U.S. says Putin’s nuclear threats risk ‘Armageddon’; Ukraine recaptures over 190 square miles in a week

600 voyages to and from Ukrainian ports have occurred under Black Sea Grain Initiative

ISTANBUL, TURKIYE – AUGUST 09: An aerial view of “Glory” named empty grain ship as Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkiye and the United Nations (UN) of the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) conduct inspection on vessel in Istanbul, Turkiye on August 09, 2022. The UN, Russia, and Ukraine signed a deal on July 22 to reopen three Ukrainian ports — Odessa, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhny — for grain that has been stuck for months because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which is now in its sixth month. (Photo by Ali Atmaca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said that approximately 600 voyages to and from Ukrainian ports have occurred since August.

Under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal among Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey, more than 6.4 million metric tons of grain and other crops have left Ukrainian ports.

The group wrote that the vessels have sailed to their destinations without a single safety or security incident.

Read more about the Black Sea Grain Initiative here.

— Amanda Macias

Zelenskyy calls on allies to prevent Putin from transferring Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to Russia

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pictured during his regular address to the nation, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine.

Ukrinform | Future Publishing | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric on the use of nuclear weapons is a “risk for the whole planet.”

Moscow, has “made a step already” by occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest nuclear station. Earlier this week, Putin signed a decree declaring that Zaporizhzhia is Russian property.

“The world can stop urgently the actions of Russian occupiers,” Zelenskyy said in an interview with the BBC. “The world can implement the sanction package in such cases and do everything to make them leave the nuclear power plant,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

In Russia, public criticism of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is on the rise

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a wreath-laying ceremony, which marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany in 1941, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2022. 

Mikhail Metzel | Sputnik | Reuters

Within Russia, criticism of Moscow’s military leadership has burst into the open, NBC News reports, posing a rare challenge to the Kremlin.

The search for a scapegoat appears to have settled on Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.   

“It’s time to stop lying,” the chair of the Russian parliament’s defense committee, Andrey Kartapolov, said this week, accusing the Defense Ministry of covering up bad news from Ukraine. 

Public rebukes of the country’s leadership are extremely rare in Putin’s Russia, where any dissent, especially against those aligned with the Kremlin, is prohibited. 

— NBC News

Zelenskyy calls for the liberation of Japanese islands occupied by Russia

Ukraine’s President Volodimir Zelenskyy is pictured on a video screen as he delivers a recorded address to the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 21, 2022.

Mike Segar | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed a new decree recognizing “the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Japan’s northern territories, which have been occupied by Russia since the end of World War II.

“Russia has no right to these territories. Everyone in the world knows this well. And we must finally act,” he said in his latest Telegram video. “It is necessary to liberate from the Russian occupation all the lands that the occupiers are trying to keep for themselves.”

By drawing attention to Russia’s use of force to redraw international borders, Zelenskyy could help the international community see his own country’s unique situation as part of a more universal crusade.

“With this war against Ukraine and against the international legal order, Russia has put itself in conditions in which it is now only a matter of time,” he said, before “The real liberation of everything that was once captured and is now under the control of the Kremlin.”

— Rocio Fabbro

Macron announces ‘special fund’ for weapons for Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron says he’s in favor of a price cap on Russian oil as he speaks to the media on the third and final day of the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau on June 28, 2022 near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a “special fund” to purchase materiel from the European Union for Ukraine.

“This European fund will make it possible to continue to supply defensive weapons. This fund will allow Ukraine to buy directly from our manufacturers the equipment it needs most,” Macron said, according to an NBC News translation.

Macron said the fund will be launched with an initial sum of €100 million.

Since Russia’s late February invasion, France has provided 18 Caesar guns mounted on trucks, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, armored vehicles and fuel for Ukrainian forces.

— Amanda Macias

Estonia, NATO’s smallest country and Russia’s neighbor, will send Ukraine more arms

Ukrainian soldier with call-sign Ryba, which means “fish” in English, stands on the vehicle with a homemade four-tube multiple rocket launcher n Kryvyi Rih on September 28, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Genya Savilov | Afp | Getty Images

Estonia will send Ukraine an additional security assistance package that will include artillery ammunition, winter uniforms and personal protective equipment.

“Through mobilization, nuclear threats, sham referendums on Ukrainian territories and illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories, Russia is escalating the war. The Estonian response can be only one – continuing aid to Ukraine,” Estonia’s Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur said in a statement.

