Here is the situation on Wednesday, October 18, 2023.
- Ukrainian forces used United States-supplied long-range ATACMS missiles for the first time, inflicting heavy damage on airfields in eastern Luhansk and southern Berdiansk, which are occupied by Russia. Speaking in his nightly video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the weapons had “proven themselves”.
- Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern group of forces, told national television that Russia continued to push its week-old assault on the devastated town of Avdiivka in the east, with Ukrainian forces repelling 10 attacks. Shtupun also said Ukrainian forces advancing south towards the Sea of Azov had registered “partial success” west of Verbove, one of a cluster of villages it is trying to capture.
- Local officials said “massive” Russian shelling on the southern city of Kherson and the surrounding area injured at least seven people. Kyiv also said it had shot down six Iranian-made Shahed drones that were launched from Moscow-annexed Crimea towards the port city of Odesa.
- Russia, meanwhile, said it shot down eight drones over Crimea and three others over its western region of Belgorod, bordering Ukraine.
- The destruction of the Kakhovka dam in southeastern Ukraine in June caused “staggering” loss and damage estimated at $14bn, according to a report by the Ukrainian government and the United Nations. Kyiv accused Russia of blowing up the dam across the Dnipro River, which flooded the surrounding area with landmine-contaminated water and left areas upstream without water. Moscow has denied it was responsible for the breach.
- Sweden’s civil defence minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin said a Baltic Sea telecom cable between Sweden and Estonia remains operational after it was damaged at roughly the same time this month as a Finnish-Estonian pipeline and cable. Separately, Finnish investigators said they had identified vessels operating in the area where the damage to the pipeline and cable occurred on October 8, naming two of them, a Russian-flagged ship and a Chinese-owned vessel.
Politics and diplomacy
- Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing for the Belt and Road forum and to hold bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. The two leaders are expected to meet on Wednesday.
- Putin said the US and President Joe Biden needed to learn to “respect” Russia after Biden told CBS News that the US and Europe could unite to prevent Putin from causing “the kind of trouble he’s been causing”. Putin told state television in Beijing: “This is not about me personally. This is about the interests of the country. And it is impossible to suppress the interests of Russia.”
- Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is also in Beijing for the forum, underlined the strong ties between their two countries, saying that continuing “geopolitical tensions” due to the war in Ukraine did not affect their relationship.
- Russia’s parliament voted 412 to zero to revoke the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in the first of three readings of the bill. Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, a member of Russia’s Security Council, said the aim was to restore parity with the US, which has signed but never ratified the 1996 treaty.
- Russian police said they were checking whether Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s former chief strategist, had broken the law with an article that suggested that Russia and the West might one day become aligned. In an article published on September 27 entitled “Birth of the North,” Surkov suggested that no major powers would get what they wanted out of the Ukraine war and that Russia, the US and Europe would draw closer as a “Great North”.
- Multiple news agencies reported that Biden will ask Congress for a $100bn package including defence aid for Ukraine. The White House has not yet confirmed the request.
- US Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim said deepening relations between North Korea and Russia were “very worrying”. The White House said last week that Pyongyang recently shipped weapons to Russia, deliveries Kim said were “dangerous” and “destabilising”. The US is concerned North Korean weapons could be used in Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such allegations were not based on evidence.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies