UKRAINE THE HEART OF HOPE

Deadly air strikes target cities in Western Ukraine

Overnight air strikes killed at least three people in western Ukraine’s Volyn region, the regional governor said early on Tuesday, as more strikes were reported in the neighbouring Lviv region. The attacks came a day after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was pictured visiting troops in the eastern frontline region of Donetsk. Follow our live blog for the latest updates. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

1:06 am: Ukraine says Russian army drones are headed for the Danube

Ukraine‘s air force on Wednesday said a large group of Russian army drones entered the mouth of the Danube River and headed toward river port Izmail near the border with Romania.

A Russian attack on the Izmail port, used for grain exports, sent global food prices higher in early August.

6:31 pm: Russia arms deal with N. Korea would violate UN resolutions, says US

The United States said Tuesday that Russia would be violating UN resolutions if it reaches an arms deal with North Korea, after the two countries’ leaders called for greater cooperation.

“Any kind of security cooperation or arms deal between North Korea and Russia would certainly violate a series of UN Security Council resolutions,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

6:08pm: Russia launches test phase for digital ruble in bid to bypass sanctions

Russia launched the test phase of a digital ruble on Tuesday, in a bid to limit the impact of international sanctions imposed following its offensive in Ukraine.

“On August 15, the tests of operations with real digital rubles began,” Russia’s central bank told AFP.

The trial phase involves 13 other banks and 600 individuals who can make payments at 30 sales points in 11 Russian cities, it added.

“Operations will be free for citizens and with a minimal commission for businesses” in the long run, the central bank said.

VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, said it had successfully tested transactions using digital rubles in its mobile app.

Moscow’s foray into digital currencies aims to limit the impact of international restrictions on its financial system.

5:27pm: Russia and North Korea seek closer cooperation

Russia and North Korea on Tuesday advocated closer collaboration including in the defence sector, the latest show of deepening ties between the countries at odds with the United States.

Moscow and Pyongyang – both increasingly isolated from the West and weighted with sanctions – have drawn closer since the Kremlin deployed troops to Ukraine and commenced large-scale hostilities last year.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “stressed the need to further develop tactical and strategic cooperation and interaction between the two countries in the fields of defence and security”, the country’s defence minister said in a statement carried by the state-run RIA Novosti agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier Tuesday called for deeper ties, in a congratulatory message to Kim marking his country’s National Liberation Day.

4:18pm: Zelensky visits troops in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region

President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Tuesday he had visited Ukrainian troops clawing back territory from Russian forces along the southern frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region, which the Kremlin claims for Russia.

“During a trip to the Zaporizhzhia region, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky visited the locations of the brigades that are conducting offensive operations in the Melitopol sector,” the presidency said.

3:15pm: Russia says hit military industries in Ukraine overnight

Russia said Tuesday that its forces had struck military-purpose industrial facilities in several sites across Ukraine after authorities in the west of the country announced that aerial attacks had left three dead. 

“Ukraine’s military-industrial complex suffered significant damage,” the defence ministry said in a statement, adding that it had carried out long-range precision strikes on “key” facilities.

1:20 pm: Swedish firm’s plant hit in a deadly air strike

Swedish company SKF, the world’s biggest maker of industrial bearings, has said its factory in Lutsk was hit by a missile overnight, killing three employees.

“Last night there was an attack on the city of Lutsk in Ukraine and our factory has been hit in that attack,” SKF’s spokesperson Carl Bjernstam said. “We are very sad to confirm that three of our colleagues have been killed.”

Bjernstam said the company would look at the consequences of the attack and damage to the factory, but added that its primary focus was on its employees and their safety.

FRANCE 24’s Kyiv correspondent Emmanuelle Chaze has more on the strike in Lutsk.

12:15 pm: Russia claims Ukraine’s military resources are ‘almost exhausted’

Ukraine‘s military resources are “almost exhausted” as a result of its gruelling counteroffensive to recapture lost territory, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu has claimed.

“Despite comprehensive assistance from the West, Ukraine’s armed forces are unable to achieve results,” Shoigu said at a security conference in Moscow.

