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Ukraine updates: Russia's tactics in Donbas 'crazy'

October 26, 2022

Ukrainian troops are holding out on the eastern front, says President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Russia's nuclear deterrence forces had launched test missiles. DW has the latest.

Donetsk local administration damaged by a recent shelling
Russian forces are concentrating artillery strikes on two key towns in the eastern Donbas regionImage: Sergey Averin/SNA/IMAGO

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an evening video address on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces had been holding out against Russian attacks, especially in parts of Donbas.

"The situation on the front line hasn't changed significantly," he said. "The fiercest battles are in the Donetsk region, towards [the cities of] Bakhmut and Avdiyivka".

He added that Russian forces have continuously attempted to capture the key city of Bakhmut, but to no avail.

"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," the president said.

As for the rest of the front line, Zelenskyy did not give details, but said that "we are strengthening our positions all over the frontline, reducing the invaders' capabilities, destroying their logistics, and preparing good news for Ukraine."

Map showing areas regained by Ukraine

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, October 26:

Putin oversees nuclear deterrence drills

Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw the training of Moscow's strategic deterrence forces, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

"Under the leadership of... Vladimir Putin, a training session was held with ground, sea and air strategic deterrence forces, during which practical launches of ballistic and cruise missiles took place," a Kremlin statement said.

The drills included launching test missiles from the eastern Kamchatka peninsula and from the Barents Sea in the Arctic.

The strategic forces are tasked with responding to nuclear threats. Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of preparing to use a "dirty bomb" containing nuclear material, and Russian officials have on multiple occasions reminded the West of Moscow's nuclear arsenal in response to Western support for Ukraine.

Early last week, NATO carried out its own nuclear deterrence drills in Belgium, the UK and the North Sea. The alliance said the exercises were a "routine, recurring training activity" and weren't "linked to any current world events."

UNESCO keeps eye on damage to Ukraine's cultural heritage 

The United Nation's cultural agency UNESCO has announced that it is keeping track of the damage done to Ukraine's cultural heritage sites since the Russian invasion with the use of satellite imagery. 

The agency has already verified damage to more than 200 sites, including 88 religious sites, 15 museums, 76 buildings of historical and/or artistic interest, 18 monuments and 10 libraries. 

These were located mostly in the eastern regions of Ukraine — namely Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk — as well as the capital Kyiv. 

None of Ukraine's seven "World Heritage Sites" have been damaged, according to the platform. 

Russian forces struggled in weeks leading up to retreat from northeastern Ukraine: report

Reuters news reviewed more than a thousand pages of documents that were left behind by Russian officers when they retreated chaotically out of the Ukrainian town of Balakliya in Kharkiv region last month.

The report, published Wednesday, show the inner workings of the Russian military as well as the mindset of Russian personnel before Russian forces hastily retreated from positions in northeastern Ukraine in one of Putin's most embarrassing setbacks in the Ukraine war.

In the weeks before the defeat, Russian forces were struggling with surveillance and electronic warfare. Their forces were also depleted by end of August, hit by death, desertion and combat stress.

Two units – accounting for about a sixth of the total force – were operating at 20% of their full strength, the report said.

Reuters documented accounts of a breakdown in morale and discipline among forces as well. 

German president says previous snubs unimportant

Speaking to DW from Ukraine, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said previous snubs he faced regarding a visit to Ukraine were unimportant.

"It does not matter anymore. Our responsibility is greater than to get angry about disinvitations weeks and months ago or even to make them an issue. We are here to signal that we will continue to stand by Ukraine's side and support it economically, politically and militarily," he told DW.

He said Germany was focusing on delivering air defense systems. "I have just had confirmation from the mayor in Kyiv, Mr. Klitschko, as well as last week from Mr. Zelenskyy on the telephone that this is the right support at the moment."

He said Germany already delivered 30 Gepard anti-aircraft-gun tanks and a multiple rocket system and that two more deliveries of air defense systems were ready to cross the border.

Steinmeier said one of the air defense systems delivered to Ukraine was so modern that it was not even being used by the Bundeswehr yet.

He said he was not surprised by the danger he faced in Ukraine — where he was forced to retreat to a bomb shelter. 

"We did not come unprepared. We know what country we are coming to," he said.

"We know that we are coming to a country that is at war and this was evident this morning because we had to have our first conversations in the bomb shelter with people from Koryukivka, a small town northwest of Kyiv for whom this is everyday life."

Steinmeier makes surprise visit to Ukraine

US imposes sanctions over 'Russian influence campaign' in Moldova

The United States has imposed sanctions on individuals and entities involved in a Russian "influence campaign" in Moldova.

