The Ukrainian army seems to be making progress in its counterattack against the Russian invaders in the east of the country. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address that there was "good news from the Kharkiv region". According to reports by Russian war correspondents, the Ukrainian army has been successfully advancing near the town of Balaklija since Tuesday and has recaptured several towns.
Defense ministers and senior military officials from more than 50 countries supporting the attacked country are meeting again today at the US base in Ramstein, Germany, to discuss further military aid. It is the 197th day of Ukraine's defense against the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian counterattack at Balaklija in the east
Despite the joy at his army's advance, Zelenskyy kept a low profile: "Now is not the time to name this or that settlement to which the Ukrainian flag is returning." Officially, the events are not commented on because of an information block. Videos and photos from recaptured villages around Balaklija are piling up on social networks. According to Russian correspondent reports, the Ukrainian army is attacking there at a width of 20 to 30 kilometers. According to these sources, the Russian units are under considerable pressure, and some units are threatened with encirclement.
Apparently, there were also gains in the south in the Cherson region. The general staff report from Kyiv on Wednesday named Russian air and artillery attacks on several towns that were previously considered Russian controlled. "Every success of our military in one direction or another changes the situation along the entire front in Ukraine's favour," said Zelenskyy.
Presumably under the impression of this offensive, the Russian military administration wants to postpone referendums on the accession of the occupied southern Ukrainian territories to Russia until November 4th. Previously, an appointment in the first half of September was considered the desired date.
Kyiv claims rocket fire on Crimea
After a month of hide-and-seek, Kyiv revealed the mystery of the explosions at Russian military bases on the annexed Crimea peninsula. "It's about a series of successful rocket attacks on the air bases in Crimea, primarily around the Saki airfield," Commander-in-Chief Valeryi Zalushnyi wrote in an article for the state news agency Ukrinform.
He did not say which missiles were used. According to him, the Ukrainian armed forces, whose defensive struggle is likely to last into next year, want to expand such attacks in the future, but they need new weapons from Western partners. Zalushnyj called missiles with a range of up to 300 kilometers for the US Himars missile launchers. This question is also to be discussed in Ramstein today.
Nuclear power plant operator: employees killed and tortured
The Ukrainian nuclear company Enerhoatom accused the Russian troops in the occupied Zaporizhia nuclear power plant of abducting and mistreating power plant employees. "About 200 people have already been arrested. We don't know what happened to some of them. There is no indication where they are," Enerhoatom President Petro Kotin told Funke media group newspapers. He also spoke of Ukrainian employees being killed or tortured. According to him, about a thousand Ukrainian employees keep the plant in operation - in peacetime there were 11,000 people.
Sanctions against more than 600 Russians
As a political threat to Moscow, Ukraine imposed sanctions on 606 members of the Russian leadership. "You are responsible for Russia's war against Ukraine," Zelensky said. Of the 32 members of Russia's Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, 28 were put on Ukraine's criminal list. There are 424 out of 450 deputies in the Russian State Duma and 154 out of 170 senators in the Federation Council.
Selenskyj did not say who was exempted. He also gave no details on the sanctions. Ukraine has started to enforce the penalties legally, politically and diplomatically.
Dispute over grain exports across the Black Sea
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba rejected Russian accusations that the grain exported from Ukrainian ports is not going to poorer countries as originally promised, but primarily to Europe. Two-thirds of the grain exported by sea via the Black Sea is destined for Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Kuleba said. He called on the world community to put pressure on Moscow to keep exports going.
Kremlin chief Putin complained that Russia had "just been roughly ripped off" after the agreement on exports. While Russia has allowed Ukrainian grain to be exported, obstacles to Russian exports remain. Putin threatened to scrap the July agreement. His order to attack Ukraine triggered the food crisis in parts of Africa and the Arab world in the first place. After months of blockades of its ports by the Russian navy, Ukraine - one of the most important grain suppliers before the start of the war - has been able to bring grain to the world markets again since the beginning of August.
That's going to be important today
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will also take part in the deliberations on military aid to Ukraine in Ramstein. The US is expected to announce a new arms shipment package. Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) is taking part in the meeting at the US air force base on behalf of Germany. Russia wants to bring up the Western arms shipments at the UN Security Council in New York tonight.