Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 537

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022 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:

Western weapons are ‘far from perfect’: Russian DM

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu has stated Russian weapons were showing their effectiveness in Ukraine.

In remarks shown on state television, Shoigu stressed that “much-hyped” Western arms had shown itself to be “far from perfect” during the battle in Ukraine.

Ukraine reports ‘some success’ in counteroffensive

Ukraine reports fierce fighting along its entire front line and “some success” in pushing back Moscow’s troops in the southeast of the country.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said widespread Russian-laid minefields and strong fortifications have hampered progress.

But despite the setbacks, Ukrainian troops have pushed forward around the village of Staromaiorske, around 60 miles southwest of Russian-held Donetsk, and were pressing on two fronts in the south, Maliar stated.

While Ukrainian forces have made incremental gains since the beginning of its counteroffensive in June, officials in Kyiv have acknowledged that progress has been slower than they expected.

“The Armed Forces are facing complete mining of the territory, cement fortifications of the key heights, (and) constant mortar and artillery shelling,” Maliar continued, adding, “Additionally the Russians are densely using aviation.”

Two UAV’s shot down over Russian Belgorod region

The Russian Defence Ministry told reporters that air defence systems shot down unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the Belgorod region, the TASS news agency reports.

“August 14, at about 12:15 Moscow time and 12:45 Moscow time, attempts by the Kyiv regime to carry out terrorist attacks by aircraft-type unmanned aerial vehicles against objects in the Russian Federation were thwarted. Russian air defence systems detected and destroyed UAVs over the territory of the Belgorod region,” the ministry said.

They said there were no casualties or damage.

The governor of the region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, confirmed what the ministry told reporters and stated that air defence systems shot down two targets near the village of Pushkarnoye.

Russian armoured vehicle production has quadrupled: Rostec

Russia’s has quadrupled its production of armoured vehicles within the last year, the state-backed conglomerate Rostec has claimed.

Vladimir Artyakov, the company’s first deputy general director, did not specify how many vehicles it had built.

It comes after President Vladimir Putin ordered Rostec, which churns out around 90 percent of Russia’s military equipment, to increase the production of attack drones last week.

German finance minister in Kyiv to provide “concrete support”

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said he will collaborate with his counterpart in Kyiv to bolster the Ukrainian economy, as Western allies support efforts to rebuild the country amid the conflict.

Linder arrived in Kyiv by train on Monday for his first trip to Ukraine since the start of the war, according to the German Finance Ministry press office.

He said it was “a special and moving moment” to be back in Kyiv.

“I was last there in early 2020 and got to know a country that had opted for democracy and a market economy,” Linder stated, adding that he is “more convinced than ever that Ukraine was attacked by Russia because of this.”

“What is at stake here is the future of the European order of peace and freedom,” he continued.

Lindner said he would meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Serhii Marchenko, to provide “concrete support.” Lindner explained that the German Federal Ministry of Finance wanted to help Ukraine’s finance ministry and make the country more attractive to foreign direct investment.

Germany has already provided around 1.5 billion euros ($1.64 billion) of aid to Ukraine since the war began, Lindner added. In July 2022, Germany and other creditors also announced that they would give Ukraine a reprieve on debt repayments.

Russia will bolster new nuclear submarines with hypersonic missiles

Russia is equipping its new Yasen-class nuclear submarines with hypersonic Zircon missiles, according to Alexey Rakhmanov, the head of Russia’s largest shipbuilder.

“Work in this direction is already underway,” Rakhmanov told the RIA Novosti state news agency in an interview published on Monday.

Zircon hypersonic missiles are long-range weapons that travel more than five times the speed of sound and are harder to detect and intercept.

“The armament of serial frigates with this system will be carried out in accordance with the plan of the Russian Ministry of Defense during their construction and operation,” Rakhmanov added.

The Yasen-M multi-purpose nuclear submarines, also known as Project 885M, are a modernized version of Project 885. The Russian Navy now has one Project 885 and two 885M submarines, according to RIA Novosti.

China’s defense minister to visit Russia and Belarus this week

China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu will visit Russia and Belarus from Monday until Saturday, according to the Chinese Ministry of Defense.

Li will attend the Moscow Conference on International Security, where he will deliver a speech and meet with leaders of the defense departments of Russia and other countries, ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said Monday.

During his visit to Belarus, Li will meet with the country’s leaders and heads of the Belarusian army, Wu added.

Li last visited Russia in April, when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Despite attempting to present itself as neutral peace broker in the Ukraine conflict, China has bolstered its economic, diplomatic, and security ties with Russia during its invasion, which Beijing has never condemned.

Li, a general and veteran of China’s military modernization drive, was sanctioned by the United States in 2018 over transactions with Russia’s state-controlled arms exporter Rosoboronexport, when he lead the Chinese military’s Equipment Development Department.

Ukraine says it repelled all Russian airstrikes on Odesa overnight

Three supermarket workers were injured after Ukrainian air defenses thwarted a barrage of Russian airstrikes on Odesa overnight, Ukraine’s air defense forces said in a Telegram post Monday.

All eight Kalibr sea-launched missiles and 15 drones launched by Russian forces were repelled, the statement said.

“As a result of the missiles fired by the enemy into the center of Odesa, a dormitory of one of the educational institutions and a supermarket were damaged by debris,” it noted.

Firefighters were working to extinguish blazes at two buildings, it added.

Russian strikes last week damaged a critical port facility and key industrial infrastructure in the southern city, which has been relentlessly targeted by Moscow’s forces throughout the war.

Ukraine accuses Russia of “piracy” in latest flare-up on Black Sea

Ukraine called Russia’s boarding of a cargo vessel in the Black Sea on Sunday “a deliberate attack” and “an act of piracy,” marking the latest flare-up over the sea’s shipping lanes since a key grain deal collapsed last month.

