Day 635: U.S. Defense Secretary visits Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Kyiv on Monday for an unannounced visit. Finland prepares to totally shut the border with Russia. Ukraine establishes layered protection of energy infrastructure.

U.S. Defense Secretary arrives in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Kyiv on Monday for an unannounced visit and expressed American support for Ukraine in war with Russia. 

“I just arrived in Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian leaders. I’m here today to deliver an important message – the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine in their fight for freedom against Russia’s aggression, both now and into the future,” Austin said on X.

The White House and Ukraine are growing increasingly alarmed about the future of U.S. aid to Ukraine in the wake of the turmoil in Congress over the funding. 

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov.

They also talked about plans for the next Ukraine Defense Contact Group to be held virtually later this week [on November 22], according to the readout of the call.  

Ahead of Austin’s visit to Ukraine, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement that Secretary Austin will engage in high-level talks with Ukrainian leadership.

He will also underscore the continued U.S. commitment to providing Ukraine with the security assistance it needs to defend itself from Russian aggression, while also discussing a long-term vision for Ukraine’s future force.  

The discussions will focus on further bolstering the strategic partnership between the United States and Ukraine, to include ensuring Ukraine’s armed forces have the battlefield capabilities they need for both the winter and to defend their country against future Russian threats, the message reads.

Ukraine establishes layered protection of energy infrastructure

Following Russia’s drone and missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure that intensified in November last year, the government and the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have developed a three-layer plan to protect the facilities, the Ukrainian State Agency for Restoration and Infrastructure Development said in a Facebook post on Monday.

“The first level of protection involves the construction of gabions and sandbags. The Agency for Restoration is currently safeguarding 90 facilities across 21 regions, protecting them from debris caused by drones and missiles”, head of the agency, Mustafa Nayem is quoted as saying.

The second level of protection addresses threats from [Shahed] drones. Since March 2023, concrete structures have been built around Ukrenergo’s primary network. These efforts have resulted in the protection of 22 substations and 63 autotransformers in 14 regions.

The third level protects facilities against missile strikes. The Agency said it is protecting 22 substations from direct hits by most powerful missiles in 14 regions. Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s state power generator, develops a framework for design and construction works.

The Agency agrees all project-related decisions with the General Staff and the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, it added in a statement. 

“Throughout the design phase, the Agency relies on data from the General Staff, guidance for engineering troops, and international regulatory documents. These documents are sourced from specialized experts who have undergone training in the UK, adhering to British and U.S. standards,” it said.

Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been targeted more than 60 times in recent weeks, Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said on November 8.

On November 10, Politico released an interview with Halushchenko. When asked if President Zelenskyi’s “response” [to Russia’s stepped-up attacks on Ukraine’s power grid this winter] could include Ukraine targeting Russia’s vast oil and gas operations, Halushchenko replied, “It would only be fair.”

“When answering [Russia’s attack], we would answer by taking the same approach, attacking their energy infrastructure,” Halushchenko said.

According to the electricity supplier Yasno, in 2022, Russian attacks damaged 270 energy facilities across Ukraine, or half of its energy grid.

Finland prepares to seal border with Russia

Finland could close all remaining crossings on the border with Russia after migrants helped by Russia flow to its border.

Finnish outlet Iltalehti, citing unnamed sources, said that the border could close as soon as Wednesday, following a likely government decision on Monday.

Last Thursday, Finland made the decision to close the Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala border crossing points following a surge of undocumented migrants. The crossings have been closed to traffic since Saturday.

While confirming the closure of the four border crossings, those at Salla and Vartius would remain open for asylum applications.

Finland earlier warned that Russia could take asylum seekers to Kostomuksha, a Russian town close to the Vartius border crossing point. The scenario came true.

Finland is preparing a plan to close the entire border with Russia in a determined response to instrumentalized migration.

The migrants were helped by Russian authorities to travel to the Finnish border zone, Finland said, citing intelligence reports. In the future, asylum application will be centralized at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport.  

Russia has undermined the right to asylum, a human right protected under international treaties, the Finnish government said, referring to a major flow of asylum seekers on Finland’s eastern border orchestrated by Russia. Finland has to be able to return them to Russia that has accepted them and issued them residency permits.

Yet Finland doubts that Russia will take back at least one person.

In the past months, there was a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers who were trying to cross into south-eastern Finland from Russia without proper documents, Finnish border guard authorities earlier said.

Myth of Russian Cultural Greatness. Ukraine in Flames #534

In this episode of Ukraine in flames we discuss the narrative of a “great” Russian culture and whether it is true or a fallacy. Russian culture has long touted a narrative of greatness, showcasing a historical legacy steeped in literature, arts, and intellectual pursuits. This narrative, meticulously crafted, acts as a powerful influencer in Western societies, projecting an illusion of cultural sophistication and depth. While Russia undeniably boasts contributions—be it its literature, classical music, ballet, or visual arts—the notion of “greatness” in Russian culture is deeply intertwined with political manipulation. It serves as a tool of soft power, strategically wielded to mold global perceptions while conveniently sidelining the systemic issues and controversies ingrained within Russian society. Take a watch of UIF #534 to learn more!


  • Yuriy Lukanov, journalist, writer
  • Ihor Stokoz, public figure
  • Andriy Bondar, writer