Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a national budget for the next three years that increases spending by around 25pc and reportedly devotes a record amount to defence as the country’s war in Ukraine drags on.
The budget foresees spending in 2024 of 36.6 trillion roubles, with an expected deficit of 1.595 trillion roubles.
After the budget was passed by the lower house of the parliament, speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said it was developed specifically to fund the military and to mitigate the impact of international sanctions imposed after Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022.
Record low unemployment, higher wages and targeted social spending should help the Kremlin ride out the domestic impact of pivoting the economy towards the military, but could pose a problem in the long term, analysts say.
Part of the budget is secret as the Kremlin tries to conceal its military plans and sidestep scrutiny of its operation in Ukraine. But independent business journalists Farida Rustamova and Maksim Tovkaylo have said around 39pc of all federal spending will go towards defence and law enforcement in 2024.
The move comes as American Abrams tanks have finally been deployed in Ukraine, with Kyiv forced on the defensive amid bad weather.
Images circulated by Ukrainian sources showed the Abrams M1A1’s four-man crew posing on top of the tank in woodland camouflage.
Pro-Kremlin sources suggested the American tanks had been spotted along the Kupiansk front in north-eastern Ukraine, where Kyiv’s forces have been defending against a renewed push in recent months.
Washington donated 31 Abrams tanks earlier this year in an effort to convince Germany to sign-off on the export of its own Leopard 2 to Ukraine.
Analysts have suggested the poor weather and the relatively stable front separating Ukraine from its Russian enemy meant the US tanks would probably be held in reserve.
Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider the muddy conditions in Ukraine over the winter months make it particularly hard for Kyiv’s forces to logistically support the tanks.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said on September 25 that the 31 American tanks had arrived in the country, but gave no indication when they could be deployed to the frontline.
Ukraine is now largely on the defensive, with Russia launching a last-ditch attempt to capture territory before the conditions on the battlefield make it almost impossible to manoeuvre.
In the last month, its forces have inflicted some of the heaviest losses on Russian forces since Putin launched his invasion in February 2022, British intelligence officials said.
The UK’s ministry of defence shared data from the Ukrainian general staff, which indicated that the average daily losses of Russian forces in November had reached 931 soldiers.
It wrote on social media in its daily intelligence update: “The last six weeks have likely seen some of the highest Russian casualty rates of the war so far.
“The heavy losses have largely been caused by Russia’s offensive against the Donbas town of Avdiivka.”
Previously, the highest losses by Putin’s forces, with an average of 776 killed or wounded Russian soldiers, were recorded this March, at the peak of the battle over the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg also claimed Ukraine had inflicted “heavy losses” on Russia in recent weeks.
“We see high casualty numbers and some of the most intense fighting that we have seen throughout the whole war has actually taken place over the last weeks and… months,” he told a news conference in Brussels.
Russia has intensified its attacks on Avdiivka and the south village of Robotyne, in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, the Ukrainian military said.
It said Russian forces had launched “more than 150” attacks on Ukrainian positions on Avdiivka, as well as having “conducted 20 attempts to restore lost positions near Robotyne”.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken will highlight Nato’s ongoing support for Ukraine in its war with Russia in Europe this week, the top State Department official for Europe said yesterday.
The war between Israel and Hamas and heightened tensions in the wider Middle East have raised concerns that Washington cannot sustain the level of military and diplomatic support it has given to Ukraine since.
Assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs James O’Brien said the Biden administration was confident continued military aid for Ukraine had bipartisan support in the US Congress. (© Independent News Service and agencies)
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