Afghan special forces soldiers trained by American troops are now being recruited by the Russian military to fight in Ukraine, three former Afghan generals told The Associated Press.
They said the Russians want to attract thousands of the former commandos with offers of steady, $1,500-a-month payments and promises of safe havens to avoid deportation home to what could be death at the hands of the Taliban. Many of the commandoes fled to Iran after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.
Gen. Abdul Raof Arghandiwal said he has communicated with a dozen or so commandos in Iran who don’t want to fight against Ukraine but fear deportation for themselves and their families.
“They ask me, ‘Give me a solution? What should we do?” Arghandiwal said. “If we go back to Afghanistan, the Taliban will kill us.’”
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►The Ukrainian soccer federation urged FIFA to remove Iran from the World Cup next month for reasons that include supplying the Russian military with weapons. Iran is due to face England in three weeks in its first game in Qatar.
►Norway says it’s stepping up its military preparedness, but the NATO member’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre says there is no reason to believe “Russia will want to invade Norway or any other country directly.”
►Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and many top members of his government arrived in Kyiv on Monday in the latest show of support from European leaders for Ukraine.
Russia defends suspension of grain deal, accuses Ukraine of sabotage
Russia defended its decision on Monday to suspend a grain deal with Ukraine, accusing the country of using the Black Sea shipping corridor to get grain to world markets “for military and sabotage purposes.”
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, alleged Ukraine, with help from the West, of carrying out “massive aviation and sea strikes” on Russia’s Black Sea fleet and infrastructure in Sevastopol in the early morning hours of Oct. 29, “under the cover of the humanitarian grain corridor.”
Ukraine denied the attack, blaming Russia for mishandling its own weapons.
The United Nations-brokered grain deal, signed in July, secures the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. The agreement, which will come up for renewal Nov. 19, has lowered global food prices, which have fallen by about 15% from their peak in March, according to the U.N.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced it would suspend the deal Saturday. On Monday, wheat futures prices jumped 5% in Chicago.
Russia launched a massive attack on Ukraine’s infrastructure during Monday morning rush hour for the third time this month, sending commuters scrambling for cover and crippling basic services for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on social media that initially, 80% of the battered capital was without water and that a swath of the city was without power. By nightfall, running water was returned to about half of those that had lost it, and citywide rolling blackouts meant power was out for four hours, then on for five hours.
Supplying air defense systems to prevent those attacks has become a top Pentagon priority, two senior Pentagon officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity said Monday. The Pentagon has provided anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine, from pickup-mounted guided missiles to more sophisticated medium-range systems. The Russians are relying increasingly on Iranian-supplied kamikaze drones to mount attacks on power plants.
Ukraine’s Air Force said it shot down 44 Russian missiles Monday morning, but missile and drone infrastructure strikes were also reported in Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Chernivtsi, Zaporizhzhia and several other regions. The government will introduce emergency electricity cutoffs across Ukraine, according to Deputy Head of the President’s Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko.
Thousands of Russian recruits are reporting to front with weapons that “are likely in barely useable condition” and require different ammunition from what Russian regular army troops are using, the British Defense Ministry said in its latest war assessment. Photos indicate the rifles are AKMs, which date back to 1959.
The integration of reservists with contract soldiers and combat veterans in Ukraine will mean Russia will have to push two types of small arms ammunition to front-line positions, the ministry noted.
“This will likely further complicate Russia’s already strained logistics systems,” the assessment said.
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Russia to start seizing Ukrainian-owned property in Crimea
The property of several large Ukrainian companies will be seized by the Moscow-installed government in Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, the Russian-installed leader said. The shipyard of Ukraine’s Zaliv and a cement plant in Bakhchysarai are among the sites to be taken over, The Kyiv Independent reports. Other commercial and tourist facilities as well as apartments and houses could be targeted – including property owned by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Aksyonov said.
“Enemies of Russia will not make money in Crimea, this is a principled position,” Aksyonov said on Telegram.
Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY; The Associated Press