Ukraine war live updates: Russia says 'hell' awaits Ukrainians after confirming they've crossed Dnipro river into occupied territory

Russia’s confirmation Wednesday that a number of Ukrainian forces have crossed over the Dnipro to reach the Russian-occupied left (or eastern) side of the river in Kherson comes after an apparent reluctance in Moscow to acknowledge an audacious advance by Ukraine.

On Monday, Russian news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS published alerts quoting the defense ministy as stating that Russia was relocating troops to “more favorable positions” east of the Dnipro river only to withdraw the information minutes later and apologizing for the error. Russia’s Ministry of Defense was then reported as saying that the “false” reports were “a provocation.”

Ukrainian servicemen of the 123rd Territorial Defense Brigade prepare to fire a mortar over the Dnipro River toward Russian positions, in an undisclosed location in the Kherson region, on November 6, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While Ukraine’s recapture of Kherson city last November was a shock defeat for the Kremlin, Russian forces on the opposing bank still control swathes of territory and shell towns and villages they retreated from. The Dnipro, Europe’s fourth-longest river and a historic trading route, has become a key front since Ukrainian troops pushed Russian forces back over its banks in the south last year. (Photo by Roman PILIPEY / AFP) (Photo by ROMAN PILIPEY/AFP via Getty Images)

Roman Pilipey | Afp | Getty Images

Analysts said the mix up suggested disarray in Russia’s military establishment and state media over how to report the battlefield situation in southern Ukraine.

Recapturing the whole of the Kherson region is one of the main goals of the Ukrainian counteroffensive launched in June. The region has been partially occupied by Russian forces after they withdrew from Kherson city on the west, or right, bank last year following an earlier counteroffensive.

The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War said Tuesday that it “continues to assess that Ukrainian forces have been conducting larger-than-usual ground operations on the east bank of Kherson Oblast [region] since mid-October 2023 and that Ukrainian forces appear to be able to maintain and supply their current positions on the Russian-controlled side of Kherson Oblast.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian forces are pummeling Ukrainian units that have have crossed over the Dnipro river to the Russian-occupied left (or eastern) bank of the river in Kherson, a Russian-installed official said Wednesday.

The Kherson area, in southern Ukraine, is partially occupied by Russian forces after an offensive to take the city of Kherson last year prompted Russian forces to withdraw to the eastern bank of the river.

Ukraine reported Tuesday that its forces had established a foothold on the eastern bank of the river. The announcement could herald the start of an advance toward Russian-occupied Crimea, with Ukraine saying on Wednesday that it was starting to push back Russian forces.

“Along the front line, which runs along the Dnipro… The pushback from our side is taking place on a line from 3 to 8 km (2-5 miles) along the entire bank from the water’s edge,” Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for the southern military command, said, in comments reported by Reuters.

“For now, we will ask for informational silence … which would allow us to report later on great successes,” she added.

A Ukrainian serviceman of the 123rd Territorial Defense Brigade stands guard on a position next to the Dnipro River, in an undisclosed location in the Kherson region, on November 6, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While Ukraine’s recapture of Kherson city last November was a shock defeat for the Kremlin, Russian forces on the opposing bank still control swathes of territory and shell towns and villages they retreated from. The Dnipro, Europe’s fourth-longest river and a historic trading route, has become a key front since Ukrainian troops pushed Russian forces back over its banks in the south last year. (Photo by Roman PILIPEY / AFP) (Photo by ROMAN PILIPEY/AFP via Getty Images)

Roman Pilipey | Afp | Getty Images

A Russian-installed official, Vladimir Saldo, said in Google-translated comments on Telegram that Ukrainian units had been able to cross the river — confirming for the first time that this had taken place — and said that initially Ukraine had sent “more manpower than our means of destruction were able to destroy.”

“Additional forces have now been brought up,” he said, claiming that Ukrainian forces were blocked in the village of Krynki where “a fiery hell” awaited them. “Bombs, missiles, ammunition from heavy flamethrower systems, artillery shells, and drones are flying at him [Ukrainian forces] … Over the last two or three days alone, the enemy’s total losses amounted to about a hundred militants.”

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War noted Tuesday that “Ukrainian forces are continuing their own offensive operations and making tactical-level gains along the front, particularly in western Zaporizhia Oblast [region] and on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast,” the ISW noted.

“The Russian military command will likely have to decide whether to keep certain Russian elements on certain sectors of the front to defend against ongoing Ukrainian offensive operations or to redeploy them to support offensive operations elsewhere that will likely culminate without reinforcements.”

These choices will likely hinder Russia’s ability to fully regain the initiative in the coming weeks, the ISW said.

CNBC was unable to verify developments on the ground.

— Holly Ellyatt

The chances of the Israel-Hamas conflict spreading to the broader Middle East region is very high, Russia’s Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov said, according to Russian state media.

“I can state that the level of confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians remains extremely high and the degree of expansion of the conflict into the region is, unfortunately, very high,” he said, in Google-translated comments reported by Russian state outlet Tass.

“We need to act against this immediately,” Viktorov added.

The potential for the Israeli war with Hamas to engulf the wider Middle East has been a primary concern for the international community, following exchanges of fire between Israel and Yemen’s Houthi militants, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Syrian administration of Bashard al-Assad — all of whom receive support from Iran, as does Hamas. Turkey has also increasingly condemned Israel, given hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

Russia had initially aimed for a balanced diplomatic response, divided between loyalties to Israel and Iran and even accepting a delegation of Hamas on its territory. Moscow has turned progressively critical of Israel throughout the conflict.

