| 24 February 2024, Saturday |

Putin oversees nuclear deterrence drills

The Kremlin declared on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw the training of Moscow’s strategic deterrence forces.

“Under the leadership of… Vladimir Putin, a training session was held with ground, sea and air strategic deterrence forces, during which practical launches of ballistic and cruise missiles took place,” a Kremlin statement said.

The drills included launching test missiles from the eastern Kamchatka peninsula and from the Barents Sea in the Arctic.

The strategic forces are tasked with responding to nuclear threats. Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of preparing to use a “dirty bomb” containing nuclear material, and Russian officials have on multiple occasions reminded the West of Moscow’s nuclear arsenal in response to Western support for Ukraine.

Early last week, NATO carried out its own nuclear deterrence drills in Belgium, the UK and the North Sea. The alliance said the exercises were a “routine, recurring training activity” and weren’t “linked to any current world events.”

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, October 26:

UNESCO keeps eye on damage to Ukraine’s cultural heritage
The United Nation’s cultural agency UNESCO has announced that it is keeping track of the damage done to Ukraine’s cultural heritage sites since the Russian invasion with the use of satellite imagery.

The agency has already verified damage to more than 200 sites, including 88 religious sites, 15 museums, 76 buildings of historical and/or artistic interest, 18 monuments and 10 libraries.

These were located mostly in the eastern regions of Ukraine — namely Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk — as well as the capital Kyiv.

None of Ukraine’s seven “World Heritage Sites” have been damaged, according to the platform.

Front line not changing despite ‘crazy’ Russian tactics, Zelenskyy says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an evening video address on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces had been holding out against Russian attacks, especially in parts of Donbas.

“The situation on the front line hasn’t changed significantly,” he said. “The fiercest battles are in the Donetsk region, towards [the cities of] Bakhmut and Avdiyivka”.

He added that Russian forces have continuously attempted to capture the key city of Bakhmut, but to no avail.

“This is where the craziness of the Russian command is most evident. Day after day, for months, they are driving people to their deaths there, concentrating the highest level of artillery strikes,” the president said.

As for the rest of the front line, Zelenskyy did not give details, but said that “we are strengthening our positions all over the frontline, reducing the invaders’ capabilities, destroying their logistics, and preparing good news for Ukraine.”

Russian forces struggled in weeks leading up to retreat from northeastern Ukraine: report
Reuters news reviewed more than a thousand pages of documents that were left behind by Russian officers when they retreated chaotically out of the Ukrainian town of Balakliya in Kharkiv region last month.

The report, published Wednesday, show the inner workings of the Russian military as well as the mindset of Russian personnel before Russian forces hastily retreated from positions in northeastern Ukraine in one of Putin’s most embarrassing setbacks in the Ukraine war.

In the weeks before the defeat, Russian forces were struggling with surveillance and electronic warfare. Their forces were also depleted by end of August, hit by death, desertion and combat stress.

Two units – accounting for about a sixth of the total force – were operating at 20% of their full strength, the report said.

Reuters documented accounts of a breakdown in morale and discipline among forces as well.

German president says previous snubs unimportant
Speaking to DW from Ukraine, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said previous snubs he faced regarding a visit to Ukraine were unimportant.

“It does not matter anymore. Our responsibility is greater than to get angry about disinvitations weeks and months ago or even to make them an issue. We are here to signal that we will continue to stand by Ukraine’s side and support it economically, politically and militarily,” he told DW.

He said Germany was focusing on delivering air defense systems. “I have just had confirmation from the mayor in Kyiv, Mr. Klitschko, as well as last week from Mr. Zelenskyy on the telephone that this is the right support at the moment.”

He said Germany already delivered 30 Gepard anti-aircraft-gun tanks and a multiple rocket system and that two more deliveries of air defense systems were ready to cross the border.

Steinmeier said one of the air defense systems delivered to Ukraine was so modern that it was not even being used by the Bundeswehr yet.

He said he was not surprised by the danger he faced in Ukraine — where he was forced to retreat to a bomb shelter.

“We did not come unprepared. We know what country we are coming to,” he said.

“We know that we are coming to a country that is at war and this was evident this morning because we had to have our first conversations in the bomb shelter with people from Koryukivka, a small town northwest of Kyiv for whom this is everyday life.”

  • DW