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Ukraine updates: US defense chief on surprise visit to Kyiv

Published November 20, 2023last updated November 20, 2023

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has made an unannounced visit to Kyiv in a show of continued support for Ukraine. Meanwhile, multiple Russian attacks have been repelled in the east. Follow DW for more.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is welcomed as he arrives in Kyiv
The US said Lloyd Austin's visit signals Washington's 'unwavering support to Ukraine in its fight for freedom'Image: United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin via X/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday reaffirmed Washington's support to Kyiv while he was on an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian capital. 

The regional governor of Kherson, in southern Ukraine, said two people were killed after Russian shelling hit a parking lot.

Ukraine's military has reported repelling dozens of attacks by Russian forces in eastern Ukrainian territories. 

Here's a look at the latest developments of Russia's war in Ukraine from Monday, November 20.

Skip next section Russia lodges formal complaint over Finland's border closures
November 20, 2023

Russia lodges formal complaint over Finland's border closures

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Monday said it had lodged a formal protest with Finland's ambassador in Moscow over Helsinki's decision to close four border crossings with Russia over the weekend.

The ministry said that the move was "rushed" and that it was in violation of the rights and interests of tens of thousands of people on either side of the border.

Finland says that the decision to close the four crossing points is to stop asylum seekers from countries such as Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, who Finnish authorities say are being purposely ushered towards the border by Russia. The Kremlin has denied the allegations.

Finland's President Sauli Niinisto said the process of returning asylum seekers not meeting criteria for protection, had become increasingly difficult.

"Deportation of migrants who don't meet the criteria for asylum has become impossible, so entering the border means you stay in that country if you want to," Niinisto said, while on a state visit to Poland.

Niinisto called for a European Union-wide solution to stop uncontrollable entry to the passport-free area. "It is impossible that each country just by itself tries to take care of the situation which might break out in a neighboring country immediately afterwards," Niinisto said.

Finland and Russia: Friendly neighbors no more

Skip next section Ukraine fires top cyber security officials
November 20, 2023

Ukraine fires top cyber security officials

Kyiv has dismissed to high-ranking cyber defense officials amid an investigation into allegations of embezzlement.

Cabinet chief Taras Melnychuck said in a Telegram post that Yurii Shchyhol — head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP), and his deputy, Viktor Zhora, were dismissed.

No reasons were provided by Melnychuck but the changes come as anti-corruption prosecutors announced they were investigating officials in cyber security over allegations of a plot to embezzle 62 million UAH ($1.72 million) in 2021.

Ukraine has made moves to clamp down on corruption in government as it seeks EU membership.

Skip next section Russia expresses 'regret' over Finland closing border crossings
November 20, 2023

Russia expresses 'regret' over Finland closing border crossings

Russia on Monday expressed regret over Finland's decision to close several border crossings

Asked about the closure of the four crossings, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "This causes nothing but deep regret, because we had long-standing, very good relations with Finland, pragmatic, based on mutual respect."

"And of course, we regret that these relations were replaced by such an exclusively Russophobic position, which the leaders of this country began to espouse," Peskov said.

Last week, Finland's prime minister Petteri Orpo said that four of the country's nine crossing points on its long eastern border with Russia would be closed from Saturday in an attempt to stem the flow of asylum seekers.

Ties soured after Finland's decision to join the NATO defense alliance in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Finland has accused Russia of facilitating migrant arrivals at its border, with a uptick in attempted entries in the past several months. 


Skip next section In Kyiv, US defense secretary pledges ongoing support
November 20, 2023

In Kyiv, US defense secretary pledges ongoing support

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Kyiv on Monday on an unannounced visit to Ukraine.

"I’m here today to deliver an important message: the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine in their fight for freedom against Russia’s aggression, both now and into the future," Austin said in a post on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. 

The trip to Kyiv is Austin's second visit since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

While the US has been providing tens of billions in aid to help Ukraine defend itself, President Joe Biden's administration has faced increasing resistance over continued US support from hard-line Republicans.

Next month, the US will host a joint US-Ukraine military industry conference in Washington.

Kyiv is looking to ramp up efforts to produce its own weapons amid concerns that Western supplies of arms may be faltering. 

Skip next section Ukraine's military reports repelling dozens of Russian attacks
November 20, 2023

Ukraine's military reports repelling dozens of Russian attacks

Multiple Russian attacks along the nearly 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) front in eastern Ukraine have been repelled, according to senior Ukrainian military leadership.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that it had recorded 46 "combat clashes" on Sunday.

The focal points of the attacks were the eastern cities of Maryinka and Avdiivka, located near the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk.

Ukraine's military reported that "there are dead and wounded among the civilian population" as a result of the Russian attacks, but did not provide any figures.

Russian forces have been trying to surround the Ukrainian defenders embedded in Avdiivka for weeks.

According to British military intelligence, cold and wet autumn weather is making it increasingly difficult for both sides.

Skip next section 2 killed in Kherson shelling — local governor
November 20, 2023

2 killed in Kherson shelling — local governor

The regional governor of Kherson on Monday said two people had been killed after Russian shelling hit a parking lot in the southern Ukrainian city.

Kherson Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said in a Telegram post that the two dead were drivers for "a private transport business."

Prokudin's post was accompanied with pictures of destroyed cars and firefighters working at the scene.

Since they were pushed out of the regional capital by Ukrainian troops last year, Russian forces have regularly shelled Kherson from across the Dnipro River.