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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy seeks support to hold elections

Published August 28, 2023last updated August 28, 2023

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said elections could happen next year, if allies shared the financial burden. He said legislative approval and ensuring good voter turnout would also be essential. DW has the latest.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in Kyiv
Zelenskyy has said he would need parliamentary approval and foreign support specifically to hold the electionImage: The Presidential Office of Ukraine
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his willingness to hold elections amid the ongoing conflict and martial law, on condition that Ukraine receives the necessary support from the US and other international allies.

Ukraine said its troops had liberated the southeastern town of Robotyne and are attempting to advance south in their counterattack against Russian forces. They said they have breached the most difficult Russian defense line in the south and will advance faster.

Meanwhile, Russia said it had shot down Ukrainian drones near Moscow and the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine.

Here's an overview of some of the main stories concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Monday, August 28: 

Skip next section Ukraine says captured Robotyne
August 28, 2023

Ukraine says captured Robotyne

Ukraine declared on Monday that it has regained control of a village located on the southern front, a potential turning point in their ongoing campaign against firmly established Russian defenses. Watch this:

Ukraine announces full recapture of Robotyne

Skip next section Turkish President Erdogan to visit Sochi 'soon'
August 28, 2023

Turkish President Erdogan to visit Sochi 'soon'

The spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Law and Justice Party said on Monday that Erdogan would visit Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi soon — seeking to revive a now-halted deal that had allowed the maritime export of Ukrainian grain even amid Russia's invasion.

AKP spokesman Omar Celik did not explicity say Erdogan would hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

But Sochi is one of Putin's preferred haunts and the Kremlin had said last week that there was an understanding that the two leaders would meet in person soon. 

Without giving a time and date, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that a bilateral meeting was being prepared "intensively." 

The Bloomberg news agency had earlier reported that Erdogan might make time to visit Russia ahead of his September 8 departure for a G20 summit in New Delhi.

Celik said that Turkey was hoping to stave off a looming "food crisis." Erdogan has tried to use his relatively strong ties with both Kyiv and Moscow to try to bring the two sides into informal peace talks, a step met with some skepticism from some fellow NATO members.

The accord was the only noteworthy agreement signed by the warring sides since the February 2022 invasion. It facilitated Ukrainian grain shipments from three Ukrainian ports across the Black Sea.

Russia scuppered the Turkish-brokered and UN-supported agreement last month, and subsequently launched attacks on Ukrainian port infrastructure and warned it may consider freight ships in the Black Sea as military targets.

Skip next section Second Ukraine port ship safely reaches Istanbul
August 28, 2023

Second Ukraine port ship safely reaches Istanbul

Marine traffic monitors said a second civilian cargo ship to sail from Ukraine since Russia withdrew from a UN-backed Black Sea grain export agreement safely reached Istanbul.

The bulk carrier Primus hugged the coasts of NATO members Romania and Bulgaria after departing Odesa on Sunday in defiance of a Russian blockade.

Moscow warned that it may consider any Black Sea ships as military targets and began bombing Ukrainian port infrastructure after withdrawing from the UN and Turkey-mediated deal last month.

Earlier in August, the Hong Kong-flagged ship Joseph Schulte, which was blocked in the port of Odesa after the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, also reached Istanbul.

A major grain and seed oil exporter, Ukraine is trying to establish a new route that its ships can use without Russia's involvement in time for the autumn harvest.

Ukraine calls Russia's bluff on Black Sea ships

Skip next section Poland and Baltic nations ask Belarus to expel Wagner fighters
August 28, 2023

Poland and Baltic nations ask Belarus to expel Wagner fighters

Poland and Baltic nations requested that Belarus remove members of the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, who are currently deployed in the country after a failed rebellion against Moscow.

"We have asked the regime of (Belarusian strongman Alexander) Lukashenko to immediately expel the Wagner group from Belarus," Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said after meeting his counterparts from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. 

"If there is a critical incident, regardless of whether it is at the Polish or Lithuanian border, we will retaliate immediately. All border crossings that have been opened so far will be closed," he said.

Poland says thousands of Wagner fighters are stationed in Belarus, which borders Russia, Ukraine and Poland. Belarusian strongman Lukashenko recently said he would keep some 10,000 Wagner troops in the country.

