Russia’s defense chief warned Sunday: Ukraine was preparing a provocation involving a radioactive device.
An AP report said:
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the allegations in phone calls with his counterparts from the U.S., Britain, France and Turkey.
Shoigu voiced concern about “possible Ukrainian provocations involving a ‘dirty bomb,’” a device that uses explosives to scatter radioactive waste. It does not have the devastating effect of a nuclear explosion, but could expose broad areas to radioactive contamination.
The claim was strongly rejected by U.S., British and Ukrainian officials.
The British Ministry of Defense noted that Shoigu, in a call with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, “alleged that Ukraine was planning actions facilitated by Western countries, including the UK, to escalate the conflict in Ukraine.”
The Defense Secretary refuted these claims, the British ministry said.
The U.S. also rejected Shoigu’s allegations, White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
In a televised address Sunday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested that Moscow itself was setting the stage for deploying a radioactive device on Ukrainian soil.
The mention of the dirty bomb threat in Shoigu’s calls seemed to indicate the threat of such an attack has risen to an unprecedented level.
The French Ministry of the Armed Forces said Shoigu told his counterpart, Sebastien Lecornu, that the situation in Ukraine was rapidly worsening and “trending towards uncontrollable escalation.”
“It appears that there is a shared feeling that the tensions have approached the level that could raise the real threat for all,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, the Kremlin-connected head of the Council for Foreign and Defense policies, a Moscow-based group of top foreign affairs experts.
The rising tensions come as Russian authorities reported building defensive positions in occupied areas of Ukraine and border regions of Russia, reflecting fears that Ukrainian forces may attack along new sections of the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line of the war, which enters its ninth month on Monday.
In recent weeks, Ukraine has focused its counteroffensive mostly on the Kherson region. Their relentless artillery strikes cut the main crossings across the Dnieper River, which bisects the southern region, leaving Russian troops on the west bank short of supplies and vulnerable to encirclement.
Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian-installed regional administration in Kherson, said Sunday in a radio interview that Russian defensive lines “have been reinforced and the situation has remained stable” since local officials strongly encouraged all residents of the region’s capital and nearby areas Saturday to evacuate by ferry to the river’s east bank.
The region is one of four that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and put under Russian martial law on Thursday. Kherson city has been in Russian hands since the early days of the war, but Ukraine’s forces have made advances toward reclaiming it.
About 20,000 Kherson residents have moved to places on the east bank of the Dnieper River, the Kremlin-backed regional administration reported. The Ukrainian military said Sunday that Russia’s military also withdrew its officers from areas on the west bank, leaving newly mobilized, inexperienced forces.
The Ukrainian claim could not be independently verified.
The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank in Washington, said Sunday that Russia’s latest strategy of targeting power plants appeared aimed at diminishing Ukrainians’ will to fight and forcing the government in Kyiv to devote more resources to protecting civilians and energy infrastructure.
Attacks Target Energy Infrastructure
Nine regions across Ukraine, from Odesa in the southwest to Kharkiv in the northeast, saw more attacks targeting energy and other critical infrastructure over the past day, the Ukrainian army’s general staff said. It reported a total of 25 Russian airstrikes and more than 100 missile and artillery strikes around Ukraine.
In response, Zelenskyy appealed to mayors and other local leaders to ensure that Ukrainians heed official calls to conserve energy. “Now is definitely not the time for bright storefronts and signs,” he said.
Shoigu Holds Second Call With U.S. Defense Secretary In Three Days
A Reuters report said:
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday for the second time in three days and held a flurry of calls with three other counterparts from NATO countries.
Moscow provided no details on the conversation with Austin, which came after the two men spoke on Friday for the first time since May. Its readouts on the other calls said Shoigu had said the situation in Ukraine was worsening.
The Pentagon’s readout of the call said Austin told Shoigu he “rejected any pretext for Russian escalation.” Austin also “reaffirmed the value of continued communication.”
According to the Russian short readout on the first phone call, the two top officials “discussed issues of international security, including the situation in Ukraine” over the phone.
The last phone call between Shoigu and Austin was reported in May, with both sides giving away few details about it. It was the first direct conversation between the officials since Russia sent troops into Ukraine in late February.
Sources cited by Reuters revealed at the time that the call lasted for about an hour and failed to solve any specific matter. The exchange was initiated by Washington, Russian media reported.
A top Russian diplomat was quoted after the Shoigu-Austin call on Friday as saying that “misunderstandings must be cleared up so that there are no accidents.”
There was no indication from the Russian side that the conversations had produced any positive results. They showed that Russia and members of the U.S.-led NATO alliance are actively maintaining channels of communication at a time of rising international concern about a possible nuclear escalation.
NATO’s Nuclear Deterrence Exercise
Other media reports said:
NATO last week launched its annual nuclear deterrence exercise and has said it expects Russia to hold drills shortly to test the readiness of its own nuclear forces.
Weapons Shortages Could Mean Hard Calls For Ukraine’s Allies
An AP report said:
For months, the U.S. and other NATO members have sent billions of dollars worth of weapons and equipment into Ukraine to help it fight back against Russia. But for many of the smaller NATO countries, and even some of the larger ones, the war has strained already-depleted weapons stockpiles. Some allies sent all their reserve Soviet-era weaponry and are now waiting for U.S. replacements.
It can be difficult for some European countries to rapidly resupply because they no longer have a strong defense sector to quickly build replacements, with many relying on a dominant American defense industry that has elbowed out some foreign competitors.
Now they face a dilemma: Do they keep sending their stocks of weapons to Ukraine and potentially increase their own vulnerability to Russian attack or do they hold back what’s left to protect their homeland, risking the possibility that makes a Russian victory in Ukraine more likely?
It is a tough calculation.
After eight months of intense fighting, the allies expect the war will continue for months, maybe years, with both sides rapidly using up weapons supplies. Victory may come down to who can last longer.
The stockpile strain comes up “all the time,” especially among smaller NATO countries, said Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur of Estonia, a Baltic nation that shares a 183-mile (295-kilometer) border with Russia.
It weighs on them even as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has urged members of the Western alliance, at a recent NATO gathering in Brussels, “to dig deep and provide additional capability” to Ukraine.
European officials, in public comments and interviews with The Associated Press, said Russia must not be allowed to win in Ukraine and that their support will continue. But they stressed that domestic defense is weighing on them all.
“Our estimation is that Russia will restore their capabilities sooner rather than later” because Russian President Vladimir Putin can order weapons makers to go into 24-hour a day production, Pevkur said.
“So the question is, ‘How much risk are you ready to take?’” Pevkur said at a German Marshall Fund event this past week.
Other smaller nations, such as fellow Baltic state Lithuania, face the same challenges. But so do some larger NATO members, including Germany.
“Ukraine has led to a general shortage of supply because so many states have forgotten that conventional war is burning through your ammunition reserve. Just burning through it,” Dovilė Šakalienė, a member of Lithuania’s Parliament, said in a phone interview. “In certain situations, even the word ‘excess’ is not applicable. In certain situations, we left ourselves with a bare minimum.”
Germany faces a similar situation, the ministry of defense said in an email to the AP. “Yes, the Bundeswehr’s stocks are limited. Just as it is the case in other European countries,” the ministry said.
“I cannot tell you what the exact stockpiles are because of security aspects. However, we are working to close the current gaps.”
For some NATO countries, it may not be possible to “dig deep,” said Max Bergmann, the European director for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“They have cut the fat essentially,” Bergmann said. “Now they are cutting into the bone.”
The stockpiles are low because for many European nations, military spending became a lower priority after the end of the Cold War, which weakened their defense industrial bases. U.S. defense companies also had a role as they moved in to compete for European contracts.
“We wanted them to buy American,” Bergmann said. “When the Norwegians are operating F-16s and F-35s instead of the Swedish Saab Gripen” fighter jets, it has an impact on Europe’s defense market strength, he said.
The U.S. has long urged other NATO member countries to increase defense spending to 2% of their GDP — a target most hadn’t met.
Estonia has provided the equivalent of one-third of its defense budget to Ukraine, Pevkur said. Norway has provided more than 45% of its stock of howitzers, Slovenia has committed nearly 40% of its tanks and the Czech Republic had sent about 33% of its multiple launch rocket systems, according to the Germany-based Kiel Institute. The team based its analysis on an annual report on the known weapons and troop sizes of militaries worldwide published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The U.S. has committed more than $17.5 billion in weapons and equipment to Ukraine since February, raising questions among some members of Congress as to whether it too is assuming too much risk. The Pentagon will not provide data on its own stockpiles.
