Russia-Ukraine war updates for 20 Oct., 2023

6 mins read

Ukraine repels new Russian onslaught on eastern front, Zelenskyy says

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday Ukrainian forces had repelled a new Russian onslaught on the eastern town of Avdiivka and were holding their ground in heavy fighting.

Zelenskyy and top military commanders visited the southern region of Kherson, where they discussed the situation there and around Avdiivka and Kupiansk, a town north of Avdiivka where Russian forces have also intensified attacks.

“Thanks to all our boys, who powerfully hold the defence and destroy the occupier day after day,” Zelenskyy said in a video posted on the Telegram messaging app.

“These days, the Russian losses are really staggering, and it is precisely losses by the occupier that Ukraine needs.”

Zelenskyy’s office said Russia’s assault on Avdiivka had resulted in “record losses” of personnel and equipment, but gave no further details of the extent of the losses.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield situation. Moscow has presented the situation around Avdiivka as more favourable for its forces, and each side has exaggerated the other’s losses since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

The Ukrainian military said fighting was raging along the front line, with about 90 combat clashes in the past 24 hours. That compares with an average of about 60 daily clashes a week ago.

“The new wave (of attacks) is as powerful as the one before on October 10 and 11,” said Vitaliy Barabash, head of the Avdiivka military administration.

“It is very difficult. But the boys are holding out and repelled everything,” he told Ukrainian television.

Avdiivka, home to a big coking plant, has long been under attack and has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance and is seen as a gateway to the nearby Russian-held city of Donetsk.

— Reuters

Yellen: Biden’s supplemental funding request ‘advances’ national interests

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called on the U.S. government to continue combatting global instability following Biden’s request to Congress for supplemental funding to financially support Israel and Ukraine.

“Whether the problem is Russia’s immoral invasion of Ukraine or horrendous terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel, America’s leadership is irreplaceable,” Yellen said in a statement. She added that Biden’s request “maintains America’s global leadership and advances our core interests – including our national security.”

Yellen said the Hamas terror attacks in the Middle East “are a terrible reminder of the uncertainty we see around the globe and the challenges it raises in the global economy.”

She warned that if instability spreads across the region, “the risks we face will multiply.”

“And if we don’t lead on international economic issues, other countries will,” Yellen said. “We look to Congress, among others, to not let this happen.”

—Chelsey Cox

White House asks for $105 billion for ‘national security priorities’ including Ukraine

The White House on Friday requested more than $105 billion from Congress that it said said would advance national security and support allies and partners, highlighting Ukraine and Israel.

“The Administration’s supplemental request will provide the critical training, equipment, and weapons necessary to help Ukraine defend and recapture its sovereign territory and protect the Ukrainian people against Russian aggression,” it said in a statement.

The White House said the funds would also replenish Department of Defense stocks provided to Ukraine, which so far have included air defense systems, munitions, small arms, ground maneuver units.

The total would be split across a number of areas, including support for the Israeli Defense Forces in its battle with Hamas; humanitarian assistance for civilians in Israel and Gaza, as well as Ukraine; and commitments under AUKUS, the trilateral security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom.

Ukraine makes up the biggest request in the package, at over $61 billion, with $14.3 billion for Israel, $2 billion for Taiwan and Indo-Pacific security, and roughly $9 billion for humanitarian assistance.

The U.S. House of Representatives, where a number of Republican lawmakers have grown resistant to the level of U.S. financial and military support for Ukraine, remains leaderless after the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Oct. 3.

Speculation that McCarthy had struck a “secret side-deal” with President Joe Biden to provide fresh funding for Ukraine through a standalone vote played a key role in the opposition to him.

The U.S. has provided $43.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Read more here.

— Jenni Reid

Kremlin condemns comparisons between Putin and Hamas

U.S. President Joe Biden’s comparison between the actions of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and those of Hamas is “unacceptable,” Kremlin spokesperson said Friday, in Google-translated comments reported by Russia’s state agency Tass on Telegram.

Divided between loyalties with Israel and Hamas-backing Iran, Putin has fallen short of condemning the Palestinian militant group, while broadly calling for an end to the violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Earlier in the week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz decried the so-called “cynical” comments of Putin over the suffering in Gaza, given the numerous civilian casualties that have resulted from Russia’s own full-scale invasion of Ukraine since Feb. 2022.

Peskov on Friday once more reiterated Moscow’s warning that the risks to civilians in Gaza will “increase exponentially” when the Israel Defense Forces launch a long-anticipated ground incursion into the embattled enclave.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russian banks’ profits dropped 16% in September

Russian banks’ total profits in September dropped 16% month-on-month to 296 billion rubles ($3.09 billion), the Bank of Russia revealed Friday.

“The performance over September was affected by a reduction in gains from foreign currency revaluation and higher funding costs after the key rate increase,” the central bank said in a statement.

The Bank of Russia implemented an emergency 350 basis point hike to interest rates in August, taking the benchmark rate to 12%, before hiking by another percentage point to 13% in September.

Consumer lending growth slowed from 2.4% in August to 1.5% in September on the back of higher interest rates and “tightened macroprudential requirements,” the Bank of Russia said.

Elliot Smith

Russia’s Lavrov says U.S. allegations of North Korea military assistance are ‘rumors’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed U.S. allegations that North Korea is supplying Moscow with military assistance as “rumors,” Russian state news agency Tass reported on Friday.

The White House last week suggested that Pyongyang had recently provided a shipment of weapons to Russia and raised concerns about the deepening military relationship between the two nations.

Lavrov met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a visit to the country on Friday.

Elliot Smith

Biden makes ‘urgent’ military aid appeal for Ukraine and Israel

U.S. President Joe Biden said he would be sending an “urgent” funding request to Congress on Friday for military aid to support both Ukraine and Israel in their respective war efforts.

In a rare White House address, Biden said the funding — reported to be around $105 billion — would be a “smart investment” as world history is at an “inflection point.”

“We’ve not forgotten the mass graves, the bodies found bearing signs of torture, rape used as a weapon by the Russians, and thousands and thousands of Ukrainian children forcibly taken into Russia, stolen from their parents — it’s sick,” Biden said.

“Hamas and Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common: they both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy.”

— Elliot Smith

Zelenskyy thanks Biden for ‘strong message of U.S. support’

U.S. President Joe Biden sent a “strong message of U.S. support for Ukraine — for as long as it takes to prevail,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video update late on Thursday after a call between the two leaders.

The Ukrainian leader voiced gratitude to the White House, both parties of the U.S. Congress and the American people for their assistance to Ukraine’s military efforts against Russia.

“American leadership helps rally the world behind the common cause of protecting life and rules-based international order,” Zelenskyy said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Ukrainians know how important unity is to defend against terror and aggression. The unity here, inside Ukraine, in partner states, including in the U.S., and around the world.”

Elliot Smith

Ukraine reports making headway against Russian forces in south

Kyiv’s forces have made some headway against Russian forces in southern Ukraine but face new Russian attacks around the eastern town of Avdiivka, the Ukrainian military said on Thursday.

In an update on Kyiv’s more than four-month-old counteroffensive in the south and east, military spokesperson Oleksandr Stupun reported an advance of 400 metres (0.25 mile) to the southwest of Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Verbove is a village a few kilometres east of Robotyne, a village recaptured by Ukraine last month as it tries to push south towards the Sea of Azov. Stupun told Ukrainian television the southern advance was still difficult because of Russian minefields and heavily fortified defences.

The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank and non-profit research group, said Ukrainian forces appeared to have broken through on the left bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region. Kyiv did not comment on the report.

When Ukrainian troops recaptured parts of the Kherson region last year, Russian forces pulled out of its biggest city, also called Kherson. But they only retreated as far as the other side of the Dnipro, from where they regularly shell the city.

Making progress against Russian troops has also been hard on the eastern front, where the Ukrainian military said its forces were under fire near the towns of Kupiansk and Avdiivka.

“They do not stop their attempts to encircle the city (Avdiivka), they continue to exert pressure there,” Stupun said. “They regrouped and launched new assaults there.”

Hanna Maliar, a former deputy defence minister, said the Russian assault on the eastern frontline was aimed at forcing Ukraine to bring in reinforcements from elsewhere.

Ukraine has said its troops are holding out around Avdiivka, which is seen as a gateway to the nearby Russian-occupied industrial city of Donetsk.

— Reuters

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