Ukrainian forces have reportedly gained control of the east bank of the River Oski, preparing for an assault on Russia's forces occupying the eastern Donbas region. Russia's army has been almost completely pushed out of the northern Kharkiv region and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the next offensive targeting Luhansk was in the works.
Though Zelensky repeated that victory would only come when Russian forces were completely driven from Ukrainian territory, Kyiv’s forces are working to establish a foothold on the eastern side of the Oskil and liberate the city of Lyman, which was seized by Russian forces in May. Taking the city of 20,000 would represent a major breakthrough, bringing momentum to free other cities in the region, which were occupied this spring.
"Luhansk region is right next door,” the head of Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai said. "De-occupation is not far away,"
Russia Says Ready For Talks Regarding Prisoner Exchange
American citizen Paul Whelan attends a sentencing hearing at the Moscow City Court in 2020
Russia announced it was ready for talks about a prisoner exchange for U.S. citizens jailed in Russia but added that the American embassy in Moscow was not “fulfilling its official duties” to maintain dialogue. Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, "We have stated many times that we are ready for negotiations to resolve the fate of U.S. citizens convicted in Russia and Russian citizens in the U.S."
But, she added in the Telegram post, the US Embassy in Moscow is “engaged in some kind of media madness.”
The deal proposed would call on Moscow to exchange U.S. Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan and basketball star Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer detained in the United States. Griner is currently serving a 9 year jail sentence for the possession of cannabis and Whelan a 16 year term for espionage.
U.S. President Joe Biden met the families of Whelan and Griner at the White House on Friday, reassuring them that the administration is set on “working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely”.
New Evidence Of Torture Found In Izium, EU Calls For War Crimes Tribunal
The European Union has called for a war crimes tribunal after about 450 graves were found outside the formerly Russian-occupied city of Izium. Some of the already exhumed bodies show signs of torture.
“I call for the speedy establishment of a special international tribunal that will prosecute the crime of aggression,” said Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipvasky. The Czech Republic currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.
Personnel from the U.N.’s human-rights monitoring unit, OCHR, are preparing to travel to the region to inspect the war crimes.
The exhumation of bodies will continue for another two weeks, said Mayor Valerii Marchenko in a video posted on Ukraine’s Parliament broadcaster. The city of Izium was under Russian occupation for five months, but after launching their counter-offensive in early September, the Ukrainian army freed the city.
The Kremlin has rejected claims that Russian forces committed war crimes. “It is the same scenario as in Bucha. It’s a lie, and of course, we will defend the truth in this story,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address that “new evidence of torture was obtained” from the bodies buried there, including what have been described as 10 “torture rooms” and devices used by the Russian army in the liberated areas of Kharkiv region.
The Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor's Office stated in a social media post that "Representatives of the Russian Federation created a pseudo-law enforcement agency, in the basement of which a torture chamber was set up, where civilians were subjected to inhuman torture. During the inspection, documents confirming the functioning of the pseudo-police department and the device with which the occupiers tortured civilians with electric shock were seized.”
Ukraine Says Russia Directly Targeted Pivdennoukrainsk Nuclear Plant
Aftermath of Russian shelling at the nuclear power plant located in the Southern Mykolaiv region
Russian troops fired at the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine early Monday, but the plant’s reactors were not damaged, according Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom.
Reuters reports that soon after midnight a blast took place 300 meters away from the reactors and damaged power plant buildings shortly. "Currently, all three power units of the PNPP (Pivdennoukrainsk Nuclear Power Plant) are operating normally. Fortunately, there were no casualties among the station staff," Energoatom said in a statement.
The plant is located more than 200 kilometers from the front line, with no military targets or large cities near it. Thus it appears the strike was aimed to hit the nuclear power plant, or at least raise fears of such a strike.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said: "The invaders wanted to shoot again, but they forgot what a nuclear power plant is. Russia endangers the whole world. We have to stop it before it's too late."
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania And Poland Impose Full Ban On Russian Tourist Visas
As of today, Russian citizens with Schengen visas are no longer allowed into these four European Union countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
This ban is valid, regardless of the country in which the visa was issued. Previously, if a Russian citizen had received a visa in another EU member state, he or she could enter any European country. Estonia was the first to respond to the call by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to extend the ban, with the other ex-Soviet Baltic countries and Poland following suit.
Other EU countries, such as Germany and Finland, have so far only abolished simplified visa procedures. Still, some have noted that these restrictions will have more of an impact on ordinary citizens than the oligarchs helping to finance the war with Ukraine, who have means to evade the rules.
Negotiate? Stall? Double Down? Here Are Putin’s Options Now
Russian soldiers at a ceremony to commemorate victims of World War II held on Gulf of Finland
By now, there is no doubt that Russia is in serious trouble, following Ukraine’s regaining of major territory around the northeast city of Kharkiv and in the south..
President Vladimir Putin’s tentative encounter last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping, his most important potential international ally, only confirms that his options for reversing the recent battlefield defeats may be rapidly shrinking.
So in the face of severe military setbacks, it begs the question: what will Putin do next? Here are seven possibilities:
The Primadonna Of Russian Pop Music Asked To Be Listed As Foreign Agent
Singer Alla Pugacheva pays her last respects to first and last Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev
In the post-Soviet space, there is no woman more famous than the singer and actress Alla Pugacheva. From the very beginning of the war in Ukraine she and her husband, the famous Russian comedian Maxim Galkin, opposed the war in Ukraine; after the hunt for traitors began in Russia, their family left the country.
Today, the singer also appealed to Russian leaders to put her on the list of foreign agents following her husband. "Please put me on the list of foreign agents of my beloved country, for I stand in solidarity with my husband, an honest, decent, and sincere man, a true and incorruptible patriot of Russia, who wishes his homeland prosperity, peaceful life, freedom of speech and an end to the death of our guys for illusory goals that make our country an outcast and weigh down the lives of our citizens," Pugacheva wrote in her Instagram.