Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 583

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:

Russian attack in Odessa ‘barbaric’: EU foreign policy chief

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has visited the Ukrainian port city of Odessa on the Black Sea, to see first hand the effects of the war – including around Odessa’s old quarter and the historic Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration which was badly damaged in July.

Harbour infrastructure that is key to Ukraine’s grain exports has also been hit recently by Russia air strikes. As he toured the cathedral site, Borrell called the assault on the city “barbaric.”

“This is a good example of how Russia is trying to destroy Ukraine,” Borrell said, pointing to the ruins behind him in a video released by his agency.

Moscow still relying on private armies: UK intelligence

Russia continues to rely on mercenaries and volunteer units from private armies in its war against Ukraine, even after the Wagner uprising, according an assessment by British military intelligence.

A clip released by the Kremlin shows Russian President Putin meeting with Andrey Troshev, former Wagner mercenary group chief of staff, the military noted, and was tasked by the president with setting up new “volunteer fighting units”.

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov, who was recently spotted visiting African nations, was also present at the meeting.

‘No new territories of Russia’: Ukraine

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the office of president of Ukraine, stated Moscow has “no chance” of retaining territories it annexed last year.

“There is only the territory of Ukraine, including Crimea, where heavy battles are being fought to destroy the Russian occupation group and the ambitions of the Russian authoritarian state,” he said in a post on X.

Ukraine needs better military capabilities: NATO

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that Ukraine needed “high quality, high quantity” military capabilities.

“Heroism alone cannot intercept missiles,” he said, adding: “There is no defence without industry.”

He was speaking by video link during an international defence industry conference forum in Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said that Wendy Gilmour, who is NATO’s assistant secretary general for defence investments, was representing the transatlantic alliance at the event.

‘Good time and place’ to create a large military hub: Ukraine president

Ukrainian producers have signed about 20 agreements with foreign partners for joint production, exchange of technology, or supply of components to make drones, armoured vehicles and ammunition.

Kyiv’s foreign ministry did not identify the companies in the announcement but said the Ukrainian government plans to create special economic conditions to draw Western investment into the domestic defence sector.

“It will be a mutually beneficial partnership. I think it is a good time and place to create a large military hub,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a meeting with US, British, Czech, German, French, Swedish and Turkish weapons producers.

Russia may annex more Ukrainian regions: Medvedev

Russia’s former leader Dmitry Medvedev has suggested Moscow may annex more regions of Ukraine, as he marked one year since the Kremlin claimed four Ukrainian territories as its own.

Moscow held elections in the four regions this month, but does not fully control any of them and is currently battling a Ukrainian counteroffensive to take them back.

“The special military operation will continue until the complete destruction of the Nazi regime in Kyiv,” said Medvedev, who now serves as deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council.

“Victory will be ours. And there will be more new regions within Russia,” he added.

Putin addresses Russia on first anniversary of reunion with four regions

Millions of people made a conscious choice to unite with their Fatherland a year ago, President Vladimir Putin has said in an address marking the first anniversary of Russia’s reunification with the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, and Zaporozhye and Kherson regions.

The signing of agreements on September 30, 2022 incorporating the four territories into the Russian state was a “defining and truly historic event,” Putin stated in a video message, which was published early on Saturday.

“Millions of residents of Donbass and the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions made their choice to be with their Fatherland,” he stated.

Their reunification with Russia was a “conscious, long-awaited, hard-won and genuinely popular decision … made collectively through referendums in full compliance with international norms,” the president added.

By going to the polls, “the people showed courage and integrity in the face of attempts to intimidate and deprive them of their right to determine their own future, their destiny, and to take away something every person values. Namely, culture, traditions, and mother tongue,” he continued.

According to Putin, all those things had been “loathed by nationalists and their Western patrons who orchestrated a coup in Kiev in 2014 and then unleashed a full-scale civil war and terror against dissenters and organized blockades, constant shelling, and punitive actions in Donbass.”

He was referring to the so-called Euromaidan uprising, which led to the overthrow of the democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in February 2014, and the conflict between the new government in Kiev and the Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk that started shortly after the coup.

