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Tanks are “absolutely on the table” for the US to provide to Ukraine in the future, according to a senior US military official, but are not an option for the immediate fight because of issues with training, maintenance and sustainment.
“We’re looking at the entirety of the Ukrainian armed forces and considering for the future what capabilities they will need and how the US and our allies will be able to support Ukraine in building out those capabilities,” said the official on a background call with reporters.
The US is currently not considering providing Ukraine weapons with longer ranges than the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) that are used with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), although the official would not say if such weapons would be on the table in the future.
Russian forces “continue to conduct airstrikes that are impacting civilian infrastructure” in recent days during the ongoing fighting in Ukraine, a senior US military official said Monday.
Most recently, Russian forces struck a “dam near Kryvyi Rih,” and they conducted an airstrike “near a power plant in Mykolaiv,” the official said.
“This disturbing pattern which includes strikes that hit power stations last week continues to show Russian forces’ disregard for civilian life,” the official added.
Ukrainians “continue to make efforts to consolidate their gains” on the battlefield, “holding the border to the southeast,” the official said.
“In the vicinity of Kherson, we continue to see deliberate and calibrated operations by the Ukrainians, and we have observed Ukrainians continuing to liberate villages in this area,” the official said.
In the Donbas region, “Ukrainians have continued to effectively defend against continued Russian attacks, although” the US has seen Russian forces “make some minor gains in terms of territory.”
The official specified the Russian gains here were only a “few hundred meters.”
Ukraine’s air defenses have shot down about 55 Russian fighter jets since the beginning of the war, the US Air Force commander in Europe said Monday, adding that Russia has never been able to establish air superiority over Ukraine.
Russia was well aware of Ukraine’s air defenses, Gen. James Hecker told the Air, Space & Cyber Conference in Washington, DC, but Russia’s initial strikes in late-February failed to destroy those defenses, such as surface-to-air missiles.
As a result, after six months of the war, Russian aircraft rarely fly deep into Ukraine and instead are firing long-range missiles.
“When they tried to take their fighters and their aircraft inside those [Ukrainian] missile engagement zones, they were shot down,” said Hecker. “Roughly about 55 Russian fighters have been shot down by the integrated air and missile defense for the Ukraine.”
On Monday, the British Ministry of Defence said Russia had lost 55 combat jets since the start of the war, including four that were "highly likely" lost in the past 10 days.
The Baltic states and Poland will begin turning away Russian tourists as of midnight Monday, a move to tighten restrictions in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania along with Poland reached an agreement earlier this month to limit issuing Schengen Zone visas due to “a serious threat” to security posed by an influx of Russians.
The Schengen zone comprises 26 mostly EU countries that allow unrestricted movement within their borders.
The travel ban means Russian citizens will be unable to enter four out of the five European Union countries that share a land border with Russia. The fifth, Finland, has decided to remain open to visa holders but has reduced the number of consular appointments available for those looking to travel to Europe.
Exempted from the new ban will be Russian dissidents, journalists, truck drivers, refugees as well as residents of EU countries and those visiting family members in Europe.
The rule will also not apply to humanitarian cases, family members, holders of EU residency permits, diplomatic missions and other “legitimate exceptions.”
In a joint statement published on Sept. 8, the prime ministers of the four countries stated that “travel to the European Union is a privilege, not a human right.”
“Among the Russian citizens entering the EU/Schengen area, there are persons coming with the aim of undermining the security of our countries, insofar as three fourths of Russian citizens support Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine,” the statement said.
“Latvia, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia have agreed that measures are adopted on the common grounds of protecting the public policy and internal security, as well as ensuring the overall safety of our shared Schengen area,” the statement noted.
Commenting earlier on the EU decision to suspend a visa agreement with Moscow making it harder for Russian citizens to obtain Schengen visas, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was “ridiculous” and would make life more complicated for Europeans as well.
More bodies of mostly civilians, including two children, were found in the city of Izium in eastern Ukraine, officials said Monday.
Separately, two more bodies were discovered in Bucha, the town on the outskirts of Kyiv that was the scene of mass atrocities at the start of the war, authorities said.
In Izium, 146 bodies of mostly civilians were exhumed from a mass burial site, according to Oleh Synehubov, head of the Kharkiv region civil-military administration.
