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Ukraine-Russia war - live: Putin forces may have breached Romanian airspace during drone attacks

Nato member Romania said on Saturday morning Russia may have breached its airspace during attacks on southern Ukraine.

The Kremlin has stepped up its attacks in Ukraine’s southern Odsea and Mykolaiv regions - near the border with Romanian - in recent days after exiting a deal allowing the safe passage of grain shipments via the Black Sea.

“Following the detection of groups of drones heading towards Ukrainian territory near the Romanian border, residents in the Tulcea and Galati municipalities were alerted,” Romania’s defence ministry said in a statement.

“The radar surveillance system ... indicated possible unauthorised entry into national airspace, with a signal detected on a route towards the municipality of Galati.”

Earlier, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered a former Wagner boss to take control of “volunteer units” and rejoin the frontline in Ukraine.

Signalling the Kremlin’s intention to continue using the mercenaries following the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, Putin told Andrei Troshev in a meeting late on Thursday that his task is to “deal with forming volunteer units that could perform various combat tasks, primarily in the zone of the special military operation.”

Key Points

  • Greenpeace raise major concerns over the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

  • New video of ‘dead’ Russian Black Sea fleet commander raises doubts over Ukraine’s claim

  • Ukraine repel Russian attacks in Bakhmut

  • Russia lauches huge drone strike on Ukraine from Black Sea

  • Ukrainian soldiers welcome US Abram tanks

  • Putin orders former Wagner commander to take charge of 'volunteer units' in Ukraine

The Ukrainian counteroffensive so far

17:50 , Lydia Patrick

Kyiv began its counteroffensive in early June to try to recapture territories seized by Russia, which still controls about 18% of the Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine reported advances in several directions and liberated over a dozen villages, but so far has not managed to retake any major cities.

Some progress was seen on Wednesday in southern and eastern Ukraine on Wednesday as Ukrainian soldiers fought off Russian attacks on the battlefield, told military officials.

“We continue to repel intense enemy attacks near Klishchiivka and Andriivka. The enemy is still storming these positions with the hope of recapturing lost positions, but without success,” Ilia Yevlash, a spokesperson for Ukraine‘s eastern group of forces, told national television.

Ukrainian servicemen ride a tank in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)
Ukrainian servicemen ride a tank in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)

EU pledges support for Ukraine one year on from annexation

17:20 , Lydia Patrick

Russia celebrated the first anniversary of the annexation of Ukraine with a concert on Red Square.

In Ukraine, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell referenced the anniversary of the regions being “illegally annexed” by Russia in a video recorded during an unannounced visit to the Black Sea port city of Odesa on Saturday.

Speaking from the city’s Transfiguration Cathedral, severely damaged in a Russian missile strike in July, Mr Borrell reiterated the EU’s support for Ukraine.

“Odesa is a beautiful historic city. It should be in the headlines for its vibrant culture and spirit. Instead, it marks the news as frequent target of Putin’s war,” the EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy chief wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In an address released in the early hours to mark the first anniversary of the annexation, Mr Putin insisted it was carried out “in full accordance with international norms”.

Josep Borrell condemned the invastion (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Josep Borrell condemned the invastion (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Ukraine emphasises need for more weapons in forum with international producers

16:40 , Lydia Patrick

President Volodymyr Zelensky hopes to transform Ukraine’s defence industry into a ‘large military hub’ by partnering with Western weapons manufacturers to increase arms supplies for Kyiv’s counteroffensive.

In a conference with with international weapon producers he said: "Ukraine is in such a phase of the defence marathon when it is very important, critical to go forward without retreating. Results from the frontline are needed daily.”

"We are interested in localizing production of equipment needed for our defence and each of those advanced defence systems which are used by our soldiers, giving Ukraine the best results at the front today.”

Ukraine critically depends on Western financial and military support and has had tens of billions of dollars of such help since the start of Russia’s invasion in February 2022. But the war created a constantly growing demand for arms and ammunition.

Executives from weapons producers from over 30 countries attended the forum. Some said they were depleting their stocks quickly and had struggled to find supplies to be able to ramp up production to meet Ukrainian demand.

Several leading Western producers like Germany’s weapon production giant Rheinmetall and Britain-based BAE Systems have already announced plans to team up with Ukrainian producers.

The Foreign Ministry said Ukrainian producers signed about 20 agreements with foreign partners for joint production, exchange of technology or supply of components to make drones, armoured vehicles and ammunition. It did not identify the companies.

Zelensky spoke today at a forum in Kyiv to emphasise the need for more weapons (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Zelensky spoke today at a forum in Kyiv to emphasise the need for more weapons (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Russia ‘shoots down own fighter jet'

16:08 , Matt Mathers

Russia shot down one of its own fighter jets in the Zaporozhye region, a Ukrainian soldier has claimed.

The soldier, who goes by the name of Butusov Plus on Telegram, said: “Yesterday there was information about the downing of a Russian Su-35 fighter near the city of Tokmak”.

He added: “Apparently, the air defense of the occupiers ‘stood out’, which “landed” its plane, worth about 100 million dollars. The fact of the destruction of the enemy aircraft is confirmed by the monitor channel.

“Also today, the Russian aviation Z-blogger Fighterbomber published a photo of the Su-35 with the wishes of the pilot of eternal flight, thereby confirming the death of the crew.

“The video shows, presumably, the moment of the downing of an enemy fighter. We welcome such friendly fire.”

World ‘stands with Ukraine’ as Putin marks anniversary of ‘sham’ elections

15:36 , Matt Mathers

Just two countries - North Korea and Syria - have chosen to recognise referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine widely condemned by Western countries as “sham” elections.

Vladimir Putin held polls in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson and Zaporizhzia which Russian-installed officials won.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said the lack of backing for the results showed that the “world has chosen to stand with Ukraine.

It comes as Russian president Putin marks the first anniversary of the annexations.

Full report: Putin launches overnight drone and missile attacks on eastern and southern Ukraine

14:35 , Matt Mathers

A tourist attraction, a film location and a symbol of hope - the felled Sycamore Gap tree was many things to many people.

The 300 year-old natural beauty was one of the most photographed trees in the country and an iconic sight next to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. However, this week it was felled prompting an outpouring of anger and sorrow, from campaigners and the public alike.

Arpan Rai has more details:

The Sycamore Gap tree that stood tall for 300 years - in pictures

Confident of Poland continuing Ukraine military support despite strained ties, Nato chief says

13:40 , Matt Mathers

Poland will find ways to address disagreements with Ukraine without the recent differences impacting its military support, said Nato’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

The two neighbouring nations have encountered friction in their ties after Poland – that has been one of Ukraine’s fiercest allies through the course of Russian invasion – decided to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports.

Arpan Rai reports:

Confident Poland and Ukraine will mend ties to continue military aid, Nato chief says

Putin marks anniversary of annexation of Ukrainian regions

13:20 , Matt Mathers

Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that the residents of four Ukrainian regions illegally annexed by Moscow a year ago "made their choice - to be with their fatherland".

In an address released in the early hours to mark the first anniversary of the annexation, Mr Putin insisted it was carried out "in full accordance with international norms".

He also claimed that residents of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions had again expressed their desire to be part of Russia in local elections earlier this month, in which Russia’s Central Election Commission said the country’s ruling party won the most votes.

The West has denounced the referendum votes carried out last year and the recent ballots as a sham. The votes were held as Russian authorities attempted to tighten their grip on territories Moscow illegally annexed a year ago and still does not fully control.

Russia Putin (Sputnik)
Russia Putin (Sputnik)

Ukraine lures Western weapons makers to transform defence industry

12:35 , Matt Mathers

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday he wants to turn Ukraine’s defence industry into a "large military hub" by partnering with Western weapons manufacturers to increase arms supplies for Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russia.

He was speaking at a forum his government convened with international producers to discuss how to jointly develop industrial capacity to build and repair weapons in Ukraine despite constant Russian bombardment.

"Ukraine is in such a phase of the defence marathon when it is very important, critical to go forward without retreating. Results from the frontline are needed daily," Zelensky told executives representing more than 250 Western weapons producers.

"We are interested in localizing production of equipment needed for our defence and each of those advanced defence systems which are used by our soldiers, giving Ukraine the best results at the front today," he told the forum in Kyiv.

File photo: President Zelensky (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
File photo: President Zelensky (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Ukraine shoots down 30 drones over south, centre, officials say

10:33 , Matt Mathers

Ukraine’s air force shot down 30 out of 40 Iranian-made "Shahed" drones launched by Russia in an overnight attack on central and southern regions, regional and military officials said on Saturday.

The South Military command said that 20 drones were shot down in the central Vinnytsia region and another 10 over the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions in the south.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the southern command, told Ukrainian TV that Russia continued to attack port infrastructure, including on the Danube river, and was also attempting to strike critical infrastructure facilities in other Ukrainian regions "to impact the economy".

Russia has intensified air attacks on Ukrainian grain export infrastructure on the Danube River and in the port of Odesa since July, when Moscow quit a UN-brokered deal that allowed safe Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea.

Serhiy Borzov, the Vinnytsia regional governor, said that an infrastructure facility was hit in the region, causing a powerful fire. He gave no other details about the damage.