Speaking about Russia’s ongoing military operation in Ukraine, the president said that “by defending our compatriots in Donbass and Novorossiya, we are defending Russia itself. Together, we are fighting for the Motherland, for our sovereignty, spiritual values, unity, and victory.”

The people of Russia fully backed the decision of the new territories, and now all regions of the country are involved in “rebuilding and building schools and hospitals, housing and roads, museums and memorial sites” in the People’s Republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR), and Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, Putin stated.

“We are one people, and together we can overcome anything and meet any challenge,” he continued, addressing the residents of the newly incorporated regions.

The results of the referendums, which took place between September 23 and 27 last year, have not been recognized by the Ukrainian authorities and their Western backers. During the votes, the number of those who supported reunification with Russia stood at 99.23% in the DPR, at 98.42% in the LPR, at 87% in Kherson Region, and at 93.11% in Zaporozhye Region.

Ukraine: ‘Road map of cooperation’ with US on arms to start soon

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, says there will be meetings soon with representatives from the United States “to determine the road map of cooperation with the partners about localisation of [weapons] production, specifically in Ukraine”.

The US has agreed to supply Kyiv with advanced rocket-launch systems to try to turn the tide of the war. These include high-mobility artillery HIMARS multiple-rocket launchers, which will allow Ukrainian forces to hit deeper behind Russian lines while staying out of range of Russian artillery.

Washington has announced its approval of transfers of its F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, and pilot training by European allies has commenced.

Supporting Ukraine is ‘tough and painful’: UK foreign secretary

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has acknowledged that backing Ukraine is “tough and painful.” He cautioned NATO allies against wavering, however, as turning their back on Kiev would cause greater problems down the line.

In an interview with The House media outlet on Saturday, Cleverly was asked to comment on “growing anti-Ukrainian sentiment” in some Western nations.

He admitted that helping Kiev was “tough and this is painful,” with the conflict generally “putting pressure on countries all over the world.”

However, the foreign secretary insisted that “if we don’t stick with our support to Ukraine, if we send the signal that aggressors can prosper, then all the problems that we are currently facing … will just get worse.”

He urged Western allies to address fatigue, which has become a “big thing.”

Commenting on former US President Donald Trump’s repeated promises to end hostilities between Ukraine and Russia within 24 hours, Cleverly said the Republican “did some very surprising and positive things with regard to international relations” during his first term in the White House. The British minister specifically mentioned the Abraham Accords, which paved the way for the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab nations.

Cleverly added that, while he would be delighted if Trump managed to secure a just peace swiftly, this is not something London is banking on.

Africa interested in making Ukrainian weapons: Kyiv

African countries are interested in not just buying weapons from Kyiv but manufacturing them, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has stated, at the first International Defence Industries Forum in Kyiv.

Officials from more than 30 countries and 250 defence firms gathered for the forum, which was held as Ukraine seeks to attract weapons manufacturers to bolster its domestic arms industry.

“Africa was one of the largest markets for Ukrainian military products before the outbreak of full-scale war,” Kuleba said in a panel discussion held behind closed doors on Saturday.

Russian oil cap not working: Washington

The price cap imposed on Russian oil by the G7 countries is not working as intended, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Friday, as quoted by Bloomberg. She stated market prices for crude exported from the sanctions-hit nation remain high.

A $60-per-barrel price ceiling on Russian seaborne crude was introduced by the EU, G7 countries, and Australia on December 5. It prohibits Western firms from providing insurance and other services to shipments of Russian crude, unless the cargo is purchased at or below the set price.

The mechanism was intended to force Russia to continue exporting high volumes of oil to prevent global prices from spiking, but reduce the revenue that Moscow generates by selling its crude.

“It does point to some reduction in the effectiveness of the price cap,” Yellen noted during her visit to Savannah, Georgia in response to a question about Russian crude prices, which are now hovering around $100 per barrel instead of the $60 set by the cap.

Bloomberg reported that Moscow had initially tried to replace shipping and insurance service providers, but succeeded in developing its own alternatives in recent months.

“Russia has spent a great deal of money and time and effort to provide services for the export of its oil,” Yellen continued, adding, “They have added to their shadow fleet, provided more insurance and that kind of trade is not prohibited by the price cap.”

The Treasury chief pledged to enforce efforts to prevent evasion of the restrictions, but provided no details about any specific new measures.

“We are more than prepared to take action,” she said, adding that the G7 was ready to “consider over time whether there are ways that might make this policy more effective.”

Zelensky opens Kyiv’s first International Defence Industries Forum

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has opened Kyiv’s first International Defence Industries Forum, in a bid to attract more manufacturers to build arms in Ukraine.

“Our first task is to win this war and return a lasting and, most importantly, reliable peace to our people. We will accomplish this task through our cooperation with you,” Zelensky said in a speech at the opening.

“We are interested in localising the production of equipment necessary for our defence… and advanced defence systems used by our soldiers that give Ukraine the best results at the front today,” he added.

Officials from over 30 countries and 250 defence firms attended the forum.

More than 100 settlements came under Russian fire on Friday: Ukraine’s military

Russian forces attacked more than 100 settlements in eastern Ukraine on Friday, Kyiv said, targeting both troops and civilians.

The assault involved six missiles, 56 air strikes and 40 multiple launch rocket systems attacks, the Ukrainian military announced on Saturday.

Overnight Saturday, Kremlin forces launched at least 50 drones to attack on targets in southern Ukraine.

Of those, 30 drones were destroyed in the Vinnytsia, Odesa and Mykolaiv regions, the Defense Forces of Southern Ukraine said on the social media app telegram.

The head of the Vinnytsia region’s military administration, Serhii Borzov, said a piece of infrastructure was hit in the community of Kalynivka, prompting local authorities to take “preparatory measures for evacuation.”

Russia has stepped up attacks on southern Ukrainian grain infrastructure following the collapse of a UN-brokered deal allowing the safe package of grain. There are also signs Russia is again targeting the Ukrainian power grid as it did during last winter.

EU to extend temporary protection for Ukrainian refugees until March 2025

The European Union is extending temporary protections for Ukrainian refugees until March 2025, the European Council announced.

The temporary protection provides refugees with residence, access to the labor market and housing, medical and social welfare assistance and access to education for children. It is granted to displaced Ukrainian refugees who “are not in a position to return to their country of origin.”

There are more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees currently living in the EU, the bloc said in a statement.

The temporary protection mechanism was activated on March 4, 2022, shortly after Russian invasion of Ukraine started in February of 2022.

Decree signed by Putin allows Ukrainians to enter and exit Russia without visas

Ukrainian citizens are able to enter and exit Russia without visas by using their Ukrainian documents, according to a Russian decree that took effect Friday.

According to the decree, signed by President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian citizens can cross the Russian border by using their Ukrainian passport, a diplomatic or service passport, a sailor’s identity card or an aircraft crew member’s card.

For children who may be traveling, a birth certificate or a passport of a legal representative with information about the child will be required.

The decree also makes it possible for Ukrainian citizens to enter and exit Russia even if their documents have expired.

Another decree that was signed by the Russian president and took effect on Friday makes the process of obtaining Russia citizenship easier for some individuals, especially if they are citizens of former Soviet states.

Foreigners who have signed a contract for military service in the Russian Armed Forces for a period of at least one year will also be able to obtain citizenship in a simplified manner. At the same time, the list of crimes for which the acquired citizenship may be terminated has increased. Some of the crimes include desertion, discrediting the Russian Armed Forces and calls for extremism.

On Friday, Putin also signed a decree on the beginning of the autumn conscription into the military. As part of the autumn conscription, 130,000 people will be called up for service.

UK announces new sanctions in response to Russian sham elections in occupied Ukrainian regions

The British government announced on Friday new sanctions in response to Russian sham elections in occupied parts of Ukraine.

The UK imposed asset freezes and travel bans on Russian officials involved in the recent sham elections in the Ukrainian regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk, and in illegally annexed Crimea, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said in a statement.

In addition to the specific individuals, which include the secretary of the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) Natalya Budarina, sanctions were also imposed on the commission as an entity as well.

“Russia’s sham elections are a transparent, futile attempt to legitimize its illegal control of sovereign Ukrainian territory. You can’t hold ‘elections’ in someone else’s country,” UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stated, adding, “The UK will never recognize Russia’s claims to Ukrainian territory.”

“Russia has sought to destroy Ukrainian culture and identity in a bid to strengthen its illegitimate claim to Ukrainian territory, including by forcible issue of Russian passports, and imposition of Russian law, media, education, and currency,” the FCDO added.

“These elections are another violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and of the UN Charter.”

The latest package of sanctions comes ahead of a new commemoration day in Russia that President Vladimir Putin has declared to celebrate the anniversary of his annexations, “despite Russia having no legitimate basis for any claim to Ukrainian territory,” FCDO said.

Ukraine’s occupied regions to be included for first time in new round of Russian conscriptions

Fall conscription will begin from October 1 in all parts of the Russian Federation, including in the illegally annexed regions of Ukraine, Russia’s defense ministry announced Friday.

In some regions of the Far North, the conscription will begin on November 1 due to the climate differences, Rear Admiral Vladimir Tsimlyansky, deputy chief of the Main Organizational and Mobilization Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said during a briefing.

“The autumn conscription will take place from October 1 in all constituent entities of the Russian Federation,” Tsimlyansky added.

“The exception is certain regions of the Far North and certain areas equated to regions of the Far North, where citizens living in these territories are conscripted for military service from November 1 to December 31. This is primarily due to the climatic characteristics of these territories.”

The departure of conscripts from collection points is scheduled to begin on October 16, he stated.

“The term of conscription military service, as before, will be 12 months,” Tsimlyansky continued.

The conscription for military service in what Moscow claims are Russia’s the new regions is regulated by a so-called constitutional law on admission to the Russian Federation, according to state news agency TASS.

According to the law, the autumn 2023 conscription will include the annexed territories – Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – for the first time. There was no conscription for military service last year and in the spring of 2023 in these regions, according to TASS.

While regular conscriptions will be carried out, Russia has no plans for further mobilizations, Tsimlyansky, added.

Conscriptions in Russia happen twice per year. Last fall’s conscription began a month later than usual due to bottlenecks at conscription offices amid a partial mobilization, according to TASS.

France to step up its military aid to Ukraine by setting up industrial partnerships

France is stepping up its support to Ukraine by setting up industrial partnerships between the two countries.

“By definition, a counter-offensive on a 1,200-kilometer (746-mile) front takes time, so we need patience, confidence and endurance,” defense minister Sebastien Lecornu told journalists during a visit in Kyiv on Thursday.

Lecornu was heading a delegation of lawmakers and business leaders from various combat industries, ranging from drones, robots linked to drones, artillery, munitions and artificial intelligence.

The French minister met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as the country’s new defense minister Rustem Umerov.

Lecornu stated France would “offer innovative solutions to the Ukrainian army and increasingly be in a position to make fewer transfers, but rather direct acquisitions, sometimes under French subsidy, for the Ukrainian army.”

“It’s a way for us to maintain our position over the long term and establish French interests in Kyiv on a long-term basis,” Lecornu added.

Speaking separately to French public radio France Info, Lecornu said that “as the war is going to last, the transfer of equipment from the French armed forces – but not only the French – has, by definition, its limits.”

The defense minister added France was “going to withdraw a lot of old equipment from the French army in favor of much newer equipment, which we’ll be able to give to Ukraine.”

“Nevertheless, if we want to last,” the minister said, “we need to be able to ‘connect’ French manufacturers directly with the Ukrainian army.”

“So these are also opportunities for French industries. I’m sorry to say it like that, but we have to recognize that too,” he told France Info.

Ukraine confirms attack on electrical grid in Russia’s Kursk region

Ukraine’s Security Service has confirmed that it was behind the attack on an electrical substation in Russia’s Kursk region on Friday, according to sources.

The security service said the substation was struck because it provided electricity to important Russian military facilities, sources said.

The security service implied that if Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure continue, then Kyiv’s forces would respond in kind, sources added.

Earlier, Kursk’s governor said five settlements and a hospital lost power in the southwest region bordering Ukraine following a drone strike.

Russia’s Defense Ministry also claimed earlier Friday that its air defenses had destroyed 10 Ukrainian drones over Kursk and one over the Kaluga region southwest of Moscow.

No casualties have been reported.

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