Belarus and Russia are forming joint forces in Belarus, Ukraine says

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Region, Russia April 12, 2022. 

Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Reuters

Belarus continues to support Russia’s invasion, according to Ukraine’s armed forces, which said Tuesday that the two allies are forming joint military groups.

“The Republic of Belarus continues to support the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, providing the Russian Federation with infrastructure, territory and airspace,” The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in an update on Facebook Tuesday.

“The formation of Russia–Belarus group of troops is underway in the territory of Belarus. There is still a threat of enemy airstrikes from the territory and airspace of Belarus,” it added.

The formation of troops is not totally unsurprising with Belarus supporting its ally Russia in its invasion of Ukraine in a variety of ways. A month ago, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he had ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near Ukraine in response to what he claimed was a threat from Kyiv and its Western allies.

In its general military update, Ukraine said that Russia had launched 9 missile strikes, 37 airstrikes and more than 100 MLRS attacks over the past day. It said more than 25 settlements within the regions of Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv had been hit.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine imposes emergency power shutdowns as it struggles to cope with demand

Ukraine’s national energy company has imposed further restrictions on power use in the country as the country’s damaged power networks struggle to meet demand as the cold sets in.

National Energy Company Ukrenergo said on Telegram Tuesday that “emergency shutdowns” have been applied in the city of Kyiv, as well as in the surrounding region, and the Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Kharkiv and Poltava regions.

“Additional restrictions on consumption are necessary because, due to falling temperatures, consumption of electricity increases, which leads to an increase in the load on equipment and a shortage of electricity in the power system,” it said.

A worker examines damage as he repairs power line equipment destroyed after a missile strike on a power plant, in an undisclosed location of Ukraine, on Oct. 27, 2022.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine’s energy network is under immense pressure following daily Russian assaults on the country’s energy infrastructure, particularly with the use of drones to attack facilities like substations. That has meant that energy company repair teams have been working round the clock to restore power to a number of regions.

Ukrenergo’s CEO Volodymyr Kudrytskyi said yesterday that the regions of Kyiv and Kharkiv were experiencing the most difficulties with emergency shutdowns being imposed as well as scheduled shutdowns

“The key task of Ukrenergo today is to repair the trunk networks in the central and northern regions so that the necessary amounts of power from power plants from other regions can be transferred there,” he said yesterday.

— Holly Ellyatt

North Korea denies arms dealing with Russia

North Korea has denied doing any arms deals with Russia and said it had no plans to do so, a rebuff that came after the U.S. said it believed North Korea was providing Russia with artillery shells for the war in Ukraine.

“Recently, the U.S. is persistently spreading a groundless ‘rumor of arms dealings’ between the DPRK [North Korea] and Russia in a bid to make it a fait accompli at any cost,” a defense ministry spokesperson said in a statement reported by state media agency KCNA.

“We once again make clear that we have never had ‘arms dealings with Russia and that we have no plan to do so in the future,” the spokesperson added, saying North Korea regards such moves “as part of its hostile attempt to tarnish the image of the DPRK in the international arena.”

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

White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said last week that the U.S. had information suggesting that North Korea was supplying Russia with a “significant” number of artillery shells and was trying to disguise the shipments by sending them through the Middle East and Africa.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia is fortifying occupied areas to try to stall future Ukrainian advances, UK says

Russia has started constructing defensive structures around the occupied southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

Two plants are producing concrete pyramidal anti-tank structures, known as “dragon’s teeth,” for this purpose, it said in an intelligence update Tuesday.

“Dragon’s teeth have likely been installed between Mariupol and Nikolske village; and from northern Mariupol to Staryi Krym village,” the ministry said. Mariupol is a key part of Russia’s “land bridge” from Russia to Crimea, a key logistics line of communication, and was heavily fought over in the early months of the war.

Russian troops eventually occupied the whole of the city following a siege of a Ukrainian stronghold in the city’s Azovstal steel works.

A Russian soldier walks amid the rubble in Mariupol’s eastern side where fierce fighting between Russia/pro-Russia forces and Ukraine on March 15, 2022.

Maximilian Clarke | SOPA Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Dragon’s teeth have additionally been sent for the preparation of defensive fortifications in occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, the ministry noted. 

“Russia is fortifying its lines throughout areas of occupation. On 19 October 2022, Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed the construction of a fortified ‘Wagner Line’ of defences in Russian-occupied Luhansk Oblast,” it said.

“This activity suggests Russia is making a significant effort to prepare defences in depth behind their current front line, likely to forestall any rapid Ukrainian advances in the event of breakthroughs.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Sullivan confirms U.S. has been in talks with Kremlin officials over nuclear threat

Jake Sullivan, White House national security advisor, in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2022. Sullivan met with Oscar Stenstrom, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister of Sweden, to discuss the security situation in Europe in view of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed Monday that lines of communication between the U.S. and Russia remain open, confirming a report that the U.S. has held talks with the Kremlin recently in a bid to dial down tensions around the potential use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Speaking at an event at the Economic Club of New York on Monday, Sullivan did not say he had been engaged himself in direct talks but noted he had said repeatedly that “we have channels to communicate with the Russian Federation at senior levels,” Reuters reported.

