The commander of Russian forces in Ukraine said his troops will withdraw from the crucial port city of Kherson, a major setback reflecting the Kremlin’s increasing struggles to turn back a Ukrainian counteroffensive that has returned hundreds of miles of seized land to Ukrainian control.
General Sergey Surovikin, speaking on Russian state TV, said retreat from the only regional capital seized since the war began in February was “a hard decision.” But he told Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu the move would spare the lives of troops and allow for establishment of a better defensive position.
“Having assessed the situation, I propose to take up the defense along the left bank of the Dnipro River,” Surovikin said.
Shoigu stressed that only experienced military personnel should be sent to the front lines, guided by “officers capable of rallying military teams and arranging the fulfillment of tasks in any situation.”
Russia’s invasion got off to a roaring start in February as troops rolled toward Kyiv and swept across thousands of miles of other regions in eastern and southern Ukraine. But supply lines became stretched and morale faded as Ukraine’s military gained momentum and began pushing back on the Russian onslaught.
►Britain will provide Ukraine’s armed forces with 25,000 sets of extreme cold weather clothing by mid-December, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. The U.K. will also send a further 12,000 extreme cold weather sleeping kits and 150 heated tents, “ensuring troops are able to operate and survive the plunging temperatures.”
►In the western Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukrainian authorities reported “massive” overnight strikes with exploding Iranian-made drones that wounded four energy company workers in the city of Dnipro.
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Russia claims midterm elections reflect fading US support for Ukraine
Early returns from Tuesday’s midterm elections show U.S. support for Ukraine and its fiery president is declining, a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday. Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of the Russian Security Council, claimed on Telegram that support for “grandfather Biden is flying away, support for the U.S. course in the world is decreasing, and the bet on the stubborn hetman was a big mistake.” The term hetman references military leaders, in this case Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The Biden administration and Congress have shown overwhelming financial support for Ukraine’s military. A shift in control of the U.S. House, however, could land Rep. Kevin McCarthy in the speaker’s office. McCarthy has warned that Congress will provide no “blank check” for Ukraine.
Races to determine who would control Congress were too close to call early Wednesday, although a Republican route forecast by some U.S. pundits never materialized.
‘Wrongful detentions’: Brittney Griner moved to unknown prison
The Biden administration said Wednesday it is pressing Russia to improve the living conditions for WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was being transferred from a holding cell to a longer-term penal colony, according to her lawyers.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement reiterating previous claims that the administration has made a “significant” offer to the Russians to resolve the current “unacceptable and wrongful detentions” of Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan.
“Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long,” Jean-Pierre said.
She said the U.S. had made follow-up offers with the Russians and that the administration is “unwavering in its commitment to its work on behalf of Brittney and other Americans detained in Russia.”
Griner, 32, was transferred last week to a detention center north of Moscow and is now on her way to an unknown penal colony, her legal team said Wednesday. She was convicted on drug charges Aug. 4, six months after she was taken into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage; Griner said she had accidentally packed it. She is serving a nine-year sentence; Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage. Read more here.
Crimean Bridge repairs won’t be finished until September
The Russian-built Crimean Bridge that was severely damaged last month is unlikely to be fully operational until next September, British officials reported.
Russian efforts to repair the bridge continue but it is unlikely to be fully operational until next autumn, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry. Repair works would cause disruption to road traffic until March 2023, while replacement of the damaged rail bridge has been contracted for completion by September 2023, it wrote.
Contributing: The Associated Press