Moscow has said it stopped the vessel, a Palau-flagged dry cargo ship called the Sukra Okan, to ensure it was not carrying “prohibited goods” to Ukraine.

Ukraine called for the international community to recognize Russia’s actions as a crime.

“Today’s deliberate attack and forced inspection by Russia of Sukru Okan international civilian bulk carrier, which was en route to the Ukrainian port of Izmail, is a clear violation of international law of the sea, an act of piracy and a crime against civilian vessels of a third country in the waters of other states,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a statement on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Podolyak called on all those involved in the incident to be identified and for the international community to recognize the “fact of the crime.”

“Ukraine will draw all the necessary conclusions and choose the best possible response,” he added.

In the weeks since Moscow pulled out of a deal that allowed for the safe passage of Ukrainian grain exports in the Black Sea, both Russia and Ukraine have launched attacks on shipping and port targets.

Earlier this month, Ukrainian sea drones attacked a major naval base in Russia. Hours later, Kyiv followed up with a strike on one of Russia’s biggest oil tankers.

For its part, Moscow has pummeled key port infrastructure with strikes in southern Ukraine, further limiting its ability to make exports.

Russia’s defense ministry has warned that ships sailing to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports will be viewed as military targets, while Ukraine has said any attacks of Russian targets on the sea will be justified because they occur in Kyiv’s territorial waters.

Russia claims Ukraine made several drone attacks on its territory

Russia’s defense ministry reported another drone attack Sunday on its western Belgorod region, as well as shelling on the northern Kursk region, both of which border Ukraine.

The latest drone attack occurred around 10 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET), when a Ukrainian craft tried to strike a target on Russian soil but was “foiled,” Moscow said.

The defense ministry announced the drone “was detected and destroyed by Russian air defense means over the territory of Belgorod region,” adding that there were no casualties or damage following the attack.

This comes after local officials reported three other drones being intercepted over the same region earlier in the day.

Separately, Russia says that shells fired by Ukraine hit a residential building in the village of Volfino in the northern Kursk region, wounding three people, according to Roman Starovoyt, the regional governor.

“10 incoming strikes were recorded,” Starovoyt said.

“Unfortunately, three civilians suffered shrapnel wounds of moderate severity, they are taken to the central district hospital,” he added.

The Russian village of Volfino is located just across the border from Ukraine’s Sumy region, which is subjected to regular Russian attacks.

Reported shelling and drone attacks by Ukrainian forces have occurred with increasing frequency in recent months. Kyiv rarely takes direct credit for such attacks, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the war is “gradually returning” to Russian soil.

Death toll from attack on Pokrovsk rises to 10 after rescue worker dies in hospital

A rescue worker died on Sunday from injuries sustained in a Russian missile attack on the eastern Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk on August 7, raising the death toll to 10, according to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service.

The heart of Vitaly Kints, a colonel of the Civil Protection Service, has “stopped forever,” the State Emergency Service said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Kints was “seriously wounded during the repeated shelling” of Pokrovsk and died in hospital in the early hours of Sunday.

The State Emergency Service described Kints as “an outgoing person, a brave and humane leader, a true professional in his field, who devoted a significant part of his life to the service and put his soul into it.”

Russia struck Pokrovsk with two missiles on August 7, and claimed to have targeted a military command post of the “united group of Ukrainian troops Khortitsa.”

The next day, Serhii Cherevatyi, a deputy commander in Ukraine’s military, told the publication Ukrainska Pravda that Russia’s claim was “false propaganda.”

Cherevatyi said that it was the “third or fourth time” already that Russia claimed to destroy that particular military command post.

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, at least 78 rescuers have been killed and 280 wounded in Ukraine while responding to missile strikes.

Germany urges further talks after Saudi Arabia summit

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has welcomed a recent Saudi Arabian-led summit on a peace settlement to end the fighting in Ukraine and called for further diplomatic efforts.

Representatives from about 40 countries including China, Germany, India and the United States took part in last weekend’s gathering in Jeddah, though Russia was not invited.

“It makes sense for us to continue these talks because they increase the pressure on Russia to realise that it has taken the wrong path and that it must withdraw its troops and make peace possible,” Scholz said in his annual summer interview with German broadcaster ZDF on Sunday.

Children among 7 people killed by Russian attacks in Kherson: Ukrainian officials

Seven people were killed in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region as a result of Russian attacks on Sunday, according to Ukrainian officials.

Four people were killed, including a child under the age of 2, in the village of Shyroka Balka, according to Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s Office of the President.

A 12-year-old child with critical injuries died in hospital, according to Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko. “The whole family from Shyroka Balka died,” he stated.

Two people were killed and one person was injured in the village of Stanislav, which was hit 12 times, according to Klymenko.

Both villages were previously occupied by Russia but have been under Ukrainian control since November 2022.

The Ukrainian military is ramping up activity in the southern Kherson region amid a sweeping counteroffensive.

This week Russian state media reported that Ukrainian forces conducted a raid across the Dnipro River in region in an attempt to land near a Russian-occupied village.

France completes training of 6,000 Ukrainian soldiers: DM

France has completed the military training of 6,000 Ukrainian soldiers so far this year, which was its goal for 2023, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said in an interview.

“The Ukrainian counteroffensive requires a new generation of soldiers, who need to be trained. In August, we met the goal we set ourselves for the year — to train 6,000 Ukrainian soldiers, split up between France and Poland,” he added.

Lecornu stated in July that 5,200 Ukrainians had completed training by France, including 1,600 in Poland. He estimated at the time that 7,000 would be trained by the end of this year.

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