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France condemned Russia’s decision to sentence Marina Ovsyannikova, a journalist who staged a daring protest live on state-run television, to eight and half years in prison in absentia on Wednesday.
France's Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs issued a statement following Ovsyannikova’s verdict.
“France vigorously denounces the sentencing in absentia of Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova to eight and a half years in prison,” the statement read, adding that “Ms. Ovsyannikova had courageously denounced the war of aggression against Ukraine during a Russian television broadcast in March 2022.”
According to the statement, France is “deeply concerned by the Russian authorities’ stepped-up crackdown against critics of government authorities and their war of aggression against Ukraine.”
Ovsyannikova escaped house arrest in Moscow with her daughter last year and is now in France, according to her assistant.
She was found guilty Wednesday of “public dissemination of knowingly false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” according to Moscow’s district court.
The court’s ruling follows her protest on the Sofiyskaya embankment in Moscow and on Channel One television when she stood behind an anchor and held up a sign that read “No War” during a live broadcast.
Senior Biden administration officials privately believe only weeks remain before a lack of additional Ukraine funding starts to become a serious battlefield concern — a scenario they are trying to avoid with public warnings and a major speech from President Joe Biden himself.
The race for the House speakership set off by the historic ouster of Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday portends potentially serious consequences for Biden’s efforts to secure Ukraine funding, leaving the administration looking for solutions.
Publicly, officials say they remain convinced the majority of Americans — including in Congress — support sustained assistance for Ukraine.
Yet the maneuvering this week demonstrates the persistent concern that American assistance to Kyiv could soon slow.
Biden on Wednesday hinted that administration officials have been searching for workaround methods of providing Ukraine assistance should the White House’s funding requests go unmet.
“It does worry me,” Biden said when asked whether he was concerned about delivering Ukraine the aid he’s promised. “But I know there are a majority of members of the House and Senate in both parties who have said that they support funding Ukraine.”
Administration officials have been warning Congress it must urgently approve additional funds to aid Ukraine’s war efforts — “obviously time is of the essence,” stressed one official.
Yet without even the chance for a vote on a new speaker until at least next week — and no clear pathway for a vote on new Ukraine assistance after that — the prospects of a new assistance package in the near-term appear slim.
Privately, officials believe a weeks-long period where Congress were to hypothetically operate without a permanent House speaker — and not be able to legislate — would not be hugely concerning as it pertains to Ukraine funding.
Much more troubling, they said, would be if lawmakers begin to approach the end of the length of the most recently passed continuing resolution — which runs out November 17 — without any realistic prospects of approving additional funding for Ukraine.
Feeling the urgency, Biden told reporters Wednesday he was planning an address laying out the imperative of continued support for Ukraine.
“I’m going to make the argument that it’s overwhelmingly in the interests of the United States of America that Ukraine succeed,” he said. White House officials provided no other details about the speech, including when Biden might deliver it.
As the future of the United States' congressionally-approved assistance for Ukraine remains in question, Ukraine's president said Kyiv "will do everything" to maintain support from the US and Europe in its fight against Russia's full-scale invasion.
Meantime, allies are warning that they are running low on ammunition and are ramping up production — the same shortages Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says are creating challenges on the battlefield.
Here's what to know:
- Concerns about future US aid: The ousting of US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has cast fresh doubt on the future of American aid for Ukraine. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he is concerned as he works to secure new funding, but he argued that it remains in Americans' interest to continue supporting Ukraine. The leading contenders vying for the speakership have voiced different positions on Ukraine.
- Zelensky rallying support: The Ukrainian president said he believes Russia is now weaker than it was at the beginning of the war, so pausing the support or turning the fighting into a frozen conflict in some way would mean helping the aggressor. His comments come in the context of disarray within the Republican ranks on Capitol Hill. Zelensky reiterated that "for the most part" there is bipartisan support for Ukraine.
- Ammunition and weapons challenges: Ukraine is "slowly but surely" pushing Russia out of its land, but the shortage of weapons and ammunition poses difficulties, Zelensky said. Western militaries said they are running out of ammunition to give to Ukraine, NATO and British officials warned Tuesday. The Pentagon has also warned about depleting funds.
- Iranian ammunition: The US said it will transfer thousands of seized Iranian weapons and rounds of ammunition to Ukraine, in a move that could help to alleviate some of the critical shortages. The Biden administration has for months been weighing how to legally send the seized weapons, which are stored in CENTCOM facilities across the Middle East.
- NATO reiterates support: NATO is reaffirming its long-term support to Kyiv after a meeting of the new defense council between the military alliance and Ukraine. A statement said allies will continue to assist and that Ukraine is "closer to NATO than ever before."
- Fighting on the southern front: Both Russian and Ukrainian units are trying to take territory around the southern villages of Verbove and Novoprokovika, Ukrainian military officials say. Ukraine has had "partial success" in Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region, according to Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesperson for the Ukraine forces in the south. Though progress has been slow, Russian forces are suffering losses of manpower and equipment there, Shtupun said.
- Attacks across the border: Drones operated by Ukraine's Security Service successfully took out a high-value Russian air defense complex in the region of Belgorod early Wednesday, sources say. Belgorod is a Russian region that borders northeastern Ukraine. Last month, Ukraine successfully targeted an air defense complex in Crimea.
Germany will not provide Ukraine with Taurus cruise missiles "in the foreseeable future," according to prominent German newspaper BILD, which cited German and Ukrainian government sources.
Berlin has not formally rejected a Ukrainian request for the missiles but communicated that Germany will not be providing the requested missiles in the foreseeable future, BILD reported.
CNN has reached out to the German defense ministry for comment.
