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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Russian forces ‘closing in’ on Ukraine’s second-largest power plant

Russian and separatist forces continue to attempt small scale assaults along the Donbas front line with the invading forces likely closing in on Ukraine’s second biggest power plant at Vuhlehirska, 50 kilometers (31 miles) north-east of the city of Donetsk, according to the latest intelligence update by the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence.

“Russia is prioritising the capture of critical national infrastructure, such as power plants,” it said on Twitter Thursday.

“However, it is probably also attempting to break through at Vuhlehirska, as part of its efforts to regain momentum on the southern pincer of its advance towards the key cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk,” the ministry said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kharkiv city comes under Russian shelling, with dead and injured reported

Russian forces are shelling Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with residents being asked not to go outside.

Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, said in a Telegram post Thursday that “Russians are shelling Kharkiv. Attention residents: stay in shelters, do not go outside without an urgent need, do not ignore air raid alerts.”

He said 19 people had been injured in the shelling, including a child, and that four were in a serious condition. Two civilians had died in the shelling, Syniehubov said.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov also urged people to stay in safe places, Ukraine’s state news agency reported, adding that Terekhov said that one of the city’s most densely populated districts is under fire.

Policemen inspect the debris of a bus stand following a shelling attack that killed three while two more were people in the Saltivka neighborhood in Kharkiv City on July 20th, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Four civilians were killed during shelling of the city on Wednesday and 11 injured. An attack on a bus stop in the city killed three people, including a 13 year old boy.

Holly Ellyatt

CIA director says Putin is wrong on Western resolve in Ukraine

CIA Director William Burns in Washington, DC on October 27, 2021. Vladimir Putin’s view that Western resolve in Ukraine will gradually weaken is wrong, said CIA Director William Burns at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

CIA Director William Burns said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s view that Western resolve in Ukraine will gradually weaken is wrong.

“Putin’s view of Americans is we always suffer from attention deficit disorder and, you know, we’ll get distracted by something else,” Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum. “I think my own strong view is that Putin was wrong in his assumptions about breaking the alliance and breaking Ukrainian will before the war began. And I think he is just as wrong now.”

He emphasized that America’s attention will not be diverted elsewhere despite Russia’s “grinding war of attrition.”

Burns said U.S. intelligence estimates Russia has suffered “something in the vicinity of 15,000 killed and maybe three times that wounded.” While the Ukrainians have likely seen slightly less in terms of losses, he said they were still “significant.”

Natalie Tham

Ukraine calls for more air defense systems as forces desperately hold the line

Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank on a road in the Donetsk region on July 20, 2022, near the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Anatolii Stepanov | AFP | Getty Images

Kyiv has called for more air defense systems as its forces fight on in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Fighting is concentrated around the cities of Kramatorsk, Sloviansk and Bakhmut, and Ukrainian forces are desperate to hold the line to prevent Russian advances in Donetsk.

The latest update Thursday morning from the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said those cities and the settlements around them continued to be attacked by Russian artillery. Separately, Kharkiv to the north and Mykolaiv to the south are also coming under attack, with powerful explosions rocking the port city of Mykolaiv during the night.

“In [the] Donetsk region, the invaders are seeking to advance to the Debaltseve-Sloviansk highway, while Ukraine’s forces are holding them back,” the armed forces said in its update.

In the meantime, Ukraine has repeated its call for more air defense systems to it fend off Russian aircraft and missile attacks. First Lady Olena Zelenska, who has been in Washington this week, repeated those calls to America Wednesday when she addressed the U.S. Congress. As she spoke, a presentation showed graphic images of Ukrainian children killed by Russian missile strikes and shelling.

“I’m asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to kill,” Zelenska said before a backdrop of graphic and disturbing images from devastated Ukrainian streets.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy watched in Kyiv the live broadcast of the speech by First Lady Olena Zelenska in the US Congress, which took place as part of her visit to the United States of America, July 20, 2002.

Source: The Office of the President of Ukraine

Back home, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated those calls for more air defense systems.

“I’m sure you’ve seen how effective the weapons provided by the partners are, especially modern MLRS. The name HIMARS has become almost native to our people – just like Javelin or NLAW, like “Stugna” or “Neptune” earlier,” he noted in his nightly address.

“It is obvious that the next equally important name will appear from modern air defense systems, which we are requesting from partners. The representatives of our state did not stop working for a single day to obtain an effective air defense system.”

While Ukrainian forces had experienced some success in destroying Russian missiles
“a completely different speed and scale of protection is required,” Zelenskyy said.

— Holly Ellyatt

No evidence Putin is in ill health or unstable, CIA chief says

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a Night Hockey League ice hockey match on October 7, 2015 in Sochi, Russia. Putin spent his 63rd birthday playing hockey with NHL stars.

Sasha Mordovets | Getty Images

There has been speculation for months that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be suffering from poor physical or mental health, including unsubstantiated rumors that he may have undergone cancer treatment.

The claims have been denied by the Kremlin, and CIA Director William Burns also appeared to pour cold water on those rumors on Wednesday, telling the Aspen Security Forum that the CIA is aware of no evidence that Putin is debilitated mentally or physically.

“There are lots of rumors about President Putin’s health and as far as we can tell, he’s entirely too healthy,” he said, although he added that was “not a formal intelligence judgment.”

Followers of Russian geopolitics keep a close eye on Putin’s public appearances for signs of ill health and for insight into his rationale for invading neighboring Ukraine.

In truth, however, Putin has given clues about his intentions when it comes to Ukraine for years, frequently deploring the collapse of the Soviet union, extolling the unity of Russians and Ukrainians and dismissing the notion of Ukraine as an independent territory.

Holly Ellyatt

Zelenskyy watched wife’s speech to U.S. Congress from Kyiv

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy watched in Kyiv the live broadcast of the speech by First Lady Olena Zelenska in the US Congress, which took place as part of her visit to the United States of America, July 20, 2002.

Source: The Office of the President of Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy watched from Kyiv as his wife delivered remarks to the U.S. Congress.

Olena Zelenska, the first wife of a foreign leader to speak in the U.S. Capitol, urged lawmakers to provide more U.S.-made arms to Ukraine.

Zelenska began her 15-minute address with a photo presentation of Ukrainian children killed by Russian missile strikes and shelling across the country.

“I’m asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to kill,” Zelenska said before a backdrop of graphic and disturbing images from devastated Ukrainian streets.

“The First Lady noted the contribution of every American family, Congress, and President Joseph Biden to Ukraine’s ability to resist the enemy and protect the lives of millions of Ukrainian citizens,” according to a statement from Zelenskyy’s office.

— Amanda Macias

Donbas region is ‘not lost yet’ to the Russians as Ukraine puts up stiff resistance, Pentagon says

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley (R) participate in a news briefing at the Pentagon May 23, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

The Pentagon said Wednesday that Ukraine has not yet lost the Donbas to Russia after weeks of intense fighting.

“It’s very intense,” U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon. “A lot of violence, tens of thousands of artillery rounds every 24-hour period and lots of casualties on both sides, lots of destruction of villages,” he added.

Milley said that Russia has only advanced about 10 miles in the past three months.

“It’s not lost yet. Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every inch of territory that they gain,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine graft concerns resurface as Russia war goes on

A screen shot showing the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky during his televised address where he said that if the Russian threat to shipping in the Black Sea can be removed, this will alleviate the severity of the global food crisis.

Igor Golovniov | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s dismissal of senior officials is casting an inconvenient light on an issue that the Biden administration has largely ignored since the outbreak of war with Russia: Ukraine’s history of rampant corruption and shaky governance.

As it presses ahead with providing tens of billions of dollars in military, economic and direct financial support aid to Ukraine and encourages its allies to do the same, the Biden administration is now once again grappling with longstanding worries about Ukraine’s suitability as a recipient of massive infusions of American aid.

Those issues, which date back decades and were not an insignificant part of former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, had been largely pushed to the back burner in the immediate run-up to Russia’s invasion and during the first months of the conflict as the U.S. and its partners rallied to Ukraine’s defense.

But Zelenskyy’s weekend firings of his top prosecutor, intelligence chief and other senior officials have resurfaced those concerns and may have inadvertently given fresh attention to allegations of high-level corruption in Kyiv made by one outspoken U.S. lawmaker.

It’s a delicate issue for the Biden administration. With billions in aid flowing to Ukraine, the White House continues to make the case for supporting Zelenskyy’s government to an American public increasingly focused on domestic issues like high gas prices and inflation. High-profile supporters of Ukraine in both parties also want to avoid a backlash that could make it more difficult to pass future aid packages.

— Associated Press

Russia’s objectives in Ukraine could go beyond the Donbas, Russia’s foreign minister warns

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference as he meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Turkey June 8, 2022. 

Umit Bektas | Reuters

If Ukraine receives long-range weapons from Western countries, Moscow could expand the geography and scope of its “special military operation,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.

Speaking to Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russia’s English-language news service RT, Lavrov said that Moscow’s aims in Ukraine were still the same as President Vladimir Putin had announced at the start of Russia’s invasion — or “special military operation” as it calls the invasion — but he suggested it could expand.

“The President said very clearly, as you quoted him – denazification, demilitarization in the sense that there are no threats to our security, military threats from the territory of Ukraine, this task remains,” the minister said, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

President Putin initially claimed — falsely — that Moscow’s mission in Ukraine was to “denazify” the government in Kyiv, a claim widely rebuffed by the international community, but then Russia changed tack, saying its main objective was to “liberate” the Donbas, where two pro-Russian, self-proclaimed “republics” — known as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) — are located.

Lavrov said that if the West kept pumping Ukraine with arms, like the U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), then “that means the geographical tasks will extend still further from the current line,” in Donbas, referencing Russian-occupied Kherson in the south, and Zaporizhzhia, both of which lie beyond the Donbas territory in eastern Ukraine.

“Now the geography is different. This is far from being only the DPR and LPR, it is also the Kherson region, the Zaporizhzhia region and a number of other territories, and this process continues, and continues consistently and persistently,” Lavrov said.

“We cannot allow the part of Ukraine that Zelenskyy will control or whoever replaces him to have weapons that will pose a direct threat to our territory and the territory of those republics that have declared their independence, those who want their future decide for yourself,” he concluded.

Holly Ellyatt



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