Ukraine war: Bio-weapons 'fabrication', new Kyiv air defence, and Kherson waits for battle

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By Euronews  with AP, Reuters
A Ukrainian soldier carries a shell with a written message to the Russian army, in the front line position near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Oct. 27, 2022
A Ukrainian soldier carries a shell with a written message to the Russian army, in the front line position near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Oct. 27, 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Here are the latest news developments from Russia's war in Ukraine:

1. West dismisses talk of Ukrainian biological weapons activity

The United States and its Western allies on Thursday dismissed Russia’s claims that banned biological weapons activities are taking place in Ukraine with American support, calling the allegation disinformation and fabrications.

Russia’s UN ambassador said Moscow will pursue a UN investigation of its allegations that both countries are violating the convention prohibiting the use of biological weapons.

Russia's allegation of secret American biological warfare labs in Ukraine has been disputed by independent scientists, Ukrainian leaders and officials at the White House and Pentagon.

Ukraine does have a network of biological labs that have received funding and research support from the US. They are owned and operated by Ukraine and are part of an initiative called the Biological Threat Reduction Program that aims to reduce the likelihood of deadly outbreaks, whether natural or manmade.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield rejected Russia’s allegation as “pure fabrications brought forth without a shred of evidence.” She said the claim is part of a Moscow “disinformation campaign” that is attempting “to distract from the atrocities Russian forces are carrying out in Ukraine and a desperate tactic to justify an unjustifiable war.”

"How much more of this nonsense do we have to endure?" Britain's UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward asked the council.

The UN’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs had twice told the council earlier this year that the UN had seen no evidence of biological weapons use in Ukraine. 

“This remains the case today,” deputy high representative Adedeji Ebo told the council on Thursday, adding that the UN had no mandate or capacity to investigate the information.

2. Kyiv gets new air defence system

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has announced that new air defence equipment had arrived in the Ukrainian capital, and expressed hope that it would help protect its energy infrastructure after weeks of targeted Russian airstrikes.

“The military have assured me (during a recent meeting) that new air defence equipment has arrived in the capital and our sky will be safer," Klitschko said Friday on Ukrainian TV.

"We hope that there will be no more attacks and provocations with kamikaze drones and missiles,” Klitschko added, in a reference to Iranian-made Shahed exploding drones spotted repeatedly over Ukrainian cities.

Earlier on Friday, Kyiv's mayor said Ukrainian capital’s power grid was operating in “emergency mode,” with electricity supplies down by as much as 50% compared to pre-war levels. Authorities said Kyiv and the surrounding region will see rolling blackouts in the coming days.

3. Tension and military buildup grows in Kherson

Early on Friday, the Ukrainian military provided a summary of battlefield action in Kherson, where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been preparing for weeks for what could be one of the most consequential battles of the war.

Kherson, one of four partially occupied provinces that Russia proclaimed annexed last month, controls both the only land route to the Crimea peninsula that Russia seized in 2014, and the mouth of the Dnipro river that bisects Ukraine.

Sergey Aksyonov, the Russian-appointed leader of Crimea, wrote on the Telegram messaging service that the work to move Kherson residents to regions of Russia had been completed.

The Ukrainian military said in a Facebook post that its forces in Kherson had killed 44 Russian servicemen in 24 hours, and destroyed an ammunition depot and a hangar with equipment. However, Ukrainian officials have said tough terrain and bad weather had held up their main advance in Kherson.

Russian forces shelled Ukrainian positions along the line of contact and built fortifications, particularly on the east bank of the Dnipro, the Ukrainian military said. Russian forces were enduring shortages of material and equipment, including warm clothing, prompting a rise in theft in Russian-occupied areas, it added.

4. Zelenskyy says Russian drone attacks 'will not break us'

In a video address on Thursday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, standing beside the wreckage of a downed drone, said that the Russian attacks "will not break us”.

"To hear the enemy's anthem on our land is scarier than the enemy's rockets in our sky. We are not afraid of the dark,” he added.

Meanwhile, addressing a conference in Moscow on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin showed no regrets for the war against Ukraine, insisting it was going to plan and playing down any nuclear standoff with the West.

Putin listed a familiar litany of grievances against "Western opponents", accusing the West of inciting the war and of playing a "dangerous, bloody and dirty" game that was sowing chaos.

The West's dominance over world affairs was coming to an end and "ahead is probably the most dangerous, unpredictable and, at the same time, important decade since the end of World War Two,” Putin told the conference.

5. US sending Ukraine additional $275 million in military aid

The US is sending Ukraine a new $275 million (€276.4 million) package of weapons and other aid, in a move to bolster the effort to drive Russian forces out of key areas in the south as the winter closes in, US officials said on Thursday.

However, officials said there are no major new weapons in the US package, which is expected to be announced on Friday. Instead, the US is largely aiming to restock thousands of rounds of ammunition for weapons systems already in the country, including for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, which Ukraine has been successfully using in its counteroffensive against Russia.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity, since details of the package are not yet public.