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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Oct. 21

A soldier of the National Guard of Ukraine takes position in a trench in the northern occupied territories of Kharkiv region on Oct. 21, 2022.
A soldier of the National Guard of Ukraine takes position in a trench in the northern occupied territories of Kharkiv region on Oct. 21, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EDT.

10:13 p.m.: A planned underwater energy pipeline linking Barcelona in Spain and Marseille in France could take up to seven years to build, Spain's energy minister said Friday, according to Agence France-Presse.

France, Spain and Portugal announced Thursday they had agreed to build the maritime pipeline instead of a long-discussed pipeline across the Pyrenees but gave no timeline for its construction.

The underwater pipeline, dubbed BarMar, would initially be used for natural gas but, over time, more and more for hydrogen.

Spain and Portugal had lobbied hard for the construction of a 190-kilometer pipeline across the Pyrenees to France, which would allow the shipment of gas further on into Germany, but France opposed it.

9 p.m.: The World Central Kitchen, which is feeding Ukrainians affected by the war, is also helping to feed the pets of Ukraine, according to WCK CEO.

8:22 p.m.: France's foreign minister said Friday it was vital to keep lines of communication open with Russia, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We absolutely think it is crucial to keep a channel of communication with those making the decisions in Russia, including President Putin," French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on a visit to Washington.

"Putin is probably isolated in his very strange vision of the world and the way it could be run. Reinforcing this isolation of his would not be a good option," she said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"We need him to hear when we mention our analysis and our assessment of the mistakes he made and what he could do to move on in a different direction," she said.

7:47 p.m.: Missile attacks in the cities of Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia caused civilian casualties and damaged civilian infrastructure, including a school in Zaporizhzhia, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday during a humanitarian update on Ukraine, reports Margaret Besheer, VOA’s United Nations correspondent.

Power outages continue across four northern and central oblasts of Ukraine, as well as in the capital, Kyiv, Dujarric said.

On Thursday, a convoy of eight trucks delivered shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene materials to Velyka Oleksandrivka, a newly retaken area of southern Khersonska oblast. The supplies were provided by the International Organization for Migration, the U.N. Refugee Agency and the World Health Organization.

Also on Thursday, with the help of a local non-governmental organization, UNHCR delivered emergency shelter materials to a settlement in Zaporizhka. The delivery followed a missile attack that damaged or destroyed about 200 homes.

UNHCR also provided generators and fan heaters to local authorities in the northern Sumska oblast to enable hospitals and other civilian infrastructure to keep running following missile attacks.

6:57 p.m.: Spanish authorities moved a luxury yacht linked to the sanctioned head of Russian defense group Rostec after the shipyard where it was berthed stopped receiving payments for its repairs, a transport ministry source said, according to Reuters.

The multi-million-dollar Valerie was transferred to a marina last month, the source and other officials said, highlighting the logistical challenges authorities have faced managing vessels being held across Europe because of sanctions imposed over Russia's military actions in Ukraine.

6:18 p.m.: The White House is in talks with billionaire Elon Musk about setting up SpaceX's satellite internet service Starlink in Iran, CNN reported on Friday, citing officials familiar with the matter.

The satellite-based broadband service could help Iranians circumvent the regime's restrictions on accessing the internet and certain social media platforms.

The Islamic Republic has been engulfed by protests that erupted after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody last month.

SpaceX and the White House did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

5:25 p.m.: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Friday.

4:30 p.m.: The Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric dam in southern Ukraine was captured in the beginning of the invasion because of its strategic importance: it supplies the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula with water, according to Agence France-Presse.

Located on the Dnieper River, the dam is one of the biggest facilities of its kind in Ukraine. And the reservoir behind it can hold 18km3 of water.

Built in Soviet times in the 1950s, the Kakhovka dam pumps water into the North Crimean canal, which starts in southern Ukraine and crosses the entire Crimean Peninsula.

The dam and the hydroelectric power station were captured by Russian troops at the very start of the invasion on February 24.

If the dam were to burst, hundreds of thousands of people around the lower Dnieper would be in danger of flooding, including the city of Kherson itself.

3:23 p.m.: The Ukrainian president's office said on Friday that 88 towns and villages had been recaptured in the southern Kherson region, where Ukrainian forces have been advancing in recent weeks, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Kherson region: 88 settlements de-occupied," Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president's office, said on social media.

Last week, Kyiv said 75 towns and villages had been liberated in the region.

When exactly the settlements were recaptured is unclear.

2:30 p.m: Ukrainian forces bombarded Russian positions in the occupied and illegally annexed southern Kherson region, targeting resupply routes across a major river while inching closer Friday to a full assault on one of the first urban areas Russia captured after invading the country, The Associated Press reported.

Russian-installed officials were reported desperately trying to turn the city of Kherson, a prime objective for both sides because of its key industries and major river and sea port, into a fortress while attempting to evacuate tens of thousands of residents.

The Kremlin poured as many as 2,000 draftees into the Kherson region — one of four provinces Moscow illegally annexed and put under Russian martial law — to replenish losses and strengthen front-line units, according to the Ukrainian army’s general staff.

The Dnieper River figures prominently in the regional battle because it serves critical functions — crossings for supplies, troops and civilians; drinking water for southern Ukraine and the annexed Crimean Peninsula; and power generation from a hydroelectric station. Much of the area, including the power station and a canal feeding water to Crimea, is under Russian control.

1:40 p.m.: During their counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, Ukrainian forces had to cross the Oskil River to push the enemy out of key settlements. After their successful operations, a bridgehead was created on the left bank that allowed them to liberate other strategic villages in the area. Some of the Ukrainian soldiers described their tactics in detail for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalists.

1:05 p.m.: Britain, France and Germany on Friday called for a United Nations probe of accusations Russia has used Iranian-origin drones to attack Ukraine, allegedly violating a U.N. Security Council Resolution, Reuters reported.

In a letter signed by their U.N. envoys and seen by Reuters, the three backed Ukraine's call on Monday for such a probe, arguing the drone use breached U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231 endorsing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

"We would welcome an investigation by the UN Secretariat team responsible for monitoring the implementation of UNSCR 2231 and stand ready to support the work of the Secretariat in conducting its technical and impartial investigation,” the three nations, a group known as the E3, said in the letter.

12:25 p.m.:

11:45 a.m.: The European Union will give Kyiv 1.5 billion euros a month in 2023 to help run Ukraine as it fights back Russia's invading troops, the head of the bloc's executive said on Friday, according to Reuters.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke after the 27 national EU leaders discussed supporting Ukraine during a second day of their summit in Brussels on Friday, the 240th day of Russia's war on its neighbor.

She said that the EU has so far given Ukraine 19 billion euros this year but that the summit looked at 2023.

"It is very important for Ukraine to have a predictable and stable flow of income," she said, adding that Kyiv estimated its monthly needs at 3-4 billion euros "for the basics.

11:30 a.m.: A court in Prague has acquitted a Russian citizen who was accused of taking part in Moscow's illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Friday.

The Prague City Court ruled on October 20 that there wasn't enough evidence to prove Aleksandr Franchetti's involvement in organizing a criminal group and the illegal incarceration of 11 pro-Ukrainian residents of Crimea during the annexation of the peninsula.

Franchetti remains in custody because the court's ruling was appealed by prosecutors.

Franchetti was arrested in September last year at Ukraine's request. Kyiv accuses him of being an active participant in the events in Crimea in 2014 by joining paramilitary formations called North Wind and Crimea's Self-Defense. The two groups helped seize power lines and gas pipelines during the annexation.

Czech media reports said earlier that Franchetti was granted permanent residence in the Czech Republic in 2000 and has worked in the country as a fitness trainer.

