Russia-Ukraine war news: Ukrainian forces advance in Zaporizhzhia, U.S. says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a news conference in Eindhoven, Netherlands, in August. (Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters)

White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Friday that Ukraine has achieved “notable progress” in recent days in its counteroffensive to retake territory in the southern Zaporizhzhia region. “They have achieved some success along that second line of Russian defenses,” he said at a news conference. It “is not beyond the realm of the possible that Russia will react” to Ukraine’s push, he said.

Kirby declined to comment on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s claims overnight that Kyiv had used new domestically made long-range missiles to hit a target at some 435 miles distance. Zelensky did not offer specifics, including whether they were used in a test or against an enemy target.

Hours later, the head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, said that Moscow’s new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads, had after months of delay been put on combat alert.

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

Ukraine’s apparent advance come after several weeks of near stalemate, which has prompted concern, including within the administration, about Ukraine’s military strategy.

Russia’s Ministry of Justice branded Nobel laureate Dmitry Muratov a “foreign agent” on Friday. Muratov, the editor in chief of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, has been a frequent critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The “foreign agent” designation imposes rules and restrictions relating to finances and public disclosures. The underlying law has been used to harass and burden human rights organizations and journalists in Russia.

Zelensky said Kyiv’s new long-range weapons were produced by the Ministry of Strategic Industries and, according to Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, have been under development since 2020. The Washington Post could not immediately verify the Ukrainian claims. Kirby referred all questions about Ukrainian capabilities to Kyiv and reiterated the administration’s policy of not encouraging or enabling Ukrainian strikes inside Russia’s borders. “We are focused on making sure Ukraine can win back its own territory,” Kirby said.

Yuri Borisov, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos, announced the deployment of the Sarmat missile complex on Friday, three months after Russian President Vladimir Putin initially said it would be ready, Russian state news agency Interfax reported. The Kremlin, which has claimed that it can breach “any missile defense” system, successfully test-launched one of the intercontinental ballistic missiles in April. At the time, Pentagon said it was not a significant threat to the United States or its allies.

Russia said Friday that any weapons facilities in Ukraine could become a target, a day after Zelensky’s office announced that Britain’s largest defense contractor, BAE Systems, will open an office in Kyiv to streamline support for Ukrainian forces. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that the development would not “fundamentally change the situation,” but warned: “Any weapons production facilities, especially if these weapons are fired at us, become the object of special attention by our military forces.” BAE has been providing Ukraine with weapons such as the L119 and M777 artillery systems, Zelensky said.

Putin said Friday that he would meet “soon enough” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who the Russian president called “his friend” and “a person who does a lot for the development of Russian-Chinese relations.” The two leaders most recently met in March and held three days of talks in Moscow — a symbolic joint stand against the United States and its Western allies. Xi and Putin agreed to expand economic ties, which have become a lifeline for Russia under Western sanctions.

Moscow’s mayor reported early Friday that drones were shot down outside the city. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, according to a Telegram post from Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. Moscow’s Vnukovo and Domodedovo airports were temporarily closed in what has become a nightly occurrence. Ukrainian drones targeted two other western regions of Russia: Kursk, where local officials reported one building was damaged, and Belgorod.

A Russian missile hit a private enterprise in the central Ukrainian region of Vinnytsia overnight, according to a local official. Regional governor Serhiy Borzov wrote on Telegram that three civilians were injured and that property and private cars were damaged. Another missile was shot down, he said. Four other civilians were injured by Russian artillery that hit Seredyna-Buda, a city in Ukraine’s northeast Sumy region, according to Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s office, who said law enforcement also received more than 100 reports of damage to civilian properties.

Russia has created an underwater barrier of submerged ships and floating barriers to prevent attacks on the Crimean Bridge, the British Defense Ministry said Friday. According to the ministry’s daily update, Russia is also using smoke generators and air defense systems “to strengthen the survivability of water crossings and minimize damage from future attacks” in light of the strategic and symbolic importance of the bridge, which connects mainland Russia to the occupied Crimean Peninsula. In July, Russian and Ukrainian officials said that Kyiv’s military and security services carried out a deadly attack on the bridge, which was also the site of an explosion in October.

Early voting opened Friday in what Ukraine and its supporters say are sham elections organized by Russian-appointed officials in illegally annexed parts of the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions. Voting for the Russian-run local councils and legislative bodies — elections that are illegal under international law — ends Sept. 8. Kyiv has called on Ukrainians to boycott and accused Russian officials of intimidating people to participate. Also on Friday, authorities in Russian-occupied Donetsk said Ukraine shelled the city’s central district, injuring more than 10 people and killing a six-year-old girl.

Ambassadors from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to attend this year’s Nobel Prize award ceremony and banquet, after the foundation behind the prize said it would invite all countries with diplomatic representation in Sweden. Both countries were uninvited from last year’s ceremony in Stockholm — which awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to a trio of Kremlin critics and human rights defenders in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia — following the invasion of Ukraine. “The achievements recognised by the Nobel Prize require openness, exchange and dialogue between people and nations,” the organization wrote in a statement Thursday, adding that it wished to reach out “even to those who do not share the values of the Nobel Prize.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, urged North Korea not to negotiate with Russia or provide it with arms, describing the arms in question as “essentially artillery ammunition” in a briefing with reporters. The previous day, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russia and North Korea are “actively advancing” negotiations for weapons that would be used in the war in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday. The announcement comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan. are expected to meet in Moscow to discuss a proposal to send Russian grain to Turkey with the financial help of Qatar, as an alternative to the Black Sea grain deal. The grain would be processed in Turkey and exported to countries “in need,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Military exercises involving more than 2,500 soldiers from Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan began Friday in Belarus, and are set to last through Sept. 6. Armenia, which is part of the same military alliance of post-soviet states, declined to participate. Ukraine and Poland said they were strengthening protections at their shared borders with Belarus. Poland’s internal affairs minister, Mariusz Kaminski, said that all Belarusian crossings with the European Union will be immediately closed should any provocations arise.

Drone strikes hit military aircraft deep inside Russia: This week’s drone attack against at least six Russian cities, including Pskov, was the largest airstrike against Russia presumed to have been launched by Ukraine or its proxies since President Vladimir Putin ordered his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Robyn Dixon and Siobhán O’Grady report. It demonstrated Kyiv’s ability to attack deep within Russian territory.

Although Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the drone attacks, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry released a cryptic message on social media that appeared to hint at Ukraine’s responsibility: “Did you know that Pskov Airport is named after Kyivan Princess Olha? Oh, what a spectacularly vengeful woman she was!”

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