Today – 9.28.22
Latest Ukraine Updates
Germany Believes Damage to Nord Stream Pipelines Was Act of Sabotage
“Germany suspects the Nord Stream gas pipeline system was damaged by an act of sabotage, in what would amount to a major escalation in the standoff between Russia and Europe,” Bloomberg News reports. “According to a German security official, the evidence points to a violent act rather than a technical issue. Swedish seismologists detected two explosions in the area on Monday, when leaks appeared almost simultaneously in the Baltic Sea,” the news service states.
Suspicious Timing: “It’s the clearest signal yet that Europe will have to survive this winter without any significant Russian gas flows, and potentially marks a major escalation in the broader conflict between Moscow and Ukraine’s allies. The pipelines were already out of action, but any hope that the Kremlin might have turned the taps back on at some point have now been dashed. Gas prices jumped, and Denmark moved to bolster security around its energy assets. ‘It’s hard to imagine that these are coincidences,’ Mette Frederiksen, Denmark’s prime minister, told reporters Tuesday. ‘We can’t rule out sabotage.’” Americans will feel the pinch from European energy crisis…
Russia Declares Victory in Annexation Vote, Prepares to Absorb Eastern Ukraine Regions
“The Kremlin paved the way Tuesday to annex more of Ukraine and escalate the war by claiming that residents of a large swath overwhelmingly supported joining with Russia in stage-managed referendums the U.S. and its Western allies have dismissed as illegitimate,” the Associated Press reports. “Pro-Moscow officials said all four occupied regions of Ukraine voted to join Russia. According to Russia-installed election officials, 93% of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in the Luhansk region and 99% in Donetsk,” AP writes.
End of Any Negotiations? “Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky told the U.N. Security Council by video from Kyiv that Russia’s attempts to annex Ukrainian territory will mean ‘there is nothing to talk about with this president of Russia.’” Is Ukraine really winning the war?
Leading Up To Today
Ukrainian Forces Continue Offensive East of Izium
The Ukrainian military is continuing its offensive against Russians east of Izium and has partially liberated the village of Pisky-Radkivski, local Ukrainian officials report. The counteroffensive is pushing north along the Oskil River toward the occupied village of Borova. “Fighting is underway,” the Borova village council posted to Facebook. “The Armed Forces of Ukraine are pushing out the enemy, but the liberated territories are suffering from enemy shelling. The sounds of explosions are also constantly heard from the north, east and south. The occupation authorities left the community, almost all collaborators also fled.”
Nord Stream Warns of “Unprecedented” Damage to Pipelines in Baltic Sea
The operator of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany warned that its pipeline system under the Baltic Sea sustained “unprecedented” damage in one day, Reuters reports. “The destruction that occurred on the same day simultaneously on three strings of the offshore gas pipelines of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented. It is not yet possible to estimate the timing of the restoration of the gas transport infrastructure,” Nord Stream AG told Reuters.
The Swedish Maritime Authority identified three leaks near the Danish island of Bornholm. The authority has warned vessels to maintain a distance of around eight kilometers, or five miles, from the leaks. Aircraft are also advised to keep a safety altitude of 1,000 meters, or about two-thirds of a mile. A spokesperson said that the first leak was reported Monday afternoon, with two more following that evening.
Is Putin Trying to Seize a Democratic Mandate?
“Citizens in four regions of Ukraine were voting for a fourth day on Monday in the Russian-organised referendums that Kyiv and the West have branded a sham,” Reuters reports. A number of votes are being carried out in areas seized by Russian forces, in what appears to be an attempt by Vladimir Putin to add legitimacy to Russia’s occupation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson.
Dangerous Game: The referenda are taking place amid escalated discussion of possible nuclear attacks and retaliation. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned, “If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia… The United States will respond decisively.” Is the US ready for conflict?
UN Report Suggests Ukraine Children Raped, Tortured by Russian Forces
According to a new report from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, many Ukrainian children were raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined by Russian forces during the invasion. “Investigating cases related to sexual and gender-based violence present specific challenges. The Commission has found that some Russian Federation soldiers committed such crimes,” the panel wrote. “These acts amounted to different types of violations of rights, including sexual violence, torture, and cruel and inhuman treatment.”
Mass Grave Sites: Recently, in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, mass grave sites were uncovered. In addition, it has been reported that Russian bombs struck hospitals and other civilian buildings. Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced a partial call-up of the military to secure the annexation of Ukrainian regions. Biden pitches a globalist solution…
Russia to Proceed With Annexation Votes in Ukraine Regions
“Russia will on Friday begin its plan to annex around 15% of Ukrainian territory via referendums in four regions controlled by Russian forces, a move the West says is a gross violation of international law that significantly escalates the war,” Reuters reports. “After nearly seven months of war, and a critical battlefield defeat in northeastern Ukraine earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin explicitly backed the referendums after the Russian-controlled regions lined up to ask for swift votes to join Russia,” the wire service writes.
Stacked Deck? “The self-styled Donetsk (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republics (LPR), which Putin recognized as independent just before the invasion, and Russian-installed administrations in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions will hold votes. The voting, which the West and Ukraine says is a sham, is due to begin on Friday and will end on Tuesday, with results expected soon afterwards.” Putin mobilizes…
Biden Rips Putin Ukraine Escalation in Speech at United Nations
“President Joe Biden declared at the United Nations on Wednesday that Russia has ‘shamelessly violated the core tenets’ of the international body with its war in Ukraine as he summoned nations around the globe to stand firm in backing the Ukrainian resistance,” the Associated Press reports. “Delivering a forceful condemnation of Russia’s seven-month invasion, Biden said reports of Russian abuses against civilians and its efforts to erase Ukraine and its culture ‘should make your blood run cold,’” AP states.
International Scofflaw: “Biden also criticized Russia for scheduling ‘sham referenda’ this week in territory it has forcibly seized in Ukraine. ‘A permanent member of the UN Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map,’ Biden told his UN audience.” Desperate hours for Russian leader?
Putin’s Partial Mobilization Inspires Stronger German Support for Ukraine
Germany’s Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht declared Thursday that Russia’s “partial mobilization” and planned referendums won’t deter her country’s support for Ukraine. “rather, this reaction from Putin to Ukraine’s successes spurs us on to continue to support Ukraine and send this clear signal,” Lambrecht told reporters in Berlin. French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said France would also continue its support for Ukraine despite Russia’s reaction.
Foreign Nationals Released in Prisoner Swap
Five British nationals – Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner, John Harding, Dylan Healy, and Andrew Hill – and two American veterans – Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh – were released in a prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia. One prisoner each from Morocco, Sweden, and Croatia were also released in the deal brokered by Saudi Arabia.
Russian Airline Refunds Tickets for Mobilized Russians
Russia state carrier Aeroflot announced Thursday that it would refund any tickets purchased before Wednesday for those Russians who were mobilized. “Citizens subject to conscription who purchased tickets before September 21, 2022 (inclusive) are entitled to an involuntary [outside the control of the customer] refund of the ticket price,” the company said in a statement. “To do this, you must personally contact the place of purchase of the ticket and present any of the documents confirming the right to terminate the contract and receive a return of the funds.”
Flights leaving Russia sold out within hours of Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization on Wednesday, but it seems those who tried to flee and didn’t make it can at least get a refund.
Russia Pushes for Formal Incorporation of Ukrainian Regions
One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top allies said Tuesday that he favors holding referendums in two eastern Ukrainian regions to formally make them part of Russia. Dmitry Medvedev, a former president currently serving as deputy chairman of the Security Council, made his comments as Putin considers what to do next in the nearly seven-month-long conflict. The idea had been previously suggested by the Russian-backed, self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). The proposal was accepted Tuesday in Luhansk after a vote by the LPR’s unelected council. It’s unclear when the referendum will take place, however.
