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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Oct. 26

People receive bread at humanitarian aid center in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Oct. 26, 2022.
People receive bread at humanitarian aid center in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Oct. 26, 2022.

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

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

11:30 p.m.: The United Nations is using before-and-after satellite imagery to monitor the cultural destruction inflicted by Russia's war in Ukraine, announcing Wednesday it will launch its tracking platform publicly within weeks, Agence France-Presse reported.

The U.N.'s culture agency UNESCO said it had verified damage to 207 cultural sites in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

They include 88 religious sites, 15 museums, 76 buildings of historical and or artistic interest, 18 monuments and 10 libraries.

The worst-affected regions are in eastern Ukraine and around the capital, with Donetsk region having 59 verified damaged cultural sites, followed by Kharkiv with 51, Kyiv with 30 and Luhansk with 25.

"Our conclusion is it's bad, and it may continue to get even worse," UNESCO's cultural and emergencies director Krista Pikkat told reporters at a briefing in Geneva. "Cultural heritage is very often collateral damage during wars but sometimes it's specifically targeted as it's the essence of the identity of countries."

10:30 p.m.: Ukrainian troops are holding out against repeated attacks by Russian forces in two eastern towns while those at the southern front are poised to battle for the strategic Kherson region, which Russia appears to be reinforcing, Reuters reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy said in a Wednesday evening video address that there would be good news from the front, but he gave no details.

He did not mention what was happening in Kherson, which officials and military analysts have predicted will be one of the most consequential battles of the war since Russia invaded Ukraine eight months ago.

The most severe fighting in eastern Ukraine was taking place near Avdiivka, outside Donetsk, and Bakhmut, Zelenskiyy said.

"This is where the craziness of the Russian command is most evident. Day after day, for months, they are driving people to their deaths there, concentrating the highest level of artillery strikes," he said.

Russian forces have repeatedly tried to seize Bakhmut, which sits on a main road leading to the Ukrainian-held cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

The looming battle for Kherson city at the mouth of the Dnipro River will determine whether Ukraine can loosen Russia's grip on the south.

7:17 p.m.: The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on individuals and entities involved in what it described as Russia's malign influence operations in Moldova, as well as systemic corruption in the small eastern European country, Reuters reports.

The individuals sanctioned, a mix of Russian and Moldovan officials, include oligarchs "widely recognized for capturing and corrupting Moldova's political and economic institutions and those acting as instruments of Russia's global influence campaign," the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.

Moldova, which borders Ukraine and Romania, applied for European Union membership this year and strongly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, moves that angered Moscow.

5:42 p.m.: Even by the standards of the important military officers who came and went in this tiny village, the man walking behind the Kamaz truck stood out, The Associated Press reported.

Soldiers providing security peered from behind fences, their guns bristling in every direction. Two Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters circled overhead, providing additional cover for Col. Gen. Alexander Chaiko as he escorted an aid convoy in March from the schoolhouse on Tsentralna Street that Russian officers commandeered as a headquarters.

Fifteen minutes away, in the village of Ozera, the lives of three men were about to take a dramatic turn for the worse. While Chaiko was directing Russia’s attack on Kyiv from Zdvyzhivka, the men were interrogated and tortured by Russian troops and then shot in the garden of a large house less than a mile from where the general now stood.

The deaths of these men were part of a pattern of violence that left hundreds of civilians beaten, tortured and executed in territory under Chaiko’s command.

This wasn’t the work of rogue soldiers, an investigation by The Associated Press and the PBS series Frontline shows. It was strategic and organized brutality, perpetrated in areas that were under tight Russian control where military officers – including Chaiko himself – were present.

3:47 p.m.: In a single hour, as a volley of Russian missiles wrecked homes, power stations, factories and playgrounds across their country, Ukrainians placed a record 67 million minutes of calls on Kyivstar’s phone network, Reuters reported.