Estonia, NATO’s smallest member country, has given Ukraine more than $250 million in military assistance since Russia invaded in late February. The Baltic country has delivered Javelin anti-tank missile systems, howitzers, anti-tank mines, anti-tank grenade launchers, mortars and other equipment.

Estonia also joined Germany in donating a field hospital and medical supplies worth nearly $10.2 million to Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

Russia’s Sberbank offers payment holidays on loans for servicemen

The logo of the Russian state-owned bank Sberbank is pictured next to a red traffic light, at its European subsidiary headquarters in Vienna on February 28, 2022.

Roland Schlager | AFP | Getty Images

(This content was produced in Russia where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.)

Russia’s largest lender Sberbank has started arranging payment holidays on loans for servicemen, in line with Russian legislation that seeks to ease the financial burden on those called up to fight in Ukraine.

“From Oct. 7, Sberbank retail clients can apply for a grace period on loan payments as part of a federal law that came into force today,” Sberbank said in a statement.

The central bank recommended banks offer payment holidays shortly after President Vladimir Putin announced on Sept. 21 that 300,000 people would be mobilized to boost Russia’s military effort.

The law allows for servicemen to receive grace periods on mortgages, consumer and credit card loans for the duration of their service and for 30 days afterwards, Sberbank said.

The payment holidays also apply to family members of those serving in Russia’s armed forces.

— Reuters

Russia’s Iran-supplied ‘kamikaze’ drones pose new threat for Ukraine’s military

Rescuers work at the site of a multiple S-300 missile strike by the Russian troops on Zaporizhzhia, south-eastern Ukraine.

Dmytro Smoliyenko | Future Publishing | Getty Images

Ukraine is accusing Russia of striking deep inside its territory with what it says are Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones as Moscow’s troops are facing mounting setbacks on the battlefield.

Ukrainian officials said that Russia used drones “of the Shahed-136 type” to target the town of Bila Tserkva, just 50 miles south of Kyiv, injuring one person and destroying several buildings.

Ukraine has been sounding the alarm about Russia’s increasing use of drones, which it says are being supplied by Tehran, to hit cities far behind the front lines for weeks.

The drone, which has earned the nickname “kamikaze” for destroying its target by physically crashing into it, can be equipped with a small warhead, making it an effective precision weapon.

Read more at NBC News.

— NBC NEWS

Putin formalizes annexation claims even as Ukraine forces Russian military to retreat

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during a ceremony formally annexing four regions of Ukraine Russian troops occupy – Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, at the Kremlin in Moscow on September 30, 2022.

Dmitry Astakhov | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to “stabilize” the situation in the four regions of Ukraine whose annexation he formalized on Wednesday, as Ukrainian advances exposed the Kremlin’s struggle to match its political theater with the reality on the battlefield.

“We proceed from the fact that the situation will be stabilized, we will be able to calmly develop these territories,” the Russian leader said during a video conference with Russian teachers.

In a last symbolic step, Putin signed the decrees to legislate the absorption of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

Kyiv said its forces were making rapid advances in the south and the east, retaking land after Putin escalated his seven-month war with the illegal annexation, renewed nuclear threats and a military call-up plagued by issues.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov vowed that Russian forces would retake annexed territory that had been lost in the Ukrainian advance and that land will be with Russia “forever” — as Putin promised last week.

Read more on NBC News.

— NBC News

‘Zaporizhzhia belongs to Ukraine,’ U.S. State Department says after Putin announces new ownership

A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 4, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The U.S. State Department said that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant belongs to Ukraine after Russia claimed control of the facility.

“Zaporizhzhia belongs to Ukraine. The power plant belongs to Ukraine and the electricity and the energy that it produces rightly belongs to Ukraine,” Vedant Patel, a spokesman for the State Department, told reporters.

“President Putin has absolutely no authority to take over a power plant in another country, and a piece of paper issued by him or his government certainly doesn’t change that fact, either,” he added.

Earlier this week, Putin signed a decree saying that Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest facility, belongs to Russia.

— Amanda Macias

IAEA chief says Zaporizhzhia belongs to Ukraine, team of specialists set to visit plant

A. Russian serviceman guards an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, May 1, 2022.

AP

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Rafael Grossi asserted his organization’s position that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, belongs to Ukraine, two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the plant is now part of Russia.

“This is a matter that has to do with international law,” Grossi told a press conference while in Kyiv for meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“We want the war to stop immediately, and of course the position of the IAEA is that this facility is a Ukrainian facility.”

A team of four experts from the IAEA, which is the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, are set to arrive at the plant today.

