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Ukraine war latest: Zelensky vows full Ukrainian fire control over Crimea

by Alexander Khrebet October 24, 2023 11:20 PM 6 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky meets military commanders, including Ukraine's Armed Forces commander General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, in an undisclosed location during his trip to southern Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts on Oct. 20, 2023. (President's Office)
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Key developments on Oct. 24:

  • Zelensky: Full Ukrainian fire control over Crimea 'only a matter of time'
  • SBU charges businessman over supplying materials for Russian warships
  • Around 1,000 civilians remain in Avdiivka
  • Ukraine reportedly repurposes US-supplied missiles for air defense
  • Russia lacks infantry capability, UK intel says

Ukrainian forces will soon have fire control capabilities over Russian-occupied Crimea, President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed in an online address to the parliamentary summit of the Crimean Platform on Oct. 24.

A series of Ukrainian attacks on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea have degraded Russia’s defense networks on the peninsula, Zelensky said, and although Ukraine does not currently have complete control of the skies over Crimea, it is only "a matter of time."

He also said Russia is planning a new naval base in the Russian-occupied Georgian region of Abkhazia, to move ships "as far as possible from Ukrainian missiles and naval drones."

Reports about the degradation of the Black Sea Fleet have been echoed by Ukraine's allies.

U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said on Oct. 3 that Ukraine's attacks have led to a "functional defeat" of Russia's Navy in the Black Sea.

Ukrainian forces in recent months have struck significant blows to the Russian military operating in occupied Crimea and the Black Sea. A Ukrainian missile attack hit the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol on Sept. 22, killing dozens of Russian officers.

The Second Parliamentary Summit of the Crimean Platform is being hosted in Prague.

Since its inaugural summit on Aug. 23, 2021, it has gathered participants from dozens of countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and elsewhere, as well as non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, including the EU.

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Ukraine reportedly repurposes US-supplied missiles for air defense

Ukraine has successfully converted redundant U.S.-provided air-to-air AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles into surface-to-air missiles, the Financial Times (FT) reported on Oct. 24, citing an unnamed Ukrainian official.

"(AIM-9) missiles were out of operation," said the official.

"We fixed them. We found a way of launching them from the ground. It's a kind of self-made air defense."

The strategy to repurpose the missiles with a new makeshift launcher, known in the Pentagon as the FrankenSAM project, was first reported by the Associated Press on Oct. 13.

Since this is not a long-term solution, the modified projectiles will help Ukraine get through the winter when Russian forces are expected to attack energy infrastructure, FT reported.

These repurposed missiles were among similar ambitions to transform old arms in U.S. stockpiles into essential weaponry.

American and Ukrainian engineers have also managed to modify a Soviet-era Buk air defense launcher so that it can fire U.S.-made RIM-7 missiles, an anonymous official told AP.

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Around 1,000 civilians remain in embattled Avdiivka

Around 1,000 residents are left in the front-line town of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, which has recently come under intense attacks by Russian forces, Deputy Prime Minister and Reintegration Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Oct. 24.

The heavily fortified Avdiivka, an industrial town with a pre-war population of roughly 32,000 people, is largely abandoned and destroyed by Russian air strikes and artillery barrages.

“About 1,000 people are still living in Avdiivka, according to our data," Vereshchuk said.

She also called on locals to leave the town, which sits several kilometers north of Russian-occupied Donetsk.

Meanwhile, all children have been evacuated from Avdiivka.

Russia boosted its attacks last week in an attempt to encircle Avdiivka. Local military administration chief, Vitalii Barabash, said Russian forces are shelling a crucial road connection, disrupting evacuations and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The Ukrainian military reported that despite the ongoing onslaught, its forces are holding their positions, inflicting heavy losses on Russian troops and military hardware.

Russian forces have been trying to capture Avdiivka since 2014.

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Ukrainian businessman charged over supplying materials for Russian naval radars

Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) charged a local businessman in the country’s western Zakarpattia Oblast for allegedly supplying raw materials to the Russian Navy for radar production, the agency reported on Oct. 24.

The businessman was said to have imported the materials from EU countries before supplying them to his Russian customers via Belarus.

Several shipments worth around Hr 12 million ($330,000) were uncovered. The businessman’s top customers were Russia's major metallurgical plants, according to the investigation.

The Russian companies reportedly sent smelted materials to the sanctioned company Izumrud, where they were used to produce radars for Russian warships.

The businessman allegedly hid his activities by falsifying invoices and other shipment papers.

The SBU also said the businessman is now "hiding from justice abroad."

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Russia lacks infantry capability, UK intel says

Russian forces continue to rely mostly on Storm-Z units staffed by convicts and regular troops on disciplinary charges for local offensive operations in Ukraine, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in its intelligence update on Oct. 24.

While Russian forces have often carried out an effective defense, the existence of Storm-Z “highlights the extreme difficulty" Russia faces in generating combat infantry capable of conducting successful assaults, according to the report.

The ministry also said Russia likely initially viewed the Storm-Z units, first deployed in 2022, as “relatively elite organizations which could seize the tactical initiative.”

However, since at least this spring, the company-sized groups have effectively turned into penal battalions.

Numerous reports indicate that these units receive the least logistical and medical support, all the while being consistently tasked with carrying out repeated offensive actions, according to the ministry.

Russian troops are launching heavy attacks in many eastern axes, including in the Avdiivka, Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, and Marinka sectors, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in its evening update on Oct. 24.

The past few days have experienced a high number of clashes between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

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