Sunday, October 1, 2023

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 245

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Putin says Ukraine has been turned into tool of US

The United States has turned Ukraine into a “battering ram” to attack Russia, President Vladimir Putin said.

“The country has factually lost its sovereignty and is being directly controlled by the United States, which is using [Kiev] as a battering ram against Russia, against our Union State with the Republic of Belarus, against the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as a whole,” Putin stated, speaking at a meeting of CIS security and special services chiefs on Wednesday.

Characterizing contemporary Ukraine as a nation that’s been turned into a “tool of American foreign policy”, Putin suggested that Washington’s “true attitude” toward its “satellites” has been clearly demonstrated in the country, with its territory “almost immediately turned into a testing ground for military biological experiments” in the aftermath of the 2014 Maidan coup.

The Russian president accused Washington of ignoring Kiev’s talk about acquiring a nuclear weapon, as well as false flag provocations involving a ‘dirty bomb’, and instead continuing to pump the country full of heavy weaponry.

Similar threats are being faced by other post-Soviet republics that haven’t yet fallen into Washington’s orbit, the Russian president added.

“Attempts to foment color revolutions have not stopped, the playing cards of nationalism and extremism are being actively used, armed conflicts are being ignited which directly threaten the security of all CIS members. What those doing this hope to achieve can be seen in the example of Ukraine,” Putin continued.

Amid the continued flow of weapons to Kiev, Putin warned of the ever-present danger of the country being turned into a weapons black market used by transnational criminal groups smuggling arms worldwide to foment new crises.

“This is not a question only of small arms; there are risks of more powerful weapons falling into the hands of criminals, including man-portable air defense systems and high precision weapons,” Putin noted.

Russian army is “failing on the battlefield” against Ukraine’s forces: NATO chief

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated on Wednesday that Russia’s armed forces were failing in Ukraine, while Kyiv’s troops were getting stronger.

“President Vladimir Putin is failing on the battlefield. He is responding with more indiscriminate attacks on Ukrainian cities against civilians and against critical infrastructure and with dangerous nuclear rhetoric,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference with Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.

“Every week, Ukraine’s forces are getting stronger and better equipped,” Stoltenberg later noted.

Stoltenberg added Ukrainian success on the battlefield could give Kyiv a stronger hand in any future negotiations.

“Most wars end at the negotiating table. And at the same time, we know that what Ukraine can achieve at the negotiating table is totally dependent on the strength on the battlefield. So we need to strengthen their hand at the negotiating table by providing military support,” he continued, adding, “The stronger Ukraine is on the battlefield, the more likely it is that we have a political solution that ensures Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation in Europe.”

Stoltenberg once again rejected the Kremlin’s claim that Ukraine is planning to use a so-called “dirty bomb” on its own territory, saying it could be a pretext for escalation.

“This [idea] is absurd,” he said, adding, “Allies reject this blatantly false accusation and Russia must not use false pretexts to escalate the war further. NATO will not be intimidated or deterred from supporting Ukraine’s right to self-defense for as long as it takes.”

Kremlin admits Russian army is experiencing issues with equipment

The Kremlin admitted on Wednesday that the Russian army is experiencing issues with equipment, echoing comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier in the week.

“You have all heard the president’s remarks [at the meeting of the Coordination Council]. Indeed, there were issues with the equipment,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

According to Peskov, some of the problems remain, although measures are being taken to alleviate any issues.

“Measures are being taken to eliminate these problems,” he added.

Putin noted on Tuesday that the equipment of Russian soldiers needs to be “efficient and modern” to meet the needs of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine. He also called on his government to “speed up” decision-making and manufacturing of military equipment.

Putin observes exercises by Russia’s strategic nuclear forces

According to the RIA news agency, President Vladimir Putin observed exercises by Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.

“Under the leadership of the Supreme Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces Vladimir Putin, a training session was held with ground, sea and air strategic deterrence forces, during which practical launches of ballistic and cruise missiles took place,” the Kremlin announced in a statement.

State television showed Putin overseeing the drills from a control room.

Attacks on critical infrastructure will cost $4bn to repair: IMF

Russia’s air strikes on civilian infrastructure raise the cost of Ukraine’s recovery and will need close to $4 billion a month to keep power and water supplies going, the head of the International Monetary Fund said.

