President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks at the Grain From Ukraine summit, November 24, 2023

Monday’s Coverage: Overstretched Russia Moving Air Defenses Out of Key Kaliningrad Region

Map: Institute for the Study of War


The European Union is more than quadrupling its expenditure on training of Ukrainian soldiers, putting in another €194 million ($213 million).

EU support of €59 million ($64.8 million) has trained 34,000 Ukrainian troops so far.

EU officials say they hope to reach 40,000 trained Ukrainian personnel in the near future.


Russian shelling of a residential building and private houses have killed four people, including a child, and injured at least five in northern and south-central Ukraine.

In the Sumy region in the north, Russian shelling destroyed at least five private houses near the border. Two bodies were recovered from rubble, and a 7-year-old girl died in hospital after the car in which she was travelling was hit.

Dnipropetrovsk Governor Serhiy Lysak said of casualties from Russian shelling of Nikopol in south-central Ukraine, “A 63-year-old man was killed. Two women, aged 65 and 63, were injured. There may be people under the rubble.”


The US and France have pressed Turkey to end its blockade of Sweden’s accession to NATO.

At a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan that Swedish membership should be ratified “as soon as possible”.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna added, “The strength and credibility of our alliance are at stake. We must not lose another day.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in July that he was ending his long-standing objection to Swedish accession. However, with the Government mired in economic problems and Erdoğan seeking leverage with other countries, Ankara’s Parliament has continued to delay a final vote.

See also EA on TVP World: NATO, Sweden, and Ukraine; Dealing with the Far Right


Finland has announced the closure of its entire border with Russia to travellers for the next two weeks.

Helsinki says Russian officials are encouraging a rush of migrants and asylum seekers across the frontier, stoking division and turmoil over immigration.

Last week Finland shut all of its crossings except the Raja-Jooseppi border station in Lapland in the far north.

The Finnish Government said on Tuesday that this will also close, allowing only goods transport.


Ukraine and the three Baltic States — Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia — are boycotting the next meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe because of the presence of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The gathering is in the North Macedonian capital Skopje. Bulgaria said on Monday that it will allow Lavrov’s plane to cross its airspace, making diplomatic exemption to the closure of European skies because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko announced the boycott by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

“We must work together to save the OSCE from Russia,” Nikolenko posted on social medial, saying Moscow should be removed from the organization as it “unleashed the largest armed aggression in Europe since the end of WW II”.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the Baltic States said Lavrov’s attendance “risks legitimising aggressor Russia as a rightful member of our community of free nations”.

Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna added at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, “Lavrov’s attendance trivializes the atrocious crimes that Russia continues to commit. Lavrov’s place is at a special tribunal, not the OSCE table.”

Poland barred Lavrov’s participation in the 2022 OSCE meeting.


Marianna Budanova, the wife of Ukraine’s head of military intelligence, has been hospitalized with heavy metal poisoning.

A representative of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency confirmed the hospitalization after a report in the Ukrainian media outlet Babel.

Sources told Babel, “These substances are in no way used in everyday life or military affairs. Their presence may indicate a deliberate attempt to poison a specific person.”

The sources said Budanova is completing her course of treatment. A criminal case of attempted murder is being investigated.

Other sources told Ukrayinska Pravda that Budanova was “most likely poisoned through food”. Several military intelligence staff were also affected and are being treated. Budanova’s case was more serious as she is “small and lighter”.


The pre-trial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, held by Russia for almost eight months, has been extended to January 30 by a Moscow court.

Gershkovich was seized by Russian security forces on March 29, 2023 in the city of Ekaterinburg, as he was reporting on local reaction to the invasion of Ukraine and the activities of Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries. The American citizen faces espionage charges with a prison sentence of up to 20 years.


Vladimir Putin on Monday has signed Russia’s national budget through 2027 with a record level of defense spending.

The budget raises national expenditure by 25%. In 2024, the Russian Government plans to spend 36.6 trillion rubles ($415 billion) with an expected deficit of 1.595 trillion rubles ($9.5 billion).

The exact level of defense spending is a state secret. Independent business journalists Farida Rustamova and Maksim Tovkaylo said this month that around 39% of all federal spending will go toward defense and law enforcement in 2024.


Ukraine’s Higher Anti-Corruption Court has announced the detention of a second senior official from the nation’s cyber authority.

Viktor Zhora, the former deputy head of the State Special Communications Service, was formally arrested on Monday over a state funds embezzlement scheme.

Zhora, the SCS’s former head Yurii Shchyhol, and four other people are suspected of embezzling Hr 62 million ($1.7 million) allocated for the purchase of equipment and software between 2020 and 2022. Prosecutors claim the officials concluded contracts of Hr 285 million ($7.9 million) for software and services worth only Hr 223 million ($6.2 million), and pocketed the difference.

Zhora will be held in pre-trial detention for two months. Bail is set at Hr 10 million ($276,000).

Shchyhol was detained last Thursday. He was released from custody on bail of Hr 25 million ($693,000) a day later.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Addressing the International Maritime Organization on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoken of Ukraine’s resilience against Russia’s 21-month invasion, its blockade, and its attacks on Ukrainian ports.

Zelenskiy reviewed Moscow’s attempt to break Ukraine by preventing the export of grains and other essential foodstuffs, affecting food security for about 400 million people in Africa and Asia.

“It is in these waters where freedom of navigation has suffered the greatest blow since the Second World War,” he said. “And it happened due to the fault of one state and its unprovoked war of aggression.”

The President noted that both “the poorest nations and those whose social life is stable…can be hit by chaos due to the food shortage”.

[However] we have overcome this threat….

We have restored the operation of some of Ukraine’s seaports, and it is a great joy for every nation to see ports return to normal operation.

Russia seized control of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov at the outset of the February 2022 invasion, blockading three Ukrainian ports.

In July 2022, in a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey, Russia agreed to the restoration of shipments of grain. But a year later, Vladimir Putin ripped up the agreement, trying to re-impose the blockade.

With the support of international partners, Ukraine established a “protected corridor” for vessels in the Black Sea. More than 150 have completed passage since August 16.

In addition, Ukrainian forces have carried out a series of missile and drone strikes on Russian naval positions in occupied Crimea, including the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, naval and air bases, bridges, and oil and ammunition depots.

Zelenskiy notes Russia’s ongoing attacks against the ports and other infrastructure and civilian sites across Ukraine, with “hundreds of such drones and at least dozens of missiles every month”. On Saturday, Moscow launched its largest drone assault of the invasion, with 71 of 75 intercepted by air defenses.

See also Ukraine War, Day 640: Russia’s “Largest Drone Attack of Invasion”

However, Zelenskiy explained, Ukraine is withstanding the attacks as Russia’s martiime power ebbs.

Despite all odds, we were able to release hundreds of ships with cargo for such countries as Nigeria and Libya, Morocco and Yemen, Bangladesh, and China, and dozens of others.

The Russian Navy has repeatedly attacked ports and civilian vessels in this area. But now Russia’s capabilities are much more limited – we have driven its navy away from our part of the sea. And this allowed us to launch new alternative routes in the Black Sea – almost six million tons of cargo have been transported in less than three months.

On Saturday, at the Grain for Ukraine summit, Zelenskiy reconfirmed the international efforts, alongside Latvia’s President Edgars Rinkēvičs, Swiss President Alain Berset, and Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė.

Zelenskiy noted pledges of warships to ensure Ukraine’s escort of grain ships, while noting that more effort is needed against Russian missile and drone strikes targeting port infrastructure and grain warehouses.

“There is a deficit of air defense – that is no secret,” he said.

See also Ukraine War, Day 641: The “Grain From Ukraine” Summit Looks to Protection of Black Sea