In Russia’s army, there is a blatant weakness in leadership at the lower levels. Russian fighter jets have flown close and low over a NATO naval formation. All current voices and developments on the Ukraine war can be found in the ticker.
More on the course of the war in Ukraine.
10:14 a.m .: Despite a relatively orderly withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian region of Kherson, British military experts believe that Moscow’s armed forces are characterized by poor leadership and a culture of cover-up. That emerges from the daily intelligence update of the British Ministry of Defense in London on Sunday. Accordingly, there is a lack of military leadership at the middle and lower command levels.
While retreating from the area and the city of Kherson northwest of the Dnipro River, the Russians lost fewer vehicles and successfully destroyed much of the equipment left behind to keep it from falling into Ukrainian hands. This is likely due in part to effective command under the commander of Russian troops in Ukraine, General Sergei Zurovikin. Surovikin took over the leadership in Moscow at the beginning of October after numerous defeats.
The situation is different at lower and middle management levels: “For example, in the last few months two companies subordinate to the Eastern Military District have fled after their commander was killed,” the British report said. “Other officers probably lied to cover up the incident.”
05:15: Despite ongoing Russian missile and air strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, restoring the power supply in the country has top priority, according to Zelenskyy. “We are working across the country to stabilize the situation,” he said on Saturday evening. “Most problems with electricity are in Kyiv and the surrounding area, Odessa and the surrounding area, Kharkiv and the surrounding area.” Everything is being done “to enable people to lead a normal life”.
Earlier this week, Russia caused nationwide power outages in Ukraine with massive attacks on the energy infrastructure. At times, around ten million people were without electricity. According to Zelensky, around 50 percent of the energy infrastructure has been destroyed or damaged. Moscow wants to put further pressure on its neighbors with these attacks before the onset of winter.
05:04: The Ukrainian authorities are finding more and more evidence of atrocities committed by the former Russian occupiers in the liberated areas around Cherson, Kharkiv and Donetsk. In the past two months, more than 700 bodies have been discovered in these areas, Attorney General Andriy Kostin said on state television on Saturday evening. Around 90 percent of the cases involved civilians. To defend against the aggressor Russia, Great Britain promised the Ukrainian government additional military aid, for which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked a surprise guest from London.
In Ukraine, meanwhile, technicians are working feverishly to repair the damage caused by the Russian attacks and restore electricity to the country. The resumption of rail traffic between Kyiv and the liberated city of Cherson was celebrated as a sign of the desired normalization of life in the previously occupied areas – a train from the capital arrived there for the first time in a good eight months. Heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops continued in eastern Ukraine.
Sunday, November 20, 4:04 a.m.: According to a US media report, Russia has reached an agreement with Iran to produce Iranian attack drones for the war against Ukraine in its own country. Work is currently underway to get production going within months, the Washington Post wrote on Saturday, citing intelligence information. The agreement was negotiated in Iran in early November.
Russia has already used hundreds of so-called kamikaze drones of the Iranian type Shahed-136 in the war of aggression against Ukraine. They can fly a few hundred kilometers, circle over a target area for a period of time, and then swoop down on a target with an explosive charge. The Russian army uses the drones, among other things, for attacks on the Ukrainian energy infrastructure. With its own production, Russia could expand the attacks.
The Iranian side is currently in the process of handing over design documents and key components for production, wrote the Washington Post. She referred to three government officials. They are familiar with secret service findings that are available to American and other Western secret services.
7:38 p.m .: For the first time in a good eight months, a train from Kyiv has arrived in the southern Ukrainian city of Cherson, which was only recently liberated from Russian occupiers. A total of 200 passengers had secured tickets with the motto “To Victory”, Ukrainian media reported. The seven carriages were brightly painted by artists as part of the “Train to Victory” project. Hundreds of onlookers with Ukrainian national flags and loud cheers greeted the arrival of the special train at the station on Saturday.
The railway connection between the capital Kyiv and Cherson was interrupted immediately after the start of the war on February 24th as a result of the invasion of Russian soldiers. The Dnipro region was only recently liberated after the Ukrainian military forced the Russian occupiers to retreat across the river.
Trains in Ukraine are slow, but largely punctual and reliable despite the war. The functioning railway is one of the forces holding the attacked country together.
