Day 558 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky replaces Defense Minister, Russia strikes Grain Ports
Day 558 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- Rustem Umerov replaces Oleksii Reznikov as Minister of Defense of Ukraine
- Russia struck an important Ukrainian grain export port hours before the Putin-Erdogan meeting
- Ukrainian commander: In front of us is Berdyansk, and then the Sea of Azov
- Russia has destroyed 4 Ukrainian warships in the Black Sea
- France will train Ukrainian pilots. The interesting thing is which fighters
- Moscow is looking for frontline soldiers among migrants to avoid mobilization before the elections
- An investigation has found no evidence of South Africa supplying arms to Russia
- For lasting peace in Ukraine, give Russia security guarantees, Hungary urged
- According to the Armenian Prime Minister, relying only on Russia for security was a strategic mistake
Rustem Umerov replaces Oleksii Reznikov as Minister of Defense of Ukraine
The leaders of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan, will talk in the Russian Black Sea resort Sochi, against the backdrop of Ankara and the UN’s efforts to revive the Black Sea deal for grain export from Ukraine. In July, Moscow withdrew from the agreement, a year after its conclusion, with the argument that obstacles were being made for its export. Russian attacks against the Danube ports followed, which has become the main route of Ukraine to export grain. Ukrainian representatives reported an air attack and explosions tonight in Izmail, whose inhabitants were called to hide in shelters. Yesterday, Russia also struck against the other large Danube port - Reni.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced that he will offer parliament to remove Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov from his post. Zelensky will ask the Verkhovna Rada to appoint former MP Rustem Umerov.
Reznikov, who was appointed Minister of Defense in November 2021, helped to provide Western military aid, which he said is nearly 100 billion dollars, with the United States providing over 66 billion. However, there were accusations of corruption in his ministry, which he defined as slander.
The cited as his successor, Umerov, is a 41-year-old Crimean Tatar, a former MP who headed the Ukrainian state property management in September 2022. He played a role in delicate wartime negotiations, such as the Black Sea Grain Deal.
Zelensky also announced that he had reached a "very important training agreement" for Ukrainian pilots in France during a telephone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
The Russian air defense has shot down two drones, departing from Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense in Moscow said. The drone attack on the border of Kursk Oblast began around 1 a.m. after midnight, the agency said.
Russia struck an important Ukrainian grain export port hours before the Putin-Erdogan meeting
Russia launched an overnight airstrike on one of Ukraine's main grain export ports hours before scheduled talks between Russian and Turkish presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
This was announced by Ukrainian representatives quoted by Reuters, BTA reports.
The Ukrainian Air Force urged residents of Izmail, one of two major Ukrainian grain-exporting ports on the Danube in Odesa Oblast, to take shelter in bomb shelters shortly after midnight today. Some Ukrainian media reported that explosions were heard in the area.
Putin and Erdogan are due to meet today in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi as Ankara and the United Nations try to revive a deal on Ukrainian grain exports.
Russia pulled out of the deal in July, a year after it was signed, citing obstacles to its own food and fertilizer exports.
Since leaving the accord, Moscow has frequently attacked Ukrainian ports on the Danube River, which has become a major route for Ukraine's grain exports.
Yesterday, Russia struck another major Ukrainian port on the Danube, Reni. At least two people were injured in the attack and port infrastructure was damaged.
Ukrainian commander: In front of us is Berdyansk, and then the Sea of Azov
Ukrainian fighters fighting on the Zaporozhian front in the Robotyne region, liberated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces last week, are confident they have broken through the Russian army's heaviest defense line in southern Ukraine and will now advance at a faster pace, Reuters reports.
"We won’t stop here. Ahead of us is Berdyansk and further along the road the Sea of Azov. Right from the beginning I explained it to my soldiers: our target is not Robotyne, but the Sea of Azov," Reuters quoted a Ukrainian commander with the call sign "Combat". Under his command are part of the forces that entered Robotyne last Wednesday.
It is 100 kilometers from Robotine to Berdyansk, a city on the coast of the Sea of Azov, and 85 kilometers to the strategically important Melitopol. Both cities are occupied by the Russian army.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense announced that since June, as a result of the counteroffensive in the Bakhmut region, a total area of 47 square kilometers has been liberated, with the last 3 square kilometers just last week. "Last week it was very hot in the area of the settlements of Klishchiivka, Kurdiumivka and Ozaryanivka south of Bakhmut," announced Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar.
Russia has destroyed 4 Ukrainian warships in the Black Sea
Russia said it destroyed four Ukrainian warships carrying soldiers in the Black Sea, AFP reported.
"Aircraft of the naval aviation of the Black Sea Fleet destroyed 4 high-speed military cutters ‘Willard Sea Force’ of American production with amphibious groups of the armed forces of Ukraine," the Russian Ministry of Defense reported on Telegram.
From there, they said that the cutters "traveled in the direction of Cape Tarkhankut on the Crimean coast", without providing further details.
In a similar attack on August 30, Russia said its forces destroyed four Ukrainian military boats carrying up to 50 soldiers in the Black Sea.
"Ukrainian drones were destroyed in the air over the Black Sea, near the Crimean peninsula," the ministry wrote on Telegram.
Crimea was last attacked on Saturday, when Russia destroyed three Ukrainian naval drones that were targeting the bridge connecting the peninsula to the Russian mainland.
France will train Ukrainian pilots. The interesting thing is which fighters
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had reached a "very important agreement on the training" of Ukrainian pilots in France during a telephone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Reuters reported.
"Ukraine has become stronger. We have new agreements with our partners for defense packages. In a conversation with French President Macron, we discussed what new supplies can help our soldiers. We discussed the defense of our Odesa Oblast - what France can do to protect Odesa and the region. And there is a very important agreement on the training of our pilots in France - our coalition of modern fighters is becoming more and more powerful," Zelensky said.
He did not specify what pilot training was involved. France does not have F-16 fighter jets, as promised to Ukraine, but the French Rafale and Mirage 2000, commented Reuters.
The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have already pledged to supply F-16s to Ukraine. So far, Kyiv has secured at least 50 planes. Zelensky recently called for a total of 160 F-16s to be delivered to his country to regain control of its airspace.
Moscow is looking for frontline soldiers among migrants to avoid mobilization before the elections
Russian authorities want to attract more migrants to send to the front in the war in Ukraine and avoid mobilization in the country before the 2024 presidential election, according to the latest intelligence analysis by the British Ministry of Defense.
From the end of June 2023, Russia began to appeal to citizens of neighboring countries to fight in Ukraine. Online ads are circulating in Armenia and Kazakhstan offering 495,000 rubles (5,140 US dollars) starting pay and monthly salaries of 190,000 rubles (1,973 dollars). Attempts to recruit fighters are emerging in the northern Kostanay region of Kazakhstan, where the ethnic Russian population is being drawn.
Since at least May of this year, Russia has been offering Central Asian migrants to fight in Ukraine with promises of a faster citizenship process and salaries of up to 4,160 dollars.
Upon arrival, Uzbek migrants in Mariupol who were employed as construction workers were reportedly stripped of their passports and forced to join the Russian army.
"There are at least six million Central Asian migrants in Russia who the Kremlin likely views as potential recruits. Russia likely wants to avoid further domestic mobilization measures in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election. Using foreign nationals allows the Kremlin to acquire additional personnel for its war effort in the face of rising casualties," British intelligence believed.
To date, a total of 264,660 servicemen have lost their lives in Ukraine (+600 since yesterday), as the information was published on Facebook by the leadership of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
From February 24, 2022 to September 3, 2023, Russian losses include 4,476 tanks (+5 from yesterday), 8,649 armored fighting vehicles (+12), 5,582 artillery systems (+22), 739 salvo rocket launchers (+3), 502 air defense systems (+1), 315 aircraft, 316 helicopters, 8102 motor vehicles and fuel tanks (+59), 18 warships and boats, 4444 drones (+11), 841 units of special equipment (+6). A total of 1,447 cruise missiles were shot down.
An investigation has found no evidence of South Africa supplying arms to Russia
An independent investigation found no evidence that South Africa supplied weapons to Russia, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced, quoted by the BBC.
The panel rejected claims by the US ambassador to South Africa that a Russian ship was loaded with ammunition and weapons in Cape Town last December.
The claims raised questions about the country's stated neutrality in the war with Ukraine.
Ramaphosa said it had damaged the nation's currency and reputation.
"The commission found that there was no evidence to support the allegation that the ship was transporting weapons from South Africa destined for Russia," the president said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday.
"No weapons export permit was issued and no weapons were exported," he added.
