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Russia must increase military spending by up to 70% because of the war that has been "unleashed against us," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.
Also Thursday, hundreds of flights were delayed at Moscow-area airports after what Russian officials described as a "massive cyberattack from abroad."
The Russian Defense Ministry released documents saying defense spending could rise by more than 68% in 2024, to $111.15 billion. That's about 6% of Russia's GDP and represents more than the total spent on social programs, the Moscow Times said. Military spending is set to total about three times more than education, environmental protection and health care spending combined.
Russia's Central Bank has warned that economic growth has slowed and inflation is rising above the bank's target of 4%. But the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin say they remain committed to the war and military spending at whatever the cost.
"It is obvious that such an increase is absolutely necessary, because we are in a state of hybrid war that has been unleashed against us," Peskov said.
US tried to 'trigger panic': Russia accuses US in attack on Crimea base
∎ Russian artillery pounded a residential area of Kherson on Thurdsay, killing three women as they walked down a street, Internal Affairs Minister Igor Klimenko said.
∎ The European Union Council agreed to extend temporary protection until March 2025 for more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees who fled to the EU since the war began.
∎ Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny said in a tweet that "due to my incorrigibility'' he will be moved to a "single cell-type room'' for a year. On Wednesday, Navalny's appeal of a 19-year sentence on extremism charges was denied.
∎ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps in Kyiv, saying he was "profoundly grateful to the U.K. for all the financial, humanitarian and military support," including crucial long-range missiles.
∎ Russian missiles damaged a thermal energy plant early Thursday, cutting power to hundreds of villages, Ukrenergo said. The company operates Ukraine's high-voltage transmission lines.
'Massive cyberattack' delays hundreds of Russian flights
Russia blamed a "massive cyberattack from abroad" for crashing its airline booking system and delaying hundreds of flights. Russia's flagship airline Aeroflot said the issue caused delays of up to an hour at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. Aeroflot’s subsidiary Rossiya Airlines reported similar delays.
Russian state conglomerate Rostec, which operates the system called Leonardo and also is a major defense contractor in Russia, later told Reuters in a statement the attack had been "successfully repelled."
US spending deal, shutdown could have major impact on Ukraine
The looming U.S. federal government shutdown may prevent Ukrainian pilots and service personnel from beginning their F-16 training on American soil, European Pravda reported, and that could be just a small impact of the current spending showdown.
The training was expected to start soon and initially focus on English-language skills required to operate and maintain the fighter jets, followed by flight training. Those plans may be delayed if a shutdown occurs because the civilians who would provide the English lessons would be furloughed, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said, according to the news outlet.
"In this sense, the impact (on the training) is quite possible," Singh said.
Ukraine may pay an even higher price in the spending negotiations that may lead to a shutdown this weekend. Hardline House Republicans holding up an agreement are demanding Ukraine funding be stripped from the bill. Even the Senate, where support for Ukraine is bipartisan and much stronger, is proposing a plan with $6 billion in assistance for the embattled country, one-fourth of the $24 billion President Joe Biden has requested.
Ukraine's new shipping corridor 'very positive' but risky
Two cargo ships have sailed out of Ukrainian ports and reached their destination since mid-September using the country's new shipping corridor. Another three are planning to transport 127,000 tons of agricultural products and iron ore for China, Egypt and Spain through the same route in the Black Sea, according to Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine's infrastructure minister.
That would be a remarkable feat considering Russia's threat of considering all ships in those waters potential carriers of military equipment and therefore attack targets since the Kremlin withdrew in July from a deal to allow Ukraine to export its food crops.
But it's not a substitute for the revival of the agreement, according to the United Nations' top trade official.
"We see the alternatives that are being explored to export in a very positive light because the important thing is to get the grain to global markets," Rebeca Grynspan told Reuters.
The corridor established by Ukraine's Navy runs along the coast of NATO countries Romania and Bulgaria, which may be persuading Russian forces to hold their fire. But the new route still has risks, especially considering the large number of mines deposited on the Black Sea by both Russia and Ukraine since the war started.
"The only thing that will take the risk away and stabilize ... the situation is an agreement that will be backed by all partners," said Grynspan, who is working on such a task but does not have a timeframe for when it might happen.
Young Ukrainians bullish on nation's future
Almost 90% of people ages 16 to 35 living in Ukraine see the country's future as hopeful, and even 81% of young Ukrainians who have moved to Poland are bullish, according to a Washington-based pollster. Young people living in Ukraine and Poland are overwhelmingly convinced Ukraine will win the war − 98% and 97%, respectively, according to the survey of more than 1,700 people by the Center for Analysis and Sociological Research of the International Republican Institute.
The poll also shows that, despite the war, 65% of those in the age group who still live in Ukraine have no interest in leaving the country.
NATO ammunition deals to reload members and Ukraine
NATO is finalizing ammunition contracts worth more than $2.5 billion that will allow member nations to replenish depleted stockpiles and provide Ukraine with the firepower needed to drive invading Russian forces out of the country, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.
Restocking ammunition has been a recurring problem for both sides in a war that has dragged on for more than 19 months with no foreseeable conclusion. Stoltenberg, during an unannounced visit to Kyiv, said Ukraine was “gradually gaining ground” in the crucial counteroffensive that began more than three months ago. And he said Ukraine is "closer to NATO than ever before."
Ukraine applied for fast-tracked NATO membership last year, but the alliance has provided no timeline.
Zelenskyy described the talks as "substantial" and said he expected Ukraine would eventually join the military alliance. He said Stoltenberg pledged to try to provide air defense systems as Russia targets Ukraine's power infrastructure this winter.
“We need to get through this winter together, to protect the infrastructure and the lives of our people," Zelenskyy said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine Russia war live updates: Russia to hike military spending 70%