Britain hails 'functional defeat' of Russia in the Black Sea

Russian Black Sea Fleet vessels in Sevastopol
Russian Black Sea Fleet vessels in Sevastopol - iStock Editorial

UK defence minister James Heappey has hailed the “functional defeat” of Russia in the Black Sea after a series of Ukrainian attacks on naval targets in the region in recent weeks.

Speaking at a security event in Poland, Mr Heappey said the Russian navy had been “forced to disperse to ports from which it cannot have an effect on Ukraine” following the strikes.

He added the development was “every bit as important” as breakthroughs in Ukraine’s land-based counteroffensive, with Kyiv seeking to claw breach Russian defensive lines in the east and south.

But analysts cautioned Mr Heappey’s “triumphalism” could be premature, warning Russia’s Black Sea Fleet retained the ability to strike Ukrainian targets.

“The Black Sea Fleet is weakened and constrained, but it is still capable of attacking ships and targets on land, and, despite progress, the blockade isn’t lifted yet. Is that ‘functionally defeated’” said Shashank Joshi, a visiting fellow at King’s College London’s War Studies department and defence editor at The Economist.

Kyiv has said that destroying the fleet would significantly accelerate the end of the war.

03:32 PM BST

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03:14 PM BST

Ukraine unearths Russian spy ring in southern Mykolaiv

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said it has broken up a Russian spy ring run in the country’s southern Mykolaiv region via Telegram.

The SBU said 13 informants, all of them local residents, had been arrested in the region. Four of those detained had already been found guilty of spying and imprisoned, with terms ranging from between eight to 15 years, it added.

The group allegedly collected intelligence regarding the movements of Ukrainian forces in the region and provided Russia with information used to carry out attacks.

“It was based on their coordinates that the Russian occupiers targeted a high-rise building in Mykolaiv with an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system in the autumn of 2022,” the SBU said, citing an attack which killed seven civilians, including one child.

According to the SBU, the informants passed information to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) via a “liaison” named as pro-Kremlin blogger Sergey Lebedev, who was indicted on suspicion of treason in June.

“In the course of the investigation into Lebedev’s criminal actions, it was established that following the FSB instructions, he had remotely established his own espionage network in Mykolaiv region,” the SBU said.

Lebedev allegedly used his Telegram channel to recruit the informants and receive intelligence from them.

02:51 PM BST

Russian Storm-Z 'suicide squad' soldiers refuse orders to return to Ukraine front line

02:48 PM BST

Ukraine's drone army strikes 220 Russian targets in 'record' week

Ukraine’s drone army struck a record number of Russian targets over the past week, including 33 tanks and more than a dozen pieces of artillery, the country’s deputy prime minister said.

Mykhailo Fedorov, who also serves as Kyiv’s digital transformation minister, said drone attacks had hit 220 pieces of Russian equipment in total.

Seventeen self-propelled artillery installations, 33 tanks, 41 trucks and 69 weapons were successfully targeted, among other items, he said in a post on Telegram.

“More damaged artillery means fewer shells at our military positions and front-line cities,” Mr Federov said.

Ukraine has intensified drone attacks against Russian targets both within occupied Ukraine and Russia itself in recent months as Kyiv seeks to press its counteroffensive and turn the tide of the more than 19-month-long war decisively in its favour.

Russia on Tuesday charged the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, Maj Gen Kyrylo Budanov, with carrying out “terrorist acts” over drone strikes on its territory, including annexed Crimea. Three other senior Ukrainian military officials were also charged by Russia’s Investigative Committee.

02:03 PM BST

Zelensky visits troops on eastern frontline

Volodymyr Zelensky said he was visiting frontline areas in eastern Ukraine to discuss the situation there with commanders.

“Today, we are visiting our brigades that are fighting in one of the hotspots, the Kupyansk-Lyman direction where Russian occupiers constantly try to attack our positions,” Ukraine’s president said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“We met with brigade and battalion commanders to discuss the battlefield situation, pressing issues, and needs,” he added.

The area has recently seen intense battles as both sides have pressed to make advances, but little territory has shifted hands over the past year.

