Here is the situation on Saturday, August 19, 2023.
- A Ukrainian drone smashed into a building in central Moscow after Russian air defences shot it down, disrupting air traffic at all of the four civilian airports in the Russian capital.
- The number of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers killed or wounded in Ukraine since the war began in February 2022 is nearing 500,000, the New York Times reports, citing unnamed United States officials. Russian casualties are approaching 300,000, including as many as 120,000 deaths and 170,000 to 180,000 injuries. Ukrainian deaths were close to 70,000, with 100,000 to 120,000 wounded, the Times reported.
- Ukrainian forces crossed to the Russian-occupied east bank of the Kherson region and have taken up positions. Russian-installed regional governor Vladimir Saldo said Ukrainian “sabotage groups” had managed to hide out on the outskirts of the Russian-controlled town of Kozachi Laheri, near the Dnipro river. They were later “cleared out” by Russian forces, he said.
- One person was killed and two injured as a result of Russian shelling of a village near the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. Four people were also injured after Russia shelled a residential area of Chasiv Yar city, located in the Donetsk region close to Bakhmut.
- Ukrainian forces are unlikely to reach and retake the Russian-occupied strategic southeastern city of Melitopol during their counteroffensive, a US official told the Reuters news agency. Melitopol has been under Russian control since March 2022 and has roads and railways used by Russian troops to transport supplies to areas they occupy.
- The Ukrainian military said it made gains on the southeastern front, pushing forward from a newly liberated village, Urozhaine, in an attempted drive towards the Sea of Azov.
- A public poll has found that more than half of Germans are against delivering Taurus missiles to Ukraine. The poll by public broadcaster ARD found 52 percent of the Germans surveyed oppose supplying cruise missiles to Ukraine, fearing they could be used to attack targets in Russia.
- The US, Japan and South Korea agreed to continue supporting Kyiv and to maintain strong, coordinated sanctions against Moscow, while also aiming to further curb dependence on Russian energy.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country received new military equipment from its partners but did not specify which countries. “Heavy equipment, artillery, air defence systems are coming in. We continue [to] work on the next packages. News will be coming soon,” he said.
- China’s deputy permanent representative at the UN, Ambassador Geng Shuang, told a UN Security Council briefing that arming Ukraine “cannot win peace” as weapons only win wars.
- Belarus Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin said that Minsk is protecting Russia from a possible NATO attack amid the conflict in Ukraine, according to state news agency BelTA. “On its territory, Belarus reliably protects Russia from a NATO strike in Russia’s back. It is the most important area of work for us,” he said.
- Russian and Chinese warships conducted joint maritime patrols in the Pacific involving rescue training and drills for countering air attacks, Moscow’s defence ministry said.
- Japan’s defence ministry scrambled fighter jets after two Russian IL-38 information-gathering aircraft were spotted flying back and forth between the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea.
- Lithuania closed two of its six border checkpoints with Belarus in a move announced earlier this month, citing the security risk posed by Russia’s Wagner mercenary group.
- North Korea’s latest Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile – its first ICBM to use solid rocket fuel – has ignited a new debate over a possible Russian role in the nuclear-armed state’s dramatic missile development. In a report published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, Theodore Postol, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argued that the Hwasong-18 ICBM is likely the result of technical cooperation sourced to Russia.
- The Sakharov Center, a prominent rights group in Russia, has been permanently closed. The Moscow City Court said it had “decided to dissolve” the Sakharov Center, which launched nearly three decades ago, for illegally hosting conferences and exhibitions.
- A new school textbook praising the “so-called special military operation” in Ukraine will be issued in Russian schools in September, the UK Ministry of Defence said. The book reportedly labels Ukraine as an “ultra-terrorist state”.
- Russia banned entry to 54 United Kingdom nationals, including the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, who issued arrest warrants in March for Russian President Vladimir Putin and another official, accusing them of the war crime of illegally deporting Ukrainian children to Russia.
- Russian oil tycoon Eugene Shvidler lost an attempt at London’s High Court to overturn UK sanctions imposed on him after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Shvidler, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.6bn, was sanctioned in March 2022 on the grounds of his association with Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Shvidler’s two private jets were also seized.
- A senior Moldovan official said Russia’s decision to ban several Moldovan officials from entering the country was regrettable.
- The US extended its temporary protected status (TPS) for Ukraine and Sudan nationals through to the spring of 2025, citing ongoing conflicts in their countries. The department also announced changes that would enable additional Ukrainian and Sudanese nationals to apply for the status.
- Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk football team will play its home Champions League games in Germany this season at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg. Unable to host European games in Ukraine because of the Russian invasion, Shakhtar’s home games were held in the Polish capital Warsaw last season.
Black Sea tension
- Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said he hoped 60 percent of Ukrainian grain exports will transit through Romania. The Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta has been highlighted as a potential transit point for Ukrainian grain amid Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
- President Zelenskyy said he signed a key law needed for Ukraine to open EU accession talks, describing the move as “one step closer to the EU”.
- Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani and expressed Kyiv’s gratitude to the Gulf nation for attending the recent summit in Saudi Arabia where they discussed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s plan for peace.