Also on Tuesday, Russian-backed separatists in Kherson said they would hold a vote on joining Russia and have urged the Kremlin to give permission as soon as possible. In a post on the Telegram messaging app, Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed head of Kherson, said he hoped the region would become “a part of Russia, a fully-fledged subject of a united country.” Saldo said that Kherson joining Russia would be a “triumph of historical justice.”
Putin Declares “Partial Mobilization” as Nuclear Threat Intensifies
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a press conference that those who threaten his country with nuclear weapons should realize that “the wind can sometimes blow in the other direction.” This escalation in rhetoric comes as the Kremlin announces it will embark upon a “partial mobilization” of reserve troops that could mean up to 300,000 new forces in the battle for Ukraine. Conscription is “fully adequate to the threats we face, namely to protect our homeland, its sovereignty, and territorial integrity, to ensure the security of our people and people in the liberated territories,” Putin said.
Biden to Address the UN: Putin’s warning comes as President Joe Biden prepares to speak at the United Nation’s Global Assembly. The president is expected to discuss the invasion and the coordinated response by ally nations. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is also scheduled to make a virtual address later today. Is Ukraine really winning?
Crimea Now the Only Ukrainian Region Fully Controlled by Russia
Ukrainian forces completely regained control of the village of Bilohorivka in the eastern Luhansk region and are preparing to retake the entire province, according to Luhansk’s Ukrainian governor, Serhiy Haidi, though he said it wouldn’t be easy. “There will be fighting for every centimetre … The enemy is preparing their defense. So we will not simply march in,” he warned.
Between Ukraine’s recent victories in Luhansk and last week’s progress in Kharkiv, the Crimea – which was annexed by Russia in 2014 – is now the only region of Ukraine fully controlled by the Russians.
Russia Strikes at Ukrainian Nuclear Plant
“Russian troops Monday launched strikes on Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear power plant that resulted in a power outage but left the reactors undamaged, according to Ukraine’s state nuclear company,” Politico Europe reports. The outlet relates that a “powerful explosion” was heard near the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, late last night. The company that manages the plant says that the explosion occurred some 300 meters from the plant, causing power shutdowns but no serious damage to the actual reactors.
Nuclear War? Energy Minister German Galushchenko responded, saying: “Russia is desperate to put the world on the verge of nuclear disaster to achieve any progress in its energy blackmailing Europe.”
Mass Grave Site Discovered at Izium
Ukrainian authorities say 440 graves have been found in the city of Izium, recently liberated from Russian occupation. Izium is located in eastern Ukraine, some 120 kilometers (74 miles) southeast of Kharkiv. The graves were discovered last weekend, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday evening. He added that the site would be investigated.
Ukrainian forces recaptured the city in September during the Kharkiv counter-offensive. It had been under the control of invading Russian forces since April 1.
No Longer-Range US Missiles for Ukraine, for Now
The Biden administration is unlikely to significantly change its approach to helping Ukraine fight Russia, government sources told CNN. The recent Ukrainian progress in the war is being taken as evidence that the current approach – the types of weapons and intelligence the West already provides – is working, despite requests for more.
Officials don’t believe the landscape of the war as changed enough to warrant a dramatic shift in strategy in the short term, and therefore the US isn’t inclined to send the longer-range Army Tactical Missile Systems, also known as ATACMS, that Ukraine has been requesting for months. The maximum range of US-provided weapons is about 49 miles – the ATACMS can strike as far as 185 miles, easily crossing the border for attacks on Russia itself. “It’s our assessment that they don’t currently need ATACMS to service targets that are directly relevant to the current fight,” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told reporters last month. According to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the administration’s opinion there remains unchanged.
Another Russian Cruise Missile Hits Kryvih Rih Area
Oleksandr Vilkul, head of the Kryvyi Rih civil military administration, said that another missile from Russia has struct the city on Thursday, just hours after an attack on water infrastructure in the area. The missile hit “an industrial enterprise,” Vikul posted to Telegram. “The destruction is serious, the detailed consequences are being clarified.” Seven earlier missile strikes caused flooding, which affected dozens of households and led to the evacuation of many more.