“People are nervous and they are taking care of each other,” Kyivstar’s Chief Executive Oleksandr Komarov told Reuters in an interview. Normal evening peak traffic is about 50 million minutes.

It’s not just about the human need to communicate. In a war being waged in the information space as well as on the battlefield, the ability to spread news from the front fast is crucial.

Mobile phone videos of Ukraine’s early successes in rebuffing Russia’s attempts to seize Kyiv in February were crucial in persuading hesitant Western governments to unlock military aid, analysts say.

2:30 p.m.:

2:15 p.m.: EU regulators are considering extending easier state-aid rules which allow governments to support businesses affected by the war in Ukraine to end-2023, and with bigger amounts permitted, competition chief Margrethe Vestager said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

The more flexible rules were introduced in March and subsequently revised in July.

The European Commission is seeking feedback from EU countries on the level of public guarantees they can provide to energy companies to cover the financial collateral for their trading activities in order to offset high market prices and volatility.

Governments are also asked how the rules can be made more flexible to allow them to provide faster and more effective support to companies hit with high energy bills.

2:00 p.m.:

1:50 p.m.: The remains of a U.S. citizen killed in fighting in Ukraine have been identified and released to Ukrainian authorities and will soon be returned to the person’s family, Reuters reported a State Department spokesperson as saying on Wednesday.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price did not identify the individual, citing respect for the family’s privacy. In a statement, he expressed Washington’s support for Ukraine’s help recovering the person’s remains in negotiations with Russia.

Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s president’s office, earlier on Wednesday identified the U.S. citizen as Joshua Jones, describing him as a U.S. Army veteran whose remains were recovered in a prisoner swap with Russia.

1:20 p.m.:

1:05 p.m.: India’s defense minister says that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu briefed him on the evolving situation in Ukraine, including his concerns about the use of a “dirty bomb,” The Associated Press reported.

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said in a tweet after his phone conversation with Shoigu on Wednesday that “I reiterated India’s position on the need to to pursue the path of dialogue an diplomacy for an early resolution of the conflict.”

He added that “the nuclear option should not be resorted to by any side as the prospect of the usage of nuclear or radiological weapons goes against the basic tenets of humanity.”

The Press Trust of India news agency said the call was on the initiative of the Russian defense minister.

Moscow has repeatedly made the unfounded claim that Ukraine is preparing to use a “dirty bomb,” an explosive devise with radioactive material, on its own territory. Western officials have dismissed the claim as misinformation possibly designed as a pretext for Russia to justify its own military escalation.

12:45 p.m.:

12:25 p.m.: United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Wednesday that he was "relatively optimistic" that a U.N.-brokered deal that allowed a resumption of Ukraine Black Sea grain exports would be extended beyond mid-November, Reuters reported.

Griffiths traveled to Moscow with senior U.N. trade official Rebeca Grynspan earlier this month for discussions with Russian officials on the deal, which also aims to facilitate exports of Russian grain and fertilizer to global markets.

"We are keen to see that renewed promptly, now. It's important for the market. It's important for just continuity. And I'm still relatively optimistic that we're going to get that. We're working hard," Griffiths told reporters.

Russia has criticized the deal, complaining that its own exports were still hindered and not enough Ukraine grain was reaching countries in need. Moscow could object to extending the pact on Ukraine's exports beyond late November.

12:10 p.m.:

11:50 a.m.: Russia's latest strikes on civilian infrastructure have raised the cost of Ukraine's recovery and could see it needing close to $4 billion a month just to keep power and water supplies going, the head of the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

The IMF had envisaged Ukraine's external financing needs at around $3-4 billion a month next year but sees that rising to $5 billion in a worst case scenario after Russian forces rained missiles and drone attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

Speaking to Reuters in Berlin, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said the institution was focused on helping Ukraine keep afloat now while working on a longer-term program whose size and duration were yet to be worked out.