The Washington-based Stimson Center research group estimates the Ukraine war has reduced the U.S. stockpiles of Javelin anti-tank weapons by as much as one-third and Stinger missile inventories by 25%. It’s also put pressure on artillery supplies because the U.S.-manufactured M777 Howitzer is no longer in production.
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Gen. Pat Ryder said that when Austin recently met with the top government weapons buyers of scores of countries, he discussed the need to “not only replenish our own stocks as an international community, but also ensure that we can continue to support Ukraine going forward.”
Estonia passed a 42.5% defense budget increase this year to replenish its stocks. Germany is working on long-term contracts for high-grade munitions such as Stinger missiles and in September signed a 560 million euro ($548 million) contract for 600 new Navy guided missiles, with delivery planned through 2029.
Restoring stockpiles and rebuilding weapons manufacturing capability will be a long process, said Tom Waldwyn a defense procurement researcher for the IISS.
For some countries, “it may require more significant investment in infrastructure. This will not be cheap as inflation and supply chain instability have pushed up costs,” Waldwyn said.
Šakalienė has been pressing other members of Lithuania’s Parliament to start awarding long-term defense contracts now to rebuild the country’s ability to defend itself.
“Without making long-term sustainable decisions in expansion of military industry, we are not safe,” Šakalienė said. “This decade is not going to be peaceful. This decade is going to be tough.”
Ukraine’s Pension Appeal To EU
Other media reports said:
Ukraine may not have the money to pay wages and pensions unless the European Union speeds up its financial aid, the country’s prime minister has warned. He said Brussels should act quickly to transfer all of the €9 billion ($8.8 billion) that was pledged to Kiev in May.
“The most important thing for us is that it comes as soon as possible,” Denis Shmigal told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Saturday. “We need it so that our financial system can survive. Whether it will come in the form of a loan or a grant is less important.”
Shmigal warned that “in an extremely negative scenario,” Ukraine could end up “not paying wages and not paying pensions.”
The PM called for the seizure of Russian assets that were frozen after Moscow launched its military operation in February, so the funds can be used for Ukraine’s recovery.
The damage from eight months of warfare amounts to “more than $750 billion,” the official claimed.
He said Ukraine will need more than 10,000 mobile power generators and warming centers during the winter. Alexander Kharchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s energy minister, said this week that around 40% of the country’s energy infrastructure sites have been “seriously damaged” by recent waves of Russian strikes.
Kiev began receiving German IRIS-T air defense missile systems this month. However, the country now urgently needs more ammunition and anti-drone jammers in order to counter aerial attacks, Shmigal said.
Russia has stepped up its missile and kamikaze drone attacks on Kiev and other major Ukrainian cities this month, repeatedly hitting thermal power plants and power lines, among other targets. President Vladimir Putin said the intensification of the strikes was a retaliation against “terrorist attacks” on Russian soil, including a truck bombing that damaged a strategic bridge, connecting the Crimean Peninsula with Russia proper.
Zelensky Calls For ‘World’ To ‘Strike’ Kremlin
The world should make it clear to Russia that it would have to face an immediate military response if it decides to use nuclear arms against Kiev, Ukrainian President Zelensky told the broadcasters CBC and CTV in an interview this week. The Ukrainian leader accused Russia of using “terrorist” blackmail tactics, and said Moscow only understands the language of force.
Zelensky accused Moscow of repeatedly threatening to strike “decision-making centers” in Ukraine, including with nuclear arms, and said the world should respond if such a strike does take place. “It does not matter if Ukraine is a NATO member or a non-NATO nation,” he said.
According to the Ukrainian president, the world should tell the Russians: “If you strike Bankova Street [the Ukraine President’s Office], there will be a strike at where you are.”
If Moscow does strike Kiev, there should be “a strike at the decision-making centers” in Russia the next “second,” regardless of the results of the Russian attack, he added. Such a stance would not be blackmail, but a form of self-defense that would supposedly prevent those issuing threats from following through on their plans, Zelensky argued.
The Ukrainian president also blamed the Russian public for what is happening in Ukraine.
