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Russia-Ukraine war: Putin losing information war, UK says; Russian mayor made head of occupied Kharkiv – live


Former Russian mayor appointed head of Russian-occupied Kharkiv

A former mayor of a Russian city has been appointed to head a Russian-installed government in north-east Ukraine, the latest in a string of such appointments which Kyiv says are part of attempts to annexe its territory.

Andrei Alekseyenko resigned as mayor of Krasnodar on Thursday. He will now head a new Russian-appointed council of ministers in the Kharkiv province, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported on Friday, citing a decree by the local Russian-installed administration.

Russian officials have previously said that occupied areas of Ukraine will never return to Kyiv’s control, and that referendums on their accession to Russia may be held in the autumn. Ukraine has called them “pseudo-referendums” and vowed to prevent them.

Key events

Guardian editor Dan Sabbagh reported on Friday that “significant efforts” are being made “to understand if Ukraine can mount a successful counter attack in the south.”

Tweeting from a “Western officials” briefing, Sabbagh added that “such attacks are not without risk”.

Western official: significant efforts being made to understand if Ukraine can mount a successful counter attack in the south. Such attacks are not without risk. Near term unclear: “Both we and the Kremlin are entering unchartered territory”

— Dan Sabbagh (@dansabbagh) August 19, 2022

UN secretary-general has asked Russia not to cut nuclear plant from Ukraine’s grid.

UN chief António Guterres on Friday asked that the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station not be cut off from Ukraine’s grid, following Ukrainian reports that Moscow is planning to do so.

“Obviously the electricity from Zaporizhzhia is Ukrainian electricity… This principle must be fully respected,” the UN Secretary General said during a visit to the port of Odesa in southern Ukraine.

UN Secretary-General Guterres visits Odesa portepa10128898 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to journalists at the end of his visit to the Odesa grain port, in Odesa, Ukraine, 19 August 2022. Guterres arrived in Ukraine the previous dayto meet with President Zelensky and Turkish President Erdogan to talk on improving the grain initiative and the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The port of Odesa is being used for the export of Ukrainian grain through the Ukraine-Russia agreement promoted by the UN and Turkey. Russian troops on 24 February entered Ukrainian territory, starting a conflict that has provoked destruction and a humanitarian crisis. EPA/MANUEL DE ALMEIDA
UN Secretary-General Guterres visits Odesa port
epa10128898 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to journalists at the end of his visit to the Odesa grain port, in Odesa, Ukraine, 19 August 2022. Guterres arrived in Ukraine the previous dayto meet with President Zelensky and Turkish President Erdogan to talk on improving the grain initiative and the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The port of Odesa is being used for the export of Ukrainian grain through the Ukraine-Russia agreement promoted by the UN and Turkey. Russian troops on 24 February entered Ukrainian territory, starting a conflict that has provoked destruction and a humanitarian crisis. EPA/MANUEL DE ALMEIDA
Photograph: Manuel de Almeida/EPA

More than half of Russia’s Black Sea naval aviation knocked out, says western official

The Guardian’s defence and security editor, Dan Sabbagh, tweeting live from a briefing on Friday, said the Ukrainian raid on the Saky airbase in occupied Crimea last week knocked out “more than half” of Russia’s combat naval aviation in the Black Sea. However, overall “combat stasis” remains.

He added, from the briefing, that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “should be able to withstand most direct military fire. Built strong enough to resist impact of a civilian airliner. Concerns focused around whether the plant suffers a loss of cooling due to the loss of back-up electricity.”

Western official: raid on Saky airbase knocked out “more than half” of Russia’s combat naval aviation in Black Sea. Such raids for good for Ukrainian morale but overall “combat stasis” remains

— Dan Sabbagh (@dansabbagh) August 19, 2022

Concerns around shelling near the plant, the largest in Europe, have been growing since it was taken over by Russian forces in March. It is still being run by Ukrainians. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has called for an urgent withdrawal of military forces and equipment from the site.

Former Russian mayor appointed head of Russian-occupied Kharkiv

A former mayor of a Russian city has been appointed to head a Russian-installed government in north-east Ukraine, the latest in a string of such appointments which Kyiv says are part of attempts to annexe its territory.

Andrei Alekseyenko resigned as mayor of Krasnodar on Thursday. He will now head a new Russian-appointed council of ministers in the Kharkiv province, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported on Friday, citing a decree by the local Russian-installed administration.

