Ukraine Live Briefing: U.S. doesn’t know what hit Crimea base, official says

A rocket launched toward Ukraine from Russia’s Belgorod region is seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday.
A rocket launched toward Ukraine from Russia’s Belgorod region is seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Vadim Belikov/AP)

The Pentagon does not know what weapons were used in a powerful attack that hit a Russian air base in Crimea this week, a senior military official told reporters Friday.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under terms set by the Pentagon, provided a list of the various items that the United States finds to have been damaged in the incident, including “a number of Russian aircraft, fighters, fighter bombers, surveillance aircraft,” and “a pretty significant cache of munitions,” along with an ammunition dump, some other structures and the airfield.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • The attack on the Saki air base in Crimea would hurt “the Russians’ ability to prosecute any air ability out of the airfield,” the senior U.S. military official said, adding that the Ukrainians had selected the target themselves. Earlier this week, a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation said it appeared the weapon used in the attack had not been provided by the United States. A Ukrainian government official told The Washington Post on Wednesday that Ukrainian special forces had carried out the attack.
  • The U.N. chief called for the withdrawal of military forces and equipment from around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, which Russia seized from Ukraine. As the two countries accuse each other of shelling near the facility, the global atomic energy watchdog, the IAEA, warned of potential disaster as U.N. officials urged a cease-fire at a Security Council emergency meeting. Russia’s U.N. envoy said the IAEA may visit the nuclear plant soon but shifted the blame on others for preventing access to the facility, which sits in a part of Ukraine that Russian forces control.
  • The Brave Commander, a cargo vessel chartered by the United Nations, is set to export more than 23,000 metric tons of grain to Ethiopia through the port of Djibouti. Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure, said on Friday that the bulk carrier had arrived at the country’s Pivdennyi Sea Port. The cargo vessel will deliver the shipment under a deal to lift Russia’s blockade on Ukrainian grain, as the war drives up prices and worsens a global food crisis. Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are also dealing with their worst drought in decades, with more than 18 million people facing acute food insecurity.
  • A Russian journalist who protested the Ukraine war has been put under house arrest until Oct. 9. Marina Ovsyannikova, who worked as an editor for Russian state TV Channel One, held an antiwar picket on July 15, holding a poster showing children who died in Ukraine with the inscription: “How many more children must die before you stop?” Any show of protest over the Russian military’s involvement in Ukraine can be punishable by up to 15 years in prison, under Moscow’s draconian “fake news” law.

Battlefield updates

  • Ukrainian forces carried out five missile strikes across three districts, including Kherson, the country’s Operational Command South reported on Facebook. Forces also damaged the bridge over the Nova Kakhovka dam, a hydroelectric power plant in the Kherson region, rendering it unusable for the Russian army, according to the Facebook post.
  • Shelling in Kramatorsk killed three people and wounded 13 others, the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Honcharenko, said in a Telegram message on Friday. The attack damaged 20 buildings and caused a fire, according to Honcharenko. He implored residents to evacuate. Missiles hit Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, regional governor Oleh Synyehubov said, and some buildings were damaged.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told his government officials to stop divulging details about military tactics to reporters. In a nightly address, he said revealing defense plans for “big headlines” was “frankly irresponsible.”

  • At least eight Russian fighter aircraft were “almost certainly destroyed or seriously damaged” in Tuesday’s explosions at the Saki Air Base in Crimea, the British Defense Ministry said. “The airfield probably remains serviceable,” it added. A Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Washington Post earlier that Ukrainian special forces were behind the attack on the Russian base.
  • Ukrainian officials have called for the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to send representatives to areas where Moscow is holding prisoners of war from Ukraine. According to Reuters, the request was made in light of allegations that Russia staged an explosion in a prisoners’ camp in Olenivka. Moscow denies responsibility and claims that Ukraine was behind the shelling, which killed at least 50 people in late July.

Global impact

  • The Kremlin’s war in Ukraine has set the Russian economy back four years in the first quarter since the invasion, opening the door to one of the country’s longest downturns, according to Bloomberg News. Russia’s central bank on Friday forecast a 2022 GDP decline of four to six percent and annual inflation of up to 15 percent. It predicted the economy would not return to growth until 2025.
  • Russia rejected a Swiss offer to mediate with Ukraine. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said his country no longer considers Switzerland neutral after it joined Western governments in imposing sanctions on Moscow.
  • Latvia has declared Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism,” Zelensky said in his nightly address Friday. “We are working to ensure that the whole world does the same,” he said, repeating a call he has made for months to other countries, in particular the United States. Zelensky added that the Czech Republic and other countries in the Schengen Area are considering a visa ban for Russian citizens.
  • Latvia and Estonia quit a forum with China for boosting ties with Eastern European countries. The U.S. State Department described the move as the result of “deep concern” about Beijing’s “strategic alignment with Russia.”

From our correspondents

On the Kherson front lines, little sign of a Ukrainian offensive: On the front line in southeastern Ukraine, there is little sign that a major counteroffensive is brewing, Washington Post correspondents report from the Mykolaiv region.

“For weeks, Western intelligence and military analysts have predicted that a Ukrainian campaign to retake the strategic port city of Kherson and surrounding territory is imminent,” they write.

But less than a mile from Russian positions, Ukrainian forces are hunkering down in trenches, and the progress they had made in retaking villages has largely stalled.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following staged referendums that were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The response: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said Friday that Ukraine is applying for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, in an apparent answer to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on Sept. 21 to call up as many as 300,000 reservists in a dramatic bid to reverse setbacks in his war on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men who were subject to service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine mounted a successful counteroffensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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