Here is the situation on Thursday, October 12, 2023.
Russia continued to press ahead with its assault on the key eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka. Ukrainian military officials said Russia had redirected large numbers of troops and equipment to Avdiivka, while Russian accounts said Moscow’s forces had “improved their position in the immediate outskirts around Avdiivka”.At least four people were killed when a Russian missile struck a school in the town of Nikopol in the central Ukrainian region of Dnipropetrovsk. Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said two people were injured in the attack, as he shared a video on social media of emergency services digging through the building’s ruins.The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) accused two former residents of Hroza of helping guide the missile strike that killed some 55 people at a soldiers’ wake in the village last week. The men, who were brothers, worked for the Russians when Hroza was occupied for several months in 2022, and fled to Russia shortly before Ukraine regained control of the village in September last year, the SBU said. The suspects continued to work for Moscow and built a network of informants in Ukraine, according to the agency.
Politics and diplomacy
NATO members assured President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that they would sustain military aid to Ukraine even amid the Israel-Hamas turmoil, as Zelenskyy visited the alliance’s Brussels headquarters in Brussels for the first time since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was confident that members of the military alliance would continue to support Ukraine as it was in their own security interests. “We have the capability and the strength to address different challenges at the same time,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of choosing only one threat and one challenge.”
Zelenskyy stressed to NATO members Ukraine’s need for more air defence systems, amid expectations that Russia will again attack the country’s energy grid through the coldest months of the year. He also said the military needed artillery and ammunition to allow its forces to keep fighting during the winter. “The winter air defence is a significant part of the answer to the question of when this war will end and whether it will end justly for Ukraine,” the Ukrainian president said.More than 30 countries at a donor’s conference on demining promised nearly 500 million euros ($531m) to clear ordnance from Ukraine. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that up to a third of Ukrainian territory was contaminated with mines, and as many as six million people are actively at risk.Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said his country supported a ban on Russian diamonds as part of international sanctions on Moscow over its war in Ukraine. Russia exports about $4bn worth of rough diamonds a year, nearly a third of the world’s total. Belgium has the biggest interest in the global diamond trade in the European Union.A spokesperson for De Croo, meanwhile, said the country expected to collect 2.3 billion euros ($2.4bn) in taxes on frozen Russian assets and would use them to help in the reconstruction of Ukraine. Most frozen Russian central bank assets are held in Belgium.Veteran Russian human rights activist Oleg Orlov was convicted and fined for “discrediting” the armed forces after telling a Moscow court that Russia had descended into a totalitarian state resembling George Orwell’s 1984 as he defended himself over a November 2022 article in which he said Russia under President Vladimir Putin had descended into fascism. The judge ordered a fine of 150,000 roubles ($1,500), lower than the 250,000 roubles ($2,500) the prosecutors had demanded. Prosecutors did not ask for a jail term for the 70-year-old because of his age. Orlov said he would appeal the ruling.Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s Duma, said Russians who left the country and criticised the war in Ukraine were traitors who should be sent to the “mines” if they returned home. Volodin, a Putin ally, previously suggested such people should be sent to the far eastern region of Magadan known for its communist-era Gulag labour camps. The Kremlin played down Volodin’s comments.
Speaking at the NATO meeting, United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US would provide Ukraine with a new $200m military assistance package, including air defence and rocket ammunition. Austin repeated assurances that the US would stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes”.Meanwhile, some US Republican lawmakers said they would resist any funding request from Democratic President Joe Biden that combined military aid for Israel and Ukraine, amid resistance from a small but vocal group of Republicans to providing further assistance for Kyiv. Biden asked Congress in August to approve $24bn for Ukraine and related international needs, but the request has not yet been approved.The Danish Ministry of Defence said Denmark, the Netherlands and the US would lead an international coalition to help Ukraine establish a future air force based on F-16 fighter jets. The group will build infrastructure around the aircraft, including maintenance facilities. Denmark said earlier it expected to deliver its first F-16s to Ukraine by April 2024.Turkey’s Defence Ministry said Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria had discussed the threat of floating mines in the Black Sea as a result of the war in Ukraine at the NATO meeting in Brussels. The three countries agreed they would work together to tackle the issue, but gave no further details.Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies