Ukraine war: Huge pro-Kyiv rally in Prague, more Russian missile attacks, UK hacking claims

Sunday's main news in the Ukraine war concerned the blockage of grain exports in the Black Sea following Russia's withdrawal from a UN-brokered deal. Read more on that story here.

In other developments:

1. Tens of thousands of Czechs show their support for Ukraine

Tens of thousands of Czechs gathered in the capital on Sunday to demonstrate their solidarity with Ukraine and their support for democratic values.

The rally took place in reaction to three recent anti-government demonstrations where other protesters demanded the resignation of the pro-Western coalition government of conservative Prime Minister Petr Fiala for its support for Ukraine.

Those earlier rallies also protested soaring energy prices and opposed the country’s membership in the European Union and NATO. Their organisers are known for spreading Russian propaganda and opposing COVID-19 vaccinations.

The people who turned out Sunday in Prague waved the Czech, Ukrainian and EU flags while displaying slogans that read “Czech Republic against fear” and “We will manage it”.

Sunday’s rally at central Wenceslas Square was organized by a group called Million Moments for Democracy, which was behind several rallies in support of Ukraine following the Feb 24 Russian invasion. The group also previously held massive rallies against the former prime minister, populist billionaire Andrej Babis, calling him a threat to democracy.

The group said the anti-government protests united the far right with the far left and exploited the people’s fear of inflation and the war in Ukraine, and were trying to undermine democracy.

Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, thanked those at the rally in a video message. She said her country has been facing “the darkest moment in its history” but added hope that Russia's aggression won’t succeed.

AP Photo/Petr David Josek
A woman wipes her eyes as tens of thousands of people gathers for an anti-war protest in Prague, Czech Republic, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. - AP Photo/Petr David Josek

2. More Ukrainian civilians killed as Russian missile attacks continue

On the battlefront, Russian missile attacks kept pounding key front-line hot spots in Ukraine. The Russians shelled seven Ukrainian regions over the past 24 hours, killing at least five civilians and wounding nine more, Ukraine’s presidential office said.

In the eastern Donetsk region, where the fighting is ongoing near the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, eight cities and villages were shelled.

Earlier this month, Moscow intensified its missile and drone strikes on Ukraine's power stations, waterworks and other key infrastructure, damaging 40% of Ukraine’s electric system and forcing the government to implement rolling blackouts. Kyiv's mayor said the Ukrainian capital's power system was operating in “emergency mode.”

In addition, in areas that Ukraine has recaptured, residents are still recovering bodies of killed civilians, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

“Over the past 24 hours alone, in three de-occupied towns and villages, we found abandoned bodies of Ukrainian civilians,” Kyrylenko said.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy said Sunday that Russian forces were mining territories they left behind twice as densely as during the first months of the war.

Power outages were reported Sunday in the occupied Ukrainian city of Enerhodar, home to the closed Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe's largest. Ukrainian and Russian officials traded blame for the shelling that caused the blackout.

3. Russian soldiers released in prisoner swap

Russian state TV shared footage on Sunday of what it said were Russian soldiers who had been released as part of a prisoner swap the day before.

The video showed young men disembarking from a plane and boarding buses, including one man being met by his father.

Some were filmed apparently talking to loved ones on their phones, telling them they were home.

The AP could not independently verify the date, location or conditions under which the footage was shot.

The Russian defence ministry said in a statement on Saturday that Kyiv released 50 Russian army personnel as part of a prisoner swap that same day.

Fifty Ukrainian soldiers and two civilians were released as part of the swap with Russia, both sides reported.

4. Russia's Lavrov needles Biden over Cuban Missile Crisis and Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin's foreign minister on Sunday needled Joe Biden over Ukraine, saying that he hoped the US President had the wisdom to deal with a global confrontation similar to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

In an interview for a Russian state television documentary on the missile crisis, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there were "similarities" to 1962, largely because Russia was now threatened by Western weapons in Ukraine.

"I hope that in today's situation, President Joe Biden will have more opportunities to understand who gives orders and how," Lavrov said with a faint smile. "This situation is very disturbing."

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has triggered the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cuban crisis when the Soviet Union and the US are to considered to have come closest to nuclear war.

5. UK politicians demand probe into Liz Truss phone hack claim

The British government insisted Sunday it has robust cybersecurity for government officials after a newspaper reported that former Prime Minister Liz Truss’ phone was hacked while she was UK foreign minister.

The Mail on Sunday said the hack was discovered when Truss was running to become Conservative Party leader and prime minister in the summer. It said the security breach was kept secret by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the head of the civil service.

The newspaper, citing unnamed sources, said Russian spies were suspected of the hack. It said the hackers gained access to sensitive information, including discussions about the Ukraine war with foreign officials, as well as private conversations between Truss and a political ally, former Treasury chief Kwasi Kwarteng.

The UK government spokesperson declined to comment on security arrangements but said it had “robust systems in place to protect against cyber threats,” including regular security briefings for ministers.

Opposition parties demanded an independent investigation into the hack and into the leak of the information to a newspaper.