11:15 a.m.:

11:05 a.m.: Russia has hit at least half of Ukraine's thermal generation capacity and caused billions of dollars of damage in attacks since October 10, but not all stricken power units have stopped working completely, Ukraine's energy minister said on Friday.

Herman Halushchenko told Reuters in an interview that 30-40% of overall national power infrastructure had been hit in attacks that he depicted as intended to destroy Ukraine's energy system -- a goal that he said had not been achieved.

10:40 a.m.: The Defense Department says U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin has spoken on the phone to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu.

Friday’s call was the first time the two had spoken since May 13. Defense officials have said that for some time the Russians had not responded to U.S. efforts to set up calls.

VOA’s national security correspondent Jeff Seldin shared the details on Twitter.

Austin also spoke with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov “to reiterate the unwavering U.S. commitment to supporting Ukraine’s ability to counter Russia’s aggression” as well as the international community’s support for Ukraine’s future defense, according to a Defense Department statement.

10:25 a.m.: Sweden has taken "concrete action" to address Turkey's concerns over its NATO membership bid, including stepping up counter-terrorism efforts against Kurdish militants, Stockholm told Ankara in a letter dated October 6 and seen by Reuters.

The two-page letter gives 14 examples of steps taken by Sweden to show it "is fully committed to the implementation" of a memorandum it signed with Turkey and Finland in June, which resulted in NATO member Turkey lifting its veto of their applications to the trans-Atlantic security alliance.

Swedish officials delivered the letter, which was not previously reported, to Erdogan's office and the foreign ministry at the weekend, a source familiar with the situation said, requesting anonymity due to sensitivity over it.

The letter was meant to reassure Turkey of Sweden's efforts amid ongoing bilateral talks and to encourage ultimate approval of the NATO membership bid, the source added. According to the letter, Swedish authorities "carried out new analyses of PKK's role in threats to Sweden's national security and in organized crime (and) this is likely to lead to concrete results."

10:10 a.m.:

9:50 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin has been open for negotiations with Ukraine “from the very beginning,” and “nothing has changed” in that respect, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday, commenting on remarks made by the Turkish president, The Associated Press reported.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier that Putin appeared to be “much softer and more open to negotiations” than in the past. “We are not without hope,” he said of the possibility of negotiations to end the conflict.

“If you remember, President Putin tried to initiate talks with both NATO and the United States even before the special military operation,” Peskov said, referring to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine that started almost eight months ago.

Russian officials have repeatedly said they will not negotiate the return of the four Ukrainian regions Moscow illegally annexed last month. After the land grab, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ruled out any talks with Moscow as long as Putin remains president.

9:35 a.m.:

9:20 a.m.: Russia has been sending in thousands of recently mobilized troops to reinforce the defense of the southern region of Kherson, where Kyiv's forces have been making major advances in their offensive to retake territory occupied by Moscow, the Ukrainian military said, as fresh Russian strikes on civilian targets were reported on Friday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

"Up to 2,000 mobilized Russians arrived in the temporarily captured Kherson region to replenish losses and strengthen units on the contact line," the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement on Friday.

"At the same time, the occupation authorities issued an order to prepare for the evacuation of the so-called banking institutions and Russian medical workers and teachers," the statement said.

Ukraine is trying to drive Russian forces in Kherson back east across the Dnieper River that bisects the country. Russian soldiers on the western bank, where the city of Kherson is located, are reportedly close to being cut off from supply lines and reinforcements.

Russia's Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said the Kremlin's forces repelled Ukrainian attempts to advance with tanks on the Kherson villages of Sukhanove, Nova Kamyanka, and Chervoniy Yar.

Neither claim could be independently confirmed.