The three countries also asked Belarus to "immediately send back illegal migrants from the border region back to their home countries." Warsaw has accused Belarus and Russia of orchestrating a new migration influx into the European Union in order to destabilize the region.

Wagner fighters training troops in Belarus?

Skip next section Sweden indicts man for spying for Russia
August 28, 2023

Sweden indicts man for spying for Russia

Swedish prosecutors have charged a man with spying on Sweden and the
United States for the Russian military intelligence service GRU for almost a decade. 

The suspect, Russian-born Sergey Skvortsov, 60, was arrested last November on the outskirts of the capital, Stockholm, together with his wife, who was later released without charge.

Swedish media reported that elite police rappelled from two Black Hawk helicopters to arrest the couple.

Skvortsov, who has denied all wrongdoing, was charged with gross unlawful intelligence activity against Sweden and the US between 2013 and 2022, the indictment showed.

Among other things, he has been accused of using his import-export business to illicitly obtain technology and hand it over to GRU.

The charge comes as Sweden is still waiting to join the NATO alliance, a step it decided to take after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

His trial is to start on September 4.

Skip next section Russian, Turkish foreign ministers to meet soon: TASS
August 28, 2023

Russian, Turkish foreign ministers to meet soon: TASS

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan will meet in the Russian capital, Moscow, "in the nearest future," according to the Russian TASS news agency.

TASS cited Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as a source for the information.

The report comes as Turkey tries to persuade Moscow to return to a deal it helped broker that allowed the safe export of grain from Ukraine's Black Sea ports despite the conflict in Ukraine caused by Russia's invasion.

The Kremlin has said Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to
hold one-to-one talks soon with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the deal, but has given no date or venue for the meeting.

How is Turkey reacting to rising Black Sea tensions?

Skip next section 'The clock is already counting down' for Putin, says Ukraine's Podolyak
August 28, 2023

'The clock is already counting down' for Putin, says Ukraine's Podolyak

Mykhailo Podolyak, a key adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has said support for Russian President Vladimir Putin depends on his perceived success with the invasion of Ukraine, and that his regime will be increasingly undermined as occupied territories are lost.

"The Kremlin understands the inevitable: the more Russia loses the occupied territories, the faster support for the regime will decline," he wrote on the messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that the "clock is already counting down."

"It won’t be easy, but it is naive to think that Ukraine will have to regain territory by winning every kilometer with blood," he wrote.

When Ukrainian troops reach the border to Russian-occupied Crimea, he wrote, the situation will turn greatly to Putin's disadvantage, and "in the end, it will all end quickly and in an instant, just as it began."

Skip next section Russian air strike kills two workers at factory
August 28, 2023

Russian air strike kills two workers at factory

An overnight missile attack by Russia resulted in the loss of two lives at a vegetable oil plant situated in central Ukraine's Poltava region, said Governor Dmytro Lunin and an official from the presidential office on Monday.

"As a result of the hostile attack, two people were killed, two people were taken to hospital with minor injuries, and the whereabouts of two more people are currently unknown," Lunin said on Telegram. He added that the attack targeted an industrial facility, giving no further details.

Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff for Ukraine's presidency, said that the missiles struck a vegetable oil factory located within the Myrhorod district. "The Russians carried out a missile attack on the village of Gogoleve... in the Poltava region," he said.

"The people were working the night shift," Yermak added.

He also posted images showing images blazing tankers and the destroyed metal structures of the plant.

Ukraine's military authorities said Russia launched a total of four missiles from the Black Sea during the night, with two of them being successfully intercepted and destroyed. 

Skip next section Ukraine defense minister announces capture of Robotyne village
August 28, 2023

Ukraine defense minister announces capture of Robotyne village

Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said on Monday that the Ukrainian military had taken back the village of Robotyne on its southern border from Russian forces, a day after the announcement was initially made by Ukrainian forces.

"Robotyne has been liberated. Our forces are advancing southeast of Robotyne and south of Mala Tokmachka," she said in a television interview.

Mala Tokmachka is a nearby town in the Zaporizhzhia region, which has been claimed by Moscow.

