U.S. denounces Russia’s ‘dirty bomb’ claim; more than a million Ukrainian homes have lost power

Group overseeing agricultural exports from Ukraine says it is working to address backlog of more than 100 vessels awaiting inspection

Ships, including those carrying grain from Ukraine and awaiting inspections are seen anchored off the Istanbul coastline on October 14, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images

The organization overseeing grain exports from Ukraine said it is working to address the backlog of 113 vessels awaiting inspection.

The Joint Coordination Center, or JCC, said in a statement that it “is concerned that the delays may cause disruption in the supply chain and port operations.”

“The JCC is discussing ways to address the backlog noting that the next harvest is approaching and silos in the Ukrainian ports covered under the Initiative will be soon full again,” the group wrote.

The JCC has enabled the movement of over 8.5 million metric tons of food products under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal announced in July among Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey.

Read more about the Black Sea Grain Initiative here.

— Amanda Macias

NATO Secretary General rejects Russia’s ‘dirty bomb’ allegations

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gestures during a news conference with Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde, after Finland and Sweden signed their countries’ accession protocols at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 5, 2022.

Yves Herman | Reuters

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned Russia’s “false claim” that Ukraine was planning to use a “dirty bomb” within its own territories.

“NATO Allies reject this allegation,” he wrote in a tweet. “Russia must not use it as a pretext for escalation.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed back against the Russian allegations, arguing that this claim only indicates that Russia itself is likely preparing to use the “dirty bomb.” The United States, United Kingdom and France have also spoken out against Russia’s allegations.

NATO allies have provided extensive support to Ukraine, implementing enhanced measures in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Following the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, member countries agreed to enhance the existing Comprehensive Assistance Package to Ukraine due to the Russian invasion.

This led to more support in several security areas, including communications, cyber defenses, medical supplies, body armor, safety equipment and anti-drone systems.

— Rocio Fabbro

Russian court will hear WNBA star Griner’s appeal

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

WNBA star Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing before a Russian court is set for Tuesday.

Earlier this month a Russian judge decided to hear Griner’s appeal after she was convicted on drug charges and sentenced to nine years in prison. Griner has been held in a Russian detention center for more than eight months since her arrest earlier this year.

Griner will appear via video conference at the hearing, which is expected to last about an hour. The judge’s verdict is expected later on Tuesday.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley speaks with Russian counterpart as war enters ninth month

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley participates in a news briefing at the Pentagon May 23, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke with Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov by phone.

“The military leaders discussed several security-related issues of concern and agreed to keep the lines of communication open. In accordance with past practice, the specific details of their conversation will be kept private,” wrote Joint Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler in a readout of the call.

Milley’s call comes as U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held two calls with his Russian counterpart in the past week.

— Amanda Macias

Russia claims the threat of a ‘dirty bomb’ is ‘obvious,’ despite Western denials

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends a joint news conference of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow, Russia February 18, 2022. 

Sergey Guneev| Sputnik | Reuters

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov contended the threat of a “dirty bomb” is real, even though the United States, Great Britain and France denied the possibility.

“Their distrust of the information provided by the Russian side does not mean that the threat of using such a ‘dirty bomb’ ceases to exist. The threat is obvious,” Peskov said in a press briefing.

Peskov’s statements followed claims by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that Ukraine was planning provocations using a “dirty bomb,” which contaminates surrounding areas with radioactivity without the use of a nuclear explosion. The U.K., U.S. and France all denounced the allegations as “transparently false.”

Peskov also said there are currently no planned calls for Russian President Vladimir Putin, after a slew of international calls made by Shoigu over the last few days, including with the U.S. and other Western allies.

— Rocio Fabbro

Ukrainian club urges FIFA to remove Iran from World Cup

Hanged paper planes are seen in front of the Iranian Embassy during the protest against Iran’s allegedly supply of drones to Russia after Kyiv was hit by a series of deadly strikes on Monday, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on October 18, 2022.

Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine’s top soccer club on Monday urged FIFA to remove Iran from the World Cup because of the country’s alleged military support to the Russian invasion.

Shakhtar Donetsk chief executive Sergei Palkin accused Iran of “direct participation in terrorist attacks on Ukrainians,” suggesting his own country’s team should play in Qatar instead as a replacement.

“This will be a fair decision that should draw the attention of the whole world to a regime that kills its best people and helps kill Ukrainians,” Palkin said in a statement one day before his team plays at Celtic in the Champions League.

The White House said Thursday that the U.S. has evidence that Iranian troops are “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea supporting Russian drone attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure and civilian population. And the head of Ukraine’s intelligence service, Kyrylo Budanov, said in a published interview on Monday that Russian forces had used about 330 Iranian-built “Shahed” drones as of Saturday — and that more had been ordered.

— Associated Press

U.S. Defense secretary speaks with Russian counterpart in follow-up phone call

U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin speaks during the Ukraine Security Consultative Group meeting at Ramstein air base on April 26, 2022 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany.

Thomas Lohnes | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart over the weekend, the third known call since the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Austin spoke with Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu on Sunday following a Friday morning phone call. Ryder said that Shoigu requested the follow-up call.