“Preliminary results of the hostilities show that Ukraine’s military resources are almost exhausted,” he said, without providing evidence to back up his claim.

Shoigu added that there was “nothing unique” about Western weapons and that they were not invulnerable to Russian arms on the battlefield.

9:50am: Russian central bank hikes key interest rate as ruble slides

Russia’s central bank has made a large interest rate hike of 3.5 percent, a move designed to fight inflation and strengthen the ruble after the country’s currency reached its lowest value since early in the war with Ukraine. 

The decision to bring the key rate to 12 percent was announced at an emergency meeting of the bank’s board of directors, called in the wake of the currency tumble.

The ruble’s fall comes as Moscow increases military spending and Western sanctions weigh on its energy exports.

9:05 am: Poland to hold largest military parade since Cold War

Poland is poised to stage its biggest military parade in decades as the NATO member country flexes its military muscle in what the government hopes will be both a message to Moscow and to voters ahead of elections in October.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made boosting the armed forces a priority for Poland’s ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS), and with the election campaign in full swing the immense display of military hardware provides a chance to burnish their security credentials.

“This parade will be different from the previous ones; we will be able to see how the process of modernising the equipment of the Polish Army is progressing,” Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Sunday.

The Armed Forces Day parade, taking place on the 103rd anniversary of Poland’s victory over the Soviet Union in the Battle of Warsaw, will see 2,000 soldiers from Poland and other NATO countries march through the capital accompanied by 200 items of military equipment and 92 aircraft.

Equipment on display will include M1A1 Abrams tanks bought from the United States, South Korean K2 tanks and K9 self-propelled howitzers as well as HIMARS rocket launchers and Patriot air defence systems.

7:55 am: Kindergarten ‘destroyed’ in a missile strike on Lviv

Several residential buildings and a kindergarten were badly damaged in the latest Russian air strikes on Lviv, the city’s mayor Andriy Sadovyi has said in a social media post.

Sadovyi posted a video of himself standing near a crater in front of a multi-storey building with its windows blasted out, surrounded by scattered debris from what appeared to be a playground.

“Fortunately, there were no casualties. Unfortunately, there is a lot of damage,” he said. “More than 100 apartments were damaged, more than 500 windows were broken, and a kindergarten was destroyed” after a missile flew into its yard, he said.

Lviv has mostly been spared the daily bombardments that have hit other parts of Ukraine. But in July, 10 people were killed in what Sadovyi said was the biggest Russian missile attack on the city’s civilian infrastructure since the invasion.

6:55 am: Three people were killed in air strikes on a western Ukrainian city

Three people were killed in western Ukraine‘s Volyn after overnight air strikes, the region’s governor has said, adding that the strikes targeted an industrial area in the city of Lutsk. 

“As of now, three people have died. Several more wounded are in the hospital,” said Yuriy Poguliaiko, governor of Volyn.

Earlier, officials in Lviv said explosions were also heard in the western city close to the border with Poland.

“Explosions again in Lviv,” Lviv city mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on the Telegram messaging app. It was not immediately clear whether the explosions were air defence systems engaged in repelling an attack or ground targets being hit.

5:27 am: At least 27 killed in gas station explosion in Dagestan

At least 27 people were killed and more than 100 injured in an explosion and fire at a petrol station in Makhachkala; the capital of Russia‘s Caucasus republic of Dagestan, the emergency situations ministry has said.

“A total of 102 people were injured as a result of the incident, of whom, unfortunately, 27 died,” the ministry said on Telegram.

Dagestan, a Russian republic bordering Chechnya, shares a border with Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Key developments from Monday, August 14:

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky visited troops in the eastern frontline region of Donetsk on Monday, his website said, adding that the visit took place near the battleground city of Soledar.

Zelensky’s visit came hours after three people were wounded in a Russian attack on the port city of Odesa, according to local officials, and as the United States pledged to send Ukraine new security assistance valued at $200 million.

Also on Monday, Russia’s largest shipbuilder told state media that it was in the process of equipping the country’s new nuclear submarines with hypersonic Zircon missiles.

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