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UKRAINE UPDATE: 6 OCTOBER 2023

Dozens killed in missile strike in eastern Kharkiv; Zelensky calls for continued European aid

Dozens killed in missile strike in eastern Kharkiv; Zelensky calls for continued European aid
Rescuers work at the site of a military strike in the village of Hroza, Kupiansk district, Kharkiv region, northeastern Ukraine, 5 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Yakiv Lyashenko)

Ukraine said at least 49 people were killed when a Russian missile struck the eastern Kharkiv region in one of the deadliest attacks against Ukraine’s civilian population in months.

Ukraine said its air defence forces downed 24 of 29 drones launched by Russia from annexed Crimea to attack southern and central regions of the country.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with European leaders to press for continued support against Russia’s invasion amid concerns about the continued flow of US aid.

Turkey is preparing to host a third international gathering of national security advisers working to build support for a peace summit that Ukraine wants to hold this year, according to people familiar with the matter. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for later this month in Istanbul. 

Latest developments

Ukraine says 49 killed by Russian missile in eastern region

Ukraine said at least 49 people were killed when a Russian missile struck the eastern Kharkiv region in one of the deadliest attacks against Ukraine’s civilian population in months.

Another seven people in the village of Hroze near the city of Kupyansk were wounded, Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on local television on Thursday. 

Zelensky condemned the strike, saying on Telegram that it was “a completely deliberate act of terrorism”. The Ukrainian leader was in Spain to meet with European leaders and press for continued support against Russia’s invasion.

Germany to boost Ukraine air defence with second Patriot system

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged to further bolster Ukraine’s air defences to help protect the country against Russian missile attacks this winter.

The government in Berlin will supply a second Patriot air-defence system to help shield key infrastructure, Scholz told reporters on Thursday after talks with Zelensky on the sidelines of a summit of European leaders in Granada, Spain.

“This is a far-reaching step,” Scholz said, adding that the package should arrive during the winter months and would make a significant contribution to strengthening Ukraine’s security.

Germany provided Ukraine with a first Patriot system in April. The Spanish government pledged six additional Hawk air defence systems. 

“Patriot is the only system that can deal with all types of Russian missiles,” Zelensky told reporters after meeting with Scholz. The Ukrainian president stressed that air defence was a focus of all his bilateral meetings in Granada. 

Putin says Russia may revoke ban on nuclear weapon tests

President Vladimir Putin said Russia may revoke a ban on nuclear weapon tests, complaining about the US failure to ratify a treaty that imposed the prohibition.

“We could mirror the behaviour of the US, which signed but didn’t ratify” the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Putin said on Thursday at the annual meeting of the Valdai Club in the Black Sea city of Sochi. 

“This is a question for lawmakers,” he said. “Theoretically, we can revoke this ratification.”

The Russian leader said that military experts advised that tests of new nuclear weapons would provide guarantees that warheads are fully functional. Russia recently successfully tested a nuclear-powered missile called Burevestnik and has just brought into service the Sarmat, an advanced intercontinental nuclear ballistic missile, Putin said.

Read more: Russia puts nuclear-capable Sarmat missile on combat duty

Russia is one of the 178 countries that have ratified the treaty. The US, one of the 187 nations that signed the agreement, still hasn’t ratified it, which has to be done by a vote in the Senate. The US hasn’t carried out a nuclear test since signing the agreement.

Putin dismissed a call from a member of the audience to lower Russia’s threshold for a nuclear strike, saying there’s no need to change the nuclear doctrine as nothing threatens the country’s existence. 

Slovakia freezes state military aid to Kyiv after Fico win

Slovakia’s authorities won’t send military aid to Ukraine as they await the formation of a new government by Robert Fico, who won elections on promises to stop supplying weapons to Kyiv.

The country’s leaders won’t sign off on a package that was being prepared by the defence ministry, according to a statement from the presidential palace on Thursday. 

Slovakia’s military aid to Ukraine on a commercial basis will continue and even increase in the future, regardless of the government’s composition, outgoing Prime Minister Ludovit Odor told reporters on the sidelines of a summit in Granada, Spain. 

The decision to not send the prepared package of military aid comes at a critical stage for Ukraine’s counteroffensive. The US has stripped out funding for Kyiv in a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. 

Hungary last week proposed splitting a €50-billion European Union package for Ukraine and told member states that €25-billion would be sufficient for now.

A member of the EU and Nato, Slovakia has been a staunch ally of Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began almost 20 months ago. It provided Kyiv with fighter jets, armed vehicles, anti-aircraft systems and ammunition. 

Zelensky seeks Europe’s support as funding worries mount

Zelensky met with European leaders to press for continued support against Russia’s invasion, amid concerns about the continued flow of US aid. 

“Of course, it’s a difficult election period for the United States, different voices, some of the voices are very strange,” Zelenksy told reporters on his arrival for the meeting of nearly 50 European leaders.  

The US has stripped out funding for Ukraine in a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, at a critical stage for Kyiv’s counter-offensive. European backing for Ukraine faces a new challenge after Fico won Slovakia’s election on Saturday.

US officials are doing their best to reassure allies that its support remains popular among most US voters. 

“The longer the war lasts, the less readiness there will be to help Ukraine,” Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob told reporters before the European Political Community summit. “That’s why everyone is waiting for what the outcome will be before the winter. Time is running out.”

Ahead of the gathering, Zelensky spoke to Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, to discuss the meeting and restrictions on Ukrainian agriculture exports by some EU members. 

“Ukraine needs predictability, reliability in the direct budget support,” Von der Leyen said. “I’m very confident of support for Ukraine from the United States, what the United States is working on is the timing.”

European Council President Charles Michel told Bloomberg Television’s Maria Tadeo that Biden had reassured other leaders about the strength of the US commitment to Ukraine. 

“It’s very important that on both sides of the Atlantic, together with other partners across the world, that we don’t lose the spirit of solidarity,” Michel said. “Because what’s at stake is the multilateral order and what’s at stake is our security in the future.”

Kyiv has seen cracks in relations with Poland, its strongest supporter, over Warsaw’s unilateral ban on Ukrainian grain imports. Ukraine submitted a complaint to the World Trade Organization over the ban, while the government in Warsaw said it will no longer send military aid to Kyiv before walking back some of the remarks. Farmers are an important constituency for Poland’s ruling party, which is facing a tightly contested parliamentary election on 15 October. DM

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