- According to people familiar with the situation, the US offered to free Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for his release.
- According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, but "a concrete result has not yet been achieved."
Missiles and rockets rained down on northern Ukraine on Thursday morning, the first time in weeks that the Kyiv region has been targeted far from the fighting in the country’s east and south.
According to military officials, a Kalibr cruise missile struck a military base in the Vyshgorod area, north of Kyiv, early Thursday morning. According to Ukrainian officials, at least 20 rockets were fired from Belarus into northern Ukraine.
Nine of them hit the Chernihiv region, while others were intercepted by air defence systems. Overnight, shells landed in the Kharkiv and Mykolaiv regions of Ukraine’s northeast and south, respectively.
“It’s a sleepless morning. “Again, rocket terror,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted on Thursday morning. “We will not be frightened. Ukraine is a sovereign, free, and indivisible state.”
Russian and Belarussian officials did not immediately respond to Thursday’s strikes in northern Ukraine.
According to Oleksiy Gromov, a senior official with Ukraine’s General Staff, the strike on the military base north of Kyiv destroyed one building and damaged two others. He claimed that another cruise missile was shot down. There were no casualties mentioned.
The missile strike brought an end to a period of relative calm in the Kyiv region. Despite the fact that rocket attacks have become a way of life near the fighting in the country’s south and east, the capital has returned to something resembling normalcy. Locals frequently ignore the air-raid sirens, sipping their coffee at sidewalk cafes while the warnings blare.
“I urge you once more, do not ignore the warning signals—go to the shelter,” he wrote on Telegram. “The war goes on. The enemy’s missile strikes continue.”
In other news, the Ukrainian military is preparing for a counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region, which Russian forces have occupied since the beginning of the conflict. Ukraine used Himars rocket systems to strike the Antonivsky bridge for the third time in ten days on Wednesday.
According to the UK Defense Ministry, the strikes have likely rendered the bridge, which connects Kherson to other Russian-held areas in southern Ukraine, inoperable.
Ukrainian forces have also damaged two other bridges used by the Russians to resupply Kherson, according to British intelligence, leaving Russia’s 49th army on the west bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region extremely vulnerable.
“Kherson city, Russia’s most politically significant population centre, is now virtually cut off from the other occupied territories,” the ministry tweeted. “Its loss would seriously undercut Russia’s efforts to portray the occupation as a success.”
Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-installed deputy head of the Kherson region, wrote on Telegram on Thursday that the region was not targeted with strikes overnight and that authorities are focused on preparing a referendum on joining Russia.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Sen. Andrei Klishas stated on his Telegram channel Thursday that the main task of the Russian parliament this fall will most likely be to integrate captured Ukrainian territories into Russia.
In the east of Ukraine, Russian forces advanced toward the towns of Siversk and Bakhmut, attempting to seize the last Ukrainian-held territory in the Donbas area.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, while Russian troops continue to seize territory, they appear to be limited to only two offensive operations in Ukraine at a time.
“Russian forces have committed enough resources to conduct near-daily ground assaults and seize territory on these two axes,” the institute wrote Wednesday evening. “As a result, the Russian offensive is likely to end before seizing any other major urban areas in Ukraine.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that he planned to speak directly with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the coming days for the first time since the war began.
He stated that the United States made a substantial offer to free women’s basketball star Brittney Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, from Russian detention, but that the offer was rejected and that he would raise their cases.
According to people familiar with the situation, the US offered to free Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for his release.
President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously discussed prisoner exchanges, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, but “a concrete result has not yet been achieved.”
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told reporters Thursday that no agreement has been reached.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lavrov met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital, ahead of a multilateral meeting on Friday.
In remarks broadcast on Russian state television, Mr. Lavrov told his counterpart that Moscow and Beijing have proven their friendship over the years and that he believes the world is becoming multipolar.
“This evolution is supported by many states, including Russia and China, as well as most Asian, African, and Latin American countries striving for independence,” he said.
Mr. Zelensky established a new holiday in Ukraine last year, months before the war began: the annual Day of Ukrainian Statehood, which is observed on Thursday. He said at the time that the day was to commemorate the more than 1,000-year-old founding of Kyiv, which he called the “root” of modern Ukraine.
The day has now become another symbol of the country’s struggle for survival.
“It is critical not only to commemorate the birth of statehood, but also to work together to ensure its survival,” Mr. Zelensky said in a video posted on Telegram on Thursday. “We thought we were kings in our own land.” We are laying down our souls and bodies in order to achieve our freedom.”
Mr. Zelensky went on to say that Ukraine “is the only legitimate heir to Kievan Rus,” which gets to the heart of the conflict.
Each country claims to be the political heir of the Kievan Rus federation, the first eastern Slavic state founded in the 11th century. Mr. Putin wrote in a July essay that Kievan Rus is proof that Russia and Ukraine are “one historical and spiritual space.”
In response to Mr. Zelensky, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hinted that Moscow is planning additional land grabs in Ukraine.
“Prince Volodymyr, don’t be offended that part of Ukraine will be called Rus,” she wrote later Thursday on Telegram. “You mentioned it yourself.”