Ukraine updates: Russia renews push for southern towns
Moscow's troops have struck areas of southern Ukraine with artillery and missiles, killing at least three. Meanwhile, the US underlined its commitment to Ukraine as Russia's war continues
At least three civilians have been killed and others wounded in Ukraine, as Russian forces continued to shell areas across the country.
A man died as Russian forces shelled the Ukrainian-held town of Nikopol from their stronghold at Ukraine's largest nuclear plant, an official said.
Russian troops took over the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant early in the war, sparking intermittent fears of a radiation incident.
In other news, United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin moved to reassure his Ukrainian counterpart of continued support in the face of Russia's war, in a telephone call to Ukraine's Defence Minister Rustem Umerov.
Here's a look at the latest on Russia's war in Ukraine for Saturday, October 21:
Zelenskyy, Erdogan discuss Ukraine peace formula
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed Ukraine's peace formula, food security and the Middle East crisis during a phone call Saturday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"We discussed the next round of negotiations on the Peace Formula, which will take place in Malta. Turkey will participate, adding its authoritative voice and position," Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram.
"We also discussed the situation in the Middle East and agreed on the need to ensure the protection of civilians and respect for humanitarian law," he added.
Malta announced Friday it would host a round of Ukraine peace talks on October 28-29, after similar meetings in Jeddah and Copenhagen earlier this year.
Russia is not expected to take part in the talks.
Turkey has offered itself as a mediator between the two warring parties, helping to broker a deal in July last year that allowed safe grain exports via the Black Sea.
Turkey has since been in talks with both sides about reviving the deal, which collapsed after Russia pulled out less than a year later.
Several civilians killed as Russia renews push to take southern Ukrainian towns
Ukrainian officials say at least three civilians were killed as Russian forces continued to shell several areas and pushed forward in southern Ukraine.
One man died as Russian forces shelled the Ukrainian-held town of Nikopol from their stronghold at Ukraine's largest nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia, according to local governor Serhii Lysak.
In Kryvyi Rih, the central Ukraine hometown of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a 60-year-old man died on Friday evening when a Russian missile slammed into an industrial facility, according to Telegram posts by Mayor Oleksandr Vilkul.
The mayor reported that Russian missiles and drones hit the same area again overnight, causing unspecified damage and sparking a fire, but no other casualties.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman later told reporters that Russian forces destroyed the Ukrainian military's fuel and ammunition depots near Kryvyi Rih's local airport.
Meanwhile, in southern Ukraine's front-line Kherson region, one civilian was killed and another wounded during "mass shelling" attacks by Russian troops, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.
The Russians used mortars, artillery, tanks, drones, and multiple rocket launchers to target the region, striking some residential areas, Prokudin wrote in a Telegram post.
UK: Putin vaunts Kinzhal ballistic missiles despite 'poor' results in Ukraine
Russian Kinzhal ballistic missiles have had "poor" performance during tests in Ukraine, Britain's Ministry of Defense (MOD) said in its latest briefing.
"It remains highly capable on paper, able to fly at hypersonic speeds and evade modern air defense systems, although there almost certainly needs to be a significant improvement in how Russia uses it to achieve this potential," the MOD wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
London noted how Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 18, announced that Moscow would begin conducting fighter patrols in the eastern Black Sea with MiG 31l interceptor aircraft armed with the Kh-47M2 KINZHAL air-launched ballistic missiles.
The MOD said the announcement was likely aimed at domestic audiences, to demonstrate that Russia is still able to "produce and operate newly developed weapons, despite the ongoing Ukrainian conflict."
In a separate tweet, the MOD highlighted details on Redut, a private military company being used by Moscow to augment regular forces.
The tweet said Redut, which was set up in 2008, is now recruiting "volunteer" units to help Russia avoid unpopular mobilizations.
The MOD said recruits include former Wagner mercenaries and that Redut is already likely 7,000 strong.
Russia calls in Czech diplomat over response to Hroza attack
Russia said it has summoned the Czech Republic's temporary charge d'affaires to Moscow, protesting against Prague's response to an air strike on Hroza in northeastern Ukraine this month that killed dozens.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Czech diplomat on Oct. 17 "in response to the recent demarche by the Czech foreign ministry".
"A decisive protest was lodged and the Russian position on the situation around Ukraine was thoroughly stated, including in the context of Ukrainian fabrications picked up by Prague about the alleged involvement of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the strikes on civilian infrastructure in Hroza," the ministry said.
The Kremlin said after the attacks that the Russian military does not strike civilian targets in Ukraine.
The ministry went on to criticize Prague's active support for Kyiv.
