October 3, 2023

Ukraine drone strike near Kremlin alarms Russia

Putin claims Ukrainian counteroffensive ‘failed’: Russian agencies,

AFP_Russia said it had neutralised two Ukrainian drones over Moscow in the early hours of Monday, with one crashing close to the defence ministry in the city centre near Kremlin.

Officials said the drones hit non-residential buildings in the capital and there were no casualties.

The attack came a day after Kyiv vowed to “retaliate” for a Russian missile attack on the Black Sea port of Odesa.

“A Kyiv regime attempt to carry out a terrorist act using two drones on objects on the territory of the city of Moscow was stopped,” Russia’s defence ministry said.

“Two Ukrainian drones were suppressed and crashed. There are no casualties.”

The TASS news agency reported one drone crashed in Komsomolsky Prospekt, near the defence ministry, while another hit a business centre on Likhacheva Street by one of Moscow’s main ring roads.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the drone strikes occurred at around 4:00 am local time (0100 GMT). He said emergency services were working at the scene and also reported no casualties.

The RIA Novosti news agency posted a video of the business centre, with some damage visible to the top of the tall building. The road around it was closed.

Moscow and its environs lie around 500 kilometres (310 miles) from the Ukrainian border but have been hit by several drone attacks this year, with one even hitting the Kremlin in May.

Earlier this month, Russia said it had downed five Ukrainian drones that disrupted the functioning of Moscow’s Vnukovo international airport.

– ‘Will definitely feel this’ –

Russian forces have pounded the Ukrainian port city of Odesa since Moscow quit a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported through the Black Sea last week.

The latest strike on the city on Sunday killed two people and severely damaged a historic cathedral.

Clergymen rescued icons from rubble inside the badly damaged Transfiguration Cathedral, which was demolished under Stalin in 1936 and rebuilt in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Ukrainian government condemned the cathedral strike as a “war crime”, saying it had been “destroyed twice: by Stalin and Putin”.

President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed retaliation: “They will definitely feel this,” he said.

“We cannot allow people around the world to get used to terrorist attacks,” Zelensky added in his evening speech late on Sunday.

“The target of all these missiles is not just cities, villages or people. Their target is humanity and the foundations of our entire European culture.”

Russia to replace Ukrainian grain shipments to Africa

Russia will replace exports of Ukrainian grain to Africa, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday, after Moscow exited a deal allowing their safe shipment.

“Russia will continue its energetic efforts to provide supplies of grain, food products, fertilisers and other goods to Africa,” Putin said in a statement published on the Kremlin’s website.

“I want to give assurances that our country is capable of replacing the Ukrainian grain both on a commercial and free-of-charge basis.”

Moscow’s military operation blocked Ukraine’s Black Sea ports with warships until a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey and signed in July 2022 allowed for the passage of critical grain shipments.

Earlier this month Russia exited the deal after complaining that a related agreement on allowing the export of Russian food and fertilisers had not been honoured.

Moscow later said it would consider cargo ships travelling to Ukraine through the Black Sea potential military targets.

The African Union has expressed “regret” over Moscow’s decision to end the grain export deal.

Later this week Russia will host the second Russia-Africa Summit and Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum, according to the Kremlin.

Humanitarian groups say Africa is heavily reliant on grain from Russia and Ukraine.

The grain deal had enabled the export of more than 32 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain over the last year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that Kyiv’s counteroffensive had “failed”, as he began two-day talks with his Belarus counterpart and closest ally Alexander Lukashenko.

The longtime leaders met for the first time since Lukashenko helped end a mutiny by Russian Wagner mercenaries in Russia last month, in the biggest threat to Putin’s more than two-decade rule.

“There is no counteroffensive,” Lukashenko said, before being interrupted by Putin: “There is one, but it has failed.”

The pair met in Putin’s native Saint Petersburg, hours after the Russian army had struck Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa.

In a sign of the importance of the meeting, Putin said he had “changed some of my plans” so that talks with Lukashenko could last two days.

The Russian leader said the pair would discuss “security in our region.”

The Belarus strongman now hosts Wagner fighters on his territory, after brokering a deal that convinced its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to end a march on Moscow and exile himself to Belarus.

Lukashenko said Minsk was “controlling” the situation with the notorious Wagner fighters, and restricting them to staying in the centre of the reclusive country.

Wagner’s presence in Belarus has rattled EU and NATO member Poland, which has strengthened its border.

Both Putin and Lukashenko accused Warsaw of having territorial ambitions on Ukraine and Belarus, with the Belarusian strongman issuing a veiled threat.

“They are asking to go West, ask me for permission… to go on a trip to Warsaw, to Rzeszow,” Lukashenko said, referring to Wagner fighters, to Putin, who smiled. “But of course, I am keeping them in central Belarus, like we agreed”.

“We are controlling what is happening (with Wagner),” he said, adding: “They are in a bad mood.”


– Poland comments –


Lukashenko thanked Putin for vowing to defend Belarus should it be attacked.

The comments came two days after Putin said western Poland was a gift from Stalin.

Lukashenko accused Poland of trying to “rip off a western chunk” of Ukraine.

He also accused Poland of bringing mercenaries to the border, saying he had “brought him a map of moving armed forces of Poland to the borders of the union state”.

Warsaw has said it would strengthen its eastern border after Wagner fighters arrived in Belarus.

On Sunday, its defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak said a new battalion of sappers would be formed in the country’s north-east, while on a visit to the Polish north-eastern city of Augustow.

He said Polish, US, British, Romanian and Croatian soldiers were training “shoulder to shoulder.”

Warsaw this week summoned the Russian ambassador over Putin’s Poland remarks.

After their talks, Putin and Lukashenko greeted crowds in the naval town and base of Kronstadt on Kotlin Island in a rare walkabout.

Russia’s Kommersant newspaper posted a video of Putin and Lukashenko posing for photographs with people, with bodyguards standing nearby.

Asked about quarantine rules which the Russian leader has been keeping up strictly since the pandemic, Putin replied: “People are more important than quarantine.”

Several days after Wagner had ended its mutiny last month, Putin met with adoring crowds in Dagestan in an apparent show of popularity.