Kyiv August 20 2022: The latest tranche of military aid to Ukraine, announced Friday, sees total US commitments reach $10.9 billion. The offer includes more HIMARS rocket systems, credited with helping Kyiv slow Moscow’s advance over the summer.
Grain exports continue from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports a month after a safe-transit agreement was reached. A Turkish official estimated total shipments so far at over 656,000 tonnes.
Gazprom to Shut Pipeline for Three Days in New Shock to Europe
Putin’s War in Ukraine at a Standstill, Western Officials Say
Pentagon Announces $775m of Weapons in New Ukraine Package
Kremlin May Delay Annexation Moves as Invasion Progress Slows
War-Hit Ukraine Atomic Plant Poses Risks to Europe’s Energy Grid
NATO Races to Counter Russia’s Threat in Europe’s Weak Spot
On the Ground
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is approaching the six-month mark, and the past week saw minimal changes in territorial control along the front line in the Donbas. Ukrainian air defense shot down four Russian Kalibr cruise missiles near the city of Dnipro, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on Facebook. Russia continued to bombard the Kharkiv region with barrel and rocket artillery in roughly ten settlements. Russian shelling hit an apartment block in Voznesensk, to the north of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, wounding nine people including at least four children, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram.
Austria Summons Russian Envoy Over Tweet (7:47 p.m.)
Austria’s Foreign Ministry summoned Russia’s envoy to the nuclear talks with Iran due to a tweet he sent in response to the US sending additional military aid to Ukraine.
“No mercy to the Ukrainian population!” Mikhail Ulyanov said in a tweet late Friday that he later deleted. He claimed it referred to the Ukrainian government’s reluctance to enter peace talks.
Austria summoned the Russian diplomat for Sunday, calling the remarks inhuman.
US Warns Turkey About Russian Ploy to Bypass Sanctions (5 p.m.)
A top US Treasury official on Friday warned his Turkish equivalent about Moscow’s attempts to bypass Western sanctions via Turkey, according to a Treasury readout.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo raised with Yunus Elitas, Turkey’s deputy finance minister, “concerns that Russian entities and individuals are attempting to use Turkey to evade sanctions put in place” by the US and 30 other countries, according to the readout.
Moscow Accuses Ukraine of Poisoning Troops (3:30 p.m.)
Russia’s defense ministry said it had evidence of chemical substances having been used against its forces in the Zaporizhzhia region in late July.
Tests on sickened soldiers in Vasilyevka area showed the presence of botulinum toxin type B, the ministry said. It didn’t explain how troops could have been targeted in the occupied region.
Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Geraschenko said on Telegram that the troops may have been sickened by their own supplies. “The poisoning could have been caused by expired canned meat, in which botulinum toxin is often found,” he said.
Action in Crimea With Drone Strike, Air-Defense Systems Triggered (11:12 a.m.)
A drone struck the roof of Russia’s Black Sea fleet headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Saturday, the region’s governor said on Telegram. No injuries were incurred, according to the Russian state news service Tass.
Air-defense systems were triggered locally during the incident. Sergey Aksenov, the Russian serving as the head of occupied Crimea, said people in the area should “remain calm and trust only official information.”
Crimea, annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces since 2014, has been the subject of several attacks and strikes in recent weeks. Ukrainian officials haven’t commented on Saturday’s incident.
Another Seven Vessels Arrive to Load Grains, Vegoil, Minister Says (9 a.m.)
Seven more vessels entered Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Friday to load more than 66,000 tonnes of grains and vegetable oil, said Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov.
Two grain vessels departed early Saturday from Ukraine’s Chernomorsk, and additional vessels traveling to and from Ukraine are set for inspection, Turkey’s defense ministry said.
The movement of grains and other foodstuffs continues a month-long ramp-up after a safe-transit agreement was signed in late July. Rising export volumes have started to alleviate global food shortages caused by the blockage of Ukraine’s exports since February.
Germany’s Scholz Warns Russia Over Repression (10 a.m.)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz used the second anniversary of the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to warn about Moscow’s crackdown on the freedom of expression.
“We should think about that now. Because the war that Russia started against Ukraine is a war that also has consequences for Russia,” Scholz said in a video message on Saturday. “Freedom and democracy were already threatened before. But now freedom of expression is even more at risk.”
Navalny was poisoned two years ago and treated at a hospital in Berlin. He was arrested upon returning to Russia and is serving a lengthy term in a high-security prison. Navalny has repeatedly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Details of Nuclear Plant Visit Being Developed, Zelenskiy Says (8:45 a.m.)
Ukrainian diplomats, the UN, the IAEA and others are working on details for a mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late Friday. No timing has been set.
In his nightly video address, Ukraine’s president accused Russia of “blackmail” at Europe’s largest atomic power plant, which Moscow is currently using as a military base, warning that “this summer may go down in the history of various European countries as one of the most tragic of all time.”
“Not a single instruction at any nuclear power plant in the world envisages a procedure in case a terrorist state” turns the plant into a target, Zelenskiy said.
Battle Conditions Mostly at a Standstill, UK Says (8:20 a.m.)
Frequent explosions behind Russia’s lines, including in Crimea, “are probably stressing Russian logistics and air basing in the south,” the UK defense department said.
Conditions for now are mostly at a standstill, the UK said on Twitter.
Gazprom to Shut Pipeline for Three Days in New Shock to Europe (8:25 p.m.)
Gazprom PJSC will stop delivering natural gas to Europe through its main pipeline for three days, further squeezing energy supplies just as Germany and others are trying to build up stocks for the winter.
European benchmark futures soared as much as 9% after the Russian producer said it won’t ship any gas to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline from Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 because of maintenance. The work will involve the only functioning turbine that can pump gas into the link.
U.S. to Supply Ukraine $775 Million in Drones, Humvees, Artillery (8:06 p.m.)
The US will supply Ukraine 50 armed Humvees and 40 mine-clearance vehicles along with Howitzers, drones and other weaponry as part of a $775 million package of military assistance, the Pentagon said. With the latest package, the US will have committed close to $11 billion in military assistance to Ukraine.
The latest assistance will include more HIMARS rocket systems, 16 105mm Howitzers and 36,000 shells, 15 Scan Eagle drones for reconnaissance, and more air-to-ground anti-radar missiles, the official said.
“As President Biden has made clear, we will support Ukraine as they defend their democracy for as long as it takes,” the Pentagon said in a statement. The US “will continue to work with its allies and partners to provide Ukraine with key capabilities to meet Ukraine’s evolving battlefield requirements.”