Tides of Battle Turning in Ukraine?
Over the last week, Ukraine’s counteroffensive into Kharkiv has seen incredible success. The Russian forces have been routed across a vast stretch of territory, extending as far as the Russian borer. In addition to territory and troops, the Kremlin lost significant amounts of material, including dozens of tanks and armored vehicles. A resident of one liberated town told reporters the Russian retreat was so hasty that “their pants were flying off.”
Nearly 50 Russian Municipal Deputies Call for Putin’s Resignation
Nearly 50 municipal deputies have now signed a petition demanding the resignation of President Vladimir Putin – 29 more than on Monday, according to one of those involved. “We, the municipal deputies of Russia, believe that the actions of its president Vladimir Putin are detrimental to Russia’s and its citizens’ future,” The petition reads. “We demand Vladimir Putin’s resignation from the post of the President of the Russian Federation.”
Last week, the deputies of the Smolninskoye municipality of St. Petersburg called on the State Duma of the Russian Federation to charge Putin with treason in order to remove him from the office over the war in Ukraine. Those deputies have been summoned to the police and charged with “discrediting the Russian army” and will soon go to trial.
Governor of Russian Region on the Ukraine Border Urges Evacuation
Vyachelslav Gladkov, governor of the Russian region of Belgorod, has urged his civilians to leave villages close to the Ukraine border. “We continue to persuade people who still remain in Zhuravlevka and Nekhoteevka to temporarily leave their homes,” he said on Telegram. Shelling across the border has affected both sides, with homes and grain fields in both Russia and Ukraine damaged or set ablaze.
Ukraine Accuse Russia of Power Grid Attack
In the wake of a Ukrainian offensive that claims to have taken back a significant portion of territory from Russian forces, Kyiv’s government has accused the Kremlin of directing attacks at the national power grid. More than 2,000 miles of land have reportedly been recaptured in what is being described as the biggest push in the war to date.
Russia in Trouble?
“The majority of the (Russian) force in Ukraine is highly likely being forced to prioritise emergency defensive actions,” British intelligence reports. “The rapid Ukrainian successes have significant implications for Russia’s overall operational design.”
Ukraine Forces Take Izium, and Then Some
Ukrainian forces continued to push north into the Kharkiv region Sunday, quickly capturing more territory. The quick advance caused Russia to abandon its stronghold of Izium and evacuate troops from the area. President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the swift advance, calling it a breakthrough in the six-month-old war. According to General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s chief commander, the armed forces have regained control of more than 3,000 square km (1,158 square miles) since the beginning of the month.
Pressuring the Russians out of Izium, however, represents a bigger win than simply adding a few miles. It was Putin’s stronghold in the Kharkiv area, and it sits on a key supply route. Ousting the Russians freed up Ukrainians to spread control through the region. At this point, Russian forces extend just 50 km (31 miles) across the official border. Kyiv-based military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said this could pave the way for a further push into the Luhansk region, which Russia captured in July. “If you look at the map, it is logical to assume that the offensive will develop in the direction of Svatove – Starobelsk, and Sievierodonetsk – Lysychansk. These are two promising directions,” he explained.
Ukrainian Forces Advance on Key City in Northeastern Offensive
Ukrainian forces claimed new ground Saturday in their surprise counteroffensive in the northeastern part of the country. Sweeping south from Kharkiv, they’ve made their largest gains since routing Russian troops from the capital city of Kyiv in April. The military appears to be closing in on Izium, a Russian stronghold. Russia appears to have been surprised by the blitz but is sending reinforcements to the region.
In an overnight address, President Volodymyr Zelensky said the military had recaptured more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region. “Actions to check and secure the territory continue,” he said. “We are gradually taking control of new settlements – everywhere we are returning the Ukrainian flag and protection for all our people.”
