Ukraine war: EU drone export ban, Putin visits Belarus, 'massive' Russian bombardment

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP, Reuters
Firefighters work after a drone attack on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 17, 2022.
Firefighters work after a drone attack on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 17, 2022.   -   Copyright  Roman Hrytsyna/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

1. EU bans drone engine exports to Russia

The European Union on Friday banned the export of drone parts to Russia in order to deprive the Kremlin of these weapons and prevent their use against Ukraine.

The bloc forbid sending drone engines to Russia and "all third countries" that could supply Moscow. 

This measure is one provision in the 9th package of sanctions approved at a European summit in Brussels on Thursday, which came into force today. 

Iranian-made drones have been used by Russia in recent months to inflict devastating attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure, knocking out power and water for prolonged periods as winter begins to bite. 

Iran admitted supplying Russia with drones in November but said they were sent before war broke out. Moscow has denied using weapons from the Middle Eastern country. 

"We continue to target the economy and those who play a decisive role in this brutal war," European Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said in a statement.

Elsewhere in the sanctions package, Brussels introduced a requirement preventing EU nationals from holding "positions in the governing bodies of all legal entities ... owned or controlled by the Russian state and located in Russia."

Twelve people in government, 42 members of the Duma (Russia's parliament), the president and the nine judges of Russia's Constitutional Court were targeted by the sanctions. 

77 soldiers, including 30 members of the Russian General Staff which coordinates missile fire, three members of Putin ally and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's family were also hit, as well as the wife and a relative of the oligarch Yuri Kovalchuk. 

Several media personalities, including Boris Kortchevnikov and director Nikita Mikhalkov, have been punished for their part in justifying the war against Ukraine.

The EU's blacklist of persons and entities banned from visas and whose assets in the EU are seized now includes 1,386 individuals and 171 entities.

2. At least three killed in latest Russian missile strikes

Russia launched a new barrage of missiles at Ukraine on Friday and air defence systems went into operation across the country, Ukrainian officials said.

Oleksiy Kuleba, the governor of the Kyiv region, said Russia was "massively attacking" the country.

At least three people were killed and nine power-generating facilities were damaged in the strikes.

Ukraine's air defences took out 60 out of 76 incoming missiles fired at critical infrastructure, Ukraine's top general said.

But Ukraine's national energy company says more than half of power consumers across Ukraine were still affected.

"Considering this is already the ninth wave of missile strikes on energy facilities, the restoration of the power supply may take longer than before," Ukrenergo added. Emergency power shutdowns had been introduced across the country to enable repairs.

In Kryvyi Rih, a residential building was hit, leading to fears that people could be trapped in the rubble.

"The stairwell was destroyed. Two people were killed," regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Facebook.

"At least five were wounded, including two children," he added. "All are in hospital."

A third person died in the southern Kherson region after an apartment block was hit by Russian shelling that caused a fire, regional authorities said.

Electricity was knocked out amid "colossal... destruction" in Ukraine's second biggest city, Kharkiv, while the smaller city of Poltava in central Ukraine was also without power, officials said.

Missiles also hit critical infrastructure in the Black Sea region of Odesa in the south and caused explosions in the capital Kyiv.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported explosions in at least four districts, urging residents to go to shelters and respect air raid alarms.

"Because of the damage to the energy infrastructure, there are interruptions in the water supply in all parts of the capital," Klitschko said.

Ukraine had shot down 37 out of 40 missiles fired at the Kyiv area, a military spokesperson said.

The southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia was struck by about 15 Russian missiles, regional Gov. Oleksandr Starukh said, adding that infrastructure had been damaged.

The governor of the northern region of Sumy also said there were power outages in his region because of Friday's missile strikes.

Several railway lines were left without power, Ukraine's national operator said.

"Do not ignore air raid alerts, remain in shelters," Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the president's office said on Telegram.

In neighbouring Moldova, the state-owned energy company also reported disruptions to its electricity network as a result of Russia’s strikes on Ukraine and warned of a “high risk” of power outages.

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
People rest in a metro station for shelter during a rocket attack on Kyiv.AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Russia has carried out several waves of attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure since October, causing power outages across the country amid freezing temperatures.

On Thursday, Russian forces hit Kherson "more than 16 times" and killed two people, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

Moscow says its strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure are "military legitimate" and denies targeting civilian buildings. Kyiv has labelled Russia's rocket attacks a "war crime".

The latest Russian assault followed warnings from Ukrainian officials that Moscow plans a new all-out offensive early next year, with no peace talks in sight.