Instead, the investigation found that the Russian cargo ship delivered a shipment of weapons from Russia to South Africa ordered in 2018.
Ambassador Ruben Brigitte's remarks related to Lady R's mooring at Simons Town Naval Base between 6 and 8 December 2022.
He told a media briefing in Pretoria in May that he was "confident" that the weapons and ammunition had been loaded onto the ship "while it was returning to Russia".
A day later, South Africa's foreign ministry said Brigitte had apologized for the allegations.
Ramaphosa ordered an independent investigation led by a judge following Brigitte's comments.
"None of the individuals who have made these allegations have been able to provide any evidence to support the allegations made against our country," Ramaphosa said after the investigation concluded.
The President will release only a summary of the report for security reasons.
Investigators visited the naval base, interviewed almost 50 people and reviewed more than 100 documents, Ramaphosa added. South Africa has sought to maintain friendly relations with Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, drawing criticism from the US and other Western countries. It is one of the few countries that abstained from a number of UN votes on the conflict, refusing to publicly condemn Russia over the issue.
The US has previously raised concerns about joint naval exercises between Russia and South Africa.
For lasting peace in Ukraine, give Russia security guarantees, Hungary urged
The West should give Russia security guarantees and bar Ukraine from joining NATO, a senior Hungarian official said Sunday in comments likely to further strain Budapest's already volatile relationship with Kyiv, Politico reported.
To ensure lasting peace, "the Western world, which supports Ukraine, must give security guarantees to Russia, but definitely not NATO membership to the Ukrainians," Gergei Guiyash, the prime minister's chief of staff, told a university event.
His comments echoed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's words last week that the West "must make a deal with the Russians on the new security architecture to ensure Ukraine's security and sovereignty, but not NATO membership". He also said that Ukraine has no chance of winning the war.
In June, Orban said Ukraine was "no longer a sovereign state" and financially "doesn't exist", sparking anger from Kyiv.
"Ukraine does not trade its territories or sovereignty," Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Kyiv's foreign ministry, said in response to Orban's latest comments.
Repeated calls for security guarantees to Moscow are likely to further fuel tensions between Hungary and Ukraine.
Last week, European Union foreign ministers failed to give the green light to an eighth tranche of military aid to Ukraine worth 500 million euros after Hungary blocked the payment on the grounds that Kyiv had labeled its bank OTP as supporting the war.
Still, in a sign that Hungary wants to avoid a complete collapse in relations, Hungarian President Katalin Novak visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last month in an effort to improve bilateral ties.
Since 2018, Hungary has blocked Ukraine's attendance at NATO ministerial-level meetings over allegations that Kyiv discriminates against Hungarian ethnic minorities by restricting their rights to education in their native language.
Meanwhile, Hungarian MPs continue to delay the ratification of Sweden's bid to join NATO. While acknowledging that the military alliance would become stronger if Sweden joins, Guiyash said on Sunday that Budapest first wanted an explanation from Stockholm about previous comments in which it made "unworthy and baseless accusations" against Hungary.
According to the Armenian Prime Minister, relying only on Russia for security was a strategic mistake
Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said his country's policy of relying solely on Russia to ensure its security was a "strategic mistake" because Moscow has proved unable to contribute anything and currently its role in the wider region of the the South Caucasus is shrinking, Reuters reported.
In an interview published on Sunday with the Italian newspaper “la Repubblica”, Pashinyan accused Russia of failing to guarantee Armenia's security in the face of what he said was the aggression of neighboring Azerbaijan against the separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Armenian prime minister hinted that Russia, which has signed a defense treaty with Armenia and has a military base there, does not consider his country sufficiently pro-Russian, adding that he believes Moscow is in the process of withdrawing from the wider South Caucasus region.
Therefore, Yerevan is trying to diversify its ties in the security sphere, Pashinyan pointed out, referring to the development of relations with the European Union and the United States, as well as attempts to build closer ties with the countries of the region.
"Armenia's security system is 99 percent connected to Russia, including when it comes to arms and ammunition supplies," Pashinyan told la Repubblica.
"Today, however, we see that Russia itself needs weapons and ammunition and in this situation, it is understandable that even if it wanted to, the Russian Federation could not meet the needs in the security sphere of Armenia," the Armenian Prime Minister pointed out.
"This example should show us that relying on only one partner in the field of security is a strategic mistake," Pashinyan summarized.
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