Russia-Ukraine war updates for Oct. 26, 2022

Ships carrying agricultural products could not leave Ukraine due to a suspicious mine-like object near port

An aerial view of the Turkish-flagged ship “Polarnet” carrying grain from Ukraine is seen at the Derince Port, Kocaeli, Turkiye on August 08, 2022. 

Omer Faruk Cebeci | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The organization overseeing the export of grain from Ukraine said that no vessels were approved to leave the besieged country due to a “suspicious mine-like object.”

The Joint Coordination Center said that it halted departures from Ukraine until an inspection of the suspicious object was completed. The group said that eight vessels will leave Ukrainian ports Thursday.

Since the inception of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal announced in July among Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey, more than 390 vessels have left Ukraine carrying a total of 8.8 million metric tons of grain and other crops.

Read more about the Black Sea Grain Initiative here.

— Amanda Macias

White House not taking sanctions off the table in response to Iranian arms transfers to Russia

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby holds a press briefing at the Pentagon on May 09, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia. 

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

The U.S. is “not taking sanctions off the table” in response to Iranian arms transfers to Russia, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

Kirby declined to detail potential diplomatic or economic actions Washington would take.

Moscow has carried out several devastating missile and drone strikes against what Ukraine said were civilian targets and critical infrastructure such as energy facilities.

Iran and Russia’s representatives at the United Nations have sharply denied reports that Tehran supplied Moscow with a fleet of drones for use in Ukraine. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that it uses Iranian-made drones to target residential and other high civilian areas.

— Amanda Macias

Conversations with Russians for WNBA star Griner’s release have not stopped, White House says

US’ Women’s National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, waits for the verdict inside a defendants’ cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. 

Evgenia Novozhenina | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. officials are still talking with their Russian counterparts about the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

“The conversations with the Russians continue, they haven’t stopped,” Kirby told reporters at the White House. He added that the Biden administration is working on the immediate release of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.

Whelan was arrested in 2018 on charges of acting as a spy for the United States. At the time he was arrested, Whelan was visiting Russia to attend a wedding, according to his brother, David Whelan. 

On Tuesday, a Russian court upheld Griner’s nine-year prison sentence, a decision that will send the U.S. athlete to a penal colony.

Griner, who plays professional basketball in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested in February after Russian authorities found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

— Amanda Macias

Ukrainian forces have downed nearly 250 Russian aircraft, Zelenskyy says

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier meet, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine October 25, 2022.

Jesco Denzel | BPA | via Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that his country’s forces have downed nearly 250 Russian helicopters.

“Russia will not be able to restore these losses. I thank all our fighters for such a gradual and irreversible demilitarization of the enemy,” Zelenskyy said in a nightly Telegram address, according to an NBC News translation.

He also said that there is “fierce fighting” in the Donetsk region. He called Ukrainian troops holding positions in the area “simply heroes.”

— Amanda Macias

Multiple efforts underway to investigate Russian war crimes in Ukraine, U.N. says

A war crimes prosecutor examines the damage in a destroyed building, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, following shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, in this handout picture released on July 31, 2022.

Press Service of the Mykolaiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office | Via Reuters

A number of efforts are underway to investigate Russian crimes committed in Ukraine, said Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general.

“The Secretary‑General believes that, in all conflicts, there needs to be accountability,” Dujarric told reporters at the United Nations. “And so, there are a number of processes underway, including the Commission of Inquiry set up by the Human Rights Council.”

“We also know that the International Criminal Court has had prosecutors on the ground to collect information. We believe that these processes should move forward,” he said.

The Kremlin has previously denied that its forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure.

— Amanda Macias

Russian state media claims Kyiv has built a dummy rocket to deploy ‘dirty bomb’

This photograph taken on April 26, 2022 shows the New Safe Confinement at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant which cover the number 4 reactor unit, on the 36th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. 

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

Russian state media claimed that Ukraine has made a dummy rocket to deploy a “dirty bomb” near the Chornobyl nuclear power plant.

The U.S. and its allies have previously denied Russian allegations that Ukraine is planning to use a “dirty bomb” in order to escalate the conflict.

The report in Russia’s RIA Novosti alleges that Ukrainian forces are planning to fill the rocket with radioactive material and blame an explosion on Russian forces.

— Amanda Macias

Blinken says there is a bipartisan support to ‘stick with Ukraine’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about US policy towards China during an event hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2022.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. and its allies will continue to hold Russia accountable despite some concerns from lawmakers over the mounting financial burden.

“You can’t simply go in and seize territory from another country, you can’t change the borders of another country by force, you can’t try to erase its independence and sovereignty from the map,” Blinken said during an event hosted by Bloomberg.

“If we allow that to go unchecked, if we allow them to proceed with impunity, it opens Pandora’s box around the world for the would-be aggressors,” he added.

Blinked added that in his conversations with “members of Congress, Republicans, Democrats, House and Senate, there’s a shared conviction” to stick with Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

Russia has 19 ships on combat duty off the coast, Ukraine’s navy says

The Russian Navy’s Kilo-class submarine Rostov-na-Donu B-237 enters the Bosphorus Strait en route to the Black Sea on Feb. 13, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Dia Images | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Ukrainian navy said that Russian forces have approximately 19 vessels on combat duty in the Black Sea and Azov Sea off of Ukraine’s coast, as well as the surrounding Mediterranean Sea.

In a Facebook post, the country’s navy said that there are about eight Kalibr cruise missile carriers also in the waters, according to an NBC News translation.

— Amanda Macias

Remains of U.S. citizen killed while fighting for Ukraine ‘will soon be returned to the family,’ State Department says

Russia returned the body of an American citizen who died fighting for Kyiv to Ukrainian forces, the State Department confirmed.

“Out of respect for the privacy of the family, we will not release further details,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Price reiterated that U.S. citizens should still not travel to Ukraine and urged all Americans currently in the war-weary country to “depart immediately.”

“U.S. citizens who travel to Ukraine, including to participate in the fighting there, face significant risks and the United States cannot guarantee their safety,” Price added.

Ukraine identified the American citizen as Joshua Jones, a former U.S. service member, who went to Ukraine with his friends to join the fight against Russian forces.

— Amanda Macias

About 1,000 bodies exhumed from mass graves in recently liberated areas of Ukraine

This photograph taken on September 25, 2022, shows empty graves after exhumation of bodies in the mass grave created during the Russian’s occupation in Izyum, Kharkiv region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images

About 1,000 bodies have been exhumed from mass graves in recently liberated territories of Ukraine, according to Ukrainian forces.

Of those, about 450 bodies were exhumed in Izium in what was described as one of the largest mass graves.

“The shocking facts of the atrocities committed by the occupiers are revealed: there are not only military personnel but also civilians – adults and children – among the dead,” said Ukraine’s Ministry for Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, according to an NBC News translation.

The ministry said that it was still investigating the mass graves.

— Amanda Macias

At least 10 million people will need psychosocial support from Russia’s war in Ukraine, WHO says

Mariya, 77, whose daughter and son-in-law died under the rubble of a building destroyed by Russian shelling, cries, amid Russia’s invasion on Ukraine in Borodyanka, in Kyiv region, Ukraine April 8, 2022.

Gleb Garanich | Reuters

Ukraine’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization report that at least 10 million people will need psychosocial support due to the trauma from Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.

“This includes women and girls suffering sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence, children hearing warning sirens daily, families who have been separated, or people just trying to survive every day,” said Denise Brown, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Ukraine, in remarks before the United Nations Security Council.

Brown added that civilians in recently liberated areas of Ukraine are particularly vulnerable as they have “witnessed or experienced terrible violations” committed by Russian forces.

— Amanda Macias

Putin is ‘unlikely’ to use a nuclear weapon, U.S. Army secretary says

Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during the plenary session of the Commonwealth of the Independent States (CIS) Summit, on October 14, 2022 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said it is unlikely that Russian President Vladimir Putin will deploy a nuclear weapon in his fight with Ukraine, but called the Kremlin’s recent rhetoric concerning.

“There is a lot of concern given how Putin has escalated [the conflict],” Wormuth told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan when asked about Western fears that Russia could resort to nuclear warfare in its armed conflict with Ukraine.

“Certainly there is a concern,” Wormuth said, adding that despite Putin’s threats to use such a weapon against its ex-Soviet neighbor, it is “still an unlikely event.”

President Joe Biden told reporters yesterday that Russia would be making “an incredibly serious mistake” if Moscow used a tactical nuclear weapon in its fight with Ukraine.

“I’m not guaranteeing that it’s a false flag operation,” Biden said, referencing Russian allegations that Ukraine is planning to use a “dirty bomb” in order to escalate the conflict.

“It would be a serious serious mistake,” Biden added.

The United States and Russia hold the lion’s share of the world’s nuclear weapons.

— Amanda Macias

More than 7.7 million Ukrainians have become refugees from Russia’s war, U.N. estimates

A man holds his child as families, who fled Ukraine due to the Russian invasion, wait to enter a refugee camp in the Moldovan capital Chisinau on March 3, 2022.

Nikolay Doychinov | Afp | Getty Images

More than 7.7 million Ukrainians have become refugees and moved to neighboring countries since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates.

Nearly 4.4 million of those people have applied for temporary resident status in neighboring Western European countries, according to data collected by the agency.

“The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance,” the U.N. Refugee Agency wrote.

— Amanda Macias

Biden speaks with newly elected Italian prime minister on support for Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden pictured in London on September 18, 2022. Biden said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that U.S forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, his most explicit statement so far on the issue.

Brendan Smialowski | Afp | Getty Images

President Joseph Biden congratulated Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on her appointment as Italy’s first woman leader.

“The leaders underscored the strong relationship between the United States and Italy and expressed their readiness to work together within the transatlantic alliance to address common challenges,” a White House readout of the call said.

The two spoke about additional ways to offer aid to Ukraine in its months-long fight against Russia. Biden and Meloni discussed the importance of holding Russia accountable for its aggression.

— Amanda Macias

Putin’s nuclear rhetoric is ‘reckless and irresponsible,’ NATO chief says

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a closing press conference during the second of two days of defence ministers’ meetings at NATO headquarters on October 13, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium.

Omar Havana | Getty Images

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear rhetoric “dangerous,” adding that “it is reckless and irresponsible.”

Stoltenberg, speaking from the U.S. aircraft carrier U.S.S. George H.W. Bush, said that Russia “falsely claims Ukraine is preparing to use a radiological dirty bomb on its own territory.” 

Stoltenberg said NATO allies reject the false allegation.

“Russia often accuses others for what they intend to do themselves,” the NATO chief added.

Stoltenberg also said that NATO is “not seeing any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture,” which he added is being monitored closely.

— Amanda Macias

Putin observes Russian strategic nuclear forces exercises: state media

Campaigners have urged political leaders to renew efforts to get rid of all nuclear weapons by signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday observed exercises by Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, the Kremlin said.

“The tasks envisaged during the training of the strategic deterrence forces were completed in full, all missiles reached their targets,” a Kremlin statement said.

The Zvezda military news channel showed Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu telling Putin that the exercises were practicing “delivering a massive nuclear strike by strategic offensive forces in response to an enemy nuclear strike”.

Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov told Putin the exercise involved Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and Tupolev strategic bomber planes.

Russian officials have in recent weeks repeatedly accused Ukraine of planning to use a “dirty bomb” – a bomb laced with radioactive material. They have provided no proof for the allegation.

— Reuters

Putin says the risk of world conflict is ‘high’, accuses Ukraine of ‘dirty bomb’ plans

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the coordination council to ensure the needs of Russia’s Armed Forces, via video link in Moscow, Russia October 25, 2022. 

Alexei Babushkin | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his government was “aware” of plans by Ukraine to use a “dirty bomb,” a claim that’s already been made by several Kremlin officials without evidence since the start of the week.

The Russian president, in a meeting with intelligence directors from several ex-Soviet countries, said that the risk of conflict in the world, and in the region, was “high” and that security needed to be increased around its critical infrastructure.

Ukrainian and Western officials as well as weapons experts say that Ukraine does not have the means to build a “dirty bomb,” which is a bomb laced with nuclear material deployed to contaminate a large area with radioactivity.

Kyiv has invited the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to inspect its nuclear power plants to debunk Russia’s allegation, which they say is being spread as a “false flag” operation to escalate the conflict.

Moscow holds that its claim is true and has held high-level calls with defense ministers from NATO countries as well as India and China, and delivered a letter to the U.N., to emphasize it.

— Natasha Turak

Mercedes-Benz becomes latest Western company to leave Russia

Fred De Noyelle /GODONG | The Image Bank Unreleased | Getty Images

Automaker Mercedes-Benz is the latest Western company to leave Russia, one of a handful of major carmakers to withdraw from the country.

The German car company ceased its manufacturing in and exports to Russia in March shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. Now, however, it says it will depart from the country’s market fully and sell its subsidiaries to local buyers.

Mercedes-Benz Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm said the Russia exit was not predicted to have a major impact on the company’s profits.

French carmaker Renault and Japan’s Toyota and Nissan all halted their manufacturing operations in Russia in previous months. General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin also stopped deliveries to the country in the months following the invasion in February.

— Natasha Turak

Kremlin says assets in Russian-annexed regions of Ukraine could be transferred to Russian companies

The Kremlin on Wednesday said that assets in the four Ukrainian regions that Russia said it had annexed last month may in future be transferred to Russian companies.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was obvious that “abandoned assets” could not be left inactive, and the government would deal with the issue.

Ukraine, its Western allies and an overwhelming majority of countries at the U.N. General Assembly have condemned Russia’s declared annexation of the four regions as illegal.

— Reuters

Russian defense minister reiterates Ukrainian ‘dirty bomb’ claim to Indian and Chinese counterparts

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attends a meeting of President Vladimir Putin with graduates of military academies on the eve of the 81st anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in World War Two in Moscow, Russia June 21, 2022. 

