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Ukraine updates: Kyiv to ramp up drone production

Published August 17, 2023last updated August 17, 2023

As drones become increasingly common in the war in Ukraine for battlefield attacks and reconnaissance, Kyiv has said it will increase the production of drone systems. DW has the latest.

A Ukrainian soldier controls flying drone at training camp
Drones have become weapons for forces on both sides of the war in UkraineImage: Vincenzo Circosta/AA/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that Kyiv is "significantly" ramping up its drone production. Russia is also suspected of expanding its domestic drone production.

Drones have increasingly become vital to both Russian and Ukrainian military efforts.

In recent weeks, Kyiv has had several successful drone attacks as part of its counteroffensive to reclaim its territory. 

Meanwhile, Russian drone attacks have destroyed Ukrainian grain storage facilities along the Danube River.

Here's an overview of some of the main stories concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Thursday, August 17:

Skip next section Ukraine's Azov brigade reformed, fighting on the front
August 17, 2023

Ukraine's Azov brigade reformed, fighting on the front

Azov, the controversial Ukrainian National Guard brigade, has been reorganized and is back on the front lines fighting Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

"The legendary special brigade Azov has begun combat operations in the area of the Serebryanka forest," said Colonel Mykola Urshalovych, who is responsible for the National Guard's operational planning. Serebryanka is in the eastern Luhansk region.

The volunteer unit, founded by right-wing activists in 2014, has long served in Russian propaganda as an example of alleged "Nazi rule" in Ukraine. Moscow had also justified its invasion of Ukraine more than 17 months ago by saying it is "denazifying" its neighbor.

During the fighting around the port city of Mariupol, the former Azov regiment was encircled and the survivors were taken prisoner by Russia. Most of the severely wounded were later exchanged for captured Russians.

Several Azov officers handed over to Turkey by Russia returned home in early July after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Turkey. According to the original agreement, they were to remain in Turkey until the end of the war. Russia criticized the fighters' return to Ukraine as a breach of the agreement.

Zelenskyy Turkey visit secures release of Azov commanders

Skip next section Slovakian military chief visits Ukraine front line
August 17, 2023

Slovakian military chief visits Ukraine front line

Slovakia's army chief of general staff, General Daniel Zmeko, has visited the front line in southern Ukraine, in a rare official visit from a high-ranking NATO officer, Ukrainian military sources said.

The Ukrainian army's general staff said Zmeko met with the Tavria operational-strategic group serving on the front to the south of Zaporizhzhia.

Zmeko said in a Facebook post that the Ukrainians had thanked Slovakia for providing "material and technical assistance" to Kyiv.

Since June, Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a counter-offensive against well-embedded Russian troops to claw back territory, but gains have so far been modest.

Skip next section Prague cancels concert by Russian soprano Netrebko over Ukraine
August 17, 2023

Prague cancels concert by Russian soprano Netrebko over Ukraine

Anna Netrebko on stage holding a bouquet of flowers
Anna Netrebko has not publicly criticized Russian President Putin over his war on UkraineImage: Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden

A scheduled performance by Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko in Prague has been canceled over her country's war on Ukraine, Czech officials said.

The announcement came days after the Prague government said that all its coalition parties "unequivocally" opposed the concert, calling it "insensitive."

Prague's Municipal House, where Netrebko's October 16 performance was to take place, and the Nachtigall Artists Management, an agency organizing the event, agreed on the cancellation. The soprano won't demand compensation, the organizing agency confirmed.

The Czech Republic has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine during the war. The governing coalition in Prague is made up of the same political parties that comprise the Czech government.

Netrebko withdrew from the Metropolitan Opera in New York in March 2022 after refusing to repudiate her support of Putin following the Ukraine invasion. The opera superstar later condemned the war and announced a return to European stages, but has never publicly criticized Putin directly.

Skip next section Cargo ship from Ukraine's Odesa reaches Turkey
August 17, 2023

Cargo ship from Ukraine's Odesa reaches Turkey

A civilian cargo ship sailing from Ukraine through a new corridor has reached Turkish waters.

The Hong Kong-flagged Joseph Schulte left the port of Odesa on Wednesday after being trapped there since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

It was the first vessel to use a new humanitarian route set up by Kyiv after Russia withdrew from a deal to allow the export of Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea. Moscow had also threatened to target shipping in the region following the deal's collapse.

Marine traffic sites showed the ship entering Turkish territory after moving along a western route that avoided international waters.

Ukraine calls Russia's bluff on Black Sea ships

Skip next section Putin's failure in Ukraine is a huge blow to his legitimacy, analyst tells DW
August 17, 2023

Putin's failure in Ukraine is a huge blow to his legitimacy, analyst tells DW

Abbas Gallyamov, an exiled political analyst who used to write speeches for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told DW that the Russian leader was losing support among the public after failing to bring about a swift victory in Ukraine.

According to Gallyamov, Putin has been getting weaker and weaker since the beginning of the full-scale invasion and now he is "almost desperate," because a "clear and short victory" — like in Crimea in 2014 — has not materialized.

"Putin understands that the chief source of his legitimacy in Russia, both among the elites and among the general public, is his presumed strength, his ability to win, so his (inability) to win is a real, terrific blow (to) his image and his legitimacy," the analyst said.

Gallyamov added that the Wagner group's mutiny showed how weak Putin's support is in the country and that "his whole political construction is basically standing on the sand." Neither Russian troops nor civil society resisted the mutiny, the analyst recalled.

"I would say that Putin's electoral rating today is something like 30-35%, no more," Gallyamov said, adding that Putin would definitely not win a presidential election today if the votes were counted correctly.

Moscow 'downplays Western weapons' says former Putin aide

Skip next section Lukashenko says Putin not pushing Belarus to enter war with Ukraine
August 17, 2023

Lukashenko says Putin not pushing Belarus to enter war with Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not trying to push Belarus into joining the war in Ukraine, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said in an online interview cited by Reuters. 

"To involve Belarus... what will that give? Nothing," said Lukashenko, a close Moscow ally.

Lukashenko also said he believed Russia had already achieved its goals in what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

He said the two sides should start negotiating to end the conflict and be ready to discuss issues such as the future of Crimea and other territory Moscow claims.

Russia has used Belarus to launch attacks on Ukraine, with Russian soldiers and tactical nuclear weapons also positioned on Belarusian territory.

Skip next section Ukraine hails new German military package
August 17, 2023

Ukraine hails new German military package

Missile being fired from an Iris-T air defense system in Ukraine
The Iris-T has already helped fend off Russian air attacks in UkraineImage: Air Force Ukraine

Ukrainian officials have expressed gratitude to Germany after Kyiv took delivery on Thursday of another military aid package sent by Berlin.

The package includes two IRIS-T air defense systems and about 4,500 rounds of NATO-calibre 155 mm smoke grenades.

In addition, there were 10 GO 12 ground-surveillance radar units.

In response to the news published in the Kyiv Independent, the ambassador for strategic communications for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, Olexander Scherba, wrote on the messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter: "Danke, Deutschland! This will save many lives!"

Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential office, wrote that "our sky will now be more protected."

 Germany is one of the main countries supplying Ukraine with military help as it attempts to fight off the illegitimate and unprovoked Russian invasion.

Skip next section Former French leader Sarkozy prompts outrage with referendum calls
August 17, 2023

Former French leader Sarkozy prompts outrage with referendum calls

Nicolas Sarkozy leaving a courthouse
Since leaving office, Sarkozy has been battling numerous legal casesImage: Bertrand Guay/AFP/dpa/picture alliance

Nicolas Sarkozy, a French former president, has been condemned at home and by Kyiv for suggesting internationally monitored referendums in occupied Ukrainian territories could end Russia's invasion.

"The Ukrainians ... will want to reconquer what has been unjustly taken from them. But if they can't manage it completely, the choice will be between a frozen conflict ... or taking the high road out with referendums strictly overseen by the international community," Sarkozy told conservative newspaper Le Figaro on Wednesday.

Sarkozy said "any return to the way things were before is an illusion" and that an "incontestable referendum ... will be needed to solidify the current state of affairs."  

Russia has already held several illegal referendums in occupied territories in a bid to give an impression of legitimacy to its claims of control over them.

Sarkozy also claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was open to diplomacy and that Ukraine had no place in the European Union or NATO alliance.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Sarkozy's comments were based on "criminal logic," saying Sarkozy had "deliberately participated in a criminal conspiracy for Russia's seizure of Ukrainian territories" while in office.

In France, a senior Green Party MP, Julien Bayou, told broadcaster LCI that Sarkozy "should be considered a Russian influencer," calling the interview "lunatic" and "shocking."

Bayou also pointed to an ongoing investigation into Sarkozy's ties to a Russian insurance company, in which he is under suspicion of influence peddling and concealing crimes.   

