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Ukraine updates: US warns of Russian attack

August 23, 2022

The State Department has warned of an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine's infrastructure, while Moscow has blamed Kyiv for the killing of Daria Dugina. DW rounds up the latest.

A destroyed hospital in the Kharkiv region that was bombed by Russian forces
American and Ukrainian officials have warned of a potentially significant Russian attack in coming daysImage: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP/picture alliance

The US State Department said late on Monday that Russia is planning to launch fresh attacks against Ukraine's civilian infrastructure and government facilities.

The executive responsible for the United States' foreign policy said the attacks would likely occur in the coming days while the country's embassy in Kyiv urged Americans still in Ukraine to depart immediately.

"If you hear a loud explosion or if sirens are activated, immediately seek cover," the State Department said in its alert. "If in a home or a building, go to the lowest level of the structure with the fewest exterior walls, windows, and openings; close any doors and sit near an interior wall, away from any windows or openings."

The update is based on downgraded US intelligence.

It comes as Kyiv bans any upcoming festivities to mark Ukraine's independence day, which falls on August 24, due to the heightened threat of an attack.

Over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Moscow could try "something particularly ugly" in the run-up to Wednesday's 31st anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union. The date would also mark half a year since Russia invaded.

Speculations abound over who's responsible for car bomb attack: DW's Juri Rescheto reports

Here's a roundup of some of the other key developments in Ukraine on August 22.

FSB says Kyiv behind car bomb

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) on Monday accused Ukraine's secret services of killing Daria Dugina, the daughter of a Russian ultranationalist philosopher and writer Alexander Dugin, Russian news agencies reported.

Dugina was killed on Saturday evening when a suspected explosive device blew up the Toyota Land Cruiser she was driving on a highway about 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside Moscow, Russian investigators said. Ukraine has denied involvement.

In a statement, the FSB said the attack was carried out by a Ukrainian female born in 1979.

It said the woman and her teenage daughter had arrived in Russia in July and spent a month preparing the attack by renting an apartment in the same housing block and researching Dugina's lifestyle.

The assailant had attended an event outside Moscow on Saturday evening that Dugina and her father were also at, before carrying out a "controlled explosion" of Dugina's car, and fleeing Russia to Estonia, the FSB was quoted as saying.

There was no immediate response from Kyiv to the FSB statement.

Putin awards Dugina with posthumous honor

Hours after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of killing Dugina on Monday, Russian Vladimir Putin bestowed a posthumous award on the deceased ultra-nationalist political activist.

Dugina was awarded the prestigious Order of Courage. The Kremlin said she was given the state award on account of her "courage and selflessness shown in the performance of professional duty."

Journalist and political expert Daria Dugina
Journalist and political expert Daria Dugina, daughter of Russian ultranationalist intellectual Alexander Dugin, was killed by a car bomb near MoscowImage: TSARGRAD.TV via REUTERS

US rejects Ukraine demand of blanket visa ban on Russians

The United States on Monday rejected Ukraine's call for a blanket visa ban on Russians, saying Washington does not want to block the pathways to refuge for Russia's dissidents and others threatened by human rights abuses.

A State Department spokesperson said the Biden administration has already imposed visa restrictions for Kremlin officials, but it made it clear that its focus would be on identifying those involved in Russia's invasion of Ukraine and holding them accountable.

"The U.S. wouldn’t want to close off pathways to refuge and safety for Russia’s dissidents or others who are vulnerable to human rights abuses. We’ve also been clear that it is important to draw a line between the actions of the Russian government and its policies in Ukraine, and the people of Russia," the spokesperson said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had first urged the visa ban in an interview earlier this month with the Washington Post, saying Russians should "live in their own world until they change their philosophy."

Some EU leaders such as Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and her Estonian counterpart Kaja Kallas have also called for an EU-wide visa ban. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, rejected the idea, saying Russians should be able to flee their homeland if they disagree with the regime.

Scholz calls for timely reconstruction of Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sees his country as sharing responsibility for the reconstruction of Ukraine. This is "an important task where the world community has to set the right course in time," he said at a meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Montreal.

Even now, during the war, the reconstruction of Ukraine must be on the agenda, Scholz added.

He also praised the cooperation with Canada in the dispute over a turbine for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. "It was an important decision. Because it has exposed [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's strategy aimed at dividing allies, aimed at undermining support for Ukraine," Scholz said.

Russia is not a reliable business partner, said the Chancellor, as it has reduced gas supplies across Europe citing technical reasons that never existed.

More than 13,400 civilians injured or killed in Ukraine — UN

At least 13,477 civilians have been injured or killed in Ukraine since Russian troops invaded the country in February, the UN said on Monday.

According to the UN Human Rights Office, the violence killed 5,587 people and injured 7,890 more. Among those killed were 362 children.

This information on the recorded civilian casualties relates to the period from the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 to August 21. The actual number of civilians killed and injured is likely to be much higher, UN Human Rights Office said.

Almost 1 million Ukrainian war refugees registered in Germany

967,288 people who fled the war in Ukraine have been registered in Germany since Russia invaded Ukraine almost six months ago, the German interior ministry said.

According to the ministry, around 350,000 of the registered refugees are children and around 455,000 are adult women. 97 percent of the refugees are Ukrainian nationals.

However, the ministry warns that a significant number of the refugees may have returned or traveled to other countries. So, the officials cannot say exactly how many refugees from Ukraine are currently in Germany.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant at night
Observers are concerned about the stability of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power PlantImage: Smoliyenko Dmytro/Ukrinform/ABACA/picture alliance

Russia's Duma to hold special meeting on Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on Thursday

Russia's parliament said it will hold a special meeting on Thursday to discuss the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

In an official statement published Monday, the parliament said a session of the Council of the State Duma will be held on August 25 to discuss "the threat to the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant."

Sergei Mironov, head of the pro-Kremlin A Just Russia party in the parliament, said the council — which includes the speaker and party leaders — would adopt a "tough statement" over Kyiv's actions regarding the plant and call on the United Nations and other international bodies to intervene.

Russia has also requested that the UN Security Council holds a meeting on Tuesday regarding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported, citing Deputy Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy.

Moscow has accused Kyiv of launching strikes at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is in territory controlled by Russian forces but is still operated by Ukrainian staff. Kyiv has denied shelling the site, Europe's largest nuclear power facility, and says Russia is planning a "provocation" there to justify further aggressive action.

EU mulls military training for Ukrainian forces

The European Union will debate the launch of a major training operation for Ukrainian forces in nearby nations, said the bloc's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

The proposal will be discussed next week at a two-day meeting of EU defense ministers that gets underway in Prague on Monday, Borrell said. "I hope it will be approved," he added.

"Of course, it would be a big mission: I think it would be a big mission," Borrel said. "Any mission has to be up to the level of the conflict," he added.

He also said "several" nations already provided military training to Ukrainian forces under bilateral agreements.

German MEP says visa ban would support EU's message to Russia

Lena Düpont, a German member of the European Parliament, told DW that an EU-wide visa ban on Russian tourists would be a "good instrument" that should be used to support the bloc's message to Russia.

"It's also one of the probably most important, let's say, soft instruments we have at hand, having in mind the waging war coming from Russia against Ukraine," the German politician said.

Düpont also rejected claims that a visa ban would affect Russian dissidents who try to leave their country.

"Visa policy is one thing, but asylum procedures are another thing. There is no linkage between those two," she said.

Düpont is certain that the EU can still use visa policy or visa leverage as an instrument "without having bad influences on asylum procedure."

Ukraine's commander-in-chief says nearly 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed

Nearly 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Russia's invasion began, Ukraine's commander-in-chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said on Monday.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi told a forum that children need particular attention "because their fathers have gone to the front and are maybe among the nearly 9,000 heroes who have been killed."

Ukrainian officials have only very rarely given any detail on military losses in nearly six months of war.

The last estimate dates back to April, when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said up to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 10,000 injured.

Zaluzhnyi did not say how many civilians had been killed or how many Russian personnel Kyiv estimated had been killed in the fighting, but the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces has put the Russian military death toll at 45,400.

Russia has not said how many of its soldiers have been killed.

Estonia calls for new sanctions against Russia

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu called for further sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

"We need to raise the price of aggression for the aggressor steeply before the winter. The seven packages so far have not put sufficient pressure on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to end the war against Ukraine," Reinsalu said on Estonian radio.

The new package of sanctions suggested by Estonia would include a complete energy embargo, further restrictions on other goods and people, and a ban on Russian nationals from traveling to the European Union.

The government in Tallinn had put an official proposal for a sanctions package to the European Commission last week. Having already restricted its visa rules for Russian nationals, Estonia called for an EU-wide stop to issuing tourist visas for Russian nationals.

More on the war in Ukraine

A month after Russia and Ukraine agreed on a sea corridor to resume global exports of grain, high insurance premiums are just one of the obstacles. Experts have called for international support for Ukrainian farmers.

dh/rt, jsi (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)