Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanged heavy artillery fire in multiple locations, officials in both countries said, as Russian-appointed officials continued evacuating people from the west bank of the Dnieper River amid a mounting Ukrainian counteroffensive.
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Ukraine’s national grid operator, meanwhile, said on November 5 that it would increase rolling blackouts in Kyiv and seven other regions as the country’s national grid remained severely damaged by weeks of Russian air strikes.
Electricity consumption is rising across Ukraine as the weather turns colder, and energy providers have raced to do repairs, ordering planned power cuts to avoid overloads.
Ukraine’s General Staff said that its troops thwarted Russian attacks a day earlier in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The military also claimed that Ukrainian air defenses shot down multiple Russian and Iranian drones and two Kalibr cruise missiles. The claim could not be immediately verified.
The head of the Vynnytsya region, Serhiy Borzov, said the central region was hit overnight by Russian kamikaze drones.
Russian troops have been actively using Iranian drones in recent weeks to attack critical civilian and infrastructure objectives.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the fiercest fighting over the last week had taken place around Bakhmut and Soledar in Donetsk and that Ukrainian forces are holding their positions there and elsewhere.
He also spoke of “good gains” in the south, praising infantry and artillery brigades for “destroying enemy equipment, Russian manpower.”
The claims of battlefield success could not be independently verified.
Ukrainian forces have been mounting a slow, incremental counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region for weeks now, moving closer to directly threatening the Dnieper River port of Kherson, which was captured early after Russia’s February invasion.
In response, Russian authorities have been evacuating civilians and military troops to the opposite bank of the Dnieper.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russia-installed administration in the Kherson region, announced a 24-hour curfew on November 4, saying it was necessary to defend it from 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 on November 4 called for civilians to be moved out from Kherson.
“Those who live in Kherson must now be removed from the zone of the most dangerous hostilities,” Putin said in remarks broadcast on state television. “The civilian population should not suffer from shelling, from the offensive, counteroffensive, and other measures related to military operations.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on November 5 that troops had repelled Ukrainian attacks in in the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson regions. In the Kherson region, which the Kremlin last month declared had been annexed, authorities reported the heaviest artillery fire in days.
Ukrainian officials have likened the departures of Kherson residents to Soviet-style deportations, though it’s 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 counteroffensives in Kherson and the northern Kharkiv region have been powered in large part by powerful Western weaponry. On November 4, the U.S. Defense Department announced another $400 million shipment 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 that the U.S. national-security adviser, Jake Sullivan, made an unannounced visit to Kyiv to meet with top Ukrainian officials.
At a news conference later, Sullivan sought again to calm Ukrainian jitters about whether U.S. weapons would continue after the upcoming midterm U.S. congressional elections.
Polls show that Republicans are poised to take control of one, or possibly both, chambers of Congress, and a small but vocal number of Republicans have voiced misgivings about the amount and duration of U.S. aid for Ukraine.
“There will be no wavering,” Sullivan said at a news conference. “I’m confident U.S. support for Ukraine will be unwavering and unflinching.”
Asked about the prospect of peace talks with Russia, Sullivan repeated what U.S. officials have said in the past: “Nothing is discussed about Ukraine without Ukraine.”
“For me, the main question about these negotiations is what a just peace looks like and how it can be achieved,” Sullivan said. “If you look at Russian accusations, Russian actions, in particular regarding the annexation of [Ukrainian] territories, it does not really encourage negotiations.”
With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Reuters, dpa, and AP