In a significant development on the eastern front, Ukrainian forces have successfully reclaimed control of the village of Orlivka, situated west of Avdiivka
Day 646 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky Calls For Rapid Construction of Fortifications in Key Areas
Day 646 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- Zaluzhnyi's predecessor, Gen. Muzhenko: We have to go on the defensive
- Ukraine announced that it had destroyed 18 of 25 drones sent by Russia overnight
- Zelensky calls for the rapid construction of fortifications in key areas
- A railway line in Siberia used by Russia for military supplies has been blown up
- The Slovak prime minister demanded "standardization" of relations with Russia after the war
- The Ukrainian parliament ruled out elections before the end of the war
- Russia announced that it had destroyed a Ukrainian unmanned boat headed for Crimea
- Orban said that the EU must first sign a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine
- Scholz said in a telephone conversation with Zelensky that he supports the start of negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU
Zaluzhnyi's predecessor, Gen. Muzhenko: We have to go on the defensive
Army General and former Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Viktor Muzhenko announced that Ukraine needs to reformat its strategy on the front.
He told the BBC that he did not think the war had reached a stalemate. According to him, there are not only victories at the front, but sometimes there are also defeats.
"There is not only a successful offensive, but also containment by the enemy. There is not only an offensive, but also a defensive. I think that the current issue today is the transition to defense. Strategically active defense, in which counterattacks are also included. And in the conditions of success in certain directions - we need to reformat the front. We need to create a powerful reserve, not only quantitative, but also qualitative. And the qualitative reserve is the presence of military organisms: brigade, corps and everything else. Prepared, equipped, well coordinated, with high morale and able to solve the issue," Muzhenko said.
The general explained what "reforming the front" means. According to him, this means creating appropriate operational groupings, orders of battle, designing, creating an appropriate management system, and so on.
"Today we have cases where there are dozens or even more subdivisions in some areas, they are subordinate to one management authority. In such a situation, it is simply impossible to carry out quality and timely management, to react to the risks that immediately arise. This is what I mean," he noted.
Muzhenko also stated that the real situation on the battlefield differs from the statements that reach the media. However, according to him, the VSU counteroffensive "did something that no other army in the world could do."
"As for the Kherson direction, the lower reaches of the Dnieper - I really think it is a success. Because the operation to force such a wide obstacle as the Dnieper River, especially in the lower reaches, in the mouth, where there are many islands, weapons and everything else. This is of great importance. We have taken a beachhead on the opposite bank," said the general.
Ukraine announced that it had destroyed 18 of 25 drones sent by Russia overnight
Ukraine's armed forces announced this morning that they had destroyed 18 of 25 Shahed drones sent by Russia overnight, Ukrinform and Reuters reported.
They also intercepted one of two X-59 cruise missiles fired at Ukraine.
So far, there are no reports of injured people or material damage.
According to the Ukrainian armed forces, the attacks were launched from south-western Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula and were mainly aimed at eastern and southern Ukraine.
Zelensky calls for the rapid construction of fortifications in key areas
Volodymyr Zelensky called for a faster build-up of fortifications in key sectors under pressure from Russian forces, particularly in eastern Ukraine - the focal point of Moscow's advance 21 months after its invasion.
The Ukrainian president made the call after touring Ukrainian positions in the northeast, one of several areas where Russian forces have recently been trying to make progress and retake areas recaptured from Ukrainian troops a year ago.
"In all the main sectors where strengthening is needed, there should be a push and acceleration in the construction of structures. This, of course, means the greatest attention to the sectors in Avdiivka, Marinka and others in the Donetsk region. In the Kharkiv region, this means the Kupiansk sector and the Kupiansk - Lyman line," Zelensky said in his nightly video address.
Russia has made slow progress in trying to secure all of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, but has stepped up attacks in several areas, notably in Kupiansk, near Kharkiv, captured by Ukraine in an offensive across the northeast a year ago.
Russian occupation forces have built solid fortifications and minefields of their own in areas they have held since crossing the border in February 2022. These defenses have been a key factor in holding back the Ukrainian counteroffensive that began since June. Ukrainian troops achieved limited success in the east and south.
Since mid-October, Russian forces have focused their attention on the devastated city of Avdiivka, known for its huge coke plant and its position as the gateway to the Russian-controlled regional center of Donetsk.
Military spokesman Oleksandr Stupun said Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks on the chemical plant. Stupun told Espresso TV that the city and its surroundings are subject to Russian artillery and air attacks and to ground attacks, including by armored vehicles, but the plant remains under Ukrainian control and the enemy is "suffering significant losses there."
At this stage, reports of fighting on both sides cannot be independently verified and confirmed, notes "Reuters".
Avdiivka was briefly seized by Russian-backed separatists who took control of large swaths of eastern Ukraine in 2014. Since then, it has held out largely thanks to fortifications built by its Ukrainian defenders.
Russian forces are also putting significant pressure on the equally badly damaged city of Bakhmut, captured by Russian forces in May after months of fighting.
Russia's Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday the capture of one of the villages near Bakhmut - Khromov, but unofficial Ukrainian reports dispute this claim.
Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office said a Russian attack on the town of Toretsk, south of Bakhmut, killed one person and pulled three others alive from the rubble of a house. The initial investigation showed that Russian forces dropped two bombs in the second attack on the city throughout the day.
Ukrainian military analyst Serhiy Hrabsky said the Russians were seeking to take advantage of the capture of Bakhmut to advance on at least three cities to the west. Hrabsky explained to "Radio HB" that it is "extremely important for the Russian forces to develop things tactically with a view to a possible advance towards Konstantinovka, as well as towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk".
