Updated August 20, 2023 at 2:17 p.m. EDT|Published August 20, 2023 at 2:00 a.m. EDT
Russian officials reported drone strikes in four regions of western and southern Russia, and blamed Ukraine. An uptick in attacks deep inside Russian territory likely means Russian military leaders are under pressure to tighten air defenses, Britain’s Defense Ministry said.
Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.
The Netherlands and Denmark agreed “to transfer F-16 aircraft to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Air Force in close cooperation with the U.S. and other partners, when the conditions for such a transfer are met.” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte made the announcement Sunday, after touring a Dutch air base with Zelensky, news wires reported. Rutte declined to say how many F-16s would be sent to Ukraine, and said that the Netherlands has 42 of them in stock, according to Reuters. Kyiv has argued that fighter jets could help its forces better defend the sky above Ukraine and prevent more Russian attacks.
Denmark will give 19 F-16s to Ukraine, Zelensky announced on Telegram after meeting with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Sunday. Denmark has already started training Ukrainian pilots and engineers in the country. Zelensky spoke Sunday with some of the Ukrainians undergoing the training at an air base of the Royal Danish Air Force, where the two leaders also discussed the “expansion of training missions,” Zelensky added.
Zelensky said the military would “respond tangibly” to an attack on Chernihiv, which killed at least seven people, including a 6-year-old child. Ukrainian authorities said 144 people were injured in the daytime strike on a theater in the northern city. The regional governor said the strike “probably” involved a ballistic missile.
The attack on Chernihiv turned “an ordinary Saturday … into a day of pain and loss,” Zelensky said. The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, Denise Brown, condemned the attack — about 80 miles north of the capital, Kyiv, and far from the front lines of the war — saying in a statement that it “is heinous to attack the main square of a large city, in the morning, while people are out walking, some going to the church to celebrate a religious day for many Ukrainians.”
Five people were injured after a drone attack on a train station in Russia not far from the Ukrainian border. The governor of the Kursk region said in a Telegram post early Sunday that a Ukrainian drone strike on the station caused a fire on the roof and that people were “slightly injured” by falling glass.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it foiled planned drone strikes on the border region of Belgorod. The ministry said three drones attempted to target facilities in Belgorod between 2 and 2:40 p.m. local time on Sunday. It said air defense systems destroyed the drones and no damage was done. The Post could not independently verify the claims. The regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that “12 air targets” were shot down as they approached Belgorod. He said “the consequences on the ground” were still being clarified.
Russia said it stopped a drone attack it blamed on Ukraine early Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The ministry said it used electronic means to disable the drone. It said the attack did no damage and no one was hurt. The Post could not independently verify the report. Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency said that two airports around Moscow — Vnukovo and Domodedovo — had to temporarily divert flights to other airports overnight to ensure the safety of those on board. The airports were operating normally Sunday morning, it said.
Russian forces also thwarted a drone attack in the southern region of Rostov, regional governor Vasily Golubev said early Sunday. Golubev said two drones “fell on the territory of a military unit in Kamensk,” a Russian town bordering the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, and said another drone fell near Novoshakhtinsk, some 50 miles south. He said no casualties or damage occurred. The Post could not independently verify the report.
Russian military leaders are “highly likely under intense pressure to improve air defences over western Russia,” the British Defense Ministry said, as Ukraine’s ability to strike deep inside Russian territory has improved in recent months, leading to more frequent drone and ballistic missile attacks. The pressure to stop these strikes is probably falling on “the leadership of Russia’s Aerospace Forces,” or VKS, and particularly on “VKS Chief of Staff, Colonel-General Viktor Afzalov,” the ministry said Sunday in its daily intelligence assessment.
It is “premature to make assessments about the overall success” of Kyiv’s counteroffensive, the Institute for the Study of War said in an assessment, following a report by The Post in which people familiar with a classified forecast from the U.S. intelligence community said Ukraine would fail in its objective of severing Russia’s land bridge to Crimea in this year’s push. The D.C.-based think tank said it maintains that “the overall degradation of the Russian defensive line creates opportunities for any Ukrainian breakthrough to be potentially operationally significant.”
Kyiv has an agreement with Stockholm to produce armored vehicles known as CV90s inside Ukraine, Zelensky said in his nightly address. He did not specify how many or what the agreement entailed. On his visit to Sweden this weekend, Zelensky and Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson also discussed Ukraine’s desire for Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets, which Stockholm earlier this summer agreed to allow Ukrainian pilots to test.
The United States is expected to soon double its prewar monthly production of the standard NATO artillery round, The Post reports, increasing its output from 14,000 units a month before Russia’s invasion to eventually 28,000 units a month. But industry experts warn of challenges in sustaining the elevated production levels, not just to aid Ukraine war efforts but also to ensure U.S. security in potential conflicts with China or Russia.
Ukraine running out of options to retake significant territory: More than two months into the highly anticipated counteroffensive that officials touted as Ukraine’s crucial opportunity to retake territory from Russian forces, it appears that the effort is stalling and Ukraine is running out of options, The Post’s Susannah George reports.
The slogging effort has stoked fears in Washington and Europe that the war could be reaching a stalemate and that international support could erode. Franz-Stefan Gady, a senior fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Center for a New American Security, said “the question here is which of the two sides is going to be worn out sooner.”