9:05 a.m.:

8:55 a.m.: European Union leaders struggled to find immediate practical solutions on how to deal with the energy crisis but avoided an open rift between Germany and France on Friday that would have exposed a divided bloc as it confronts Russian President Vladimir Putin over his war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

After daylong talks in Brussels dragged well into the night, the 27 EU leaders papered over divisions between some of the biggest member states and at least agreed to continue working on ways to impose a gas price cap in case of big price increases.

French President Emmanuel Macron highlighted his work with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to create a veneer of unity after talks that started early Thursday. He said that together with close technical advisers, “I will see Chancellor Scholz in Paris next week so that we can move forward, with our teams, on all the issues.”

Scholz said the main issue was curbing “spikes” in gas trading that may last only a few hours but still send prices excessively upward. He said measures to counter that should be further examined.

8:40 a.m.:

8:25 a.m.: European Union leaders will discuss reducing their economic dependency on China, aiding Kyiv and punishing Iran for its involvement in the war that Russia is waging on Ukraine, when they meet for a second day of talks in Brussels on Friday, Reuters reported.

The previous day, the 27 EU leaders locked horns over a joint response to the acute energy crunch that has engulfed the bloc since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Their summit talks started on Thursday afternoon and ran into the wee hours on Friday as Germany stuck to its refusal to cap gas prices and the 27 could only agree to disagree, declaring they will keep on examining options to put a ceiling on costs.

As they turn to foreign policy on Friday, they will have a "strategic discussion" on their ties with China after the bloc's executive said earlier this week the EU should see Beijing more as a competitor.

"We have been a bit too complacent as European countries," said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo. "Over the past months, we've understood that in a lot of pure economic domains, geopolitics also play an important role."

8:10 a.m.:

7:50 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the West to warn Russia not to blow up a huge dam that would flood a swath of southern Ukraine, as his forces prepare to push Moscow’s troops from Kherson in one of the war’s most important battles, Reuters reported.

In a television address, Zelenskyy said Russian forces had planted explosives inside the huge Nova Kakhovka dam, which holds back an enormous reservoir that dominates much of southern Ukraine, and were planning to blow it up to cover their retreat.

“Now everyone in the world must act powerfully and quickly to prevent a new Russian terrorist attack. Destroying the dam would mean a large-scale disaster,” he said.

Russia accused Kyiv earlier this week of planning to rocket the dam. Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, said Ukrainian forces had already used U.S.-supplied HIMARS missiles against it in what Ukrainian officials called a sign Moscow could be planning to blow it up and blame Kyiv.

Neither side produced evidence to back up their allegations.

7:35 a.m.:

7:20 a.m.: Iran advised its citizens on Friday not to travel to Ukraine and urged Iranians already there to leave, semi-official news agencies reported, a day after the United States accused Iran of helping Russia operate drones against Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The Iranian foreign ministry advisory did not refer to the U.S. allegation. It gave a telephone number for the Iranian embassy in Kyiv to call for advice.

"Due to the military escalation in Ukraine, all Iranians are strongly advised to refrain from traveling to Ukraine. Also, Iranians living in Ukraine are advised to leave the country for their own safety," the ministry statement said.

7:05 a.m.:

6:50 a.m.: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Friday he will meet with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to discuss the Nordic country's bid to join NATO, as well as the extradition of people Ankara considers terrorists, Reuters reported.

Erdogan also said Kristersson, who was recently appointed prime minister, sided with the fight against terrorism, broadcaster NTV reported.

6:30 a.m.:

6:20 a.m.: The Kremlin on Friday sidestepped a question about whether or not President Vladimir Putin had given an order for Russian forces to withdraw from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, Reuters reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred the question to Russia's defence ministry.

In a conference call with reporters, when asked directly whether Putin had ordered a withdrawal, Peskov said: "This question concerns the conduct of the special military operation, I recommend you address it to the defence ministry."

