UKRAINE UPDATE: 23 AUGUST 2022
Putin calls killing of Dugin’s daughter a ‘dastardly crime’; Zelensky warns of ‘something cruel’ from Russia
President Vladimir Putin called the car bomb that killed the daughter of Russian nationalist political ideologue Alexander Dugin a ‘dastardly crime', and the Federal Security Service blamed it on Ukraine, which rejected the accusation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ruled out any talks with Russia if captured troops who took part in the defence of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol are put on trial. Russian-backed separatists in occupied areas of Ukraine have suggested they may try captured Kyiv military forces soon, though this hasn’t been confirmed in Moscow.
Zelensky has warned that Russia “may try to do something particularly nasty, particularly cruel” as Ukraine prepares to celebrate Independence Day on Wednesday, which also marks six months since the invasion.
- Russia probes car bomb that killed daughter of Putin ideologist
- Latvia starts removing Soviet monument in challenge to Russia
- US crop tour set to kick off with world’s food reserves at stake
- S&P lifts Ukraine rating from default after debt restructuring
- Seized superyacht to be auctioned to pay JPMorgan loan
On the ground
Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine have probably exhausted the limited momentum they gained at the end of July, according to the latest report from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. “The Russian military has shown a continual inability to translate small tactical gains into operational successes, a failing that will likely prevent Russia from making significant territorial advances in the coming months barring major changes on the battlefield,” the report said. Fighting continued in the eastern Donetsk region near Bakhmut and around Kramatorsk, while several Russian attacks on the Slovyansk axis and near Avdiyivka were unsuccessful, Ukraine’s general staff reported.
US says Russian envoy called in to warn against escalation
US officials met with Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov at the State Department on August 18 to warn against escalation in Ukraine and to call on Russia to halt military operations around Ukrainian nuclear facilities, according to a department spokesperson who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
Antonov has characterised the meeting as focused on visas for Russian diplomats to the annual United Nations General Assembly in September, while the US said the focus was on the war in Ukraine generally and on the status of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility in particular.
Ukraine contracts purchase of 200 drones for $16.4m
Ukraine has contracted the purchase of 200 drones worth $16.4-million as part of a “Drone Army” that can operate at a distance of 100 to 120km, Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said. “The next stage of the project will be the purchase of attack drones and kamikaze drones,” Fedorov said.
Ukraine gets $1m from Czechs remembering 1968 invasion
Czech nationals donated almost $1-million in aid for Ukraine during a weekend fundraising drive commemorating the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia 54 years ago.
Thousands of donors transferred 1,968 korun ($80) apiece, an amount that corresponds to the year of the Soviet-led occupation, with the funds meant for weapons purchases as Ukraine defends itself against Russia.
The Czech Republic, a nation of 10.5 million that currently holds the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency, has been a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin’s military campaign and has joined its Baltic allies in calling for tough restrictions on Russian visas. It has so far raised more than 1.2 billion korun for Ukraine’s war effort.
Unicef announces toll of child casualties in Ukraine
At least 972 children in Ukraine have been verified as killed or injured since the war escalated nearly six months ago, an average of more than five children each day, Unicef Executive Director Catherine Russell said in an emailed statement.
“We believe the true number to be much higher,” she said. Unicef estimates that one in 10 schools in Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed.
Putin calls Darya Dugina killing ‘dastardly’
The car bombing that killed Darya Dugina was a “dastardly, brutal crime”, Putin said in a message of condolence to her father, a far-right political theorist who’s an outspoken advocate of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Putin’s message, posted on the Kremlin’s Telegram channel, came after Russia’s Federal Security Service accused Ukrainian special services of orchestrating the attack on Saturday. Ukraine has denied any role in the killing.
Officials at Russian state television plan a memorial ceremony at Moscow’s main TV centre on Tuesday for Dugina, who appeared as a commentator on its channels, state-run Tass reported.
Ukraine says almost 9,000 of its soldiers killed
Ukraine’s top army commander, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, told a televised forum for veterans that almost 9,000 servicemen had been killed fighting against Russia’s invasion.
The toll was an increase since April, when Zelensky said Ukraine had lost as many as 3,000 soldiers since the start of the war. Speaking at the same forum as Zaluzhnyi, the president said that about one million Ukrainians were serving in the army and in other security agencies.
It’s rare for either Russia or Ukraine to make statements on their own casualties, while they frequently cite numbers of killed and wounded for the enemy that may be inflated.
Latvia starts removing Soviet monument in Riga
Latvian authorities began to dismantle a towering Soviet-era World War 2 monument in Riga, the latest potential flashpoint between the Baltic region and Russia.
The move comes less than a week after neighbouring Estonia removed a Soviet monument that triggered what the government there called the biggest wave of cyberattacks in over a decade. The area around the 80m-high monument in Latvia’s capital will be fenced off as equipment is moved in.
The monument complex consists of an obelisk and two outsized sculptures — one of Red Army soldiers and another female figure representing the “motherland” — commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.
EU’s Borrell rejects calls to ban Russians
The European Union’s foreign policy chief pushed back against a proposal by some member states bordering Russia to prevent the nation’s citizens from entering the bloc, as its foreign ministers prepare to discuss stopping tourist visas next week.
“To forbid the entrance to all the Russians is not a good idea,” Josep Borrell said at a conference in Spain. “We have to be more selective.” The EU is set to discuss banning travel visas for Russian tourists at a gathering of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Prague this month, with countries such as Estonia, Latvia and Finland urging a bloc-wide ban, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has urged caution.
Kyiv mayor unhappy with German weapons support
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said he’s “very disappointed” with the supplies of weapons Germany has sent or pledged to Ukraine to help it fight off Russia’s invasion.
“We’re getting weapons but not enough,” Klitschko was quoted as saying by Germany’s Bild newspaper. Germany has promised Ukraine weapons and equipment worth €700-million since late January, plus another €500-million in financial aid to buy arms, according to the latest analysis by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. That puts it fourth on the list of top providers of military aid behind the US, Britain and Poland.
New Zealand announces more sanctions
New Zealand will sanction more officials installed by Russia in separatist regimes in occupied areas of Ukraine, according to a statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
“The sanctions build on earlier measures targeting political and military figures in separatist administrations in breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk,” Mahuta said, adding that 48 officials and one entity are affected. Since passing its Russia Sanctions Act six months ago, New Zealand has targeted almost 900 individuals and entities, and has imposed punitive trade measures on the Kremlin.
German minister expects more Russian gas cuts
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck reiterated a call for energy savings, warning that Russia is likely to further reduce supplies of gas to Europe.
“We have a very critical winter right in front of us,” Habeck said in an interview with public broadcaster ZDF. “We must expect Putin to further reduce gas.”
Russian diplomat sees no negotiated end to war
Russia doesn’t see a diplomatic solution to the war and expects a long battle, according to a senior Kremlin diplomat.
Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, told the Financial Times that there would be no direct talks between Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart and that a “politicised” UN had been ineffective as a mediator. DM