Russia-Ukraine war: unclear if Russian forces have ‘reserves or morale’ to defend Luhansk, says UK – live | Ukraine

Russia may not have reserves to withstand counter-offensive in Luhansk

Russia is likely to stubbornly defend the Luhansk oblast in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region amid Kyiv’s counteroffensive, but it is unclear if Moscow’s forces have “sufficient reserves or adequate morale” to withstand another concerted Ukrainian assault, the UK ministry of defence says.

Its latest intelligence briefing says:

Any substantial loss of territory in Luhansk will unambiguously undermine Russia’s strategy.

The assessment comes after Ukrainian forces recently recaptured more than 6,000 sq km of territory including the city of Izium, long regarded as the gateway to the Donbas.

Key events

An honour guard fired a three-gun salute toward cloudy skies as friends and comrades-in-arms gathered in Kyiv to bid farewell to a Russian woman who was killed while fighting on Ukraine‘s side in the war with her native country, Associated Press reports.

Olga Simonova, 34, was remembered for her courage and kindness at a funeral in the Ukrainian capital on Friday.

Simonova’s coffin was draped in the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag, with a cuddly toy lion on top. Her nom de guerre was “Simba,” like the main character in the Disney cartoon “The Lion King.”

Born in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, Simonova, said she started feeling uncomfortable about her native country after reading about Russia’s war in Chechnya and its actions in Ukraine‘s eastern Donbas region and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Filled with doubts that she “would ever be able to raise the flag of my country, my homeland” again, Simonova travelled to Ukraine to join the conflict in the Donbas on the Ukrainian side, first as a volunteer fighter, then a paramedic and ultimately as an enlisted member of the armed forces.

Friends and colleagues said Simonova, who was unmarried and had no children, had recently redeployed from the east to the southern Kherson region, where Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive against Russian forces.

They said she died on September 13, after her vehicle hit a land mine.

Soldiers hold a national flag above the coffin of the Ukrainian servicewoman Olga Simonova, killed by Russian troops in the Donetsk region, during the funeral in Kyiv, Ukraine, 16 September 2022. EPA/OLEKSII PERK
Soldiers hold a national flag above the coffin of the Ukrainian servicewoman Olga Simonova, killed by Russian troops in the Donetsk region, during the funeral in Kyiv, Ukraine, 16 September 2022. EPA/OLEKSII PERK Photograph: Oleksii Perk/EPA

Girl, 11, killed after Russian rocket attack in Kharkiv region

The governor of Kharkiv oblast, Oleh Synyehubov, has said an 11-year-old girl was killed in a Russian rocket attack in the city of Chuhuiv, in the eastern Ukrainian region.

Synyehubov said the rockets also caused damage to “critical infrastructure, the private sector, an enterprise, and a gas station”.

He said on Telegram:

An innocent child died from Russian terror.

Unfortunately, the 11-year-old girl, who was hospitalised in Chuguyev, died from her injuries.

Another woman was injured after the attacks on Chuguiev; the condition of the victim is average.

The report could not be independently verified.

Ukrainian forces have continued to cross the key Oskil River in the Kharkiv region as they try to press on in a counteroffensive targeting Russian-occupied territory, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

The institute said in today’s report that satellite imagery it examined suggested that Ukrainian forces have crossed over to the east bank of the Oskil in Kupiansk, placing artillery there.

The river, which flows south from Russia into Ukraine, had been a natural break in the newly emerged frontlines since Ukraine launched its push about a week ago, reports Associated Press.

The institute said:

Russian forces are likely too weak to prevent further Ukrainian advances along the entire Oskil River if Ukrainian forces choose to resume offensive operations.

President Zelenskiy’s senior adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, has responded to reports that Mexico will present a peace plan for Ukraine to the United Nations general assembly next week.

Directing his tweet at Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Podolyak said:

“Peacemakers” who use war as a topic for their own PR are causing only surprise. @lopezobrador_, is your plan to keep millions under occupation, increase the number of mass burials and give Russia time to renew reserves before the next offensive? Then your “plan” is a plan.

Agence France-Presse reports that the proposal to be put forward by Mexico is for Pope Francis, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to form a dialogue and peace committee.

“Peacemakers” who use war as a topic for their own PR are causing only surprise. @lopezobrador_, is your plan to keep millions under occupation, increase the number of mass burials and give Russia time to renew reserves before the next offensive? Then your “plan” is a 🇷🇺 plan.

— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) September 17, 2022

Ukrainian Yulia embraces her husband Eugine at a train station in Kyiv after fleeing the country at the outset of the war.
Ukrainian Yulia embraces her husband Eugine at a train station in Kyiv after fleeing the country at the outset of the war. Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
A destroyed bridge is seen in Izium after Russian forces' withdrawal.
A destroyed bridge is seen in Izium after Russian forces’ withdrawal. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ukrainian forces entering Izium.
Ukrainian forces entering Izium. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Russia’s defence ministry today said that its forces have launched strikes on several parts of Ukraine.

It also accused Kyiv of carrying out shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Reuters reports.

Russian forces conducted their strikes in the Kherson, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, according to the ministry.

It said that Ukrainian forces had carried out an unsuccessful offensive near Pravdyne in Kherson.

The radiation situation at Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, remains normal, according to the ministry.

It said two incidents of Ukrainian shelling were recorded near the plant on Saturday.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s foreign ministry denied that Ukrainian forces had carried out shelling near the facility.

Both Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the nuclear power plant.

The UN International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution on Thursday demanding that Russia end its occupation of the plant.

Two dead after Russian shelling in Donetsk region

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, has reported today that two civilians were killed on Friday after Russian shelling in the cities of Bakhmut and Sviatohirsk.

In an update on the operational situation, Kyrylenklo added that overnight in the region “passed relatively calmly” and there was only “isolated” shelling on the front line.

On the Telegram, he said:

On September 16, the Russians killed 2 civilians of Donetsk region: in Sviatohirsk and Bakhmut. Another 11 people were injured.

Currently, it is impossible to establish the exact number of victims in Mariupol and Volnovas.

It was not possible to independently verify the report.

Our report on US president, Joe Biden’s, first meeting with the family members of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan:

Joe Biden, met with family members of WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American detained in Russia, Paul Whelan, on Friday, the first face-to-face encounter that the president has had with the relatives.

In a statement after the meetings, which were held separately, White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said Biden stressed to the families his “continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely”.

“He asked after the well-being of Elizabeth and Cherelle and their respective families during this painful time,” Jean-Pierre said. “The president appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledged that every minute they are being held is a minute too long.”

Read more: Joe Biden meets with families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan

Summary

It is just after 1pm in Kyiv. This is what you might have missed:

  • Russia is likely to stubbornly defend the Luhansk oblast in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region amid Kyiv’s counteroffensive, but it is unclear if Moscow’s forces have “sufficient reserves or adequate morale” to withstand another concerted Ukrainian assault, the UK Ministry of Defence says. Its latest intelligence briefing says: “Any substantial loss of territory in Luhansk will unambiguously undermine Russia’s strategy.” The assessment comes after Ukrainian forces recently recaptured more than 6,000 sq km of territory including the city of Izium, long regarded as the gateway to the Donbas.

  • Vladimir Putin has vowed to continue his attack on Ukraine despite Kyiv’s latest counteroffensive and warned that Moscow could ramp up its strikes on the country’s vital infrastructure if Ukrainian forces target facilities in Russia. Associated Press reported that the Russian president said the “liberation” of Ukraine’s entire eastern Donbas region remained Russia’s main military goal and that he saw no need to revise it. Speaking to reporters on Friday after attending a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Putin said: “We aren’t in a rush.”

  • Joe Biden has warned Vladimir Putin not to use chemical or tactical nuclear weapons in the war with Ukraine. The US president was asked in an interview with CBS News what he would say to Putin if he was considering using the weapons. Biden said: “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II.”

  • Ukraine’s foreign minister has renewed criticism of Germany for failing to send tanks to help fight Russian forces, saying the new weapons pledged by Berlin were “not what we need most”. Berlin announced on Thursday it would send Kyiv more multiple rocket launchers and “Dingo” armoured troop-carriers as Ukraine’s troops carry out a counteroffensive against Moscow’s forces. But Agence France-Presse reported the foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, as saying Germany’s decisions were a “mystery” and that there was a “weapon wall” in Berlin that the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, had to tear down.

  • Mexico will present a peace plan for Ukraine to the United Nations general assembly next week, president Andrés Manuel López Obrador says. Agence France-Presse reports that the proposal is for Pope Francis, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to form a dialogue and peace committee.

