Key updates on Sept. 27:
- Guardian: Ukraine sends letter to G7 on use of Western parts in Shahed drones
- Bulgarian parliament approves providing Ukraine with S-300 missiles
- Media: Germany investigating possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine
- Ukraine's military confirms Wagner fighters return to front
- Official: Russia starts building railway links to occupied cities in Donetsk Oblast
A letter from the Ukrainian government to G7 nations says that some of the components used in the manufacture of Shahed-type drones come from companies based in the West, The Guardian reported on Sept. 27.
The letter alleges that more than 50 electrical components originally stemmed from companies located in countries allied with Ukraine and involved in the sanctions coalition. The countries named include the U.S., Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Canada, and Japan.
According to the letter, Shahed-type drones with Western components have been used in at least 600 strikes on Ukraine.
The drones, originally produced in Iran and first used in attacks against Ukraine in September 2022, are cheap to manufacture and when used in swarms can be “a headache” for Ukrainian air defense, Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat said.
There have been previous reports that Shahed drones were being manufactured with parts from Western countries. The letter further purports that Iran has begun to “disassociate itself from providing Russia with weapons,” adding that it “cannot cope with Russian demand.”
As a result, drone manufacturing locations have shifted to Russia in addition to Iran, as well as in Syria, another Kremlin ally.
The letter also notes that it is unclear if the Western companies mentioned were fully aware that their components were being used in drone production because the parts are largely of a commercial nature and are thus poorly regulated. The components have typically reached Iran through intermediary countries, thereby evading sanctions.
Spokespeople for some of the companies identified in the letter have condemned the usage of their components in the manufacturing of drones and have participated in sanctions but have acknowledged it is “difficult to fully control sales throughout the entire lifetime of a product."
Bulgarian parliament approves providing Ukraine with S-300 missiles
The Sofia Globe, an independent Bulgarian news agency, reported on Sept. 27 that the Bulgarian parliament voted to transfer to Ukraine an unspecified number of unserviceable S-300 surface-to-air missiles.
The primary reason for the need to transfer the missiles, argued Parliamentary Defense Committee Head Hristo Gadzhev, was that they were too old to be of use to the Bulgarian military and that even their original manufacturer would be unable to repair them.
Unnamed experts and officials from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Defense claimed that despite their condition, Ukraine’s military would be able to render the missiles serviceable, according to the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda.
Bulgaria previously promised to deliver military equipment and ammunition to Ukraine for similar reasons, including 100 unused armored vehicles that are expensive to store and maintain.
The transfer of military aid to Ukraine has been a contentious issue in Bulgaria, which has long-standing historical ties to Russia and a pro-Kremlin minority in parliament. In November 2022, Bulgaria agreed to send military aid to Ukraine following many months of debate.
Although it was not publicly stated initially, various investigations additionally revealed that Bulgaria was secretly supplying Ukraine with fuel and ammunition in the first few months of the full-scale invasion.
Media: Germany investigating possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine
The German Federal Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into the alleged shooting of civilians, including a German citizen, by Russian troops at the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the German news agency Tagesschau reported on Sept. 27.
The prosecutor’s office is investigating evidence that Russian troops shot at and injured civilians in Hostomel, a suburb of Kyiv, and the site of major battles in February-March 2022.
A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office confirmed that an investigation was ongoing and that German authorities were working alongside their Ukrainian counterparts.
Germany has compiled extensive evidence of Russian war crimes and is just one of many organizations, both abroad and in Ukraine, working to document and investigate them. A recent report in August 2023 revealed that there have been nearly 100,000 Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine.
Ukraine's military confirms Wagner fighters returning to front
Some of the mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group have left Belarus and returned to the front in Donetsk Oblast, RBC Ukraine reported on Sept. 27, citing the spokesperson of the Eastern Grouping of Forces, Illia Yevlash.
The spokesperson said that of the roughly 8,000 Wagner fighters stationed in Belarus, some departed for Africa, and around 500 are returning to Ukraine's eastern front.
Russia's Defense Ministry is renegotiating contracts with these mercenaries to serve as combatants or instructors, Yevlash clarified.
However, he emphasized that Wagner fighters do not pose a "significant threat" since the death of their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Prigozhin died in a plane crash in Russia's Tver Oblast on Aug. 23 under mysterious circumstances. Prigozhin's demise occurred two months after he negotiated an end to his brief armed "rebellion" against the Kremlin earlier in the summer.
"These individuals are indeed among the most well-trained Russian forces, but their presence will not be a game-changer," Yevlash said.
Although the media have already reported the return of Wagner contractors to Ukraine's battlefields, this is the first official confirmation of their presence by the Ukrainian military.
Wagner mercenaries were a crucial component in Russia's invasion force. They were primarily responsible for capturing the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast in May after a prolonged siege.
Following their insurrection against the Russian government in June, many of the Wagner Group mercenaries left for Belarus to provide training support to the Belarusian military.
Both Ukraine and the U.S. later said that the mercenaries were no longer taking part in hostilities in Ukraine. However, reports emerged following Prigozhin's death that Wagner contractors began leaving Belarus for Russia. Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko later denied this.
Official: Russia starts building railway links to occupied cities in Donetsk Oblast
Russia has started building direct railway links to the occupied Ukrainian cities of Mariupol, Volnovakha, and Donetsk, which could decrease Moscow's logistical dependence on the Crimean Bridge, Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to Melitopol's exiled mayor, said on Sept. 27.
The official noted that if these efforts are successful, Russia will connect the Mariupol-Aslanove-Kalchyk-Volnovakha railway line in occupied Ukraine with the Russian cities of Taganrog and Rostov-on-Don.
Volnovakha also links through the railway to occupied Rozivka, Melitopol, and Crimea, he added.
Building these new connections would be a boon for Russian military and civilian logistics in the occupied territories and reduce Russia's reliance on the Crimean Kerch Bridge, according to Andriushchenko.
The work on the new railway sections has reportedly already begun, specifically on a bridge over the Kalmius River near the village of Hranitne in Donetsk Oblast.
The Crimean Bridge, a vital connection linking the occupied peninsula with Russia's Krasnodar Krai, was severely damaged in a Ukrainian strike on July 17.
The Ukrainian military said earlier in September that the bridge had not been made fully functional yet. Drone and missile strikes against Crimea also cause regular closures of the Crimean Bridge, further hampering Russia's logistics.