Thu, 07 Dec 2023

Several hundred members of Russia's Wagner private mercenary group have returned to eastern Ukraine to fight but are not having a significant impact on the battlefield, a Ukrainian military spokesperson said on Wednesday. Wagner fighters played an important role in Russia's capture of the eastern city of Bakhmut in May but left Ukraine after a brief mutiny in June. Read our live blog to see how all the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

This live page is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

8:53pm: Canada PM offers 'unreserved' apology for invite to ex-Nazi

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday offered an "unreserved" apology in parliament after the legislature publicly celebrated a Ukrainian World War II veteran who fought alongside the Nazis.

"I would like to present unreserved apologies for what took place on Friday and to President (Volodymyr Zelensky) and the Ukrainian delegation for the position they were put in, for all of us who were present," Trudeau told lawmakers.

"To have unknowingly recognised this individual was a terrible mistake and a violation of the memory of those who suffered grievously at the hands of the Nazi regime."

The Canadian leader was referring to an embarrassing incident that marred a visit by Zelensky last week, sparking an uproar that led to the resignation of the parliament's speaker on Tuesday.

Trudeau said he was particularly sorry about the predicament this had put Zelensky in. Russia says the incident backs up its assertion that the war in Ukraine aims to "denazify" the country, a charge Kyiv and Western allies say is baseless.

6:54pm: Ukraine asks UN court to hear genocide case despite Russian objection

Ukraine on Wednesday urged judges at the United Nations' highest court to dismiss Russia's objections and hear in full Kyiv's claim that Moscow abused international law by saying the 2022 invasion was done to stop an alleged genocide.

"Your jurisdiction to resolve the dispute is clear. Your judgment remains urgently needed," Ukraine's representative Oksana Zolotaryova said.

Last week Russia urged the ICJ, also known as the World Court, to throw out the case, saying Kyiv's legal arguments were flawed. Kyiv argues Russia is abusing international law by saying the invasion was justified to stop an alleged genocide in eastern Ukraine.

"Here in The Hague Russia paints itself as a victim. In Ukraine, Russia has continued to show its true colours," Zolotaryova said, listing alleged Russian attacks on civil infrastructure and grain supplies.

Russia has so far ignored a preliminary ruling by the ICJ in March last year which ordered Moscow to stop its military actions and the court has no way of enforcing its decisions. Experts say a full ruling in favour of Ukraine can pave the way for compensation payments.

6:38pm: Ukraine appoints three new deputy defence ministers

The Ukrainian government has named three new deputy defence ministers, after six incumbents were dismissed following the appointment of a new defence minister this month.

Rustem Umerov became defence minister three weeks ago, saying his priorities include making the ministry the main institution for coordinating Ukrainian defence forces, enhancing the value attached to individual soldiers, developing Ukraine's military industry and fighting corruption.

"Rebooting of the ministry and implementation of qualitative changes that will be felt first by our soldiers," he said on Facebook, announcing the appointments.

The new deputy ministers include Yuriy Dzhyhyr, deputy finance minister in 2018-2020; Natalia Kalmykova, who most recently served as executive director of the Ukrainian Veteran Fund; and Kateryna Chernohorenko, head of Ukraine's "Army of Drones" project.

"The main priority for the new team members - our soldiers, their life, health and dignity," Umerov said.

5:37pm: Kyiv says Wagner fighters back in Ukraine, but impact limited

Several hundred members of Russia's Wagner private mercenary group have returned to eastern Ukraine to fight but are not having a significant impact on the battlefield, a Ukrainian military spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Wagner fighters played an important role in Russia's capture of the eastern city of Bakhmut in May but left Ukraine after a brief mutiny in June. Since Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash on August 23, the Kremlin has sought to bring the group under tighter state control. Russian military bloggers have reported that some Wagner fighters have been returning to Ukraine.

"We have recorded the presence of a maximum of several hundred fighters of the former Wagner PMC (private military company)," said Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern military command.

He added that Wagner fighters were scattered in different places, were not part of a single unit, and had had no significant impact.

"They do not constitute any integral, systematic, organised force," Cherevatyi said. "As they say - game over. These are pathetic remnants, nothing good awaits them here."

4:39pm: Bulgaria to provide Ukraine with aging, defective missiles it cannot repair itself

Bulgaria's parliament on Wednesday decided to send aging, Soviet-era air-defence missile systems to Ukraine, its first such shipment to Kyiv from a country bitterly divided over the issue.