01:24 PM BST

Kremlin says Russia has not abandoned moratorium on nuclear testing

Russia has not abandoned a moratorium on nuclear testing, the Kremlin said as it dismissed a suggestion by one commentator that it should detonate a thermonuclear bomb.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s remarks came after the New York Times reported on Monday that Moscow may be preparing to test an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile, or has recently done so, citing recent satellite imagery and aviation data.

Mr Peskov said he did not know where the newspaper’s reporters had got the idea.

Separately this week, Margarita Simonyan, the hawkish editor-in-chief of the state-owned broadcaster RT, suggested that Russia should detonate a nuclear bomb at high altitude over Siberia as a warning to the West.

01:01 PM BST

Ukrainian counteroffensive has 'failed' to penetrate Russian defensive lines, Moscow says

Ukrainian attempts to penetrate Russian defensive lines in the east and south have “failed”, Russia’s defence minister said.

“The enemy’s attempts to break through our defences in the areas of Verbovoye and Rabotino on the Zaporizhzhia front have failed,” Sergei Shoigu told senior Russian military officials.

He was using Russian place names to refer to two villages along the frontline in the south where Ukrainian forces claim to have made counteroffensive breakthroughs and recaptured several settlements.

Mr Shoigu also said Russian forces had “repelled all attacks in the Soledar-Bakhmout direction” on the eastern front in the Donetsk region.

12:29 PM BST

Armenia's parliament ratifies ICC treaty amid strained ties with historic ally Russia

Armenia’s parliament has voted to join the International Criminal Court, a move that further strains the country’s ties with its old ally Russia.

Moscow last month called Yerevan’s effort to join the the ICC an “unfriendly step,” and the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Armenia’s ambassador.

Countries that have signed and ratified the Rome Statute that created the ICC are bound to arrest Vladimir Putin, who was indicted for war crimes connected to the deportation of children from Ukraine, if he sets foot on their soil.

Armenian officials have argued the move has nothing to do with Russia and was prompted by Azerbaijan’s aggression against the country. Armenia’s president must sign off on the decision, which will come into force 60 days after the vote.

12:15 PM BST

Latest images from the war

Destroyed infrastructure in Izyum, eastern Ukraine
Destroyed infrastructure in Izyum, eastern Ukraine - Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A view of damaged houses in Kamianka village, Kharkiv
A view of damaged houses in Kamianka village, Kharkiv - Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A destroyed apartment block in Izyum
Russia's offensive in Ukraine has reduced vast swaths of the country to rubble - Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

11:44 AM BST

European Commission vice president insists he supports Ukraine after Slovakia vote

A European Commission vice president has insisted he backs Ukraine to the hilt after his political party won elections in Slovakia campaigning for an end to sending weapons to Kyiv and sanctions agains Moscow.

Brexit negotiator Maros Sefcovic is a member of Smer, which triumphed in Saturday evening’s vote under the leadership of pro-Russian populist Robert Fico, who opposes Western sanctions against Moscow.

“Do I support sanctions? Of course I do. Do I support military support for Ukraine? Of course I do. I’m surprised I have to say that,” Mr Sefcovic said.

The EU Brexit negotiator said he had received an award from Volodymyr Zelensky for being a friend to Ukraine.

“That’s who I am and that’s how I hope you will also remember me,” he said.

Mr Sefcovic  faced questions over his relations with Mr Fico while being grilled by MEPs on Tuesday morning over his appointment as the EU’s new climate tsar.

Mr Fico must form a coalition before he can take power.

11:31 AM BST

Russia's Shoigu vows no new mobilisation after 335,000 sign up to fight

Russia has no plans for an additional mobilisation of troops to fight in Ukraine as hundreds of thousands of men have signed up this year to serve in the armed forces or voluntary units, the country’s defence minister said.

“The armed forces have the necessary number of military personnel to conduct the special military operation,” Sergei Shoigu was shown telling top generals on state television

Mr Shoigu, an ally of Vladimir Putin, hailed the patriotism of those who had signed up.

“Since the start of the year, more than 335,000 people have entered military service under contract and in volunteer formations,” he said. “In September alone, more than 50,000 citizens signed contracts.”

Those figures indicate that Russia has made significant progress both in signing recruits and in absorbing many fighters from the Wagner mercenary force into “voluntary formations”.

