Russia-Ukraine war live: ‘birthday gift’ grenade kills major advising Ukrainian military chief | Ukraine

Adviser to Ukraine’s military chief died in explosion on his birthday

A close adviser to the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s army has been killed after a grenade amongst his birthday presents exploded, according to officials.

“Under tragic circumstances, my assistant and close friend, Major Gennadiy Chastiakov, was killed … on his birthday,” Gen Valery Zaluzhny posted on Telegram on Monday, saying that an “unknown explosive device detonated in one of his gifts”.

Chastiakov’s death was initially reported as a suspected assassination using a booby-trapped gift until further details emerged. Ukraine’s interior minister, Igor Klymenko, released a statement saying Chastiakov had been showing his son a box with grenades inside that he had received as a gift.

Gennadiy Chastiakov. Photograph: Instagram

“At first, the son took the munition in his hands and began to turn the ring. Then the serviceman took the grenade away from the child and pulled the ring, causing a tragic explosion,” Klymenko said.

Police had identified a fellow soldier who gave the gift, said Klymenko, and seized two similar grenades. An investigation was underway.

Ukrainian police said the 13-year-old son was also seriously injured. Ukrainska Pravda reported Chastiakov’s wife as saying the grenade was in a gift bag her husband brought home. Some reports suggested the real grenade was amongst novelty gifts shaped to look like grenades.

The news of Maj Gennadiy Chastiakov’s death – in what is being reported as a bizarre birthday accident involving a grenade – comes after the Ukrainian military was rocked by the killing of at least 19 soldiers in a Russian attack during a medal ceremony.

There are tensions, too, between the military hierarchy and the government. Volodymyr Zelenskiy has denied a suggestion from Ukraine’s military chief – Gen Valery Zaluzhny, to whom Chastiakov was an adviser – that the war with Russia has reached a stalemate.

Zaluzhny is said to have been rebuked over his assessment, which was published in the Economist.

Key events

Russia on Tuesday formally withdrew from a landmark security treaty which limited key categories of conventional armed forces, blaming the United States for undermining post-Cold War security with the enlargement of the NATO military alliance.

The 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), signed a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, placed verifiable limits on categories of conventional military equipment that NATO and the then-Warsaw Pact could deploy.

The treaty was designed to prevent either side of the Cold War from amassing forces for a swift offensive against the other in Europe, but was unpopular in Moscow as it blunted the Soviet Union’s advantage in conventional weapons.

Russia suspended participation in the treaty in 2007 and halted active participation in 2015. More than a year after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin in May signed a decree denouncing the pact.

Russia’s foreign ministry said Russia had formally withdrawn from the pact at midnight – and that the treaty was now “history”, according to Reuters.

“The CFE Treaty was concluded at the end of the Cold War, when the formation of a new architecture of global and European security based on cooperation seemed possible, and appropriate attempts were made,” the ministry said.

Russia said the U.S. push for enlargement of NATO had led to alliance countries “openly circumventing” the treaty’s group restrictions, and added that the admission of Finland into NATO and Sweden’s application meant the treaty was dead.

“Even the formal preservation of the CFE Treaty has become unacceptable from the point of view of Russia’s fundamental security interests,” the ministry said, noting that the United States and its allies did not ratify the updated 1999 CFE.
After Russia announced its intention to exit the treaty this year, NATO condemned the decision, saying it undermined Euro-Atlantic security.

“Russia has for many years not complied with its CFE obligations,” NATO said in June. “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and Belarus’ complicity, is contrary to the objectives of the CFE Treaty.”

The United States and its allies had linked ratification of the adapted 1999 CFE to Russia fulfilling commitments on Georgia and Moldova. Russia said that linkage was wrong.

