Russia-Ukraine war news: Zelensky in Brussels to visit NATO; Russia attacks Avdiivka

Trisha D.
9 Min Read

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday. (Olivier Matthys/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

BRUSSELS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise visit to NATO’s headquarters here on Wednesday to attend a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a cadre of dozens of nations organized by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. At the outset of the meeting, Zelensky made a renewed bid for additional Western weapons to fend off Russian invaders occupying his country. Allies will discuss battlefield aid to Ukraine, focusing in particular on air defense to protect Ukrainian cities through the winter, NATO diplomats said.

Austin, also in Brussels for the meeting, announced that the United States approved another $200 million in security assistance for Kyiv. The package will include air-defense missiles, equipment to counter minefields and Russian drones, antitank missiles and artillery rounds, he said, adding that allies should expect Russia to heavily bombard Ukraine this winter.

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia was preparing “again to use winter as a weapon for war,” adding in a tweet that the alliance is “committed to stepping up & sustaining our support for Ukraine.” Ukrainian and Western officials have been making preparations to reinforce the national energy grid and secure crucial equipment ahead of a change in weather. Last winter, Ukraine experienced rolling blackouts across the country with hospitals, schools and homes without electricity or forced to rely on power generators.

U.S. officials downplayed the impact the Israel-Hamas war may have on war efforts in Ukraine. Amb. Julianne Smith, the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, said in a briefing that the risk that the crisis in Israel will distract the United States, or the alliance, was unlikely. “I suspect the United States will be able to stay focused on our partnership and commitment to Israel’s security, while also meeting our commitments and promise to continue supporting Ukraine as it defends its territory,” she said.

Russia failed in its bid to rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council. The council consists of 47 member states elected via secret ballot, with a prescribed number of seats for geographic regions. Russia lost out to Bulgaria and Albania in Eastern Europe, but did receive 83 votes in its favor from the General Assembly member nations. Russia was suspended from the council last April after evidence of atrocities emerged in Bucha, Ukraine.

Damage to a natural gas pipeline and a communications cable in the Baltic Sea is raising alarm in Europe, with Finnish officials suggesting sabotage as the most likely explanation, though they held back from identifying any potential culprits, The Washington Post reported. The Baltic connector pipeline, which runs between Finland and Estonia and can send gas in either direction, was shut down early Sunday. On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia does “not have technical information … we will await more details.”

Russia launched an offensive operation toward the town of Avdiivka, in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, according to an analysis from the Institute for the Study of War. Avdiivka has been held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014, and the Monday offensive was probably intended to pull Ukrainian forces away from their southern counteroffensive, ISW wrote. A Russian operation near Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region on Monday probably had the same purpose, the institute said Tuesday.

Ukraine’s state security service said it identified two Ukrainian “traitors” who gave intelligence to Russian forces to direct a missile attack on a funeral reception in the village of Hroza last week. The Oct. 5 attack killed at least 55 people — roughly one-sixth of the village’s population — including one young boy. Ukraine retook control of the village from Russian forces last year during a surprise counteroffensive last fall. Suspicions were rife in Hroza following the attack, with many villagers saying they had zero doubts that locals had tipped off Russian forces about the gathering.

Germany will supply Ukraine with a new “winter package” that includes air defenses worth about $1 billion, its defense ministry said Tuesday. Patriot and an IRIS-T air defense systems make up the centerpiece of the package, which will also includes vehicles and weapons worth about $21 million, and ammunition supplies, the ministry said. Britain also said it would be sending additional military support aimed at helping Ukraine defend critical infrastructure and clear minefields.

Putin will attend an event in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, the country’s presidential office said, according to Reuters. It would be Putin’s first trip abroad since the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest in March, though Kyrgyzstan is not a member of the ICC. The Russian leader is also expected to travel to China, also not an ICC member, later this month.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said a G-7-led price cap on Russian oil “significantly reduced Russian revenue over the last 10 months.” Speaking on Wednesday at International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Marrakesh, Morocco, Yellen said the Ukraine war remained a major headwind for the global economy, but added: “We must continue to impose severe and increasing costs on Russia and continue efforts to ensure Russia pays for the damage it has caused.”

A grain corridor from Ukraine through Moldova to Romania, which has a Black Sea coast and port infrastructure, will soon be operational, Zelensky said Tuesday after meeting with Romanian president Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest. Ukrainian F-16 pilots will also be trained at the newly established Pilot Training Center in Romania, Zelensky added. The two nations signed an agreement in August to work together on grain exports, following Russia’s departure from a U.N.-backed deal that had allowed for the safe wartime transport of grain exports over the Black Sea.

In Ukraine, Russia’s winter attacks on infrastructure have started: After an initially balmy fall, temperatures are dropping in Ukraine — and Russia has already begun pummeling Ukraine’s energy system, David L. Stern reports from Kyiv. The attacks are a reprise of Russia’s brutal attempt last autumn and winter to demoralize Ukrainians by plunging them into darkness and cold.

Last winter, there were “a lot of difficult nights” when Russian forces sent waves of missiles and drones in a bid to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, said Fox, one of three soldiers manning a German-made mobile antiaircraft system at a position not far from Kyiv. “One time, they sent 20 drones together at a position,” said Fox, who is being identified only by his call sign in keeping with Ukrainian military protocol. “But this winter will be a lot worse,” he added.

Vinall reported from Melbourne, Australia, and Suliman from London. Siobhán O’Grady and Kostiantyn Khudov in Kyiv; and Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.

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