Away from the battlefield, the Kremlin continues to push for claims, repeatedly without evidence, that Kyiv was preparing to use a “dirty bomb,” a weapon that combines conventional explosives with radioactive material — an allegation dismissed by the US, other Western nation.
U.S. officials said Moscow’s allegations raised the risk that Russia itself planned a radiation attack that could serve as a pretext for further escalation of the war amid continued setbacks on its territory.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom issued a similar warning, citing the Russian military’s control of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant at Enerhodar. “Energoatom assumes that such actions by the occupiers may indicate that they are preparing to use the nuclear material and radioactive waste stored at the ZNPP site for a terrorist act,” the statement said.
Renewed fears of some sort of radiation attack have added to the ominous feeling that Putin’s war in Ukraine is becoming more deadly and dangerous as both sides try to redraw the facts on the ground before winter.
Ukraine has struggled for further territorial gains, while Russia this month began a relentless bombardment of Ukraine’s energy system, using missiles and attack drones in an apparent attempt to keep the country cold and dark and potentially make up for battlefield losses.
As Ukraine continues to make progress, pro-Kremlin military bloggers and analysts confirmed on Tuesday that Russian forces have suffered new setbacks, including in the occupied region of Luhansk, Ukraine’s easternmost region, where Russia’s control is strongest.
“The Ukrainian army has resumed its counteroffensive in the direction of Luhansk,” the pro-Russian WarGonzo project said in its daily military update, adding that Ukrainian troops had taken control of the Luhansk towns of Svatov and Kremina. an important road between.
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“The Russian artillery is actively working on the left bank of the Zherebet River and is trying to prevent the transfer of reinforcements to the enemy, but the situation is very difficult,” WarGonzo added.
In the Donetsk region, the Wagner paramilitary forces controlled by St. Petersburg. The St. Petersburg businessman Yevgeniy Prigozhin appears to have been driven back from Bakhmut, where mercenaries spent weeks storming the city with little success. Military experts say the capture of Bakhmut has little strategic value, but Prigozin appears to see an opportunity for political rewards while Russian conventional forces lose positions in other theaters of operations.
Ukrainian forces have recaptured a concrete factory on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut, the Washington-based think tank Institute for War reported in an update on Monday. On Sunday, Prigozin acknowledged the slow pace of Wagner’s efforts, saying they were “only gaining 100-200 metres a day”.
In a statement issued by his catering company’s press office, Prigozin said: “Our troops are constantly encountering the fiercest resistance of the enemy, and I have noticed that the enemy is well prepared, aggressive, confident and harmonious. work.” “It doesn’t stop our fighters from moving forward, but I can’t comment on how long it will take.”
In the southern region of Kherson, one of four areas Moscow has claimed annexation, Russian troops appear to be preparing to defend the city of Kherson, amid speculation they will retreat east of the Dnieper, ceding key territory.
The Ukrainian military said in an operational update on Tuesday that Russian forces were setting up “defensive positions” on the east bank of the Dnieper and leaving small passages for a possible retreat from the west bank.
Speculation has been circulating for weeks about whether Moscow is ready to abandon Kherson after Ukrainian troops made a steady breakthrough in the southern direction.
“I don’t know all the nuances and plans of the command, but I don’t rule out the surrender of Kherson, because from a military point of view, its current defenses could turn into a rout,” a popular Russian military blogger, Who writes under the nickname Zapiski Veterana, wrote in a Telegram post. “But I don’t think there’s anything tragic about Kherson’s surrender if it was decided to fight to victory in Moscow, because the war has been going on for a long time.”
Moscow may have no choice. “However, Russia’s position in Upper Kherson may not be tenable,” said the Institute for War Studies.
Kremlin-installed officials have been forcing residents to evacuate from the west bank of the Dnieper, while claiming there is no evidence Kyiv is preparing to attack the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, as well as “dirty bomb” allegations.
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The United States, France and Britain have accused Moscow of using the dirty bomb allegations as an excuse to escalate and warned Putin’s government will face additional punitive action from the West.
On Tuesday, the Kremlin called Washington’s distrust of Russia’s claims “an impermissible and reckless approach.”
In a two-week bombing campaign in which Moscow has systematically targeted energy infrastructure, Kyiv is increasingly concerned that civilians are enduring harsh winters. Over the past few weeks, Ukrainian officials have been pressuring European officials for more advanced weapons, especially the advanced air defenses needed to defend against Russian airstrikes.
The country is also facing an urgent cash crunch, with officials questioning how Ukraine will secure the funds to keep services running in the brutal weeks and months ahead. The World Bank’s forecast in early October showed that Ukraine’s economy will contract by 35% this year.
Germany and the European Union hosted a meeting on reconstruction in Berlin on Tuesday, although the conversation seemed particularly premature given the new devastation that Russian attacks bring every day.
Zelensky has said Ukraine needs about $38 billion in emergency economic aid next year alone. But while senior officials often tout EU support for Ukraine, questions remain about short- and long-term follow-up.
For example, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has boasted plans to help Ukraine by 2023, EU officials have acknowledged that there has been a delay in delivering about $9 billion in loans to Kyiv promised earlier this year. delay.
In recent weeks, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has urged European counterparts to step up financial aid to Kyiv and indirectly questioned the decision to provide loans instead of grants.
“We call on our partners and allies to join us in swiftly delivering on their existing commitments to Ukraine and stepping up,” Yellen said this month. Zelensky said at a European Council summit in Brussels last week. In a video address, he called on European leaders to fail to deliver much-needed economic aid fast enough.
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“Thank you for the funds you’ve allocated,” Zelensky said. “But no decision has been made on the remaining $6 billion in the program – which is sorely needed this year.”
“You have the ability,” he continued, “to reach an agreement in principle to provide this assistance to our state today.”
With existing needs unmet, some wondered how seriously the EU’s commitment to the Marshall Plan proportional effort would be taken. A question-and-answer session released by Germany’s G7 presidency ahead of Tuesday’s meeting noted that the event would not include a “pledge segment.” Instead, its purpose was to “emphasize the solidarity of the international community and its firm support for Ukraine”.
In private conversations, some EU diplomats raised the question of whether the bloc should allocate resources for rebuilding a country still at war, especially given Europe’s own energy and economic crises.
Indeed, as von der Leyen said in Berlin on Tuesday, the focus in Brussels was largely on efforts to find common ground among EU member states on emergency energy measures.