Ukraine live briefing: Ukrainian troops advance on Kherson with caution; U.S. to send more air defenses

Ukrainian servicemen in the Kherson region fire a 2S7 Pion self-propelled cannon at a Russian position on Wednesday. (Reuters)

Ukrainian forces have clawed back dozens of Russian-occupied settlements along the “Kherson axis” in southern Ukraine, army chief Valery Zaluzhny said Thursday, a day after Russia announced it would evacuate its troops from Kherson city, the regional capital.

Zaluzhny said Ukraine, which is skeptical of Moscow’s plans to withdraw, could not confirm or deny the evacuation. But a video shared Thursday on social media from the village of Kyselivka, and verified by The Washington Post, showed Ukrainian forces within 10 miles of Kherson’s city limits.

The United States on Thursday also pledged an additional $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine, including Avengers air defense systems that come equipped with Stinger missiles. “When I was in Kyiv last week, I had the chance to consult directly with President Zelensky and his team on the ground about what Ukraine needs to be in the strongest position possible on the battlefield,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Thursday. "This increased air defense will be critical for Ukraine as Russia continues to use cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones to attack critical civilian infrastructure. "

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Footage shared on social media Thursday and verified by The Post shows Ukrainian forces in newly recaptured towns in the Kherson region. Another video taken in Stanislav, west of the city of Kherson, showed the Ukrainian flag being raised as onlookers cheered.
Video posted on Nov. 10 shows the Ukrainian flag being raised in Stanislav, west of the city of Kherson, as onlookers sing the national anthem. (Video: Telegram)
  • Ukrainian officials signaled that their forces were treading carefully in Kherson despite Russia’s Wednesday announcement of a withdrawal from the area. An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russian troops may have turned Kherson into a “city of death” by planting mines and booby traps as they left. Zaluzhny, the army chief, said the amount of land Ukrainian forces had recovered as of Thursday amounted to around 1,381 square kilometers.
  • British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Twitter that Ukraine was “right to be cautious” about the Russian retreat from the city of Kherson, and announced a new aid package of surface-to-air missiles and cold-weather supplies.

Ukrainian-reclaimed territory through counteroffensives

Russian-held areas

Voronezh

BELARUS

RUSSIA

Four illegally

annexed

regions where

Putin declared

martial law

Chernihiv

Belgorod

Sumy

Valuyki

Kyiv

Kharkiv

Svatove

LUHANSK

Cherkasy

Slovyansk

Luhansk

Dnipro

Russian defense

minister orders

troops to withdraw

from this area

Donetsk

DONETSK

Zaporizhzhia

Area held

by Russian-

backed

separatists

since 2014

Kherson

ZAPORIZHZHIA

Mariupol

Melitopol

Mykolaiv

MOL.

KHERSON

Odessa

RUSSIA

Kerch

CRIMEA

Krasnodar

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

100 MILES

ROM.

Novorossiysk

Sevastopol

Black Sea

Control areas as of Nov. 8

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project

Ukrainian-reclaimed territory

through counteroffensives

Russian-held

areas

BELARUS

Voronezh

Four illegally

annexed

regions where

Putin declared

martial law

RUSSIA

Chernihiv

Belgorod

Sumy

Kyiv

Kharkiv

Poltava

Cherkasy

LUHANSK

Kramatorsk

Russian defense

minister orders

troops to

withdraw

from this area

Dnipro

DONETSK

Zaporizhzhia

ZAPORIZ.

Mykolaiv

Melitopol

KHERSON

Area held by

Russian-backed

separatists

since 2014

Kherson

Crimea

Odessa

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Sevastopol

100 MILES

Control areas as of Nov. 8

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project

Ukraine-reclaimed territory

through counteroffensives

Russian-held

areas

Four illegally

annexed

regions where

Putin declared

martial law

BEL.

Chernihiv

Belgorod

Sumy

Kyiv

Kharkiv

LUHANSK

UKRAINE

Russian defense

minister orders

troops to withdraw

from this area

Dnipro

DONETSK

Zaporizhzhia

ZAPORIZ.

