Overview:

  • Zelensky estimates that enemy has fewer missiles than last year, and Ukraine’s air defenses are improved
  • Three killed, several injured in shelling in Kherson
  • Small Russian gains confirmed north of Avdiivka
  • AFU gains along Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia border
  • UK says Moscow will endure heavy losses in any attack on Avdiivka plant
  • US Treasury hits Russian oil shippers and Balkan politicians with new sanctions
  • EU looks set to ban precision-machinery sales to Russia

Artillery from left bank of Dnipro kills and injures more civilians, knocks out power

A day after Russian strikes in southern regions killed four people, three more civilians were killed in Kherson on Thursday after the city came under Russian shelling from the left bank of the Dnipro River.

Mortars hit civilian targets on Thursday morning, including at least one apartment building in Kherson, leaving a 68-year-old man and a 75-year-old woman dead, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.

Later in the afternoon, Russian artillery rained down on the town of Bilozerka, about eight kilometers west of Kherson, killing one and injuring many others, six of whom were hospitalized, including a teenager. The area also lost power as a result.

“We are better off than we were last year” for air defenses, President tells reporters

In a meeting with the press on Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russia is stockpiling missiles intended for winter infrastructure strikes, but that Ukraine is better equipped than it was last year to face the expected onslaught.

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“My estimation is that they are accumulating [missiles], but that they don't have many more missiles compared to what they previously had,” AFP quoted the president as saying.

After last winter’s air strikes on the country’s power grid, leaving millions without electricity or heat, Kyiv stepped up its campaign for more land-to-air missiles and other defense systems to intercept incoming rockets and drones.

“In terms of air defense, we are better than we were last winter,” Zelensky said, adding that there is now increased readiness on the ground for outages, with more shelters and charging stations for those who experience blackouts at home. “Winter will be difficult but not worse than last year.”

Russia Tries to Advance Before Ukraine’s F-16s Arrive, Says Syrsky
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Russia Tries to Advance Before Ukraine’s F-16s Arrive, Says Syrsky

Kyiv’s Commander-in-Chief said Russia is now working hard to erode Ukraine’s forces the best it can before F-16s arrive and strengthen Ukrainian skies.

The president ceded that there are still gaps in Ukraine’s air defenses, especially around the heavily shelled areas of the Kharkiv, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, on Elon Musk’s planet, Zelensky is a “butcher”

Tech billionaire and space-travel enthusiast Elon Musk, who also dabbles in right-wing political punditry, said in an interview this week that Zelensky has “long lived in his butcher’s world”:

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Operations: Avdiivka

According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian forces continued offensive operations near Avdiivka and made verified gains, although the exact date of those advances is unclear. Geolocated footage published Thursday indicates that Moscow’s troops marginally advanced north of the famous Avdiivka coke plant northwest of the city.

Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces have seized several positions near the Avdiivka plant and nearby Terrikon slag heap and that Stepove (8 kilometers / 5 miles northwest of Avdiivka) is now a contested “gray zone.”

Other Kremlin-affiliated bloggers claimed on Thursday that Russian forces also made progress northwest of Krasnohorivka (5 kilometers / 3 miles north of Avdiivka) in the direction of Berdychi (5 kilometers / 3 miles northwest of Avdiivka).

Operations: Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia border

The ISW also reported that Ukrainian forces (AFU) launched assaults along the regional border of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia on Thursday and made confirmed advances, but again, the precise time of those gains is unclear.

Geolocated footage published on Thursday shows Ukrainian troops pushing back Russian attacks west of Novodonetske (12 kilometers / 8 miles southeast of Velyka Novosilka) and confirming that Kyiv’s forces have recaptured some local positions.

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British Ministry of Defence foresees steep Russian losses

A Twitter update from the UK Ministry of Defence predicted that Russian forces would incur “significant” losses in a battle over Avdiivka’s coke and chemical plant.

The city’s factory and slag heap have been the focus of intense fighting for months as Moscow’s troops try to encircle the strategically important stronghold 12 kilometers (8 miles)  from the occupied city of Donetsk.

The British ministry described Russia’s tactical maneuvers to encircle the city as indicative of a “pincer movement.” Russian troops have indeed made advances in the northern outskirts in recent days, but overtaking the coke plant would be too tall of an order, the Ministry said.

“The industrial facility provides Ukraine with a localized defensive advantage and Russian forces will probably suffer significant personnel losses if they attempt to assault the facility,” the statement read.

US hits oil-price-cap evaders and Russian-backed operatives in Europe with sanctions

The US Treasury cracked down Thursday on groups violating the price cap for transported Russian oil, and on Kremlin-backed influence peddlers in the Balkans, the Associated Press reported.

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The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on three companies based in the United Arab Emirates, as well as eight individuals and six entities in several Balkan nations.

The oil shippers were using American service providers to deliver Russian crude at above the international $60-per-barrel price cap, meant to limit Moscow’s revenues to fund its invasion of Ukraine.

The group of individuals in the Balkans – from North Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and other states – were sanctioned for corruption and attempting to stop governments there from joining Western organizations.

They were described as local politicians and mafia leaders, financed by Moscow, who would “leverage key jurisdictions to facilitate [Russia’s] aggressive destabilizing activities.”

European Union likely will block shipments to Russia of machinery used to make weapons

Bloomberg News reported this week that the EU looked poised to ban the export of precision machinery and parts that Russia is said to use in its weapons and munitions manufacturing. They are also allegedly used in drone motors, among other dual-use products.

If passed, the measure would represent the EU’s 12th round of sanctions aimed at choking off Russia’s military supplies.

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