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Ukraine updates: Ukrainian forces hold out in Donbas city

October 16, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned of a "very difficult" situation in Donetsk and Luhansk. Serbia temporarily closed its embassy in Kyiv as China asked its citizens to leave Ukraine. DW has the latest.

Anti-tank hedgehogs block the streets in downtown Bakhmut as fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian troops intensifies
Russian forces have been shelling Bakhmut in Donetsk in an attempt to capture the cityImage: Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency/picture alliance

Ukrainian soldiers have been holding their positions in Donetsk and Luhansk despite a "difficult situation" there, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his late evening address on Saturday.

"Active operations continue in various areas of the front," he said. "The most difficult is the Bakhmut direction, as in the previous days. We hold our position."

Bakhmut is a strategically important city that has been under attack by Russian forces for weeks.

Located in the Donetsk region — one of the four the Kremlin illegally claimed to have annexed after a sham referendum — Bakhmut had around 70,000 inhabitants before the Russian invasion.

Following the Ukrainian counteroffensive in September, its forces have been able to regain large swathes of land, especially in the northeast, but the frontline in Donetsk and Luhansk has seen bitter fighting.

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on October 16.

Ukraine US ambassador 'positive' about Starlink solution

Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, told the CBS broadcaster that she was "positive" that Kyiv would find a solution to keep the Starlink internet service running.

"We got the Starlinks in Ukraine very quickly, in some areas for humanitarian support, it's the only connection that we have," Markarova said. "It's very important to continue having it and I'm positive that we will find a solution there."

The ambassador said Kyiv disagreed with Musk on "some of his views about Crimea, and we were happy to discuss it with him."

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk asked the Pentagon to fund Starlink in Ukraine on Friday. He also wrote a tweet suggesting that Kyiv cede sovereignty over Crimea to Russia and allow for UN-supervised referendums in other Russian-occupied regions in exchange for a peace deal, which drew ire from Ukrainian officials.

On Saturday, Musk tweeted that SpaceX could continue funding the service in Ukraine, but it was unclear whether this was Starlink's official position.

NATO involvement doesn't affect Russia's war aims — Kremlin spokesman

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that NATO's support for Kyiv doesn't affect Moscow's commitment to its war aims, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

"NATO has de facto entered the Ukrainian conflict. But this in no way affects our aims," Peskov said. "The [military] operation continues, and it will be carried through to the end."

Moscow refers to its invasion of Ukraine as a "special military operation."

Peskov said that the situation was "difficult" for Russia due to NATO involvement in Ukraine, but that Moscow had the capacity to continue the invasion.

Meanwhile, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov was cited by Russian news agencies as saying that Russia had repelled Ukrainian troops in some regions and destroyed a number of ammunition depots.

Konashenkov said that three US M777 howitzers had been hit in the Kharkiv region.

The defense ministry spokesman said that the attacks caused significant losses for Ukraine. The dpa news agency said it could not independently verify the report.

Russia sends 9,000 soldiers to Belarus

Russia has sent almost 9,000 soldiers to Belarus as part of a new joint force, Russian news agency TASS reported.

The force is aimed at protecting the border with Ukraine.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko announced plans for the force on Monday.

Russia has already been using Belarus as a staging ground for its invasion of Ukraine. It has also launched strikes on Ukrainian targets from Belarusian territory.

'Crimea will be free by summer' — former US army chief Ben Hodges

Ben Hodges, former commander of the US army in Europe, said in an interview for Germany's FAZ newspaper that he believes that "Crimea will be free by summer."

"When I look at the situation, I see that the situation of the Russians is getting worse with every week. They say war is a test of will and logistics — and on both counts Ukraine is far superior," Hodges said.

"The Russians have to lose the war, otherwise they'll try again in two or three years," he insisted.

Hodges argued that Russian leadership's "one hope" is for a decrease in Western support for Kyiv.

"So they are doing everything they can to prolong the war and spread fear and insecurity in the West. Any means will do: The young men who are now being conscripted as cannon fodder, as well as attacks on infrastructure in the West," Hodges told FAZ.

