Here is the situation on Saturday, September 23, 2023.
- At least one Ukrainian missile hit the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol. Kyiv claimed responsibility for the attack on the fleet’s HQ in the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
- Crimea was also the target of a large-scale attack by computer hackers who targeted the peninsula’s internet providers. The cyberattack was described as “unprecedented” by Moscow-appointed officials in the region.
- Moscow had two options for the future of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in Crimea – voluntary or forced “self-neutralisation”, the secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council Oleksiy Danilov said. If Moscow does not choose the voluntary option, it “will be sliced up like a salami”, Danilov said on social media.
- Russian aerial defence system destroyed a Ukrainian missile and two drones flying near the Crimean Peninsula, Russia’s Ministry of Defence said.
- Ukrainian operations against Crimea demonstrate Kyiv’s growing ability to take the fight to Russian positions, Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi said, reporting from Kyiv, amid the attack on the Black Fleet Navy HQ earlier.
- One person was killed and 15 injured following a Russian missile attack on the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk. Fifteen people, including a child, were also injured, a local official said.
- The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington, DC-based think tank, said the Ukrainian army has made progress in its offensive in the south of the country. Ukrainian armoured vehicles have been seen operating for the first time beyond the last Russian defence line near Robotyne in the Zaporizhia region, the ISW said.
- The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence said that of the recent drone and missile attacks on Russian territory, the Kremlin will likely be most concerned about explosions at the Chkalovsky military airfield near Moscow. “This is a sensitive location because it hosts specialist military aircraft as well as VIP transport for Russian leaders,” the ministry said.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Canada’s parliament that Russia is engaged in “genocide” against his country.
- Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Russia has restarted a systemic campaign of aerial attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure ahead of winter, but the country’s air defence systems were better prepared compared with last year.
- At least one person was killed in Russian shelling in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. A 25-year-old man was killed and another person wounded when residential districts came under Russian fire in the city, which is close to the front line.
- United States President Joe Biden announced a new military aid package for Ukraine valued at $325m and said the first US-made Abrams tanks will be delivered to Ukraine next week. Washington has promised that 31 of the highly advanced battle tanks will be sent to Kyiv.
- Biden also informed Zelenskyy that Washington would send a number of ATACMS long-range missiles to Kyiv, US broadcaster NBC News reported, citing information from four unnamed US officials.
- Ukraine and the US agreed to launch joint weapons production in a move that will enable Kyiv to start producing air defence systems, Zelenskyy said.
- Visiting Canada after his visit to Washington, Zelenskyy welcomed the announced provision of 650 million Canadian dollars ($482m) in military aid to Ukraine over three years. The aid involved 50 armoured vehicles, including those used for medical evacuation.
- Zelenskyy said Canada’s military support for Ukraine had saved lives.
- Repression in Russia has soared since last year, reaching levels not seen since Stalinist times, a United Nations expert warned.
- Russia handed down a lengthy prison term to a political activist who used social media to post comments critical of Moscow’s war on Ukraine. The activist, Richard Rouz, was sentenced to eight years in jail by a military court in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg.
- Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned Ukraine’s Zelenskyy to never again “insult” Polish people. “I … want to tell President Zelenskyy never to insult Poles again, as he did recently during his speech at the UN,” Morawiecki told an election rally. Zelenskyy angered his Polish neighbours when he told the UN General Assembly in New York that Kyiv was working to preserve land routes for its grain exports, but that the “political theatre” around grain imports was only helping Moscow. Poland believes the comment was directed at its decision to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports in a bid to protect local farmers.
- The Kremlin said it expects the dispute between Ukraine and Poland, sparked by disagreements over grain exports, to escalate.
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine was a “break with civilization” and a violation of “our common humanity”.
- Russia and Belarus started joint military drills on Belarusian territory that will last five days, Belarus’s Ministry of Defence said.
- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for strengthening “close contacts” with Moscow following his return from a visit to Russia where he held talks with Putin. Kim’s visit “introduced long-term plans for developing DPRK-Russia relations”, state media in North Korea reported, using the acronym of the country’s official name.
- Russia plans to spend big on defence in 2024 with a budget allocation of 6 percent of gross domestic product, up from 3.9 percent in 2023 and 2.7 percent in 2021, Bloomberg News has reported.
- Starting on Thursday, Russia temporarily banned exports of petrol and diesel to all countries outside a circle of four ex-Soviet states to stabilise the domestic market and tackle a fuel crunch. The export ban will last as long as necessary to ensure market stability, a spokesman for the Kremlin told reporters.
- The war in Ukraine reduced Europe’s economic growth and “considerably” increased inflation, the Swiss National Bank said in a study. Examining the war’s economic impact on the UK, Italy, France and Switzerland, the study found that output would have been between 0.1 percent and 0.7 percent higher in the fourth quarter of 2022 if Russia had not invaded Ukraine.
- A leading grain cultivator in Ukraine has harvested 37.4 million metric tonnes of grain and oilseeds during this year’s harvest so far, Ukraine’s Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food said.
- Ukraine’s natural gas consumption is expected to fall below 20 billion cubic metres (bcm) this year compared with about 27 billion in 2021 before Russia’s invasion, the CEO of the country’s biggest oil and gas company Naftogaz said.
- The owners of Russian assets frozen by Western governments as parts of Ukraine war sanctions may sue relevant authorities in those countries if they decide to impose a windfall tax on them, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the UK’s Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt have signalled support for a European Union plan to impose such a tax on profits generated by frozen Russian sovereign assets. The money generated would be used to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine.
- Moscow said it hopes Russia will become part of the Olympic community once again despite sanctions against Russian athletes. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended allowing athletes from Russia and Moscow’s ally Belarus to compete as individual neutrals at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Black Sea grain
- The Kremlin said that no progress had been made on the Black Sea grain issue and that no talks between Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan were scheduled in a bid to revive the deal that allowed Ukraine to export from its Black Sea ports. Russia has quit a Turkish-brokered deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain via the Black Sea and has re-imposed a sea blockade.
- Ukraine’s deputy prime minister confirmed the departure of another cargo vessel carrying grain from Ukraine’s Chornomorsk seaport despite threats of attack on shipping by Russia. The ship, Aroyat, was reported to have been loaded with 17,600 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat bound for Egypt.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies