Russia-Ukraine war: Zelenskiy claims equivalent of Russian brigade lost near Avdiivka; Putin warns of weapon smuggling from Ukraine – as it happened

  • The European Council outlined plans to seize the profits from frozen Russian assets and direct billions of euros to support Ukraine. In a set of formal public conclusions following the culmination of the EU leaders summit, it said:

Decisive progress is needed, in coordination with partners, on how any extraordinary revenues held by private entities stemming directly from Russia’s immobilised assets could be directed to support Ukraine and its recovery and reconstruction, consistent with applicable contractual obligations, and in accordance with EU and international law.

  • The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has condemned the Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán’s recent meeting and handshake with Vladimir Putin. In the situation we are in with Russia, we should not use these bilateral contacts to negotiate things about ourselves that would weaken our unity [on Ukraine],” Macron said after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.
  • Russia’s top investigative body has said it had opened a criminal inquiry into the attempted murder of former Ukrainian lawmaker Oleg Tsaryov, a pro-Russian figurewho was reported to have been lined up by Moscow to lead a puppet administration in Kyiv after Russia‘s invasion. He is in intensive care after being shot, a Russian official said.
  • The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, claimed that Russian forces have lost at least a brigade’s worth of troops attempting to advance on Ukraine’s eastern town of Avdiivka. Russia began a renewed push to encircle the embattled town in mid-October, trying to overwhelm Ukrainian positions with constant barrages of artilleryand waves of troops and fighting vehicles, according to reports.
  • The wives and family of enlisted Ukrainian soldiers have gathered at Independence Square in Kyiv to call for the right to voluntarily demobilise after 18 months. “Our servicemen are strong, but they are not robots,” protesters shouted during the rally.
  • Russian forces heavily shelled the centre of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson today, injuring a number of people and damaging at least 10 buildings, a senior local official and emergency workers said.
  • The new Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico, has told other EU leaders that €50 billion in EU aid to Ukraine should include guarantees that the funds would not be misappropriated, his office said. “Ukraine is among the most corrupt countries in the world,” he claimed.
Russian forces heavily shelled the centre of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson today, injuring a number of people and damaging at least 10 buildings, a senior local official and emergency workers said.

Pictures posted on social media showed at least three sites dotted with piles of rubble after residents were told to enter shelters.

Roman Mrochko, head of the city’s military administration, said several people had been injured and one was being treated in hospital. He said at least 10 buildings suffered damage.

“In the evening the entire city trembled,” Ukraine’s emergency services said on Telegram. “The enemy targeted the very centre of Kherson.”

The post said emergency workers had rescued two women, in their 70s and 80s, who had been blocked in a building, and brought a fire under control in a rubble-strewn area.

Russian forces captured Kherson in the early days of the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, but abandoned the city and the western bank of the Dnipro River late last year. They now regularly shell those areas from positions on the eastern bank.

Russia-Ukraine war: Zelenskiy claims equivalent of Russian brigade lost near Avdiivka; Putin warns of weapon smuggling from Ukraine – as it happened

The president of Belarus has invited Hungary’s prime minister to visit his country, which has faced increasing isolation over the government’s relentless crackdown on dissent and support of ally Russia‘s war with Ukraine.

President Alexander Lukashenko extended the invitation to Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a meeting with Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto, who arrived in Belarus earlier this week. Lukashenko expressed readiness “for a dialogue with European countries” and invited Orban over “to discuss serious matters.”

Orban’s press chief, Bertalan Havasi, said the prime minister would consider the invitation once he returns from the EU summit in Brussels.

Lukashenko won his sixth term in 2020 in an election the West and the opposition denounced as rigged. The vote sparked an unprecedented wave of mass protests, to which Lukashenko’s government and law enforcement agencies responded by arresting more than 35,000 people and violently beating thousands.

The country’s isolation increased after Russia used Belarus, its longtime and dependent ally, as a staging ground to send troops and missiles into Ukraine in 2022.

Drones loaded with explosives tried to attack Kursk nuclear power plant in Kurchatov last night, Russian media cited by the BBC have claimed.

One of the drones allegedly exploded near a nuclear waste storage facility. According to the Baza telegram channel, the first drone fell in the area of ​​the dog training camp and did not detonate. The second, an aircraft-type jet UAV, was found lying on the asphalt; it also did not explode.

But the third drone allegedly attacked a warehouse with nuclear waste. According to Baza sources, the explosion damaged the façade of the warehouse building.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian air force has said it has shot down three guided aircraft missiles and two drones over its skies, in the south of the country.

French fighter jets have taxied alongside the Romanian Air Force after flying through the sky above the Fetesti air base, as Nato bolsters its military presence in member country Romania, bordering Ukraine.

AFP reports that following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Nato has stepped up its efforts to boost the alliance’s southeastern flank defences by sending additional battlegroups to the region.

Nato has also intensified its joint drills along the defence bloc’s wider eastern flank – which encompasses eight member countries – spanning from Estonia and Latvia bordering Russia in the east to Romania and Bulgaria on the Black Sea.