Regional authorities also said that three people were injured in the southern Kherson region which is close to the frontlines and frequently comes under artillery shelling.

File: Ukrainian air defense intercepts a Shahed drone mid-air (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
File: Ukrainian air defense intercepts a Shahed drone mid-air (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Russia may have breached Romania airspace during attacks on Ukraine

09:19 , Matt Mathers

Nato member Romania says its airspace may have been violated during overnight drone attacks by Russia on infrastructure in Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reports.

The Kremlin has stepped up its attacks in Ukraine’s southern Odsea and Mykolaiv regions - near the border with Romanian - in recent days after exiting a deal allowing the safe passage of grain shipments via the Black Sea.

“Following the detection of groups of drones heading towards Ukrainian territory near the Romanian border, residents in the Tulcea and Galati municipalities were alerted,” Romania’s defence ministry said in a statement.

“The radar surveillance system ... indicated possible unauthorised entry into national airspace, with a signal detected on a route towards the municipality of Galati.”

Russia says air defence downs nine of Ukraine’s missiles over Belgorod region

08:21 , Matt Mathers

The Russian defence ministry said on Saturday that its air defence had downed all nine missiles launched from Ukraine over its western Belgorod region.

Belgorod borders Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and has repeatedly come under fire since the beginning of Russia’s special military operation in February 2022.

Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia.

Slovaks choose between pro-Russian ex-PM Fico and pro-Western liberals

07:15 , Matt Mathers

Slovaks started voting on Saturday in a parliamentary election closely fought between former leftist prime minister Robert Fico, who has pledged to end military aid for neighbouring Ukraine, and pro-Western liberals.

Final opinion polls showed the two parties in dead heat, with the winner expected to get the first chance to try to form a government to replace the caretaker administration running the country of 5.5 million since May.

A government led by Fico would mean Slovakia joining Hungary as EU countries challenging the bloc’s consensus on support for Ukraine, just as the European Union looks to keep unity in opposing Russia’s invasion.

It would also add to a bloc of eastern ex-Communist states with governments publicly hostile to liberalism, along with Poland’s nationalist PiS, which also faces an election next month, though Poland remains pro-Ukrainian.

A Progresivne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia, PS) government would stay the course on foreign policy, keeping Slovakia’s strong backing for Ukraine and putting the country in a pro-integration and liberal camp in the EU on issues such as majority voting to make the bloc more flexible, green policies and LGBT rights.

Neither Fico’s SMER-SSD (Direction-Slovak Social Democracy) nor the PS, led by European Parliament Vice-Chairman Michal Simecka, is expected to win a majority, meaning the future government is likely to depend on results for over half a dozen smaller parties, from libertarians to far-right extremists.

Robert Fico (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Robert Fico (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ICYMI: Slovakia election pits a pro-Russia former prime minister against a liberal pro-West newcomer

06:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Slovakia holds an early parliamentary election on Saturday that pits populist former Prime Minister Robert Fico, who campaigned on a clear pro-Russia and anti-American message, against a liberal pro-West newcomer.

Fico and his leftist Smer, or Direction, party vowed to reverse Slovakia’s military support for neighboring Ukraine in Russia’s war, if his attempt to return to power is successful.

Slovakia’s vote is a key test that could put the country on a new course away from Kyiv and towards Moscow, threatening to break a fragile unity in the European Union and NATO.

Read more:

Slovakia election pits a pro-Russia former prime minister against a liberal pro-West newcomer

Zelensky says ‘only matter of time’ before Ukraine becomes Nato member

05:00 , Eleanor Noyce

President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was only a “matter of time” before Ukraine became an official Nato member as he met the defence bloc’s chief in Kyiv.

Kyiv has pushed to join Nato despite Russia‘s threat.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg reiterated on Thursday that Ukraine would be a member of the trans-Atlantic military alliance. He said the bloc would stand with Kyiv as long as it takes.

Mr Stoltenberg met the war-time president in Kyiv to discuss the status of the ongoing Russian war, a day after Moscow accused Ukraine’s allies of helping plan and conduct last week’s missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters in the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Read more:

Zelensky says ‘only matter of time’ before Ukraine becomes Nato member

Ukraine ‘hits power substation’ in drone attacks on Russian border regions

04:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukraine launched a new wave of drone strikes on Russia’s border regions of Kursk and Kaluga overnight, according to the Russian defence ministry.

At least one drone targeted a power substation, Russian officials said, blowing up a transformer and cutting power supplies to the village of Belaya, less than 25km from the border.

Kyiv is yet to comment on the attacks, which began on Thursday evening and continued into Friday morning, and does not typically claim responsibility for operations across the border in Russia.

More here:

Ukraine ‘hits power substation’ in drone attacks on Russian border regions

Mexico's president slams US aid for Ukraine and sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba

03:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Mexico’s president on Friday slammed U.S. aid for Ukraine and economic sanctions on Venezuela, Cuba and other nations as the first of two high-level U.S.-Mexico meetings got underway in Washington.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued a broad criticism of U.S. foreign policy, saying U.S. economic sanctions were forcing people to emigrate from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The harsh comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Trade Representative Katherine Tai met their Mexican counterparts at the State Department. None of the officials, including Mexican Foreign Secretary Alicia Bárcena and Secretary of Economy Raquel Buenrostro, addressed or were asked about López Obrador’s comments.

More here:

Mexico's president slams US aid for Ukraine and sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba

Putin recruits former Wagner commander ‘Grey Hair’ Troshev to oversee Ukraine mercenaries

02:00 , Eleanor Noyce

President Vladimir Putin recruited a former aide of late Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin to oversee mercenary fighter units in Ukraine.

The Russian president met Andrei Troshev, who is known by his nom de guerre “Sedoi” or “grey hair“, along with deputy defence minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov on Thursday night, the Kremlin said in a statement.

“At the last meeting, we talked about you overseeing the formation of volunteer units that can carry out various tasks, first and foremost, of course, in the zone of the special military operation,” Mr Putin was quoted as saying to Mr Troshev. Special military operation is what Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine.

More here:

Putin recruits former Wagner commander ‘Grey Hair’ Troshev

Russian athletes allowed to compete as neutrals at next year’s Paralympics

01:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian athletes will be able to compete as neutrals at next year’s Paralympic Games in Paris despite the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

International Paralympic Committee member nations voted against a full suspension of the Russian committee at the organisation’s General Assembly in Bahrain, but a motion to partially suspend was passed on Friday afternoon.

The decision means Russian athletes will be able to compete in Paris next summer, provided they do not wear kit or fly the flag of Russia.

More here:

Russian athletes allowed to compete as neutrals at next year’s Paralympics

Hungary's Orbán casts doubt on European Union accession talks for Ukraine

Saturday 30 September 2023 00:01 , Eleanor Noyce

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán cast doubt Friday on the prospect of the European Union beginning negotiations any time soon for Ukraine to join the bloc, saying it was unrealistic to launch the accession process with a country that’s at war.

Speaking to state radio, Orbán noted that unanimity among the EU’s 27 member states is required to admit a new country into the bloc. In the case of Hungary, he said, the parliament would have to give the go-ahead to Ukraine, which has ambitions to join the EU within two years.

“When I’m in the chamber, I don’t feel the insurmountable desire for the Hungarian parliament to vote for Ukraine’s membership of the European Union within two years. So I would be careful with these ambitious plans,” Orbán said.

Justin Spike reports:

Hungary's Orbán casts doubt on European Union accession talks for Ukraine

US names veteran diplomat as top China policy official

Friday 29 September 2023 23:00 , Eleanor Noyce

The Biden administration on Friday named Mark Lambert as its top China policy official at the State Department, appointing the veteran diplomat amid tense relations between the two powers over issues including Taiwan, trade and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lambert will be the deputy assistant secretary for China and Taiwan as well as head the Office of China Coordination - informally known as China House - a team created late last year to unify China policies across regions and issues.

Reuters was first to report Lambert’s planned appointment on 29 August.

An Asia expert who did two stints at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, Lambert most recently served as a deputy assistant secretary focused on Japanese, Korean and Mongolian affairs, and on relations with Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Ryanair and Michael O’Leary’s eastern promise to help rebuild Ukraine

Friday 29 September 2023 21:50 , Eleanor Noyce

Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pays His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key travel issue – and what it means for you.

Early in February 2022, my weekly newsletter was ready to send. It included a tantalising deal of the week. In late March, both Ryanair and Wizz Air were to start flying from London to Odesa. Suddenly British holidaymakers would be just three hours and a few 10s of pounds from one of Europe’s loveliest cities.

Odesa shares with St Petersburg heroic beauty and a dramatic history – yet with Black Sea beaches and a sunny disposition, Odesa is warmer and more indulgent than the former Russian capital on the Baltic. I booked on the first Ryanair plane out – and hoped to persuade other travellers to do the same.

The deal never appeared. Before the email was sent out, the foreign desk at The Independent told me of a build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s frontiers. I hurriedly found a more certain, if less compelling, bargain to share.

Simon Calder reports:

Michael O’Leary’s eastern promise to help rebuild Ukraine

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

Friday 29 September 2023 21:20 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine has been raging for one year now as the conflict continues to record devastating casualties and force the mass displacement of millions of blameless Ukrainians.

