Ukraine live briefing: Ukrainian forces mount attack in Zaporizhzhia region, Kyiv and Moscow say

Ukrainian forces are mounting an attack along Russia’s front lines in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian and Ukrainian officials said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said talks with his North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang would “contribute to strengthening cooperation between our defense agencies.” Shoigu is in North Korea as the country prepares to mark the Korean War armistice anniversary.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Western-provided tanks are involved in Ukraine’s push to take ground in the Zaporizhzhia region, Vladimir Rogov, a Russian official in Ukraine, said on Telegram.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has changed position “in preparedness to enforce a blockade on Ukraine,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday, noting the change since Moscow pulled out of an international grain deal this month. It said Russia may use the repositioning to “intercept commercial vessels” it believes are heading to Ukraine. Russia’s decision to leave the grain agreement raises potential “for the intensity and scope of violence in the area to increase,” the ministry said. The deal allowed exports of nearly 33 million tons of commodities to other countries, according to United Nations data.

Russia’s Federal Security Service has arrested renowned Russian sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky on charges of “justifying terrorism,” sate-controlled news agency Tass reported. Kagarlitsky, a critic of Russia’s war in Ukraine, was also arrested as a dissident in the Soviet era. His latest detention shocked Russian intellectuals, with prominent pro-Kremlin analyst Sergei Markov calling it “a gross political mistake.” Kagarlitsky was transferred to Syktyvkar, where the case will be investigated more than 800 miles northeast of his home in Moscow.

Only 16 African heads of state were set to attend a Russia-Africa summit on Thursday — fewer than half of the 43 who went in 2019 — despite last-ditch diplomatic overtures. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed the West’s “absolutely unconcealed brazen interference” for the reduced attendance. Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, fuel and food costs across Africa have spiked, hitting some of the continent’s most vulnerable populations the hardest. Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Gain Initiative last week has raised concerns over further price hikes.

Moldovan authorities accused Russia of attempting to “destabilize the internal situation in our country” in a statement Wednesday. In response, authorities said, Moldova is reducing the number of staff at Russia’s embassy in its capital, Chisinau. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova denied the claim, saying Wednesday that “Russia does not interfere in other states’ internal affairs” and that Moldova’s decision “will not go unanswered.”

A U.K. parliamentary committee says British government failures helped the Wagner Group and its network to thrive. A document from Britain’s Foreign Affairs Committee, part of the House of Commons, calls on the government to designate the Wagner network as a terrorist organization and stop it from using London as a financial hub. The committee said sanctions placed on members of the group, which is led by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, are “underwhelming” in comparison with those of other countries like the United States. “For nearly 10 years, the Government has under-played and under-estimated the Wagner Network’s activities, as well as the security implications of its significant expansion,” the report said.

The war in Ukraine is spurring a revolution in drone warfare using AI: New artificial intelligence software being deployed in Ukraine keeps drones locked on a preselected target, even as Russia tries to interfere or as the target moves. It represents a significant upgrade from existing drones that track specific coordinates, John Hudson and Kostiantyn Khudov write.

The AI technology is one of several innovative leaps underway in Kyiv’s domestic drone market and is especially crucial for Ukraine’s outgunned military, which is fighting a larger and better-equipped Russian enemy. Improvements in speed, flight range, payload capacity and other capabilities are having an immediate impact on the battlefield, such as when Ukrainian forces attacked Putin’s prized Crimean Bridge in a drone operation last week.

Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.

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