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Russia-Ukraine war live: ‘Heaviest of battles’ ahead in Kherson, says Kyiv | Ukraine

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Key events

In case you missed this last night: Russia has stepped up its nuclear propaganda and delivered a letter to the United Nations claiming that Ukraine is preparing to detonate a “dirty bomb” on its territory, an allegation dismissed by Kyiv, western governments and weapons experts as absurd and an attempt at distraction or pretext for Moscow’s own escalation.

The letter was addressed to the UN secretary general and the Gabonese ambassador, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the security council, and follows calls by Russia’s defence minister to foreign ministers in recent days making similar unfounded allegations.

At the same time, Russia circulated a 310-page document in the security council, repeating earlier debunked claims that Ukraine and its western backers had been working on a bioweapon.

Sluggish US wheat exports and competitive prices for Russian and Ukrainian supplies have loomed over wheat markets, Reuters reports, offsetting worries that a United Nations-backed shipping corridor from Ukraine may not be extended beyond November.

Ukraine‘s exports of agricultural products could rise more than 8% in October from last month, the Ukrainian Agrarian Council said on Tuesday.

Ukraine is keeping its forecast of the winter wheat sowing area for the 2023 harvest unchanged at 3.8m hectares despite a delay caused by unfavourable weather, deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskiy told Reuters on Tuesday.

Damaged remains of military equipment lie on a wheat field in Kharkiv. Photograph: Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA

Dan Sabbagh

Dan Sabbagh

Oleksandra Matviichuk has a point she wants to make. The Ukrainian lawyer heads the Centre for Civil Liberties, a human rights organisation that this month jointly won the Nobel peace prize. And she wants to use her platform to call for international action against Russian human rights violations now.

The body she heads has patiently documented more than 21,000 examples of war crimes committed by occupying Russian forces since 2014, including many from after the invasion in February. But, speaking quietly and with controlled emotion, she complains: “I haven’t any legal instrument to stop the Russian atrocities” – no immediate way of bringing perpetrators to court.

The criminality appears vast when listed. “After the large-scale invasion, we every day documented different kinds of war crimes, like intentional shelling of residential buildings, churches, hospitals, schools, the shelling of evacuation corridors,” Matviichuk says. “We received requests for help from people in the occupied territories because they were abducted, tortured; we recorded sexual violence, extrajudicial killings.”

Staff from the Centre for Civil Liberties were among those who travelled through Irpin, Bucha and towns and villages north-west of Kyiv after Russia abandoned its attempt to seize the city in March. “I will remind you,” she says, that bodies were found lying uncollected in the streets, or dumped in mass graves. “And what was Putin’s response? He provided medals to the army unit that was staying in Bucha.”

Russia, as governed now, shows a “genocidal character,” she argues. At first she admits the sheer emotional difficulty of taking in the trauma of individual cases, particularly understandable when her organisation deals with so many:

The UK Ministry of Defence said in its latest update that there have been at least six incidences of sabotage against Russian railway infrastructure since June, with the latest occurring days ago when “an explosive device had damaged the railway near the village of Novozybkovo, approximately 15km from the Russia-Belarus border.”

“The line is the main rail link between Russia and southern Belarus,” the Ministry said.

The Russian anti-war group ‘Stop the Wagons’ claimed responsibility for the attack on the main line between Russia and southern Belarus.

“This is part of a wider trend of dissident attacks against railways in both Russian and Belarus. The Russian authorities have previously clamped down on STW’s online presence,” it said.

“The Russian leadership will be increasingly concerned that even a small group of citizens has been sufficiently opposed to the conflict to resort to physical sabotage.”

Biden and Sunak reaffirm commitment to Ukraine

The US president, Joe Biden, and Britain’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, agreed during talks on Tuesday to work together to support Ukraine and stand up to China, the White House said.

They spoke for the first time a few hours after Sunak became Britain’s third prime minister this year, inheriting an economic crisis after the resignation of Liz Truss whose tenure lasted 49 days.

Only in recent days has Biden appeared to publicly criticise Truss’s doomed economic strategy, in a rare intervention by the US president. Relations between the two countries have also been somewhat strained in recent years amid ongoing tensions over post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland. The White House holds concerns over the impact on peace in the region.

Biden and Sunak reaffirmed the “special relationship” between the US and Britain, and said they would work together to advance global security and prosperity, the White House said in a summary of the conversation.

“The leaders agreed on the importance of working together to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its aggression,” the statement said of the war triggered by the Russian invasion:

In Mykolaiv region north and west of Kherson city, artillery duels continued throughout Tuesday, according to a post from the frontline on Rybar, a pro-Russian channel on Telegram.

In Ishchenka district north of Kherson, Ukrainian forces tried to consolidate their positions, but were forced back to earlier lines, the post said. It said the Ukrainian military was preparing for an advance along the entire length of the frontline.

A Reuters reporter in a remote hamlet near part of the Kherson frontline said residents hoped Russian forces would soon withdraw.

“You fall asleep at night and you don’t know if you will wake up,” said Mikola Nizinets, 39, referring to Russian shelling.

With no power or gas and little food or potable water in the area, many residents have fled, abandoning cattle to roam among expended munitions poking from the soil.