The comment came after the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Sullivan had held undisclosed talks with top Russian officials in a bid to de-escalate tensions over the possible use of nuclear weapons. Concerns have risen in recent months that Russia could resort to using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine in a bid to gain the upper hand in the war, and to defend four regions it illegally annexed in September.

The WSJ newspaper cited U.S. and other Western officials as saying that Sullivan held confidential conversations recently with Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov and Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev that were not disclosed publicly.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukrainian forces pushing Russians back gradually, Zelenskyy says

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the country’s armed forces are advancing in parts of the country.

“In general, along the front, our forces are in a state of active defense – in some parts of the east and south, we are gradually pushing back the enemy. We are gradually moving forward,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Monday.

He said the Donetsk part of the eastern Donbas “remains the epicenter of the greatest madness of the occupiers” and that Russian soldiers were dying “by the hundreds” every day.

A view of damage after shelling on Nov. 5, 2022, in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Zelenskyy said that Russian forces had struck more than 50 settlements on Monday, including those in the regions of Donbas, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk. He said Ukraine had been boosted by the delivery of more air defense systems after NASAMS and Aspide missile systems from Kyiv’s allies arrived in Ukraine yesterday.

Ukraine has asked for more air defenses as it faces an escalation of drone and missile attacks by Russia, targeting its energy infrastructure.

“As of today, we can say that the recent escalation of Russian missile and drone terror has only resulted in the world responding — responding with new aid to Ukraine. We will do everything so that as many countries as possible join this aid,” Zelenskyy said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Backlog of 77 ships waiting to transport agricultural goods from Ukraine

Ships, including those carrying grain from Ukraine and awaiting inspections, are seen anchored off the Istanbul coastline on November 02, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images

The organization overseeing the export of Ukrainian agriculture products said there is a backlog of 77 vessels waiting to be loaded with cargo.

The Joint Coordination Center also said that about 15 loaded vessels are waiting for inspection in Turkish territorial waters.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, eased Russia’s naval blockade and saw the reopening of three key Ukrainian ports. Since the deal with signed, more than 10 million metric tons of grain and foodstuffs have left for destinations around the world.

Kyiv has previously blamed Moscow for holding up inspections and delaying vessel movements.

— Amanda Macias

Biden has ‘no intention’ on meeting with Putin on sidelines of the G-20

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference after trilateral meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Sochi, Russia October 31, 2022.

Sergey Bobylev | Sputnik | via Reuters

The White House said the Biden administration doesn’t plan to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the upcoming G-20 summit.

“He has no intention of meeting with President Putin,” White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre told reporters during a daily press briefing when asked if there were preparations for a bilateral.

She added that Ukraine should also be able to attend the G-20 meetings in Indonesia regardless if Putin attends.

“We’ve been very clear about how we see that invite,” Jean Pierre added.

— Amanda Macias

White House says Russian influence in U.S. elections is “well known and well documented”

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, September 23, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin’s claims that Russia interfered, and continues to interfere, in U.S. elections weren’t suprising.

“These comments do not tell us anything new or surprising, as we all know,” Jean-Pierre said in a press briefing. “It’s well known and well documented in the public domain that entities associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin have sought to influence elections around the world, including the United States.”

According to Jean-Pierre, Prigozhin “is a known bad actor who has been sanctioned by the United States, the United Kingdom, and also the European Union.”

“We also know that part of Russia’s efforts includes promoting narratives aimed at undermining democracy and sowing division and discord. It’s not surprising that Russia would be highlighting their attempted efforts and fabricate … a story about their successes on the eve of an election,” she said in light of Tuesday’s consequential midterm elections.

Prigozhin is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department offered a $10 million reward for information about Prigozhin and other Russian entities and persons that knowingly interfered in U.S. elections.

— Rocio Fabbro

Ukraine suffers power outages amid intense attacks from Russia’s military

A cafe without electricity in western Ukrainian city of Lviv, after three Russian missiles fired targeted energy infrastructure on Oct. 11, 2022. Lviv’s mayor said that one-third of homes were without power.

Yuriy Dyachyshyn | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine’s state electricity operator announced blackouts in Kyiv and seven other regions of the country in the aftermath of Russia’s devastating strikes on energy infrastructure.

The move comes as Russian forces continue to pound Ukrainian cities and villages with missiles and drones, inflicting damage on power plants, water supplies and other civilian targets, in a grinding war that is nearing its nine-month mark.

Ukrenergo, the sole operator of Ukraine’s high-voltage transmission lines, initially said in an online statement that scheduled blackouts will take place in the capital and the greater Kyiv region, as well as several regions around it — Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Poltava and Kharkiv.

Later in the day, however, the company released an update saying that scheduled outages for a specific number of hours aren’t enough and instead there will be emergency outages, which could last an indefinite amount of time.

Ukraine has been grappling with power outages and the disruption of water supplies since Russia started unleashing massive barrages of missile and drone strikes on the country’s energy infrastructure last month.

— Associated Press

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