By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the United States intends to keep up its flow of weapons and assistance to Ukraine through the winter.
Austin said at the Pentagon on Wednesday the aid will help Kyiv maintain the pressure on Russia after the Kremlin withdrew its forces from the southern city of Kherson, in a major battlefield setback for Moscow.
“We’re going to maintain our momentum throughout the winter so that Ukraine can continue to consolidate gains and seize the initiative on the battlefield,” Austin said.
He spoke ahead of the seventh Ukraine Contact Group meeting, where NATO and partner nations meet to coordinate security assistance for Kyiv.
This meeting was also to address training for Ukrainian troops, Austin said.
The U.S. to date has provided $18.6 billion in weapons and equipment to Ukraine.
— Poland, NATO say missile strike wasn’t a Russian attack
— NATO holds emergency talks after missile lands in Poland
— Biden: ‘Unlikely’ missile that hit Poland fired from Russia
— Biden asks for over $37 billion in emergency Ukraine aid
— ‘War not an excuse:’ Ukraine rail boss keeps trains running
— Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
BERLIN — The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog says there will be more consultations this week and next on his calls for Ukraine and Russia to agree to a safety zone around Ukraine’s Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has been urging agreement on such a zone for over two months.
Repeated shelling around Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant has contributed to it being disconnected from the grid on several occasions and fueled fears of a potential catastrophe.
Grossi said Wednesday that the main issues under discussion involve military equipment and the radius of the zone. He said in Vienna that the IAEA’s proposal is “very feasible.”
Grossi added that “what we are proposing is very simple: don’t shoot at the plant, don’t shoot from the plant” and that there are “not that many” points that are still in doubt.
He said an agreement would reflect a “very serious political commitment of both sides to stop doing something that is still taking place, and I’m not attributing anything.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Kyiv police say a 69-year-old woman was killed by rocket fragments while visiting her husband’s grave.
The head of Kyiv’s regional police force, Andriy Nebytov, said Wednesday the woman received a fatal wound while she was at the cemetery.
Writing on Telegram, Nebytov attributed her death Tuesday to Russian shelling.
He said the woman was from a village some 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Kyiv.
BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says a missile blast in Poland that killed two people near the border with Ukraine was probably not an attack by Russia.
He said Wednesday it was likely a Ukrainian air defense missile that went astray.
“An investigation into this incident is ongoing and we need to await its outcome. But we have no indication that this was the result of a deliberate attack,” Stoltenberg told reporters after emergency talks between NATO envoys.
Stoltenberg said that NATO has “no indication that Russia is preparing action” against any member of the 30-nation military alliance.
But he said that the incident happened because of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“This is not Ukraine’s fault, Russia bears ultimate responsibility,” he said.
BERLIN — The German defense ministry says it will offer Poland support in patrolling its airspace.
“The patrols will come from German air force bases — we have already done this earlier this year until July, it is tried and tested,” spokesman Christian Thiels said Wednesday.
He added that the German defense minister would talk to her Polish counterpart later in the day about the offer.
“This can be done as early as tomorrow, if Poland wishes,” Thiels said, adding that the jets do not need to be moved to Poland for the operation.
WARSAW — Poland’s President Andrzej Duda says there is no evidence a missile that hit Poland near its border with Ukraine was an “intentional attack.”
Duda said Wednesday that the landing of the Russian-made missile in a rural area, killing two people, was mostly likely an accident.
“It was not an attack on Poland,” Duda said, adding that Tuesday’s incident involved “most probably a Russian-made missile.”
“We have no proof at this point to suggest the missile was fired by the Russian side,” Duda said.
He added: “There is high probability that it was a missile used for anti-missile defense, meaning it was used by Ukraine’s defense forces.”
“Ukraine’s defense was launching their missiles in various directions and it is highly probable that one of these missiles unfortunately fell on Polish territory,” Duda said.