11:30 a.m.:

11:15 a.m.: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday rejected Russia’s claims that Ukraine might be preparing to use a radiological “dirty bomb,” The Associated Press reported.

“This is absurd. Allies reject this blatantly false accusation, and Russia must not use false pretexts to escalate the war further,” Stoltenberg told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated the claim on Wednesday., saying “We know about the plans to use the so-called dirty bomb for provocations.”

Moscow’s statements about an alleged “dirty bomb” followed Putin’s warning last month about his readiness to use “all means available” to fend off attacks on Russia’s territory.

NATO’s Stoltenberg underlined that the 30-nation military organization “will not be intimidated or deterred from supporting Ukraine’s right to self-defense for as long as it takes.”

VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin shared more details from the Stoltenberg press conference on Twitter.

10:55 a.m.: Russia continues to strike targets across Ukraine, causing damage and killing civilians, as its forces are preparing for battle in the strategic southern region of Kherson, Ukrainian officials and the military said, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Ukraine on Wednesday reiterated its call for the development of an air-defense system to repel the Russian missile and drone attacks.

The immediate delivery of a sufficient number of air-defense systems is urgently needed to repel "Russian missile terror," the head of the president's office, Andriy Yermak, said after talks with the national-security advisers of the United States, Britain, and France in Kyiv on Wednesday.

10:40 a.m.:

10:20 a.m.: Ukraine's counter-offensive against Russian forces in the southern Kherson region is proving more difficult than it was in the northeast because of wet weather and the terrain, Ukraine's defense minister said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Kyiv's forces are piling pressure on Russian troops in the strategically important Kherson region occupied by Moscow since the start of its Feb. 24 invasion, threatening President Vladimir Putin with another big battlefield setback.

10:10 a.m.: Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak on Wednesday criticized companies still doing business in Russia.

9:50 a.m.: Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Wednesday he did not believe Russia's President Vladimir Putin would use nuclear weapons, Reuters reported.

Putin has warned repeatedly that Russia has the right to defend itself using any weapons in its arsenal, which includes the world's largest nuclear stockpile. Russia's setbacks in the war in Ukraine have heightened Western concerns that Putin might use a tactical nuclear weapon.

"My personal opinion is that Putin won't use nukes," Reznikov told a news briefing when asked about the issue.

9:35 a.m.:

9:20 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to use the possible extension of the U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain deal as a way to gain leverage and dominate next month’s G20 summit in Indonesia, a European diplomat briefed on the grain talks told Reuters.

Ahead of the Nov. 19 expiry of the grain deal, which allows Ukrainian Black Sea grain exports, Russian officials have repeatedly said that there are serious problems with it.

But a European diplomat who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the discussions said that Putin will attend the G20 summit on the resort island of Bali that begins on Nov. 15.

The Kremlin, which has not yet confirmed that Putin will attend, declined immediate comment. Putin said on Oct. 14 that he had not yet made a final decision about whether or not he would go.

If he does, it will be the first major global summit the Kremlin chief has attended alongside major Western leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden since the war began on February 24.

9:05 a.m.:

8:45 a.m.: Police in the Moscow region have searched the house of journalist and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Wednesday, citing Russian news agencies that quoted unnamed law enforcement officials.

According to the reports, the search of Sobchak's house in the upscale town of Gorki-8 near the Russian capital was conducted as part of an extortion probe launched against Sobchak associate Kirill Sukhanov, who was detained a day earlier.

Sukhanov is the commercial director of Sobchak's "Ostorozhno.Media" holding.

Sobchak herself is not a person of interest in the investigation, the officials said. Sobchak called Sukhanov's arrest "another instance of pressure against the media" in Russia.

