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Ukraine updates: Zelensky calls for more air defense systems

Published October 20, 2022last updated October 21, 2022

Germany supplied Ukraine with the air defense system Iris-T, which can fire at targets up to 20 kilometers in the sky. Zelenskyy is turning to other European countries to supply further systems. DW has the latest.

Undated handout photo of the Iris-T air defense system
Image: Diehl Defence/abaca/picture alliance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy showed his appreciation on Thursday to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz over the delivery of the Iris-T air defense system

"This German system not only shields Ukrainian airspace. It protects European stability by limiting Russian terror, which affects our country as well as your countries in the future," he said via a video conference during the EU summit in Brussels. 

The first Iris-T system was handed over to Ukraine a week ago. Germany will initially provide Kyiv with four of the systems, each costing €140 million. An Iris-T can fire at targets up to 20 kilometers in the sky and 40 kilometers away.

Russia had increasingly attacked civilian targets with drone strikes in recent days. In his speech, Zelenskyy stressed that Ukraine needed more air defense systems to create a truly reliable air shield. He specifically turned to France, Italy and the US for further support.

"We must do everything to make it impossible for Russia to destroy our energy system with missiles and drones," Zelenskyy told EU leaders.

Zelenskyy also called for further EU sanctions against Russia and Iran "for cooperating with the terrorist state." He accused Iran of supplying Russia with drones for their attacks.

Zelensky speaking to EU leaders at the EU Council Meeting via a video call
Zelenskyy spoke to EU leaders at the EU Council summit via a video conferenceImage: EU Council/ Pool/AApicture alliance

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on October 20.

Russia accused of 'mass deportation' in Kherson

Ukraine has accused Russia of orchestrating a "mass deportation" of residents in the Kherson region, which it has illegally occupied for months and annexed after a sham referendum in late September.

Moscow has enacted martial law in eastern Ukraine and said it is "evacuating" residents while it fires missiles around the country.

"Putin's martial law in the annexed regions of Ukraine is preparation for the mass deportation of the Ukrainian population to depressed areas of Russia in order to change the ethnic composition of the occupied territory," Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said on Wednesday.

Sergiy Khlan, an aide to the ousted head of the Kherson region, accused Putin of attempting to foment panic in the region for propaganda purposes.

He said the relocation of residents, which he called "equivalent to deportation," was being used by Moscow as a pretext to justify Russia's "withdrawal from Kherson and more generally from the right bank" of the Dnieper River.

Vladimir Saldo, the new Moscow-installed head of the Kherson region, told Russian state television that his administration would relocate east of the Dnieper.

Russian authorities said almost 5 million Ukrainian residents have moved to Russia since the start of the invasion in February.

Occupied Kherson relocates residents

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to DW: 'The only language Putin uses is blackmail'

Asked by DW if he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin's increased attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure were an act of desperation, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told DW, "Putin just tried to weaponize the cold weather, because now in Ukraine [it] is starting to be really cold."
Poroshenko said Putin was manufacturing an energy crisis to blackmail Ukraine just as he had used grain supplies and the threat of nuclear contamination to blackmail Ukraine and the wider world in weeks prior.

But Poroshenko said the Ukrainian people were learning how to cope with such difficulties.

The former president struck a defiant note when speaking with DW, saying: "Ukraine is unbreakable. We ruined his [Putin's] hope that under this pressure, Ukraine [would] capitulate."

Asked about the possible use of Iranian drones in the conflict, Poroshenko said there was no doubt the weapons had come from Tehran, saying, "we now have a war not only with Russia," calling, Russia, Iran and Belarus "aggressors against Ukraine." 

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks to DW

EU agrees on Iran sanctions

European Union members have agreed on new sanctions targeting officials in Tehran over Iranian-made drones that Russia used in strikes on civilians in Ukraine. 

Czechia, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, announced that EU ambassadors agreed on the measures that would come into effect Thursday afternoon. 