Ukrainian officials had urged Germany to provide the weapons for the country's self-defense – while Germany is hesitant about delivering long-range missiles, fearing they could be used for attacks on Russian territory.
In September, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told BILD that the German government had not yet decided whether to send the long-range missiles to Ukraine.
With previous reporting by Chris Stern in Berlin
Ukraine is "slowly but surely" pushing Russia out of its land, but the shortage of weapons and ammunition poses difficulties, Ukraine's president said.
"The difficulty is that the fields are mined. The difficulty is that there is a shortage of weapons and ammunition, especially a great shortage of air defense," President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday in an interview with Italian channel Sky TG24.
He said there is a "deficit in air defense" which is important for the counteroffensive but also to protect the population.
The approaching winter could pose another challenge for Ukrainians, including "all our citizens, all our civilians, ordinary people who work and our soldiers," he said.
"We need to get through this winter with dignity, without losing the initiative we have on the battlefield," he said, adding that "intimidations" by Russia will likely intensify during the cold months.
Speaking about engaging in possible negotiations with Moscow, Zelensky said, "The Russian president is not capable of negotiating anything with anyone" as "even after he gave his promise and agreed with the UN Secretary-General, with [Turkish] President Erdogan, he still jumped out of this [grain] initiative."
Ukraine "will do everything" to maintain support from the United States and Europe in its fight against Russia's full-scale invasion, the country's president said.
"The United States is one of the leaders in helping and supporting Ukraine, in protecting democracy. I feel that there is support in the United States," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview Wednesday with Italian channel Sky TG24.
The Ukrainian president said there is "100% support from the White House" and "great support in the Congress." It comes at a time when the leading contenders running to fill the vacant Speaker of the House position have voiced different positions on Ukraine.
The stopgap bill passed this weekend to keep the US government open did not include additional funding for Ukraine, due to objections from some conservatives. President Joe Biden's administration warned this would have serious consequences for the war.
"The United States did not let us down in a very difficult time. Although there were different voices. You know that there were different voices among the representatives of the Republican Party. But for the most part, both Democrats and Republicans supported Ukraine," Zelensky said.
Zelensky said he believes Russia is now weaker than it was at the beginning of the war, so pausing the support or turning the fighting into a frozen conflict in some way would mean helping the aggressor.
"This is not about not helping Ukraine and complicating our offensive or defensive actions. No, it is not. Any pauses today are a help exclusively to the Russian Federation," he said.
Zelensky said he is personally grateful to Biden and the leaders of European countries who are supporting Ukraine. "We will do everything not to lose it," he said.
Disarray within the Republican ranks on Capitol Hill is causing President Joe Biden concern as he works to secure new funding for Ukraine, something he said he will deliver a major speech on soon.
“It does worry me,” Biden said a day after Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted as House speaker, “but I know there are a majority of members of the House and Senate in both parties who have said that they support funding Ukraine.”
Biden’s comment comes as Republicans seek a new House speaker. The leading contenders for the job have voiced different positions on Ukraine. A pro-Kyiv group that grades Republican lawmakers on their support for Ukraine has assigned a "B" grade to Rep. Steve Scalise, who has voted for previous assistance packages.
It assigned Rep. Jim Jordan an "F," the lowest grade, pointing to his previous votes against Ukraine funding. Both Scalise and Jordan have announced they intend to run for the speakership.
Biden argued it remains in Americans’ interests to continue supporting Ukraine, and said he will deliver a speech making that point. The White House did not immediately provide more details on the planned address.
In a phone call with world leaders on Tuesday, Biden said he “made the case that I knew the majority of the American people still supported Ukraine and the majority of the members of Congress both Democrat and Republican support it.”
“I don’t think we should let gamesmanship get in the way of blocking it,” Biden said.
As the future of congressionally-approved assistance for Ukraine remains in question, Biden said there could be alternative methods of supporting Kyiv.
“We can support Ukraine in the next tranche that we need and there’s another means by which we’ll be able to fund funding,” he said, without explanation.
Reports of fighting in southern Ukraine suggest intense battles in the area around the villages of Verbove and Novoprokovika, with both Russian and Ukrainian units trying to take territory.
"We had partial success in the areas west of Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region. There, our soldiers have seen the occupation forces suffer losses in both manpower and equipment," Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesperson for the Ukraine forces in the south, said Wednesday.
"We continue to gain a foothold in the defended areas and continue to deplete the enemy in that direction. Let's just say that we have advanced from 100 to 600 meters in certain areas," Shtupun said on Ukrainian television.
In the last few weeks, gains and losses in the area have been measured in a few hundred meters, as Ukrainian forces try to break through multiple Russian defensive barriers and make progress toward the important hub of Tokmak.
Shtupun said that "in the Melitopol direction, we are slowly putting pressure," and 25 Russian soldiers had surrendered in the past few days.
"But the enemy is not giving up, the enemy is trying to regain the lost position, in particular, west of Verbove, southeast of Mala Tokmachka, so it is throwing some reserves to the assaults. We also record that elite airborne troops are being sent to attack, but suffer losses," he added.
From the Russian side, one prominent military blogger, WarGonzo, said that the "Ukrainian troops, with massive artillery support, are attacking (the village of) Novoprokopivka."
"The Russian Armed Forces were forced to level the front line on the northern approaches to the settlement. In turn, they counterattacked from Verbove and Novofedorivka. In the first of the listed areas they managed to push back the Ukrainian Armed Forces," the blogger said.
Ukraine's strategy has been to hollow out Russian defensive units in the area with long-range artillery. On Tuesday, the Ukrainian military said that Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to recapture lost positions west of Verbove and southeast of Mala Tokmachka.
Here's the latest map of control: