Ukraine said Sunday that it downed four Russian cruise missiles overnight, but did not say where the strikes occurred.
Meanwhile, the last Saturday in August has traditionally been celebrated as a professional holiday by Ukrainian civilian and military aviation workers, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address Saturday.
He said this year in Ukraine, there will be a “new level of Ukranian military aviation” in order for “F-16s [fighter jets] to appear in our sky.”
Zelenskyy also remembered three pilots who died “in the sky over Zhytomyr region” Friday. Andriy Pilshchykov was one of the pilots. The president said his call sign was Juice. “He was a Ukrainian officer, one of those who helped our country a lot. A lot,” the president said. The president said it was too early to talk about the details of the pilots’ deaths.
The president also offered a bit of a pep talk for Ukraine’s citizen in his address. “We should not let our emotions take over anywhere or in anything,” he said. Especially between us, within society, between Ukrainians. Please take care of each other.”
Russian forces shelled a café in Podoly — a suburb of the strategically significant northeastern city of Kupiansk — killing two civilians and injuring a third one on Saturday.
The attacks are raising fears that Russians are pushing to reclaim front-line cities in the northeast region. Ukrainian forces say that fighting there has become more intense, but the Russians haven’t broken through.
The British Defense Ministry said Saturday that Russia’s probable objective in the region will be to advance west to the Oskil River and establish a buffer zone around Luhansk oblast.
The U.K. military intelligence reports assess that Russia is attempting to reverse the gradual gains of the Ukrainian counteroffensive near Bakhmut and the Zaporizhzhia region.
The Ukrainian regional administration of Zaporizhzhia reported Saturday that Russia shelled Mala Tokmachka on Friday — one of the villages near which Kyiv's troops were said to be gaining ground. One resident was killed and another was injured in the attack.
Earlier this month, Ukrainian authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation of about 12,000 civilians from 37 towns and villages around Kupiansk, warning that Russian troops are trying to pierce the Ukrainian front.
Kupiansk, a town with a prewar population of about 27,000 people, was seized by Russia in the early days of the February 2022 invasion. Ukrainian troops recaptured it in a surprise offensive last September that embarrassed Moscow.
After the Russian occupiers left Kupiansk last year, Ukrainian authorities said they found torture chambers and mass graves in the region.
Ukrainian officials so far have reported limited advances in Kyiv's large-scale counteroffensive launched in early June, including in the southern Zaporizhzhia region and on the outskirts of Bakhmut, the eastern city that became the site of the war's longest and bloodiest battle before falling to Moscow in May.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, assessed late Friday that Ukrainian forces were pushing forward in Zaporizhzhia after taking the village of Robotyne earlier this week.
Russia’s defense ministry and Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said the military shot down a drone over the Istra district of the Moscow region, 50 kilometers west of Red Square. Sobyanin said in a Telegram post there were no immediate reports of any casualties or damage.
The attack Saturday prompted an early-morning temporary shutdown of all three major airports around the Russian capital, Russian state media reported.
Three Ukrainian pilots died after two L-39 trainer aircraft collided in midair in central Ukraine, the country’ air force said Saturday in a statement. The loss of the three pilots is a setback as the country prepares to train pilots on up to 61 Western F-16 fighter jets pledged to Kyiv.
The crash occurred Friday over the Zhytomyr region, which lies west of Kyiv.
"We express our condolences to the families of the victims. This is a painful and irreparable loss for all of us," the air force wrote on the Telegram app, adding that an investigation into the circumstances of the crash is taking place.
A second cargo vessel left Ukraine’s port city of Odesa on Saturday, news agency Interfax Ukraine reported, citing the MarineTraffic database.
The Liberia-flagged bulk carrier Primus is moving from Odesa to the port of Varna in Bulgaria, along a “humanitarian corridor” set up along the Black Sea’s western coastline near Romania and Bulgaria.
A Hong Kong-flagged container ship stuck in Odesa port since the invasion began was the first vessel to travel that route last week without being fired upon by Russia.
U.S. officials say that since Russia’s exit from the grain deal, Ukraine has resorted to land and Danube River routes as effective ways to transport its grain.
Russia has threatened to treat all vessels as potential military targets after pulling out of the U.N.-backed safe passage deal.
The presumed death of Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin in a plane crash Wednesday is leading to speculation about the Wagner Group's future.
Officials and commentators in African countries where Russian mercenaries have a presence are predicting Moscow likely will place them under Russian leadership.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Wagner fighters to sign an oath of allegiance to the Russian state, effective immediately, according to a decree published late Friday on the Kremlin’s website.
According to a preliminary U.S. intelligence assessment, the plane was downed by an intentional explosion. One of the U.S. and Western officials who described the assessment said it determined that Prigozhin was “very likely” targeted, and that the explosion falls in line with Putin’s “long history of trying to silence his critics.”
Assassination attempts against foes of Putin’s have been common during his nearly quarter century in power. Whether it was by drinking polonium-laced tea or touching a deadly nerve agent or getting shot at close range, relatives of the victims and the few survivors have blamed Russian authorities. The Kremlin has routinely denied any involvement, as it did Friday by insisting it was “a complete lie” it had anything to do with the jet crash.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.