Ukraine prepares for the coming winter despite being unable to fully repair the damage Russian attacks caused to its energy system. Meanwhile, Britain praises Ukraine’s victory over the Russian Black Sea fleet, the U.S. Republicans split as to aid to Ukraine as the House speaker race unfolds, and Donald Trump caused another turmoil by disclosing sensitive information.
Winter is coming: Will it be harsher than the previous one?
Olena Harmash, a Kyiv-based Reuters correspondent, argues that Ukraine faces a second winter of lengthy power outages. Despite extensive repairs and better air defenses Ukraine lacked money and time to completely restore its energy system after the damage inflicted by Russian missile and drone attacks.
"A lot (of effort) has gone to just repairing what has been destroyed. And have we been able to build an additional resilience? Are we in a better position than last winter? I don't think so," said Marcus Lippold, an energy team leader at the European Union's enlargement arm.
The United Nations estimated in June that Ukraine's power generation capacity had been reduced to roughly half the levels before Russia's full-scale invasion in February, 2022: out of nearly 37 gigawatts, more than 19 GW have been lost. Kyiv School of Economics' research center estimated the direct damage to Ukraine's energy infrastructure at $8.8 billion as of June.
During the last heating season, the average Ukrainian living away from the frontline spent about 35 days without power. Moreover, Ukraine was helped by relatively mild weather, rapid repairs, nuclear power and electricity imports from Europe last winter, but some officials expect tougher conditions this time.
Dmytro Sakharuk, executive director of Ukraine's largest private energy company DTEK, told Reuters the company had carried out extensive repair works ahead of winter but that some power units required more time to restore because the damage was so significant.
"Certainly, we can say that the reliability level will be lower (than last year)," he said.
Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, head of national grid operator Ukrenergo, said that despite a smaller reserve capacity, the main grid was ready to transmit winter volumes of electricity.
As part of the preparations, nine nuclear power units have been or repaired or undergo final stages of repair, and Naftogaz, the country's biggest oil and gas company, has stored enough gas to get through the winter.
The battle for the Black Sea: Ukraine’s stunning success
The strike on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet with Storm Shadow missiles on September 22, which, according to Ukrainian special operation forces, killed 34 officers, including the fleet’s commander Viktor Sokolov, was a moment of humiliation for Moscow, according to The Guardian.
As Ukraine’s counteroffensive is making slow progress on land, the country has achieved a stunning naval success when it turned the Black Sea into a no-go zone for Russia’s warships while having little to no navy of its own, the media outlet argues.
Two frigates and three attack submarines have left port and moved east to the safer Russian harbor of Novorossiysk, according to satellite data. Five large landing ships, a patrol boat, and small missile vessels have joined them there. A cluster of other boats have sailed from Sevastopol to Feodosia. Driven from Sevastopol, Russia has also reportedly signed a deal for a new naval base to be located in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia.
Speaking this week at the Warsaw security forum, James Heappey, the U.K. armed forces minister, said Russia’s Black Sea fleet had suffered a "functional defeat". and had been forced to disperse to ports from which it cannot have an effect on Ukraine. The minister compared this success with last year’s landslide liberation of the Kharkiv region.
According to Ukraine’s former defense minister Oleksii Reznikov, drones have been vital to winning back the Black Sea.
"This war is the last conventional land one. The wars of the future will be hi-tech. The Black Sea is like a polygon. We’re seeing serious combat testing," the ex-minister said
Reznikov said there was "competition" between Ukraine’s navy, special forces, GUR, and SBU intelligence agencies as to who made the best drone. Andriy Zagorodnyuk, his predecessor, noted that a drone which costs $10,000–$100,000 can damage a Russian ship costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Guardian lists Ukraine’s naval successes: the prevention of a Russian amphibious landing in Odesa, the sinking of the warship Moskva, the liberation of the Snake Island, the explosion on the Crimean bridge, the destruction of S-400 air defense systems in Crimea, seizing gas drilling rigs west of Crimea, the strikes on the Sevastopol shipyard and the Black Sea fleet HQ, and the recent Defence Intelligence’s operations in Crimea.
Security experts say winning back Crimea is essential to Ukrainian victory. If the Russians keep Crimea they can target the whole mainland of Ukraine, said Alexander Khara, deputy chair of the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies.
"The idea of Russian invincibility in the Black Sea has been shattered," said Yevgeniya Gaber, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
The U.S. speaker race: Aid to Ukraine divided Republicans
The Republican divide over sending more aid to Ukraine is likely to play a role in the race for the next speaker of the House, The Washington Post argues.
Neither Steve Scalise nor Jim Jordan, the only Republicans running for speaker right now, mentioned Ukraine in the letters they circulated Wednesday to make their cases. But more and more House Republicans are reluctant to pass another Ukraine aid package, and Scalise and Jordan have different records on the issue.
Jordan was one of 70 House Republicans who voted for an amendment sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz to cut off aid to Ukraine. He was one of 117 Republicans who voted against more Ukraine aid last week. Scalise voted the opposite way on both measures.
The split echoes the broad spectrum of views among House Republicans. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, for instance, has criticized the Biden administration for not being aggressive enough in aiding Ukraine. Meanwhile, some members of the hard-right Freedom Caucus can’t even say the word "Ukraine". There are also representatives in between the extremes.
Ukraine is likely to come up in the forum on Tuesday in which Republicans can ask speaker candidates their views on issues. Jordan has already said that he was against passing another aid package. His spokesman elaborated that the lawmaker was concerned about what the mission in supporting Kyiv was and how the money was being spent.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is working with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on a major Ukraine aid package. But President Biden and senators in both parties said they were concerned that McCarthy’s ouster would make it tougher to get such a package through the House.
McCarthy has walked a fine line on Ukraine. He promised last year that Republicans wouldn’t "write a blank check to Ukraine" but told a reporter in Israel in May that he supported aid to Ukraine. He denied Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky the chance to address the House while Zelensky was in Washington last month but met with him privately.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington declined to weigh in on the unfolding speaker’s race.
"I can only say that we have built a good constructive dialogue with the vast majority of the names that are being mentioned and their teams. We at the Embassy of Ukraine in the USA continue active work with caucuses, committees, individual congressmen and of course the Senate on discussing our needs and possible solutions on the next package of aid to Ukraine," Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova wrote in a Facebook post.
Donald Trump’s cases: ex-president’s big mouth caused another uproar
The New York Times reports about new accusations against Donald Trump. According to the media outlet’s sources, shortly after he left office, the former president shared classified information about American nuclear submarines with an Australian billionaire, Anthony Pratt, during an evening of conversation at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida.
Trump revealed information about the U.S. submarines’ tactical capacities, including how many nuclear warheads the vessels carried and how close they could get to their Russian counterparts without being detected. Pratt, who runs one of the world’s largest cardboard companies, went on to share the sensitive details about the submarines with several others. According to the sources, the leek potentially endangered the U.S. nuclear fleet.
However, Joe Hockey, a former Australian ambassador to the United States, asserted that this information had already been known by Australian service members serving with Americans on U.S. submarines for years.
Trump has been known to share classified information verbally on other occasions. During an Oval Office meeting in 2017, he revealed sensitive classified intelligence to two Russian officials. Well into his presidency, he also posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, a classified photo of an Iranian launch site. The indictment in the documents case also accused Trump of showing a classified battle plan to attack Iran to a group of visitors to his club in Bedminster, N.J.
Former U.S. presidents traditionally continue to receive updated U.S. intelligence. However, President Joe Biden denied Trump access to such briefings, fearing that he could disclose sensitive information.