Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that civilians in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region should be “evacuated” from the conflict zone.
“Now, of course, those who live in Kherson should be removed from the zone of the most dangerous actions, because the civilian population should not suffer,” Putin told pro-Kremlin activists as he marked Russia’s Day of National Unity.
Kherson is one of four Ukrainian provinces that Putin illegally annexed in September. His comments marked the first acknowledgment of a deteriorating situation in an area he has declared as part of Russia.
Russian-installed officials in Kherson have pleaded for civilians to leave the region’s west, where Ukrainian forces have retaken ground in recent weeks.
According to the Russian army, “more than 5,000” civilians were being moved from Kherson each day.
Ukraine has been critical of such evacuations and has accused Russia of carrying out Soviet-like “deportations” of its people.
Separately, Putin said that Russia had drafted 318,000 people into its armed forces since a partial mobilization was announced in September.
The Russian president also signed a law allowing the mobilization of people who have committed serious crimes, the RIA news agency said. The law excludes those convicted of child sex abuse, treason, spying or terrorism.
Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Friday, November 4:
Russia trying to ‘freeze Ukraine into submission’ — Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has slammed Russia, saying it is attempting to “freeze” Ukraine into submission.
Blinken had been meeting with G7 foreign ministers who said Russia was trying to “terrorize the civilian population” of Ukraine with attacks against civilians and infrastructure, in particular energy and water facilities.
“President (Vladimir) Putin seems to have decided that if he can’t seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze it into submission,” Blinken said following two days of talks.
In addition to promising to continue delivering weapons for Ukrainian forces to fight Russian troops, G7 ministers vowed to help Ukrainians rebuild their water and electricity infrastructure.
Ukraine has ‘acute need for air defense’ — US adviser
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Ukraine was in desperate need of decent air defenses in the face of Russian attacks on its critical infrastructure.
“We recognize the acute need for air defense in this critical moment when Russia and Russian forces are raining missiles and Iranian drones down on the civilian infrastructure of this country,” Sullivan said in a press conference in Kyiv.
US to fund refurbishment costs of Ukrainian air defense and armor
The Pentagon has announced that it will foot the bill of refurbishing Soviet-era T-72 tanks and HAWK surface-to-air missiles as part of a $400 million military aid package.
The “tanks are coming from the Czech Republic defense industry, and the United States is paying for 45 of those to be refurbished,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists.
The Netherlands will be matching that commitment meaning a total of 90 T-72 tanks due to be rehauled.
The tanks will be fitted with advanced optics, communications and armor packages according to Singh.
On the question of why newer tanks were not being provided, Singh said that these were tanks Ukrainians knew how to use, adding that “introducing a new main battle tank is extremely costly, is time sensitive, and it would be a huge undertaking for the Ukrainian forces.”
Some will be ready by the end of the year, while the rest are expected to be delivered in 2023.
G7 rallies support for Kyiv amid Russian attacks
The Group of Seven wealthiest democracies agreed to coordinate their support for Ukraine’s critical energy and water infrastructure, the group’s foreign ministers said on Friday at the end of a two-day meeting in Germany.
“Today we establish a G7 coordination mechanism to help Ukraine repair, restore and defend its critical energy and water infrastructure… We will stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” the diplomats said in a statement, adding that G7 countries were committed to helping Ukraine over the upcoming winter.
The foreign ministers also said any use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons by Russia would be met with severe consequences. They also renewed their call on Moscow to end its war in Ukraine. “Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric is unacceptable,” they said in a joint statement.
Russian airstrikes have seriously damaged more than a third of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Rolling power cuts were introduced in the country to save energy while engineers carry out repairs.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that around 4.5 million people were left without power due to Russian attacks on the country’s energy network.
France, Italy, Japan, Canada, the US, Britain and Germany make up the G7 group of rich democracies.
German justice minister visits Kyiv
German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann has arrived in Ukraine for his first visit to the country since it was invaded by Russia in February.
“We stand by Ukraine today and we will continue to do so in the future,” the politician said upon arrival to the Ukrainian capital.
In Kyiv, Buschmann and his Ukrainian colleague Denys Maliuska signed a work program on judicial cooperation for the next two years.
Germany wants to help Ukraine “to meet rule-of-law standards as part of the admission process to the European Union,” Buschmann said.
The international prosecution of war crimes was also in the focus of the talks between the two ministers.
Russia likely to use ‘barrier troops’ — UK Defense Ministry
Due to low morale and reluctance to fight, Russian forces have probably started deploying “barrier troops” or “blocking units” in Ukraine, the British Defense Ministry said in its latest intelligence update.
According to the ministry, these units threaten to shoot their own retreating soldiers in order to compel offensives.
“Recently, Russian generals likely wanted their commanders to use weapons against deserters, including possibly authorizing shooting to kill such defaulters after a warning had been given,” the update read.
The tactic of shooting deserters likely attests to the low quality, low morale and indiscipline of Russian forces, the ministry added.
Germany’s Scholz presses China on Ukraine
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has asked Beijing to exert influence on Russia to bring about an end to the war in Ukraine.
He made the appeal during a one-day visit to China.
“We are coming together at a time of great tension,” Scholz said. “In particular, I want to highlight the Russian war against Ukraine, which poses many problems for our rules-based world order.”
The German chancellor also said both he and Chinese President Xi Jinping opposed the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
“Here in China everyone knows that an escalation (of the war in Ukraine) would have consequences for all of us,” Scholz told reporters.
“That is why it is very important for me to stress that everyone says clearly that an escalation via the use of a tactical nuclear weapon is ruled out,” he added. “I am pleased that we at least reached an agreement on that.”
Although China has not endorsed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has deepened ties with Moscow since the conflict began.
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dh/nm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)