Shortly after the attack, the Czech foreign ministry said it would summon Russia's ambassador.
Germany pledges €200 million aid for Ukraine — report
Germany will be providing another €200 ($212 million) to Ukraine to help support education, health care, drinking water and reconstruction, according to German news agency DPA.
The agency cited the government commissioner for reconstruction of Ukraine, Jochen Flasbarth, as having made the commitment during a visit to the country.
As of July 2023, Germany has sent support payments amounting to around €22 billion to Ukraine since the start of the war.
Ukraine plants over half a million mines — report
Ukraine's military has deployed more than 500,000 mines along key routes of a possible Russian offensive, according to reports citing a senior commander.
The density of mines in these areas has been increased sixteenfold, the commander of forces in the north, Serhiy Nayev, told Ukraine's news outlet Ukrinform.
Barriers had also been installed on roads and bridges, while measures were also being taken to improve the efficacy of Ukraine's air defense system.
Russia has meanwhile continued to attack the front line city of Avdiivka, according to Ukrainian officials.
On Thursday, Russia's Defense Ministry claimed it had destroyed Ukrainian military vehicles near the city.
Avdiivka lies just 15 kilometers (nine miles) north of Donetsk and has been a symbol of Ukrainian resistance since the first invasion in 2014.
US Defense Secretary underlines support for Ukraine in call
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has again reiterated US support for Ukraine amid Russia's ongoing invasion.
"Today, I spoke with my Ukrainian counterpart Rustem Umerov to underscore the steadfast US support for Ukraine and its ability to defend itself from Russian aggression," Austin said and added that "Ukraine's success is vital to US and international security."
Austin's office also said that the Biden administration was committed to asking Congress "for the resources needed to ensure Ukraine can continue to defend its people."
Biden has been trying to rally continued support for Ukraine's war effort with US media reporting that the president is seeking approval of $60 billion (€56.7 billion) in aid for Ukraine.
US, EU show unity on Ukraine
President Joe Biden and European Union leaders delivered a message of unity at Friday's EU-US summit in Washington.
"We stood together to support the brave people of Ukraine in the face of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's aggression," Biden said.
"We're standing together now to support Israel in the wake of Hamas's appalling terrorist attack," he added.
Meanwhile, European Council chief Charles Michel said the EU and US were "forging a united front."
And European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen added: "The events in the Middle East will not distract us from our rock-solid support to Ukraine."
According to the EU-US statement, the leaders reaffirmed their long-term commitment to Ukraine, "including through diplomatic, financial and military support."
Russia reportedly appoints new Aerospace Forces chief
Russia named a replacement for the former head of the country's Aerospace Forces, who was ousted in the wake of this summer's brief rebellion against the military establishment, state news agencies reported.
The TASS and RIA-Novosti agencies both cited a source as saying Colonel General Viktor Afzalov, who reportedly had been acting head of the Aerospace Forces since mid-August, was given the full post. He replaces General Sergey Surovikin.
There was no official confirmation of the report, but state agencies frequently represent official positions through reports citing anonymous officials in Russia's defense and security establishment.
Surovikin was believed to have had close ties with Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group, who mounted a rebellion in June seeking the dismissal of Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and military chief of staff Valery Gerasimov.
Surovikin had commanded Russia's forces in Ukraine from October 2022 until January, when he was replaced in that role by Gerasimov.
North Korea slams US for supplying long-range missiles to Ukraine
North Korea on Saturday castigated the United States for supplying Ukraine with long-range ballistic missiles known as ATACMS, saying any strike on Russia with them will only hamper peace efforts.
On Tuesday, Ukraine said it used the US-supplied Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) for the first time, inflicting heavy damage on two airfields in Russian-occupied areas.
"The US finally delivered ATACMS ground-to-ground missile system to Ukraine despite the deep concern and strong opposition of the international community," Sin Hong-Chol, North Korea's ambassador to Russia, said in a statement carried by state media KCNA.
"Any strike at the interior of Russia, a nuclear power, will not be of help to the early end of the Ukrainian situation or its peaceful settlement as the US advocates but will serve as a catalyst for putting the whole Europe into the crucible of endless war and prolonging the war," the statement said.
Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and Kyiv has repeatedly asked Washington for the missiles, while promising not to use them inside Russia.
The US said last week that North Korea had delivered more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and weapons to Russia. The White House released images that it said showed the containers were loaded onto a Russian-flagged ship before being moved via train to southwestern Russia.
North Korea and Russia have been growing closer in recent months. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited Russia in September, with Kim throwing support behind the invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also visited North Korea, as the countries bolster security ties amid tensions with the West.
Published: 22 Oct 2023, 1:32 PM