Citizens being ‘evacuated’ in Kherson as commander of Russian forces says situation in Ukraine ‘tense’
The new commander of the Russian army in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, said on Tuesday that civilians were being “resettled” from the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson, describing the military situation in Ukraine as “tense.”
“The enemy continually attempts to attack the positions of Russian troops,” Surovikin said in his first televised interview since his appointment last week, adding that the situation was particularly difficult around the occupied southern city of Kherson.
“Further actions regarding Kherson will depend on the developing military and tactical situation, which is not easy, and difficult decisions cannot be ruled out,” he said.
Surovikin’s statements come amid Ukraine’s ongoing counter-assault against Russia in which Kyiv has recaptured 450 square miles of land since late August.
Shortly after Surovikin’s statements, the Russian-installed head of Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, said that some civilians were being “evacuated” in anticipation of a “large-scale offensive.”
Here is a summary of the key developments over the last few hours:
The new commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine made a rare acknowledgment of the pressures they are under from Ukrainian offensives, as Russia stepped up a pre-winter campaign to hit energy infrastructure. The situation in areas Russia claims to have annexed was “tense,” said Sergei Surovikin, a Russian general named this month to take charge of its forces. Russian troops in some areas were under continuous attack, he said.
The Russian-appointed governor of Kherson announced the evacuation of four towns in the region.
Russian air strikes have destroyed 30% of Ukraine’s power stations since 10 October, causing massive blackouts across the country, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.
Russian strikes hit a power plant in Kyiv, killing three people, as well as energy infrastructure in Kharkiv in the east and Dnipro in the south. A man sheltering in an apartment building in the southern port city Mykolaiv was also killed and the northern Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr was without water or electricity.
Ukraine’s foreign minister said he was proposing a formal cut in diplomatic ties with Tehran after a wave of Russian attacks using what Kyiv says are Iranian-made drones. Iran has denied supplying drones and Russia has denied using them. But senior Iranian officials and diplomats told Reuters that Iran has promised to provide Russia with surface to surface missiles as well as drones.
Nato said Ukraine would receive anti-drone defence systems in coming days.
Russia’s Duma has indefinitely stopped broadcasting live plenary sessions to protect information from “our enemy”, a leading lawmaker said.
Zelenskiy urged his troops to take more prisoners, saying this would make it easier to secure the release of soldiers being held by Russia.
The west should listen carefully when President Vladimir Putin talks about using nuclear weapons but should remember that it is more useful for him to threaten their use than to go ahead, the head of Norway’s armed forces told Reuters.
Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company accused Russia of “kidnapping” two senior staff at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine
US president Joe Biden is expected to announce Wednesday that he is releasing more oil from the US strategic reserve as part of a response to recent production cuts announced by nations in OPEC+.
The announcement marks the continuation of an about face by Biden, the Associated Press reports, who has tried to move the US past fossil fuels, to identify additional sources of energy to satisfy US and global supply as a result of disruptions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and production cuts announced by the Saudi Arabia-led oil cartel.
The strategic reserves are at their lowest levels since 1984 after Biden in March announced the release of 180 million barrels over six months.
The White House has responded to the prospective loss of 2 million barrels a day – 2% of global supply – by saying that Saudi Arabia sided with Russian president Vladimir Putin and threatening consequences for OPEC+’s decision.
Hi, my name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be taking you through the latest developments in Ukraine for the next while. If you have any questions, or see any news you think we may have missed, you can let me know on Twitter here.
Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘kidnapping’ two nuclear plant workers
Ukraine’s state nuclear energy agency has accused Russia of detaining two senior employees at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, AFP reports.
Energoatom said Russian forces on Monday “kidnapped” the head of information technology Oleg Kostyukov and the plant’s assistant general director Oleg Osheka and “took them to an unknown destination”.
Energoatom called on International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi “to make every effort” to secure their release.
Russian troops captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant at the beginning of March.
The IAEA, which has experts at the nuclear site, announced that Valeriy Martyniuk had been released.
Grossi welcomed his release while expressing “deep concern” at the two new detentions at the nuclear plant.
“This is another concerning development that I sincerely hope will be resolved swiftly,” he said.
The IAEA statement said Grossi was continuing consultations on securing a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the site.
The new commander of Moscow’s army in Ukraine has announced that civilians were being “resettled” from the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson, describing the military situation as “tense”, write Dan Sabbagh and Pjotr Sauer.
“The enemy continually attempts to attack the positions of Russian troops,” Sergei Surovikin said in his first televised interview since being appointed earlier this month, adding that the situation was particularly difficult around the occupied southern city of Kherson.
Surovikin’s statements on Tuesday come amid Ukraine’s fierce counter-assault in Kherson, a region in the south of Ukraine that Moscow claimed to have annexed last month after staging a sham referendum.
Iran has sent trainers to occupied Ukraine to help Russians overcome problems with the fleet of drones that they purchased from Tehran, current and former US officials briefed on the classified intelligence told the New York Times.
According to the newspaper, Iranian trainers are operating from a Russian military base in Crimea where many of the drones have been based since being delivered from Iran.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Moscow’s widespread use of Iranian-made drones in recent attacks on his country was a symbol of the Kremlin’s “military and political bankruptcy”.
“The very fact of Russia’s appeal to Iran for such assistance is the Kremlin’s recognition of its military and political bankruptcy,” Zelenskiy said in his daily address.
But, he added “strategically, it will not help them anyway”.
“It only further proves to the world that Russia is on the path of defeat and is trying to draw someone else into its accomplices in terror,” Zelenskiy said.
He didn’t commit to a proposal from his foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, on Tuesday that Kyiv cut diplomatic ties with Iran, AFP reports.
“We will definitely ensure an appropriate international reaction to this,” Zelenskiy said, referring to the use of the drones.
Kyiv and its western allies have accused Moscow of using Iranian-made drones in attacks on Ukraine in recent weeks. The Kremlin said on Tuesday it had no knowledge of its army using such weapons.
Tehran said it was ready for talks with Kyiv to clarify the “baseless” claims that Iran is providing Russia with the drones.
The United States, Britain and France plan to raise the issue of Iranian weapons transfers to Russia during a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, diplomats told Reuters.
Kyiv accused the Red Cross of “inaction” over Ukrainian prisoners held by Russia, saying a lack of visits to detained soldiers and civilians meant they were vulnerable to being tortured.
“Unfortunately, at each exchange, we see that the International Committee of the Red Cross’s inaction has led to our prisoners of war and civilian hostages being tortured daily by hunger, by electrocution,” Ukrainian human rights commissioner Dmytro Lubinets said in a presidential statement.
He said the organisation was not fulfilling its mandate to visit military and civilian prisoners in conflict zones.
Kyiv has repeatedly asked for an ICRC team to visit.
The presidency’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said: “Ukraine expects and demands from the ICRC the appropriate determination to gain access to Ukrainian prisoners in Olenivka”.
“We do not see that the ICRC is working to protect our prisoners,” Yermak said.
The ICRC told AFP that it shared Kyiv’s frustration.
“We know that behind it there’s the anguish of families at not knowing the fate of their loved ones,” a spokesman said.
“We reiterate that we will never stop demanding access to all prisoners of war until we can see them several times where they are held,” he added.
The Republican leader in the House of Representatives has said that Congress would not “write a blank cheque to Ukraine” if his party wins next month’s midterm elections, stoking fears in Kyiv that the flow of military equipment could be cut off.
However, another senior Republican said he thought the Ukrainians should “get what they need”, including longer-range missiles than those the Biden administration has so far been prepared to supply. Analysts say the mixed messages reflect an internal debate between traditional national security conservatives and the Trumpist wing of the party, where pro-Russian sentiment is much stronger.
Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, told the Punchbowl News website on Tuesday: “I think people are going to be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank cheque to Ukraine.”