The Pentagon is studying how to help Ukraine defend against Iranian drones that Russia uses to kill civilians and destroy infrastructure, White House spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.
“I can’t tell you today what it will look like, when we can move additional air defense capabilities to Ukraine,” he said. “But I can assure you that (the Defense Ministry) is well aware of the threat and is working hard to see what it can do to help Ukrainians deal with the threat.”
That includes working with allies with air defense capabilities who might be able to help, Kirby added.
Although both Russia and Iran deny it, Kirby said Russia has received dozens of drones from Iran and is likely to get more. Iran has also set up a “relatively small number” of trainers and technical support in Crimea to show Russians how to use them, he said.
“Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground and through the supply of weapons that impact civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we don’t think it’s going to change the tide of the war.”
CHART:Mapping and tracking the Russian invasion of Ukraine
►Night Russian drone and missile attacks killed at least three civilians and injured 14 across Ukraine, the president’s office said, adding that a school in Zaporizhzhia province was hit early Thursday.
►A Russian fighter jet ‘dropped a missile’ near an unarmed British plane in ‘international airspace’ over the Black Sea, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday. Wallace said Russia blamed the “potentially dangerous” missile launch on a “technical malfunction”. He said he did not view the incident as a deliberate escalation by Russia.
►Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of martial law in four illegally annexed regions of Ukraine – a decision denounced internationally – “shows his desperation” as Ukrainian forces continually advance, the Secretary of State said State Antony Blinken in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “published on Wednesday.
►The US Department of Justice has indicted nearly a dozen people, including five Russian nationals, in two separate schemes to illegally supply US military technology to Russia. Some of the equipment was recovered from battlefields in Ukraine while the other was intercepted in Latvia, the department said.
►Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday backed his predecessor’s decision to cancel a deal to buy 16 Russian military heavy-lift helicopters and said his administration had “obtained an alternative supply from the United States.” Philippine officials feared Western sanctions if they accepted the deal with Russia.
PROGRESS IN UKRAINE:Ukraine regains more territory in the east and south as counter-offensives continue
There are growing signs that Ukrainian forces are preparing to launch an offensive to reclaim much more territory in the southern province of Kherson, including its eponymous capital. If so, they might not encounter major resistance.
The ongoing evacuation of around 60,000 residents of the city of Kherson and recent comments from Russian officials indicate that they expect to cede these lands, according to military experts.
Citing Russian commander Sergei Surovikin’s assessment of the “difficult situation” in the region, the British Ministry of Defense This is where the port city of Kherson is located, taken by invading forces in March.
The Kremlin may actually be preparing the public to expect to lose Kherson, hoping to avoid the shock of Russia’s withdrawal from northern Kharkiv province, the Institute for the Study of war based in Washington.
Moscow also appears to be planning a false flag attack on the Kakhovka hydropower plant further up the river, in part to distract from the withdrawal of its troops, the institute said, echoing a warning from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Thursday.
“The Russian authorities probably intended these warnings about an alleged Ukrainian strike on the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant to establish information conditions allowing Russian forces to damage the dam and blame Ukraine for the damage and the resulting loss of life, while using the resulting floods to cover their own retreat further south in Kherson Oblast,” the institute said.
Italian Berlusconi appears to support Putin in secretly recorded comments
Silvio Berlusconi’s resumption of warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the former Italian Prime Minister’s apparent defense of the invasion of Ukraine – recorded secretly – have raised questions about whether the new Italian government will will stick to the EU’s condemnation of Putin’s war.
Berlusconi, 86, leads the center-right Forza Italia party, an important component of the coalition that the presumed new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, will govern. He is also a longtime icon of Italian politics and a media mogul.
As the West tries to single out Putin for his ruthless attack on Ukraine, Berlusconi is heard on an audio tape released this week by Italian media bragging about having obtained 20 bottles of vodka and a ‘sweet letter’ of Putin for his birthday last month and saying he had sent Italian wine and a similar note to his longtime friend in return.
More damningly, Berlusconi appears to be blaming Ukraine for the war, telling members of his party he was told the Ukrainian government had killed 5,000 to 7,000 people in the eastern region of Donbass – which has a large population pro-Kremlin – forcing Putin to intervene.
“He is under strong pressure from all over Russia,” Berlusconi was heard saying. “So he decides to invent a special operation: the troops were supposed to enter Ukraine, reach Kyiv in a week, depose the government in place, Zelenskyy and so on, and install a government already chosen by the Ukrainian minority… then leave the following week.”
Berlusconi did not deny these remarks, but accused the media of “distorted and frankly ridiculous interpretations of my thinking” on Russia and Ukraine.
Ukrainians were preparing for blackouts starting Thursday as Russia continues to attack the country’s energy infrastructure, utility officials said.
Amid Russian missile strikes on power plants, Ukraine has launched an energy-saving campaign, asking residents to reduce their electricity consumption. The country’s energy company, NPC Ukrenergo made the announcement on Wednesday, appealing for “understanding and support”.
“It’s a forced decision,” the utility company said, pointing out that the Russians had caused more damage to the energy system since October 10 than in the previous 7.5 months of war.
NPC Ukrenergo urged residents to ensure their phones and power banks were charged and to keep flashlights, warm socks and blankets handy. Ukrainians also stocked up on candles, canned goods, bottled water and warm clothes ahead of winter.
“We will do everything possible to restore normal energy capabilities in our country,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday. “But it takes time. And it requires our joint efforts.”
Ukraine’s energy official, Oleksandr Kharchenko, said around 40% of the country’s electricity system had been badly damaged. Zelenskyy said Russian forces had destroyed 30% of Ukrainian power plants since October 10.
Russian shelling cut off electricity and water service to Enerhodar, the southern town near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Missiles also severely damaged an energy facility near Kryvyi Rih, Zelenskyy’s hometown in south-central Ukraine.
European Union members have agreed to new sanctions on Iran after the country was accused of supplying drones to Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, announced the Czech EU Presidency on Thursday.
“After 3 days of talks, EU ambassadors have agreed on measures against entities supplying Iranian drones that struck Ukraine,” the presidency said on Twitter, adding that the sanctions should be promulgated Thursday afternoon.
In an interview with Canadian broadcaster CTV on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Iran of taking “blood money” from Russia to supply its forces with drones used in deadly attacks.
“They publicly denied it all, saying we didn’t sell anything, but here we see,” he said. “Hundreds of strikes. In Ukraine, in the capital, in civil infrastructure, in schools, near the university, in the university and the shutdown of our energy system.”
Russia renamed the drones and denied buying them from Iran, which also dismissed the idea that it sold them to Moscow.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that the United States has “abundant evidence” that Iran was supplying Russia with drones in violation of a UN resolution.
Ukrainian hotline “I want to live” attracts more than 3,000 Russian calls
Thousands of Russians are responding to Ukraine’s encouragement to surrender instead of fighting in the war, say organizers of the so-called “I want to live” helpline.
The line and a Telegram chatbot were set up by the Ukrainian military in mid-September, shortly after Ukraine reclaimed part of northern Kharkiv province and around the time Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a civil mobilization. More than 3,000 people have called the line since, organizers said.
“We’ve had cases of Russians calling us when they haven’t been written up yet,” project spokesman Vitalii Matvienko told The Associated Press. “Now there are more calls from newly recruited soldiers.”
Matvienko said the hotline was announced despite Russia blocking the project’s website, and calls were increasing with Ukrainian counteroffensives. Some of the callers are crying and afraid of being drafted, Matvienko said.
Contribute: The Associated Press