The most recent joint exercise in the region – held between 16-20 October – for the first time brought together French and Romanian pilots and their planes. Despite flying different combat jets, “we work like the French, we understand each other perfectly,” said Romanian Lt Col and pilot Lucian Tatulea.

As lead nation for the alliance’s “Mission Aigle” deployed to Romania, France acts as the point of contact between Bucharest and other allies, who seek to send troops to Ukraine’s neighbouring country. Romania currently hosts more than 5,000 foreign troops, the largest contingent anywhere in Nato’s southeastern region.

Russia’s defence ministry has confirmed the appointment of Colonel-General Viktor Afzalov as commander of the country’s aerospace forces, replacing General Sergei Surovikin who was removed from the role in August.

Russian state-run RIA and Tass news agencies had reported his appointment last week, citing sources. Russia’s Aerospace Forces comprise the air and space branches of its armed forces, reports Reuters.

Afzalov, 55, had been acting head of the aerospace forces after Surovikin’s dismissal. Kyiv says Afzalov played a direct role in the planning and prosecution of Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine.

Surovikin, dubbed “General Armageddon” for his use of carpet bombing tactics during Russia’s intervention in Syria’s civil war, briefly headed Russia’s campaign in Ukraine last year before being demoted in January.

He became popular among hardline critics of the Russian military establishment including Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led a failed mutiny on 24 June. Prigozhin died in a plane crash in August. Surovikin, who had been praised publicly by Prigozhin, disappeared from public view after the mutiny.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed his gratitude to the UAE president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for humanitarian and energy aid that his country has received from the Gulf state.

I had a call with HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan @MohamedBinZayed.

I am grateful to the UAE for participating in the Peace Formula meeting in Jeddah and for its willingness to send a representative to Malta, as well as for its humanitarian medical and energy aid to…

Russia-Ukraine war: Zelenskiy claims equivalent of Russian brigade lost near Avdiivka; Putin warns of weapon smuggling from Ukraine – as it happened

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has condemned the Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán’s recent meeting and handshake with Vladimir Putin.

“In the situation we are in with Russia, we should not use these bilateral contacts to negotiate things about ourselves that would weaken our unity [on Ukraine],” Macron said after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.

“Brussels did not invade Hungary,” he said. “Hungary made a sovereign decision to join our Europe … it is a sovereign choice which, afterwards, carries constraints, because we have all decided to delegate sovereignty to our Europe. All of us.”

Macron said no-one could prohibit Orbán from doing what he did, but that a meeting with Europe’s foremost enemy should be arranged in consultation with EU member states and leaders. The French president said he had reproached Orbán in front of other leaders:

I want to condemn it [the meeting with the Russian president] once again and make it very clear. I can tell you what I said to Viktor Orbán publicly around the table. First of all, I respect all the heads of state and government around the table and they have this sovereignty.

There’s absolutely no need to prohibit a head of state or government from going in one direction or another. It doesn’t shock us. What I am asking, out of respect and loyalty, is that we coordinate beforehand and coordinate afterwards and that, especially in the situation we are in with Russia, we do not use these bilateral contacts to negotiate things about ourselves that would weaken our unity.

Russia’s top investigative body has said it had opened a criminal inquiry into the attempted murder of former Ukrainian lawmaker Oleg Tsaryov, which follows the assassinations of several other prominent pro-Moscow figures since the start of the war.

Tsaryov, a pro-Russian figure whom sources said Moscow had lined up to lead a puppet administration in Kyiv after Russia‘s invasion, was shot and wounded in a late-night attack, family and officials said.

The attack took place in Yalta in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. “Around midnight he was shot twice on the premises of the sanatorium where he lives,” said a post on Tsaryov’s Telegram account, citing the family. “When the ambulance arrived, Oleg was unconscious and had lost a lot of blood.”

Three sources familiar with Russia‘s post-invasion plans told Reuters last year that Moscow had been looking to Tsaryov to head a puppet government in Kyiv if it had succeeded in ousting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the first days of the war in February 2022. Tsaryov, who runs hotels in Crimea, said Reuters’ account had “very little to do with reality”.

Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, was asked on television about the shooting. “We won’t comment in too much detail yet, that’s too much of an honour for him. But yes, there is such information. I can’t say we’re following his health very closely, but we are following,” he said. “When there is information that his body temperature has fallen below 36.6, there will definitely be a statement.”

In pouring rain, a jubilant crowd waving pompoms and flowers greeted the Russian foreign minister as he stepped on to the airport asphalt in Pyongyang.

While the heavily choreographed welcoming scenes were a familiar sight in totalitarian North Korea, Sergei Lavrov’s rare visit to the country came amid mounting evidence that Pyongyang has started to provide artillery rounds to Russia, opening up a supply line that could have profound implications for the war in Ukraine.

This month, the US said as many as 1,000 North Korean shipping containers bearing “equipment and munitions” had been sent to Russia “in recent weeks”.