Russian forces have been occupying the plant and the Zaporizhzhia region in Ukraine’s southeast since shortly after the invasion of Ukraine in late February. Its staff have continued working, though under extreme stress and frequent intimidation.

Putin illegally annexed the Zaporizhzhia region along with Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson in eastern Ukraine after Russian authorities conducted sham referendums in the territories on joining the Russian Federation. The international community has broadly refused to recognize the legitimacy of the votes or annexations.

— Natasha Turak

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un congratulates Putin on his 70th birthday

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, Thursday, April 25, 2019.

Alexander Zemlianichenko | Pool | AP

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivered a message congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his 70th birthday and praising their two countries’ growing ties.

Putin is “reliably defending the dignity of the state and its fundamental interests from the challenges and threats by the US and its vassal forces,” Kim said, adding that “Such reality is unthinkable without your distinguished leadership and strong will.”

Kim lauded Putin for “building powerful Russia” and described him as “enjoying high respects and support from the broad masses of people.” He added that Russian and North Korean cooperation had grown “as never before” and expressed hope for yet more closeness in the future.

North Korea and Syria are the only countries to have recognized the Russian-backed breakaway People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

— Natasha Turak

Russia’s partial mobilization training in Rostov, Russia: in photos

Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilization begin their military trainings after a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war in Rostov, Russia.

Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilization begin their military trainings after a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war in Rostov, Russia on October 04, 2022.

Arkady Budnitsky | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilization begin their military trainings after a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war in Rostov, Russia on October 04, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilization begin their military trainings after a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war in Rostov, Russia on October 04, 2022. 

Arkady Budnitsky | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilization begin their military trainings after a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war in Rostov, Russia on October 04, 2022. 

Arkady Budnitsky | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilization begin their military trainings after a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war in Rostov, Russia on October 04, 2022.

Arkady Budnitsky | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilization begin their military trainings after a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war in Rostov, Russia on October 04, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

— Arkady Budnitsky | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Ukrainian, Russian and Belarussian activists

A woman holds Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov’s 2021 Nobel Peace Prize medal in New York, on June 20, 2022.

Kena Betancur | AFP | Getty Images

Activists and organizations from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus were awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in documenting human rights abuses.

The winners are Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties, Russian organization Memorial and Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski. Bialiatski is currently in prison in Belarus.  

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honor three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence in the neighbor countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine,” Nobel Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen said in an announcement from Oslo. He also called for the release of the imprisoned Bialiatski.

Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties was founded in 2007 and has worked to advocate for democracy and human rights in the country. Since the start of the Russian invasion, it has been documenting Russian war crimes against civilians.

The group “has taken a stand to strengthen Ukrainian civil society and pressure the authorities to make Ukraine a full fledged democracy, to develop Ukraine into a state governed by rule of law,” Reiss-Andersen said.

Ales Bialiatski in 1996 founded Belarus’s most prominent human rights organization, Viasna, which seeks to help political prisoners and their families. The Russian group Memorial, one of the oldest civil rights groups in the country founded in 1987, focuses on uncovering human rights crimes committed during the Soviet era and currently. It was forced to dissolve in Russia in December 2021, but continues work at a new location.

The Nobel Peace prize is worth $900,000 and will be presented in Oslo on December 10.

— Natasha Turak

More than 500 bodies found in Kharkiv after Russians withdrew, Ukrainian official says

Investigators carry away a body bag in a forest near Izyum, eastern Ukraine, on September 23, 2022, where Ukrainian investigators have uncovered more than 440 graves after the city was recaptured from Russian forces, bringing fresh claims of war atrocities.

Sergey Bobok | Afp | Getty Images

The bodies of 534 civilians were found in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region after Ukrainian troops regained the territory from Russian forces, local National Police official Serhiy Bolvinov told press. That figure included the 447 bodies unearthed in the town of Izium in mid-September that Ukrainian authorities say were buried in mass graves left by Russian occupying forces.

Bolvinov also said that investigators found more than 20 facilities they believe were used as “torture rooms.” Russia has not commented on these latest charges, but previously rejected the findings from Izium, claiming that it was the work of Ukrainian forces.

— Natasha Turak

Ukrainian forces recapture over 190 square miles in a week, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that the country’s forces had recaptured significant areas of the southern Kherson region in recent days.

“Since October 1, more than half a thousand square kilometers of territory and dozens of settlements have been liberated from the Russian sham referendum and stabilized only in the Kherson region,” Zelenskky said.

