US seeking drone defense; rolling blackouts near

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The Pentagon is studying how it can help Ukraine defend itself against the Iranian drones that Russia is using to kill civilians and destroy infrastructure, White House spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.

“I can’t tell you today what that will be like when we’re going to be able to move additional air defense capabilities to Ukraine,” he said. “But I can assure you that (the Department of Defense) is aware of the threat and is working hard to see what they can do to help the Ukrainians deal with the threat.”

That includes working with allies with air defense capabilities who could potentially help, Kirby added.

Although Russia and Iran deny this, Kirby said Russia has received dozens of drones from Iran and is likely to receive more. Iran has also sent a “relatively small number” of trainers and technical support to Crimea to show the Russians how to use them, he said.

“Tehran is now engaging directly on the ground and by providing arms that are impacting the civilian population and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine,” he said. “But the bottom line is that we don’t think it will change the course of the war.”

GRAPHIC: Mapping and tracking the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Further developments:

►At least three civilians were killed and 14 injured in nighttime attacks by Russian drones and missiles across Ukraine, the president’s office said, adding that a school in Zaporizhia province was attacked early Thursday.

►A Russian fighter jet “fired a missile” near an unarmed British plane in “international airspace” over the Black Sea, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday. Wallace said Russia blamed a “technical malfunction” for the “potentially dangerous” missile launch. He said he did not view the incident as a deliberate escalation by Russia.

►Russian President Vladimir Putin’s imposition of martial law in four illegally annexed regions of Ukraine – a move that has been denounced internationally – “speaks his desperation” at the continued advances by Ukraine’s armed forces, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America”. ‘ published on Wednesday.

►The US Department of Justice has indicted nearly a dozen people, including five Russian nationals, in two separate counts of illegally supplying US military technology to Russia. Some of the equipment was recovered from battlefields in Ukraine while the other was intercepted in Latvia, the department said.

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►Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday backed a decision by his predecessor to cancel an agreement to buy 16 Russian heavy-lift helicopters, saying his administration had “secured an alternative supply from the United States.” Filipino officials fear Western sanctions if they go through with the Russia deal.

PROGRESS IN UKRAINE: Ukraine is regaining more territory in the east and south as counter-offensives continue

There are increasing signs that Ukrainian forces are preparing for an offensive to retake significantly more territory in the southern province of Kherson, including the eponymous capital. If so, they may not face much resistance.

The ongoing evacuation of about 60,000 residents from the city of Kherson and recent comments from Russian officials indicate they expect to cede that land, according to military experts.

Citing the assessment of the Russian commander Sergei Surovikin about the “difficult situation” in the region, the British Ministry of Defence said it was likely that “the Russian authorities are seriously considering a major withdrawal of their forces from the area west of the Dnipro River.” There is the port city of Cherson, which was captured by the invading forces in March.

The Kremlin may actually be preparing the public for losing Kherson in hopes of avoiding the shock that came with Russia’s withdrawal from Kharkiv province in the north, the Washington-based Institute for War Studies has said.

Moscow also appears to be planning a false flag attack on the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station further upriver, in part to distract from the withdrawal of its troops, the institute said, echoing a warning by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday.

“Most likely, with these warnings of an alleged Ukrainian attack on the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, the Russian authorities intend to set conditions of information for Russian forces to damage the dam and blame Ukraine for the subsequent damage and loss of life, while at the same time protecting the resulting flooding to cover their own withdrawal further south to Kherson Oblast,” the institute said.

A revival of Silvio Berlusconi’s cordial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the former Italian prime minister’s apparent defense against the invasion of Ukraine – which was secretly recorded – have raised questions about whether the new government in Italy is part of condemning Putin’s war will be retained by the EU.

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Berlusconi, 86, leads the centre-right Forza Italia party, a key component of the coalition that suspected new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy party is to lead. He is also a longtime icon of Italian politics and a media mogul.