Speaking to Reuters news agency, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva stated the institution was focused on helping Ukraine keep afloat while working on a longer-term programme.

“We still hope that we can stay within these parameters of 3-4 billion, but what changed since we had this discussion is Russia’s terrible bombing of civilian infrastructure,” she continued, adding, “Just to get electricity back and water supply back we are moving towards the upper range of 4 billion…Just imagine a worst case scenario.”

Georgieva also signalled that China should be allowed to join an international platform that the European Commission wants to set up this year for Ukraine.

Attacks on Ukraine a ‘genocide’: Kyiv mayor

The mayor of Kyiv has accused Russia of attempting to destroy all of Ukraine’s infrastructure before winter, calling the attacks on the country “simple genocide of the people”.

In an interview with Sky News, Vitali Klitschko said Vladimir Putin’s goal was to rebuild the Soviet Union, warning the Russian leader that Ukraine would “never come back to the USSR”.

He added, “We see our future as part of the European family.”

Assets in ‘annexed’ regions may be transferred to Russia: Kremlin

The Kremlin announced assets in the four Ukrainian regions that Russia “annexed” last month may be transferred to Russian companies.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated it was obvious that “abandoned assets” could not be left inactive, and the government would deal with the issue.

Ukraine and its Western allies have condemned Russia’s declared annexation of the four regions as illegal.

Kremlin to ‘vigorously’ convince nations of Ukraine’s ‘dirty bombs’

The Kremlin announced it will “vigorously” continue to make the case to the international community that it believes Ukraine intended to detonate a “dirty bomb” with radioactive contaminants.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Moscow wanted to prompt an active response from the international community.

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu also spoke to his Indian and Chinese counterparts to convey Moscow’s warning following a series of calls with NATO defence ministers.

At least 2 killed in Dnipro missile attack as air raid sirens sound across Ukraine

At least two people were killed and another four injured in a Russian missile attack on Dnipro in central Ukraine on Wednesday, according to Valentyn Reznichenko, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration.

A man and a woman died when a gas station caught fire after the attack, according to the Ukraine State Emergency Services (SES). They were a car wash operator at the gas station and a pregnant woman who was burnt alive in her car, the SES announced in a post on Facebook.

On Wednesday, air raid sirens were activated across most of Ukraine, apart from its western regions and Russian-annexed Crimea, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation.

Report: Russia recruiting Afghan commandos to fight in Ukraine

Russia is purportedly recruiting members of Afghanistan’s national army commando corps to fight in Ukraine, Foreign Policy reported.

These are the commandos that were trained by US navy seals and British armed forces. About 20,000 to 30,000 of the volunteer commandos were left behind when the US left Afghanistan in Taliban control in August 2021.

According to FP, only a few hundred senior officers were evacuated before the republic collapsed. While thousands escaped to neighbouring countries as the Taliban hunted and executed collaborators with the collapsed government, many more remain in Afghanistan, in hiding.

The US spent $90bn building the Afghan national defence and security forces.

Zelensky: ‘We will definitely liberate Crimea’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to retake Crimea after parliamentary leaders convened in Croatia to coordinate the international response to Russia’s occupation in the region.

“We will definitely liberate Crimea,” Zelensky said in his nightly address.

“We will return this part of our country not only to the all-Ukrainian space, but also to the all-European space,” he continued, adding, “This was confirmed once again today. And I am grateful to all our partners — almost 50 states and international organizations — who help in the parliamentary format.”

Zelensky adviser warns of ‘heaviest of battles’ ahead in Kherson

Russian forces are digging in for the “heaviest of battles” in the strategic southern region of Kherson, a senior Ukrainian official said, as the Kremlin prepares to defend the largest city under its control from Ukraine‘s counter-offensive.

Russian forces in the region have been driven back in recent weeks and risk being trapped against the west bank of the Dnipro river, where the provincial capital of Kherson has been in Russian hands since the early days of the invasion of Ukraine eight months ago.

Russian-installed authorities are evacuating residents to the east bank, but Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, stated there was no sign that Russian forces were preparing to abandon the city.

“With Kherson everything is clear. The Russians are replenishing, strengthening their grouping there,” Arestovych noted in an online video late on Tuesday.

