Ukraine war: Russia ramps up defence spending, Wagner founder training volunteers, power station hit

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

AdvertisementThe new Emirates Premium Economy has arrived on the latest Emirates A380 Emirates Get the best value from your summer holiday with exclusive offers and discounts across Dubai and the UAE with Emirates Pass