Photo: Albert Pego/Getty

Wednesday’s Coverage: Drone Attack on Pskov, Deep Inside Russia, Damages Warplanes

Map: Institute for Study of War


The UK aerospace and weapons firm BAE Systems is opening an office in Kyiv.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky told BAE Systems CEO Charles Woodburn in Kyiv on Wednesday, “You are an example for other companies to develop their presence in Ukraine and develop weapons production.”

Woodburn responded, “BAE Systems wants to be a reliable partner of Ukraine in the war for freedom and independence, as well as in building a strong, sustainable technological defense industry to effectively prevent future aggression attempts.”

Ukraine’s Strategic Industries Minister of Oleksandr Kamyshin said BAE’s commitment would help “build the future of the Ukrainian defense industry. Together with the company, we will be able to localize the production of advanced weapons.”

Projects will include joint production of BAE’s L119 light howitzer.

BAE is Europe’s largest defense contractor by revenue with orders worth £37 billion ($44 billion) in 2022.


Without criticizing Vladimir Putin’s shredding of the July 2022 deal lifting Russia’s blockade of three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has said in Moscow, “We underlined its critical role for global food security and stability in the Black Sea.”

Turkey and the UN brokered the 2022 deal, which ended the initial five-month Russian blockade. Before and after Putin ended the agreement on July 17, the Kremlin rebuffed the announcement of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the Russian leader would soon visit Ankara.

Fidan spoke last week with Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and said there is “no alternative” to the deal.

At the joint media appearance, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated the Kremlin’s line that it will return to the agreement if international sanctions are lifted on Moscow.

Everything rests on the fact that the West is hindering the solution of problems that prevent a more active export of Russian grain and fertilizer.

Fidan said Turkey wanted to begin a “process focused on understanding and answering Russia’s demands”.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement:

We expect that Turkey, which has repeatedly affirmed its inviolable position regarding the preservation and strict observance of international law, along with other involved parties, will use their authority to thwart Russia’s attempts to violate international obligations and blackmail the world with new food crises.


Russian Orthodox priest Ioann Kurmoyarov has been imprisoned for three years after criticizing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

With his YouTube channel “Orthodox Virtual Parish” Kurmoyarov defied not only the Kremlin but the Russian Orthodox head Patriarch Kirill, who has vigorously promoted the invasion. As a result, the priest was defrocked in April 2022.

He was convicted of spreading “fake news” because of “several videos with false information about the use of the Russian army”. The court said on Thursday, “Kurmoyarov fully admitted his guilt and repented.”


Six Ukrainian military personnel have been killed in incident involving two helicopters during a mission in eastern Ukraine.

A military statement on Telegram on Wednesday said the personnel were operating in a Russian-occupied area near the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.


Ukraine’s National Resistance Center is asking citizens not to vote in elections propping up Vladimir Putin’s “annexation” of Russian-occupied areas.

The NRC noted that Russian proxies have scheduled “early voting” in the Donetsk region in the east and the Zaporizhzhia region in the south through September 8. Voting begins in Kherson in the south and Luhansk in the east on September 2.


The military commander of the Wagner Group mercenaries, Dmitry Utkin, was quietly buried near Moscow on Thursday.

Utkin was killed, alongside Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and other senior members, in a jet crash on August 23.


An Airbus A330 of Russia’s State airline Aeroflot, sent to Iran for maintenance in early April, has still not been returned.

An Aeroflot official said the return date “was recently pushed back by six months” to early March 2024.

Aviation experts said that under normal circumstances, servicing of the plane should take no more than three months. Andrey Patrakov, the founder of the aircraft safety service RunAvia, said the delay is likely due to difficulties acquiring spare parts amid international sanctions on both Russia and Iran.


Olga Smirnova of the group Peaceful Resistance has been given a six-year prison sentence by a St. Petersburg court.

Smirnova was convicted of “spreading disinformation about the Russian army out of political hatred” over online posts in which she wrote of the Russian military’s destruction of Ukrainian cities and of the victims of Russian shelling.

She is also prohibited from administering websites for three years after her release from prison.