An undisclosed number of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems - which Bulgaria said it is unable to repair - will be sent to Ukraine, following the decision by lawmakers.

Bulgaria's Chief of Defence Admiral Emil Evtimov said the missiles are thought to be over 30 years old. Some were even dangerous to keep, since they had not passed maintenance tests, he added.

"These are defective missiles that ... Bulgaria cannot repair, but they can be used for Ukraine's air defence," said Hristo Gadjev, the chairman of the parliamentary defence committee.

Ammunition for small arms from police stocks will also be sent, according to the decision, voted through in a closed session following a heated debate.

Bulgaria remains historically and culturally very close to Moscow and has been deeply divided over sending aid to Ukraine.

4:31pm: US targets Iran drone procurement network, accuses it of aiding Russia

The United States has imposed sanctions on a network it said is helping procure sensitive parts for Iran's drone program, and accused Tehran of supplying Russia with drones to support Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The network has facilitated shipments and financial transactions in support of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) procurement of a critical component used in Iran's Shahed-136 drones, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Wednesday's action targets entities and individuals in Iran, China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the department said.

"Iranian-made UAVs continue to be a key tool for Russia in its attacks in Ukraine, including those that terrorise Ukrainian citizens and attack its critical infrastructure," Treasury official Brian Nelson said in a statement.

3:56pm: Germany probing possible war crime in Ukraine

German authorities are investigating a possible war crime committed in the Ukrainian city of Hostomel, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors said.

Civilians including a German citizen were allegedly shot at and injured by Russian forces in the city north-west of Kyiv, the spokeswoman said.

An investigation into the incident was opened in July and German prosecutors are in close contact with Ukrainian authorities, she added.

Germany has in the past repeatedly prosecuted atrocities committed abroad, including the war in Syria.

1:49pm: Poland to boycott international football matches against Russia

Poland will boycott all international football matches against Russian teams, the president of the country's football federation said Wednesday following a decision by UEFA to lift a ban on youth sides from Russia.

"If Russian national teams are authorised to play, our national teams will not play against them. That is the only good solution," Cezary Kulesza wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

1:37pm: Warsaw open to Ukraine grain proposals ahead of talks

Poland's agriculture minister said on Wednesday that his country remained open to a Ukrainian proposal for a grain import licensing system, adding that the thorny issue would be discussed in the coming weeks.

Kyiv has suggested issuing licences to exporters of wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflowers in line with Poland's needs, Robert Telus said, after a video meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart.

"It's a question that we have to examine, but from the outside the proposal seems like a good thing," he said.

Ukraine's grain exports are meant to be transiting through the European Union to Africa and the Middle East in particular, since the war-torn nation's traditional Black Sea routes were blocked by Russia's invasion.

But because of logistical issues, grain had been piling up in central Europe and driving down local prices, prompting several countries to declare an embargo on imports which was temporarily approved by Brussels.

1:26pm: Kremlin says Canada must bring Nazi veteran to justice

The Kremlin said Wednesday that a Ukrainian Nazi veteran inadvertently honoured in the Canadian parliament last week should be brought to justice and suggested that he be extradited.

The speaker of Canada's parliament resigned following the incident, which saw lawmakers publicly applaud 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran Yaroslav Hunka, who fought for the Nazis during World War II.

"Canadian authorities have a duty to bring to justice - or to extradite to those who wish to bring to justice - this criminal," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Poland said Tuesday it was looking at extraditing the veteran, and investigating whether Hunka - who fought for an SS unit - was wanted for crimes against Poles or Polish Jews.

1:18pm: Russian naval commander announced dead by Kyiv appears again on state TV

Russian state media has once again broadcast undated footage of Black Sea Fleet commander Viktor Sokolov, who Kyiv claimed to have killed in a missile attack targeting the fleet's headquarters in annexed Crimea. Although it is impossible to tell when the footage was recorded, its broadcast is likely meant to suggest that the naval commander is still alive.

Undated footage broadcast Wednesday by the Russian defence ministry's Zvezda TV channel showed Sokolov saying that the Black Sea Fleet was "fulfilling the tasks the command has set".

Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, speaks with journalists during an interview at a military sports facility in Sevastopol, Crimea, in this still image taken from video released September 27, 2023.