6:10 a.m.:

5:50 a.m.: The photograph, showing a man in combat fatigues posing on a river ferry alongside Russian military equipment, was posted on Russian social media on October 10. Three days later, a video that appeared on the same account seemed to show the same ferry and equipment, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

"And we're moving," the man, identified as Makar Teplinskiy, from the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, says in the video. Later, off-screen, a voice can be heard asking, "Who are you showing that to?"

The ferry appears to be part of an ongoing Russian pullback of soldiers and equipment from the right bank of the Dnieper River, in the southern Kherson region, where Ukrainian forces have been making gradual advances. The video was identified and pinpointed by RFE/RL using geolocation, satellite imagery, and surrounding landmarks.

The findings, by RFE/RL's Russian Service and Schemes, the investigative unit of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, highlight the mounting pressure on Russian forces, who have been pummeled by Ukrainian troops pushing southward. Experts say the advances are likely to lead up to an effort to take back the city of Kherson itself -- the only regional capital to fall to Russian forces since Moscow launched a large-scale invasion on February 24.

5:40 a.m.:

5:25 a.m.: A luxury yacht belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarch Alexey Mordashov departed Hong Kong waters on Thursday, Reuters reported, heading for the South African port of Cape Town, according to private tracking site MarineTraffic.

The prominent sight of the 141-meter multideck Nord in the city's Victoria harbour in recent weeks had sparked criticism from the United States' State Department, which questioned the transparency of the financial hub and warned of reputational risks.

Mordashov, a billionaire close to President Vladimir Putin, was among several Russians sanctioned by the United States and European Union, but not the United Nations, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine for their links to Putin.

While several Russian superyachts have been seized or denied entry in Europe and other jurisdictions, the Nord was left undisturbed in Hong Kong after its arrival on Oct. 5.

5:09 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russia is likely continuing to prepare for a false-flag attack on the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant. Iran, the Institute said, is providing military support to Russian forces in Ukraine despite new international sanctions likely in part because Iranian leaders believe that they need Moscow’s help to upend the U.S.-led global order.

4:25 a.m.:

4:08 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry mentioned a video claiming to show the arrival of Russian troops in Belarus. The announcement is likely an attempt to demonstrate Russian-Belarussian solidarity and to convince Ukraine to divert forces to guard the northern border, the update said.

3:04 a.m.: Jailed Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny said on Thursday that authorities had opened a new criminal case against him for promoting terrorism and extremism, potentially more than doubling his sentence, Reuters reported.

Navalny, the most prominent domestic critic of President Vladimir Putin, is already serving prison terms totaling 11 1/2 years for fraud, contempt of court and parole violations, all of which he rejects as trumped-up charges intended to silence him.

"You all thought I had been isolated in prison for two years, but it turns out I was actively committing crimes. Luckily, the Investigative Committee was vigilant and didn't miss a thing," he said on Twitter.

2:06 a.m.:

1:06 a.m.: Talks on extending a July deal that resumed Ukraine Black Sea grain and fertilizer exports are not making much progress because Russian concerns are not being taken into proper account, Russia's U.N. ambassador in Geneva said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Senior United Nations officials are negotiating with Russia to extend and expand the July 22 deal that could expire next month if an agreement is not reached.

"I wouldn't say that much has been achieved as a result of the latest consultations. The dialogue is continuing," Gennady Gatilov told reporters.

He reiterated Moscow's stance that Western sanctions were hamstringing its own exports of grain and fertilizer, even to poor countries that need the supplies.

12:02 a.m.: Ukrainians turned off domestic appliances, wrapped themselves in blankets to keep warm and remained defiant Thursday as they faced the first nationwide electricity outages of the war against Russia.

In response to requests by the president and government, towns and cities restricted power supplies and limited electricity use so that energy companies could repair power facilities hit by a wave of Russian air strikes.

Cities including the capital, Kyiv, and Kharkiv in the northeast announced curbs on the use of electric-powered public transport such as trolleybuses and reduced the frequency of underground trains as winter looms.

Some information in this report came from Reuters.

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