  • United Nations member states have voted to make an exception to allow Volodymyr Zelenskiy to address next week’s general assembly by video, despite Russian opposition. Of the 193 member states, 101 voted on Friday in favour of allowing the Ukrainian president to “present a pre-recorded statement” instead of in-person as usually required. Seven members voted against the proposal, including Russia. Nineteen states abstained.

  • Virtually all the exhumed bodies in Izium had signs of violent death, Ukraine’s regional administration chief said of the mass burial site discovered after Kyiv’s forces recaptured the east Ukrainian town. Exhumers had uncovered several bodies with their hands tied behind their backs, and one “with a rope around his neck”, Oleg Synegubov, head of Kharkiv regional administration, said on Friday. “Among the bodies that were exhumed today, 99% showed signs of violent death,” he said on social media.

  • The European Union was “deeply shocked” at the mass graves discovered by Ukrainian officials in Izium, said the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. “We condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms.” The French president, Emmanuel Macron, also condemned what he described as the “atrocities” committed in Izium, joining growing outrage in western countries over the burial site.

  • Ukrainian armed forces have hit four areas held by Russian troops, according to the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces. The military also targeted an unloading station, it said, in turn preventing Russian forces from deploying additional reserves.

  • Russia has accused Ukraine of carrying out targeted strikes in the cities of Kherson and Luhansk against top local officials who have been collaborating with Moscow. At least five Himars missiles crashed into the central administration building in Kherson, which Russian troops have occupied since March after arriving from Crimea. Video from the scene showed smoke pouring out of the complex. In the eastern city of Luhansk, a pro-Russian prosecutor died with his deputy when their office was blown up. The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s senior adviser, Mikhailo Podolyak, said Ukraine was not behind the blast.

  • Further south, the Russian-backed separatist authority in Berdiansk also blamed Kyiv for the “double murder” of a deputy head of the military civil administration and his wife, who headed the city’s territorial election commission for the referendum.

  • In the southern oblast of Zaporizhzhia there were also reports on Friday of a “powerful explosion” in the Russian-occupied Melitopol, said Ivan Fedorov, mayor of Melitopol. “I hope the Russian fascists have suffered losses, among their personnel and equipment,” he said. “Awaiting good news from the armed forces of Ukraine.”

  • The United States department of defence has announced it is providing an additional $600m in military assistance to Ukraine to meet the country’s “critical security and defence needs”. In total, the Biden administration has committed about $15.8bn in security aid to Ukraine – $15.1bn since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February.

  • Switzerland on Friday aligned itself with the European Union in suspending a 2009 agreement easing rules for Russian citizens to enter the country. “The suspension of the agreement does not mean a general visa freeze for Russians but rather they will need to use the ordinary visa procedure to enter Switzerland,” the country’s federal council said in a statement. The EU took a similar step earlier, suspending a visa facilitation deal with Russia but stopping short of a wider visa ban in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s ministry of defence has given its latest update on Russia’s total combat losses since the war started in February this year.

The figures show that Vladimir Putin’s military forces have lost 54,250 troops, 2,202 tanks, and 4,701 armoured combat vehicles.

Ukrainian forces have also downed 251 military jets, 216 helicopters and 911 drones.

The figures could not be independently verified.

“Sometimes it seems that russia is destined only to show the whole world how not to live and what not to do.”
Petr Chaadaev

Total combat losses of the enemy from Feb 24 to Sep 17: pic.twitter.com/wykj2QHtYD

— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) September 17, 2022

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the democratic opposition in Belarus, writes for us that she lost a rigged election in Belarus – only the west can help us win freedom from Russia:

Peat bogs span almost 15% of my home country of Belarus. But, in recent times, citizens have grown wary of these dense, acidic wetlands.

Their decaying vegetative matter is a valuable source of fuel and, after decades of being gradually drained and stripped away, the drying marshes that remain pose a significant fire risk. Smouldering underground fires can burn for months unseen before bursting out into the open and wreaking devastation.

Much like these underground peat fires that grow shielded from view, democracy in Belarus is currently burning and President Alexander Lukashenko’s corrupt, despotic regime is the decaying marshland, tinder-dry and ripe for destruction.

Read more here: I lost a rigged election in Belarus – only the west can help us win freedom from Russia

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