Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 590

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:

North Korea ‘could be sending arms to Russia after Kim visit’

North Korea is “likely” sending arms to Russia, according to a report, as train traffic between the two countries spiked dramatically.

Washington-based analysts Beyond Parallel, citing satellite imagery, said an “unprecedented” number of freight cars were at North Korea’s border Tumangang Rail Facility.

No more than 20 cars had been seen in in the area over the past five years. It “likely indicates North Korea’s supply of arms and munitions to Russia”, the report concludes.

It follows a summit between Kim Jong un and Vladimir Putin last month, where the North Korean leader was expected to have agreed a deal to exchange missiles and shells for satellite technology.

Drone attack near Moscow thwarted by Russia

Russian air defence took down a Ukrainian drone near Moscow early on Saturday, Russian state-owned news agency Tass is reporting.

The attack was repelled over the Istra district northwest of the capital, and appeared to be an attempt by Ukraine to attack Russian facilities, TASS reported, citing Russia’s defence ministry.

The attack appeared to cause no damage or injuries, according to the Moscow mayor, Sergei Sobyanin.

The attack took place as flight operations resumed at Moscow’s Vnukovo and Sheremetyevo airports after being suspended.

US readying new Ukraine arms package: Officials

The Joe Biden administration is expected to announce a new weapons package for Ukraine next week as the Pentagon continues to use up funds discovered due to a multibillion-dollar accounting error, according to US officials.

The funds have allowed Washington to send Kyiv military support despite the exclusion of new Ukraine aid from a stopgap spending bill passed by the House of Representatives last weekend to prevent a government shutdown.

The latest weapons package is expected to have a value of around $200m. The Pentagon still has about $5.4bn in the recently discovered funds.

While a bipartisan majority of Congress supports more aid, a hardline flank of Republicans have wielded outsized influence on the issue. The removal of Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and the subsequent race to replace him, has further thrown more US aid into question.

Zelensky says Russia will ‘again try to destroy’ power grid during winter

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Kyiv is making “preparations” to protect its heating facilities, as he warned that Russia would likely again target the country’s power grid in the cold winter months.

Thousands of engineers have worked over the summer months to repair equipment from the barrage of Russian missile strikes during Ukraine’s last winter, which caused widespread power outages.

“This winter, Russian terrorists will again try to destroy our power system,” Zelensky said in his daily evening address.

“We are fully aware of the danger,” he continued, adding Kyiv was making “preparations for winter, (for) the protection of our generating facilities and provision of electricity and heat.”

Bodies of fallen service members returned to Ukraine in exchange with Russia

The bodies of 64 fallen Ukrainian service members have been repatriated to Ukraine in exchange for the remains of Russian military personnel who died in the country, Ukraine’s Coordinating Agency for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said Friday.

Ukrainian officials will now take the service members’ bodies to state institutions for forensic exams, the agency said in a statement.

Since the beginning of the war, at least 1,896 bodies of Ukrainian service members have been repatriated, according to the agency.

The coordinating agency also negotiates exchanges involving prisoners of war. One such exchange saw 22 Ukrainian POWs released from Russia in August, according to the Ukrainian president’s office.

Ukrainian court seizes $464 million worth of assets from Russian oligarchs for alleged support of war

A court has seized the Ukraine-based assets of three Russian oligarchs — more than $464 million — for their alleged support of Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) and prosecutor’s office.

The oligarchs targeted were Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and Andrey Kosogov, according to a Friday statement from the SBU.

The three businessmen are considered to be a part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and are allegedly involved in schemes that contribute “large-scale financing” to Russia’s war, the SBU and prosecutors said.

The court decision applies to “20 companies and financial institutions owned by the Kremlin oligarchs as ultimate beneficiaries or via controlled offshore companies,” according to Ukrainian officials.

The affected businesses include mobile operators, a mineral water producer, and financial and insurance companies. Ukraine said it took steps to ensure the businesses cannot be re-registered to a front person to avoid seizure.

None of the three Russian businessmen have immediately commented publicly on their assets being seized.

Mikhail Fridman is among the few Russian oligarchs who have publicly spoken out against Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In the beginning days of the war, he called the conflict a “tragedy” for both Ukrainians and Russians.

But in September, the SBU accused the Ukrainian-born businessman of financing Moscow’s war.

Fridman is chairman of Alfa Group, a private conglomerate operating primarily in Russia and former Soviet states that spans banking, insurance, retail and mineral water production.

Germany’s largest arms manufacturer places major ammo order to replenish stocks in Ukraine

Germany’s largest arms manufacturer Rheinmetall announced it has booked a major order of artillery shells to be produced in a deal with the German government to replenish stocks dented by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the fulfillment slated for 2024, according to the defense company.