Putin ordered a “partial mobilisation” of 300,000 reservists in September last year, prompting hundreds of thousands of young men to flee Russia to avoid being sent to fight.

He has repeatedly said there is no need to repeat the mobilisation, which some Russian officials say was a mistake as it prompted so many to leave.

11:20 AM BST

Ukraine’s war is an orchestra - and its generals conduct operational art

11:13 AM BST

Russia to hold 'nuclear war' evacuation drills

Russia will today hold nationwide drills simulating the evacuation of civilians during a nuclear war, according to reports.

The exercises on Tuesday will test rescue workers’ readiness to remove large numbers of people from hypothetical “radiation zones”, leaked documents published by Russian media outlet Baza show.

It is unclear how many civilians, if any, will be involved.

Russia holds civil defence drills annually, but this is thought to be the first time the exercises will be held simultaneously across the country.

They come after the head of Russia’s leading nuclear energy research centre reportedly urged the Kremlin last week to stage an atomic weapons test in the Arctic Ocean as a show of force.

Both the United States and Russia - by far the world’s largest nuclear powers - have said that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought, but the conflict in Ukraine has raised fears of a direct confrontation between Moscow and the West.

10:54 AM BST

Russia charges Ukraine’s spy chief with ‘terrorism’

Russia has charged the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency with carrying out “terrorist acts” over drone strikes on Russian territory.

Maj Gen Kyrylo Budanov and three other senior officials were involved in more than 100 such attacks on Moscow, the annexed Crimean Peninsula and regions bordering Ukraine between April 2022 and September 2023, Russia’s Investigative Committee said.

Air force commander Mykola Oleshchuk, navy commander Oleksiy Neizhpapa and Serhiy Burdenyuk, commander of the 383rd unmanned aviation brigade, were the other three individuals charged.

“It has ... been established that the defendants involved their subordinate servicemen in committing the crimes,” the committee said.

Ukraine has in recent months ramped up attacks on targets within Russia and occupied territory using drones. Kyiv generally welcomes such strikes, while stopping short of openly claiming direct responsibility for them.

10:28 AM BST

Ukraine and Poland reach deal to speed up grain exports

Warsaw and Kyiv have agreed a deal to speed up the transit of Ukrainian grain exports through Poland to third countries, signalling a possible breakthrough in their row over the issue.

“From tomorrow, grains that transit (to world markets) via Lithuania will undergo checks at a Lithuanian port and not at the Poland-Ukraine border,” Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus told journalists.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine all but closed its main Black Sea shipping routes, forcing Kyiv to find alternative, overland routes to export its grain to world markets.

But because of logistical issues, grain began piling up in EU states neighbouring Ukraine, driving down local prices.

As a result, the EU temporarily banned imports of Ukrainian grain into Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, in a bid to protect local farmers. The bloc opted not to renew the ban when it expired on 15 September, but Poland, Slovakia and Hungary maintained the embargo, causing a diplomatic spat with Kyiv.

10:00 AM BST

Russia pressing mutinous soldiers into 'Storm-Z' squads, report says

Mutinous soldiers and convicts are being pressed into Russian fighting units known as “Storm-Z” squads and sent to the harshest sections of the frontlines in Ukraine, according to a new report.

The penal squads, each about 100-150 strong and embedded within regular army units, have typically been sent to the most exposed parts of the front and often sustain heavy losses, according to Reuters interviews with 13 people with knowledge of the matter, including five fighters in the units.

“Storm fighters, they’re just meat,” said one regular soldier from army unit no. 40318 who was deployed near the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine in May and June.

While convicts reportedly form the core of the squads, some regular soldiers have been assigned to them as punishment for breaking discipline, according to two soldiers interviewed by Reuters.

The troops told the news agency said officers had transferred members of their units for being drunk on duty, for using drugs, and for refusing to carry out orders.

According to Russian legislation on military discipline, a soldier can only be transferred to a penal unit if convicted by a military court. None of the people who told Reuters of soldiers being sent to “Storm-Z” squads said the men had participated in a court hearing.

09:17 AM BST

Ukraine could begin EU membership talks this year, Zelensky says

Ukraine has been told it is “absolutely possible” that EU membership talks could begin this year, Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“Our key integration goal is to hammer out a decision this year to start membership negotiations,” the Ukrainian president said in his nightly address on Monday, following a surprise meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Kyiv.

