.

On Friday evening, the Ukrainian president will travel to Paris to sign a security agreement, delayed after such a meeting in Kyiv was postponed due to concerns about the safety of the French president.

“This agreement follows commitments made within the G7 format on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius in July 2023,” the Elysée Palace said in a statement.

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Artificial Intelligence-produced video affected Macron's Kyiv plans

Frighteningly, there is also an AI-generated video making the rounds that purports to show a French news report that Ukrainian operatives planned to kill Macron in Kyiv and then blame the assassination on Russia. Even more terrifying is that many people on social media bought into it and reposted it.

Separately, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles promised at the Ukrainian Contact Group (aka Ramstein) meeting this week that Madrid will “urgently” ship Kyiv a new batch of M113 armored personnel carriers.

Ukraine Reportedly Destroys Buk-M1 Russian Anti-Aircraft Missile Complex Worth Millions
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Ukraine Reportedly Destroys Buk-M1 Russian Anti-Aircraft Missile Complex Worth Millions

Special operations forces pointed out that the Russian Buk-M1 did not have time to fire a single missile - it was destroyed by the missile and artillery unit of the Defense Forces of Ukraine.

Robles also announced that Spain will send Kyiv different types of air defense equipment, equipment for anti-aircraft and naval-based military operations,” without providing specifics, Ukrainskaya Pravda reported.

US investigators charge ex-informant with lying about President’s son’s bribe scandal

A former FBI informant will appear in a California federal court on Thursday, indicted for lying that US President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, demanded two $5 million payments to keep Ukrainian authorities from investigating energy holding company Burisma, on whose board the president’s son served.

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Alexander Smirnov was arrested when disembarking from an international flight in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The Trump-appointed attorney in charge of the Republican-led inquiry into Hunter Biden’s dealings discovered that Smirnov had fabricated the whole bribe scandal.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who was the first to disclose Smirnov’s unverified information to the public, praised the allegations at the time, calling such informants “heroic whistleblowers.”

 “I’ve been pushing the Justice Department and FBI to provide details on its handling of very significant allegations from a trusted FBI informant implicating then-Vice President Biden in a criminal bribery scheme,” the senator said.

Smirnov faces up to 25 years in federal prison if convicted.

 

Despite record Russian losses, the situation in Avdiivka has become “critical”

In a video interview with Ukrainska Pravda, Mykola Volokhov, Commander of the Terra unit of the 3rd Assault Brigade, said that Moscow has deployed elite units to Avdiivka “and concentrated a significant number of infantry there.”

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“We have information that there are seven enemy brigades against us. Put it this way, that’s more than on our side. We’ve set a record for the number of personnel killed and enemy equipment destroyed in one day.

“But there’s nothing to celebrate or rejoice about yet because the enemy is extremely difficult and they’ve deployed their elite units here,” Volokhov said. “This is comparable to the period when there were still Wagnerites near Bakhmut until we drove them out, but perhaps even more difficult.”

In his evening address to the nation, Zelensky said, “We are doing everything we can to ensure that our warriors have enough managerial and technological capabilities to save as many Ukrainian lives as possible.”

AFP reported that Ukraine’s Third Separate Assault Brigade confirmed that it was “urgently redeployed to strengthen Ukrainian troops in the Avdiivka area,” the brigade posted, confirming reports that a massive amount of Russian manpower was deploying to the keystone battleground and describing the situation as “extremely critical,” “threatening” and “unstable.”

According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), confirmed footage published on Thursday “indicates that Russian forces captured a Ukrainian fortified position south of Avdiivka that has long been a Russian sub-tactical objective, and Russian milbloggers widely claimed that Russian forces effectively encircled nearby Ukrainian positions south of Avdiivka.”

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More Russian airstrikes kill civilians in Donetsk region

On Thursday afternoon, Russian airstrikes killed an elderly woman and injured two others as rockets rained down on the village of Zoria in the Donetsk region, local authorities reported on social media.

An 83-year-old woman was killed, and two men aged 71 and 41 were injured. In all, eight houses, an apartment building and a school were smashed in the onslaught.

Adding to the tragedy, residents of Zoria had fled the village in 2022 when Russian forces overtook it, only to be brought home by the local mayor more recently, Reuters reported last month:

 

Operations: Bakhmut

According to the ISW, Russian forces also “marginally” advanced near Bakhmut on Thursday, citing geolocated footage.

The ISW highlighted Kremlin-affiliated bloggers reporting on Thursday that elements of the Russian 11th Guards Air Assault (VDV) Brigade advanced to the outskirts of Ivanivske (just west of Bakhmut) while fighting continued northeast of Bakhmut near Vesele; west of Bakhmut near Bohdanivka and Ivanivske; and southwest of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka, Andriivka and Pivdenne.

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