Analysis from the British Defense Ministry suggests Russian troops in and around Izium are increasingly isolated, and that Ukrainian units are now threatening the town of Kupiansk, just north of Izium, which sits on key supply routes to the eastern front line.
Ukrainian Counteroffensive Hits Russian Forces to the South and Northeast
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has hailed “good news” from the northeastern Kharkiv region after an apparent surprise counteroffensive pushed back Russian troops and prompted a pro-Kremlin official to call for evacuations. Both Russian and Ukrainian officials have remained largely silent on the offensive in the northeast of Ukraine, but CNN acquired footage showing Ukrainian troops in the town of Volokhiv-Yar on Wednesday, which is about 50 km (31 miles) out of Kupiansk, as well as on the outskirts of Balakliya to the south.
US Secretary of State Arrives in Ukraine
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced trip to Ukraine Thursday, his third visit to the country since Russia invaded. He met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and visited a children’s hospital in Kyiv. Secretary Blinken is expected to announce today that the United States intends to provide another $2 billion to bolster the security of Ukraine and 18 other regional countries. According to a senior State Department official, the top US diplomat “will announce that we are notifying Congress today of our intent to make a further $2 billion available in long-term investments under Foreign Military Financing to bolster the security of Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors; including both many of our NATO allies as well as other regional security partners who are most potentially at risk for future Russian aggression.” This new funding would be in addition to the latest $675 million in security assistance announced in Germany by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. These two announcements brings the total US military assistance for Ukraine to about $15.2 billion since the beginning of the Biden administration.
Ukrainian Generals Discuss Future of War With Russia
Ukraine’s top general predicts the war against Russia will last beyond this year. Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said in an analysis co-authored with Lieutenant General Mykhailo Zabrodskyi and published by Ukrinform, Ukrainian state media, that there is “no certain final outcome in view.” The pair also raised several tactical issues. An ability to strike against Russia across longer distances is necessary to reaching a turning point in the war and making Russia feel “all the losses, failures, and most importantly, costs of this war in all its senses.” Arms deliveries from allies have been held up because of a lack of understanding of the scale of the war, but also because of the threat of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
Ukraine Weighs Zaporizhzhia Shutdown
Due to the deteriorating security situation, Ukraine might shut down the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Oleh Korikov, the chief state inspector for nuclear and radiation safety of Ukraine. “The continued deterioration of the situation, the prolonged lack of power supply from an external source of electricity will force us to deploy standby diesel generators, and it is extremely difficult to top up the diesel fuel supply during the war,” he said.
US ‘Analyzing’ Long-Term Support of Ukraine
The Pentagon is preparing a detailed analysis and working out how to support Ukraine’s military in the medium- and long-term, including after the war with Russia concludes, according to CNN, who cites three defense officials as the source. The efforts are being led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. Whatever the final strategy, it would build on the billions of dollars already spent on military aid to the beleaguered nation.
The process is still in an early stage, and the analysis is being conducted with Ukrainian input. If approved by President Joe Biden, the result could be years of future arms sales and the establishment of a long-term military training program provided by the US.
Russia Accused of North Korea Weapons Deal
According to US intelligence reports, Russia is purchasing millions of dollars worth of ammunition and rockets from the pariah state of North Korea. While some in the intelligence community note that this is proof that sanctions are working and that the Kremlin has lost suitable supply chains, few are pointing out the dangers of a new relationship between the two nations. This news comes hot on the heels of reports that weaponry was also purchased from Iran.
Nord Stream Energy War
Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, said that it couldn’t resume gas supply to Europe until faults have been fixed on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Deputy Chief Executive Vitaly Markelov, when asked when production could continue, said, “You should ask Siemens. They have to repair equipment first,” referring to the logistics and engineering company based in Germany. Siemens responded, “We cannot comprehend this new representation based on the information provided to us over the weekend.” “Therefore, until further notice, our assessment is that the finding communicated to us does not represent a technical reason for stopping operation. Such leaks do not normally affect the operation of a turbine and can be sealed on site,”
Europe Braces for Cold Winter in Wake of Ukraine War
Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom announced that it would be unable to resume shipments of natural gas to Germany through the Nord Stream 1. Just hours before it was scheduled to restart deliveries, Gazprom stated on social media that it was critical to repair “malfunctions” of the major pipeline. However, this has many market observers fearful of a severe energy shortage this winter, even with more European Union members gradually increasing their inventories.