Ukraine eventually aims to advance to the Sea of Azov and cut off Russia's land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula

Skip next section Russia charges former US consulate employee with spying
August 28, 2023

Russia charges former US consulate employee with spying

Russia's FSB security agency charged a former Russian staff member of the US consulate located in Russia's Far East with engaging in espionage, state-run news agency TASS reported on Monday.

The accused, Robert Shonov, has been charged with gathering intelligence concerning the war in Ukraine and related matters for the United States.

Shonov allegedly transmitted gathered information to personnel at the US embassy in Moscow. This information pertained to how Russia's conscription efforts were influencing political sentiment in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential elections, said the FSB. 

Shonov, who holds Russian citizenship, has been in custody since May. The FSB said it intends to question US embassy staff members who had interactions with Shonov during this period.

The US embassy had issued a statement in May that the charges against Shonov were entirely baseless. The embassy clarified that at the time of his arrest, his "only role at the time of his arrest was to compile media summaries of press items from publicly available Russian media sources."

Germany arrests alleged spy working for Russia

Skip next section Russia cancels joint military exercise: British Intelligence
August 28, 2023

Russia cancels joint military exercise: British Intelligence

The UK Ministry of Defence said in its daily intelligence update on Monday that Russia has likely canceled its major annual joint strategic exercise, ZAPAD (West) 23, this year because too few troops and equipment are available.

The exercise would have taken place in September. 

The joint military exercise has been taking place since 2010, in different locations around the country in a four-year cycle. However, more focus has been given to Western Russia in recent years due to the perceived threat from NATO.

The "ZAPAD-2021" war games were the biggest Russian military exercise since Soviet times, but the intelligence update suggested leaders may be afraid of criticism were they to hold "slickly presented" exercises during wartime.

"The Russian military's under-performance in Ukraine has highlighted how [joint strategic exercises] have had limited training value and have largely been for show," the UK ministry said.

Skip next section Zelenskyy says 2024 elections could happen if West helps
August 28, 2023

Zelenskyy says 2024 elections could happen if West helps

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late on Sunday that Ukraine could carry out its elections scheduled for next year, despite the ongoing war and martial law, if the financial burden was shared by Western allies.

He also said that legislative approval and the possibility of comprehensive voter turnout would be necessary prerequisites. 

"I will not hold elections on credit, I will not take money from weapons and give it to elections either," Zelenskyy said in an interview published by his office. 

"But if you give me this financial support, if the parliamentarians realize that we need to do this, then let's quickly change the legislation and, most importantly, let's take risks together."

At present, Ukraine is restricted from holding elections while under martial law, which necessitates renewal every 90 days. The upcoming expiration date is set for November 15, falling after the customary October timeframe for parliamentary elections and preceding the typical March schedule for presidential elections in 2024.

He said it cost 5 billion hryvnia ($135 million) to hold elections in peacetime and was not sure how much wartime elections would cost.

"We need an election in Ukraine next year. I want to see this country have a free and fair election even while it is under assault," the president said.

Zelenskyy also said those fighting against the Russian invasion have to be included. "They are defending this democracy today, and not to give them this opportunity because of war — that is unfair. I was against the elections only because of this," he said.

Zelenskyy aide: 'The unity of our nation is unprecedented'

Skip next section Moscow mayor says Ukrainian drones destroyed
August 28, 2023

Moscow mayor says Ukrainian drones destroyed

Russian air defense systems Monday intercepted and destroyed a drone as it approached Moscow, along with two additional drones in a region bordering Ukraine, said Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow on the Telegram messaging app.

Sobyanin said air defenses stationed in the Lyubertsy district, situated southeast of the capital, thwarted a drone attack near Moscow. Initial reports showed no casualties or material damage.

Emergency teams were immediately deployed to the location.

The Russian Ministry of Defense also reported that air defenses engaged and destroyed a drone over the Lyubertsy district around 4:30 a.m. (0130 GMT), attributing the attack to Kyiv.

As a result, air traffic was suspended at Moscow's Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports, as reported by the state-run TASS news agency.

Russia's defense ministry said two other drones had been destroyed by air defense systems over the Bryansk region, which shares a border with Ukraine. However, no details were provided regarding potential casualties or damage resulting from these incidents.

Drone strikes, or at least attempted drone strikes, within Russia have become an almost daily occurrence, although Ukraine has largely denied responsibility.

tg/ab (dpa, AFP, Reuters)