“Some of the dead have signs of a violent death, and there are bodies with tied hands and traces of torture. The dead also have mine-explosive injuries, shrapnel and stab wounds,” Synehubov said, adding that all of the bodies have been sent for forensic examination to determine the final cause of death.
On Sunday, Izium Mayor Valerii Marchenko said the exhumation of bodies would continue for another two weeks.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry said at least 440 "unmarked" graves were found in the city in recent days and on Friday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that some of the bodies showed "signs of torture," blaming Russia for what he called "cruelty and terrorism." Russia has dismissed Ukraine's accusations of war crimes as a “lie."
In Bucha, volunteers found two more “victims of Russian aggression” in civilian clothing, according to a Facebook post on Monday from the Bucha City Council. The bodies were discovered while volunteers were patrolling the forest around the Warsaw Highway near the Vorzel settlement.
Some background: Bucha's name became a byword for war crimes after accounts of summary executions, brutality and indiscriminate shelling emerged in the wake of Russia's hasty retreat on March 31.
Russia’s presence in Syria has become “more aggressive” both in the air and on the ground since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lt. Gen Alex Grynkewich, Commander of US Air Force Central Command which oversees the US Air Force presence in the Middle East, said during a panel at the Air & Space Forces Association's 2022 Air, Space & Cyber Conference in Maryland on Monday.
“The Russian presence in Syria has become I would argue more aggressive since the Ukrainian invasion,” Grynkewich said.
US forces are seeing this “increased pressure both in the air and on the ground from the Russians,” Grynkewich added.
“Frankly, it’s a bit concerning, where we have forces on the ground and armed Russian aircraft that fly over them,” Grynkewich said. “Your airmen and guardians are in close contact with those Russians every single day, intercepting them, escorting them and making sure our forces on the ground remain safe in Syria and Iraq as they continue the fight against ISIS.”
Grynkewich said he believes this Russian activity is driven by “some of the personalities of the Russian leadership that is in Syria right now.”
“Some of those Russian general officers frankly failed in Ukraine for all the reasons that Gen. Hecker outlined upfront, and now they’re in Syria, and my assessment is they’re trying to make a name for themselves again, and regain a favorable standing within the Russian federation armed forces. I don’t think they’ll succeed, but that’s what they’re trying to do,” Grynkewich added.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense released video on Monday showing extensive damage and destruction in the town of Sviatohirsk after the area was liberated from Russian forces last week.
The video shows the pockmarked exterior walls of the Sviatohirsk Lavra, a 16th century monastery in the northern part of Ukraine's Donetsk region, that was damaged by "Russian shelling" in June 2022 according to President Volodymyr Zelensky who spoke at the time.
An unnamed Ukrainian military reporter speaking at the start of the video accuses Russian forces of "burning the relics and killing people seeking shelter inside the monastery compound."
CNN cannot independently verify the claims made by Ukrainian forces.
The monastery tower, with a partially demolished corner is shown, as well as military equipment, tanks and armored vehicles abandoned and littering the streets nearby.
Residential buildings were also impacted.
“All of the windows in my house, from top to bottom have been shattered,” an elderly woman says on the verge of tears.
Commercial buildings are also shown as having been substantially damaged in the fighting.
Another resident of the town says his water, electricity and internet were cut off as the Russian troops entered the area.
The village of Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region is now entirely under Ukrainian control according to a Telegram post from Sehiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration on Monday.
Haydai asked Ukrainians to be patient with their operation to free towns and villages in the Luhansk region, saying it is proving to be a “much more difficult” operation than the liberation of Kharkiv.
“There will be a hard fight for every centimeter of Luhansk land,” Haidai said.
Earlier in the year, Ukrainian forces stopped Russian advances in Bilohorivka. In May, the Ukrainian military blew up two pontoon bridges near Bilohorivka, stopping Russian efforts to cross the Siverskyi Donets River in the Luhansk region.
A CNN team travelled to Bilohorivka where they saw destroyed Russian tanks and armed personnel carriers, shattered Russian armor.
In July, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Ukrainian soldiers “competently repelled another combat reconnaissance attempt near Berestove and Bilohorivka” and that Russian soldiers suffered losses and withdrew.