A railway line in Siberia used by Russia for military supplies has been blown up
A railway line in Siberia used by Russia for military supplies has been blown up in an operation by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). This was reported by Reuters citing a Ukrainian source.
According to it, four explosive devices were detonated last night as a freight train passed through a tunnel in the Russian republic of Buryatia, which borders Mongolia. Russian sources acknowledged that a train had caught fire in the area and were investigating the incident, but did not mention explosives. The incident caused minor delays, but overall there were no disruptions to rail traffic.
The Slovak prime minister demanded "standardization" of relations with Russia after the war
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico told meetings with the ambassadors of Russia and the United States that his country must prepare for the period after the end of the war in Ukraine and "standardization of Slovak-Russian relations".
The talks with ambassadors Igor Bratchikov and Gautam Rana, reported by the government, follow Fico's re-election as prime minister in late September and his inauguration last month. Fico promised already in the election campaign that weapons would not be exported to Ukraine (first he declared that he would not interfere with the companies, then he warned about emptying the warehouses).
Fico said shortly after his inauguration that Bratislava believed "an immediate cessation of hostilities is the best solution we have for Ukraine" and ruled out imposing new sanctions on Russia without assessing their impact on it and other EU countries.
Fico stated that NATO membership could not limit the country in "sovereign positions that do not always correspond to the policy of one correct opinion propagated in the European Union". The priority, he said, was the protection of national interests, including "peace initiatives, not a war in Ukraine." That's why he said in the meetings (it is not clear whether these exact words were heard by both ambassadors):
“Slovakia also has an obligation to prepare for the period after the end of the war in Ukraine and for the standardization of Slovak-Russian relations”, said Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia.
The Ukrainian parliament ruled out elections before the end of the war
Almost all groups in Ukraine's parliament have signed a statement saying that the next elections will take place only after the end of martial law, Strana.ua reports.
The only exception is the group "Restoration of Ukraine", created mainly by former members of the pro-Russian party "Opposition Platform - For Life", which was banned during the war, of which Victor Medvedchuk was a deputy and close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. These are 18 out of 450 deputies.
The text was adopted last month at a meeting in Transcarpathia in the European Parliament's "Jean Monnet Dialogue for Peace and Democracy" parliamentary mediation format, according to the Ukrainian publication that first published it. According to it, there is an "agreement" between the representatives of all political forces represented in the Ukrainian parliament that "future free and fair elections (parliamentary and presidential) will take place after the end of the war and the completion of martial law".
At the same time, the time for preparing such free and fair elections should be sufficient - at least six months after the end of martial law. According to the latest extension of martial law, voted by the Ukrainian parliament, it should last at least until February 14, 2024 (and then, if the war is expected to be ongoing, it will be renewed; the extension is usual for three months).
The position of the parliament is important amid disagreements in Ukraine and in the west, presidential elections were supposed to be held in March 2024. There were such disagreements in the presidential administration, and in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), the elections were supposed to be in October, but did not take place.
Zelensky himself said last month that "it is not time for elections".
During the discussion in Transcarpathia, the deputy head of the group of the "Fatherland" party, Serhiy Sobolev, stated that the initiative is related to the need to prevent a possible split in the country and the nation. "We have seen that after Foreign Minister Kuleba's statements that the president is considering the possibility of presidential elections in the spring, an election campaign has actually started in the country. This threatens our unity in times of war."
The goal, according to a source from Zelensky's “Servant of the People” party, is to create another obstacle to any attempt to hold the vote.
Russia announced that it had destroyed a Ukrainian unmanned boat headed for Crimea
The Russian Armed Forces destroyed this morning a Ukrainian unmanned boat headed for Crimea, the Ministry of Defense of Russia announced, as quoted by TASS and Reuters.
The vessel was discovered in the western waters of the Black Sea around 8 a.m. Moscow time (7 a.m. Bulgarian time). The Ukrainian cutter was then destroyed by naval aviation of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the statement said.
The Reuters agency makes the caveat that it cannot quickly independently confirm the claims of both sides in the conflict.
Russia, which annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, launched a full-scale invasion of the neighboring country in February last year. Ukrainian attacks on Crimea, mostly by drones and unmanned boats, have increased this year.
Orban said that the EU must first sign a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine
The European Union should first sign a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine, instead of starting accession negotiations with it, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said today, quoted by Reuters.
Orban said this on Hungarian state radio.
"This (agreement) could be for 5-10 years, let's get closer first because the distance between us is too big now. Let's give ourselves time to work together and raise the issue of membership once we see that we can work together," Orbán pointed out.
Scholz said in a telephone conversation with Zelensky that he supports the start of negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of his support for the start of negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU, DPA reported.
Scholz stressed that the future of the country is in the European Union and that Germany will continue to support it, including in the military sector, according to a press release of the German government.
Ukraine, as well as neighboring Moldova, are awaiting a decision on the launch of EU accession negotiations. On November 8, the EC issued a recommendation to take this step and a formal decision is to be taken at the annual EU summit on December 14 and 15.
It is not yet clear whether the member states will follow the recommendation of and give the green light to the negotiations, notes DPA. The main reason is that so far there are conditions that Kyiv has not fully covered.
European Council President Charles Michel visited the capitals of Ukraine and Moldova last week to show his full support for their efforts to quickly start negotiations with Brussels. But at the same time he warned them not to consider the matter a foregone conclusion.
Recently, Zelensky has repeated several times that his country is making efforts to implement all the necessary reforms.
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