Vladimir Putin began the war by claiming Russia’s neighbour needed to be “demilitarised and de-Nazified”, a baseless pretext on which to launch a landgrab against an independent state that happens to have a Jewish president in Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine has fought back courageously against Mr Putin’s warped bid to restore territory lost to Moscow with the collapse of the Soviet Union and has continued to defy the odds by defending itself against Russian onslaughts with the help of Western military aid.

More here:

Here’s why Putin really invaded Ukraine

Mexico's president slams US aid for Ukraine and sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba

Friday 29 September 2023 20:50 , Eleanor Noyce

Mexico’s president on Friday slammed U.S. aid for Ukraine and economic sanctions on Venezuela, Cuba and other nations as the first of two high-level U.S.-Mexico meetings got underway in Washington.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued a broad criticism of U.S. foreign policy, saying U.S. economic sanctions were forcing people to emigrate from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The harsh comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Trade Representative Katherine Tai met their Mexican counterparts at the State Department. None of the officials, including Mexican Foreign Secretary Alicia Bárcena and Secretary of Economy Raquel Buenrostro, addressed or were asked about López Obrador’s comments.

More here:

Mexico's president slams US aid for Ukraine and sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba

NATO's Stoltenberg: Poland and Slovakia will still back Ukraine after elections

Friday 29 September 2023 20:20 , Eleanor Noyce

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday said he was confident that both Poland and Slovakia would continue to support Ukraine in its war with Russia after imminent elections, despite recent harsh rhetoric towards Kyiv.

Poland, which elects a new parliament on 15 October, said last week it would no longer agree to new arms deliveries to Ukraine but instead focus on rebuilding its own stocks.

Poland, a NATO member, had until recently been seen as one of Ukraine‘s staunchest allies in its war with Russia, but relations have soured since Poland’s decision to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports.

“I’m expecting and I’m confident that Ukraine and Poland will find a way to address those issues without that impacting in a negative way the military support to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told Reuters in an interview in Copenhagen.

NATO-member Slovakia has also been a staunch ally of Ukraine, sending its eastern neighbour military equipment including MiG-29 fighter jets and an S-300 air defence system.

But opposition leader and former prime minister Robert Fico, who leads polls ahead of Saturday’s election, has pledged to end that military support.

“Whatever new government they will have in Slovakia, we will continue to sit down at NATO meetings,” Stoltenberg said, “and I’m confident that we’ll find ways to continue to provide support - as we have been after every election in this alliance since the war started.”

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

White House: oil price cap on Russian exports is still useful

Friday 29 September 2023 20:10 , Eleanor Noyce

The United States believes an oil price cap on Russian exports remains an important tool, the White House said on Friday.

National security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that “nobody should be buying Russian oil in violation of the price cap.”

Zelensky says ‘only matter of time’ before Ukraine becomes Nato member

Friday 29 September 2023 19:50 , Eleanor Noyce

President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was only a “matter of time” before Ukraine became an official Nato member as he met the defence bloc’s chief in Kyiv.

Kyiv has pushed to join Nato despite Russia‘s threat.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg reiterated on Thursday that Ukraine would be a member of the trans-Atlantic military alliance. He said the bloc would stand with Kyiv as long as it takes.

Read more:

Zelensky says ‘only matter of time’ before Ukraine becomes Nato member

ICYMI: Ukraine ‘hits power substation’ in drone attacks on Russian border regions

Friday 29 September 2023 19:20 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukraine launched a new wave of drone strikes on Russia’s border regions of Kursk and Kaluga overnight, according to the Russian defence ministry.

At least one drone targeted a power substation, Russian officials said, blowing up a transformer and cutting power supplies to the village of Belaya, less than 25km from the border.

Kyiv is yet to comment on the attacks, which began on Thursday evening and continued into Friday morning, and does not typically claim responsibility for operations across the border in Russia.

More here:

Ukraine ‘hits power substation’ in drone attacks on Russian border regions

Putin recruits former Wagner commander ‘Grey Hair’ Troshev to oversee Ukraine mercenaries

Friday 29 September 2023 18:50 , Eleanor Noyce

President Vladimir Putin recruited a former aide of late Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin to oversee mercenary fighter units in Ukraine.

The Russian president met Andrei Troshev, who is known by his nom de guerre “Sedoi” or “grey hair“, along with deputy defence minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov on Thursday night, the Kremlin said in a statement.

“At the last meeting, we talked about you overseeing the formation of volunteer units that can carry out various tasks, first and foremost, of course, in the zone of the special military operation,” Mr Putin was quoted as saying to Mr Troshev. Special military operation is what Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine.

More here:

Putin recruits former Wagner commander ‘Grey Hair’ Troshev

Russian athletes allowed to compete as neutrals at next year’s Paralympics

Friday 29 September 2023 18:20 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian athletes will be able to compete as neutrals at next year’s Paralympic Games in Paris despite the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

International Paralympic Committee member nations voted against a full suspension of the Russian committee at the organisation’s General Assembly in Bahrain, but a motion to partially suspend was passed on Friday afternoon.

The decision means Russian athletes will be able to compete in Paris next summer, provided they do not wear kit or fly the flag of Russia.

Jamie Gardner reports:

Russian athletes allowed to compete as neutrals at next year’s Paralympics

NATO's Stoltenberg confident Poland will continue military support to Ukraine despite disagreements

Friday 29 September 2023 17:48 , Eleanor Noyce

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday he was confident that Poland will find ways to address disagreements with Ukraine without impacting military support for its neighbour’s war against Russia.

Poland said last week it would only carrying out previously agreed arms deliveries to Ukraine and would instead focus on rebuilding its own weapon stocks.

Poland, a NATO member, has been seen until recently as one of Ukraine‘s staunchest allies in its war with Russia. But relations between the two countries have soured after Poland’s decision to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports.

“I’m expecting and I’m confident that Ukraine and Poland will find a way to address those issues without that impacting in a negative way the military support to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told Reuters in an interview in Copenhagen.

Specialists to arrive in Ukraine to plan air defence production - presidential aide

Friday 29 September 2023 17:08 , Eleanor Noyce

Specialists will arrive in Ukraine in the near future to draw up plans to establish production of military equipment including air defences, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff told reporters on Friday.

”I think very soon specialists will arrive here who will make a plan for our own production of everything that we need. First and foremost, this relates to air defences”, Andriy Yermak said.

Yermak talked more broadly about President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s visit to the United States last week, but it was not clear whether the specialists and the systems he was referring to would be American.

More than a quarter of US Senate calls on Russia to release US reporter

Friday 29 September 2023 16:47 , Eleanor Noyce

The Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced a resolution on Friday calling for the immediate release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich from Russia, where he was arrested six months ago on spying charges that he denies.

The resolution, backed by 27 of the 100 U.S. senators, draws attention to the continuing detention of Gershkovich, 32, who was arrested on 29 March in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage that carry up to 20 years in prison.

A Moscow court on Tuesday declined to consider his latest appeal against his pre-trial detention.

”Evan Gershkovich, a journalist with the Wall Street Journal, has been wrongfully detained in Russia for merely for doing his job: reporting facts and shedding light on President Putin’s bogus rationale for his illegal war against Ukraine“, said Senator Ben Cardin, the committee’s Democratic chairman.

“Freedom of the press is critical to holding governments accountable around the world,” said Senator Jim Risch, the panel’s top Republican.

Russia has said the reporter was caught “red-handed” in Yekaterinburg, where the FSB security service said he was trying to obtain military secrets. It has not provided any detail to support that assertion.

The U.S. has accused Russia of using Gershkovich to conduct hostage diplomacy, at a time when relations between the two countries are at their lowest point in more than 60 years because of the conflict in Ukraine.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Norway bans entry of Russia-registered passenger cars from 3 October

Friday 29 September 2023 16:13 , Eleanor Noyce

Norway joined Finland, the Baltic states and Poland in banning entry of Russian-registered passenger cars from 3 October, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

The move is a part of Western measures aimed at stripping Russia of income to finance its invasion of Ukraine.

“It is important that the sanctions are effective so that we prevent as much as possible income that the Russian state needs to finance the war,” Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in a statement.

Vehicles owned by Norwegian citizens or EEA citizens with permanent residence in Russia or their family members will be exempted from the ban, which applies to vehicles with nine of fewer seats, Norwegian foreign ministry added.

Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have previously introduced similar bans following a directive by the European Commission.

Putin signs decree on autumn military conscription

Friday 29 September 2023 15:40 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a decree setting out the routine autumn conscription campaign, calling up 130,000 citizens for statutory military service, a document posted on the government website showed on Friday.

All men in Russia are required to do a year-long military service between the ages of 18 and 27, or equivalent training while in higher education.

Putin’s move comes as Russia’s armed forces press on with their “special military operation” in Ukraine, now in its 20th month.

The president, who signed an order in March calling up 147,000 people for the spring campaign, said this month he was bracing for a long war in Ukraine.

In July Russia’s lower house of parliament voted to raise the maximum age at which men can be conscripted to 30 from 27. The new legislation comes into effect on 1 January 2024.

