Key development on Oct. 18:
- Putin holds talks with Xi
- Lavrov in North Korea says Pyongyang will help Moscow win
- 20 ATACMS are in Ukraine, writes the New York Times
- Russia kills 4 people killed in Zaporizhzhia
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at China's Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Oct. 18, following remarks by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Putin said on Oct. 18 that the U.S. made a "great mistake" by providing Ukraine with ATACMS long-range missiles, which have reportedly dealt significant damage to Russian forces in a recent attack.
Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Putin admitted that the newly provided weaponry creates an "additional threat" to Russian forces.
However, the Kremlin's leader voiced confidence that the Russian military would be capable of repelling ATACMS strikes and that the long-range missiles were "fundamentally incapable of changing the situation" at the front.
"And finally, a greater mistake, which is not yet apparent but very important, is that the United States is increasingly drawn into this conflict," Putin said, admitting that his country is fighting a war in Ukraine.
After months of hesitation, the White House confirmed on Oct. 17 that it had provided Ukraine with the much-desired ATACMS.
The U.S. has provided around 20 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine, the New York Times reported on Oct. 18, citing two Western officials.
The delivery "was carried out in secrecy, out of concern that they could be attacked by Russia as they were shipped," the New York Times reported.
The news about the delivery of ATACMS was also not made public as "Ukraine wanted to try to catch the Russians off guard."
The announcement was made shortly after Ukrainian forces reportedly used the U.S.-supplied long-range missiles to destroy nine helicopters, an air defense system, an ammunition warehouse, and airfield infrastructure in occupied Luhansk and Berdiansk.
ATACMS in Ukraine
The U.S.-provided Army Tactical Missiles Systems (ATACMS) will likely force the Russian command to choose between fortifying existing ammunition depots or further dispersing them throughout occupied parts of Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its latest update.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had long campaigned for the donation of these weapons due to their range, which would allow Ukrainian forces to strike Russian targets deep behind the front line.
However, the delivery was agreed on the condition that Ukraine would not use them to strike targets on Russian territory, one source said.
On Oct. 17, the White House confirmed the U.S. provided Ukraine with ATACMS, after the Ukrainian military said it had used them for the first time on the battlefield.
The targets were military airfields located near Berdiansk in Zaporizhzhia Oblast and Luhansk, Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported.
Russia, North Korea, China
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov thanked North Korea for its "fundamental, unequivocal support" in the war against Ukraine, Russian-state media outlet Ria Novosti reported on Oct. 18.
He also expressed his appreciation for North Korea's recognition of Ukrainian territories that Russia has illegally annexed. Syria is the only other country that has recognized the illegal annexation.
Lavrov was in North Korea one month after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Putin in Russia's eastern Amur Oblast.
He is also scheduled to hold talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Choi Song Hui.
Reports of Russia's increasing ties with North Korea have accelerated in recent months.
U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Oct. 13 that North Korea had delivered more than a thousand containers of weapons and ammunition.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that North Korea is supplying Russia with weapons.
Russian non-stop attacks
The official noted that the search and rescue efforts following the deadly attack are ongoing.
Zaporizhzhia was targeted six times from 1:30 until 1:48 a.m. local time on Oct. 18, Governor Yurii Malashko said. At least five people were reportedly injured in the attack.
The southern city of Zaporizhzhia is home to roughly 700,000 people and lies less than 40 kilometers north of the front line and the Russian-occupied part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Dnipro Mayor Borys Filatov reported at around 10:30 a.m. that Russia targeted residential areas of the district with missiles, resulting in dead and injured residents.
Less than an hour later, Governor Serhii Lysak clarified that a 31-year-old woman was killed in the attack. Three women aged 56, 65, and 75, as well as a 35-year-old man, were injured, he reported.