Tactical Shutdown? Observers suspect that the closure of the pipeline is more tactical than technical. Increasing pressure on European nations via major price hikes may be part of a prolonged campaign to build anti-Ukraine sentiment.
No Security Guarantee for IAEA Mission in Ukraine?
A team of UN nuclear inspectors is in Ukraine to inspect the Zaporizhzia power plant, but the host nation can’t guarantee the safety of the mission, as it takes place in Russian-held territory. Rafael Grossi, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was told that security was on the agency.
“Ukraine fulfilled all international obligations and gave every possibility for this mission to come,” Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko told reporters. The inspectors are said to have some security agreements with the Russians, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claims the Kremlin is doing “everything to keep this station safe, to function safely and to ensure that the mission there carries out all its plans.”
The team only just arrived Thursday afternoon, local time, as they were delayed for a few hours on the Ukrainian side of the front line. Grossi said the mission would still continue, despite the “inherent risks” they would face. Some of the team will remain onsite for several days.
Russia Cuts the Gas to Europe
Russia has halted gas deliveries to Germany and the rest of Europe via Nord Stream 1. There will be no gas flowing to the country between August 31 and September 3. The shutdown was planned and scheduled, per the Russian state energy giant Gazprom, but many worry the Kremlin is deliberately cutting off supplies of gas to Europe in retaliation for Western sanctions. Moscow denies these allegations, but the fact this is the second shutdown since the war began is suspicious. The pipeline was previously shut down for ten days in late July for what Gazprom called “annual maintenance.”
Iran Offers ‘Peace Initiative’ to End War in Ukraine
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian delivered a proposal to end the war in Ukraine he said was given to Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi. He claimed the deal came from a European leader but didn’t reveal who or include much information on what was included, other than it addresses the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and prisoners of war.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news website reported that French President Emmanuel Macron was the leader who delivered the message to Tehran, but no government officials from either country have commented.
Ukraine Uses Decoys to Deplete Russian Armaments
In a bold move, the Ukrainian military is tricking Russian forces into expending pricey ammunition with the use of decoy rocket systems. The installations – made of wood – have successfully fooled Russia into launching strikes using expensive long-range missiles. “When the UAVs [unmanned ariel vehicles] see the battery, it’s like a VIP target,” said a senior Ukrainian official.
Propaganda War: With frequent updates on the damage inflicted upon Ukraine, the actual harm may be far less than reported. According to George Barros, a military researcher at the Institute for the Study of War, “Russian forces very well may be overstating their battle damage assessments after hitting … decoys.”
Iran Picks a Side
The first shipment of Iranian-made combat drones has been delivered to Russia. While the US continues to negotiate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, this delivery of weaponry to be used against Ukraine has not yet publicly strained relations. However, deepening ties between Tehran and Moscow signify an escalation of the war.
Not Battle Tested: Michael Knights, a military and security expert, warned that the drones might not be able to match up to modern defense systems currently operating in Ukraine. “These Iranian drones have not operated in a sophisticated air-defense environment before,” he said. “The closest they’ve come to that is a [Houthi strikes against] Saudi Arabia or against U.S. bases in Iraq, and they have generally not done well. So, I wouldn’t be surprised that, in a more intense environment like Ukraine, that they would have some problems.”
Gas as a Weapon?
The European Union has accused Russia of using gas supplies from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline as a weapon against opposition to the war in Ukraine. “Russia has cut flows through Nord Stream 1 to just 20% of capacity and plans to shut it down entirely for three days next week, citing maintenance issues with turbines,” Reuters reports.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is visiting Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant Monday, August 29. The plant – which has been under Russian control since March – has been the subject of concern as heavy shelling and conflict in the area has been dangerously close. The United Nations has called for the withdrawal of all troops and military equipment from the area.