Sanctioned individuals include Moldovan and Russian officials that are "widely recognized for capturing and corrupting Moldova's political and economic institutions and those acting as instruments of Russia's global influence campaign," the US Treasury Department said.

Among those sanctioned is Vladimir Plahotniuc, who Washington accuses of manipulating "key sectors of Moldova's government, including law enforcement, electoral and judicial sectors."

Moldova is engaged in a territorial dispute with Moscow over the Trans-Dniester region, a breakaway state administered by pro-Russian separatists.

Protesters have been demonstrating in Chisinau in recent weeks against pro-European Moldovan President Maia Sandu amid rising inflation and concerns over whether Moldova will be able to secure energy supplies. Sandu accused protesters of belonging to "criminal groups."

In June, Moldova was granted EU candidate status alongside neighboring Ukraine.

Talks on Brittney Griner prisoner swap must be kept confidential — Kremlin

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said discussions on any possible swap involving US basketball star Brittney Griner must be kept confidential.

Asked about the possibility of a prisoner swap with the United States, Peskov said, "We always say that any contacts about possible exchanges can only be conducted in silence under a tight lid on any information."

On Tuesday, a Russian court rejected Griner's appeal against a nine-year prison sentence. The basketball star had been arrested on drug smuggling and possession charges over cannabis oil found in her luggage as she landed in Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport.

US officials have said that they are working to bring Griner and other jailed US citizens home and have submitted proposals to that effect to Moscow. In response, Russian officials have urged Washington to limit discussions to confidential talks.

At least 70,000 people in Kherson left their homes — Russian-backed official

At least 70,000 people have left their homes in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson over the course of a week, the Russian-installed regional leader Vladimir Saldo said.

"I'm sure that more than 70,000 people left in a week since the crossings were organized," he said on regional television.

The Russian-installed administration in the region has been working to transport people from the city of Kherson to the left bank of the Dnieper River ahead of an expected Ukrainian offensive.

Preparing for winter in the trenches of eastern Ukraine

EU urges coordinated arms purchases to replenish stocks

The European Union has urged the bloc's defense ministers to coordinate arms purchases as member states seek to replenish supplies.

EU countries have been working to restock their arms stores following weapons shipments to Kyiv.

"It is urgent to restore the readiness of our European armed forces and replenish depleted stocks," Stijn Mols, the head of the EU diplomatic service's security and defense division, said.

"It is now really the occasion for all of us to set aside these long-standing... national interests," Mols said, urging for coordinated purchases. Defense purchases in the EU are rarely carried out jointly.

Mols said European countries need air and missile defense, anti-tank and artillery systems and drones.

European Commission defense official Timo Pesonen urged for increased defense spending, saying that the bloc had fallen behind other world powers. EU defense investments had increased by 22% in 20 years, compared to 66% in the United States, nearly 300% in Russia and more than 600% in China, Pesonen said.

Mercedes-Benz to sell Russian assets to local investor

German carmaker Mercedes-Benz plans to sell its Russian assets to local investor Avtodom, Russia's Trade and Industry Ministry said on Telegram.

"The new owner of the Russian divisions of Mercedes-Benz, Avtodom, will be able to attract other companies as partners for joint productions," the ministry said.

General director of Mercedes-Benz's Russian subsidiary, Natalya Koroleva, said the decision was made to secure "the fulfillment of obligations to customers in Russia... as well as the preservation of jobs for employees of the Russian divisions of the company."

"The completion of the transaction is subject to the approval of all relevant authorities," Mercedes-Benz said.

Russia recruiting US-trained Afghan commandos

Volunteer commandos who were left behind when the United States withdrew from Afghanistan say they are receiving offers to join Russian forces in Ukraine, US magazine Foreign Policy reported.

Only a few hundred senior officers of Afghanistan's 20,000-30,000-member National Army Commando Corps were evacuated as part of the US withdrawal, according to Foreign Policy, and many commandos are currently in hiding or have fled to neighboring countries out of fear of Taliban reprisals.

In August, US Congressman Michael McCaul released a report warning that Afghan commandos could be "exploited" for information on the US military. Around 3,000 commandos had fled to neighboring Iran, the report said.

More DW content on the war in Ukraine

DW spoke to residents about a lack of access to bomb shelters as Russia strikes Ukrainian cities.

Russia and Ukraine are accusing each other of planning to use "dirty bombs." What are the munitions and how similar are they to nuclear bombs?

A Hamburg court fined a man €4,000 euros for displaying the "Z" symbol, which is used as a sign of support for Russia's invasion, on the rear window of his car.

ab, sdi/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)