Here is the situation on Friday, October 20, 2023.
- General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said troops faced a renewed Russian onslaught in the eastern city of Avdiivka. “The enemy is not relenting in attempts to break through our defences and surround [Avdiivka],” Zaluzhniy wrote on Telegram. He said the Russians were bringing in assault units and large amounts of armoured equipment as well as deploying aircraft and artillery. Russian accounts of the fighting said its forces had destroyed a command point near Avdiivka and repelled 11 Ukrainian attacks near Kupiansk.
- Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern group of forces, said Ukrainian troops had advanced 400 metres (a quarter of a mile) to the southwest of the village of Verbove in the southern Zaporizhia region. Verbove is a few kilometres east of Robotyne, a village recaptured by Ukraine last month in its drive towards the Sea of Azov.
- The Washington, DC-based think tank Institute for the Study of War said Ukrainian forces appeared to have broken through on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region. There was no comment from Kyiv on the potential advance.
- The Ukrainian military said Russian forces carried out new air attacks in eastern, southern and northern Ukraine using 17 different weapons – including ballistic and cruise missiles and attack drones – on industrial and civilian infrastructure as well as military targets. Ukrainian forces shot down three drones and one cruise missile, it added.
- Russia’s defence ministry said it scrambled two Su-27 fighter jets to prevent three United Kingdom military planes – a reconnaissance plane accompanied by two fighters – as they approached Russian airspace over the Black Sea.
- NATO said it stepped up patrols in the Baltic Sea, including deploying four mine-hunters, following recent damage to undersea infrastructure.
- Ukraine’s parliament gave its initial approval for the 2024 budget, which will increase funding for the army and national defence. Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said the government’s priorities next year included accumulating funds for defence and security, and securing social payments for the population “to bring Ukraine’s victory closer”.
Politics and diplomacy
- United States President Joe Biden “underscored the continued strong bipartisan support in the United States for Ukraine’s defence of its sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future,” the White House said after the US leader spoke on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he wanted to build a “forward-looking” relationship with Russia as he met Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Pyongyang. The US has said North Korea has provided weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine. Lavrov, meanwhile, proposed regular security talks with North Korea and China to deal with what he described as increasing US-led regional military threats
- The Ukrainian parliament gave initial approval to a law that would ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which Kyiv has accused of collaborating with Moscow. The church denies the claims. The bill will need to pass its second reading and secure presidential approval to become law.
- Russia arrested Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva for failing to register as a “foreign agent” after she travelled to the country for a family emergency. Kurmasheva works for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The US State Department said the detention looked like harassment.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at the International Olympic Committee, accusing it of politicising the Games and “racism”, after it banned the Russian Olympic Committee for recognising Olympic sporting bodies in Ukrainian territories annexed by Moscow.
- Biden is expected to ask Congress on Friday for $60bn for Ukraine, with half of that going towards replacing and modernising US weapons stocks, a source familiar with the plan told the Reuters news agency. Biden announced in an Oval Office speech that he would put in the funding request on Friday. He did not elaborate on the size of the package.
- Two days after Ukraine confirmed using US-supplied long-range ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems) missiles for the first time, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv expected to receive the weapons on a regular basis. “This is a direct result of the agreement between President Zelenskyy and President Biden, reached in Washington during a personal meeting in late September,” Kuleba said in televised comments.