“Secretary Austin rejected any pretext for Russian escalation and reaffirmed the value of continued communication amid Russia’s unlawful and unjustified war against Ukraine,” a Pentagon readout of the call said.

— Amanda Macias

More than 6,300 people have died in Ukraine, U.N. says

A picture shows a mass grave of civilians at a cemetery near Lyman, Donetsk region, on October 11, 2022.

Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

The United Nations has confirmed 6,374 civilian deaths and 9,776 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because armed conflict can delay fatality reports.

The international organization said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine concerns loom large in Macron’s visit to Vatican

Pope Francis receives Ukraine war-themed drawings during the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, April 13, 2022. 

Vatican Media | Reuters

Pope Francis met at the Vatican with French President Emmanuel Macron, with the war in Ukraine looming large in both leaders’ concerns.

The Vatican in a brief statement said that after Macron spoke with Francis, the French leader met with the Holy See’s secretary of state and its foreign minister.

“During the cordial discussions, which took place in the Secretariat of State, the parties focused on matters of an international nature, starting from the conflict in Ukraine, with special attention to the humanitarian situation,” the Vatican said. “Particular consideration was given to the region of the Caucasus, the Middle East, and Africa.”

A French presidency official indicated the focus on Ukraine was in line with Macron’s speech on Sunday evening to a peace-promoting forum, which Francis will address later this week. Macron used that speech to argue that it’s up to Ukraine to decide the moment and terms of peace to end the war.

— Associated Press

Russia’s Black Sea grain inspection delays are “politically motivated,” Ukraine says

Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concerns over Russia’s prolonged inspection of vessels, which have caused shipping delays along the Black Sea grain corridor.

“We have reason to believe that the delays in Russia’s inspections of the grain initiative’s vessels are politically motivated,” the ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine contended that Russia’s actions “undermine global food security.” The backlogs “have already prevented Ukraine from exporting an additional 3 million tons of grain,” enough to feed 10 million people worldwide, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

The United Nations-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative, which was agreed to in July to ease the effects of the war on grain exports from Ukraine, is up for renewal on Nov. 20. Russia has demanded new benefits from the deal, threatening to reject the renewal if its terms are not met.

— Rocio Fabbro

German official says it’s time to start rebuilding Ukraine

German Development Minister Svenja Schulze said she believes it is important to start rebuilding Ukraine now.

“You probably have to do a lot of things in parallel and also expect that one or the other can be destroyed again,” Schulze said on ARD Mediathek’s morning program. “But it’s important that the children continue to have schools, that the local hospital works, that electricity, that water is there.”

Germany is already helping with reconstruction, she added. About 200 million euros of the 426 million euros Germany has sent to Ukraine for rebuilding efforts have gone directly to people in Ukraine, Schulze said.

It could cost up to $350 billion to rebuild Ukraine after the war, according to a report released early last month by the World Bank, Ukrainian government and European Commission.

— Rocio Fabbro

Kremlin says France and Germany have shown “no desire” for mediation on Ukraine

Moscow says that France and Germany have shown “no desire” to take part in mediation over the Ukraine conflict, and it is praising Turkey’s willingness to broker talks.

“[Turkish capital] Ankara takes a different position from that of Paris and Berlin… and has declared its readiness to continue mediation efforts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He added that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have so far demonstrated “no desire to listen to Russia’s position or participate in mediation efforts.”

Macron said on Sunday that the terms of peace should be dictated by Ukraine.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine’s foreign minister asks UN nuclear watchdog to inspect its facilities to disprove Russian ‘dirty bomb’ allegation

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asked International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi to send a team of experts to Ukraine to inspect its nuclear facilities, in order to disprove Russia’s allegation that it has a “dirty bomb” it plans to use on its own territory.

Grossi, the head of the IAEA, which is the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, “agreed” to Kuleba’s request to “urgently send experts to peaceful facilities in Ukraine,” the minister wrote on Twitter.

“Unlike Russia, Ukraine has always been and remains transparent. We have nothing to hide,” Kuleba added. In a separate tweet, he said he had spoken to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who “welcomed Ukraine’s decision to invite IAEA experts.”

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine increasingly successful at taking down Iranian drones, UK’s Defence Ministry says

Local residents look at parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), what Ukrainian authorities consider to be an Iranian-made drone Shahed-136, after Russian drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine October 17, 2022.

Vladyslav Musiienko | Reuters

Russia has been using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones over many parts of Ukraine to target critical infrastructure and civilian areas, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said in its latest intelligence update, but added that Ukrainian forces’ use of anti-drone technology is becoming more effective.

“Russia continues to use Iranian uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) against targets throughout Ukraine. Ukrainian efforts to defeat the Shahed-136 UAVs are increasingly successful,” the ministry said in a Twitter post.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and other officials claim that up to 85% of attacks are being intercepted, the ministry wrote, adding “These UAVs are slow, noisy and fly at low altitudes, making lone aircraft easy to target using conventional air defences.”

The drones are likely being used as a replacement for Russia’s precision-guided long-range missiles, which it said “are becoming increasingly scarce.”

— Natasha Turak

Zelenskyy calls out Kremlin’s ‘dirty bomb’ claim, says only Russia would use nuclear weapons in Europe

“The morning is difficult. We are dealing with terrorists. Dozens of missiles, Iranian ‘Shahids’,” Zelenskyy wrote on his Telegram official account, referencing the Iranian-made Shahid drones increasingly used by Russian forces.

Ukrinform | Future Publishing | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russia is the only actor that would deploy nuclear weapons in Europe, calling out its destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure over the past eight months.

His comments came in response to the Kremlin’s claim, without evidence, that Ukraine was preparing to use a ‘dirty bomb’ — which uses nuclear fission to contaminate a large area with radioactivity, without using an explosion — on its own territory.

It was Russia using “nuclear blackmail” at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has been under Russian occupation since March, as well as using phosphorus munitions and other banned weapons again civilian infrastructure, Zelenskyy said.

He added that such a claim only meant that Russia was the one preparing to deploy the weapon it accused Ukraine of having.

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated the Russian position that Ukraine plans to use a “dirty bomb” on its own territory to escalate the conflict with Russia.

“Their distrust of the information that has been provided by the Russian side doesn’t mean that the threat of using such a dirty bomb doesn’t exist,” Peskov told the press.

“Such a threat exists, and the defense minister has given the information about it to his interlocutors. It’s up to them whether to trust it or not.”

— Natasha Turak

‘Ukraine has neither ability nor need to use dirty bomb,’ former British ambassador says

Ukraine “has neither ability nor need to use dirty bomb,” senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Nigel Gould-Davies, wrote in a thread on Twitter.

“[Russian Defense Minister] Shoigu’s round of calls with US, UK, France and Turkey, claiming Ukraine planning to use a ‘dirty bomb’ is v worrying. We’ve seen nothing like this intense military diplomacy since war began. Its substance is even more worrying,” Gould-Davies, who formerly served as the UK’s ambassador to Belarus, wrote.

“Of course, Ukraine has neither ability nor need to use dirty bomb. It’s Russia that’s losing. Nor will anyone believe Shoigu anyway – esp [UK Defense Minister] Ben Wallace, who was lied to during his pre-invasion visit to Moscow.

“Shoigu also warned of ‘uncontrolled escalation’. It’s Russia that is escalating… So hard to see these calls as anything other than Shoigu either doubling down on Putin’s bluffs, or preparing way for Russian nuclear use. Yes, nuclear (ie fission),” Gould-Davies added. “A dirty bomb wd breach nuclear taboo but not achieve significant effects.”

— Natasha Turak

U.S. dismisses Russian claims that Ukraine will use a ‘dirty bomb’

U.S. and Ukrainian officials have struck down claims by Moscow that Ukraine is planning to use a “dirty bomb,” calling them “transparently false.”

The allegation was made by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a round of high-level calls with Western defense directors. Shoigu expressed “concerns about possible provocations by Ukraine with the use of a ‘dirty bomb’,” according to Russia’s defense ministry.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov attend a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia February 27, 2022.

Aleksey Nikolskyi | Sputnik | Reuters

A “dirty bomb” is made to contaminate a large area with radioactivity, making it harmful or uninhabitable for residents there, without using a nuclear explosion.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba that “the United States rejects Russian Defense Minister Shoygu’s transparently false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory and that the world would see through any attempt by Russia to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation,” according to a White House statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also slammed the Russian accusation.

“If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared all this,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

— Natasha Turak 

France’s Macron says terms of peace with Russia must be decided by Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures during a press conference on the last day of the NATO Heads of State summit in Madrid on June 30, 2022.

Bertrand Guay | AFP | Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron said that the terms of peace with Moscow must be decided by Ukraine, stressing that the war’s end “can’t be the consecration of the law of the strongest.”

“To stay neutral would mean accepting the world order of the strongest, and I don’t agree with this,” Macron said from Rome on Sunday, as the three-day Cry for Peace conference began.

Macron added that the international community would be receptive when Ukraine’s government decides on that time.

Ukrainian forces are gradually retaking territory occupied and illegally annexed by Russia, and while Moscow increasingly looks to be on the back foot, its ability to wreak havoc on Ukraine’s cities and vital infrastructure remains intact and analysts fear it could use more extreme measures in retaliation, such as nuclear weapons.

— Natasha Turak

More than 1 million Ukrainian homes are without power

Smoke rises above the buildings after the Russian missile attack on the critical infrastructure of Lviv on Oct. 10, 2022. Russia launched 15 rockets in the Lviv region, some were shot down by air defense forces, the rest hit energy infrastructure facilities. Due to the rocket attack, Lviv was left without electricity, water and mobile communication.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Russian strikes on critical energy infrastructure in Ukraine have left more than 1 million homes in the country without power, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidency Kyrylo Tymoshenko said over the weekend. Cities and towns all over Ukraine have faced power outages this month due to Russian attacks, prompting fear about what could be in store for the coming winter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged his fellow citizens to be careful with their power use.

“We should consume electricity very consciously. Please remember to limit the use of unnecessary and energy-consuming appliances … It is necessary to be really frugal with energy consumption in public space,” he said in his nightly address Sunday.

— Natasha Turak

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