A video of Wagner Group mercenary head Yevgeny Prigozhin, filmed 3 to 4 days before he was killed in a jet crash last week, has been posted on Telegram by the Wagner-affiliated channel Gray Zone.

Prigozhin, dressed in camouflage, says from a moving vehicle:

For everyone discussing whether I’m alive or not and how I’m doing. It’s currently a weekend in the second half of August 2023. I’m in Africa.

So for those who like to speculate about my elimination, my private life, my work there, or anything else: everything’s fine, as a matter of fact.


“Two current Russian officials” say the Kremlin oversaw plans to ensure that Tuesday’s funeral of Wagner Group mercenary head Yevgeny Prigozhin, killed — and possibly assassinated — in a jet crash last week, was private and sparsely attended.

One official told the Moscow Times, “The task was set so that when the coffin with Prigozhin’s body was lowered into the grave, there would be no mass gatherings of citizens, mercenaries, and sympathizers, as well as no broadcasts or photographs on social networks from the entrance to the cemetery.”

The closed-doors “farewell ceremony” for Prigozhin was attended by about 20 to 30 relatives. The cemetery declared that this was “in accordance with the family’s wishes”.

Throughout Tuesday, confusing and misleading reports — spread by the security services, according to the officials — circulated about the location of the funeral.

The officials said several meetings of high-ranking officials from the Kremlin and the State security service FSB considered the restrictions on the funeral. The first deputy head of the Presidential administration, Sergey Kiriyenko, who oversees domestic policy, participated.

An official said the Kremlin “could not forgive” the Wagner head: “This is not even a question of betrayal, but a question of humiliation.”

The Porokhovskoye Cemetery in St. Petersburg was opened to visitors on Wednesday morning. Long lines of visitors quickly built up, with Prigozhin’s wife and daughter among the first at his grave. Traffic was backed up for several kilometers.


The latest Russian shelling of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine has killed three civilians and injured five.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported fatalities in Bahatyr and Chasiv Yar. The head of administration in Slovyansk, Vadym Liakh, said a man was killed amid four explosions early Thursday.


The UN children’s agency UNICEF says more than 1,300 schools have been destroyed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The agency said that only about 1/3 of school-age children are attending classes fully in person.

Inside Ukraine, attacks on schools have continued unabated, leaving children deeply distressed and without safe spaces to learn.

Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF regional director for Europe and Central Asia, explained, “Not only has this left Ukraine’s children struggling to progress in their education, but they are also struggling to retain what they learned when their schools were fully functioning.”

Around half of Ukraine’s teachers report a deterioration in students’ abilities in language, reading, and mathematics.

In Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, more than 60 classrooms are being set up in metro stations to allow more than 1,000 students to return.

More than half of the children whose families have fled to seven countries are not enrolled in national education.


The German Government has announced a new military aid package for Ukraine, including the supply of 10 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks and one TRML-4D air surveillance radar.


Ukraine air defenses have been bolstered by US-supplied Vampires — Vehicle Agnostic Modular Palletised ISR Rocket Equipment — designed to combat attack drones.

“Initial Vampire systems have been delivered and are in operation by Ukrainian Armed Forces,” the Pentagon announced.

Four of 14 Vampire systems, ordered in January under a $40m contract, arrived in Ukraine in the middle of the year.


Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin says air defenses downed a drone approaching the Russian capital on Thursday morning.

The Vnukovo and Domodedovo airports briefly halted operations, delayed more than 40 flights.

Governor Alexander Bogomaz said three drones were downed in the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine.


Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has pledged further steps over corruption, saying it had enabled some men to avoid conscription in the fight against Russia’s invasion.

In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskiy announced that “the inspection of military medical commissions across the country is underway”.

At the start of August, Zelenskiy fired all the heads of regional military recruitment centers, citing claims that bribes were being taken from men hoping to avoid military service. He announced 112 criminal proceedings against staff at military registration and enlistment offices.

Last week the State security service SBU arrested the head of the Kyiv district’s military enlistment office and the head of one of the capital’s military medical commissions, suspected of allowing more than 50 men to evade conscription; the head of the Kharkiv district’s military enlistment office, accused of taking about $300,000 from potential conscripts; and Odesa’s secretary of the military medical commission.

