Russia and Ukraine exchange drone attacks after EU funding stalled

Russia and Ukraine each reported dozens of attempted drone attacks in the past day, just hours after Hungary vetoed 50 billion euros ($54.5 billion) of European Union funding to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s air force said Saturday that Ukrainian air defense had shot down 30 out of 31 drones launched overnight against 11 regions of the country.

Russia also said Friday evening that it had thwarted a series of Ukrainian drone attacks.

Russian anti-aircraft units destroyed 32 Ukrainian drones over the Crimean Peninsula, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Telegram. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move that most of the world considered illegal, and has used it as a staging and supply point during the war.

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Earlier, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that six drones had been shot down in the Kursk region, which borders Ukraine.

In Ukraine’s partially occupied southern Kherson region, the Russia-installed governor, Vladimir Saldo, reported on Telegram that Russian anti-aircraft units had downed at least 15 aerial targets near the town of Henichesk. Saldo said later Saturday that a Ukrainian missile attack on a village in the Russia-held part of the region had killed two people.

Meanwhile, shelling wounded two people in Ukrainian-held parts of the Kherson region, regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said Saturday.

Stepped-up drone attacks over the past month come as both sides are keen to show they aren’t deadlocked as the war approaches the two-year mark. Neither side has gained much ground despite a Ukrainian counteroffensive that began in June, and analysts predict the war will be a long one.

On Friday, EU leaders sought to paper over their inability to boost Ukraine’s coffers with a promised 50 billion euros ($54.5 billion) over the next four years, saying the funds will likely arrive next month after some more haggling between the bloc’s other 26 leaders and the longtime holdout, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Instead, they wanted Ukraine to revel in getting the nod to start membership talks that could mark a sea change in its fortunes — although the process could last well over a decade and be strewn with obstacles placed by any single member state.

Also on Saturday, Russia returned three Ukrainian children to their families as part of a deal brokered by Qatar, according to the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, and Ukrainian human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets.

Lubinets voiced hope last week that a coalition of countries formed to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children illegally deported by Russia — the National Coalition of Countries for the Return of Ukrainian Children — will be able to come up with a faster mechanism to repatriate them. More than 19,000 children are still believed to be in Russia or occupied regions of Ukraine.

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