At a time when the West is trying to isolate Putin over his reckless attack on Ukraine, Berlusconi can be heard on a tape released this week by Italian media boasting about 20 bottles of vodka and a “sweet letter” from Putin for his birthday last month, saying he sent Italian wine and a similar message to his longtime friend in return.

Even more damning is that Berlusconi appears to have blamed Ukraine for the war, telling members of his party that he was told the Ukrainian government had killed 5,000 to 7,000 people in the eastern Donbass region – which is a sizeable pro-Kremlin population – and forced Putin to intervene.

“He’s under a lot of pressure from all of Russia,” Berlusconi can be heard saying. “So he decides to invent a special operation: the troops should invade Ukraine, reach Kyiv in a week, depose the incumbent government, Zelenskyy, etc. and put in place a government already elected by the Ukrainian minority… and then leave the following week. “

Berlusconi has not disputed these words, but accused the media of “distorted and frankly ridiculous interpretations of my thoughts” about Russia and Ukraine.

Ukrainians braced for rolling blackouts starting Thursday as Russia continues to attack the country’s energy infrastructure, utility officials said.

Amid Russian rocket attacks on power plants, Ukraine has launched an energy-saving campaign, urging residents to reduce electricity consumption. The country’s energy company, NPC Ukrenergo, made the announcement on Wednesday, asking for “understanding and support”.

“This is a forced move,” the utility said, pointing out that the Russians have done more damage to the power system since Oct. 10 than in the previous 7½ months of the war.

NPC Ukrenergo urged residents to make sure their phones and power banks are charged and have flashlights, warm socks and blankets ready. Ukrainians also stocked up on candles, canned food, mineral water and warm clothes ahead of winter.

“We will do everything to restore our country’s normal energy capacities,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday. “But it takes time. And that requires our joint efforts.”

Ukrainian energy official Oleksandr Kharchenko said about 40% of the country’s energy system was badly damaged. Zelenskyy said Russian forces had destroyed 30% of Ukraine’s power plants since October 10.

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Russian shelling has shut down electricity and water supplies in Enerhodar, the southern town near the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. Rockets also severely damaged a power plant near Kryvyi Rih, Zelenskyy’s hometown in south-central Ukraine.

European Union members have agreed on new sanctions against Iran after the country was accused of supplying drones to Russia during its invasion of Ukraine. This was announced by the Czech EU Council Presidency on Thursday.

“After three days of talks, EU ambassadors have agreed on measures against companies supplying Iranian drones that have hit Ukraine,” the presidency said on Twitter, adding that the sanctions were due to come into force on Thursday afternoon.

In a Wednesday interview with Canadian television broadcaster CTV, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Iran of taking “blood money” from Russia to supply its armed forces with drones used in deadly strikes.

“They denied all of this publicly and said we didn’t sell anything, but here we see it,” he said. “Hundreds of strikes. In Ukraine, in the capital, on civil infrastructure, on schools, near the university, on the university and shutting down our energy system.”

Russia has renamed the drones and has denied acquiring them from Iran, which also dismissed the idea of ​​having sold them to Moscow.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that the US had “ample evidence” that Iran was supplying drones to Russia in violation of a UN resolution.

Thousands of Russians are responding to Ukraine’s encouragement to surrender rather than fight in the war, organizers of the so-called I want to live hotline say.

The line and a Telegram chatbot were set up by the Ukrainian military in mid-September, shortly after Ukraine retook part of northern Kharkiv province and around the time Russian President Vladimir Putin announced civilian mobilization. According to the organizers, more than 3,000 people have called since then.

“We’ve had cases of Russians calling us before they moved in,” project spokesman Vitalii Matvienko told the Associated Press. “Now more calls are coming in from newly drafted soldiers.”

Matvienko said word of the hotline has spread, despite Russia blocking the project’s website, and that calls are increasing with Ukrainian counter-offensives. Some of the callers were crying and afraid of being drafted, Matvienko said.

Contribution: The Associated Press



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