Last year, Russia announced a plan to boost its professional and conscripted combat personnel by more than 30% to 1.5 million, an ambitious task made harder by its heavy but undisclosed casualties in Ukraine.

Ukraine says it will not rest until every last Russian soldier is ejected from its land. The West says it wants to help Ukraine defeat Russia - an aim Kremlin officials say is an unrealistic pipedream.

Russia is set to avoid a full ban from the 2024 Paralympics in Paris

Friday 29 September 2023 15:25 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia appears to have avoided a full ban from next year’s Paralympics in Paris after the International Paralympic Committee‘s members voted Friday against suspending the country’s membership.

The IPC wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that members voted 74-65 against a motion to fully suspend Russia “for breaches of its constitutional membership obligations.” Thirteen more members abstained.

Another vote is scheduled later Friday on whether to “partially suspend” Russia. That could mean Russia sends competitors to the Paralympics but that they have to compete as neutral athletes without national symbols.

Read more:

Russia is set to avoid a full ban from the 2024 Paralympics in Paris

Ukraine urges other nations to boycott playing Russia after Uefa decision

Friday 29 September 2023 14:56 , Eleanor Noyce

The football association of Ukraine has written to Uefa’s member nations urging them to boycott matches against junior Russian teams.

Uefa announced earlier this week that it would be reinstating Russia at under-17 level.

The decision comes after a ban on all Russian sides by European football’s governing body after the invasion of Ukraine by Moscow in February 2022.

England’s Football Association (the FA) had been among the national bodies that had said that they would not allow their sides to play Russia despite Uefa’s decision.

Harry Latham-Coyle reports:

Ukraine urges other nations to boycott playing Russia after Uefa decision

Ryanair and Michael O’Leary’s eastern promise to help rebuild Ukraine

Friday 29 September 2023 14:20 , Eleanor Noyce

Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pays His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key travel issue – and what it means for you.

Early in February 2022, my weekly newsletter was ready to send. It included a tantalising deal of the week. In late March, both Ryanair and Wizz Air were to start flying from London to Odesa. Suddenly British holidaymakers would be just three hours and a few 10s of pounds from one of Europe’s loveliest cities.

Odesa shares with St Petersburg heroic beauty and a dramatic history – yet with Black Sea beaches and a sunny disposition, Odesa is warmer and more indulgent than the former Russian capital on the Baltic. I booked on the first Ryanair plane out – and hoped to persuade other travellers to do the same.

The deal never appeared. Before the email was sent out, the foreign desk at The Independent told me of a build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s frontiers. I hurriedly found a more certain, if less compelling, bargain to share.

Simon Calder reports:

Michael O’Leary’s eastern promise to help rebuild Ukraine

Putin orders former Wagner commander to take charge of 'volunteer units' in Ukraine

Friday 29 September 2023 14:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered one of the top commanders of the Wagner military contractor to take charge of “volunteer units” fighting in Ukraine, signalling the Kremlin’s effort to keep using the mercenaries after the death of their chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

In remarks released by the Kremlin on Friday, Putin told Andrei Troshev that his task is to “deal with forming volunteer units that could perform various combat tasks, primarily in the zone of the special military operation” — a term the Kremlin uses for its war in Ukraine.

Deputy defence minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was also present at the meeting late Thursday, a sign that Wagner mercenaries will likely serve under the Defence Ministry’s command. Speaking in a conference call with reporters on Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Troshev now works for the Defense Ministry and referred questions about Wagner’s possible return to Ukraine to the military.

Read more:

Putin orders former Wagner commander to take charge of 'volunteer units' in Ukraine

Seven countries order ammunition under EU scheme to aid Ukraine

Friday 29 September 2023 14:02 , Eleanor Noyce

Seven EU countries have ordered ammunition under a landmark European Union procurement scheme to get urgently needed artillery shells to Ukraine and replenish depleted Western stocks, according to the EU agency in charge.

The orders - placed under contracts negotiated by the European Defence Agency (EDA) - are for 155mm artillery rounds, one of the most important munitions in the intense war of attrition between Ukraine‘s troops and Russia’s invading forces.

The scheme was set up as part of a plan worth at least 2 billion euros, launched in March with the aim of getting 1 million artillery shells and missiles to Ukraine within a year.

Some officials and diplomats have expressed scepticism that the target will be met but the initiative marked a significant step in the EU’s growing role in defence and military affairs, spurred by the war in Ukraine.

Until now, defence procurement has largely been the preserve of the bloc’s individual 27 member governments.

“Seven Member States have already placed orders for 155mm ammunition through the EDA’s fast-track procedure,” the agency said in an email in response to questions from Reuters.

“More orders, for instance for national replenishment purposes, could materialise in the coming weeks and months.”

Ukraine marks 82nd anniversary of Babyn Yar killings by Nazi forces

Friday 29 September 2023 13:47 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukraine marked Friday’s 82nd anniversary of a mass killing, mainly of Jews, in Nazi-occupied Kyiv with an appeal not to forget an event that it said provided the moral basis for opposition to “Russian aggression”.

Nazi forces shot dead nearly 34,000 Jewish men, women and children on Sept. 29-30, 1941 at Babyn Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kyiv, after occupying the Ukrainian capital - which was then part of the Soviet Union - during World War Two.

Over the next two years, many more people were killed at Babyn Yar. Most were Jews but the victims also included Roma and non-Jewish Ukrainians, Poles and Russians.

“It is very important to always remember history, not to forget. Because ‘Never again!’ are not empty words,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said after leaving a candle at a monument of a Jewish menorah erected at the site to honour the victims.

He spoke with a small group of people gathered at the monument including relatives and descendants of the victims and rabbis from Ukrainian cities.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry urged the world to prevent such killings happening again and drew attention to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 19 months ago.

“The memory of Babyn Yar and the slogan ‘Never again’ are the moral basis of humanism and opposition to any forms of aggressive-chauvinistic ideologies, in particular, Russian aggression against Ukraine,” it said in a statement.

Zelensky is Ukraine‘s first ethnically Jewish president, although he is not publicly religious. Most of his grandfather’s family was killed during World War Two.

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

Tough issues to clear before EU membership talks with Ukraine - Hungary's Orban

Friday 29 September 2023 13:28 , Eleanor Noyce

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that “very difficult questions” would need to be answered before the European Union could even start membership talks with Ukraine.

EU countries are due to decide in December whether to allow Ukraine to begin accession negotiations, which would require the unanimous backing of all 27 members. Diplomats have said Hungary may be an obstacle.

“We cannot avoid the question - when during the autumn we will have negotiations in Brussels about the future of Ukraine - whether we can actually seriously consider membership for a country, to start accession talks with a country that is at war,” Orban told state radio.

“We don’t know how big the territory of this country is, as the war is still ongoing, we don’t know how big its population is as they are fleeing ... to admit a country to the EU without knowing its parameters, this would be unprecedented.

“So I think we need to answer very long and difficult questions until we get to actually deciding about the start of accession talks,” he said.

Commenting on Orban’s remarks, Ukraine‘s foreign ministry said it was positive “that the Hungarian Prime Minister is concerned about Ukraine‘s accession to the European Union”.

“We would like to inform that Ukraine has not changed its territory within its internationally recognised borders,” the ministry added.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

UK sanctions Russian officials involved in ‘sham elections'

Friday 29 September 2023 12:22 , Athena Stavrou

The British Foreign Secretary says that officials involved in “sham” elections, held in annexed Ukraine, have been sanctioned.

he Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the 11 new designations are in response to attempts by Russia to legitimise its illegal control of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “Russia’s sham elections are a transparent, futile attempt to legitimise its illegal control of sovereign Ukrainian territory.

“You can’t hold ‘elections’ in someone else’s country.

“The UK will never recognise Russia’s claims to Ukrainian territory - Crimea, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson are Ukraine.”

The sanctions include restrictions on movement and finances, the FCDO said.

Britain also added Russia’s emergencies minister Alexander Kurenkov and the secretary of the Russian Central Election Commission Natalya Alekseevna Budarina to the sanctions list.

UK sanctions officials in annexed Ukrainian regions

Friday 29 September 2023 11:32 , Athena Stavrou

The British government has today implemented sanctions agsinst officials from the annexed Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Crimea.

The sanctions will freeze assets and impose a travel ban on the officials from the regions.

Foreign minister James Cleverly said the UK “will never recognise Russia’s claims to Ukrainian territory” following the announcement, Reuters reports.

Britain also added Russia’s emergencies minister Alexander Kurenkov and the secretary of the Russian Central Election Commission Natalya Alekseevna Budarina to the sanctions list.

The move is part of Britain’s wider sanctions and reaffirms the UK’s ongoing stance against the annexation of Ukrainian territories.

First Ukrainian soldiers welcome US Abram tanks

Friday 29 September 2023 11:21 , Athena Stavrou

Ukrainian tank crews in eastern Ukraine are the first to have received the arrival of the new tanks.

In January, the US pledged to supply 31 advanced M1A2 tanks after months of shunning the idea. US General Mark Milley praised the Abrams tanks, saying they “will make a difference” in the ongoing 19-month war.

Tank crews training in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine said that once they were deployed, the Abrams tanks, which reportedly cost $10 million to make, would be a big step up from the Soviet-era tanks they are currently operating, Reuters reports.

“The Abrams tank....has protection against ammunition detonation. (This tank) does not have it. If ammunition detonates, there is no chance to survive,” said tank driver Vitalii, 29.

The tank is considered particularly lethal against heavy armour forces with a powerful engine, 120mm main gun and special armour.

Ukrainian servicemen ride a tank in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)
Ukrainian servicemen ride a tank in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)

Zelensky blessed by Ukraine’s chief rabbi

Friday 29 September 2023 11:00 , Athena Stavrou

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accompanied Ukraine’s chief Rabbi today to pay respects on the anniversary of the massacre there in the second world war.

Zelenskyy was blessed by chief rabi Moshe Reuven Azman during the visit Babyn Yar.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the chief Rabi said: “I blessed the President of Ukraine at this holy place and wished him, on the eve of the Sukkot holiday, strength of spirit, inspiration and God’s protection for the entire Ukrainian people. May the blessings of the Almighty accompany Ukraine on the way to peace and prosperity.”

Putin recruits former Wagner commander ‘Grey Hair’ Troshev to oversee Ukraine mercenaries

Friday 29 September 2023 10:30 , Athena Stavrou

President Vladimir Putin recruited a former aide of late Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin to oversee mercenary fighter units in Ukraine.

The Russian president met Andrei Troshev, who is known by his nom de guerre “Sedoi” or “grey hair“, along with deputy defence minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov on Thursday night, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Mr Putin reportedly said that they had spoken about how “volunteer units that can perform various combat tasks, above all, of course, in the zone of the special military operation”.

Read more on this from The Independent below:

Putin recruits former Wagner commander ‘Grey Hair’ Troshev

Russia ‘reduce tempo’ of some operations in Ukraine

Friday 29 September 2023 10:00 , Athena Stavrou

Russian forces have reportedly ‘reduced the tempo’ of some localised offensive operation, war monitoring think-tank say.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) say that both Russian and Ukrainian officials are increasingly reporting fewer Russian ground attacks in the Kupyansk and Lyman directions in Ukraine. This reportedly indicates that Ukrainian offensive operations have ‘drawn Russian forces away’ from the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.

ISW has previously assessed that Russian offensive operations on the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line aimed to pin Ukrainian forces on this line and away from more critical areas of the front.

Ukrainian forces ‘continue offensive operations near Bakhmut'

Friday 29 September 2023 09:40 , Athena Stavrou

The Ukrainian General Staff reported on Thursday that troops have continued offensive operations in the Melitopol and Bakhumut regions.

Earlier this week, a Ukrainian spokesperson said troops “enjoyed success” in villages near Bakhmut, a key town seized by Russian forces in May after some of the heaviest fighting in the 19-month-old war.

Russian volunteer battalions have claimed that sources have spread “false information” a Ukrainian breakthrough in the Robotyne-Verbove area, according to war monitoring think-tank the Institute for the Study of War.

The think-tank said that they have been unable to confirm the report.

Russia begin new round of conscriptions - but won’t send them to Ukraine

Friday 29 September 2023 09:20 , Athena Stavrou

Russia will begin a new round of conscriptions on Sunday according to the defence ministry.

In a statement from Rear Admiral Vladimir Tsimlyansky released by the Russian MoD, it was announced that new conscripts would not be sent to Ukraine to fight.

A statement read: “Servicemen undergoing conscription military service will not be sent to the points of deployment of units of the armed forces of the Russian Federation in new regions of the Russian Federation: Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, or to participate there in carrying out the tasks of a special military operation.”

Every other year, Russia calls up those eligable for military service in autumn.

‘Difficult questions’ need to to be answered before EU membership talks with Ukraine

Friday 29 September 2023 08:56 , Athena Stavrou

The Hungarian Prime Minister says that “very difficult questions” would need to be answered before the European Union could even start membership talks with Ukraine.

EU countries are due to decide in December whether to allow Ukraine to begin accession negotiations, which would require the unanimous backing of all 27 members.

Diplomats have said Hungary may be an obstacle as Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Monday that the country will not support Ukraine on any issue in international affairs until the language rights of ethnic Hungarians there are restored.

“We cannot avoid the question - when during the autumn we will have negotiations in Brussels about the future of Ukraine - whether we can actually seriously consider membership for a country, to start accession talks with a country that is at war,” Orban told state radio on Friday morning.

“We don’t know how big the territory of this country is, as the war is still ongoing, we don’t know how big its population is as they are fleeing ... to admit a country to the EU without knowing its parameters, this would be unprecedented.

“So I think we need to answer very long and difficult questions until we get to actually deciding about the start of accession talks,” he said.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Monday that the country will not support Ukraine on any issue in international affairs until the language rights of ethnic Hungarians there are restored (MTVA - Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Monday that the country will not support Ukraine on any issue in international affairs until the language rights of ethnic Hungarians there are restored (MTVA - Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund)

Ukraine ‘hits power substation’ in drone attacks on Russian border regions

Friday 29 September 2023 08:25 , Athena Stavrou

Ukraine launched a new wave of drone strikes on Russia’s border regions of Kursk and Kaluga overnight, according to the Russian defence ministry.

At least one drone targeted a power substation, Russian officials said, blowing up a transformer and cutting power supplies to the village of Belaya, less than 25km from the border.

Russia’s defence ministry said it shot down at least 10 drones over Kursk and one over Kaluga, according to an official quoted in state media.

Kyiv is yet to comment on the attacks, which began on Thursday evening and continued into Friday morning, and does not typically claim responsibility for operations across the border in Russia.

Wagner troops redeployed to frontline, says UK

Friday 29 September 2023 08:03 , Athena Stavrou

Wagner fighters have “likely” begun redeployment to Ukraine, says the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD).

In it’s latest intelligence update, the MoD say the exact status of redeploying personnel is “unclear” but that it is likely they have returned to Bakhmut, where they are particularly in demand as Ukrainian counteroffensives continue in the region.

This news follows prior reports from Ukraine on Wednesday, claiming that hundreds Wagner fighters had returned to the frontlines.

Wagner withdrew from combat operations in Ukraine by early June 2023 and shortly after staged a mutiny on June 24. Their former leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash last month.

Putin recruits “grey hair” Wagner commander

Friday 29 September 2023 07:41 , Athena Stavrou

Russian President Vladimir Putin was on Friday shown meeting one of the most senior former commanders of the Wagner group, Andrei Troshev.

Alongside Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, they discussed how volunteer units could fight in Ukraine. The Kremlin also confirmed that the mercenary now worked for the defence ministry.

Addressing Troshev, Putin said that they had spoken about how “volunteer units that can perform various combat tasks, above all, of course, in the zone of a special military operation.”

“You yourself have been fighting in such a unit for more than a year,” Putin said. “You know what it is, how it is done, you know about the issues that need to be resolved in advance so that the combat work goes in the best and most successful way.”

The meeting underscored the Kremlin’s attempt to show that the state had now gained control over the mercenary group after a failed June mutiny by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash in August.

Just days after the Wagner’s mutiny, Putin offered the mercenaries the opportunity to keep fighting but suggested that commander Andrei Troshev take over from Prigozhin, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper has reported.

Troshev is a founding member and Executive Director of the Wagner Group.

Andrei Troshev is a founding member and Executive Director of the Wagner Group (via REUTERS)
Andrei Troshev is a founding member and Executive Director of the Wagner Group (via REUTERS)

ICYMI: Houses left in ruins in Ukrainian city after Russian bombardment of residential area

Friday 29 September 2023 06:00 , Eleanor Noyce

At least one civilian was injured during the Russian bombardment of a residential area in Kostyantynivka, Ukraine, officials said.

Firefighters extinguished fires at the scene on Wednesday 27 September and pulled down the remains of a damaged roof as the house’s owner, Olena Kononenko, looked on.

Liudmila Ivanchuk, another resident, said the windows shattered during the bombardment and that she was taken to hospital for stitches.

“Everything was falling on me. The door was stuck. You can see what happened,” Ivanchuk, 61, said.

Kostyantynivka is located in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

Read more:

Houses left in ruins in Ukrainian city after Russian bombardment of residential area

Kosovo accuses Serbia of direct involvement in deadly clashes and investigates possible Russian role

Friday 29 September 2023 05:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Kosovo’s interior minister on Thursday accused Serbia of direct involvement in weekend clashes and was investigating the possibility of Russian involvement in the violence that left four people dead and further strained relations between the former wartime foes.

One Kosovo police officer and three gunmen were killed in Sunday’s shootout between Serb insurgents and Kosovo police. Eight people were initially arrested, but four of them have been released from custody because of a lack of evidence.

Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Sveçla told The Associated Press in an interview that investigators were looking at evidence linking Russia, an ally of Serbia, to the armed assault. Russian weapons, other equipment and documents suggesting Russian involvement were discovered after the daylong gunbattle, he said.

Read more:

Kosovo accuses Serbia of direct involvement in deadly clashes and investigates possible Russian role

ICYMI: Russia airs ‘new interview’ of Black Sea admiral who Ukraine claimed was killed in strike

Friday 29 September 2023 04:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia has published a second clip purporting to show a top naval officer alive and well, after Ukraine claimed he had been killed in a missile strike on the headquarters of Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea.

Ukraine’s special forces claimed on Monday that the Russian fleet’s commander, admiral Viktor Sokolov, was among 34 officers killed in the huge strike on Sevastopol, which they said had caused irreparable damage to the headquarters building.

But the military body backpedalled the following day, saying its units were “clarifying the information” which had been based on open sources, adding that many of those killed in the strike “still have not been identified due to the disparity of body fragments”.

Read more:

Russia airs ‘new interview’ of top commander who Ukraine claimed was killed in strike

Swiss court acquits former Belarusian security operative in case of enforced disappearances

Friday 29 September 2023 03:00 , Eleanor Noyce

A court in northern Switzerland on Thursday acquitted a former security Belarusian operative over the enforced disappearances of three of President Aleksander Lukashenko’s political opponents in the late 1990s, said an advocacy group that spearheaded the case.

Judges in the northern town of Rorschach said they were not convinced that the defendant, Yuri Harauski, a former member of a Belarusian military unit known as SOBR, was involved in the disappearances.

According to the Geneva-based advocacy group TRIAL International, the court ruled that Harauski’s participation in the crimes could not be established beyond reasonable doubt.

Jamey Keaten reports:

Swiss court acquits former Belarusian security operative in case of enforced disappearances

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

Friday 29 September 2023 02:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine has been raging for one year now as the conflict continues to record devastating casualties and force the mass displacement of millions of blameless Ukrainians.

Vladimir Putin began the war by claiming Russia’s neighbour needed to be “demilitarised and de-Nazified”, a baseless pretext on which to launch a landgrab against an independent state that happens to have a Jewish president in Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine has fought back courageously against Mr Putin’s warped bid to restore territory lost to Moscow with the collapse of the Soviet Union and has continued to defy the odds by defending itself against Russian onslaughts with the help of Western military aid.

Read more:

Here’s why Putin really invaded Ukraine

Grant Shapps visits President Zelensky in Ukraine

Friday 29 September 2023 01:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Grant Shapps has visited Kyiv and met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Defence Secretary used the visit to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to support Ukraine as it defends itself against the Russian invasion of its territory.

In his second visit to Kyiv in two months, Mr Shapps held meetings with his Ukrainian counterpart Rustem Umerov, alongside the UK’s chief of defence staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin.

Read more:

Grant Shapps visits President Zelensky in Ukraine

Ukraine says hundreds of Wagner fighters back on battlefield months after failed coup

Friday 29 September 2023 00:01 , Eleanor Noyce

Several hundred fighters of the Wagner mercenary group have returned to Ukraine to fight in Russia’s continuing invasion but have not made a significant impact on the battlefield, military officials in Kyiv said.

“We have recorded the presence of a maximum of several hundred fighters of the former Wagner PMC (private military company),” spokesperson for the eastern military command Serhiy Cherevatyi said.

These Wagner fighters were scattered in different places, were not part of a single unit, and had had no significant impact, he said.

Read more:

Ukraine says Wagner fighters back on battlefield months after failed coup

Ukraine repel Putin’s attacks as fighting escalates in Russia’s push to retake lost land

Thursday 28 September 2023 23:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukrainian soldiers fought off fierce Russian attacks on the battlefield on Wednesday as the invading troops continued to recapture lost territory in eastern Ukraine, military officials said.

Some progress was also seen in southern Ukraine – another pocket of heavy territorial battle in Russia’s 20-month-old invasion.

“We continue to repel intense enemy attacks near Klishchiivka and Andriivka. The enemy is still storming these positions with the hope of recapturing lost positions, but without success,” Ilia Yevlash, a spokesperson for Ukraine‘s eastern group of forces, told national television.

Arpan Rai has more:

Ukraine repel Putin’s attacks as fighting escalates in Russia’s push to retake land

Putin’s shameless UN charm offensive - with stolen grain from Ukraine

Thursday 28 September 2023 22:15 , Eleanor Noyce

A desperate Vladimir Putin, increasingly isolated on the world stage, is eyeing a return to the UN Human Rights Council – and he has launched a shameless charm offensive to get him there.

Armed with stolen Ukrainian grain, the Russian president is on a mission to curry favour with potential backers ahead of a vote for council membership next month, although his efforts are likely to fall short.

Two years after being kicked off the panel for invading its neighbour, Putin has ordered his diplomats to try and secure the backing of enough countries for Moscow to beat two other eastern European nations on 10 October.

Russia is on a mission to grab a seat on the UN’s Human Rights Council - and to add insult to injury it’s using crops plundered from its illegal war to curry favour with potential backers, writes Arpan Rai:

Vladimir Putin’s charm offensive to stop Russia being a global pariah

Ukraine's Zelensky taps celebrities for roles as special adviser and charity ambassador

Thursday 28 September 2023 21:15 , Eleanor Noyce

President Volodymyr Zelensky has appointed former Ukrainian soccer great Andriy Shevchenko as a special adviser and British actor Mark Strong as an ambassador to the charity that the Ukrainian president set up to raise money for Ukraine, his office announced.

It was not clear what Shevchenko’s duties as adviser to the president would entail but the former star striker for Ukraine and squads across Europe suggested it would expand on his work as ambassador of United24, a charity created by Zelensky to collect donations for his nation after Russia’s invasion in 2022.

“My role hasn’t changed that much but I’m going to work even harder now,” he said after playing in an all-star golf match preceding the Ryder Cup outside Rome on Wednesday. “It’s an important job helping my country abroad through soccer and charity events and keeping people talking about Ukraine.”

Read more:

Ukraine's Zelenskyy taps celebrities for roles as special adviser and charity ambassador

Putin says votes in Russian-held parts of Ukraine mark step towards 'full entry' into Russia

Thursday 28 September 2023 20:45 , Eleanor Noyce

President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that elections conducted this month in Russian-held parts of Ukraine marked a step towards their full integration into Russia.

The votes in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions - all partly under Russia’s control following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year - were denounced by Kyiv as illegal.

Russia said a year ago that it was annexing the four regions, in an act condemned as unlawful by most countries at the United Nations.

“This is, of course, a significant event, an important step towards the full entry of the new regions into the single legal, state space of our big country”, Putin told a meeting of newly elected governors, referring to the recent elections and describing them as fair.

Ukrainian, French defence ministers pledge to work together on arms

Thursday 28 September 2023 20:15 , Eleanor Noyce

France and Ukraine pledged on Thursday to work together to continue securing arms for Kyiv’s three-month-old counteroffensive against Russian occupying forces and to jointly develop weapons production.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov said he and his French counterpart had focused on boosting cooperation in terms of training Kyiv’s armed forces and in the technical field.

“Dozens of projects have either been launched or are under discussion, aimed at organising joint production of new weapons or maintenance of weapons already with us,” Umerov told a news conference alongside French minister Sebastien Lecornu.

The two sides, he said, were considering the establishment of a fund “to support joint ventures with our partners and companies which want to begin production in Ukraine“.

Lecornu said France would “continue to help Ukraine as much as is necessary,” but gave no details on arms that might yet be provided.

“This war could keep going on,” he told reporters. “Let me restate our confidence in the Ukrainian arms for making this counteroffensive a success.”

Ukraine‘s counteroffensive has focused on retaking areas of eastern Ukraine seized by Russian troops earlier this year and in advancing south to sever a land bridge established by Russia between annexed Crimea and positions held in the east.

Russian strikes kill five in Kherson and Donetsk regions

Thursday 28 September 2023 20:11 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian strikes have killed five and injured six in the Kherson and Donetsk regions of Ukraine, officials have said.

Three women were killed in the street after artillery hit a residential area in Kherson, internal affairs minister Ihor Klymenko confirmed, whilst in the east of the country, two men were killed in attacks on Krasnohorivka.

A further three people were injured, with three more injuries sustained by further shelling nearby in Kostyantynivka.

ICYMI: Ukraine says hundreds of Wagner fighters back on battlefield months after failed coup

Thursday 28 September 2023 19:45 , Eleanor Noyce

Several hundred fighters of the Wagner mercenary group have returned to Ukraine to fight in Russia’s continuing invasion but have not made a significant impact on the battlefield, military officials in Kyiv said.

“We have recorded the presence of a maximum of several hundred fighters of the former Wagner PMC (private military company),” spokesperson for the eastern military command Serhiy Cherevatyi said.

These Wagner fighters were scattered in different places, were not part of a single unit, and had had no significant impact, he said.

Arpan Rai has more:

Ukraine says Wagner fighters back on battlefield months after failed coup

NATO's secretary-general meets with Zelensky to discuss battlefield and ammunition needs in Ukraine

Thursday 28 September 2023 19:15 , Eleanor Noyce

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss the status of the war and needs of troops on Thursday, the day after Russia accused Ukraine’s Western allies of helping plan and conduct last week’s missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters on the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Zelensky said that Stoltenberg agreed to make efforts to get NATO members to help provide additional air defense systems to protect Ukraine’s power plants and energy infrastructure that were badly damaged in relentless and deadly attacks by Russia last winter. He also reminded the secretary-general of the persistent attacks that often strike civilian areas, including 40 drone attacks overnight.