Zelensky said on Wednesday night:

It is necessary to check a significant number of decisions of the military medical commissions on disability and unfitness for military service that were made after February 24, [2022]….

There are examples of regions where the number of people removed from the military register due to decisions of the MMCs [military medical commissions] has increased tenfold since February last year.

It is absolutely clear what these decisions are corrupt decisions.

He said there were “at least thousands” of men who were to go abroad “due to obviously dubious decisions”.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Despite sanctions over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, European countries are still importing Russian energy supplies.

While Germany has weaned itself off dependence on Russian gas, Europe’s purchases of liquified natural gas have increased by 40% since the invasion. European Union members have bought more than half of Russia’s LNG on the market in 2023.

And using a sanctions loophole, European customers are buying diesel, kerosene and other fuels refined from Russian crude oil.

“Every Euro” for Russian Gas “Means More Bloodshed”

The flow of pipeline gas from Russia has fallen to historic lows. The EU banned Russian entities from storing gas in its 27 countries and prohibited most new investments in Russia’s energy sector.

But these measures have been overtaken by global shipments of cooled LNG, which are not subject to EU sanctions.

EU states bought 22 million cubic meters of Russian LNG between January and July, compared with 15 million over the same period in 2021.

Spain and Belgium, gateways for LNG supplies throughout the EU, are now the second and third-biggest customers, respectively, of Russian gas after China.

Jonathan Noronha-Gant, a senior fossil fuel campaigner at the anti-corruption group Global Witness, which analyzed the purchases, summarizes

EU countries now buy the majority of Russia’s supply, propping up one of the Kremlin’s most important sources of revenue.

Buying Russian gas has the same impact as buying Russian oil. Both fund the war in Ukraine, and every euro means more bloodshed. While European countries decry the war, they’re putting money into Putin’s pocket.

These countries should align their actions with their words by banning the trade of Russian LNG that is fuelling both the war and the climate crisis.

Belgium’s Government considered legal action to stop Russian supplies of LNG, but it feared the supplies would move to neighbors with six gas storage terminals within a day’s travel of two Belgian ports. The Government decided that sanctions across the EU would be the most effective approach.

A Spanish official echoed:

Until such an [EU-wide] agreement is in place, we’ve asked operators not to renew their LNG purchase contracts with Russia. The big traditional operators have told the Spanish that they have not increased nor renewed their agreements.

[But] if that is the case, it’s most likely that what’s happening is that other traders have decided that it’s convenient for them to store in the EU – mainly in Belgium and Spain – because of the regasification and port unloading infrastructures.

Exploiting the Oil Loophole

By the end of 2022, the EU imposed sanctions on imports of Russian oil and coal. In December, the bloc and the G7 — France, Germany, Italy, the US, Canada, Japan, and the UK — a price cap of $60 a barrel on shipments by sea of Russian crude.

However, third countries such as India, China, and Turkey refine Russian crude. They then sell into petrol, diesel, and other products without restrictions.

Indian imports of Russian crude rose to 69 million barrels in May, an increase of almost 900% from the same period in 2021 and more than double the 31 million bought in May last year. Purchases Volumes fell to about 50 million barrels in July.

In June, India exported 5.1 million barrels of diesel and 3.2 million barrels of jet fuel to the EU, up from 1.68 million barrels of diesel and 0.51 million barrels of jet fuel in June 2021.

Oleg Ustenko, an economic advisor to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, appealed for the EU, the US, and the UK to restrict the re-export of Russia’s oil.

Before the invasion, [India was] buying Russian oil but the level of their imports was very marginal, only around 1% of their imported oil. Now it’s on the level of almost 40%, which is a really dramatic change.

India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, defended the purchases, “If there’s a 30% discount, the Russians are putting a ribbon around it and sending it to us free. That’s what it means.”

The discounts have hit Russia’s energy export revenues, which fell almost 50% from January to June.

But Ustenko says there should be “a ban for all refined products going to G7 countries” and a price cap of $30 per barrel for Russia’s oil shipments.

[This] would be a huge signal to producers that it’s now completely illegal to touch Russian oil and to supply the regime with the blood money they are using to buy weapons and commit war crimes in Ukraine.