Russia-Ukraine war news: Ukraine counteroffensive won’t reach Melitopol, U.S. predicts

A Ukrainian soldier runs through a trench during a combat operation on the front line in the Zaporizhzhia region on Aug. 10. (Libkos/AP)

U.S. intelligence officials don’t expect Ukraine to reach the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol in its counteroffensive, according to people familiar with a classified forecast. Melitopol is at the intersection of two important highways and a railroad line that allow Russia to move troops and supplies from the Crimean Peninsula to other occupied territories in southern Ukraine.

In Moscow, officials reported early Friday that a drone was shot down. Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of launching “another terrorist attack.”

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

Ukraine’s forces, which are pushing toward Melitopol from the town of Robotyne more than 50 miles away, will remain several miles outside the city, U.S. officials predicted. If they fail to eject Russian troops from Melitopol, Ukraine would fall short of achieving one of its key goals in the ongoing counteroffensive: to sever the land bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Kyiv in 2014.

The drone that was shot down Friday in Russia’s capital fell on a nonresidential building, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. No casualties or fires resulted from the interception, the ministry said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday signed legislation extending martial law until mid-November. If martial law is not lifted, national parliamentary elections scheduled for the fall would be delayed. Ukraine’s constitution stipulates that parliamentary elections should take place no later than Oct. 29 and presidential elections early next year.

Gene Spektor, a U.S. citizen in Russia, was arrested on espionage charges Thursday, according to Russian state media. Spektor had previously been convicted of bribery. A State Department spokesperson, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive diplomatic issue, said officials were monitoring the situation. “When a U.S. citizen is detained overseas, the department works to provide all appropriate assistance,” the spokesperson said.

A large fire broke out at a cargo terminal in the Russian Black Sea port city of Novorossiysk, according to Russian state news agency Tass. The blaze covered 1,300 square meters (14,000 square feet), the news agency reported Friday. The cause of the fire is unclear. Earlier this month, Ukraine’s navy and main internal security service used sea drones to attack a Russian naval base near the port, The Washington Post previously reported.

A 61-year-old woman was killed in shelling in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, according to an official. Oleh Synyehubov, the regional governor, wrote Friday on Telegram that another woman, 60, was injured in shelling the previous day.

Russia is attempting to “erode Ukrainian national identity” in the areas it occupies, Britain’s Defense Ministry said. In its daily update Thursday, the ministry said Russian authorities plan to issue a new history textbook to schools in Russia and occupied areas of Ukraine starting in September. The textbook praises Russia’s actions in the war and describes Ukraine as an ultra-terrorist state. In occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhia region, these efforts include new standards of accrediting educational institutions and employing Russian journalists in local media, the update said.

Ukraine will host a defense industries forum in the fall, Zelensky said. “It will be the first time such a large-scale event will be held at the state level,” he announced. Ukrainian and foreign arms manufacturers will be invited, and the event will seek to boost arms production inside Ukraine “through localization with partners,” he added.

A new Pentagon review of biological threats says Russia probably maintains the ability to create deadly toxins and pathogens, The Post reported. Moscow also has an active offensive biological weapons program, according to the report. In March 2022, the White House warned that Russia could employ bioweapons in Ukraine. There is some limited evidence that Russia has used low-grade chemical attacks in Ukraine, and Zelensky said last year that Moscow has used bombs that dispersed white phosphorus, a highly incendiary chemical. Moscow at the time denied violating international conventions that outlaw biological and chemical weapons.

The family of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine arrested in Russia in 2018 and serving a 16-year sentence, confirmed that he spoke to Secretary of State Blinken this week. Paul’s brother, David Whelan, said in an emailed update that he was “caught off guard at the level of interest in what appeared to me to be a routine phone call” on Wednesday. “As Paul conveyed it to our parents yesterday, he said it was a ‘good’ call and it sounds like there was a frank discussion about the current status of his detention.” He said that the U.S. government “either can’t, or is unwilling to, make a concession that the Kremlin will accept for its extortion,” but added the call was “yet another extraordinary show of the U.S. government’s ongoing commitment to secure Paul’s release.”

The European Union’s natural gas storage capacity has reached 90 percent, “well ahead of schedule,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Friday, as the continent prepares for its second winter since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Households across the continent faced soaring bills last year as a result of the war, as President Vladimir Putin withheld natural gas shipments in response to Western sanctions. “Together, we are weaning ourselves off Russian gas,” von der Leyen wrote on X. “And we keep working in parallel on more diverse energy supplies for the future.”

Germany unveiled a new security assistance package to Ukraine. Berlin will send Kyiv two IRIS-T SLS air defense systems, 10 ground surveillance radars and several thousand rounds of smoke ammunition, according to an updated list of Germany’s military aid to Ukraine. Zelensky expressed thanks in his nightly address for the new supplies. Meanwhile, Sweden’s parliament also approved a further security assistance package worth 270 million euros ($294 million), Ukraine’s defense minister said as he tweeted his thanks.

Zelensky said he signed a key law required to begin talks on Ukraine’s entry into the European Union, which he said he hopes can begin this year. “The law ensures transparency, professionalism and integrity in the qualifications of Constitutional Court judges,” he said late Thursday in a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Ukraine has moved one step closer to the E.U.” The bloc granted Ukraine candidate status following the Russian invasion, but it set out a number of conditions, including laws to ensure qualified judges; limiting the influence of oligarchs; and improving Ukraine’s track record on investigating and prosecuting corruption.

Russia recruited operatives online to target weapons crossing Poland: Polish authorities suspect that Russia’s military intelligence agency built a network of amateurs to carry out espionage and sabotage missions inside Poland, Greg Miller, Loveday Morris and Mary Ilyushina report. Russia’s aim was to disrupt a weapons pipeline through Poland that accounts for more than 80 percent of the military hardware delivered to Ukraine, Polish and Western officials say.

The foiled operation posed the most serious Russian threat on NATO soil since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine last year, according to Polish officials. “This is the first sign that the Russians are trying to organize sabotage — even terrorist attacks — in Poland,” said Stanislaw Zaryn, who oversees the country’s security services.

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