Here are the latest images coming across the wires:

Soldiers of the 58th separate mechanized brigade go to their positions along the trenches in Vuhledar, Ukraine.
Soldiers of the 58th separate mechanized brigade go to their positions along the trenches in Vuhledar, Ukraine. Photograph: Libkos/Getty Images
Ukrainian soldier is seen in his combat position in a trench in Niu York, Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldier is seen in his combat position in a trench in Niu York, Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu/Getty Images
Soldiers of the 58th separate mechanized brigade go to their positions along the trenches in Vuhledar, Ukraine.
Soldiers of the 58th separate mechanized brigade go to their positions along the trenches in Vuhledar, Ukraine. Photograph: Getty Images

Russian strikes overnight in the southern Ukrainian region of Odesa left eight people wounded and damaged a historic art museum, Ukrainian officials said, in the latest barrage of drones and missiles.

Three more were injured in a Russian shelling attack on the southern city of Kherson on Monday, as Kyiv doubled down on its warnings that Russia was planning to pummel Ukraine’s energy infrastructure ahead of the winter, AFP reports.

The entrance of the National Fine Arts Museum, damaged in a late strike in Odesa.
The entrance of the National Fine Arts Museum, damaged in a late strike in Odesa. Photograph: Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images

Images released by officials from inside the Odesa Fine Arts Museum showed art ripped from the walls of the 19th-century building and windows blown out by the aerial bombardment.

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Emine Dzheppar, said Kyiv was “deeply outraged” by the attack on Odesa’s National Art Museum and urged the UN’s Paris-based heritage agency, Unesco, to condemn the strike.

Unesco said it “strongly condemns the attack” and that “cultural sites must be protected”.

The art museum is part of a Unesco World Heritage site. The governor of the Odesa region, Oleh Kiper, said most of the collection had already been removed during the war. “Canvases and paintings from the current exhibition were not damaged,” he said on social media on Monday.

Eight were injured in Russian shelling on Odesa, southern Ukraine
Eight people were injured in Russian shelling on Odesa, southern Ukraine. Photograph: Igor Tkachenko/EPA

A woman who lived in a nearby building said she and her family were away during the strike but their home had been damaged. “God led us away. We’ll see what happens in the flat next. Out of five windows, I have none left,” the woman, who gave her name only as Svitlana, told AFP.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday he did not believe it was the right time for elections as debate intensifies on holding a vote in 2024 while the country fought against Russia’s invasion.

All elections including the presidential vote set to take place next spring are technically cancelled under martial law that has been in effect since the conflict began last year.

“We must decide that now is the time of defence, the time of battle, on which the fate of the state and people depends,” Zelenskiy said in his daily address, according to AFP.

He said it was a time for the country to be united, not divided, adding: “I believe that now is not the (right) time for elections.”

Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses a joint press conference with European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, (not pictured) after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine
Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses a joint press conference with European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, (not pictured) after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Photograph: Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA

The president, who was elected in 2019, said in September that he was ready to hold national elections next year if necessary, and was in favour of allowing international observers. Voting could be logistically difficult due to the large number of Ukrainians abroad and soldiers fighting on the front.

Zelensky’s approval rating skyrocketed after the war began, but the country’s political landscape has been fractious despite the unifying force of the war.

The former presidential aide Oleksiy Arestovych has announced that he will run against his former boss, after criticising Zelenskiy over the slow pace of the counteroffensive.

Loud explosions have been heard near the towns of Novofedorivka and Saky in Crimea, according to Shot, a Russian news outlet whose story was in turn reported by Reuters.

Saky is north of the Crimean port of Sevastopol, and home to a Russian air base.

It came as the Russian-installed governor of the Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said air defence systems destroyed five Ukraine-launched drones early on Tuesday over Sevastopol.

Russian officials regularly say most or all Ukrainian missiles were shot down, regardless of the actual outcome of an attack.

Debris fell on the roof of a private house in the village of Andriivka, in Sevastopol’s suburbs, setting it briefly on fire, Razvozhayev wrote online.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine, which has been attacking Russian military infrastructure on the illegally Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula.

Adviser to Ukraine’s military chief died in explosion on his birthday

A close adviser to the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s army has been killed after a grenade amongst his birthday presents exploded, according to officials.

“Under tragic circumstances, my assistant and close friend, Major Gennadiy Chastiakov, was killed … on his birthday,” Gen Valery Zaluzhny posted on Telegram on Monday, saying that an “unknown explosive device detonated in one of his gifts”.