12:36pm: Ukraine evacuates nearly 60 children from the front line in Zaporizhzhia

Ukrainian officials said Wednesday they had evacuated all children from several towns and villages near the front line in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, a focal point of Kyiv's counteroffensive.

Kyiv launched its push to recapture territory in June, but Russian forces have put up fierce resistance. Ukraine has ordered evacuations from several regions as their forces wrest back land.

"We have fulfilled the task set by the Ukrainian government ... and evacuated all children and their families" from five settlements in Zaporizhzhia, the deputy head of the region, Yevgen Myronenko, said.

Local media cited regional officials as saying a total of 59 children had been removed from the towns.

11:35am: Ukraine will boycott football competitions involving Russian teams

Ukraine has said it will not play in tournaments involving Russian teams after football's European governing body, UEFA, announced plans to reinstate Russia's Under-17 sides to European competitions.

In a statement released late on Tuesday, the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) urged UEFA to reconsider its decision and urged other countries not to play against Russian teams.

UEFA decided after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that all Russian teams - national or club sides - would be suspended from participation in its competitions.

But UEFA said on Tuesday that "children should not be punished for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults", and that Russian U-17 sides would be readmitted to UEFA competitions "in the course of this season".

10:53am: World's largest crypto exchange to sell Russia business

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance said on Wednesday it will sell its Russia business to newly launched exchange CommEX, becoming the latest company to pull out of Moscow since the country began its war against Ukraine.

Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, did not disclose financial details of the deal. The company said it will have no ongoing revenue split from the sale, nor will it maintain an option to buy back shares in the business.

"As we look toward the future, we recognise that operating in Russia is not compatible with Binance's compliance strategy," Chief Compliance Officer Noah Perlman said, without referring to the war in Ukraine, which Russia calls a "special military operation."

10:21am: Russia alleges US and UK aided Ukraine missile strike on Crimea naval HQ

Moscow claimed on Wednesday that Washington and London helped Ukraine strike the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in annexed Crimea last week.

"There is not the slightest doubt that the attack was planned in advance using Western intelligence assets, NATO satellite equipment, and reconnaissance aircraft," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. The missile strike was carried out "in close coordination with the American and British intelligence services", she added.

8:51am: Polish minister says Ukraine grain talks are on the right track

Talks with Ukraine about the grain imports are going in a good direction, the Polish agriculture minister said on Wednesday, after a dispute between the two countries over Warsaw's decision to extend a ban.

Kyiv's relations with Warsaw have soured since Poland, along with Hungary and Slovakia, decided to extend the ban that was introduced to protect farmers from a surge in grain and food imports from Ukraine after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022.

The government in Warsaw, which has been one of Kyiv's staunchest allies, is also under pressure from the far right to take a tougher stance on Ukraine ahead of October 15 elections.

3:45am: Russian drone strikes on Odesa region hit port area and cut ferry service to Romania

Russia struck the Black Sea region of Odesa in a drone barrage that damaged a warehouse, charred dozens of trucks and injured two drivers in fiery explosions that led to the suspension of the ferry service between Romania and Ukraine, officials said Tuesday.

Video shot from the Romanian side of the Danube River showed rapid bursts of Ukrainian anti-aircraft fire streaking through the night sky followed by two orange fireballs exploding near the port area. Photos showed burned-out frames of trucks.

Romanian Border Police said ferries were anchored on the Romanian shores of the Danube in Isaccea due to the attacks on Ukraine. Traffic was being redirected through Galati, a Romanian town upstream on the Danube.

Ukraine's air force said it downed 26 of 38 drones launched by Russia overnight.

Key developments from Tuesday, September 26:

Several villages in Russia's Kursk region bordering Ukraine lost power Tuesday after a Ukrainian drone dropped explosives on an electricity substation, according to the region's governor.

Turkey's parliament will keep its promise to ratify Sweden's NATO bid if US President Joe Biden's administration paves the way for F-16 jet sales to Ankara, President Tayyip Erdogan said in remarks carried by Turkish media.

US supplies of long-range ATACMS missiles and Abrams tanks to Ukraine will not change the situation on the battlefield, the Kremlin warned.

And Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet and one of Russia's most senior navy officers, was pictured attending a video conference, a day after Ukrainian special forces said they had killed him.

Read yesterday's live blog to see how the day's events unfolded.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

More Turkey News

Access More

Sign up for The Turkey News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!