“There are also successes in the eastern direction,” he added. “The day will surely come when we will report on successes in the Zaporizhzhia region as well — in those areas that are still under the control of the occupiers. The day will come when we will also talk about the liberation of Crimea.”

— Sam Meredith

Ukraine says death toll in Zaporizhzhia rocket attack has risen to 11

Ukrainian firefighters push out a fire after a strike in Zaporizhzhia on October 6, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Marina Moiseyenko | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said rescuers had found 11 bodies and rescued 21 people from the rubble of buildings destroyed in Thursday’s missile attacks in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, according to Reuters.

The State Emergency Service said rescuers continue working at the scene.

— Sam Meredith

Over half of Ukraine’s fielded tank fleet may consist of captured vehicles, UK says

Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update that repurposed captured Russian equipment now makes up a large proportion of Ukraine’s military hardware.

“Ukraine has likely captured at least 440 Russian Main Battle Tanks, and around 650 other armoured vehicles since the invasion. Over half of Ukraine’s currently fielded tank fleet potentially consists of captured vehicles,” the ministry said via Twitter.

“The failure of Russian crews to destroy intact equipment before withdrawing or surrendering highlights their poor state of training and low levels of battle discipline,” it added.

The ministry said Russian forces were likely to continue to lose heavy weaponry, with its formations “under severe strain in several sectors and increasingly demoralised troops.”

— Sam Meredith

Biden says world could face ‘Armageddon’ if Putin uses tactical nuclear weapons

Campaigners have urged political leaders to renew efforts to get rid of all nuclear weapons by signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden issued his most blunt warning yet about the threat of nuclear war, saying the world could face “Armageddon” if Russian President Vladimir Putin tries to use a tactical nuclear weapon to win the war in Ukraine.

Journalists from the White House press pool overheard his off-camera comments at a Democratic fundraiser.

“First time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have a direct threat of the use nuclear weapon if in fact, things continue down the path they are going,” Biden said.

“I’m trying to figure out what is Putin’s off-ramp?” he continued. “Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position that he does not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?”

“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis,” Biden said.

Referring to Putin, Biden added, “He’s not joking when he talks about [the] potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is you might say significantly underperforming.”

— Sam Meredith

More than 6.4 million metric tons of grain and agricultural products have left Ukrainian ports

The grain harvester collects wheat on the field near the village of Zgurivka in the Kyiv region, while Russia continues the war against Ukraine. August 9, 2022.

Maxym Marusenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said that nearly 6.4 million metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs have been exported under the U.N.-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative.

A total of 584 voyages, 302 inbound and 282 outbound, have been enabled so far, according to the Joint Coordination Center.

Read more about the Black Sea Grain Initiative here.

— Amanda Macias

‘Zaporizhzhia belongs to Ukraine,’ U.S. State Department says

A Russian serviceman stands guard the territory outside the second reactor of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022.

Andrey Borodulin | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. State Department said that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant belongs to Ukraine after Russia claimed control of the facility.

“Zaporizhzhia belongs to Ukraine. The power plant belongs to Ukraine and the electricity and the energy that it produces rightly belongs to Ukraine,” Vedant Patel, a spokesman for the State Department, said during a daily press briefing.

“President Putin has absolutely no authority to take over a power plant in another country, and a piece of paper issued by him or his government certainly doesn’t change that fact, either,” he added.

Earlier this week, Putin signed a decree saying that Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest facility, belongs to Russia.

— Amanda Macias

2 Russians seek asylum after reaching remote Alaskan island

Buildings stand in the Yupik village Gambell on St. Lawrence Island, in Alaska.

Ann Johansson | Corbis Historical | Getty Images

Two Russians who said they fled the country to avoid compulsory military service have requested asylum in the U.S. after landing on a remote Alaskan island in the Bering Sea, Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office said Thursday.

Karina Borger, a spokesperson for Murkowski, said by email that the office has been in communication with the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection and that “the Russian nationals reported that they fled one of the coastal communities on the east coast of Russia to avoid compulsory military service.”

Spokespersons with the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection each referred a reporter’s questions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which did not immediately respond Thursday.

Alaska’s senators, Republicans Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, on Thursday said the individuals landed at a beach near Gambell, an isolated community of about 600 people on St. Lawrence Island. The statement doesn’t specify when the incident occurred though Sullivan said he was alerted to the matter by a “senior community leader from the Bering Strait region” on Tuesday morning.

— Associated Press

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