As the war enters its 541st day, these are the main developments.
Here is the situation on Friday, August 18, 2023.
- Russia’s Ministry of Defence reported that Ukraine lost four US-supplied Stryker armoured vehicles in a successful Russian offensive in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. It was the first time Russia has claimed to hit the US military vehicles.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed two laws to extend military mobilisation and martial law in the country until November 15. Under the laws, Ukrainian men aged between 18 and 60 are not allowed to exit the country, though there are exceptions, and may be called up to serve in the armed forces.
- Ukraine’s defence ministry launched a new campaign urging military-age citizens to update their data at army enlistment offices and “overcome their fear”. Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said that military-age citizens are duty-bound to keep their personal data at draft offices up-to-date.
- The Washington Post reported that Russia is making progress towards mass producing an attack drone that can travel more than 1,600km (1,000 miles) and hit Ukrainian cities. Moscow is working on its version of Iran’s Shahed-136 drone, despite sanctions on components that Russia needs from other countries to build the aerial vehicles, according to the newspaper.
- A 61-year-old woman was killed and a 60-year-old woman was injured in Russian shelling of the Ukrainian city of Kupiansk, emergency services said.
- Ukraine “will likely be successful in ensuring that it will have sufficient fuel reserves during the country’s winter period”, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence said in an update on the conflict.
- Germany announced the delivery of two IRIS-T air defence systems and some 4,500 rounds of 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine as a part of a new military aid package. The IRIS-T air defence system has a range of up to 40km (almost 25 miles).
- Slovakia’s chief of general staff Daniel Zmeko visited the front line in southern Ukraine, Ukrainian military sources said. Ukrainian officials thanked Slovakia for providing “material and technical assistance”, Zmeko said on his Facebook page.
- Sweden will donate military aid worth 3.25 billion Swedish kronor ($297m) to support Ukraine. The package seeks to strengthen Ukraine’s air defence and also support the country’s armed forces with spare parts and emergency supplies, Sweden said.
- NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin underestimated the Western military alliance and reiterated that Kyiv would receive support until “it wins the war”.
- An October 16 performance in the Czech capital by Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko has been cancelled. The announcement came after the Prague government said that all its coalition parties opposed the concert at a time when Russia waged war on Ukraine.
- Russian authorities have opened a criminal investigation into Grigory Melkonyants, cochair of Russia’s leading election watchdog Golos. Melkonyants was taken in for questioning and police also raided the homes of 14 Golos members in eight different cities, Russian media reported.
- Eighty percent of residents in parts of Ukraine’s Luhansk region controlled by Moscow-backed separatists have been issued with Russian passports, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.
Black Sea tension
- Turkish authorities issued a warning to Russian counterparts to avoid escalating tension in the Black Sea after an incident involving Russia’s navy and a Turkish cargo ship. Russia said on Sunday that its Vasily Bykov patrol ship had fired automatic weapons on the Palau-flagged Sukru Okan vessel after the ship’s captain failed to respond to a request to halt for inspection.
- NATO’s Stoltenberg said the military alliance had not detected any changes in the stance of Russia’s nuclear forces and the Western alliance had seen no reason to reconsider its own corresponding nuclear position.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin is not pushing Belarus into joining the war in Ukraine, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in an online interview with a pro-Russian Ukrainian journalist. Lukashenko warned that he would respond in the event of external aggression against his country, including through the use of nuclear weapons that Moscow has stationed in Belarus.
- Lithuania will temporarily close two of the country’s six border crossings with Belarus due to what the government said were “geopolitical circumstances”, and amid concerns over the presence of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries within Belarusian territory.
- China’s Defence Minister Li Shangfu visited Belarus and said his country would increase military cooperation with Minsk.
- Israel’s Defence Ministry said it secured its largest-ever weapons deal selling a sophisticated missile system to Germany for $3.5bn. Israel has rebuffed requests to sell arms to Ukraine for fear of antagonising Russia.
- The situation in Ukraine is expected to be on the agenda at a meeting between US President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.
- Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joined the Group of Seven’s (G7) declaration to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. “We will keep helping Ukraine until victory. We will support Ukraine on its path towards NATO and EU membership,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said on social media.
- Ukraine will not complete all seven recommendations made by the European Union to join the bloc by October, Ukraine’s integration minister Olha Stefanishyna said, according to the Interfax news agency. Stefanishyna said, however, that she expected EU accession talks to begin by the end of the year.
- Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Kyiv will deepen its ties with Africa in an effort to loosen “Russia’s grip” over the continent.
- The US imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on four alleged Russian intelligence operatives accused of direct involvement in the 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny. The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Alexandrovich Alexandrov, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, Ivan Osipov and Vladimir Panyaev. All are operatives of the Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB.
- Sanctions against Russia should be strengthened as Moscow can still obtain “foreign components” required for aircraft that had attacked Ukraine, said Andriy Yermak, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine. “The two Russian Ka-52 rotorcraft that were shot down today could not fly without foreign components,” Yermak said.