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Russia Says It Shot Down 20 Ukrainian Drones

Russia said Saturday that it had downed 20 Ukrainian drones near the Crimean Peninsula.

Meanwhile, the British Defense Ministry said Saturday that Russian troops fighting in Ukraine are about to get a break from the fighting. In its daily intelligence update, the ministry said that early in July the commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army was fired, probably partially because he said elements of his forces “needed to be relieved.”

The ministry said Russia is “likely” redeploying airborne forces’ units from the Kherson region to the heavily contested Orikiv sector in Zaporizhzhia oblast. The report said the 58th Combined Arms Army has been engaged in combat since June.

In addition, the Defense Ministry report said the arrival of the airborne forces’ units will also allow the 70th and 71st Motor Rifle Regiments, which have been under heavy fire, to take a break from the front line. However, this move, according to the report, “will likely leave Russia’s defenses near the east bank of the Dnipro River weaker, where they’re increasingly harassed by Ukrainian amphibious raids.”

The White House says it is committed to training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s in the U.S. once such training programs in Europe have reached capacity.

White House spokesperson John Kirby said at a press briefing Friday that it is important to speed up the process of pilot training on the military aircrafts as well as caring for maintenance and other logistics.

“It’s going to be a while before jets can show up in Ukraine and for them to be integrated into the air fleet,” he said. “And it’s not just a function of the transfer of actual airframes, but the appropriate training for pilots as well as setting up all the maintenance, logistics and sustainment efforts.”

Kirby noted that Western countries — Denmark and the Netherlands in particular — work together on developing a training program for Ukrainian pilots, and that English language training for Ukrainian specialists is critical.

“All the tech manuals are in English and all the controls inside the aircraft are in English,” said Kirby. “A pilot is going to have to have at least some basic proficiency in the language.

“All that we can say is that there’s a multi-step process, and we’re committed to helping our allies move that process along as quickly as it possibly can.”

Corruption

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Friday said it was not involved in a purchase of low-quality uniforms worth $950,000 after the director of a textile company was arrested for selling unfit gear for Ukraine’s Territorial Defense.

The textile company won three state contracts in 2022 to supply uniforms, which, according to laboratory tests, proved unseasonable for winter combat the Ministry of Interior said.

The director of the company faces up to 12 years in prison and is banned from holding certain positions for three years. Law enforcement is currently collecting information on others involved in the scheme.

According to the Defense Ministry’s statement, the contracts were concluded between the factory and a military unit without the ministry’s involvement.

“Departments of the Defense Ministry were NOT INVOLVED in the procurement process of identifying the need, finding a contractor, concluding a contract, and monitoring the implementation of technical conditions,” the press statement said, emphasizing that the ministry has “zero tolerance for corruption.”

According to an investigative report by Ukrainian outlet Dzerkalo Tyzhnia on Thursday, the Defense Ministry purchased $33 million worth of “winter” clothes for the military from a Turkish company in 2022.

The associated contracts were reportedly tampered with during shipment to inflate the price, and the clothes turned out to be unusable for winter weather conditions.

Earlier Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Telegram that he was firing directors of the country’s regional military recruitment centers amid concerns of corruption — ranging from illegal enrichment to the transportation of draft-eligible men across the border in the middle of a wartime ban.

Zelenskyy said the new appointments would be offered to war veterans.

“This system should be run by people who know exactly what war is and why cynicism and bribery during war is treason,” he said.

So far, Ukrainian security services have cracked down on graft, charging senior officials with 112 criminal cases of bribery and engaging in corrupt practices. An additional 33 suspects are about to be charged.

Kyiv is battling corruption while fighting Russia’s full-scale invasion and hopes to join the European Union.

Police and investigators stand at the side of the wreckage of the drone felled near the Karamyshevskaya embankment in Moscow, Aug. 11, 2023.

Police and investigators stand at the side of the wreckage of the drone felled near the Karamyshevskaya embankment in Moscow, Aug. 11, 2023.

Russian airstrikes

Russia’s latest airstrikes targeting civilian infrastructure in western Ukraine and killing one child constitute “war crimes and must not go unpunished,” France’s foreign ministry said in a statement late on Friday.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would reinforce its military support to Ukraine, notably in strengthening air defense capacities, in close cooperation with its partners.

“France’s support to Ukrainian and international jurisdictions to fight against the impunity of crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine remains total,” the statement read.

Earlier Friday, Russian airstrikes killed an 8-year-old boy in western Ukraine, while Ukrainian drones targeted Moscow for a third consecutive day.

Several explosions were heard across Kyiv early Friday. Mayor Vitali Klitschko had urged residents to go to air raid shelters and Ukrainian officials had issued a nationwide air raid alert.

Ukraine shot down a missile Friday near a children’s hospital in the city. Debris from the missile fell near the Kyiv hospital, but there were no reported injuries.

US aid

The Biden administration has asked Congress to provide more than $13 billion in emergency defense funding to Ukraine and an additional $8 billion for humanitarian support through the end of the year.

The White House supplemental spending request for Ukraine may prove to be too much for Republicans, who are facing great pressure from the party’s presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump, who has a tepid attitude toward the war, while a recent CNN poll indicated declining support for the effort among some voters.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a new round of sanctions Friday, targeting prominent members of Russia’s financial elite, along with a Russian business association.

“Wealthy Russian elites should disabuse themselves of the notion that they can operate business as usual while the Kremlin wages war against the Ukrainian people,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo. “Our international coalition will continue to hold accountable those enabling the unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”

As a result of the latest batch of sanctions, Adeyemo said, “all property, and interests in property, of the persons named in the fresh sanctions who are in the United States, or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked.”

Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

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