"I believe that we will therefore see more such acts of sabotage and attacks, or at least attempts, in the coming weeks and months."

Western leaders suspect Russia of sabotaging the Nord Stream pipelines. The pipelines were hit by blasts that caused a major gas leak late in September.

Russia says it repelled Ukraine's attempted advances

Russia's Ministry of Defense spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces had repelled Ukraine's attempts to advance in Kupyan, Krasnoliman, Zaporizhzhia, Kryvorizhia, Andreevsk and Mykolaiv.

Konashenkov said that "during fierce fighting, units of the Russian army held the positions they held, inflicting significant losses on the enemy."

Russian Duma calls for reports on mobilization violations

Speaker of Russia's state Duma Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on Telegram on Sunday that everything must be done to achieve Russia's partial mobilization in the next two weeks.

He called on people to write to the Duma in case of any violations of the mobilization decree, saying that these reports would be investigated by lawmakers as a priority.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's decree to mobilize at least 300,000 reservists has met with some of the biggest protests since the war began. Many men have also fled the country so as not to be called up to go and fight in Ukraine.

Beijing urges its citizens to leave Ukraine

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Chinese nationals to "enhance safety precautions and evacuate" out of Ukraine due to the "grim security situation" in the war-torn country.

"The Embassy will assist in organizing the evacuation of people in need," according to the message posted by Belfast-based Chinese diplomat Zhang Meifang on Twitter. 

Serbia announces closure of its embassy in Kyiv

Belgrade announced that its embassy in Ukraine was closing temporarily "until the conditions for returning to Ukraine are met." 

A note posted to the embassy's website reiterated, "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia reminds all interested parties that on February 13th it issued the recommendation to the citizens of the Republic of Serbia residing in Ukraine to consider the possibility of temporarily leaving the territory of that country."

Ukrainian nuclear energy official warns of potential catastrophe at Zaporizhzhia

The president of Ukraine's nuclear energy body Energoatom, Petro Kotin, said that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is "the most dangerous" in the world, in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF on Saturday evening.

Kotin said that a meltdown at the plant "is very close" due to the precarious situation of its electricity supply, which is needed to cool the nuclear reactors.

The plant has had to switch to diesel generators three times to power the cooling pumps, but there is only enough diesel supply for 10 days.

He also warned of an unprecedented catastrophe if the concrete containers holding the spent nuclear fuel were hit.

Kotin also accused Russian forces of damaging the buildings and establishing military quarters there. He also said that Ukrainian Energoatom workers had been detained and tortured by the Russian occupiers.

Russia degrading its 'long-range missile stocks,' UK says

The UK's Ministry of Defence said in its daily intelligence update that Russia was "probably" using up its advanced munitions faster than it could produce new ones.

The update said that "Russia probably fired more than 80 cruise missiles into Ukraine" on October 10, in response to the explosion that destroyed the Kerch Bridge between mainland Russia and the illegally occupied Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

"These attacks represent a further degradation of Russia's long-range missile stocks, which is likely to constrain their ability to strike the volume of targets they desire in the future," the ministry said.

Elon Musk hints at keeping Starlink online in Ukraine

Billionaire and social media user Elon Musk has said that he will keep the Starlink internet connection in Ukraine online after having said he would cut the service.

The satellite technology has been essential for Ukrainian forces to access the internet as well as to guide Ukrainian drone strikes on Russian positions.

The decision to cut the service was announced on Twitter after Musk had a spat with Ukrainian diplomat Andrij Melnyk over his controversial peace deal plan.

In Saturday's tweet, the billionaire said "we'll just keep funding Ukraine [government] for free" despite the service "losing money" and "other companies are getting billions of taxpayer [dollars]."

It remains unclear whether this is the official decision from Starlink.

Catch up on DW's coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Two soldiers opened fire at a Russian military training center in Belgorod leading to at least 11 deaths.

DW has the latest information.

ar, ab, sdi/dj, rc (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)