“It means that nobody is preparing to withdraw. On the contrary, the heaviest of battles is going to take place for Kherson,” he added.

Of the four provinces Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed to have annexed in September, Kherson is arguably the most strategically important. It controls both the only land route to the Crimea peninsula Russia seized in 2014 and the mouth of the Dnipro, the vast river that bisects Ukraine.

Yuri Sobolevsky, a member of the ousted pro-Ukrainian Kherson regional council, said the Russia-installed authorities were putting increasing pressure on Kherson residents to leave.

“Search and filtration procedures are intensifying as are searches of cars and homes,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Biden speaks to Sunak and they agree on the importance of working together on Ukraine: White House

US President Joe Biden congratulated Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on his appointment in a call Tuesday afternoon, the White House said.

“The leaders reaffirmed the special relationship between our countries, underscoring their desire to further enhance cooperation on issues critical to global security and prosperity,” according to a readout from the White House.

“The leaders agreed on the importance of working together to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its aggression, address the challenges posed by China, and secure sustainable and affordable energy resources,” it added.

They also discussed the future of the Good Friday Agreement, which largely ended three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, including “the need to maintain momentum toward reaching a negotiated agreement with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol,” the White House announced.

Ukraine fears that Russia’s “dirty bomb” warnings are a false flag operation: FM

Ukraine is increasingly concerned that Russia is preparing to detonate a “dirty bomb” — a conventional explosive surrounded by radioactive material — on Ukrainian territory, because of Moscow’s persistent claims that Ukraine is building such a weapon, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a briefing.

“What is even more concerning is the persistence with which Russian officials pursue this false story. This makes us worry that Russia might itself be preparing to commit a crime, which it tries to cover in advance by spreading this disinformation,” Kuleba stated.

“Ukraine has never had a plan to develop any dirty bombs. This story is a pure Russian lie, and no one should be fooled by it,” Kuleba added.

Upon Ukraine’s request, the International Atomic Energy Agency is sending a team of nuclear investigators to inspect the two facilities that Russia alleges — without evidence — have been used to build a dirty bomb.

“We have nothing to hide,” Kuleba said.

“As President Volodymyr Zelensky said, even the dangerous Russian rhetoric on nuclear weapons and constant nuclear blackmail which we hear from Russia are unacceptable. They must be met with immediate and resolute actions,” he added.

Ukraine officially gave up nuclear weapons it inherited from the former Soviet Union in 1994, and Kuleba said that the country has no plans to acquire any more.

“Ukraine is a dedicated and responsible member of treaty of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. We have never had, do not have and do not plan to develop any dirty bombs,” he continued.

German president vows timely delivery of weapons in first wartime visit to Ukraine

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Ukraine Tuesday for the first time since the Russian invasion started, where he condemned Russia’s recent escalatory steps and promised a timely delivery of committed weapons to Kyiv.

Speaking to reporters alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Steinmeier slammed Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric,” partial mobilization of troops and claimed annexation of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

The presidents met on the day Berlin hosted a conference on Ukraine’s recovery. Zelensky in a joint statement announced he had appointed Steinmeier as the patron of the reconstruction of the Chernihiv region.

The two leaders discussed Ukraine’s economic, financial and defense needs, particularly artillery systems, armored vehicles and other weapons, according to a readout of the meeting posted on Zelensky’s Telegram channel.

Speaking in Kyiv, Steinmeier vowed Ukraine will receive a delivery of Mars2-systems plus an additional two self-propelled howitzers from Germany in the coming days.

“Today, Germany is one of the leading suppliers to Ukraine’s air defense,” he added.

“Thirty Gepard tanks, three Mars2 multiple rocket launchers, several thousand anti-aircraft guns, one of the most modern air defense systems in the world, Iris-T. I hope it will help to make people a little safer, to protect them from Russia’s brutal aggression,” he noted.

This is Steinmeier’s first wartime visit to Ukraine after two failed attempts in April, when he was uninvited over his links with Russia, and last week when the visit was canceled for security reasons.

The German president is considered to have had close relations with Russia in his previous political roles. Ukraine has previously been critical of Steinmeier over his links with Russia and the leading role he played as former foreign minister in improving relationships with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

New UK PM promises ‘steadfast’ support for Ukraine

The new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak has promised Volodymyr Zelensky that his country’s support for Ukraine would be “as strong as ever”, a Downing Street spokesperson says.