Zelenskiy adviser warns of ‘heaviest of batles’ ahead in Kherson

Russian forces are digging in for the “heaviest of battles” in the strategic southern region of Kherson, a senior Ukrainian official said, as the Kremlin prepares to defend the largest city under its control from Ukraine‘s counter-offensive.

Russian forces in the region have been driven back in recent weeks and risk being trapped against the west bank of the Dnipro river, where the provincial capital of Kherson has been in Russian hands since the early days of the invasion of Ukraine eight months ago.

Russian-installed authorities are evacuating residents to the east bank, but Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said there was no sign that Russian forces were preparing to abandon the city.

Evacuees from Kherson gather upon their arrival at the railway station in Anapa, southern Russia, on 25 October 2022.
Evacuees from Kherson gather upon their arrival at the railway station in Anapa, southern Russia, on 25 October 2022. Photograph: AP

“With Kherson everything is clear. The Russians are replenishing, strengthening their grouping there,” Arestovych said in an online video late on Tuesday.

“It means that nobody is preparing to withdraw. On the contrary, the heaviest of battles is going to take place for Kherson.”

Of the four provinces Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed to have annexed in September, Kherson is arguably the most strategically important. It controls both the only land route to the Crimea peninsula Russia seized in 2014 and the mouth of the Dnipro, the vast river that bisects Ukraine.

Yuri Sobolevsky, a member of the ousted pro-Ukrainian Kherson regional council, said the Russia-installed authorities were putting increasing pressure on Kherson residents to leave.

“Search and filtration procedures are intensifying as are searches of cars and homes,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Welcome and summary

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine. My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be taking you through the latest for the next while.

Russian forces are digging in for the “heaviest of battles” in the strategic southern region of Kherson, a senior Ukrainian official said late on Tuesday, as the Kremlin prepares to defend the largest city under its control from Ukraine’s counter-offensive.

Russian forces in the region have been driven back in recent weeks and risk being trapped against the west bank of the Dnipro river. The provincial capital of Kherson has been in Russian hands since the early days of the invasion of Ukraine eight months ago.

Russian-installed authorities are removing residents to the east bank, but Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said there was no sign that Russian forces were preparing to abandon the city.

“With Kherson everything is clear. The Russians are replenishing, strengthening their grouping there,” Arestovych said in an online video late on Tuesday.

More on this and other developments shortly. In the meantime, here is the summary of recent news:

  • Donetsk oblast was hit hard in the past day, with at least 15 Russian strikes killing seven civilians and injuring three more. The Ukrainian national police said the strikes also destroyed 19 residential buildings and one power line.

  • Further south, a car explosion near the office of Russian propaganda channel ZaTV in Russian-occupied Melitopol injured at least five people, including company employees, authorities said. While investigators were still looking into the blast, Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official, reportedly told Russian state media the explosion came from an “improvised explosive device”.

  • Russia took its claims that Ukraine is preparing to use a “dirty bomb” on its own territory to the UN security council, an assertion dismissed by western and Ukrainian officials as misinformation and a pretext for intensifying the war.

  • Ukraine’s foreign minister said inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog would soon inspect two Ukrainian sites at Kyiv’s request, adding that it feared Moscow’s “dirty bomb” allegations were preparation for a “false-flag” operation.

  • The US congressional Progressive Caucus withdrew a letter to the White House urging a negotiated settlement with Russia, its chair, Pramila Jayapal, confirmed.

  • Vladimir Putin said Russia needed to speed up decision-making in the military campaign in Ukraine.

  • Moscow was generally supportive of the idea of creating a secure zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to international institutions in Vienna, told the Tass news agency.

  • Russia has notified the US of plans to carry out annual exercises of its nuclear forces, the US government said, adding that it lowered the risk of miscalculation at a time of “reckless” Russian nuclear rhetoric.

  • Britain’s incoming prime minister, Rishi Sunak, promised Zelenskiy that the UK’s support for Ukraine would be steadfast and “as strong as ever” under his premiership.

  • A Russian court dismissed WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against a nine-year sentence for possessing and smuggling vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Griner’s lawyer said she hoped she could be released in a prisoner exchange with the US.

  • The US is considering sending older Hawk air defence equipment from storage to Ukraine, two US officials told Reuters.

  • Zelenskiy and the European hosts of a donor conference laid out a vision of a future Ukraine as a European Union member and major exporter of green energy to the continent.

  • The European Commission urged EU countries and companies to donate more money and equipment to support the energy sector in Ukraine, over a third of which has been destroyed by Russian missile and drone strikes.

  • Ukraine’s external financing needs will be around $3bn a month through 2023 in a best case scenario, but could rise as high as $5bn, said the IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva.

  • Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has said Russian assets and those of Russian oligarchs amount to a “huge pot of gold” that should be used for Ukraine’s reconstruction. “We must make sure that the offender pays for reconstruction. Russia should pay Ukraine war damages, war reparations.”

  • Police rescued an eight-year-old boy whose parents were killed in Russian shell strikes in Bakhmut, it was reported. Iuliia Mendel, a former spokesperson for Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the boy’s mother was seven months pregnant when she died “in the street” along with his father.

  • Refugees who fled in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should stay abroad this winter due to blackouts created by Moscow’s bombardment of energy infrastructure, a Ukrainian minister has said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2022/oct/26/russia-ukraine-war-live-news-russian-forces-battle-kherson-kyiv

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