Protection At All Costs: “We must protect the safety and security of Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility,” Rafael Grossi, director-general of the IAEA, said in a tweet.
Russian Rocket Attack on Ukrainian Train Station Kills 25
Wednesday marked 31 years of independence from the Soviet Union in Ukraine, as well as six months to the day since the Russian invasion began. As Ukrainians celebrated their Independence Day, Russia launched an airstrike on a civilian train station in Chaplyne, a town of about 3,500 people in the Dnipropetrovsk region of Ukraine. The rocket attack killed 25 and injured dozens more.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had warned leading up to the anniversary that Moscow might try “something particularly nasty” on the national day of celebration. Mass groupings and public events were prohibited as a matter of public safety. Had they not been, the casualties of Russia’s attack likely would have been much higher.
“Chaplyne is our pain today,” Zelensky said. “There are no such bombs that can erase freedom, and there will never be such missiles that can break the will of the people who believe in themselves.” The Ukrainian president also promised that Russia would “bear responsibility for everything they have done.”
Joe Biden to Talk With Ukraine’s President Zelensky – But No Trip to Kyiv
In the wake of the Russian rocket attack on Wednesday, Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to discuss American arms shipments today, though no visit to Kyiv appears to be in the works for the American president. Biden has not yet visited Kyiv since the invasion began, despite calls for him to do so, as several other western leaders already have. During their talks, however, Biden will reaffirm the US commitment to “rally the free world” in support of Ukraine, according to John Kirby of the National Security Council. The Pentagon announced a $2.98 billion aid package, as well. It is said to include surface-to-air missile systems, artillery ammunition, and drones.
Nuclear Fears in the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The threat of nuclear disaster has loomed throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but those fears are growing as shelling intensifies around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant at Zaphorizhzhia, which has been under Russian control since March.
increased attacks at the facility have world leaders demanding a mission be allowed to visit the site and assess the damage. Experts in the field, however, say at least some of the fears are unfounded. “It’s not very likely that this plant will be damaged,” Leon Cizelj, president of the European Nuclear Society, told CNN. “In the very unlikely case that it is, the radioactive problem would mostly affect Ukrainians that live nearby.” The fear worldwide, of course, is that an attack might eventually lead to a nuclear disaster comparable to that of Chernobyl.
The US Urges Citizens to Leave Ukraine
Early Tuesday morning, August 23, the United States urged citizens to flee Ukraine. The authorities say they believe that Russia is about to start targeting civilian and government infrastructure over the next few days. The warning comes as the war reaches its six-month mark and the country prepares to celebrate its national Independence Day. “The Department of State has information that Russia is stepping up efforts to launch strikes against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days,” the embassy said in a statement.
Ahead of Ukrainian Independence Day, Zelensky Warns of Attacks
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a statement warning of anticipated Russian attacks as his country prepares to celebrate its Independence Day. “We should be aware that this week Russia may try to do something particularly nasty, something particularly cruel,” he said. “Therefore, it is important never, for a single moment, to give in to this enemy pressure, not to wind oneself up, not to show weakness.”
Russia Reacts: Russian media has accused Ukraine of escalating the conflict and of risking a nuclear disaster. State broadcaster, RIA Novosti, says that Ukrainian forces have regularly targeted the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power with shelling over the last several weeks since the site has been under Russian control.
Russian Naval HQ in Crimea Hit by Drone Strike
Russian officials are playing down reports that Moscow’s Black Sea fleet headquarters in occupied Crimea was attacked by a drone on August 20. No casualties were reported. Mikhail Razvozhayev, who was installed by Moscow as the governor of Sevastopol, claimed the drone was shot down and subsequently crashed into the roof of one of the buildings at the naval HQ.
Western intelligence officials estimate that about half of the Black Sea fleet’s combat jets are now out of commission.