”Rheinmetall has booked a major order for 155mm artillery ammunition following a second call-off under an existing framework order with the German government,” Rheinmetall said in a press statement Friday.

The defense company, based in Dusseldorf, Germany, said that the new framework contract for 155mm artillery ammunition would run until 2029 and represents a potential order volume of around $1.35 billion (or about 1.2 billion euros). Delivery of the order to the German government is scheduled to take place in 2024.

“The war in Ukraine has compelled the armed forces of numerous nations to replenish their ammunition stocks. In this context, Rheinmetall has already booked several large orders for artillery ammunition,” the statement added.

As recently as July 2023, Rheinmetall announced the signing of a new framework agreement for artillery ammunition with Germany’s armed forces and the expansion of an existing agreement. The agreements between Germany and Rheinmetall entail the delivery of several hundred thousand shells, fuses and propelling charges, the defense company said in its statement.

Rheinmetall’s CEO Armin Papperger told CNN in an exclusive interview in July that his company would ramp up its annual production of artillery rounds from 100,000 to 600,000 in 2024 — with much of that extra output earmarked for delivery to Ukraine. Papperger said that Rheinmetall could provide 60% of the artillery ammunition Ukraine needed.

The defense company’s announcement comes as political upheaval in the US Congress and drained ammunition stocks among NATO countries threaten the flow of military aid to Ukraine.

Kremlin dismisses claims that Russia targets civilians after strike in Hroza killed at least 52 people

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov rejected that the Russian military targets civilians when he was asked about the attack on the Ukrainian village of Hroza that left at least 52 people dead.

“We reiterate: the Russian military does not strike civilian targets,” Peskov told journalists during a press briefing Friday.

“Strikes are carried out on military infrastructure, places where military personnel and representatives of the military leadership are gathered.”

The Kremlin’s comments mark Russia’s first official reaction to the Hroza attack in which a cafe and a shop were targeted with what Ukrainian officials say was a powerful Iskander ballistic missile.

Hroza has a population of about 300 people — the toll in such a small community means one of every six residents is dead, according to Ukrainian officials.

Russia’s Kharkiv strike kills 10-year-old boy and his grandmother, bringing death toll to two

The death toll from Russia’s missile attack on residential buildings that took place early on Friday has now risen to two, Oleh Syniehubov the head of Kharkiv’s regional state administration said in a post on Telegram.

Syniehubov stated a 68-year-old woman was also killed, adding that she was the grandmother of the 10-year-old boy who was killed and the 11-month-old injured baby.

The number of people injured has also risen to at least 30, Syniehubov added.

Videos showing the aftermath of the attacks show smoke billowing into the sky. Another video shows buildings badly burnt with the charred remains of a car nearby.

The Kharkiv region has suffered a recent uptick in attacks, after Thursday’s devastating missile strike on a nearby village in Kupiansk that left at least 52 people dead and six injured.

UN human rights chief deploys field team to probe Russian attack on Hroza village

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR) said on Friday they have deployed a field team to probe the Russian attack in the Ukrainian village of Hroza that left at least 52 people dead.

Moscow’s forces targeted a cafe and a shop in Hroza, with what Ukrainian officials say was a powerful Iskander ballistic missile on Thursday.

“UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, who saw for himself the horrific impact of such strikes, is profoundly shocked and condemns this killing,” Elizabeth Throssell, spokesperson for the OHCHR said in a statement.

“He has deployed a field team to the site to speak to survivors and gather more information.”

Throssell added Thursday’s attack underscores how Ukrainian civilians are “once again” paying the “terrible price” of Russia’s invasion.

According to the UN’s Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, Throssell said the names of 35 people who were killed have been established but did not detail the names.

Moscow’s forces targeted a cafe and a shop in Hroza, near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region, with what Ukrainian officials say was a powerful Iskander ballistic missile, killing at least 52 people, including a 6-year-old boy.

Scenes emerged of emergency workers wading through dense rubble in the aftermath of the strike – a scale of devastation not seen since a Russian attack on a railway station in Kramatorsk in early 2022.

The death toll in such a small community of 330 people means one in every six residents was killed.

EU leaders say they back bigger union

European Union leaders have declared support for adding new members to the bloc but set no target date and warned candidates – including Ukraine – that there would be no short cuts.

At a gathering in Granada, leaders of the 27-nation union proclaimed that EU enlargement is an “investment in peace, security, stability and prosperity”.

However, they also said that both the EU and would-be members would need to make big changes to be ready for an enlarged union. Ukraine applied to join the union days after Russia’s invasion, and was granted candidate status in June 2022.

“Aspiring members need to step up their reform efforts, notably in the area of rule of law,” the EU statement added.

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