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Dwindling ammunition, a jailed artist and Kyiv’s new ‘foothold’ in the south: The latest from Ukraine

Ukraine this week claimed to have “gained a foothold” on the left bank of the Dnipro River, a welcome boost after its much vaunted counteroffensive failed to make major gains.

But it has been worse news elsewhere for Kyiv, after Germany admitted European targets for providing ammunition would fall short.

Here are the main developments from Ukraine this week.

‘Foothold’ in the south

Ukrainian forces say they have have “gained a foothold” on the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine.

“Thanks to their courage and professionalism, the Ukrainian marines in cooperation with other units of the Defense Forces, managed to gain a foothold in several bridgeheads,” the statement said Friday. “Ukrainian marines are conducting strikes on the left bank of the Kherson region and are carrying out activities to destroy the enemy.”

The development marks a potentially significant advance for Ukraine across a natural defensive barrier for Russian forces.  

Russia acknowledged the presence of Ukrainian troops on the Dnipro River’s east bank on Wednesday. The Russian-appointed acting head of the Kherson region administration, Vladimir Saldo, made the announcement in a Telegram post, citing the Russian military operating in the area.

According to Saldo, “small groups” of Ukrainian soldiers are spread “from a railway bridge,” that is located in the area of the east bank to Krynky, a village east of Kherson.

Ukraine has staged cross-river raids before but the announcement signals Kyiv has a sustained presence in the region that could theoretically give a launching place to push further south toward occupied Crimea.

Ukraine launched a broad counteroffensive along the front lines in the country’s east and south earlier this summer, but made only incremental gains and recaptured relatively small settlements.

EU ammunition targets fall short

The European Union’s goal of supplying Ukraine with 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition is unlikely to be achieved, Germany’s defense minister warned.

“It can be assumed that the 1 million rounds will not be reached,” Boris Pistorius said ahead of an EU defense ministers meeting in Brussels. EU member states are working with industry to ramp up production, he added.

In March, EU member states agreed to provide Ukraine with 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition for Ukraine to be delivered within 12 months.

Pistorius’ warning came after Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said the bloc may not meet targets for ammunition production to supply Kyiv by the end of the year, but said efforts were underway to increase production capacity.

Both Ukraine and Russia need to replenish extraordinary amounts of ammunition as a grinding war of attrition continues in Ukraine’s east and south.

According to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, North Korea has exported more than 1 million shells to Russia since early August. The US has also been ramping up ammunition production to supply Ukraine.

Russian convict pardoned

A former Russian detective convicted for his role in orchestrating the 2006 assassination of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya has been pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin after being recruited to fight in Ukraine, his lawyer told state media TASS.

Sergey Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to 20 years in prison for organizing the killing of Politkovskaya, a columnist for the investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta and one of the Kremlin’s fiercest critics, who was shot dead in Moscow on October 7, 2006 – Putin’s birthday.

Khadzhikurbanov’s lawyer, Alexey Mikhalchik, told TASS on Monday that his client had “signed a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense, subsequently receiving a pardon from President [Putin].”

Mikhalchik said after the completion of his initial contract with the Russian military, Khadzhikurbanov had continued to serve and currently holds a “leadership position” in one of the combat units after being offered a new contract.

Khadzhikurbanov, formerly a Moscow police officer, was sentenced in 2014 by a Moscow court for his role in Politkovskaya’s murder. Before being pardoned by Putin, his original prison term was due to conclude in 2034.

UK foreign minister visits Kyiv

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron arrived in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Thursday, where he met with Zelensky, just a few days after his appointment as the UK’s top diplomat this week.

The visit was previously unannounced and comes amid concerns that the Israel-Gaza conflict will divert international attention from the war in Ukraine.

“I wanted this to be my first visit, personally. I admire the strength and determination of the Ukrainian people,” Cameron told the Ukrainian president, according to a video of the meeting posted on Zelensky’s social media accounts.

Zelensky thanked Cameron for his support, telling the foreign secretary that the world is “not focused on the situation on our battlefield and in Ukraine,” and that the “divided focus really doesn’t help.”

Cameron – a former UK prime minister – was on his first overseas trip since his shock appointment.

“We will continue giving you the moral support, the diplomatic support, the economic one, but above all the military support that you need. Not just this year, next year but for however long it takes,” the UK foreign minister said.

Russia jails artist

A Russian artist was sentenced to seven years in jail on Thursday for replacing price tags with anti-war messages in a supermarket.

According to the press service of St. Petersburg courts, Alexandra Skochilenko was found guilty of “public dissemination of deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

Despite Skochilenko pleading not guilty and the defense seeking acquittal, the court imposed a seven-year sentence with a three-year ban on activities related to using “electronic or information and telecommunication networks,” the press service said in a Telegram post.

The prosecution claimed that in March last year, Skochilenko “placed paper fragments containing deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in places for attaching commodity price tags” in a chain supermarket in St. Petersburg.

Skochilenko, who has been kept in pretrial detention since April 2022, has had deteriorating health, according to the independent investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Her health issues requiring medications and a special diet include celiac disease, heart disease, gastrointestinal diseases and bipolar disorder.

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