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US and Russia Discussed Containing War, WSJ Says

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President Joe Biden’s national security adviser and senior Kremlin aides have held private talks in recent months to reduce the risk of a broader conflict over Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported. A peace settlement wasn’t a goal of the discussions, according to the report.

Russian media said Ukraine struck the Kakhovka dam north of Kherson with a missile on Sunday, without causing major damage. There was no comment from Kyiv. Ukraine for weeks has accused Russian forces of planning to blow up the dam and flood the surrounding region to slow a Ukrainian counteroffensive around Kherson.

The White House is privately suggesting Ukraine’s president indicate an openness to talks with Russia as a way to help Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government address war support fatigue among some allies, the Washington Post reported.

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On the Ground

Russian troops, after months of setbacks, intensified their efforts to capture territory near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. The strategic value of the heavily-bombarded town is unclear. Kremlin forces continued to set up defensive positions along the left bank of the Dnipro River, according to the Institute for the Study of War, as the situation in Kherson remains in the balance. Kyiv’s troops continue to target Russian logistics and transportation equipment in the Kherson region. Ukraine’s southern operational command said Russian forces have destroyed dozens of civilian ships as part of their retreat to prevent Kyiv’s military from potentially using them. Separately, Russian occupying forces continue to forcibly evacuate the population from the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region to Crimea and beyond, Ukrainian officials said. Russian media reported ten towns and villages in the Kherson region, including Kherson itself, were left without electricity after “sabotage.”

(All times CET)

US and Russia Have Discussed Avoiding Escalation, WSJ Says (10:15 p.m.)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Russian counterparts have held talks in recent months on guarding against the risk of escalation and warn Moscow against using nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing US and allied officials.

A settlement of the war in Ukraine wasn’t an aim of the discussions, according to the report.

Sullivan alluded to US-Russian contacts after Russian leaders suggested that nuclear weapons might be an option in its war against Ukraine. “We do have the capacity to speak directly at senior levels and to be clear about our messages to them and to receive their messages,” Sullivan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sept. 25. “That has happened frequently over the course of the past few months.”

Power Out for Millions in Capital Area (9 p.m.)

More than 4.5 million consumers are without power, most of them in Kyiv and the Kyiv region, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Sunday in his nightly video address.

Ukraine’s power generation has been severely damaged by weeks of Russian missile and drone attacks. “It is indeed difficult,” Zelenskiy said.

Seven Ships Pass Grain Corridor Over Weekend (7:30 p.m.)

Seven inbound vessels transited the Ukraine crop corridor over the weekend, according to a statement from the Joint Coordination Centre, which facilitates the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Only two vessels under the initiative are currently at Ukrainian ports, it said.

On Sunday, the Istanbul-based center cleared two outbound vessels and seven inbound vessels for transit to Ukraine, while inspections on two more outbound vessels were halted on “various grounds.” Inspections on three outbound vessels were also suspended on Saturday due to fumigation issues, while eight inbound ships were cleared, it said.

Biden, Scholz Reaffirm Support for Ukraine (7:15 p.m.)

US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reaffirmed support for Ukraine during a call on Sunday, according to both governments.

“The leaders agreed that Russia’s recent nuclear threats are irresponsible,” the White House said in a statement. “They underscored the continued commitment of the United States and Germany to provide Ukraine with the economic, humanitarian, and security support it needs to defend against Russia’s aggression.”

They agreed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s “demand for a just peace deserves full support,” according to readout by German deputy government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner.

Kyiv Can’t Be Forced on Talks, German President Says (4 p.m.)

Germany can’t “decide on Ukraine’s behalf” if or when to start negotiations with Russia, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. “Ukraine must say when it wants to hold such negotiations, when it considers them promising,” Steinmeier told ARD public television.

Diplomatic efforts shouldn’t have the purpose of endorsing Russia’s “violation of borders,” said Steinmeier, a former foreign minister who also served as chief of staff under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

No Grounds for Evacuation, Kyiv’s Mayoral Office Says (3 p.m.)

The situation in Kyiv is under control, the mayoral office said on its website, hours after a New York Times report that contingency plans are being made for a possible mass evacuation if power fails completely following recent repeated Russian missile strikes on key infrastructure.

“There are no grounds to talk about evacuation now,” said Roman Tkachuk, Kyiv’s municipal security chief. “Yes, we work on different plans, we train people to act and be prepared. It is important to avoid chaos and minimize risks for people.”