8:30 a.m.:

8:10 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday monitored drills of the country’s strategic nuclear forces involving multiple practice launches of ballistic and cruise missiles, The Associated Press reported, quoting the Kremlin.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin that the drills were intended to simulate a “massive nuclear strike” by Russia in retaliation for a nuclear attack on Russia. The exercise comes amid soaring Russia-West tensions over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

The Kremlin said in a statement that all tasks set for the exercise were fulfilled and all the missiles that were test-fired reached their designated targets.

Washington has said that Moscow informed it about the drills in advance.

The Russian exercise comes amid Moscow’s warnings of a purported Ukrainian plot to detonate a radioactive device commonly known as a “dirty bomb” in a false flag attack to blame Russia. Ukraine and its allies strongly reject the allegation.

7:50 a.m.:

7:30 a.m.: Russia said on Wednesday it would continue to make the case to the international community that it believed Ukraine intended to detonate a "dirty bomb" with radioactive contaminants, Reuters reported.

Kyiv and its Western allies have not only rejected Russia's allegation but also voiced concern that Moscow is using it as a pretext for a further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: "We have information that suggests Ukraine is preparing for such a terrorist sabotage, and we will vigorously continue to convey our point of view to the world community in order to encourage them to take active steps to prevent such irresponsible behavior."

Britain's Deputy U.N. Ambassador, James Kariuki, called the allegations "pure Russian misinformation of the kind we've seen many times before."

6:50 a.m.: Local residents in Ukraine's Kherson region describe how they helped support Ukrainian forces while Russian troops occupied their village. The village of Arkhanhelske is one of many settlements liberated during Kyiv's ongoing counteroffensive. Many locals returned to the village after Russian forces fled in early October. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

6:25 a.m.: When Germany unveiled a 200 billion euro ($200 billion) package to shield its industry and consumers from soaring energy prices, its government failed to notify neighboring France beforehand, leaving French President Emmanuel Macron seething in private, Reuters reported.

"We learnt about it in the press. That's not the done thing," a senior French official said.

German officials had visited the Elysée palace days earlier and said nothing about the package Paris believes hands an unfair advantage to German companies and threatens the European Union's single market.

5:30 a.m.: At least two people were killed in gas station fire after a missile attack in Dnipro, according to Reuters.

4:35 a.m.:

4:15 a.m.: Europe's natural gas prices have fallen, thanks to unseasonably warm weather and efforts to fill up storage ahead of winter, according to The Associated Press.

The future is uncertain, though, as it could be affected by the weather, usage, and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

3:50 a.m.:

3:20 a.m.: In an interview with The Guardian, Nobel Peace Prize winner Oleksandra Matviichuk says that Russia has a pattern of committing crimes without suffering consequences.

“This hell which we’re going through now is a result of total impunity of Russia, which they enjoyed for decades, because they committed horrible crimes in Chechnya, in Moldova, in Georgia, in Mali, in Libya and Syria they have never been punished for,” she says. “They believed they could do what they wanted because they are a member of the UN security council.”

2:45 a.m.: Twenty-four-year-old comic author Gleb Pushev left his hometown, St. Petersburg, Russia, after posting a caricature of the Russian president in bloody clothes with a knife in his hand on social media. Fearing arrest, in early March he went to Belgrade, Serbia, where he continues to draw anti-war comics and cartoons about life in exile. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

1:36 a.m.:

1:30 a.m.:

12:10 a.m.: Norway's counterespionage service has arrested a man who worked on a research project at a Norwegian university on suspicion that he is a Russian spy, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The man was arrested in the Arctic town of Tromsoe on Monday, public broadcaster NRK reported on Tuesday, citing the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST).

The man arrived in Norway in 2021 posing as a Brazilian citizen, but deputy PST chief Hedvig Moe told NRK that police believe his real identity to be Russian.

The man, who was not identified, represents a "threat to fundamental national interests" of Norway, a member of NATO, and should be expelled, Moe said.

The detained man's lawyer, Thomas Hansen, told the Norwegian newspaper VG that his client denies any wrongdoing. The man has been ordered held for four weeks, VG reported.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.