“The prime minister said the United Kingdom’s support for Ukraine would be as strong as ever under his premiership and President Zelensky could count on his government to stand in continued solidarity,” the spokesperson said after the two leaders spoke by phone.

“Both leaders agreed on the need to continue to place pressure on Vladimir Putin’s barbaric regime through continued economic sanctions,” the spokesperson noted, adding, “… [Sunak] said he hoped they would see each other in person soon.”

Moscow sets up paramilitary guard in occupied Zaporizhia

Russia’s occupying forces are establishing a paramilitary guard in the southern Zaporizhia region as they have done in Kherson.

The new Territorial Defence Force was established as Moscow struggles to hold onto territory in the face of a counteroffensive by Kyiv. It will be tasked with guarding roads, bridges, railway tracks, factories and infrastructure objects, administration chief Yevgeny Balitsky said.

If necessary, it will also be deployed “in front-line defence”, Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

Dirty bomb warning fits Russian record of deception: NATO chief

Russia’s warning that Ukraine is preparing to use a radiation-spewing dirty bomb fits Moscow’s track record of deception when it “accuses others for what they intend to do themselves,” NATO’s chief has told AFP in an interview.

“Russia continues to accuse falsely Ukraine for preparing and making a dirty bomb,” Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to the US aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush in the Mediterranean.

“That is absurd because why should Ukraine use a dirty bomb on the territories they want to liberate?” he asked.

Biden warns Russia any nuclear attack would be ‘incredibly serious mistake’

US President Joe Biden has warned Russia against using a nuclear weapon in the war with Ukraine, saying such an escalation would be a grave error.

Asked by reporters whether he thinks Russia is preparing a dirty bomb attack that it would then blame on Ukraine, Biden stressed, “Russia would be making an incredibly serious mistake were it to use a tactical nuclear weapon.”

Russia raises accusation at UN of Ukraine dirty bomb plans

Russia has taken its accusation that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb – an explosive device laced with radioactive material – to the United Nations Security Council, voicing its concerns during a closed-door meeting of the 15-nation body.

“We’re quite satisfied because we raised the awareness,” Russian Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said.

“I don’t mind people saying that Russia is crying wolf if this doesn’t happen because this is a terrible, terrible disaster that threatens potentially the whole of the Earth,” he added.

Russia has alleged that Kyiv has ordered two organisations to create a dirty bomb, but it has yet to give any evidence for the accusation. Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia sent a letter to the world body on Monday about the allegation.

When asked what evidence Russia had to back its claims, Polyanskiy told reporters that it was intelligence information that had been shared with Western counterparts with the “necessary level of clearance”.

Chechen leader slams weak leadership in Russia’s war

Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has repeated his criticism of the progress of Russia’s war on neighbouring Ukraine, slamming Russia’s leadership as weak.

“We used to say that we were conducting a special military operation on the territory of Ukraine, but the war is already taking place on our territory,” Kadyrov said on Telegram while also threatening Ukraine’s Western allies with annihilation.

Martial law has been imposed in border regions with Ukraine, Kadyrov stated, “but they continue to shoot at peaceful citizens and civilian objects.” Russia’s response to this has been “weak”, Kadyrov said.

He called for the obliteration of Ukrainian cities in retaliation “so that we can see the distant horizon”.

German chancellor: We will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that Germany will continue to support Ukraine in its war with Russia for as long as it takes.

“In light of the latest [Russian] attacks – now more than ever – recovery of a peaceful and prosperous Ukraine is our joint endeavor,” Scholz said in Berlin at the end of an international conference on rebuilding Ukraine.

“I am convinced that we are stronger together,” he added.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, meanwhile, stressed the need to find ways to better protect his country’s critical infrastructure against Russian attacks.

“I think today’s priorities are very natural because, during these two weeks, Russia destroyed our infrastructure, electricity infrastructure, heating infrastructure and water supply infrastructure, creating the biggest humanitarian catastrophe on the European continent,” Shmyhal said, adding, “And to start this, we need united efforts, and we need to create something to resist these intentions of terrorist country Russia.”

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