Ukraine retook dozens of villages in the Kherson region, after Moscow ordered one of the war’s biggest retreats. According to Washington, more than 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured since the start of the conflict.Read FRANCE 24’s live blog for the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).
1:28am: US to buy South Korean howitzer rounds to send to Ukraine
The U.S. will buy 100,000 rounds of howitzer artillery from South Korean manufacturers to provide to Ukraine, a U.S. official said Thursday, in a deal the two governments have been working on for some time.
The agreement comes as Ukrainian leaders press for more weapons and aid to take advantage of a counteroffensive that is pushing Russian forces out of some areas they had taken over earlier in the war. And it relieves concerns within the U.S. military — particularly the Army and the Marine Corps — who are worried that persistent transfers of the Pentagon’s howitzer ammunition to Ukraine are eating into their stockpiles.
Other defense officials confirmed the broad outlines of the contract and said it would help with stockpile pressures, specifically involving the howitzer ammunition, which Ukrainian forces have been using at a high rate.
Last week a defense official briefing reporters said Ukraine was burning through as many as 7,000 rounds of ammunition a day, while Russia was firing as much as 20,000 rounds daily.
23:13pm: U.S. to no longer treat Russia as market economy in antidumping proceedings
The United States will no longer treat Russia as a market economy in its antidumping proceedings, the U.S. Department of Commerce said on Thursday.
This decision gives U.S. the ability to apply the « full force » of its antidumping law to address what the Commerce Department described as « market distortions caused by increasing interference from the Russian government in their economy. »
10:20pm: Russian troops blow up Kherson TV center and damage infrastructure
« Today, during the day, Russian troops blew up the broadcasting centre of Kherson television, » said the website IMI, one of two outlets reporting the development, quoting residents. « According to our contacts the (television) tower remained intact. »
Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said the Russians were also destroying communications infrastructure.
Kherson region’s Ukrainian-appointed governor, Yaroslav Yanushevych, said on Telegram that Russian troops had « taken away public equipment, damaged power lines and wanted to leave a trap behind them ».
9:14pm: Locals reported ‘newly drafted’ Russian men in Kherson over recent weeks
« We have been in contact with people in […] occupied areas and they are saying that damages which were doing during the occupation period are really severe and right now people are trying to come back to normal life, and secondly they are worried about locals, about civilian populations who are now – let’s say – informationally cut off from [the] external world in the city of Kherson, because right now [there is] no normal mobile connection, no internet, and even the TV centre was hit in recent days in order to deprive people of TV signals, » said Maria Zolkina from the Democracy Initiatives Foundation in Warsaw.
« In the city itself, the streets, according to local sources, are almost empty. People are afraid to become persecuted for something, » Zolkina continued. « They do not know, honestly, what’s going on in neighbouring streets, because the city is almost locked. And partial withdrawal of the Russian army from the city of Kherson does not mean that there is no other militaries in the city. Locals reported that there are newly drafted men, the number of which was increasing over the past several weeks in Kherson. »
9:07pm: Ukrainian forces advancing ‘much faster’ in Kherson
« The Ukrainian government is very prudent about [Russia’s announcement on Wednesday that it is withdrawing troops from Kherson city]; they don’t want this to rise up in euphoria about what will be, if confirmed, an extraordinary victory for this Ukrainian counter-offensive campaign, » FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reported from Kyiv.
« It’s definitely not over yet; there are reasons, according to Ukrainian intelligence, to believe that some Russian soldiers, at least, will stay in Kherson, perhaps dressed in civilian clothes, » Cragg continued. Also a lot of worry about mines and other traps that there may be in the city, and perhaps the Russian will inflict casualties on Ukrainian forces as they move into the city. And also to perhaps do things differently to how they did them when they left Kyiv region and other regions of northern Ukraine and Kharkiv more recently.
« But if you remember, actually the Ukrainians reacted in quite a similar way when Russia announced it was leaving Kyiv region back in the spring. They were also very sceptical about it until they saw that it was definitely reacting. So this is, in a way, the way they always react. And we are certainly seeing now that the Ukrainian armed forces are moving forward in the Kherson region much faster than they were in recent weeks. »
8:56pm: Ukraine will seek help from allies to finance Starlink service if SpaceX demands payment
Ukraine will ask its foreign partners for help in funding Starlink satellite internet systems currently being provided for free by SpaceX if the company begins to demand payment, Ukraine’s defence minister told Reuters on Thursday.
