Ukraine’s military is getting better at shooting down Iranian-made Russian drones – up to 85% of them are now being taken out, the British Defense Ministry reported, citing official sources.
The ministry said in its latest war assessment that Russia is likely using the drones as a substitute for Russian-manufactured, long-range precision weapons that are becoming increasingly scarce.
“Ukrainian efforts to defeat the Shahed-136 UAVs are increasingly successful,” the ministry said Monday. “These UAVs are slow, noisy and fly at low altitudes” making them relatively easy targets, the ministry added.
The head of Ukraine’s intelligence service, Kyrylo Budanov, on Monday put the shoot-down rate for the estimated 330 Shahed drones that Russia had released through Saturday at about 70%.
Budanov said Russia’s military had ordered about 1,700 various types of drones, and a second batch of about 300 Shaheds is being rolled out.
“Terror with the use of ‘Shaheds’ can actually last for a long time,” he told Ukraine Pravda. “Air defense is basically coping.”
RUSSIAN FORCES COULD FACE ‘ROUT’:Russia could struggle to get frontline troops out of Kherson; US rejects Russian claim of Ukraine radioactive ‘provocation’
►Residents of the southern city of Mykolaiv lined up for water and essential supplies as Ukrainian forces continued their advance on nearby Kherson.
►The war in Ukraine was a major topic of conversation Monday in a Vatican meeting between Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron.
►German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said rebuilding Ukraine will be a “task for a generation” that no country, donor, or international institution can manage alone.
►SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he will allow Ukraine to continue using his Starlink satellites even if the Pentagon refuses to provide funding.
Zelenskyy hails triumphs at war’s eight-month mark, calls Russia a ‘beggar’
While warning the upcoming winter “will be the most difficult in history,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the country’s successes as the war against invading Russia reached the eight-month mark Monday.
Russian forces have destroyed 30% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in a series of targeted attacks in recent weeks, Zelenskyy has said, prompting him to call for conservation efforts. But he also pointed out Monday his military’s progress in reclaiming territory in the partially occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv and Kherson provinces, and said the plan is to retake the Zaporizhzhia region and the annexed Crimean peninsula.
“Ukraine is breaking the so-called second army of the world,” Zelenskyy said. “Now Russia can only be a beggar. It is begging for something in Iran, trying to squeeze something out of Western states, inventing various tales about Ukraine, intimidating, deceiving.”
A group of 30 progressive Democrats in the House urged President Joe Biden on Monday to seek a diplomatic end to the war in Ukraine.
In a letter to Biden, the members of Congress lauded his support of Ukraine while keeping the U.S. from getting directly involved militarily in the conflict, and they acknowledged the difficult of fulfilling their request considering Russia’s “outrageous and illegal invasion” and subsequent illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory.
But they also emphasize the need to pursue a negotiated peace settlement that allows Ukraine to maintain its independence and grants Russia some concessions, such as relief from sanctions.
“The alternative to diplomacy is protracted war,” they said, “with both its attendant certainties and catastrophic and unknowable risks.”
White House spokesman John Kirby expressed appreciation for the “thoughtful concerns” articulated in the letter and added that the administration stands behind Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has been skeptical that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is ready to negotiate in good faith.
“What we’re going to stay focused on is making sure that he and his troops can succeed on the battlefield so that if and when it comes time to sit down at the table, Mr. Zelenskyy can succeed,” Kirby said.
Russians creating ‘illusion’ of leaving Kherson, but they are digging in
The Russian military is creating the illusion that it is leaving Kherson by removing its officers and forcing the evacuation of the city, a top Ukrainian official said Monday. But Budanov, Ukraine’s intelligence chief, told Ukrainian Pravda that the Kremlin is sending new military units to the region Russia claimed to annex just weeks ago.
Budanov said Sergei Surovikin, who commands the Southern Group of Russian troops in the war, may be keeping up the appearance of an orderly withdrawal to mute the reaction of the Russian public in case of the surrender or loss of Kherson.
“They create the illusion that everything is gone,” Budanov said. “And at the same time, on the contrary, they bring in new military units there and prepare the streets of the city for defense.”
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in a weekend assessment that Russia appears to be relying on new recruits to stall the Ukraine military’s recapture of the city.
“Using such inexperienced forces to conduct a delaying action could prompt a Russian rout if Ukrainian forces choose to press the attack,” the assessment says.
Kremlin presses ‘dirty bomb’ claim
The Kremlin, despite firm denials from Kyiv and the West, pressed its unsubstantiated claim Monday that Ukraine plans to explode a low-yield nuclear device and then blame Russia for using weapons of mass destruction.
Lt. Gen. Igor Kirillov, chief of the Russian army’s radiation, chemical and biological protection force, said his defense ministry “has evidence that the Kyiv regime is planning a provocation involving the detonation of a so-called dirty bomb.” Those weapons are typically used more to sow terror than to kill. Kirillov did not detail what evidence Russia may have.
Kirillov said the provocation would be used to launch an anti-Russian campaign around the world aimed at undermining trust toward Moscow. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested Russia is setting the stage to deploy a radioactive device on Ukrainian soil.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke Sunday with his American, British and French counterparts, accusing Ukraine of planning the provocation to escalate the war. All soundly rejected the claim, and a senior U.S. military official who spoke on condition of anonymity told USA TODAY that the Ukrainians are not building a dirty bomb.
“I spoke by phone today with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, who requested a follow-up call,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a Twitter post on Sunday. “I rejected any pretext for Russian escalation & reaffirmed the value of continued communication amid Russia’s unlawful & unjustified war against Ukraine.”
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also dismissed Shoigu’s claims, likely to play well in Russia, as “absurd” and dangerous.
Grain deal threatened as warring countries raise complaints
Ukrainian Black Sea ports are operating at less than one-third of their capacity because of Russian interference, according to the Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry. The development endangers a fragile deal due to expire on Nov. 19.
The agreement, reached in late July through mediation by the U.N. and Turkey, lifted a Russian blockade of the ports and allowed Ukraine to ship more than 8 million tons of grain to African, Asian and European countries, helping relieve a burgeoning food crisis.
Russia believes the guarantees it received for its grain and fertilizer imports are not being met and has repeatedly complained about the deal’s implementation, recently raising its concerns to the U.N., Reuters reported.
Ukraine is seeking to renew the agreement but wants Russia to comply in full with its part.
“Russia is deliberately delaying the full implementation of the ‘Grain Initiative,”’ its Infrastructure Ministry said on Telegram. “Due to this, ports have been operating in recent days only at 25-30% of their capacity.”
Pelosi: Iran making ‘big mistake’ by supplying Russia with drones
Iran is “making the world a less safe place” by providing Russia with drones for its war in Ukraine, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday.
Speaking alongside Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic of Croatia, where she was attending a forum in Zagreb aimed at supporting Ukraine’s independence in the face of Russian aggression, Pelosi chastised Iran for “making a big mistake” by supplying the explosives-laden devices.
Russia has rebranded the Shahed drones, which have terrorized the Ukrainian population and damaged power plants, and Iran denies being the source of them. But several of the distinctive triangle-shaped drones have been spotted in Ukraine.
“We have to be able to counter the drones,” Pelosi said. “It is a dangerous technology and it must be stopped.”
Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY; The Associated Press