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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

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

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a prime-time address to the nation about his approaches to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, humanitarian assistance in Gaza and continued support for Ukraine in their war with Russia, from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Oct. 19, 2023.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

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’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the European Political Community Summit in Granada, Spain, on Oct. 5, 2023.

Juan Medina | Reuters

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

Kyiv moves to ban Ukrainian Orthodox Church over Russia ties

Ukraine’s Parliament on Thursday passed the first reading of a bill that could ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church over its alleged connections to Russia.

Lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak said on Telegram that the bill for the “prohibition of religious organizations associated with the Russian Federation” passed with 267 votes. Another lawmaker said the concern was over national security.

Officials have accused the church, which has historic ties to Moscow, of affiliation with Russia during the war. Its leadership denies this.

The bill still needs a second reading and presidential approval.

Tensions have mounted over the church’s status and moves by authorities to detain and evict senior clerics.

— Jenni Reid

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