“In the face of such intense attacks against Ukrainians, against our cities, our ports, which are crucial for global food security, we need a corresponding intensity of pressure on Russia and a strengthening of our air defense,” Zelensky said. “The world must see how Russia is losing dearly so that our shared values ultimately prevail.”

More here:

NATO's secretary-general meets with Zelenskyy to discuss battlefield and ammunition needs in Ukraine

Swiss court acquits former Belarusian security operative in case of enforced disappearances

Thursday 28 September 2023 18:45 , Eleanor Noyce

A court in northern Switzerland on Thursday acquitted a former security Belarusian operative over the enforced disappearances of three of President Aleksander Lukashenko’s political opponents in the late 1990s, said an advocacy group that spearheaded the case.

Judges in the northern town of Rorschach said they were not convinced that the defendant, Yuri Harauski, a former member of a Belarusian military unit known as SOBR, was involved in the disappearances.

According to the Geneva-based advocacy group TRIAL International, the court ruled that Harauski’s participation in the crimes could not be established beyond reasonable doubt.

Jamey Keaten reports:

Swiss court acquits former Belarusian security operative in case of enforced disappearances

Why this week's mass exodus from embattled Nagorno-Karabakh reflects decades of animosity

Thursday 28 September 2023 18:15 , Eleanor Noyce

The exodus of ethnic Armenians this week from the region known as Nagorno-Karabakh has been a vivid and shocking tableau of fear and misery. Roads are jammed with cars lumbering with heavy loads, waiting for hours in traffic jams. People sit amid mounds of hastily packed luggage.

As of Thursday, about 70,000 people had left the breakaway region for Armenia. That’s a huge number — more than half of the population of the region that is located entirely within Azerbaijan.

Still, it’s not the largest displacement of civilians in three decades of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

After ethnic Armenian forces secured control of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories in 1994, refugee organizations estimated that some 900,000 people had fled to Azerbaijan and 300,000 to Armenia.

Read more:

Why this week's mass exodus from embattled Nagorno-Karabakh reflects decades of animosity

Poland says none of its helicopters violated Belarusian airspace

Thursday 28 September 2023 17:49 , Eleanor Noyce

Poland said none of its helicopters had violated Belarusian airspace, denying an earlier report from the Belarusian defence ministry that Polish aircraft had crossed the border on Thursday.

“The Operational Command unequivocally denies these reports. None of the Polish helicopters crossed the airspace of Belarus,” a spokesperson of the Operational Command of the Armed Forces told Reuters.

Food prices are rising as countries limit exports. Blame climate change, El Nino and Russia's war

Thursday 28 September 2023 17:30 , Eleanor Noyce

How do you cook a meal when a staple ingredient is unaffordable?

This question is playing out in households around the world as they face shortages of essential foods like rice, cooking oil and onions. That is because countries have imposed restrictions on the food they export to protect their own supplies from the combined effect of the war in Ukraine, El Nino’s threat to food production and increasing damage from climate change.

For Caroline Kyalo, a 28-year-old who works in a salon in Kenya‘s capital of Nairobi, it was a question of trying to figure out how to cook for her two children without onions. Restrictions on the export of the vegetable by neighbouring Tanzania has led prices to triple.

More here:

Food prices are rising as countries limit exports. Blame climate change, El Nino and Russia's war

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

Thursday 28 September 2023 17:16 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine has been raging for one year now as the conflict continues to record devastating casualties and force the mass displacement of millions of blameless Ukrainians.

Vladimir Putin began the war by claiming Russia’s neighbour needed to be “demilitarised and de-Nazified”, a baseless pretext on which to launch a landgrab against an independent state that happens to have a Jewish president in Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine has fought back courageously against Mr Putin’s warped bid to restore territory lost to Moscow with the collapse of the Soviet Union and has continued to defy the odds by defending itself against Russian onslaughts with the help of Western military aid.

More here:

Here’s why Putin really invaded Ukraine

Belarus says Polish helicopter violated its airspace

Thursday 28 September 2023 16:58 , Eleanor Noyce

Belarus said on Thursday that a Polish helicopter had violated its airspace.

“Around 1520 (1220 GMT) the aircraft crossed the border of the Republic of Belarus, flew to a depth of up to 1.5 kilometres. At 1622, the helicopter repeatedly violated the state border, going 300 metres deep,” the Ministry of Defence of Belarus said in its Telegram channel.

Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, said it had scrambled military aircraft in response.

ICYMI: Grant Shapps visits President Zelensky in Ukraine

Thursday 28 September 2023 16:55 , Eleanor Noyce

Grant Shapps has visited Kyiv and met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Defence Secretary used the visit to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to support Ukraine as it defends itself against the Russian invasion of its territory.

In his second visit to Kyiv in two months, Mr Shapps held meetings with his Ukrainian counterpart Rustem Umerov, alongside the UK’s chief of defence staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin.

Read more:

Grant Shapps visits President Zelensky in Ukraine

Putin’s shameless UN charm offensive - with stolen grain from Ukraine

Thursday 28 September 2023 16:40 , Eleanor Noyce

A desperate Vladimir Putin, increasingly isolated on the world stage, is eyeing a return to the UN Human Rights Council – and he has launched a shameless charm offensive to get him there.

Armed with stolen Ukrainian grain, the Russian president is on a mission to curry favour with potential backers ahead of a vote for council membership next month, although his efforts are likely to fall short.

Two years after being kicked off the panel for invading its neighbour, Putin has ordered his diplomats to try and secure the backing of enough countries for Moscow to beat two other eastern European nations on 10 October.

Russia is on a mission to grab a seat on the UN’s Human Rights Council - and to add insult to injury it’s using crops plundered from its illegal war to curry favour with potential backers, writes Arpan Rai:

Vladimir Putin’s charm offensive to stop Russia being a global pariah

Ukraine's Zelensky taps celebrities for roles as special adviser and charity ambassador

Thursday 28 September 2023 16:26 , Eleanor Noyce

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appointed former Ukrainian soccer great Andriy Shevchenko as a special adviser and British actor Mark Strong as an ambassador to the charity that the Ukrainian president set up to raise money for Ukraine, his office announced.

It was not clear what Shevchenko’s duties as adviser to the president would entail but the former star striker for Ukraine and squads across Europe suggested it would expand on his work as ambassador of United24, a charity created by Zelenskyy to collect donations for his nation after Russia’s invasion in 2022.

“My role hasn’t changed that much but I’m going to work even harder now,” he said after playing in an all-star golf match preceding the Ryder Cup outside Rome on Wednesday. “It’s an important job helping my country abroad through soccer and charity events and keeping people talking about Ukraine.”

More here:

Ukraine's Zelenskyy taps celebrities for roles as special adviser and charity ambassador

Ukraine says hundreds of Wagner fighters back on battlefield months after failed coup

Thursday 28 September 2023 16:08 , Eleanor Noyce

Several hundred fighters of the Wagner mercenary group have returned to Ukraine to fight in Russia’s continuing invasion but have not made a significant impact on the battlefield, military officials in Kyiv said.

“We have recorded the presence of a maximum of several hundred fighters of the former Wagner PMC (private military company),” spokesperson for the eastern military command Serhiy Cherevatyi said.

These Wagner fighters were scattered in different places, were not part of a single unit, and had no significant impact, he said.

Read more:

Ukraine says Wagner fighters back on battlefield months after failed coup

Germany and Israel sign an agreement for Berlin to buy a US-Israeli missile defense system

Thursday 28 September 2023 15:50 , Eleanor Noyce

Germany and Israel on Thursday signed an agreement for Berlin to buy the sophisticated Arrow 3 missile defense system, designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles. The development is the latest step in Berlin’s bid to strengthen its air defenses following Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine.

Germany aims to integrate the system into wider NATO air defense efforts. Last year, Berlin launched the European Sky Shield Initiative, which now includes 19 countries.

Israel secured U.S. approval in August for the $3.5 billion deal, which was needed because the system was jointly developed with the United States.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant signed a memorandum of understanding in Berlin on Thursday for the purchase of Arrow 3.

Read more:

Germany and Israel sign an agreement for Berlin to buy a US-Israeli missile defense system

Kosovo accuses Serbia of direct involvement in deadly clashes and investigates possible Russian role

Thursday 28 September 2023 15:35 , Eleanor Noyce

Kosovo’s interior minister on Thursday accused Serbia of direct involvement in weekend clashes and was investigating the possibility of Russian involvement in the violence that left four people dead and further strained relations between the former wartime foes.

One Kosovo police officer and three gunmen were killed in Sunday’s shootout between Serb insurgents and Kosovo police. Eight people were initially arrested, but four of them have been released from custody because of a lack of evidence.

Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Sveçla told The Associated Press in an interview that investigators were looking at evidence linking Russia, an ally of Serbia, to the armed assault. Russian weapons, other equipment and documents suggesting Russian involvement were discovered after the daylong gunbattle, he said.