Even so, he said the ultimate responsibility lies with Russia, which launched a barrage of missile attacks on Ukraine on Tuesday.
French President Emmanuel Macron is urging caution amid speculation about a missile landing in Poland, saying it was too early to know what happened.
Speaking at a press conference in Bali, Indonesia, where he was attending a G-20 summit Wednesday, the French leader said that “analysis is underway” with regard to the blast near Poland’s border with Ukraine that killed two people.
“There is preliminary work that was shared by the United States but we must remain careful,” Macron said.
Macron said he was in contact with Polish authorities. He also said he had spoken to Ukraine’s president to reaffirm solidarity following a spate of Russian strikes the previous day.
Macron said “China can play a greater mediation role, alongside us, in the coming months,” adding that he had talked about a potential meeting in Beijing next year with President Xi Jinping.
KYIV, Ukraine — Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko says homes in the Ukrainian capital are still getting heating, despite Russian attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure.
That’s because Kyiv’s critical infrastructure facilities are equipped with generators and fuel in case of outages.
Klitschko said on his Telegram channel Wednesday that the previous day’s Russian missile barrage caused mass blackouts.
He said the grid has been “stabilized,” but provided no further details.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak wants European nations to “close the sky” over Ukraine, after a Russian-made missile landed in Poland.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Podolyak stressed that “only Russia is responsible for the war in Ukraine and massive missile strikes” and “only Russia is behind the rapidly growing risks for the border countries.”
“No need to look for excuses and postpone key decisions. Time for Europe to ‘close the sky over (Ukraine).’ For your own safety too,” he said.
After Russia invaded last February, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky urged NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Western leaders rejected the idea amid concerns about triggering a wider war in Europe.
BERLIN — German defense company Rheinmetall says it will supply 15 Leopard battle tanks to NATO ally Slovakia, which will be sending Soviet-era equipment of its own to Ukraine.
Rheinmetall said Wednesday that the first of the Leopard 2A4 tanks will be shipped in December and the delivery should be complete by the end of next year. They are overhauled tanks previously used by various countries. The deal includes ammunition, training and spare parts.
Germany has been keen to promote such deals under which Eastern NATO allies hand off Soviet-era equipment to Kyiv and get modern equipment from Germany. There have been similar agreements with the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Greece.
Also Wednesday, Sweden said it would provide Ukraine with military aid worth 3 billion Swedish kronor ($290 million) and a humanitarian aid package worth 720 million kroner ($70 million).
The aid package, the largest by Sweden to Kyiv so far, includes an air defense system with ammunition.
MOSCOW — The Kremlin is offering rare praise for the United States, applauding President Joe Biden’s “restrained” reaction to reports about a Russian-made missile landing in Poland.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday dismissed much of the reaction to the missile hit as “hysterical, frenzied.”
NATO allies are investigating how and why a missile that Poland said was Russian-made came down in Polish farmland, killing two, on Tuesday, amid a large-scale bombardment of Ukraine targets by Moscow’s forces.
Biden said it was “unlikely” that Russia fired the missile but added: “We’ll see.”
Elsewhere, officials expressed alarm that the war could be escalating and spread to neighboring countries.
Peskov said that “high-ranking officials from different countries made statements without having any idea what happened exactly, what caused it, and so on.”
Asked to comment on Tuesday’s barrage of strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, Peskov said that “objects that directly or indirectly have to do with military infrastructure” were targeted.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s state-owned grid operator says power will be out across large areas of Ukraine on Wednesday after Russia’s biggest bombardment of the country’s energy infrastructure in the nearly nine-month war.
Ukrenergo said the outages will be both scheduled and unannounced, due to emergency work being carried out.
Russia fired over 90 missiles and over 10 attack drones at Ukraine on Tuesday, according to Ukraine’s General Staff. Ukrainian forces shot down 77 missiles and 11 drones, it said.
