Iran-made drones fired at Kyiv; search for survivors after Mykolaiv missile strike; Russia 'may not renew' Ukraine grain export deal: Thursday's key developments.
1. Drones strike Kyiv region, civilian buildings hit in Mykolaiv
Ukraine’s capital region was struck by Iranian-made kamikaze drones early Thursday morning, sending rescue workers rushing to the scene as residents awoke to air raid sirens for the fourth morning in a row following Russia’s massive, deadly assault across the country on Monday.
Three drone strikes carried out near Makariv, a small city located 50 kilometres west of Kyiv, hit "critical infrastructure", officials said. The attack caused a fire but no casualties, regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said.
He added that based on preliminary information the strikes were caused by Iranian-made loitering munitions, often known as "kamikaze drones".
Attacks on Kyiv had become rare before the capital city was hit at least four times during Monday’s massive strikes, which killed at least 19 people and wounded more than 100 across the country.
In the southern city of Mykolaiv, "a number of civilian objects were hit," regional governor Vitaly Kim said in a social media post.
Overnight shelling destroyed a five-storey apartment building as fighting continued along Ukraine’s southern front. Kim and the city's mayor Oleksandr Sienkovych said the building’s top two floors were completely destroyed in a single strike and the rest of the building was left in ruins.
Video provided by state emergency services showed rescuers pulling from under the rubble an 11-year-old boy, who Kim said had spent six hours trapped under the debris. Rescue teams were searching for seven more people.
Local authorities say a Russian missile hit a river boat station in Mykolaiv, killing a worker there. Numerous villages in the region were also shelled, leaving many houses damaged but no apparent casualties.
Early morning attacks on Ukraine’s southern front have become a daily occurrence as Kyiv’s forces push a counteroffensive aimed at recapturing territory occupied by Russia.
The local administrator in the Zaporizhzhia region said Russian attacks killed one person there and wounded over a dozen, while also damaging civilian infrastructure and buildings.
Ukraine’s army, meanwhile, claims to have made more territorial gains near the strategically vital southern city of Kherson, taking back five local settlements from Russian forces in the last 24 hours.
2. Ukraine prosecutor opens investigation into Russian air strikes
Ukraine's top prosecutor said on Thursday his office had opened criminal proceedings relating to Russian missile strikes that struck Kyiv and cities across Ukraine this week.
Speaking at a joint press conference with International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan in The Hague, Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin described the strikes since Monday as "a classic act of terror" by Russia.
"The goal of Russia's deliberate attacks is to cause civilian deaths and to destroy civilian infrastructure, (and) by shortage of electricity and heating, provoke a humanitarian catastrophe," Kostin said. "Coupled with the intimidation tactics against civilians, it's a classical act of terror prohibited under international law."
Every death and injury or damaged building will be documented and criminal proceedings opened, he said.
The Russian defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Russia has repeatedly denied deliberately attacking civilians in Ukraine and committing war crimes.
Ukraine's presidential office says 13 people have been killed and 37 others wounded in the past 24 hours as the result of Russian attacks on more than 40 towns and cities.
Ukraine’s military said this week that its current air defences have shot down dozens of incoming Russian missiles and the so-called "kamikaze" Shahed-136 drones, that have played an increasingly deadly role in the war.
Officials said on Thursday that Iranians in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine were training Russians how to use them.
The British defence ministry has said the drones were unlikely to be fulfilling their purpose of providing strike options deep into Ukrainian territory, with many reportedly destroyed before they hit their targets.
3. Circumstances for NATO to use nuclear weapons 'extremely remote' — Stoltenberg
The circumstances in which NATO might have to use nuclear weapons are "extremely remote", the Western defence alliance's secretary-general said on Wednesday, adding however that there would be "severe consequences" if Russia used such weapons.
"There would be severe consequences if Russia used nuclear weapons, any kind of nuclear weapon against Ukraine," Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after a meeting of NATO defence ministers.
"We will not go into exactly how we will respond, but this will fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. It means that a very important line has been crossed," he said, referring to the war in Ukraine that followed Russia's invasion of the country.
He said the fundamental purpose of NATO's nuclear deterrent was to preserve peace and prevent coercion against its allies, and so the circumstances under which it might have to use nuclear weapons were "extremely remote".
NATO’s secretive Nuclear Planning Group met Thursday as the military alliance presses ahead with plans to hold a nuclear exercise next week as concerns deepen over President Vladimir Putin’s insistence that he will use any means necessary to defend Russian territory.
NATO is keeping a wary eye on Russia’s movements, but has so far seen no change in its nuclear posture. But additional uncertainty comes from the fact that Russia is also due to hold its own nuclear exercises soon.
Western leaders this week pledged to send more weapons to Ukraine, including air defence systems and weapons Kyiv has said are critical to defeating the invading Russian forces.
4. Russia 'may not renew' grain and fertilizer export deal
Moscow has told the United Nations it may not renew a deal allowing Ukraine to export grain and Russia to ship fertilizers, unless its demands are met.
Russia's UN ambassador in Geneva told Reuters on Thursday that it has submitted concerns to the UN about the agreement.
The deal helped stave off a global food crisis, as both countries are major exporters. But Moscow has repeatedly complained about its implementation, arguing it still faces difficulty selling fertiliser and food.
Meanwhile in Kazakhstan, Turkey's president said his country was determined to ensure that the deals are "strengthened and continued".
Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the comments at the start of a meeting with Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of a summit in Astana.
The so-called Istanbul agreement was brokered by Turkey and the UN.
"We are determined to transport Russia's grain and fertilizer to underdeveloped countries through Turkey," Erdogan said, adding that Ankara and Moscow could jointly designate the countries the products would go to.
At the meeting, the Russian leader repeated his idea floated on Wednesday, to turn Turkey into a gas hub for Europe after deliveries were halted through the Nord Stream pipeline.
There was no immediate comment from Erdogan. Putin’s spokesman Dimitry Peskov said that Turkey has reacted positively to the idea.
5. Ukraine and Russia announce new exchange of prisoners
Ukraine and Russia say 20 soldiers on both sides have been released as part of a prisoner exchange, 40 soldiers in all.
“As a result of the negotiation process on the exchange today, 20 Russian servicemen were returned from the territory of Ukraine controlled by the Kyiv regime,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
The soldiers are being provided with the necessary medical and psychological assistance and would soon be taken to the Ministry of Defense’s medical facilities for treatment and rehabilitation.
Ukraine also said its 20 soldiers have been freed from captivity in Olenivka, in the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. They are now undergoing medical checkups.
The head of the Ukrainian president’s office, Andriy Yermak, vowed on Telegram: "We will bring everyone back.”
It is relatively rare for Russia to speak publicly about POW swaps. The last large-scale exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine, involving nearly 300 people, took place at the end of September.