Russian officials have previously said that occupied areas of Ukraine will never return to Kyiv’s control, and that referendums on their accession to Russia may be held in the autumn. Ukraine has called them “pseudo-referendums” and vowed to prevent them.

Italian newspapers have issued front-page warnings of alleged Russian interference in the upcoming election on Friday. This comes as a response to comments from Russia’s former president urging Europeans to “punish” their “stupid” governments, AFP reports.

The former president and current deputy chair of Russia’s security council, Dmitry Medvedev, on Thursday called for Europeans to be “not only outraged at the actions of their governments … but to hold them to account and punish them for their obvious stupidity”.

“Act, European neighbours! Don’t remain silent! Demand accountability!” he said on Telegram.

Following Medvedev’s comments, la Repubblica and il Messaggero front pages on Friday wrote of Russian “interference”, while the Corriere della Sera said Russia was “agitating” political waters ahead of the vote due to be held on 25 September.

Rishi Sunak has called on the G20 to bar the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, from its summit until Moscow halts the war in Ukraine, his spokesperson told Reuters on Friday.

Putin and the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, are said to be attending G20, which will be held on the island of Bali in November, according to earlier reports from Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo.

“Our G20 partners and allies have a collective responsibility to call Putin’s abhorrent behaviour out. Sitting round a table with him isn’t good enough when he is responsible for children being killed in their beds as they sleep,” a spokesperson for the former chancellor told Reuters.

They added: “We need to send a strong message to Putin that he doesn’t have a seat at the table unless and until he stops his illegal war in Ukraine.”

The former British chancellor and Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak at the Conservative party leadership election hustings at the Culloden hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The former British chancellor and Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak at the Conservative party leadership election hustings at the Culloden hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Mark Marlow/EPA

Sunak is currently trailing behind the foreign secretary, Liz Truss , in polls in the contest to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister. In a televised debate on 25 July, Truss said it would be important to confront Putin in front of Russia’s allies. She said:, “I would go there, and I would call Putin out.”

As hosts of this year’s summit, Indonesia has faced pressure from western countries to withdraw its invitation to Putin. The country has also invited the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Summary

It’s 11am in the UK and 1pm in Ukraine. Here is everything that’s happened so far today:

  • The Kyiv Independent reports that rescuers are searching for people and bodies under the rubble of a dormitory destroyed in attacks on the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

  • Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, will participate online in the second summit of the Crimea Platform, an international platform for work and cooperation on the liberation of Crimea.

  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has urged Ukrainians to stay away from enemy command posts and logistics bases, after reports of explosions overnight in Russian-occupied Crimea.

  • According to Ukraine’s General Staff, Russia has lost 44,700 troops in Ukraine, the Kyiv Independent reports.

  • There were “no claimed or assessed Russian territorial gains in Ukraine on August 18, 2022 for the first time since July 6, 2022”, a report by the Institute for the Study of War, has found.

  • Russia has failed to gain ground in cyberspace against Ukraine, the head of Britain’s GCHQ intelligence service has said. “President Putin has comprehensively lost the information war in Ukraine and in the west,” Jeremy Fleming said in an op-ed in the Economist on Friday. “Just as with its land invasion, Russia’s initial online plans appear to have fallen short.”

  • Kharkiv has been one of the most consistently shelled since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to British intelligence.

  • Russian forces may be preparing to stage a “provocation” at the Moscow-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s military intelligence has warned.

  • The US is readying about $800m of additional military aid to Ukraine and could announce it as soon as Friday, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

  • The Chinese and Russian leaders Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin will attend the G20 summit in Bali in November, Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, told Bloomberg News. “Xi Jinping will come. President Putin has also told me he will come,” Jokowi, as he is popularly known, told the news agency.

The Kyiv Independent reports that rescuers are searching for people and bodies under the rubble of a dormitory destroyed in attacks on the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

The head of Kharkiv Oblast police, Volodymyr Tymoshko, said there are currently 19 people confirmed dead, including a child, and 20 injured, with the death toll expected to rise after Russian rockets struck two hostel dormitories.

Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, will participate online in the second summit of the Crimea Platform, an international platform for work and cooperation on the liberation of Crimea. The summit, initiated by Ukraine, will be available to watch live on Nato’s website.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has urged Ukrainians to stay away from enemy command posts and logistics bases. “Do not approach the military objects of the Russian army,” he said after reports of explosions overnight in Russian-occupied Crimea. Speaking on Wednesday, Zelenskiy said Russians have realised that Crimea is “not a place for them” and hinted more attacks could lie ahead.

Fires and explosions have been reported at military targets inside Russia and Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, in the latest of a string of apparent sabotage missions deep into Russian-held territory.

Two Russian villages were evacuated after a blaze at a munitions depot near the Ukrainian border in Belgorod province. “An ammunition depot caught fire near the village of Timonovo”, less than 50km from the border, the regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said in a statement, adding that no casualties were reported.

According to the Kyiv Independent, Oleg Kryuchkov, an advisor to the head of the Russian occupation government in Ukraine’s Crimea, posted on the social media app Telegram that the Russian military had destroyed a target in the city of Kerch, which is linked to Russia’s Krasnodar Krai via the strategic Crimean Bridge. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the President’s Office, said on 17 August that the Crimean Bridge should be destroyed.

The Kyiv Independent reports that according to Ukraine’s General Staff, Russia has lost 44,700 troops in Ukraine as well as 1,899 tanks, 4,195 armoured fighting vehicles, 1,016 artillery systems, 266 multiple launch rocket systems, 141 air defence systems, 197 helicopters, 234 airplanes, 795 drones, and 15 boats.

A new report from the The Institute for the Study of War, a non-profit research organisation in the US has found there were “no claimed or assessed Russian territorial gains in Ukraine on August 18, 2022 for the first time since July 6, 2022”.

The report suggests Russian propaganda has been intensified as tensions continue to build around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as the chief of Russia’s radiation, chemical and biological defence forces, Lt Gen Igor Kirillov, claimed on 18 August in a briefing that “Ukrainian forces are preparing for a provocation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP and that the provocation is meant to coincide with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres’s visit to Ukraine”.

Summary so far

It is 9am in Ukraine. Here is everything you might have missed:

  • Russia has failed to gain ground in cyberspace against Ukraine, the head of Britain’s GCHQ intelligence service has said. “President Putin has comprehensively lost the information war in Ukraine and in the west,” Jeremy Fleming said in an op-ed in The Economist on Friday. “Just as with its land invasion, Russia’s initial online plans appear to have fallen short.”

  • Multiple unconfirmed reports are claiming Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv has been struck again this morning. The Kyiv Independent cited Kharkiv mayor, Ihor Terekhov, as saying Russian forces fired on three of the city’s districts at around 5.44am. Terekhov said a residential building was damaged and another building caught fire. If confirmed, the attack would be the third to hit city in three days. Kharkiv regional governor, Oleh Synehubov, said at least 17 people were killed and 42 injured in two separate recent Russian attacks on the city.

  • Kharkiv has been one of the most consistently shelled since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to British intelligence. Sitting around 15km from the Russian front line, Kharkiv has suffered because it remains within range of most types of Russian artillery, the latest report from the UK’s ministry of defence reads.

  • Russian forces may be preparing to stage a “provocation” at the Moscow-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s military intelligence has warned. Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency said it was concerned that Russia had plans to stage an incident at the plant on Friday, and had information that staff with Russia’s Rosatom nuclear company had left the site.

  • The UN secretary general has called for an urgent withdrawal of military forces from the site. António Guterres said he was “gravely concerned” about the situation at the plant and said it had to be demilitarised, adding: “We must tell it like it is – any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide.” Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said he agreed with Guterres on a framework for a visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog to inspect the power plant. “We are worried. We don’t want another Chornobyl,” the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, added.

  • Two Russian villages were evacuated after a fire broke out at an ammunition depot near the border with Ukraine on Thursday, local authorities said. An ammunition depot caught fire near the village of Timonovo, less than 50km (30 miles) from the Ukrainian border in Belgorod province, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a statement.

  • The US is readying about $800m of additional military aid to Ukraine and could announce it as soon as Friday, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday. President Joe Biden would authorise the assistance using his presidential drawdown authority, which allows the president to authorise the transfer of excess weapons from US stocks.

  • Chinese and Russian leaders Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin will attend the G20 summit in Bali in November, Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, told Bloomberg News. “Xi Jinping will come. President Putin has also told me he will come,” Jokowi, as he is popularly known, told the news agency.





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