Ruxandra Iordache

AVDIIVKA, UKRAINE – OCTOBER 30: Police officer Gennady convinces a local resident who lives in a dilapidated house to evacuate on October 30, 2023 in Avdiivka, Ukraine. The National Police of Ukraine, along with the “White Angel” special unit, is conducting an operation to evacuate the remaining local residents from the city, which faces daily destruction from artillery fire. According to the national police, approximately 1,400 people are still in the city. The fighting has escalated in recent days following Russia’s major offensive earlier this month. (Vlada Liberova / Libkos via Getty Images)

Libkos | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces remains intense around the town of Avdiivka in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, with Ukraine’s president saying Russia was experiencing more losses there than it did in Bakhmut, another war hotspot.

Similarly to Bakhmut, the town is seen as a strategic target for Russian forces looking to encircle the town, which has been heavily fortified by Ukrainian troops, and to strengthen their foothold in Donetsk. Fighting has been intense in the area for months and little remains of the town that was once home to around 32,000 inhabitants.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday evening that he had spoken to defense and security officials on the situation around Avdiivka and the surrounding area and that “Russian assaults are very intense, especially in the Donetsk region.”

“Russia is already losing soldiers and equipment near Avdiivka faster and on a larger scale than, for example, near Bakhmut. It is extremely difficult to withstand this onslaught. And each of our warriors holding the positions, each of our warriors performing combat missions there deserves our utmost gratitude,” Zelenskyy said.

“The more Russian forces are destroyed near Avdiivka now, the worse the overall situation and the overall course of this war will be for the enemy,” Zelenskyy said. CNBC was unable to verify the claims made by the president.

— Holly Ellyatt

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – SEPTEMBER 9: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the concert marking the City Day on September 9, 2023 in Moscow, Russia. Putin and Moscow’s Mayor Sobyanin, who is expected to be re-elected this week took part in the festive events. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to announce his intention to run in the 2024 presidential election campaign during his annual press conference and public phone-in, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence said Wednesday.

The Kremlin announced last week that Putin will hold the event, that sees the president answer a myriad of questions from the media and public, before the end of the year.

“Kremlin planners will almost certainly see the event as an important waypoint in Putin’s anticipated campaign to secure a fifth term in office in the March 2024 presidential elections. He is likely to announce his candidacy before the end of 2023,” the ministry said in an intelligence update on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The event was canceled in 2022, probably because Russia had suffered high-profile military set-backs in Ukraine over the preceding weeks.

On Nov. 10, Putin visited the Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, meeting Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Putin’s second visit to the headquarters in four weeks was “likely an uptick in his continued efforts to paint himself as the ‘patriotic’ candidate ahead of the election campaign,” the ministry said.

— Holly Ellyatt

The Russian army has “eliminated” almost all Ukrainian literature in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, Gyunduz Mamedov, a former deputy prosecutor-general of Ukraine wrote in a social media post Tuesday.

Mamedov said that any Ukrainian books published from 1991 to 2021 had been dubbed “extremist literature,” and that Russian authorities had replaced them with around 2.5 million Russian books.

In Sept. 2022, Russia claimed to have annexed Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

— Karen Gilchrist

German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall said Tuesday that it would supply Ukraine with with 25 main battle tanks Leopard 1A5, five armored recovery vehicles (Bergepanzer 2) and two driver training tanks.

In a statement, the company said the deal had been financed by the German government in a deal valued in the “upper-two-digit million-euro range.”

It added that the deal also includes training, logistics, spare parts, maintenance and other support services.

— Karen Gilchrist

Continued and amplified support for Ukraine is crucial as fighting in the country continues, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday.

“The situation on the battlefield is difficult. And that just makes it even more important that we sustain and step up our support for Ukraine because we cannot allow President Putin to win,” Stoltenberg said on the sidelines of a meeting with EU defense ministers in Brussels.

Stoltenberg also said that Ukraine needed to “prevail as a sovereign independent nation in Europe,” and that supporting the country was in the interests of Western allies.

 — Sophie Kiderlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Omsk Region Acting Governor Vitaly Khotsenko at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia August 28, 2023.

Mikhail Klimentyev | Kremlin | Sputnik | via Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin approved changes to legislation that placed new restrictions on media coverage ahead of next March’s presidential elections, local Russian media reported on Tuesday.

Under the adjusted law, only reporters employed by registered media outlets will be permitted to cover election commission meetings, possibly blocking freelancers and independent journalists from reporting the events.

The changes also block any coverage of the commission’s actions on military bases or in areas under martial law without the prior permission of regional and military authorities.

— Karen Gilchrist

The four suspects in the murder case of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, from left, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, Pavel Ryaguzov, Ibragim Makhmudov and Dzhabrail Makhmudov sit inside the defendants’ cage at a Moscow court on February 18, 2009. The jury in the trial of the 2006 murder of Politkovskaya will retire on February 19 to consider a verdict against the accused, the judge said. AFP PHOTO / ALEXEY SAZONOV (Photo by Alexey SAZONOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXEY SAZONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Alexey Sazonov | Afp | Getty Images

Russian former detective Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, who was convicted for his role in the killing of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was pardoned after fighting in Ukraine, RBC news reported Tuesday.

“Under the first contract, Khadzhikurbanov participated in the SVO as a prisoner, then he was pardoned and now participates in the SVO as a civilian soldier, having entered into a contract with the Ministry of Defense,” Khadzhikurbanov’s lawyer Alexey Mikhalchik said.

SVO is another term for Russia’s so-called “special military operation” — the euphemistic phrase it uses to refer to its invasion of Ukraine.

Best known for her coverage of abuses in Russia’s war in Chechnya, Politkovskaya was shot dead in the lift of her Moscow apartment in 2006.

— Karen Gilchrist

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