Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 545

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:

EU increases financial support to Ukraine

After a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the bloc has paid Kyiv another 1.5 billion euros ($1.63bn), to support its efforts to “keep the state running”.

“And more will come, this year and beyond,” she said in a post on the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter).

Von der Leyen stated she held a “productive” meeting with Zelensky in Athens on Tuesday, as he carries out another tour of European nations.

She added the two leaders discussed “Ukraine’s progress on the EU path”.

Zelensky said Ukraine hopes for a decision by the bloc’s member states to open accession talks linked to Ukraine’s EU membership bid by the end of 2023.

Von der Leyen also outlined the EU’s commitment to bringing “Ukraine’s grain to world markets” as the country continues to deal with the fallout from Russia’s withdrawal from a UN-brokered grain deal in July.

She also stressed a commitment to providing “economic assistance” to Ukraine as it fights off the Russian invasion.   

Zelensky thanked von der Leyen for “her efforts to normalize Ukraine’s agricultural exports and transit” in a post on his official Telegram account.

Russian governor: ‘Ukrainian saboteurs’ repelled by border guards

A group of Ukrainian “saboteurs” unsuccessfully tried to breach Russia’s border in the Bryansk region, the regional governor has said.

Alexander Bogomaz wrote on Telegram, “Today, Ukrainian saboteurs attempted to break through the state border in the Klimovsky district.”

“Thanks to the well-coordinated and heroic actions of the units of the border department… the attack was repelled,” he added.

Russia’s FSB security service announced four Ukrainians were killed in a shootout with border guards as they crossed into Bryansk last week.

Turkish foreign minister to visit Ukraine

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan will visit Ukraine on Friday, diplomatic sources have told the state news agency.

Turkish officials have repeatedly expressed interest in mediating between Kyiv and Moscow to renew the Black Sea deal which guaranteed the safe export of grain from Ukrainian ports.

Reports have also surfaced in Russian media that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, will travel to Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin.

Ukrainian drone attacks thwarted over Moscow and Bryansk regions: Russia

Four Ukrainian drones were intercepted over Russia’s Moscow and Bryansk regions early Tuesday, Russia’s defense ministry announced.

It marks the latest in a barrage of alleged Ukrainian aerial attacks on Russian territory in recent days, including an assault on a Russian air base claimed by Kyiv.

“Two UAVs were detected by air defense systems and jammed by electronic warfare equipment, which caused them to crash over the territory of the Bryansk region,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

Another two UAVs were destroyed over the Moscow region, the statement added.

There were no casualties, it noted.

The drones intercepted over the Moscow region Tuesday were brought down near Krasnogorsk, northwest of the capital, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said on Telegram.

Another UAV was brought down over Chastsy, southwest of Moscow, he said.

Flights have resumed in Moscow Tuesday after aviation authorities temporarily closed all airports in the region.

Ukraine has not commented on Tuesday’s alleged attack.

Remember: A string of drone strikes have peppered Russian cities including Moscow throughout the summer, with an emboldened Kyiv warning that more will come.

Ukraine and Bulgaria discuss cooperation to secure Black Sea “grain corridor” after Russia quits deal

Leaders of Ukraine and Bulgaria have discussed their countries’ cooperation on the Black Sea to secure a “grain corridor” in the wake of Russia’s withdrawal from a crucial deal that has led to growing fears about global food security.

The withdrawal of Russia from the grain deal negotiated by Turkey and the United Nations has had a chilling effect on merchant shipping using the three Ukrainian Black Sea ports from which most grain is exported. Russia has warned that ships leaving these ports may come under attack.

Ukraine has since created its own maritime corridor for shipping, but is unable to guarantee its safety because if Russian naval superiority in the Black Sea. It was first used last week by a container ship that reached Turkish waters without

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov to talk about the corridor on the sidelines of Ukraine-Balkans Summit held in Athens, Greece on Monday.

The two leaders “discussed cooperation between the Black Sea states to ensure sustainable security in the Black Sea and the functioning of the “grain corridor” in alternative ways,” Zelensky’s office said.

Zelensky thanked Denkov for the recent Bulgarian decision to provide defense support to Ukraine, according to the office.

Kyiv is in talks with some of the world’s biggest insurance companies to cover ships traveling to and from its ports in the Black Sea — a crucial step toward a full resumption of vital grain exports around the globe.

Work on an insurance mechanism follows Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative last month, which threatens the safe passage of ships carrying grain to and from Ukrainian ports.

The collapse of the deal — brokered by Turkey and the United Nations a year ago — has already pushed up global food prices and could tip millions in poor countries into hunger.

To keep grain shipments moving, Ukraine’s government will share potential losses with insurers, which should make cover for travel through risky Ukrainian waters more affordable for commercial shipping companies.

Casualties from Chernihiv attack reach 174

The number of people injured after Russian forces targeted Chernihiv has climbed to 174 people, Ukrainian media reports.

At least seven people, including a six-year-old child, were killed when a missile hit a theatre hosting an event for drone designers this weekend.

2 Ukrainian drones crashed over Black Sea: Russian Defense Ministry

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Monday said two Ukrainian drones came down over the Black Sea following an attack from Ukraine.

“The UAVs lost control and crashed over the waters of the Black Sea 40 km (about 25 miles) northwest of the Crimean Peninsula,” the ministry announced.

According to the ministry Ukraine used “fixed-wing drones” that were detected and shot down by the Russian air defense.

The ministry also reported that the Russian air defense systems intercepted two drones over Russia’s Belgorod region and two drones over Moscow region on Monday.

There were no casualties reported and only minimal damage, the ministry added.

Ukraine has not yet commented.

Ukraine confirms drone attack on Russian air base near Moscow

Ukraine on Monday confirmed it carried out a drone attack on a Russian military air base located just more than 200 kilometers (130 miles) northeast of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian drone attack on Shaykovka air base in Russia’s Kaluga region left “at least one aircraft damaged,” Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, said in an interview with Ukrainian media on Monday.

“At least one plane is damaged. As in most cases, the Russian regime is trying to hide the true extent of losses and damage,” Yusov added.

The Shaykovka military air base operates Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range bombers that have been used by Russia to strike targets in Ukraine since the start of the invasion last year.

The Ukrainian air force reported on August 15 that aircraft operating from the Shaykovka air base had launched four Kh-22 air cruise missiles toward Ukraine.

According to Yusov, Monday’s attack was carried out “in clear coordination with the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.”

“There are people who, in coordination with the Main Directorate of Intelligence, completed the assigned tasks,” Yusov stated, adding that this specific task was carried out from within the Russian territory.

“In many other cases” Ukraine’s Intelligence performs various tasks from within the Russian territory, he continued.

Russian social media blog Baza, which has close contacts with the Russian security services, said a Ukrainian drone had crashed on the territory of the Shaykovka air base on Monday.

Baza reported that “an unused aircraft at the airfield was damaged … However, this information has not been officially confirmed.”

Another Russian Telegram channel, Mash, said “the Ukrainian armed forces attempted to attack the Shaykovka military airfield in the Kaluga region.”

The Russian defense ministry has not commented on the incident.

Pope discusses war in Ukraine with top US general

Pope Francis discussed the war in Ukraine with the top United States general during a meeting at the Vatican Monday.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley was “honored and privileged” to have the opportunity to meet the Pope, according to spokesperson Col. Dave Butler.

The two met for about 30 minutes, and Milley presented Pope Francis with a copy of the US Constitution, Butler said.

During the discussion about Ukraine, the Pope was particularly concerned about the number of civilian casualties during the ongoing war.

Milley, who routinely meets his counterparts and other dignitaries in his formal dress uniform, was instead wearing a civilian suit.

Pope Francis has been an outspoken critic of the war in Ukraine. Earlier this month while in Portugal, the Pope rhetorically asked what path Europe was taking if not to end the war in Ukraine. He has urged Russia to rejoin the Black Sea Grain Initiative and said the Vatican is part of a mission to end the war in Ukraine.

In a video released by the Vatican, Milley is heard telling the Pope that he would pray for him.

It was a “humbling experience overall” for Milley to meet the Pope, Butler stated.

Greece will train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets: Zelensky

Greece will train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens Monday.

Zelensky stated that in addition to the training, Ukraine is very grateful for a new defense package Greece pledged for Ukraine.

Zelensky also added that “Greek companies are ready to take part in the transporting of Ukrainian grain” and his country is counting on it as the restoration work of the port of Odesa is underway.

Mitsotakis emphasized that Greece will help reconstruct Ukraine with a focus on the city of Odesa.

Zelensky also noted that Greece has joined the G7 countries on security guarantees for Ukraine and signed a declaration to support Ukrainian Euro-Atlantic integration.

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