Russia: Chechen Special Forces Waging Offensive in East Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier fires a mortar at Russian positions on the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (AP)
A Ukrainian soldier fires a mortar at Russian positions on the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (AP)
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Russia: Chechen Special Forces Waging Offensive in East Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier fires a mortar at Russian positions on the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (AP)
A Ukrainian soldier fires a mortar at Russian positions on the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (AP)

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Friday that the "Akhmat" group of Chechen special forces were waging an offensive near the town of Mariinka, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk.

Together with the Wagner mercenary group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, troops from Russia's Chechen Republic have been one of the main driving forces behind Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.

Akhmat commander Apti Alaudinov said on Thursday that his forces were being moved to "another area" in preparation for a counter-offensive, but did not say where the troops were or where they were going.

Unlike Prigozhin, who has repeatedly lambasted Russia's military leadership, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has recently refrained from echoing criticism of the defense ministry.

Members of the two groups have since openly sparred, with one of Kadyrov's close allies on Thursday casting Prigozhin as a blogger who yells all the time about problems.



Israeli Polls Show Netanyahu Party Narrowing Gap Behind Gantz 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
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Israeli Polls Show Netanyahu Party Narrowing Gap Behind Gantz 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right wing Likud party has reduced the gap behind the centrist party of former minister Benny Gantz, who quit the wartime unity government on Sunday, two polls showed on Friday.

The polls, for the left wing Ma'ariv daily and the right-wing Israel Hayom newspaper, showed Likud winning 21 seats behind the National Unity Party on 24. The Ma'ariv poll last week showed Gantz's party on 27 seats, while at the start of the year, it was regularly polling in the high 30s.

The Ma'ariv poll shows the current ruling coalition winning 52 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, against 58 for the main opposition parties, with the balance of 10 seats held by the United Arab List and the left-wing Hadash-Ta'al alliance.

The Israel Hayom poll put the coalition on 50 seats against 61 for the opposition parties and 9 for the UAL and Hadash-Ta'al.

Both polls showed a majority of voters would prefer Gantz as prime minister in a head-to-head choice with Netanyahu. However, the Israel Hayom poll showed that if former prime minister Naftali Bennett were to join forces with Avigdor Liberman and Gideon Saar, two other center right politicians from outside the Likud camp, their alliance could beat both Likud and Gantz's National Unity Party.

Gantz, a former army general and defense minister in the last government, joined Netanyahu's coalition last year as a gesture of national unity following the devastating attack by Hamas on Oct 7.

However, he clashed repeatedly with other ministers and quit the government after demanding Netanyahu articulate a clear strategic plan for the war in Gaza, now in its ninth month.

Netanyahu, who was widely blamed for the security failures that allowed the Oct. 7 attack to take place, has refused to call early elections and would not normally face voters until 2026 if his coalition with a clutch of religious and right-wing pro-settler parties holds.