“And today I heard once again at the meetings and negotiations that this is absolutely possible.”

EU countries are due to decide in December whether to allow Ukraine to begin accession negotiations, which would require the unanimous backing of all 27 members.

09:03 AM BST

Russia using 'foreign agent' designation to manipulate public opinion: MoD

Russia is using a “foreign agent” tag to manipulate public opinion behind the Kremlin’s pro-war, anti-West narratives, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

The ministry cited polling by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center last month which showed 61% of people surveyed considered individuals or organisations deemed to be “foreign agents” by Moscow as “traitors” who “disseminate lies” about the country.

“Russia has broadened the foreign agent legislation since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” the MoD said in its latest intelligence update on the war.

“The measures significantly narrow the information space within Russia, making it increasingly difficult to articulate any viewpoint, including dissenting about the war, which deviates from the official line.”

08:48 AM BST

Latest images from the war

Demining works are carried out in Ukraine's eastern Kharkiv region
Demining works are carried out in Ukraine's eastern Kharkiv region - Vyacheslav Madiyevskyi/Avalon
Volodymyr Zelensky meets the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Kyiv on Monday
Volodymyr Zelensky meets the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Kyiv on Monday - ROPI via ZUMA Press/ROPI via ZUMA Press
Volunteer Dmitro Samilo treats a patient in his house in Kharkiv
Volunteer Dmitro Samilo treats a patient in his house in Kharkiv - Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

08:39 AM BST

Japan condemns MP’s 'surprise visit' to Russia

Japan’s government has condemned a “surprise visit” to Moscow by a lawmaker who met with Russia’s deputy foreign minister.

Muneo Suzuki’s trip was the first known visit by a Japanese MP since Russia invaded Ukraine. Tokyo has imposed sanctions on Moscow over the offensive.

“The government wasn’t briefed by Suzuki on the Russia visit this time, before or after,” spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said.

“We’re issuing a warning... of cancelling travels to Russia and no matter what the purpose is, we’re urging all citizens to refrain from travelling to Russia,” he added.

Russia’s foreign ministry said Mr Suzuki met with deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko on Monday.

08:07 AM BST

Woman rebuilds flooded Kherson home - only to be hit by mortar shrapnel

08:00 AM BST

Ukraine to build first underground school in eastern Kharkiv

Ukraine’s first fully underground school will be built in Kharkiv, the eastern city’s mayor said, in a bid to shield pupils from Russian attacks.

“Such a shelter will enable thousands of Kharkiv children to continue their safe face-to-face education even during missile threats,” Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on the Telegram messaging app.

While many schools in frontline regions have been forced to teach their students online throughout the war, Kharkiv has organised some 60 separate classrooms throughout its metro stations to house more than 1,000 children and their teachers.

Parts of the city lies less than 20 miles from the Russian border and it has been subject to nearly daily Russian rocket and missile attacks.

The new school will “meet the most modern regulatory requirements for protective structures,” Terekhov said. It was not immediately clear how big the school will be or when it will open.

07:41 AM BST

Russian official accuses Ukraine of firing cluster munitions at border region

Ukraine fired cluster munitions at a Russian village near the Ukrainian border, damaging several houses, the governor of Russia’s Bryansk region said.

Alexander Bogomaz said no casualties had been reported so far following the alleged shelling of the village of Klimovo on Tuesday.

Ukraine has received cluster munitions from the United States, but it has pledged to use them only to dislodge concentrations of enemy soldiers.

Russian officials in Bryansk and other regions bordering Ukraine have repeatedly accused Kyiv of indiscriminate shelling.

07:37 AM BST

Ukraine says it downed dozens of drones, one cruise missile

Ukraine’s air force said it had destroyed 29 of 31 attack drones launched overnight by Russia and one cruise missile.

The aerial assault lasted more than three hours and mostly targeted the regions of Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk, the southern command of Ukraine’s forces said.

Falling debris in the southeastern city of Dnipro caused a fire at a private firm that was quickly doused, according to Serhiy Lysak, Dnipropetrovsk’s governor.

Damage to manufacturing facilities at an industrial enterprise in the city of Pavlohrad led to a fire that was also put out, he added on the Telegram messaging app.

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