The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, on an unannounced visit to Kyiv, said Ukrainian forces were “gradually gaining ground” in their counteroffensive against Russian forces. Speaking at a joint press conference with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Stoltenberg said “every metre that Ukrainian forces regain is a metre that Russia loses”. He added “And there is a stark contrast: Ukrainians are fighting for their families, their future, their freedom. Moscow is fighting for imperial delusions.”
As part of the visit, Stoltenberg said Nato has framework contracts in place for €2.4bn (£2bn) of key ammunition for Ukraine, including €1bn (£864m) in firm orders.
Russia is set to hike defence spending by almost 70% in 2024, a finance ministry document published on Thursday showed. Since invading Ukraine last year, Russia has ramped up arms manufacturing and pumped funds into its military machine, despite contending with persistently high inflation and a weaker rouble.
Ukraine’s air force claimed on Thursday its air defence systems shot down 34 of 44 Shahed drones that Russia launched overnight, while a regional official said no casualties were caused by the attack. “Fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft missile units and mobile fire groups were engaged to repel the attack,” the military said on the Telegram messaging app.
Odesa regional governor Oleh Kiper said his region was the main target, but the attack left no casualties. “Our air defence forces did an excellent job,” Kiper said on Telegram.
There were also strikes on Kirovohrad oblast and an infrastructure object was hit in Mykolaiv. One man was killed and another was injured in Kherson overnight. Three people have been hospitalised after a strike on Antonivka, near the Dnipro River.
British defence secretary Grant Shapps discussed how to bolster Ukraine’s air defences during talks in an unannounced visit to Kyiv to meet Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president’s office said on Thursday. The visit was Shapps’ first trip to Kyiv since he became defence secretary last month. “On behalf of the whole nation, I thank you for everything you are doing for us. We are grateful for your help – military, financial, humanitarian. We greatly appreciate that we can rely on you,” a statement released by Zelenskiy’s office quoted the president as saying.
Shapps said “We have trained tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, delivered hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition, and provided millions of pounds of economic and humanitarian aid to help Ukraine’s citizens reclaim and rebuild what has been taken from them by Putin’s barbaric invasion”, while accompanying him, Adm Tony Radakin, chief of the UK’s defence staff, said “This visit, together with my visits over the summer, have reinforced my conviction that Ukraine will prevail. The UK will remain with them every step of the way.”
International regulators are incapable of properly monitoring safety at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, according to a critical dossier compiled by Greenpeace that is being sent to western governments on Thursday. The environmental campaign group concludes the International Atomic Energy Agency has too few inspectors at Europe’s biggest nuclear plant – four – and that there are too many restrictions placed on their access. It argues that the IAEA is “unable to meet its mandate requirements” but it is not prepared to admit as much in public, and as a result what it describes as Russian violations of safety principles are not being called out.
Alexander Bogomaz, governor of Russia’s Bryansk region, has claimed on Telegram that electronic warfare was used to down a Ukrainian drone on the approach to the city of Bryansk. He reports “There were no casualties or damage. Operational and emergency services are on site.”
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the grain exports dispute between Kyiv and Warsaw was detrimental to both countries.
Russian president Vladimir Putin, has signed into law a decree that makes 30 September officially recognised as a “day of reunification” for the four regions that Russia claimed to annex from Ukraine last year. Having held referendums, widely condemned as a sham, in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, on 30 September last year Putin signed a document with the Russian-installed leaders of the occupied regions to unilaterally incorporate them into the Russian Federation, despite Russia not fully controlling the territories. Several days later, on 4 October, although the Kremlin appearing to be unclear on where it claimed Russia’s international borders now stood, the annexation was signed into Russian law.
Aid money for Ukraine has become a bargaining chip for US congressional Republicans, as lawmakers negotiate on a bill to extend government funding beyond the end of the month and avoid a government shutdown. The House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, said that he would not support the part of the bill that addresses funding for Ukraine if there also wasn’t something included that would address the immigration crisis at the Mexican border.
Iranian kamikaze drones used in the latest attacks on Ukrainian cities are filled with European components, according to a secret document sent by Kyiv to its western allies. In a document submitted by Ukraine to G7 governments in August and obtained by the Guardian, it is claimed there were more than 600 raids on cities using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) containing western technology in the previous three months.
Some mercenaries of the Russian Wagner group have left Belarus and returned to the front in Donetsk oblast, a Ukrainian military spokesperson told RBC-Ukraine. “We confirm that the ‘Wagners’ are present on the territory of the Eastern Group of Forces,” Illia Yevlash, spokesperson of the Eastern Group of Forces, said. “These are servicemen of the ‘Wagner’ PMK who were on the territory of Belarus. Now their camps are being disbanded there.”
Bulgaria’s parliament on Wednesday decided to send ageing, Soviet-era air-defence missile systems to Ukraine, its first such shipment to Kyiv from a country bitterly divided over the issue. An undisclosed number of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems – which Bulgaria said it is unable to repair – will be sent to Ukraine, after the decision by lawmakers.
At least three pro-war Russian journalists were sent severed pigs’ heads over the past week, the Moscow Times reported. The journalists who received the pigs’ heads include state media columnist Timofey Sergeitsev – who last year published an article calling for the murder of Ukrainian civilians – military expert Konstantin Sivkov and Tass news agency photojournalist Mikhail Tereshchenko.
Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary for the Russian president, said the US and the UK were “one way or another” involved in last year’s attack on the Nord Stream pipeline, Tass news agency reported. Responding to a question about a report published by the US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in February that claimed the attack was a US operation, Peskov said: “What’s important here is that de facto such a terrorist act against critical energy infrastructure, one belonging to an international joint venture, was, of course, organised one way or another by the United States of America and Great Britain.”
Peskov also spoke at length on Wednesday about the incident of the Canadian parliament giving a standing ovation to a Ukrainian man who had fought for the German SS during the second world war. “The addiction to the Nazi ideology of the Kyiv regime is not news, this is something we have been talking about for a long time,” Peskov said. “The fact that Zelenskiy also applauded the fascist standing up confirms this once again.”
Russia’s military news outlet Zvezda on Wednesday published an interview with Black Sea fleet commander Viktor Sokolov – despite Ukraine claiming to have killed him in an attack on the fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol. This report comes after Russia’s defence ministry released footage showing Sokolov attending a defence board meeting via video call.