Saturday, November 19, 4:45 p.m.: According to NATO, two Russian fighter jets approached ships of the alliance operating in the Baltic Sea in a dangerous maneuver. In the incident on Thursday, the aircraft flew past the naval association SNMG1 at a distance of only about 73 meters, said the responsible NATO headquarters in Northwood near London. The flight altitude was only 300 feet, which corresponds to about 91 meters. The pilots did not respond to attempts to make contact.
When asked by the German Press Agency, a spokeswoman said on Saturday that the aircraft were two-seater SU-24 tactical bombers, which had the NATO code name “Fencer” (German: Fechter). Accordingly, the Allies alarmed the quick readiness of their air force. The Russians would then have pursued planes until they had left the area again. The naval association SNMG1 was less than 50 kilometers from the Polish port city of Gdansk (Gdansk).
The spokeswoman did not say how the crew of the ships reacted to the approach of the aircraft and which units were involved. It would be conceivable, for example, that the fighter planes were even detected by a fire control radar in the meantime so that they could be shot down in an emergency. The spokeswoman said the Russian planes were probably not armed with missiles.
According to NATO, the maneuver was particularly risky because the Russian pilots were flying in an area that is considered a danger zone and is currently being used for anti-aircraft exercises by the alliance. The approach is therefore to be classified as “unsafe and unprofessional” and has increased the risk of miscalculations, errors and accidents, according to the headquarters in Northwood.
Friday, November 18, 2:49 p.m.: A day after extending an agreement on Ukrainian grain exports, the presidents of Russia and Turkey spoke on the phone. According to the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke out in favor of implementing the agreement in full and as a package. Moscow understands that not only Ukraine can export grain, but also that Russian exports of grain and fertilizer will be facilitated.
According to information released on Friday, the heads of state also discussed bilateral economic projects, including making Turkey a hub for Russian gas exports.
According to the Presidential Office, President Erdogan thanked Putin for his constructive attitude towards the 120-day extension of the grain agreement. Erdogan pointed out that the prolongation of the Russian-Ukrainian war increases the risks and that diplomatic talks should therefore be resumed. Erdogan also recalled that the meetings between Russian and American intelligence chiefs in Turkey played a crucial role in preventing an uncontrolled escalation.
Friday, November 18, 9:36 a.m.: According to British military experts, the Russian invasion troops in Ukraine are preparing for further setbacks. This emerges from the daily intelligence update from the Ministry of Defense in London on Friday.
According to the report, after withdrawing from the western bank of the Dnipro River, Russian forces in most of the country they occupied are focusing on regrouping and making defensive arrangements. New trenches have been dug near the border with the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which has been occupied by Russia since 2014, and near the Siwerskyi Donets river between the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
“Some of the sites are up to 60 kilometers behind the current front line, suggesting that Russian planners are making preparations in the event of further major Ukrainian breakthroughs,” the London statement said. However, it is also likely that Russia will try to redeploy some of the troops withdrawn from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson to reinforce its offensive operations near the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
The British Ministry of Defense has published daily information on the course of the war since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine at the end of February, citing intelligence information. In doing so, the British government wants to both counter the Russian portrayal and keep allies in line. Moscow accuses London of a targeted disinformation campaign.
6:21 p.m .: Street artist Banksy has published a video on his Instagram channel showing several of his works in Ukraine. This makes it clear that the artist is also behind a motif that was posted on his channel on Friday: a girl who appears to be doing a handstand on rubble.
In the video, Banksy now shows other motifs that he applied to war-torn cities. Among other things, there is an elderly woman who looks at her destroyed apartment with a gas mask. The video was clicked thousands of times within a short period of time.
6:16 p.m .: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made an exchange of all prisoners of war with Russia a condition for the restart of an important chemical pipeline. At an economic forum on Thursday, he commented on the future of the ammonia pipeline from Togliatti on the Volga in Russia to Odessa in the Ukraine. The line, which is more than 2,400 kilometers long, has been idle since the start of the war on February 24.
“We don’t want to trade with Russia, help them – they are our enemy,” Zelenskyy said after media reports in Kyiv. “We could only come to an agreement if they first exchange all our prisoners for all their prisoners.”
Both sides have exchanged prisoners several times in the Russian war of aggression that has been going on for almost nine months. It is the only publicly known, functioning thread of communication between Kyiv and Moscow. Ukraine is trying hard to get its soldiers home from Russian captivity.
Ammonia is mainly used to make fertilizer. Russia has so far exported the chemical through the pipeline to Odessa. The ammonia was processed there and partly exported.
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