Chastiakov’s death was initially reported as a suspected assassination using a booby-trapped gift until further details emerged. Ukraine’s interior minister, Igor Klymenko, released a statement saying Chastiakov had been showing his son a box with grenades inside that he had received as a gift.

Gennadiy Chastiakov
Gennadiy Chastiakov. Photograph: Instagram

“At first, the son took the munition in his hands and began to turn the ring. Then the serviceman took the grenade away from the child and pulled the ring, causing a tragic explosion,” Klymenko said.

Police had identified a fellow soldier who gave the gift, said Klymenko, and seized two similar grenades. An investigation was underway.

Ukrainian police said the 13-year-old son was also seriously injured. Ukrainska Pravda reported Chastiakov’s wife as saying the grenade was in a gift bag her husband brought home. Some reports suggested the real grenade was amongst novelty gifts shaped to look like grenades.

The news of Maj Gennadiy Chastiakov’s death – in what is being reported as a bizarre birthday accident involving a grenade – comes after the Ukrainian military was rocked by the killing of at least 19 soldiers in a Russian attack during a medal ceremony.

There are tensions, too, between the military hierarchy and the government. Volodymyr Zelenskiy has denied a suggestion from Ukraine’s military chief – Gen Valery Zaluzhny, to whom Chastiakov was an adviser – that the war with Russia has reached a stalemate.

Zaluzhny is said to have been rebuked over his assessment, which was published in the Economist.

Summary

Hello and welcome to our daily restart of the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine. Here is a summary to get you up to speed:

  • A close military adviser to the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s army has been killed after a grenade among birthday presents exploded. “Under tragic circumstances, my assistant and close friend, Major Gennadiy Chastiakov, was killed … on his birthday,” Gen Valery Zaluzhny wrote online. Chastiakov had left a wife and four children, he said.

  • The death was initially reported as a suspected assassination attempt, but details later emerged suggesting there was a mix-up and the grenade was amongst birthday presents and mistakenly set off. Chastiakov’s son, 13, was also reported to have been seriously injured.

  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has said the deaths of at least 19 soldiers in a Russian missile strike on a military ceremony was a “tragedy that could’ve been avoided”. Other reports suggest the death toll could be much higher, while defence chiefs are under pressure over the staging of the event in a frontline village vulnerable to attack.

  • Zelenskiy has said it is irresponsible to talk of holding an election in Ukraine in wartime and called for unity to avoid pointless political discussions. “We need to recognise that this is a time for defence, a time for battle, upon which the fate of the state and its people depend … I believe that elections are not appropriate at this time.” Elections are banned under martial law in force in Ukraine, but Zelenskiy had been considering whether to invoke special provisions to stage them. He has said he would like to run for a second term if a vote took place.

  • In the US, some senate Republicans have released a sweeping set of US border security proposals as a condition for sending more aid to Ukraine, laying out a draft plan that includes resuming construction on parts of the Mexico border wall.

  • Vladimir Putin has decided to run in the March presidential election, a move that would keep him in power until least 2030, as he is said to feel he must steer Russia through its most perilous period in decades, sources told Reuters.

  • Radio Free Europe has said that it believes Russia may have taken one of its journalists “hostage” for a potential prisoner swap with the US and is appealing to Moscow not to treat her cruelly, the broadcaster’s acting president said.

  • Several dozen owners of transport companies blocked three Polish border crossings with Ukraine in protest at what they say is unfair competition from its businesses.

  • Ukraine’s grain exports have fallen by almost a third compared with last year, agriculture ministry data shows, to 9.8m tonnes so far in the July 2023-June 2024 season. The ministry said that by this point last year, Ukraine had exported 14.3m tonnes.

  • Odesa’s national art museum said seven exhibitions, most featuring the work of contemporary Ukrainian artists, were damaged by a Russian strike that left a large crater outside the museum, which is celebrating its 124th anniversary. Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Emine Dzheppar, said Kyiv was “deeply outraged” by the attack and urged the UN’s Paris-based heritage agency, Unesco, to condemn it.

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