Ukraine live briefing: Russia to get more Iranian-developed drones, officials say; first train from Kyiv arrives in Kherson

Mykola kisses his wife, Lyudmila, on Saturday at the main train station in Kherson after her arrival with the first train from Kyiv since Russia’s military retreat from Kherson. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

Iran will help the Kremlin build drones in Russia for use in Ukraine, Western officials told The Washington Post. The deal could allow production to begin within months and boost Russia with more highly destructive unmanned equipment that has been increasingly terrorizing Ukrainian cities.

The officials agreed to discuss the matter on the condition that their identities and nationalities not be revealed, citing the need to protect sensitive and ongoing intelligence-collection efforts.

Russia has deployed more than 400 Iranian-made attack drones against Ukraine since August, intelligence officials say, with many of the aircraft used in strikes against civilian infrastructure targets such as power plants.

Meanwhile, the first train from Kyiv to Kherson since the war began arrived to cheers on Saturday in the recently liberated city. It carried 200 passengers from the capital, and Ukrainian officials hailed it as a “victory train,” saying it symbolized the resumption of “normal life.”

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

Key developments

  • The Iran-Russia agreement, if fully realized, would represent a further deepening of an alliance that already has provided crucial support for Moscow’s faltering military campaign in Ukraine, the officials said. By acquiring its own assembly line, Russia could dramatically increase its stockpile of relatively inexpensive but highly destructive weapons systems that, in recent weeks, have changed the character of the Ukraine war.
  • A funeral was held in Poland for one of the two men killed by a missile in the village of Przewodow, on the border with Ukraine. “Everybody is in deep sadness,” one resident told Reuters. Poland, the United States and others have said Tuesday’s blast, which had sparked fears that NATO could be drawn into the conflict, probably was caused by an errant Ukrainian air defense missile. Kyiv has previously denied this but appeared to soften its stance Friday, when a spokesman for Ukraine’s air force said in an interview that the missile fragments landing in Poland could have been of Ukrainian origin.
  • Zelensky said Russia was “looking for a short truce, a respite to regain strength,” but added that any brief truce would only “worsen the situation” by enabling Russia to train and rearm its soldiers. “A truly real, long-lasting and honest peace can only be the result of the complete demolition of Russian aggression,” he said Friday, according to Agence France-Presse. The White House said it was unaware of any such proposal and that it was an issue for the Ukrainian government. Russia has previously said it is open to peace talks “without preconditions” but without stepping back from its insistence that the Ukrainian territories it illegally annexed are Russian land.
  • Detained American Paul Whelan was visited by U.S. Embassy staffers in Russia this week, his brother says. Whelan, a security consultant, has been imprisoned for nearly four years. “As the lack of an exchange drags on, I’m increasingly concerned about how this will affect his ability to continue,” his brother David Whelan said in an email update. “It must be awfully hard to maintain hope in his position.” On Friday, Russia said it was hoping for a “positive result” for its imprisoned citizen Viktor Bout in any prisoner exchange with the United States, as speculation grows that arms dealer Bout could be part of a swap to secure the release of Whelan and WNBA star Brittney Griner.
  • Several regions of Ukraine are facing prolonged power outages this weekend, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday in his nightly address, as workers attempt to restore energy. The regions of Kharkiv, Kyiv, Odesa and Vinnytsia are among the most affected by power disruptions. Zelensky has accused the Kremlin of targeting energy infrastructure in an apparent attempt to compensate for its battlefield setbacks, including a retreat from the southern city of Kherson.

Battleground updates

  • At least 437 children have died in the war, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office on Saturday, with more than 800 children injured. “These numbers are not final,” it said, as regions remain under occupation, making assessments in those places difficult. Children in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv areas were the most affected, the office added. Earlier this year, the United Nations said it had verified the deaths or injuries of almost 1,000 children in Ukraine since the war began.
  • The United Nations Human Rights Office is looking into videos that the Kremlin said show Ukraine executing Russian prisoners of war, Reuters reported. U.N. officials said this week that they had found “patterns of torture and ill-treatment” by Russia against soldiers who had fought for Ukraine and been taken prisoner, and “sporadic cases of torture and ill-treatment” by Ukraine against Russian prisoners of war who had been in custody for extended periods.
  • Military mobilization in the Donetsk People’s Republic will be carried out only if Russian President Vladimir Putin issues such a decree, the enclave’s acting head, Denis Pushilin, said in a video message on his Telegram channel Friday. Putin had announced a partial military mobilization in September, saying it was needed to restore the military’s depleted ranks, but men in Donetsk — an illegally annexed area of Ukraine — were not summoned. Russia’s defense minister announced late last month that the mobilization had been completed.
  • Ukraine’s military is winning the war against Russia, according to Canada. Defense Minister Anita Anand made the remarks at the start of the annual Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, the Associated Press reported. “The spirit and determination of the Ukrainian people and President Zelensky continue to inspire us all,” she said. “Ukraine’s armed forces are driven, disciplined, and better-trained — and they are winning.”

Global impact

  • Britain’s new prime minister makes a surprise visit to Kyiv. Rishi Sunak announced a $59 million air defense package for Ukraine on his first visit to the country as prime minister. The aid package includes 125 antiaircraft guns, dozens of radars and anti-drone technology. “I am proud of how the UK stood with Ukraine from the very beginning,” Sunak said in a statement. “And I am here today to say the UK and our allies will continue to stand with Ukraine, as it fights to end this barbarous war and deliver a just peace.”
  • Zelensky referred to Sunak’s visit as “extremely important” and “very meaningful.” “Thank you, Rishi, Mr. Prime Minister, for your willingness to defend freedom even more strongly with us,” Zelensky said Saturday. “We also have some very necessary decisions – we agreed on them today.” The Ukrainian president did not specify what those decisions were.
  • The explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September were caused by “gross sabotage,” Swedish authorities said Friday, noting that they discovered traces of explosives at the site of the blasts. The public prosecutor and Sweden’s Security Service did not assign blame, and Russia has denied any involvement in the explosions.
  • The United States and at least 50 other nations signed a declaration Friday pledging to restrict the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, “when their use may be expected to cause harm to civilians or civilian objects.” In a statement, the U.S. State Department pointed to “atrocities committed by Russia’s forces” in Ukraine as the impetus for “a global unified approach on this issue.” The U.S. military also has engaged in intense urban bombing campaigns, including in Iraq and Syria.
  • Poland is refusing to grant Russian officials visas for a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in December. “We are not giving them visas,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina told Reuters. Tensions have remained high between NATO member Poland and its neighbor Russia since the war began.

From our correspondents

Russia is moving Brittney Griner to a penal colony. Here’s what you need to know. WNBA star Brittney Griner has been sent to a penal colony in Mordovia, more than 300 miles southwest of Moscow, her lawyers said this week, after a court rejected an appeal of her 9½-year prison sentence on drug charges..

“Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment,” they said in a statement.

When news of her transfer first came to light earlier this month, the White House said that President Biden had directed his administration to “prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony,” a type of Russian prison facility known for its brutal conditions, Post reporters write.

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