Ukraine latest news: Putin oversees training for 'massive nuclear strike'; Russia 'increasingly concerned' about anti-war saboteurs after new attack; US warns Moscow against 'incredibly serious mistake' (2023)

Key points
  • Putin oversees drill to practice for 'massive nuclear strike'
  • 'Heaviest' battle yet expected in Kherson region
  • Putin 'directly confronted' by members of inner circle over war progress
  • Biden warns Russia against 'making an incredibly serious mistake'
  • Intelligence chief says Kremlin official wants to replace Putin
  • US urged to make major change to Russia strategy
  • Podcast: Russia aren't hiding the bombing of civilians
  • Updates from John Sparks in eastern Ukraine and Dominic Waghorn in Moscow. Live reporting by Emily Mee

14:15:36

Talks about Griner swap must be confidential, Kremlin says

The Kremlin today kept the door open for talks on a possible swap involving US basketball star Brittney Griner but said any such discussions must be kept strictly confidential.

Yesterday, a Russian court rejected Griner's appeal against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession.

Griner, an eight-time all-star centre with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medallist, was convicted on 4 August after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.

At her trial, Griner admitted to having the canisters in her luggage but testified she packed them inadvertently in her haste to make her flight and had no criminal intent.

Her defence team also presented written statements saying she had been prescribed cannabis to treat chronic pain.

Asked if Griner could be freed as part of a prisoners swap with Washington, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters that "we always say that any contacts about possible exchanges can only be conducted in silence under a tight lid on any information".

14:05:09

South Africa won't seize superyacht owned by Putin ally

South Africa will not seize a superyacht owned by a sanctioned Russian oligarch, the country has said

The country has "no legal obligation" to abide by sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, a spokesman for Cyril Ramaphosa, the president, said.

Nord, a luxury 465ft yacht worth more than $500m, is owned by Alexey Mordashov, a billionaire ally of Vladimir Putin, and will be allowed to dock in Cape Town.

The case exemplifies the limits of sanctions imposed by the US and the EU in response to Mr Putin's war in Ukraine.

Mordashov was one of several oligarchs targeted with sanctions by the US and EU, but not the United Nations, after the invasion of Ukraine in February for their ties to Mr Putin.

(Video) Defected Russian soldier describes life inside Putin's war in Ukraine

Vincent Magwenya, Mr Ramaphosa's spokesman, said South Africa's obligations on sanctions "relate to only those specifically adopted by the United Nations" - of which it is a founding member.

13:18:11

Nuclear drill is 'routine' and we were notified, US says

More here on the nuclear drills being conducted by Russia, which American officials confirm they were informed in advance about.

"The US was notified," Pentagon spokesman Air Force General Pat Ryder said.

"And as we’ve highlighted before, this is a routine annual exercise by Russia. And so in this regard, Russia is complying with its arms control obligations and transparency commitments to make those notifications, and so that is something that we will continue to keep an eye on."

US State Department, spokesman Ned Price said the notification was "important" even as “Russia engages in unprovoked aggression and reckless nuclear rhetoric."

"These notification measures do ensure that we are not taken by surprise and reduce the risks of misperception," he said.

Wednesday's drills involved the test-firing of a Yars land-based intercontinental ballistic missile from the northern Plesetsk launch site and the launch of a Sineva ICBM by a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea.

As part of the exercise, Tu-95 strategic bombers also launched cruise missiles at practice targets.

The Kremlin said in a statement that all tasks set for the exercise were fulfilled and all the missiles that were test-fired reached their designated targets.

12:38:31

Putin oversees drill to practice for 'massive nuclear strike'

Amid growing fears Moscow may trigger a major escalation of the war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has today been overseeing a nuclear drill by Russian forces.

The exercise had been planned for some time and the US had been informed in advance.

Defence minister Sergei Shoigu said Mr Putin had overseen the training, which he said was being conducted to practice delivering a "massive nuclear strike in response to an enemy nuclear strike".

(Video) General Petraeus: Putin is desperate and in an irreversible situation | DW News

12:27:55

Russia says it may transfer assets in annexed Ukrainian regions to Russian companies

More now from Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who has been speaking to reporters.

He said that assets in the four Ukrainian regions that Russia said it had annexed last month may be transferred to Russian companies.

Mr Peskov said it was obvious that "abandoned assets" could not be left inactive, and that the government would deal with the issue.

Ukraine, its Western allies and an overwhelming majority of countries at the UN General Assembly have condemned Russia's declared annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson as illegal.

11:55:01

India says nuclear option 'should not be resorted to by any side'

As we mentioned in our post a few minutes ago, Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu has been calling more of his foreign counterparts today.

In calls with the Chinese and Indian defence ministers, he repeated his claim that Ukraine is preparing to use a radioactive "dirty bomb".

Western leaders have rejected the claim, saying Russia is spreading disinformation and potentially preparing the ground for a false-flag attack.

Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh has now commented on his call with Mr Shoigu, saying they had discussed the "deteriorating situation in Ukraine".

"He briefed me on the evolving situation in Ukraine, including his concerns about possible provocations through use of 'dirty bomb'. I reiterated India's position on the need to pursue the path of dialogue and diplomacy for an early resolution of the conflict," he wrote on Twitter.

He told his counterpart that "the nuclear option should not be resorted to by any side".

It's worth noting that Ukraine does not have access to a nuclear arsenal.

(Video) The Naval War in Ukraine - The Moskva, Missiles & Lessons

11:40:01

Putin will not congratulate Sunak because UK is an 'unfriendly country', Kremlin says

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has been giving his daily briefing to reporters.

He was asked if Vladimir Putin would be offering his congratulations to newly installed British prime minister Rishi Sunak.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Peskov said the Russian president would not, because the UK is among the "unfriendly countries" that have imposed sanctions on Moscow.

Russian officials have been ridiculing the Mr Sunak's ascent to the post, dismissing the process that saw him selected by Conservative MPs as undemocratic.

11:25:33

Ukraine War Diaries: 'Russia isn't hiding the bombing of civilians'

Sky News has been hearing the experiences of those on or escaping Europe's new frontline as part of the Ukraine War Diaries podcast.

In the latest episode, Kyiv resident Oksana Koshel says Moscow is becoming less afraid to show it is bombing civilians.

"I believe that the various world intelligence agencies are keeping a close eye on what is happening," she says.

"It's getting probably more and more dangerous and difficult. But at the same time, we have to understand that there is no way for us to succumb, to give up, because giving up will mean certain death for us.

"We'll just have to fight till the very end."

Click to subscribe to Ukraine War Diaries wherever you get your podcasts

11:17:12

(Video) Ukraine Continues Attacking - Russian Invasion DOCUMENTARY

Kremlin says it will 'vigorously' continue to make case on 'dirty bomb' claims

Russian officials are refusing to back down over their claims Ukraine is preparing to use a radioactive "dirty bomb".

Despite Western leaders emphatically rejecting the claim - and Ukraine offering to disprove it by inviting nuclear inspectors to its facilities - the Kremlin has said this morning it will "vigorously" continue to make the case to the international community.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Moscow wanted to prompt an active response from the international community.

Yesterday, the Russian ambassador to the UN pressed the matter further with the UN Security Council.

US President Joe Biden responded by warning Russia against "making an incredibly serious mistake" if it was planning to launch a false flag operation, dropping a bomb itself and attempting to shift blame.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu - who initially made the claim to his French, British and American counterparts - has today repeated his remarks to his Indian and Chinese counterparts.

11:12:01

US aircraft carrier crew 'ready' to fight Russian forces if asked

The crew of a giant US aircraft carrier in European waters says they are ready to fight Russia if the call comes but their mission is to deter threats and prevent escalation, writes Sky News' Security and Defence Editor Deborah Haynes.

The USS George H W Bush is helping to test NATO's ability to defend itself - a mission that became all the more real in the wake of Russia's war in Ukraine.

In the past few days, F18 jets have flown from the carrier in southern Europe all the way out to Lithuania and Poland on the alliance's eastern edge, close to Russia, operating alongside warplanes from other allied nations and with NATO warships and ground troops.

The commander of the carrier strike group told Sky News his message to Russia is that his men and women "are ready for any mission".

"We want peace - it's what everybody wants," Rear Admiral Dennis Velez said, speaking inside a hangar on board the ship, which holds more than 70 jets, helicopters and other aircraft.

"We want the war [in Ukraine] to be over and to bring stability back to the region and have a peaceful and stable Europe - but, for us, we are ready."

Asked if that meant he was ready for war if necessary, the admiral said: "This ship, this strike group, our allies: we are ready for anything. We demonstrate that every day."

Videos

1. Gravitas LIVE: Putin escalates Ukraine war | Russia to mobilise 300,000 troops | Latest World News
(WION)
2. Zelensky Vows To Press On, Petraeus Insists Putin Is Losing The War +More |Russian Invasion
(Channels Television)
3. What Happens If There’s A Nuclear Attack
(CNBC)
4. Putin's Road to War (full documentary) | FRONTLINE
(FRONTLINE PBS | Official)
5. How War in Ukraine Will Cause Russia To Collapse
(The Infographics Show)
6. The Putin Files: David Hoffman
(FRONTLINE PBS | Official)
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