The Ukrainian energy minister said the attack was “the most massive” bombardment of power facilities in the nearly 9-month-old invasion, striking both power generation and transmission systems.
Ukraine’s presidential office says at least six civilians were killed on by the Russian attacks and another 17 were wounded.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s Operational Command South says the Ukrainian army is shelling the left bank of the Dnieper River, where the Russian military recently dug in after retreating from the southern city of Kherson.
It said on its Facebook page that Ukrainian forces carried out more than 50 strikes around the Kinburn Spit, in Mykolaiv province, which is currently under the control of the Russian army.
The spit is said to be a key site for Russian electronic warfare and of strategic importance for coordinating Russian shelling of the right bank of the Dnieper River and southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces also destroyed ammunition depots in Nova Kakhovka and Oleshky on the Dnieper’s left bank, Operational Command South said.
In the eastern Donetsk province, the Russian army shelled seven towns and villages, according to Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko. Heavy fighting is underway in the region for the city of Bakhmut.
Over the previous 24 hours, four civilians were killed and seven were wounded in the region. “Every day of the war raises the question of survival for those who are forced to live for months in basements without light and heat, fleeing from Russian shelling,” Kyrylenko said on Ukrainian TV.
KYIV, Ukraine — Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko says two residential buildings were damaged on Tuesday during Russia’s “massive attack on the capital”, killing one elderly woman, but the Russian military denied responsibility.
Writing on Telegram on Wednesday, Klitschko said the entrance to one of the buildings — a five-story block — was significantly damaged. Residents were evacuated, and authorities are assessing the full extent of the damage.
But a spokesman for Russia’s defense ministry denied those claims, saying Moscow didn’t launch “a single missile attack on targets in the city of Kyiv” on Tuesday.
Igor Konashenkov blamed the damage in residential areas on “the fall and self-destruction” of anti-aircraft missiles fired by Ukrainian troops.
BRUSSELS — NATO allies are investigating how a Russian-made missile landed in Poland, killing two people close to the country’s eastern border with Ukraine.
Ambassadors from the 30 alliance nations gathered in Brussels on Wednesday for emergency talks.
The missile strike Tuesday deepened international tension over Moscow’s nearly nine-month war against Ukraine and added to fears of a possible escalation.
The missile hit a rural area of Poland near the border with Ukraine.
The strike underlined the perils of the war in Eastern Europe, which could spiral out of control and spread beyond Ukraine.
Poland said it was considering calling for emergency consultations under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which provides for such talks if one of the 30 allies considers that its territory might be under threat. But Wednesday’s meeting did not appear to be Article 4 consultations.
Western officials are saying that even if the strike in Polish territory by a Russian-made missile was an accident, the blame still lies with Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Canadian leader Justin Trudeau on Wednesday told Ukraine’s President that “whatever the outcome of that investigation, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is squarely to blame for the ongoing violence.”
“We should all be clear: None of this would be happening if it weren’t for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the British prime minister told reporters from a G-20 summit in Indonesia.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at the summit it’s important to wait for the results of an investigation of Tuesday’s missile strike, near Poland’s border with Ukraine.
He said there can be no “premature conclusion on what happened before its careful investigation, in such a serious matter.”
The chief of general staff of the Czech Republic’s armed forces, Major General Karel Rehka, said: “Under the current circumstances, it is of utmost importance to keep calm, wait for more information and carefully asses the facts. That’s exactly what we, the soldiers, are doing now.”
BEIJING — China has called for calm over a missile striking a rural area of Poland near its border with Ukraine, where Russia is waging war against the Kyiv authorities.
“Under the current situation, all parties concerned should keep calm and exercise restraint and avoid escalation of the situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a daily briefing on Wednesday.
China has closely aligned its foreign policy with Russia in recent years. China has refused to criticize Russia’s aggression or even refer to it as an invasion, while criticizing sanctions and blaming the U.S. and NATO for provoking Putin, although it has gone so far as to provide Russia with military assistance.
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