« We will try to find the funds. (We) have partners in different countries. We will ask them to help us, to assist us with finance aid also, » Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in an interview, when asked if Kyiv would cover the costs if SpaceX asked for payment.
Ukraine’s armed forces rely on thousands of Starlink devices for connectivity on the front lines, where normal cellular signal is either missing or easily intercepted.
SpaceX owner Elon Musk, who recently acquired Twitter Inc, had previously complained publicly of the financial losses SpaceX was incurring in Ukraine, but later promised on Twitter to keep providing services « for free. »
« We got his promises that he will continue to arrange the service for our Starlinks in Ukraine, » Reznikov told Reuters.
8:46pm: Russia became more brutal, disciplined under new commander, Ukraine defence minister says
Ukraine’s defence minister accused the new commander of Russia’s invasion forces on Thursday of carrying out a « doctrine of terrorists » by heavily bombarding civilians and critical infrastructure.
Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Reuters in an interview that the Russian army under General Sergei Surovikin appeared to have become more disciplined since his appointment in October.
Russia launched waves of strikes on nationwide infrastructure that began on Oct. 10 in what it described as retaliation for an attack on Russia’s bridge to the annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which it blamed on Kyiv.
Asked if Moscow’s tactics had changed under Surovikin, Reznikov said « yes. »
« Yes, he changed it because he’s using terrorism tactics against civilians and infrastructure objects using cruise missiles, rocket missiles and drones, special Iranian drones, » he said.
« They don’t send to Ukraine one or two rockets as before; they use 40 in a day and then wait – and then again, and again, » he said.
8:34pm: Ukraine defence chief plays down Russian nuclear strike threat
Ukraine’s defence minister said on Thursday he did not believe Russia would use nuclear weapons in Ukraine as it would be neither pragmatic nor practical, but that in Russia’s case all risks needed to be calculated.
Concern about possible nuclear escalation during Russia’s war in Ukraine surged after two speeches by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he indicated that he would, if needed, use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.
« I don’t think they will use it. But again, when you have a monkey with a grenade for a neighbour you have to estimate all kinds of risks. But I think this is not a pragmatic and practical step for them, » Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Reuters.
8:17pm: Russian withdrawal from Kherson to take at least a week, Ukraine defence minister says
Ukraine’s defence minister said on Thursday it would take Russia at least a week to withdraw its troops from the southern city of Kherson and that winter would slow down operations on the battlefield, giving both sides a chance to recuperate.
In an interview in Kyiv, Oleksii Reznikov told Reuters Russia had a contingent of 40,000 troops in Kherson region and that intelligence showed its forces remained in the city, around the city and on the right bank of the vast Dnipro River.
« It’s not that easy to withdraw these troops from Kherson in one day or two days. As a minimum, (it will take) one week, » he said.
Russia said on Wednesday that its forces would retreat from the west bank of the Dnipro River, which includes Kherson, the only regional capital Moscow had captured since invading Ukraine in February.
Reznikov said that such an exit would free up forces from both sides to fight elsewhere. Ukraine, he said, had a security and defence force of 1 million personnel to guard a « non-friendly » 2,500-km border with Belarus, Russia and occupied Ukrainian areas.
He dismissed as « crazy » the idea that Russia might blow up the Kakhovka dam as it withdraws, saying it would flood areas controlled by Moscow.
8:04pm: New US weapons package for Ukraine includes Avenger air defence system
The latest US weapons package for Ukraine is worth $400 million and includes four short range Avenger air defense systems, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
« These are mobile, short-range air defense systems, » Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters, adding that the package would also include ammunition for the Hawk air defense system.
5:35pm: US sending Ukraine an extra $400 million in military aid
The US will send $400 million more in military aid to Ukraine, several US officials told AP on Thursday, amid concerns that financial assistance for the war against Russia could decline a bit if Republicans take control of Congress.
An announcement is expected Thursday, as the vote counting from Tuesday’s election continues, with Republicans inching closer to a narrow House majority and with control of the Senate hinging on tight races in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia.
According to officials, the aid package will contain large amounts of ammunition and, for the first time, highly mobile Avenger Air Defense Systems. Officials said there will be ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, which Ukraine has been successfully using in its counteroffensive against Russia. There also will be mortars and missiles for the Hawk surface-to-air anti-aircraft system.
5:23pm: Talks on Ukraine nuclear plant exclusion zone ‘very complex’, IAEA says
Efforts to persuade Russia and Ukraine to install a protection perimeter around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant are « very complicated », the UN’s nuclear watchdog chief said Thursday, while vowing not to « lose patience ».
The plant – Europe’s largest, located in Ukraine, but in territory Russia claims to have annexed – is near the scene of constant shelling and only has enough power to keep its six shut reactors from melting down.
The site is close to the line between Russian and Ukrainian forces and the two sides have in recent months repeatedly accused each other of shelling around the plant, leading to fears of a nuclear disaster.
4:56pm: ‘Significant Russian rearguard’ expected in Kherson retreat
« There is no doubt that the Russians really are going to withdraw their troops across the River Dnipro to the eastern bank, » said FRANCE 24 Chief Foreign Editor Robert Parsons. « But this is something that’s not going to happen overnight. The Russians have presumably been preparing this manoeuvre for some time, and it’s not going to be easy for them because they will be under fire from Ukrainian artillery. So it’s something they will have put a lot of thought into, I imagine. They don’t want to be panicking, because if the situation becomes panic-striken then they’ll lose even more men.
« From the Ukrainian side, I think they’re understandably cautious, because there’s been a lot of smoke and mirrors from the Russians over the last few weeks, and they don’t want to be sucked into a trap. President [Volodymyr] Zelensky noted that there was a lot of excitement around the country about the news from Kherson and understandably so, » Parsons continued.
« But, again, he was saying that Ukraine and Ukrainian armed forces shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. There’s a lot of fighting to be done and people would get killed in that. And he’s absolutely right of course, because there will be a significant Russian rearguard, whatever they choose to do. »
3:45pm: Spain to send two more air defence systems to Ukraine
Spain is to send Ukraine two more HAWK surface-to-air missile launchers on top of the four it has already dispatched to counter the Russian invasion, the Spanish government said Thursday.
« Two extra launchers will be sent » following a request from NATO, Defence Minister Margarita Robles said.
Madrid at the start of the month said it was sending anti-missile and air defence systems, including four HAWK missile launchers and an Aspide surface-to-air missile system.
« We are firmly committed to Ukraine because we understand that it is exercising its legitimate right to self-defence, » Robles said.
12:09pm: Ukrainian forces advance in south, capture 12 settlements, army chief says
Ukrainian forces have advanced seven km (4.3 miles) in two directions in the south and captured 12 new settlements in the last 24 hours, Ukrainian army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on Thursday.
« We can’t yet confirm or deny the information of the so-called withdrawal of Russian occupation troops from Kherson.
We continue to conduct the offensive operation in line with our plan, » he wrote in a post on Telegram.
10:58am: Zelensky adviser says Russia has mined Kherson, plans to shell city
An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that Russia wanted to turn Kherson into a « city of death » and accused Moscow’s forces of mining everything from apartments to sewers and planning to shell the southern Ukrainian city from the other side of the Dnipro River.
The official, Mykhailo Podolyak, made the comment a day after Russia’s defence minister said he had ordered his troops to withdraw from Kherson and take up defensive lines on the opposite bank of the Dnipro.
Kyiv was skeptical of news of the withdrawal and at least one analyst warned it could be a ruse to lure Ukrainian forces into a trap.
10:47am: Ukrainian troops claim recapture of town in Mykolaiv region
Ukrainian troops claimed on Thursday to have recaptured the town of Snihurivka in the southern Mykolaiv region from Russian forces, speaking in video footage published on social media and by Ukrainian national television.
There was no immediate confirmation of the town’s recapture from Ukraine’s defence ministry, a day after Russia ordered its forces to retreat from the area.
9:15am: Russia ‘likely’ committed crimes against humanity by forcibly transferring Ukrainian civilians, Amnesty says
Russia has probably committed crimes against humanity by forcibly transferring Ukrainian civilians in Russian-occupied areas of the country to other regions, Amnesty International said Thursday.
It said civilians were moved from occupied Ukraine further into Russian-controlled areas or into Russia, with children separated from their families in violation of international humanitarian law.
Amnesty said it had been told by civilians they had endured « abusive screening processes » – known as filtration – which sometimes resulted in arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment.
>> Ukrainians flee occupied territories through Russian ‘filtration’ checks
The rights group said it interviewed 88 people, the majority civilians from Mariupol, the Ukrainian Black Sea city seized by Russia after a brutal siege, as well as residents from the Kharkiv, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.
« Most, especially those from Mariupol, described coercive conditions that meant that they had no meaningful choice but to go to Russia or other Russian-occupied areas, » it said.
The transfers « amounted to war crimes and likely crimes against humanity, » it said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)