Zelenskiy, Von der Leyen Discuss Financial Support (2:46 p.m.)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke on Sunday with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, focused on ensuring financial support for Ukraine in the months ahead, on the Black Sea grain initiative, and on sanctions.

Von der Leyen said she would propose an EU financial package this week of as much as €1.5 billion a month to a maximum of €18 billion, to help cover Ukraine’s financing needs for 2023, according to a readout.

The highly concessional long-term loans, with coverage of interest, would also support Ukraine’s reforms and its path toward EU membership, according to the readout.

Kakhovka Dam Above Kherson Hit by Ukraine, Russian Media Say (12:30 p.m.)

The Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River was hit Sunday by a Ukrainian strike from US-donated HIMARS rockets, according to Russia’s the state-run Tass news agency. The damage was termed non-critical.

There was no comment from Ukraine on the claim, which couldn’t be verified.

Ukraine’s president has accused Russian forces, which captured the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant in February, of mining the dam and preparing to blow it up to create catastrophic flooding and slow down a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Ukraine’s Environmental Losses Estimated at $37 Billion (12 p.m.)

“Even this insane amount does not reflect the real picture,” the Accounting Chamber, an audit body of the Ukrainian parliament, said on Facebook as it estimated environmental losses at 1.35 trillion hryvnia ($37 billion).

The amount of harmful emissions from forest fires, fuel burning and blazes at at industrial companies has exceeded 67 million tons this year, compared with annual 2.2 million tons in two previous years, the chamber said.

The total of 3 million hectares or one third of Ukraine’s total forested areas have been effected, and losses were termed irreversible. in some cases. about one third of Ukrainian territory requires mine clearing, which may take at least ten years.

Kyiv Mayor Urges Residents to Stock Up on Essentials (11 a.m.)

Speaking on television Saturday night, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said he was “asking everyone to stock up on drinking water, technical water, power banks, food, warm clothes,” and that the city is “making calculations for different scenarios.”

The former heavyweight boxing champion spoke as the New York Times reported that Ukraine’s capital is planning for a potential total evacuation if power and water supplies are cut off.

“I am asking people to prepare for a bad scenario in case of total cut off of water and power supply,” he said, adding that Russia, through its ongoing airstrikes on key infrastructure, is “doing everything to deprive the city of electricity and water.”

Ukraine Deputy PM Vows to ‘Keep Fighting’ (8:41 a.m.)

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister told an Italian newspaper that “there is no peace because Russians do not want it,” and that if Europe should “betray”its support for Ukraine, the entire Western world would be at risk.

“The only way to reach peace in this phase is to keep fighting,” Iryna Vereshchuk told Corriere della Sera in an interview published on Sunday. “If we stop fighting, we will disappear as people and as a nation.”

Her comments came as the Washington Post reported the US is privately pressing Kyiv to show an openness to talks with Russia as “Ukraine fatigue” sets in among some allies.

Kyiv Considers Total Evacuation If It Loses Electricity: NYT (8 a.m.)

Officials in Ukraine’s capital have begun planning for a possible complete evacuation of its 3 million remaining residents if it loses electricity supplies, blackout that would require the New York Times reported.

For now, rolling blackouts continue in Kyiv and in seven other regions in a bid to keep the electricity grid somewhat stable.

US Seeks Ukraine Signal on Negotiations: Washington Post (11:40 p.m.)

The Biden administration is prodding Ukrainian leaders to signal openness to negotiations with Russia as a way to help the government in Kyiv address war support fatigue among some of its allies, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the discussions.

The people described it as a calculated attempt to maintain international support for Ukraine’s war effort, rather than pressure for Ukraine to negotiate, according to the Post.

One official told the newspaper that “Ukraine fatigue is a real thing” for some allies.

Ukraine to Boost Maritime Drone Power, Zelenskiy Says (6:45 p.m.)

Ukraine’s government is seeking to replenish its maritime drone fleet to boost its defenses in the Black Sea, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, a week after a drone strike on Russia’s new Black Sea fleet, possibly including the frigate Admiral Makarov.

“Next week, we will launch another fund-raising direction — we will raise funds for a fleet of marine drones,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address. He didn’t elaborate on the proposed source of funding.

Addressing the Iranian foreign minister’s earlier comment that Tehran “gave a limited number of drones to Russia months before” the war, Zelenskiy said Ukraine shoots down “at least 10 Iranian drones every day.”

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