Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanged heavy artillery fire at several locations, officials from both countries said, as Russian-appointed officials continued to evacuate people from the west bank of the Dnieper amid a growing Ukrainian counter-offensive.
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Ukraine’s national grid operator, meanwhile, said on Nov. 5 it would increase power cuts in Kyiv and seven other regions as the country’s national grid remains badly damaged by weeks of Russian airstrikes.
Electricity consumption is rising across Ukraine as the weather gets colder and energy providers rush to make repairs, ordering planned power outages to prevent overloads.
Ukrainian General Staff said that his troops foiled Russian attacks a day earlier in the eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk. The military also claimed that Ukrainian air defenses shot down several Russian and Iranian drones and two Kalibr cruise missiles. The allegation could not immediately be verified.
The head of the Vynnytsya region, Serhiy Borzov, said the central region was hit overnight by Russian suicide drones.
Russian troops have actively used Iranian drones in recent weeks to attack critical civilian and infrastructure targets.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the fiercest fighting over the past week took place around Bakhmut and Soledar in Donetsk and Ukrainian forces held their positions there and elsewhere.
He also spoke of “good gains” in the south, praising the infantry and artillery brigades for “destroying enemy equipment, Russian manpower”.
Claims of success on the battlefield could not be independently verified.
Ukrainian forces have been mounting a slow and gradual counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region for weeks, coming close to directly threatening the port of Kherson on the Dnieper River, which was captured shortly after the Russian invasion in February.
In response, Russian authorities evacuated civilians and military troops to the opposite bank of the Dnieper.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in the Kherson region, announced a 24-hour curfew on November 4, saying it was necessary to defend it against an expected Ukrainian attack.
The Russian military said “more than 5,000 civilians” were being evacuated daily to the east bank of the river. And Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Nov. 4 for civilians to be evacuated from Kherson.
“Those who live in Kherson must now be removed from the area of the most dangerous hostilities,” Putin said in remarks broadcast on state television. “The civilian population should not suffer from shelling, offensive, counter-offensive and other measures related to military operations.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said on November 5 that troops had repelled Ukrainian attacks in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson regions. In the Kherson region, which the Kremlin declared annexed last month, authorities reported the heaviest artillery fire in days.
Ukrainian officials have likened the departures of Kherson residents to Soviet-style deportations, although it is unclear to what extent the departures are forced or voluntary. Russian officials said people were being moved to safety from the path of the Ukrainian advance.
Ukraine’s counter-offensives in Kherson and the northern Kharkiv region have been fueled largely by powerful Western weapons. On November 4, the United States Department of Defense announced another delivery of $400 million worth of weapons and other equipment, including refurbished tanks, surface-to-air missiles, new coastal defense boats and other items.
The announcement came around the same time US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan paid an unannounced visit to Kyiv to meet with senior Ukrainian officials.
At a press conference later, Sullivan again sought to calm Ukrainian jitters about whether U.S. weapons would continue past the upcoming U.S. congressional midterm elections.
Polls show Republicans poised to take control of one or possibly both houses of Congress, and a small but vocal number of Republicans have expressed apprehensions on the amount and duration of US aid to Ukraine.
“There will be no hesitation” Sullivan said during a press conference. “I am confident that American support for Ukraine will be unwavering and unwavering.”
Asked about the prospect of peace talks with Russia, Sullivan repeated what US officials have said in the past: “Nothing is discussed about Ukraine without Ukraine.”
“For me, the main question about these negotiations is what does a just peace look like and how can it be achieved,” Sullivan said. “If you look at the Russian accusations, the Russian actions, especially regarding the annexation of [Ukrainian] territories, it does not really encourage negotiations.
With reports from the Ukrainian service of RFE / RL, Reuters, dpa and AP