Sarkozy was president of France from 2007 to 2012.

Skip next section Ukraine counteroffensive making progress amid uncertainty: NATO's Stoltenberg
August 17, 2023

Ukraine counteroffensive making progress amid uncertainty: NATO's Stoltenberg

A Ukrainian counteroffensive that is attempting to drive out invading Russian forces from occupied territory is making progress but there is still much uncertainty, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has told a conference in Norway.

He said NATO would support Ukraine until it won the war, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin had underestimated the Western military alliance.

Internal discussions were taking place within NATO on how to end the war in Ukraine and find a path to peace, Stoltenberg said.

He also said that Ukraine itself would decide the terms of peace.

"It is the Ukrainians, and only the Ukrainians, who can decide when there are conditions in place for negotiations, and who can decide at the negotiating table what is an acceptable solution," Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg said the alliance had seen no changes in Russia's nuclear forces and saw no reason at present to change its own setup.

During its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has regularly made veiled and not-so-veiled threats that it might use its nuclear arsenal under certain conditions. ​​​

Ukraine's counteroffensive makes slow progress

Skip next section Russia using 'propaganda and Wagner' in Africa, Ukraine's Kuleba says
August 17, 2023

Russia using 'propaganda and Wagner' in Africa, Ukraine's Kuleba says

Dmytro Kuleba
Kuleba said Russia was using base means to get African countries on its sideImage: Volodymyr Tarasov/Avalon/Photoshot/picture alliance

Russia is pressuring governments in Africa to have close ties to Moscow, using fighters from the Wagner mercenary group and "propaganda" to further this goal, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymytro Kuleba told the AFP news agency in an interview this week.

"Russia is trying very hard to keep countries in its orbit through coercion, bribery and fear," Kuleba said, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin's publicly voiced concern about food security in Africa was hypocritical in view of Moscow's withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal that allowed for safe exports of Ukrainian foodstuffs.

"People in Africa saw that all of Putin's stories about how he cares about African countries are lies" after Russia's exit from the deal, Kuleba said, saying Ukrainian farmers and people in Africa were the main victims of the move.

Kuleba also said that the Ukrainian army would liberate all territory currently occupied by Russian forces no matter how long it took.

"Our goal is victory, victory in the form of the liberation of our territories within (Ukraine's) borders of 1991. And we don't care how long it takes," he said during the interview in Kyiv.

He said, however, that Ukraine would still need a steady supply of Western arms and ammunition to achieve this goal, adding that Kyiv had guaranteed some Western countries that their donated weapons would not be used against targets on Russian territory.

Fact check: How Russia pushes its propaganda in Africa

Skip next section Joseph Schulte cargo ship reaches Romanian waters
August 17, 2023

Joseph Schulte cargo ship reaches Romanian waters

A spokesperson for the Bernhard Schulte Ship management (BSM) said the Joseph Schulte container ship is in Romanian waters and is expected to reach Istanbul Thursday evening. BSM owns the ship jointly with a Chinese bank.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also confirmed the ship had left Ukrainian waters, on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. 

The Hong Kong-flagged ship had been trapped at the Odesa port since February 24 last year, when Russia launched the war in Ukraine. It was the first ship to use a temporary corridor set up after Russia last month terminated a UN-brokered deal to move vital grain exports out of blockaded Ukraine ports.

The corridor can be used by merchant ships at their own risk, said Deputy Prime Minister
Olexandr Kubrakov. 

Skip next section Ukraine ramps up numbers of drones as Zelenskyy emphasizes importance
August 17, 2023

Ukraine ramps up numbers of drones as Zelenskyy emphasizes importance

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy revealed that Kyiv is "significantly" increasing its production of drones.

As part of his address, Zelenskyy emphasized the importance of drones in defending Ukraine amid Russia's invasion.

"Drones are the 'eyes' and protection on the front line... Drones are a guarantee that people will not have to pay with their lives when drones can be used," said the Ukrainian leader. 

In recent weeks, Kyiv has had several successful drone attacks as part of its counteroffensive efforts to reclaim territory.

Ukraine: War of the drones

Skip next section More DW coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine
August 17, 2023

More DW coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the first cargo ship to depart Ukraine using a new Black Sea shipping lane.

It comes after Moscow exited a deal protecting Kyiv's grain exports from its southern ports.

The United States has criticized Russia's drone strikes on Ukraine's Danube infrastructure, saying it showed that President Vladimir Putin did not care about food supply for the developing world.

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