MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a decree ordering that companies that fail to meet deadlines for state defence contracts be placed under “external administration” if martial law is declared.
In Other Developments:
* Russian troops and mercenaries were closing off the last access routes to the besieged Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on Friday, on the cusp of Moscow’s first major victory in half a year after the bloodiest fighting of the war.
* Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, said in a video that Bakhmut was “practically surrounded” by his forces and that Kyiv’s forces had only one road left out.
* The commander of a Ukrainian drone unit active in Bakhmut, Robert Brovdi who goes by the name “Madyar”, said in a video that his unit had been ordered by the military to withdraw immediately from the city. He gave no reason for the order.
* Russia said it would take measures to prevent new border incursions, a day after accusing Ukraine-backed nationalists of killing two people in a cross-border raid in southern Russia.
* A network of at least 20 torture chambers in the recently liberated southern Ukrainian region of Kherson was “planned and directly financed by the Russian State,” war crimes investigators said, citing new evidence. The Kremlin press office did not respond to a request for comment.
* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of hypocrisy after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia cannot be allowed to wage war in Ukraine with impunity, during a security forum they attended in New Delhi.
* Foreign ministers of the ‘Quad group’ – the United States, Japan, India and Australia – denounced Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war as unacceptable, according to a statement issued after a meeting in New Delhi.
* German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will hold confidential talks in Washington with U.S. President Joe Biden about the war in Ukraine amid growing concerns that China may provide weapons to Russia as its invasion of Ukraine grinds into a second year.
* Russia’s ruptured undersea Nord Stream gas pipelines are set to be sealed up and mothballed as there are no immediate plans to repair or reactivate them, sources familiar with the plans have told Reuters.