Key developments on Oct. 19:
- Military reports success southwest, reclaiming village on Dnipro’s east bank
- SBU: Russian Orthodox Church runs private military companies to train fighters for Ukraine deployment
- Germany hesitates to deliver long-range missiles to Ukraine
- Biden reportedly considering $60 billion in additional aid to Ukraine
- ATACMS deliveries to increase, Foreign Minister says
- ICMP chief: 30,000 civilians missing in Ukraine
The commander of the Tavria Group fighting on the southern front lines, General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, reported Ukrainian forces have achieved partial success southwest of Verbove in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Ukrainian forces clashed with Russian troops 34 times over the past day, with Russia losing 322 soldiers and 43 pieces of military hardware, including three tanks, 12 artillery pieces, and 13 drones, according to the report.
Ukraine has recently focused its efforts around Verbove, a village around 10 kilometers east of liberated Robotyne.
Spokesperson of the Tavria Group, Oleksandr Shtupun, reported an advance of up to one kilometer west of Verbove on Oct. 17.
Meanwhile, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in its Oct. 19 morning update indicated the presence of Ukrainian forces in the village of Pishchanivka on the east bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.
Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson and other regional settlements on the Dnipro River’s west bank in November 2022, pushing Russian forces to the east bank, from where they have since been firing at the liberated territories.
In August, the Kyiv Independent reported that Ukrainian troops have been conducting small overnight raids into the Russian-occupied part of Kherson Oblast for months.
Russian church recruits, trains fighters for war against Ukraine
The Kremlin-linked Russian Orthodox Church is building and running private military companies (PMC), recruiting and training fighters for deployment in Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) reported on Oct. 19.
The report said the Russian church is funded for these activities by financial and industrial groups close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, donated as "charitable contributions" to "construction of churches."
SBU named the St. Andrew's Cross organization based in the Kronstadt Naval Cathedral in northwestern Russia as an example of a church-run PMC.
The St. Andrew's Cross PMC is reportedly "the first PMC under the Russian Orthodox Church," according to the Russian independent media outlet. The group was reportedly set up in 2017 to provide military training for other mercenary companies' recruits.
The cathedral's abbot Alexey denied in a comment for Russian media that the St. Andrew's Cross was a mercenary company, saying it only teaches skills to youth and adults for future military service.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's parliament passed a bill in its first reading on Oct. 19 that would ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), according to lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak from the opposition party Holos.
If the bill is adopted, it would prohibit the activities of any religious organizations affiliated with war propaganda or justifying the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine has two main Orthodox churches — the UOC-MP and the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The UOC-MP has been accused of aligning with the Russian government during the war, which the church's leadership has denied.
Slightly over half of Ukrainians believe the UOC-MP should be banned, according to a survey conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.
Germany hesitates to deliver long-range missiles to Ukraine
Germany is not planning to green light the transfer of Taurus long-range missiles to Ukraine at the moment, Berlin's Ambassador to Kyiv Martin Jaeger told the European Pravda news outlet in an interview with on Oct. 19.
"At the moment, there will be no deliveries of Taurus missiles to Ukraine," the ambassador said.
"In my opinion, the Federal Government and Chancellor (Olaf Scholz) have made this very clear. We have informed the Ukrainian government about this decision in detail," he said, adding that this was all he could say about it publicly.
The Taurus missiles have been the subject of extensive discussion and debate, with much of Germany's hesitation stemming from the prospect of the missiles being used within Russia's territory.
Taurus missiles have a range of up to 500 kilometers, meaning Ukraine could use them to strike deep into Russian-occupied territories, including Crimea.
Justifying the hesitation, Scholz's office said in early September that Germany is waiting for Washington's decision to provide Ukraine with its ATACMS missiles before green lighting the transfer of Taurus.
The White House confirmed earlier this week that Ukraine had received its first batch of ATACMS. The announcement came shortly after Ukrainian forces used long-range missiles to strike at Russian airfields in occupied Luhansk and Berdiansk, destroying nine Russian helicopters, one air defense system, an ammunition warehouse and the troops.
The U.S. will keep delivering Army Tactical Missiles Systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine consistently, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the 1+1 television on Oct. 19.
He also expressed hope that future deliveries would include the newer ATACMS variations that have a range of up to 300 kilometers.
A report by the New York Times on Oct. 18 confirmed that the U.S. had secretly sent Ukraine 20 ATACMS, which Kuleba said was just the first of such shipments.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is considering a supplemental request that would include $60 billion in defense aid for Ukraine and $10 billion for Israel, Reuters reported on Oct. 19.
Biden will send the spending request to U.S. Congress as soon as Oct. 20, an anonymous source familiar with the issue told Reuters.
Around 30,000 civilians have gone missing in Ukraine since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, Kathryne Bomberger the head of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), told Suspilne news outlet.
This number may include people who are still alive but were separated from their families or detained, as well as those who died during hostilities but whose bodies have not been identified, Bomberger said.
Ukrainian children illegally deported by Russia are likely among the missing.
"Before the (full-scale) invasion, many people were considered missing since 2014… But those numbers, although high, were not as high as today. Now they are much higher and continue to grow," Bomberger said.
"It is essential that all these facts are verified as part of the judicial process and that these investigations are conducted by judicial institutions."
Deputy Interior Minister Leonid Tymchenko met with Bomberger on Oct. 18, discussing Kyiv's efforts to find the missing persons and cooperation with the ICMP.
Ukraine's Unified Register of Persons Missing Under Special Circumstances currently includes about 28,000 people, according to Tymchenko.