It is not the first time the Ukrainian leader has made such appeals. Earlier, he called on NATO to carry out preventive strikes on Russia to deter the use of nuclear weapons. At that time, his words sparked an angry reaction from Moscow, which accused Zelensky of trying to spark a third world war.
The Ukrainian president then walked back his statement, claiming it was mistranslated and that he really meant to say preemptive sanctions, not “preemptive strikes.”
U.S. Could Directly Intervene, Says Ex-CIA Chief
The US and its allies might directly intervene in the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev, even if there is no threat to any NATO member states, retired US Army general David Petraeus told France’s L’Express weekly on Saturday.
Washington might form a new coalition of the willing in such a scenario and use it instead of NATO, Petraeus, who also briefly served as the CIA director, believes.
Russia could take some actions in Ukraine that would be “so shocking and so horrific” that it would prompt a response from the U.S. and other nations, he said, adding that they “might react in one way or another, but as a multinational force led by the U.S. and not as a NATO force.”
Earlier in October, Petraeus claimed that the US could wipe out all Russian forces in Ukraine, alongside with the Russian Black Sea fleet, if Moscow uses nuclear arms in Ukraine. On Saturday, he doubled down on these words by saying that Washington’s response to such a move on Russia’s part would involve “more than diplomatic, economic and legal actions.”
At the same time, Petraeus said that his earlier words had described “just one” of “many options” America has in store in case Russia resorts to the use of nuclear arms, which he called an “extremely bad decision.”
The general also said that he still thinks there is nothing Russia could do to change the situation on the frontlines, which, according to Petraeus, is unfavorable to Moscow.
U.S. Elite Unit Ready To Fight In Ukraine, Says CBS
The US Army’s 101st Airborne Division would not hesitate to enter Ukraine should a conflict break out between Russia and NATO, CBS News reported on Friday citing the unit’s military commanders.
The elite division is currently conducting war games in Romania, close to the country’s border with the war-torn state.
The unit’s commanders told CBS that they would be prepared to cross into Ukraine if the fighting escalates – without elaborating what that would entail – or if NATO were to come under attack. They highlighted that their current deployment in Europe, the first since WWII, is “to defend NATO territory.”
“We are ready to defend every inch of NATO soil,” Deputy Commander Brigadier General John Lubas told the news network.
In Romania, the 101st Airborne Division is holding joint live-fire ground and air assault exercises. According to Colonel Edwin Matthaidess, Commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, his division is the closest U.S. unit to the fighting in Ukraine. He noted that the U.S. troops, have been “closely watching” the Russian military while “building objectives to practice against” and organizing the drills to “replicate exactly what is going on” in Ukraine.
“It keeps us on our toes,” he added.
In total, about 4,700 American soldiers from the 101st Airborne’s base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, have been sent to Europe.
Since the start of Russia’s military offensive on February 24, Ukraine has received substantial military aid from NATO countries, with billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry pouring into the country – which Moscow has repeatedly criticized.
U.S. Election Outcome Threatens Aid To Ukraine
EU members should be prepared to provide more aid to Ukraine after the November 8 midterm elections in the US, Politico reported.
If the Republican Party takes control of Congress, “NATO’s most generous donor to Ukraine’s war effort may suddenly seem much more parsimonious,” next year, the publication warned on Thursday. Similar predictions have been made by other outlets, such as Axios.
Opinion polls have been showing dwindling support among American voters for supporting Ukraine. Members of the Republican Party have been increasingly criticizing President Joe Biden for asking Congress for tens of billions of dollars in aid to Kiev and not spending the money on domestic issues that the party finds important, like border protection.
“I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they are not going to write a blank check to Ukraine,” House minority leader Kevin McCarthy told Punchbowl News this week.
Republicans have long urged the EU to take on a greater burden in supporting Ukraine, arguing that the crisis there is a bigger threat to Europeans than it is to the US. Politico predicted that with the party gaining a stronger grip on pursestrings, Washington’s approach to its allies may shift.
European voters are feeling the pain of the trade breakup with Russia and the surge in energy prices it has caused. The EU leadership has been calling for unity and resolve in the face of economic hardships, stating that the bloc had to ensure Moscow’s defeat by Kiev.