Zana Cimili has more:

Kosovo accuses Serbia of direct involvement in deadly clashes and investigates possible Russian role

Vladimir Putin’s charm offensive to stop Russia being a global pariah

Thursday 28 September 2023 15:18 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia is likely using Ukraine’s own grain supplies to buy votes for its return to a seat on the UN’s Human Rights Council, experts say, less than two years after it was kicked off the panel for invading its neighbour.

Vladimir Putin has ordered a charm offensive by his diplomats to try and secure the backing of enough countries for Moscow to beat two other eastern European nations in a vote for council membership on 10 October.

A Russian position paper circulated to dozens of other countries ahead of the vote strikes a markedly different tone to the nuclear threats and wartime sabre-rattling of Putin’s addresses since he invaded Ukraine, calling for “constructive mutually respectful dialogue” and referring to the 47-member Human Rights Council as “a key body in the United Nations system”.

Russia is pressuring smaller countries to vote in its favour next month when the membership of the UN Human Rights Council is decided, 18 months after it was kicked out of the panel for invading neighbour Ukraine. Arpan Rai speaks to experts about Moscow’s chances:

Vladimir Putin’s charm offensive to stop Russia being a global pariah

Chechen leader Kadyrov meets Putin after storm over prisoner beating

Thursday 28 September 2023 15:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said he discussed his region’s contribution to Russia’s war effort in Ukraine at talks with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that came at a sensitive moment in relations between the two sides.

Kadyrov enjoys wide leeway from Putin to run Chechnya ruthlessly as his personal fiefdom, but he angered even pro-Kremlin hardliners this week by praising his 15-year-old son for beating up an ethnic Russian prisoner in Chechen custody.

Kadyrov posted on Telegram that he and Putin had talked about a range of topics including the role of Chechen fighters in Ukraine. He added teasingly that “other issues” were raised, and promised “more on this later.”

It was not clear if he was referring to the beating incident last month in which his son Adam kicked and punched a prisoner called Nikita Zhuravel who is accused of burning the Koran.

Kadyrov posted a video of the attack on Monday and said he was proud of his son for defending his Muslim religion.

The alleged Koran-burning did not take place in Chechnya but Russian investigators said they transferred Zhuravel to Chechen custody because Muslims there saw themselves as victims of the incident.

Ukraine repel Putin’s attacks as fighting escalates in Russia’s push to retake lost land

Thursday 28 September 2023 14:55 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukrainian soldiers fought off fierce Russian attacks on the battlefield on Wednesday as the invading troops continued to recapture lost territory in eastern Ukraine, military officials said.

Some progress was also seen in southern Ukraine – another pocket of heavy territorial battle in Russia’s 20-month-old invasion.

“We continue to repel intense enemy attacks near Klishchiivka and Andriivka. The enemy is still storming these positions with the hope of recapturing lost positions, but without success,” Ilia Yevlash, a spokesperson for Ukraine‘s eastern group of forces, told national television.

The two villages – Klishchiivka and Andriivka – near Bakhmut were retaken from Russian control in mid-September in a span of three days, marking a significant territorial feat in the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

There had been 544 Russian shelling incidents in the past 24 hours in the area, seven combat clashes and four air attacks, the military spokesperson said.

Arpan Rai has more:

Ukraine repel Putin’s attacks as fighting escalates in Russia’s push to retake land

Kazakhstan won't help Russia evade sanctions, president tells Germany

Thursday 28 September 2023 14:25 , Eleanor Noyce

Germany should not fear that Kazakhstan will try to help Russia circumvent Western sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine, Kazakh president Tokayev said on Thursday after talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

Tokayev said Kazakhstan continued to call for talks between Russia and Ukraine on ending the war, now in its 20th month, and that it had no concerns about Moscow threatening its own territorial integrity.

The large former Soviet state in Central Asia shares a long border with Russia and is home to a large ethnic Russian minority.

 (EPA)
(EPA)

Ukrainian forces are ‘gradually gaining ground’, NATO chief says

Thursday 28 September 2023 14:11 , Eleanor Noyce

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, on a visit to Kyiv, said on Thursday that Ukrainian forces were “gradually gaining ground” in their counteroffensive against Russian forces.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr Stoltenberg said “every metre that Ukrainian forces regain is a metre that Russia loses”.

“And there is a stark contrast: Ukrainians are fighting for their families, their future, their freedom,” he added. “Moscow is fighting for imperial delusions.”

Zelensky stressed Ukraine‘s need for more air defence against Russian attacks, saying Moscow had used more than 40 Shahed drones in strikes on Ukraine the previous night alone.

“And so it is almost every night. In the conditions of such intense attacks against Ukrainians, against our cities, ports - which are important for global food security - we need a corresponding increase in pressure on Russia and a corresponding increase in our air shield,” he said.

Mr Stoltenberg said he was “constantly pushing” NATO allies to provide more support to Ukraine and speed up delivery, “not least” of air defence systems.

Mr Stoltenberg announced that NATO now had over-arching framework contracts in place with arms companies worth 2.4 billion euros ($2.53 billion) for ammunition, including 1 billion euros in firm orders.

 (AP)
(AP)

China makes large purchases of Ukrainian corn - traders

Thursday 28 September 2023 14:04 , Eleanor Noyce

Chinese importers are believed to have made large purchases of animal feed corn from Ukraine in the past two weeks, traders in Asia and Europe said on Thursday.

The traders were unable to say the precise volumes but several said they amounted to several hundred thousand metric tons. A Ukrainian government source also confirmed corn sales to China.

“Importers in China have bought around 10 to 12 Panamax cargoes of Ukrainian corn for November/December shipment,” said a Singapore-based trader at an international grains trading company, referring to a size of ship with a capacity that typically exceeds 60,000 tons of grain.

”Ukraine is the cheapest origin for corn as of now”, the trader said.

A Ukrainian government source said: “I cannot tell you the volume, but I know that many (traders) did it and it is a good trend (for Ukrainian corn).”

China is traditionally one of the biggest buyers of Ukraine‘s corn to meet its animal feed needs. Chinese corn shipments were among the largest freight types transported in the United Nations-backed safe shipping channel from Ukrainian ports that ended in July after Russia quit the deal.

Grant Shapps makes first trip to Kyiv as Defence Secretary

Thursday 28 September 2023 14:00 , Alex Ross

Grant Shapps discussed how to bolster Ukraine‘s air defences during talks in Kyiv with Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday.

The visit to the Ukrainian capital was Shapps’ first to wartime Kyiv since he became defence secretary last month.

Shapps and Zelenskiy discussed beefing up air defences in Ukraine amid fears that Russia will use long-range missiles and drones to target critical energy infrastructure in the depths of winter, according to a statement released by Zelensky’s office.

Ukraine’s new defence minister, Rustem Umerov, also met Shapps and said he had briefed him on the battlefield situation and Kyiv’s urgent needs.

“Focus on air defence, artillery, anti-drone systems. Winter is coming but we are ready. Stronger together,” Umerov said on X.

Power station damaged in Russian attack in southern Ukraine - ministry

Thursday 28 September 2023 13:49 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian shelling damaged a combined heat and power station in southern Ukraine overnight, the Ukrainian energy ministry said.

Ukraine‘s national grid operator, Ukrenergo, had earlier on Thursday described the plant as a thermal power station but an energy ministry statement said all thermal power plants in territory controlled by Ukraine were in operation.

“Unfortunately, last night a combined heat and power station in one of the towns in the south of the country was damaged by shelling,” the ministry said.

It said the station had not been in operation at the time of the attack and a warehouse had caught fire. The blaze was subsequently extinguished, it added.

Ukrainian cities are often equipped with small combined heating and power stations, which not only heat homes but also generate electricity.

In an emailed comment to Reuters, Ukrenergo said it was not able to provide further details under current legislation during wartime.

Fears over a ‘terrorist attack’

Thursday 28 September 2023 13:40 , Alex Ross

Back in June, Ukraine accused Moscow of plotting a terrorist attack at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Claiming Moscow had reduced its presence at the huge plant, the Ukraine Main Directorate of Intelligence at the Ministry of Defence (GUR) had claimed that the number of military patrols around the site of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and in the nearby city of Enerhodar had been gradually been decreasing.

Personnel remaining at the plant – occupied by Moscow’s forces – were told to blame Ukraine “in case of any emergency situations”, claimed Kyiv.

Russia reducing military presence at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, says Ukraine

“Gradually gaining ground” - NATO Secretary on Ukraine advances

Thursday 28 September 2023 13:20 , Alex Ross

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, on an unannounced visit to Kyiv, said on Thursday that Ukrainian forces were “gradually gaining ground” in their counteroffensive against Russian forces.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Stoltenberg also said Russian troops were fighting for Moscow’s “imperial delusions”.

Stoltenberg announced that NATO now had over-arching framework contracts in place with arms companies for key ammunition.

He said such contracts would allow NATO members to replenish their depleted stockpiles while also continuing to provide Ukraine with ammunition, a key factor in the war.

Stoltenberg also condemned Russian strikes near Ukraine‘s border with NATO member Romania. He said there was no evidence such strikes were a deliberate attack on Romania but branded them “reckless” and “destabilizing”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the press conference (EPA)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the press conference (EPA)