"EU states decided to freeze the assets of three individuals and one entity responsible for drone deliveries," the Czech EU presidency said, adding the EU "is also prepared to extend sanctions to four more Iranian entities that already featured in a previous sanctions list." 

Iran denies providing Russian forces with weapons despite debris of self-destructing Iranian-made Shahed-136 kamikaze drones materializing after the attacks. 

The announcement comes as leaders of EU countries are due to meet in Brussels for a two-day summit. The war in Ukraine is among the key topics set to dominate their agenda. 

Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Ministry accused the EU of being a "party to the conflict" for supplying Ukraine with weapons.

Russia could 'reassess' working with UN chief over drone inspections

Russia's deputy envoy to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said Wednesday that Moscow might "reassess" its working relationship with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres if the UN head goes ahead with an inspection of drones recovered by Ukraine.

Ukraine this week invited UN experts to inspect some downed drones, which were allegedly supplied to Russia by Iran. Guterres reports twice a year to the Security Council on the implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and an assessment of Iranian drones in Ukraine would likely be included in that report.

Iran and Russia have said the UN has no mandate to inspect the drones recovered by Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters after a closed-door Security Council meeting on Wednesday about Moscow's use of drones, Polyanskiy called on Guterres to "abstain from engaging in any illegitimate investigation."

"Otherwise, we will have to reassess our collaboration with them, which is hardly in anyone's interests," he added, without further explanation. "We do not want to do it, but there will be no other choice."

Russia 'not optimistic' about resuming grain export deal

An agreement that allows Ukraine to safely export grain via Black Sea shipping channels is set to expire on November 22, and Russia's deputy UN envoy said it might not be renewed.

Polyanskiy said Wednesday that he was "not optimistic" about renewing the deal and claimed that Russian exports of grain and fertilizer were being hindered.

When asked if the grain deal could be at threat if the UN sends experts to inspect downed drones in Ukraine, Polyanskiy said: "I don't make direct link so far."

Dmitry Polyanskiy speaking at the UN
Polyanskiy has called into question the future of the Black Sea grain deal and Russia's cooperation with the UNImage: John Lamparski/NurPhoto/picture alliance

US charges Russians over military tech exports

The United States Justice Department has charged five Russian nationals and two Venezuelans with exporting military technology and dual-use technology to aid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Some of the technology had been recovered on the battlefield in Ukraine, US authorities said.

In a separate case that was also unsealed on Wednesday, the US charged three Latvian citizens and one Ukrainian citizen with attempting to export a tool to Russia which could potentially be used in nuclear proliferation.

Russia fired missile near UK plane over Black Sea

A Russian aircraft fired a missile near a UK aircraft patrolling international airspace over the Black Sea last month, UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace told parliament.

Wallace said Britain had suspended patrols after the incident and expressed concerns to Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Russia blamed a technical malfunction and Wallace said Britain has now resumed patrols.

Ukraine to impose nationwide electricity restrictions

Authorities in Ukraine will impose restrictions on the use of electricity starting on Thursday, as continued Russian strikes over the past several days have crippled energy infrastructure.

Power supply will be restricted between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., grid operator Ukrenergo said.

"Today the enemy again destroyed energy generating facilities ... it is necessary to minimize the use of electricity," said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the president's office.

"Everyone should be ready, first, to save electricity, and second, rolling power blackouts are also possible if strikes continue," Tymoshenko added.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 30% of Ukraine's power stations have been destroyed.

Although the power restrictions were only announced for Thursday, Ukrenergo added: "We do not exclude that with the onset of cold weather we will be asking for your help even more frequently."

Russian strikes target Ukraine's energy grid

More from DW's coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

As Russia's invasion of Ukraine drags on into winter, Kyiv is increasingly reliant on international military aid. NATO head Jens Stoltenberg sat down with DW on Tuesday to discuss ramping up the military alliance's support for Ukraine.

A cyberattack recently crashed several Bulgarian government websites. Experts said Russian hackers were retaliating for Bulgaria's support of Ukraine. DW looks at why Sofia has been hesitant to blame Moscow.

zc/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)