The Kremlin has said powerful western tanks and missiles sent to Kyiv will “burn” and cannot stop it winning the war, as Moscow released video that appeared to refute Ukraine’s claim to have killed a top Russian naval commander in a rocket strike on occupied Crimea.
Russia continued to attack southern Ukraine on Tuesday, hitting the Danube river port of Izmail with explosive drones that injured two people, destroyed silos and trucks containing grain for export, and causing the temporary closure of a border crossing with Romania.
Izmail and neighbouring Reni have become important outlets for Ukrainian exports since Russia intensified heavy air strikes on Odesa and other bigger ports on the Black Sea after withdrawing in July from a deal to safeguard grain shipments from southern Ukraine.
Debris from Russian attack drones has landed across the Danube in Romania, and the armed forces of the Nato and European Union member said they monitored the latest strike and “strongly condemn these unjustified and illegal attacks” on Ukrainian infrastructure.
Moscow’s defence ministry published footage of a video conference of senior officers on Tuesday that appeared to include Admiral Viktor Sokolov, commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, whom Ukrainian special forces said was among 34 officers killed in a missile strike on Crimea last Friday.
Earlier on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had no information about the whereabouts of Adm Sokolov.
In response to the Russian video, Kyiv’s special forces said they were “clarifying the information” about Adm Sokolov and that many victims of the missile strike were still to be identified.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu told the meeting of senior officers that more than 17,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed during September. The numbers could not be verified, and both sides claim to kill hundreds of enemy troops every day.
Ukraine says it is slowly but steadily retaking territory south of occupied Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region and in the southeastern province of Zaporizhzhia, but Mr Shoigu repeated Russian claims that Kyiv’s counteroffensive has been a costly failure.
“The Ukrainian armed forces are suffering serious losses along the entire front line…The United States and its allies continue to arm the armed forces of Ukraine and the Kyiv regime throws untrained soldiers to their slaughter in senseless assaults,” he said.
Ukraine says it received a first batch of US-built Abrams tanks from Washington in recent days and the White House has reportedly agreed to provide Kyiv with a small number of powerful ATACMS missiles, which have a range of 300km.
“All this can in no way affect the essence of the ‘special military operation’ or its outcome. There is no panacea and no one type of weapon that can change the balance of power on the battlefield,” Mr Peskov said.
“Abrams tanks are a very serious weapon. But remember how the president spoke about other tanks made in another country, that they burn nicely. Well, these will burn too,” he added, referring to comments made by Russian leader Vladimir Putin about Leopard tanks provided to Ukraine by Germany.
United Nations-mandated rights investigators said torture by the Russian military was “widespread and systematic” in occupied Ukraine, and some Ukrainian detainees had been tortured to death.
Members of the independent international commission of inquiry on Ukraine told the UN human rights council that “Russian soldiers raped and committed sexual violence against women of ages ranging from 19 to 83 years” in occupied parts of Kherson region.
“Frequently, family members were kept in an adjacent room, thereby forced to hear the violations taking place,” said Erik Mose, chairman of the commission.