Ukraine live briefing: F-16 training to begin this month, Zelensky says

Ukrainian pilots will begin training on F-16 fighter jets this month, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech to heads of Ukrainian diplomatic missions. “The delivery and combat use of F-16s by our pilots should take place as soon as possible,” he said.

The capital, Kyiv, came under another drone attack overnight, the head of the city’s military administration said Thursday, adding that air defenses shot down more than a dozen drones. There were no reports of injuries or damage, Serhiy Popko said. On Wednesday, Ukraine accused Russia of destroying 40,000 tons of grain earmarked for export in attacks on port and grain infrastructure in the south of the country, and wreckage from a drone damaged a building in Kyiv.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Ukraine will work with nations supplying F-16s to transfer the advanced jets after training, Zelensky said Wednesday, acknowledging that the task is a challenging one. In May, Denmark and the Netherlands were tapped to lead a European coalition to provide training and maintenance to Ukrainian pilots after the Biden administration relented under pressure to allow allied nations to send U.S.-made F-16s to Kyiv.

Eight people were injured when shelling hit a church in the center of the southern city of Kherson, Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office said Thursday. Three people who were traveling past the church on a bus, as well as another person who was on the street, were wounded, the prosecutor’s office said, while four rescue workers were injured when further shelling struck the church as they extinguished the fire.

At least 10,749 Ukrainian civilians, including nearly 500 children, have been confirmed killed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, Yuriy Bielousov, Ukraine’s lead prosecutor for human rights violations, said in an interview with Interfax Ukraine. However, he said the figures are incomplete and “just the tip of the iceberg.” The death toll for Ukrainian civilians in occupied Mariupol — the scene of heavy fighting at the start of the war — alone is likely to be in the “tens of thousands,” Bielousov said. In early July, the United Nations said it had confirmed the deaths of almost 9,200 civilians, but it, too. warned that the real number “could be much higher.”

Ukraine’s proposed peace formula is slowly gaining global support, Zelensky told diplomats Wednesday, calling on them to publicize and act on it. The 10-point formula, outlined in November 2022, includes the withdrawal of Russia from Ukrainian territory and justice for war crimes. “It is especially important to work with the countries of the Global South,” he added, because many nations there have chosen to stay neutral in the conflict.

Russian air defenses shot down seven drones over a region southwest of Moscow overnight, according to the local governor. Vladislav Shapsha wrote on Telegram early Thursday that the drones were attempting to fly over the Kaluga region. There were no casualties or damage, he said.

The growth of weeds on land across southern Ukraine is probably hindering the progress of fighting, the British Defense Ministry said. In a Thursday update, the ministry said mostly agricultural land in fighting areas has been left fallow for 18 months, leading to “the return of weeds and shrubs accelerating under the warm, damp summer conditions.” It noted that “the extra cover helps camouflage Russian defensive positions and makes defensive mine fields harder to clear.”

Moscow added Norway to a list of “unfriendly governments” and will restrict the number of local employees its embassy can hire in Russia. Under the order, dated Wednesday, Norway will be able to employ up to 27 locals. The Norwegian government announced in April the expulsions of 15 Russian diplomatic staffers suspected of espionage; Russia expelled 10 Norwegian diplomats in response.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in Eastern Europe signed an agreement to join the continental European power grid, disconnecting from the Russian-controlled system, the Lithuanian Energy Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. The Baltic countries will withdraw from a contract with operators from Russia and Belarus by next summer. The switch to the European grid will take place in February 2025, it added.

“I don’t know how it is to live in a peaceful country,” one said. In peacetime, he said, he fooled around with drones as toys. Now he uses them “just like eyes of the war.”


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