Area held by

Russian-backed

separatists

since 2014

Mykolaiv

KHERSON

Kherson

Crimea

Odessa

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

100 MILES

Sevastopol

Black Sea

Control areas as of Nov. 8

Sources: Institute for the Study of War

  • NATO’s secretary general said it was “clear” Russian forces were “coming under heavy pressure” in Kherson, adding that a full Russian withdrawal there would be “another victory for Ukraine.” President Biden said the Russian retreat would allow Moscow and Kyiv to “recalibrate their positions over the winter period” and “decide whether or not they’re going to compromise.” But he added that the United States was not going to force Kyiv to negotiate.
  • More than 100,000 Russian troops — and probably about as many Ukrainian troops — are estimated to be dead or wounded since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Gen. Mark A. Milley. the Pentagon’s top general, said late Wednesday at an event by the Economic Club of New York, The Post reports.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Nov. 9 that he's withdrawing his troops from the west bank of the Dnieper River near the city of Kherson. (Video: Reuters)

2. Battleground updates

  • A Russian withdrawal from the Dnieper River’s west bank probably will prevent Moscow from “achieving its strategic aspiration” of a land bridge reaching the western Ukrainian city of Odessa, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Thursday. It said Russia has destroyed bridges and possibly laid mines to slow the advance of Ukrainian forces, adding that the Russian withdrawal is likely to take several days. The limited bridge access would also leave Russian forces vulnerable in crossing the Dnieper, the ministry added. Russian also troops blew up part of the region’s television broadcasting center and damaged heating, power and communications infrastructure, Reuters reported.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to advance in the Mykolaiv region on Thursday. Mykolaiv regional governor Vitalii Kim put out a video on Thursday in which he told civilians in areas returned to Ukrainian control that humanitarian aid and supplies were on their way. Kim would not discuss the battlefield situation other than to say the news was “good.”
  • Russian missile attacks could slow as its troops stockpile weapons to prepare for large-scale assaults, a spokesman for Ukraine’s air force said. Yuri Ignat said Russian forces have likely realized that single strikes were having only a limited impact and were therefore aiming to carry out more significant strikes, according to Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform.
  • About 40 settlements have been liberated in the south of Ukraine, Zelensky said in his speech discussing Thursday’s accomplishments. He did not specify when all those settlements had been retaken. “The occupiers leave behind thousands of unexploded mines and munitions,” he said, noting that the next step is to demine these settlements. That process, he said, normally takes decades, but Ukraine with the help of Western allies could do in years.

3. Global impact

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the Group of 20 leaders’ summit scheduled next week in Bali in person, a top Indonesian cabinet minister confirmed Thursday. Russia will instead be represented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, an Indonesian government spokesman said. News of Lavrov’s attendance was first reported by CNBC Indonesia. The host country has stood firm against calls from Western powers and Kyiv to withdraw its invitation to Putin over the war. Biden and other world leaders are slated to attend the two-day gathering of the world’s largest economies, which starts Nov. 15.
  • Biden said he hoped that Putin would “be willing to talk more seriously about a prisoner exchange” involving WNBA star Brittney Griner now that the U.S. midterm elections are over. Griner was detained in Russia in February and later sentenced to more than nine years in prison on drug possession charges. She is now being transferred to a Russian penal colony. Biden said Russia has responded to his administration’s offer of a prisoner exchange, but he declined to discuss details.
  • British sanctions led to the freezing of more than $20 billion in Russian assets between Feb. 22 and Oct. 20 this year, the British government announced Thursday. “We have imposed the most severe sanctions ever on Russia, and it is crippling their war machine,” a British official said.

4. From our correspondents

Howitzers aid Ukraine’s push on southern front: Ukraine has used U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS launchers, to cut off Russian troops from their supply lines in the southern Kherson and Mykolaiv regions. It has also used U.S.-provided howitzers to hammer the Russian front line, enabling Ukrainian infantry to liberate a string of occupied towns as they pushed toward Kherson, report Michael E. Miller and Anastacia Galouchka from Ukraine.

Even when the front line hasn’t moved, the U.S.-provided howitzers have helped the Ukrainians by keeping the Russians from having their own, shorter-range artillery at the front. “I can’t say they have changed the course of the fight,” said Lt. Col. Maksym Bohachuk, 29, a history teacher who is now a battalion commander, “but they [the howitzers] are speeding up our victory.”

Michael E. Miller and Rebecca Tan contributed to this report.

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