President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin Putin against using nuclear weapons in Ukraine in a “60 Minutes” interview, Putin earlier threatened to step up attacks on civilian targets as his ground invasion is repelled in northeast Ukraine. The UK defence ministry said Russia is putting Putin’s threat into action, and “has likely extended the locations it is prepared to strike” in a bid to undermine Ukraine’s morale.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed an upcoming visit by United Nations investigators to mass burial sites discovered in one of Ukraine’s newly-liberated eastern regions.
Another Ukrainian wheat cargo has sailed for Ethiopia under a UN humanitarian program, as Putin renewed a threat to torpedo the safe-transit agreement reached in July for Ukraine’s Black Sea ports that’s seen millions of tons of foodstuffs shipped.
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On the Ground
Russia’s invasion is approaching the seven-month mark. Ukraine’s General Staff said Moscow’s troops continues to focus its efforts on attempts to fully occupy the Donetsk region. The Institute for the Study of War said Russian forces are conducting “meaningless” operations around Donetsk City and Bakhmut. According to a regular update, Russian army continued missile and air strikes on military and civilian targets in Kharkiv and Mykolaiv, among other locations. The General Staff also claims that during the recent retreat in Kharkiv region some Russian military units lost 50% to 90% of its personnel. The estimate could not be verified.
(All times CET)
Moscow’s Troops Focused on ‘Meaningless’ Operations, ISW Says (9 a.m.)
Russian forces are conducting “meaningless offensive operations” around Donetsk City and Bakhmut in Ukraine’s east rather than “defending against Ukrainian counteroffensives that continue to advance,” according to the Institute for the Study of War.
The US-based think tank said Moscow’s failure to rush in reinforcements leaves most of occupied northeastern Ukraine highly vulnerable, adding that “Russian theater decision-making remains questionable.”
Ukrainian forces have liberated additional settlements, and appear to be expanding positions east of the Oskil River and north of the Siverskyi Donets River and could envelop Russian troops holding around Lyman, ISW said.
China, Russia Plan Strategic Consultations (8:51 a.m.)
China and Russia will hold two days of strategic security consultations starting Sunday in Beijing, the 17th round of such talks and the first since May 2021, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, will attend the consultations at Beijing’s invitation.
China, Russia to Hold 17th Strategic Security Consultation
Australia Won’t Ban Russian Tourists, Defence Minister Says (8 a.m.)
Australia won’t prohibit Russian tourists from entering the country despite calls from Ukraine’s ambassador to do so, its defense minister said. “This is not something we are considering at the moment,” Richard Marles told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sundayy.
Australian sanctions are directed at the Russian government and “not focused on the Russian people themselves,” said Marles, who is also the deputy prime minister.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia has urged the government to stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. Poland and the Baltic states said this month they’ll impose tough restrictions on visas issued to Russian citizens.
Russia Increasing Missile Hits on Civilian Targets, UK Says (7:30 a.m.)
“Russia has increased its targeting of civilian infrastructure” in the past week even when there’s no perceptible military effect, the UK defence ministry said, in what it called an effort to “directly undermine the morale” of Ukraine’s government and people.
Recent targets included Ukraine’s electricity grid and a major dam in Kryvyi Rih, Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s home town.
The tactic echoes comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who threatened on Friday to step up attacks on civilian targets as Moscow’s front-line efforts are thwarted. Russia has launched “several thousand” long range missiles since February, the UK said.
Ukraine Has Changed Warfare, NATO Official Says (5:19 p.m.)
NATO chiefs discussed how to “sustain and increase allied support to Ukraine” at a conference in Tallinn on Saturday, Admiral Rob Bauer, chair of the alliance’s military committee, told journalists.
“The ammunition, equipment and training that allies and other nations are delivering are all making a real difference on the battlefield,” Bauer said. “With its successes on the ground and online, Ukraine has fundamentally changed modern warfare.”
Earlier, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Russia’s war had created “a significant shift” in NATO’s mindset. “Our focus must be scaling-up aid and weapons deliveries,” she said.
Nuclear Plant Reconnected to Grid, IAEA Says (5:06 p.m.)
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is again receiving electricity directly from Ukraine’s national grid after repairs to one its of main external power lines damaged during the conflict, the UN’s atomic agency said.
The plant, Europe’s largest, shut its last operating reactor on Sept. 11. It now has the electricity it needs “for reactor cooling and other essential safety functions,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a post on its website.
The IAEA has had monitors at the site for the past two weeks, following a visit from a team lead by Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi. On Saturday Grossi described the situation at Zaporizhzhia as “still precarious.”
Biden Tells Putin, ‘Don’t. Don’t. Don’t’ Use Nuclear Weapons (2:52 p.m.)
Joe Biden said Vladimir Putin would face a “consequential” US response if the Russian president used nuclear or chemical weapons in the war in Ukraine.
“Don’t. Don’t. Don’t,” Biden said in an excerpt from an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” when asked what he would say if Putin were considering using tactical nuclear weapons or chemical weapons in the almost seven-month-old conflict.
Biden Warns Putin Against Using Nuclear or Chemical Weapons
Wheat Cargo Sails For Ethiopia (12:30 p.m.)
A vessel charted by the UN’s World Food Program has departed Ukraine carrying 30,000 tons of wheat for Ethiopia, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said on Twitter.
The shipment comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens to curtail the safe-transit deal reached in July for exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, saying not enough cargoes are going to the world’s poor.
Millions of tons of grain and other foodstuffs have been exported under the deal so far, including to Africa. The availability of supplies from Ukraine has helped knock benchmark wheat prices down to pre-war levels, benefiting all buyers.
Read more: Putin’s Attack on Ukraine Grain Deal Belied by Shipping Data