Mikhail Metzel | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held calls with his Indian and Chinese counterparts during which he continued to push the Kremlin allegation, without evidence, that Ukraine is planning to use a “dirty bomb” on its own territory. A “dirty bomb” is laced with nuclear material and used to contaminate large areas with radioactivity without an explosion.

Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh told Shoigu that nuclear weapons must not be used at all by either side, saying that “the prospect of the usage of nuclear or radiological weapons goes against the basic tenets of humanity,” according to an Indian government statement. He also stressed the need for the conflict to be resolved through diplomacy.

The calls followed similar calls from Shoigu to NATO defense ministers.

Ukrainian and Western officials have roundly denounced the Russian claim as “false” and a pretext for escalation, and Kyiv has requested an inspection by the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, in order to debunk Russia’s accusation.

— Natasha Turak

Moscow official calls for ‘de-Satanization’ of Ukraine

A member of Russia’s security council is calling for a new mission of “de-Satanization” in Ukraine, after months of basing Moscow’s invasion on the need to “denazify” the country.

In a letter an article, Russian Security Council assistant secretary Aleksey Pavlov argued that this was increasingly urgent as there are, he claimed, “hundreds of sects” operating in the country.

“I believe that with the continuation of the special military operation, it becomes more and more urgent to carry out the de-Satanization of Ukraine, or, as the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov aptly put it, its ‘complete de-Satanization’,” he said.

Pavlov claimed that the “Church of Satan… spread across Ukraine,” adding that it is “one of the religions officially registered in the United States.”

“All this Satanism finds a lively response and support from the official Ukrainian authorities,” he added, without citing evidence.

— Natasha Turak

Russian forces are regrouping and gathering strength in Kherson, Kyiv official says

A village in the border of the Kherson region on Oct. 7, 2022.

Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian forces show no sign of abandoning Kherson despite the growing Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake the territory that Russia has occupied since early spring.

While Russian-imposed authorities in the region have ordered civilians to evacuate, “the Russians are replenishing, strengthening their grouping there,” Ukrainian President advisor Oleksiy Arestovych said.

“It means that nobody is preparing to withdraw. On the contrary, the heaviest of battles is going to take place for Kherson.”

Kherson is the largest Ukrainian city under Russian control, and lies in the strategic south-east area that Moscow wants as a land bridge to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. Kherson is one of four major regions in Ukraine’s south and east that Russia declared as annexed — illegal under international law — in late September.

— Natasha Turak

Infrastructure bottlenecks hamper Russia’s booming coal exports to China: Reuters

A photo of chemical plants in Germany.

Jan Woitas | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Russian coal exports to energy-hungry China have jumped by about a third this year but the supply boom is being constrained by transport infrastructure limitations, industry sources and officials said.

China is seeking coal supplies from overseas, in particular after recent Covid-19 outbreaks in the major coal mining regions of Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi forced many mines to close, while coal demand at power generation and heating sectors will soon pick up with the coming of winter.

The Kremlin plans to increase its energy supplies to Asia, China in particular, to offset a slump in exports to the West, which has imposed sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia is the world’s sixth-largest coal producer and one of top coal exporters, along with Indonesia and Australia. Its share of global coal exports reached 17% last year with supply of 223 million tons.


Ukrainian official asks Ukrainians abroad to not return home and to stay abroad

Civilians are seen taking shelter from Russian artillery in the Kharkiv area of Ukraine on April 3, 2022.

Wolfgang Schwan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk asked Ukrainians who are currently abroad to not return home yet, according to an NBC News translation.

“I will ask you not to return, we have to survive the winter,” Vereshchuk said, adding that Ukraine’s energy sector and infrastructure is too weak from the war to provide adequate support.

“If there is an opportunity to stay, for the time being, spend the winter abroad,” she added.

In recent weeks, Russian missiles and drone strikes have targeted critical Ukrainian infrastructure like energy systems. The Kremlin has previously denied Ukrainian and Western claims that it targets civilian infrastructure, which is a violation of the laws of conflict.

— Amanda Macias

White House says it would be a ‘major mistake’ for Russia to use nuclear weapons

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, July 18, 2022.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it would be “a major mistake” for Russia to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine and that it is taking the threat of a dirty bomb seriously.

“It would be a major mistake for Russia to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine leading to severe consequences,” Jean-Pierre said at the daily briefing.

The statement came in response to a question about the potential for Russia to use a dirty bomb. Russia has accused Ukraine of planning to use a “dirty bomb” on its own territory. On Tuesday Russia reiterated the allegations in a letter to the United Nations Security Council.

“We must take this seriously because in the past we have seen Russia use allegations as a pretext to escalate.”

— Emma Kinery

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