3. Ukrainian shelling kills eight in Luhansk, says Russian-installed official

Eight people were killed and 23 injured by Ukrainian shelling in the eastern Luhansk region, according to a Russian-installed administrator.

Missile strikes hit the border village of Lantrativka in a "barbaric" attack, Leonid Pasechnik wrote on Telegram.

He claimed that Ukraine was targeting residential neighbourhoods, schools and shopping districts in an attempt to "kill as many people as possible".

The head of the "people's militia" in Luhansk also reported that one civilian had been killed by Ukrainian shelling in the town of Svatove on Friday morning.

The reports cannot be immediately verified. Ukraine has not commented on the allegations.

Fighting has been intense in eastern Ukraine for several weeks after Russia withdrew forces from the southern city of Kherson.

Many soldiers on both sides are thought to be killed or wounded in the Donbas region, although neither side issues detailed reports of military casualties.

4. Russia to respond to latest EU sanctions, says Kremlin

The Kremlin said on Friday it would study the latest package of European Union sanctions against Russia and then formulate its response.

EU leaders agreed on Thursday to provide €18 billion in financing to Ukraine next year and hit Moscow with a ninth package of sanctions.

The measures target a further 200 Russian individuals and entities, freezing assets and imposing travel bans. These include government ministers, lawmakers, regional governors, political parties and entities including the armed forces.

A total of 1,241 individuals and 118 entities have already been blacklisted by the EU following Russia's invasion of Ukraine

The ninth sanctions package also targeted the Russian defence industry, more Russian banks, and the mining sectors, as well as export controls on products that could be used by the armed forces.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would study the list before responding.

The war in Ukraine -- the largest in Europe since World War II -- has posed significant challenges for the bloc.

European defence spending topped €200 billion for the first time in 2021, rising 6% from the previous year.

The EU's defence agency has warned that member states should buy arms jointly to replenish stocks after supplying Ukraine.

"The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine demonstrates our capability shortfalls," said Jiri Sedivy, chief executive of the European Defence Agency.

According to a 2020 report by the European Parliament, the EU would struggle to defend itself without intelligence, reconnaissance aircraft and medium-range missile defences from the United States.

Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP Photo
Debris of an apartment building damaged in a Russian rocket attack in Kryvyi Rih.Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP Photo

5. Putin to visit ally Belarus amid joint military exercises

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Belarus on Monday, the Kremlin has confirmed.

Putin will meet with his counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk during his "working visit to Belarus," the Belarusian presidential press service said.

The talks will reportedly focus on "key issues" of the development of the "strategic partnership" between Minsk and Moscow.

Lukashenko also said he would discuss economic cooperation, as well as the current "military and political situation".

He also denied reports that Belarus could revoke its independence and merge with Russia.

"Our sovereignty and independence are unshakeable," Lukashenko said at a government meeting on Friday while adding that "we will never be Russia's enemy".

The Russian defence ministry also shared a video on Friday showing joint exercises by Russian and Belarusian troops.

Increased military activity near Ukraine's border has prompted fears that Russia may mount a new attack from its ally's territory.

Belarus has said it will not enter the war in neighbouring Ukraine, but President Lukashenko allowed Russian forces to be deployed in the country as a staging post for its invasion in February.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu recently held talks with his Belarusian counterpart to discuss military cooperation.

The two regimes grew closer after Lukashenko's disputed re-election in August 2020, which prompted an unprecedented wave of opposition protests.

6. US imposes sanctions on one of Russia's richest oligarchs

The United States has imposed financial sanctions on one of Russia's richest men, as well as dozens of government officials and financial sector companies.

Vladimir Potanin, who formerly served as Russia's deputy prime minister, and the commercial bank Rosbank were among those targeted.

Potanin is one of the country's most powerful and well-known oligarchs and a close friend of Vladimir Putin.

According to Forbes, he was the second richest person in Russia in 2021 with an estimated fortune of $27 billion (€25.4 billion).

The oligarch's wife, children, and yacht were also targeted, the US State Department said in a statement on Thursday, noting that the UK and Canada have imposed "similar sanctions" on Potanin.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the country had also sanctioned around 30 regional Russian officials who oversaw and implemented the recent "partial military mobilisation" for Ukraine.

"We are also designating six proxy authorities and one entity operating on behalf of the Kremlin in Ukraine," as well as five administrators of the Russian Railways, he added.

Rosbank, which was bought by Potanin this year, is "a systemically important credit institution" for the Russian government, according to the US Treasury Department.

In total, 18 companies or individuals related to Russia's financial services sector have now been added to its blacklist.

"We continue to strengthen Russia's isolation from global markets," said US Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson.