Overview:

  • US Defense Secretary will miss Ukraine-aid talks in Brussels due to medical procedure
  • About a quarter-million homes have been destroyed, report says
  • Ukraine’s units make gains in western reaches of Zaporizhzhia region
  • Hezbollah reportedly training Russians on use of Iranian drones
  • GOP defends Trump’s telling Russia it should attack delinquent NATO members
  • AFU units move forward in positions around Donetsk

US Defense chief and strong Kyiv ally undergoes surgery, will miss NATO meeting

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin underwent a procedure related to his prostate cancer, doctors said Monday and subsequently will have to skip a trip to Brussels to discuss Ukrainian aid.

Austin, 70, has been a steadfast ally of Kyiv within President Joe Biden’s administration, but the Pentagon said that as a result of his hospitalization, he will not be able to attend the upcoming meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group of nations organizing that military assistance.

Austin was admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland over the weekend, and had previously apologized after “coming under heavy political fire for not revealing [his condition],” AFP reported. “Multiple probes have been launched into how the US chain of command operates when senior officials become incapacitated.”

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Kyiv School of Economics reports $155 billion in war-time damages

A report from the Kyiv School of Economics has pegged the total war-time damage inflicted upon Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure at $155 billion.

The largest line item in the spreadsheet was private housing, the victims of regular Russian attacks, with an estimated $58.9 billion in damages caused. Most of that figure accounted for stand-alone family houses, about 222,000 of them, with another 27,000 apartments destroyed as well as 526 dormitories.

Trump Could Halt Ukrainian Military Aid to Start Peace Talks with Russia
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Trump Could Halt Ukrainian Military Aid to Start Peace Talks with Russia

Reuters says his plan calls for a ceasefire based on current battle lines and delaying Ukraine’s NATO membership to encourage Russia to engage in peace talks.

The majority of the destroyed residential real estate was in the regions of Donetsk, Kyiv, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, and Kherson.

Ukrainian businesses suffered an estimated $13.1 billion in damages, the report said. Energy ($9 billion) and agriculture ($8.7 billion) topped the list, which comes as little surprise as Moscow has strategically attacked those two industries throughout its full-scale invasion, in an attempt to cripple Ukraine’s major exports and freeze its inhabitants in the winter time.

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Operations: Zaporizhzhia

Troops from the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) made confirmed advances in the western parts of the Zaporizhzhia region, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on Monday.

Geolocated footage published on Monday seems to show that Ukrainian forces made gains west of Pyatykhatky (28 km northwest of Robotyne) near Kamianske, though, the think tank added, this may have occurred not so recently.

A Russian military blogger also claimed that Russian forces advanced near Novoprokopivka (south of Robotyne), but the ISW said it has not observed visual confirmation of such a claim.

Think tank says Iranian-backed militants training Russia on Shahed drones

The ISW reported Monday that Lebanese soldiers fighting for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror organization are training Moscow’s troops on the use of Iranian-made drones.

The Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense (HUR) said that both Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and elements of Iran’s Republican Guard are training Russian operators how to use Shahed-136/-131, Ababil-3, and Qods Raab 85 drones, and that “Lebanese commander Kamal Abu Sadiq is heading the training effort,” the ISW wrote.

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The Russian and Iranian-backed groups are training at Shayrat Air Base, the think tank’s analysts stated, the second largest Iranian air base in Syria’s Homs Province, and that they had previously conducted training for Russian forces on Iranian-made drones at the Russian-controlled Palmyra Military Airport, also in Syria.

Republican senators back Trump on his anti-NATO remarks

In a round-up of comments gathered by the Associated Press (AP), Republican senators defended remarks from Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who said he would encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to members of NATO who haven’t paid their alliance contributions.

“I was here when he was president. He didn’t undermine or destroy NATO,” said Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has served in the Senate for more than a decade and has a solid record on foreign aid.

One of the other major Ukraine supporters in the Senate, Mike Rounds (R-SD) said “I think I’ll look at what his actions are rather than what his words are.”

Various European alliance members were particularly concerned when the former US president and possible future Republican nominee, who has a historically friendly relationship with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, said he would be fine with Russia attacking any NATO country that had “not paid their fair share.”

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“I wouldn’t have talked that way because I don’t talk that way,” Rubio said. “But Donald Trump doesn’t talk like a US senator, he doesn’t talk like people who have served here.”

Trump here seems to be referencing the voluntary guideline for each NATO nation's internal spending on defense to equal two percent of GDP and not an actual payment into the Alliance.

Operations: Donetsk

Kyiv’s troops have retaken positions around the city of Donetsk in recent days, the ISW reported.

AFU units recently made “marginal” gains southwest of Donetsk amid continued positional fighting to the west and southwest of the city on Monday. Geolocated footage from the weekend seems to show that Ukrainian forces marginally advanced northeast of Pobieda (southwest of Donetsk City).

A prominent blogger conversely claimed that Moscow’s forces advanced along the T0524 Vuhledar-Pobieda highway towards Pobieda and captured additional positions immediately south of the village, although these claims have been unconfirmed as of yet,

In terms of personnel in the area, the ISW reported that “elements of the Russian 150th Motorized Rifle Division (8th Combined Arms Army [CAA], Southern Military District [SMD]) are reportedly operating in the Kurakhove direction west of Donetsk City; elements of the 5th Motorized Rifle Brigade (1st Donetsk People’s Republic [DNR] Army Corps [AC]) are reportedly operating in the Krasnohorivka-Heorhiivka direction (also west of Donetsk City); elements of 255th Motorized Rifle Regiment’s “Tiger” Battalion (20th Guards Motorized Rifle Division, 8th CAA) are reportedly operating near Pobieda and Novomykhailivka (southwest of Donetsk City); and elements of the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade (Pacific Fleet) are reportedly operating near Novomykhailivka (southwest of Donetsk City).”

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