Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Russian mercenary group seeks female recruits, UK says

A Russian state-backed private military company (PMC) is attempting to recruit women into combat roles in Ukraine for the first time, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

In its latest intelligence update Monday, the U.K. said recent social media adverts have appealed for female recruits to join Borz Battalion and to work as snipers and uncrewed aerial vehicle operators. Borz Battalion is part of a Russian PMC called “Redut,” which the U.K. said was “likely directly sponsored by the Russian Main Directorate of Intelligence.”

“In March 2023, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that 1,100 women were deployed in Ukraine, which would equate to only around 0.3 percent of its force. As Redut’s advert points out, they currently serve in mostly medical support and food service roles,” the ministry said in an update posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

A woman showing her support of Russia’s war in Ukraine during the Inmortal Regiment march in the streets of Moscow.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

“It remains unclear whether official Russian defence forces will seek to follow suit and open more combat roles to women,” it added.

Women have rarely taken front-line fighting roles within pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, but the U.K. noted that there was a strong tradition of female snipers and other combat troops in Soviet forces during World War II.

— Holly Ellyatt

Pressure mounts on Russia to protect Jewish community after Dagestan incident

Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to greet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting on Jan. 23, 2020, in Jerusalem.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Pressure is mounting on Russia to protect the country’s Jewish community after an angry mob stormed an airport in the republic of Dagestan on Sunday, reportedly looking for passengers that arrived on a flight from Tel Aviv.

Russian media reported that several hundred “protesters” stormed the airport terminal because of their opposition to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and war between Israel and Hamas.

On Monday, Russian media reported that over 150 active participants in the “riots” at Makhachkala airport have been identified and 60 of them detained. Nine police officers were injured as they tried to restore order, news agency Tass reported.

Israel urged Moscow to protect Jewish people after the incident, issuing a statement in which it said it “views with utmost gravity attempts to harm Israeli citizens and Jews anywhere.”

“Israel expects the Russian legal authorities to safeguard the well-being of all Israeli citizens and Jews wherever they are and to take strong action against the rioters and against the wild incitement being directed against Jews and Israelis,” it said in a statement issued on X, formerly known as Twitter.

It said it was monitoring the situation in Dagestan closely and that the Israeli ambassador to Russia, Alex Ben Zvi, was “working with the Russian authorities to secure the well-being of Jews and Israelis at the site.”

Russia’s aviation agency Rosaviatsia said the incident has been brought under control but the airport, in Makhachkala, remains closed as the authorities investigate the incident. The airport may reopen on Tuesday.

Dagestan is in Russia’s North Caucasus region and is a republic within the Russian Federation. It has a mainly Muslim population of around 3.2 million people.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine being used as a ‘battering ram’ to hit Russia, defense minister says

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed the West is using Ukraine as a “battering ram” to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia.

The minister repeated Moscow’s much-cited complaint that the Western military alliance NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe had “forced” Russia to take “countermeasures” to ensure its own safety.

“Disregarding Russia’s legitimate rights to ensure its security, the White House persistently pursued the expansion of the NATO bloc it controls to the East,” Shoigu said, according to comments published by news agency Tass, as he addressed the Beijing Xiangshan Forum on Monday.

“These aggressive steps forced us to take countermeasures,” he added.

“In response, the West openly headed for inflicting a ‘strategic defeat’ on Russia in the hybrid war unleashed against us. Ukraine was cynically chosen as a battering ram, which is assigned the role of only a consumable material,” Shoigu said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Army 2023 Exhibition on Aug. 14, 2023, in Kubinka, Russia.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Speaking at the military diplomacy summit in Beijing, Russia’s defense minister then claimed the U.S. had “focused their military-political resources on the task of maintaining elusive global dominance by any means.”

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 after years of dismay at the country’s pro-Western trajectory and fears the country would join NATO, despite there being no solid plans for Kyiv to do so.

Russia’s invasion has, ironically, cemented Ukraine’s pro-Western position further, and its ambitions to join NATO and the EU, although membership of both entities is a long way off.

— Holly Ellyatt

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