Russian troops in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine, May 20, 2022 (EPA)
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1409 GMT:
Ukraine State security service SBU has confirmed a report that Russian hackers carried out a cyber-attack disrupting part of the Ukrainian power grid in October 2022. The assault sought to magnify the effect of Vladimir Putin’s “energy war” and its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine’s infrastructure.
The US cybersecurity firm Mandiant established in an investigation that the Russian group Sandworm, made up of officers from Russia’s military intelligence service GRU, was responsible for the cyber-warfare.
The hack tripped circuit breakers at an electrical substation at the same time as a missile strike. Sandworm then used data-wiping malware to cover their attack.
The report found, “This attack represents the latest evolution in Russia’s cyber physical attack capability, which has been increasingly visible since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
UPDATE 0930 GMT:
The Ukrainian military says Russia is continuing its assault on Avdiivka
The Russians stepped up their assault last month on the town, about 20 km (12.5 miles) north of Donetsk city, the center of Russia’s occupation of the region. Most of Avdiivka has been devastated, with only 1,500 of 32,000 pre-war residents remaining.
Anton Kotsukon, spokesperson for Ukraine’s 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade, said, “They’ve brought in about 40,000 men here along with ammunition of all calibers. We see no sign of the Russians abandoning plans to encircle Avdiivka.”
He said Russian forces are “playing cat and mouse”, sending up “huge numbers” of drones and deploying artillery forces.
Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, head of Ukraine’s southern forces, said troops around Avdiivka are “stoutly holding their defenses”.
Local officials said Russia is holding back on assaults after a week of heavy rain.
“The third wave hasn’t started yet, but they are preparing for it,” said Vitaliy Barabash, head of Avdiivka’s military administration. “Today is already the second day when the weather is favourable for this.”
UPDATE 0729 GMT:
Russia is in discussions with several countries to buy back helicopter engines, as Moscow tries to cover losses from its invasion of Ukraine.
Russian officials have approached Egypt, Pakistan, Belarus, and Brazil.
About 150 engines for Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters may be returned from Egypt in December. In return, Russia said will forgive Cairo’s debts for previously delivered helicopters, fighter jets, and air defense systems. Moscow will also continue to provide assistance through wheat supplies.
Russia asked Pakistan to return at least four engines for Mi-35M helicopters. It wants 12 engines for the Mi-35M helicopters from Brazil. Belarus has already sold six engines for Mi-26 transport helicopters to Moscow.
Russia has also sacrificed export revenues by diverting weapons intended for India and Armenia to the war against Ukraine.
Russian arms exports are estimated at $8 billion in 2022, almost halving the 2021 level of $14.5 billion.
UPDATE 0653 GMT:
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has hailed the European Commission’s recommendation for the start of negotiations over Ukraine’s accession to the European Union.
The Commission said on Wednesday that the talk should begin when Ukraine has fulfilled outstanding conditions. It reported that the country has met four of seven requirements. The remaining criteria are the fight against corruption; removal of oligarchs from Ukraine’s economic system; and the protection of national minorities.
In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskiy said:
There is a positive signal from the European Commission….This is exactly the decision we expected….
Our people deserve to be in the European Union – together with all the free peoples of our Europe. And we are doing everything for this.
The President assured, “We already understand what next steps are needed to move forward….Relevant meetings have already been held with representatives of the government and the Verkhovna Rada [the Ukrainian Parliament] on the draft laws and reforms that are at the heart of our transformation.”
Zelenskiy also praised the Commission’s recommendation for accession negotiations with Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova: “It is important for Ukraine and the whole of Europe that Moldova is as successful and stable as possible.”
UPDATE 0647 GMT:
Russian officials are seeking an 8-year prison term for artist and musician Sasha Skochilenko, arrested in St. Petersburg in April 2022 after criticizing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Skochilenko is charged with spreading false information about the military. She had replaced supermarket price labels with anti-war slogans.
Skochilenko, 33, said she is “in shock” over the length of the possible prison sentence.
UPDATE 0642 GMT:
A Russian missile damaged a Liberian-flagged ship on Wednesday, killing one person and injuring three crew members and one port employee.
The ship was entering the Black Sea port of Odesa.
In mid-July, Vladimir Putin ripped up the July 2022 deal ensuring that vessels could move grain and other essential items out of three Ukrainian ports.
But a month, ships began using a “protected corridor” to defy the Russian blockade.
UPDATE 0636 GMT:
As expected, the new government in Slovakia has withdrawn a plan to donate rockets and ammunition to Ukraine.
Prime Minister Robert Fico pledged during September’s electoral campaign to halt military aid to Kyiv.
The plan included 140 KUB air defense system rockets, more than 5,000 pieces of 125 mm cannon ammunition, and 4 million rounds of small arms ammunition.
Fico has taken a line — similar to that of Hungary’s leader Viktor Orbán, a long-time ally of Vladimir Putin — calling for negotiations that would allow Russia to hold Ukrainian territory.
But Fico has said that he will not block private business deals for supplies to Ukraine.
UPDATE 0628 GMT:
US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby says the Biden Administration has allocated 96% of the funds that it has available to support Ukraine.
On Tuesday, the Administration’s senior officials urged Congress to authorize $11.8 billion in economic and financial aid. They wrote the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate and House:
Russia has bet that its aggression can outlast our collective resolve. We and our partners must continue to enable Ukraine’s self-defense, across multiple domains, including economic ones.
The Biden Administration had included $61.4 billion in additional authorization in a $100 billion request — which also had assistance for Israel and Taiwan and replenishment of defense stocks — to the House last month. It was blocked by hard-right Republicans and Trumpists, as they ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Kirby said that the US believes that Ukraine can liberate its territory, Kirby said, while acknowledging that progress had been slow against built-up Russian defenses.
ORIGIAL ENTRY: Violating international law, Russia is sending Ukrainian prisoners of war to fight for its 20 1/2-month invasion on Ukraine’s frontlines.
Russian State outlet RIA Novosti posted video on Tuesday showing POWs, dressed in military fatigues, swearing allegiance to Russia as they held rifles. The men have been drafted into a battalion named after 15th-century nobleman Bogdan Khmelnitsky, who seized parts of Ukraine for Moscow.
RIA Novosti said the battalion entered service last month, and will be deployed in eastern Ukraine. Russian media had reported earlier this year that about 70 Ukrainian POWs joined the battalion.
Mobilization of POWs to fight is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which forbid the prisoners from being exposed to combat or from working in unhealthy or dangerous conditions.
Yulia Gorbunova, senior researcher on Ukraine at Human Rights Watch, explained, “Russian authorities might claim they are recruiting them on a voluntary basis but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where a prisoner of war’s decision could be taken truly voluntarily, given the situation of coercive custody.
Nick Reynolds of London’s Royal United Services Institute echoed that “the entire scenario is laced with the potential for coercion” because a POW does not have “a huge amount of agency” and is in a “very difficult situation”.