France denies Russian claim of mercenaries in Ukraine

Moscow said on Wednesday that its forces had carried out a strike on a building housing ‘foreign fighters’ in Kharkiv.

A general view of a building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in central Kharkiv, Ukraine [File: Sofiia Gatilova/Reuters]

France has denied Russia’s claim that there were French mercenaries in Ukraine after Russia’s Ministry of Defence said its troops had killed “foreign fighters” earlier this week.

“France helps Ukraine with supplies of military material and military training, in full compliance with international law, in order to help Ukraine in its fight to defend its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity,” France’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs said on Thursday.

“France has no mercenaries, neither in Ukraine nor elsewhere, unlike certain others,” it added.

On Thursday, Russia also summoned French ambassador to Moscow, Pierre Levy, to its foreign ministry regarding the alleged French mercenaries, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

“In connection with the destruction by the Russian armed forces of a temporary deployment point of foreign fighters in Kharkiv, among whom were several dozen Frenchmen, the French ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was cited as saying.

Moscow said on Wednesday that its forces had carried out a strike a day earlier on a building in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

“On the evening of 16 January, the armed forces of the Russian Federation carried out a precision strike on a temporary deployment point of foreign militants in the city of Kharkiv, the core of which were French mercenaries,” Russia’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

It said the building was destroyed and more than 60 people were killed, though it did not provide evidence for the claim.

After Tuesday’s strike on the Ukrainian city, Kharkiv region governor Oleh Syniehubov said there were no military targets in the area that Russia hit. Local authorities said that 17 civilians were wounded in the attack.

(Al Jazeera)

‘Not militarily effective’

On Thursday, the chief of NATO’s military committee, Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, criticised Russia’s recent attacks in Ukraine.

“While Russia’s most recent attacks are devastating, they are not militarily effective,” he said.

Bauer added that the war had reached a relative stalemate, and the conflict was in a phase where it was “not moving a lot”.

“We should not expect a miracle happening on either side,” he added.

Ukraine also warned on Thursday that the country was facing an ammunition shortage as its war with Russia nears the two-year mark.

“A shortage of ammunition is a very real and pressing problem that our armed forces are facing,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov said on the social media platform X.

“The artillery coalition is aimed at solving this issue,” he said after speaking by video link to the Ramstein contact group, which gathers more than 50 countries supporting Ukraine.

“We need to strengthen Ukrainian defence capabilities to protect the free world against Russian evil,” he added.

The meeting came as Russia claimed its forces had pushed Ukrainian troops out of Vesele, a village near the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies