Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 579

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:

Kremlin says US Abrams tanks delivered to Ukraine “will burn”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov commented on the arrival of the US Abrams tanks in Ukraine, saying they “will burn” like other weapons and will not alter the situation in the conflict zone.

“Abrams tanks are such a serious weapon. But remember how President (Vladimir Putin) spoke about other foreign-made tanks, that they burn readily. Well, these (tanks) will burn too,” Peskov said on a regular conference call with journalists Tuesday.

On Monday, the Pentagon confirmed 31 US Abrams tanks have arrived in Ukraine.

Peskov stated that despite their significance, no single type of weapon could change the balance of power on the battlefield and alter the course or the outcome of the war.

“​​All this can in no way affect the essence of the special military operation or its outcome,” he added, using the term that Putin and Russian leaders use to refer to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s defence minister says military is building up firepower

Russia’s military is building up its firepower through supplies of modern weapons, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has said, as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues.

Shoigu was speaking at a defence ministry meeting, where he also stated the Russian army was improving training.

Russia publishes video appearing to show Black Sea Fleet commander in meeting as Ukraine claims he was killed

The Russian defense ministry published video Tuesday that appears to show the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Viktor Sokolov, participating in a meeting. The video comes after the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces claimed Monday that Sokolov was killed in a strike on Sevastopol military headquarters on Friday.

In the video, a man who resembles Sokolov appears to join the meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other Russian military leaders via video conference.

The nametape on his uniform reads Sokolov V. N. and his screen shows the Cyrillic letters “ЧФ,” the abbreviation for the Black Sea Fleet. He appears healthy.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov earlier on Tuesday refused to comment on the Ukrainian claim that Sokolov had been killed.

“There has been no information from the Ministry of Defense. This is entirely in their purview and we have nothing to say here,” Peskov told reporters Tuesday during a routine call.

Ukrainian shelling in Belgorod damaged power line: Governor

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod oblast, stated that after the Ukrainian Armed Forces shelled the village of Novaya Tavolzhanka in the region, the power supply line was damaged.

“Also, as a result of the shelling, an outbuilding on the territory of a private household burned down,” he said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app

Operational and emergency services are on site and will begin eliminating the consequences in the near future,” he added.

Most Russian oil exports bypassing price cap: Report

The EU and G7 countries have largely failed to enforce a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne oil exports, Financial Times reported, citing an analysis of shipping and insurance records.

In August, around three-quarters of Russian oil was reportedly being shipped overseas without Western insurers, which was considered one of the tools helping to limit the price at which Russian crude was being sold on the global market.

About half of Russian oil exports did not use Western insurance services during the entire spring, according to Kpler data, as cited by the media, suggesting Moscow “is becoming more adept at circumventing the cap.”

Meanwhile, global prices for crude are on the rise, nearing 13-month highs. Brent futures for November delivery were trading at $93.51 per barrel on Monday, while US West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) climbed above $90 per barrel. Russian crude was no exception, with the Far Eastern blend ESPO trading at over $88 per barrel, and with Urals crude above $78 per barrel.

In June, US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo claimed that the price cap imposed by the Western allies in December was working as intended.

“In just six months, the price cap has contributed to a significant decline in Russian revenue at a key juncture in the war,” he said.

In August, Acting US Assistant Treasury Secretary Eric Van Nostrand said that he was “confident that the price cap is achieving its twin goals of restricting Russian revenues while helping stabilize energy markets.”

According to FT, Russian, Chinese, and Indian insurers have stepped in to replace Western majors, while a “dark fleet” of tankers, built for transporting Russian crude around the world, has helped Moscow to avoid Western insurers and shippers.

Kremlin has “nothing to say” on alleged death of Russian Black Sea Fleet commander

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refused to comment on the alleged assassination of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Admiral Viktor Sokolov.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that Sokolov was killed during its attack on the occupied peninsula of Crimea on Friday.

“There has been no information from the Ministry of Defense. This is entirely in their purview and we have nothing to say here,” Peskov told reporters Tuesday during a routine call.

Ukrainian Special Operations Forces claimed that Sokolov, as well as 33 other officers, were killed in the attack on the Black Sea headquarters in Sevastopol Friday, in perhaps the boldest attack by Ukrainian forces on the occupied peninsula of Crimea so far.

Zelensky’s wife unsure if he will seek re-election

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky might not run for re-election next year, his wife, First Lady Elena Zelenskaya, told CBS’ Face the Nation, even as with no opposition, the outcome of any election is almost certainly a foregone conclusion.

Zelensky banned all opposition political parties less than a month into Russia’s military operation and consolidated all potentially adversarial media outlets into one state-backed platform. No potential presidential challengers have come forward either.

However, Zelenskaya said that her husband’s decision on whether to run again may be influenced by the difficulties of organizing elections amid a military conflict, with millions of eligible voters scattered all over the surrounding continents. She added that she would nevertheless “support him whatever decision he takes.”

“It will also depend whether our society would need him as a president, if he will feel that Ukrainian society would no longer wish him to be the president, he will probably not run,” she added, admitting that she was uncertain of her husband’s intent.

While Zelenskaya claimed she “didn’t fully endorse” his first attempt at the presidency, she acknowledged that a second try would be “not as scary” due to the couple’s experience. She called the moderator’s question – about how she would feel if Zelensky launched a re-election bid – a “difficult” one.

US running low on cash for Ukraine: White House

The Pentagon will only be able to support Ukraine’s war effort for a “few weeks” should Congress fail to pass a new funding bill, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has claimed.

Speaking to CNN for an interview published on Monday, Kirby was asked what impact a government shutdown could have on US aid to Kiev, as lawmakers continue heated negotiations over a stop-gap budget bill which could contain up to $25 billion in assistance to Ukraine.

“We’ve got a little bit more funding to go, so I think we’ll be ok for the next few weeks or so. But without the supplemental request that we asked for, it will absolutely have an effect on our ability to support Ukraine well into the fall and into the winter months,” the White House official said.

“Not getting that supplemental request if there’s a shutdown – that’s gonna have a significant impact on their ability to succeed on the battlefield.”

UN: There’s “continuous evidence” Russian forces are “committing war crimes in Ukraine”

There is “continuous evidence” Russian forces are “committing war crimes in Ukraine,” the United Nations Human Rights Council has announced.

The council alleged that attacks in Ukraine include “unlawful attacks with explosive weapons, attacks harming civilians, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and attacks on energy infrastructure”

The council’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine said it had “documented explosive weapons attacks on residential buildings, a functional medical facility, a railway station, a restaurant, shops and commercial warehouses. These attacks led to civilian casualties, the damage or destruction of key facilities, and the disruption of essential services and supplies.”

The commission heard from torture victims and quotes one person as saying, “every time I answered that I didn’t know or didn’t remember something, they gave me electric shocks … I don’t know how long it lasted. It felt like an eternity.”

The commission reported Russian soldiers committing sexual violence against women of ages ranging from 19 to 83 years, and added it continues to “investigate individual situations of alleged transfers of unaccompanied minors by Russian authorities to the Russian Federation.”

Erik Mose, chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that his team had “collected further evidence indicating that the use of torture by Russian armed forces in areas under their control has been widespread and systematic”.

“In some cases, torture was inflicted with such brutality that it caused the death of the victim,” he noted.

Russian ships in Black Sea still launching strikes after alleged death of top commander: Ukrainian Navy

Russian ships were still launching attacks on Ukraine following the alleged death of the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, but those attacks are being launched “by inertia,” Dmytro Pletenchuk, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Navy, said Monday on national television.

Pletenchuk was asked about comments made by Ukrainian authorities earlier Monday, claiming that Adm. Viktor Sokolov along with 33 other officers were killed and more than 100 servicemen were wounded in Friday’s attack in Sevastopol.

Pletenchuk said Russian President Vladimir Putin “does not control the actual operation of ships at sea” and relies on his admirals who know “their means and forces, personnel, how to manage them, how to better deploy them. And they can also keep things from him [Putin], not report on certain issues.”

He then claimed, “At this moment, they (the Russian Navy) lost the person who actually manages all of this, and his staff, who manages the fleet together with him. This is a large grouping that requires a great number of managers to run all the processes to make it (the fleet)work as a single mechanism. Imagine that the core part of this mechanism becomes inoperable.”

Pletenchuk went on to say that “yes, last night they (referring to the Russian ships in the Black Sea) were still launching strikes by inertia” but he compared the operations to “a chicken running around without a head.”

“Therefore, as of now, they (the Russian navy) will have respective problems with the control of the troops,” he added.

Earlier on Monday, the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces claimed Sokolov has been killed in Sevastopol on Friday, in perhaps the most daring attack by Ukrainian forces on Crimea so far.

“Eliminated during a strike on the headquarters in Sevastopol Commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Admiral Sokolov,” Col. Vladislav Nazarov, spokesperson for the Operational Command “South,” stated.

Death toll in Kherson region rises to 6 after more Russian attacks: Ukrainian military official

At least six people have died and five were injured as a result of Russian shelling in Ukraine’s Kherson region on Monday, Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the region’s military administration, said in an updated post on social media.

“The Russian army again attacked the Dniprovskyi district of the city of Kherson. According to preliminary information, two men and one woman died from their injuries,” Prokudin wrote.

According to Prokudin, three more people were also injured and taken to the hospital.

Earlier, Prokudin reported that three people had died and two were injured as a result of the Russian air strike on the city of Beryslav in the Kherson region Monday.

Prokudin stated that only a quarter of the population remains in the Beryslav community after the civilian evacuations following the intense Russian shelling.

“Over the past two weeks, almost 100 children and their families have left the dangerous coastal communities” of the Kherson region, Prokudin added.

Russia claims to have countered several attacks over the Kursk and Belgorod regions

Russian forces claimed to have thwarted Ukrainian missile and drone attacks on several regions Monday, according to officials.

Moscow’s air defenses shot down four Ukrainian drone attacks over the Kursk region and seven drone attacks over the Belgorod region, the Russian defense ministry and regional officials reported.

Russian forces also stopped a missile attack over Sevastopol, the defense ministry announced.

No significant damage or casualties were reported by the officials in the area.

Mikhail Razvozhaev, a Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol, stated that “air defense forces shot down one missile” in the area of ​​the Belbek military airfield in Sevastopol, without providing any further details.

Moscow puts ICC chairman on wanted list: Russian media

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has put International Criminal Court Chairman Piotr Hofmanski – along with his deputy, Judge Luz del Carmen Ibanez Carranza, and Judge Bertram Schmitt – on the country’s wanted list, according to a report by Russian news outlet Mediazone.

Details of the criminal cases concerning the ICC officials have not yet been revealed.

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