Ukraine war latest news: Russian troops retreat from Kherson front line

A Ukrainian tank rolls on a road near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region - ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images
A Ukrainian tank rolls on a road near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region - ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images

Russia retreated from towns on the opposite bank of the Dnipro River from Kherson city, the first official Ukrainian report of its forces withdrawing from what is now the main front line in the south.

"A decrease in the number of Russian soldiers and military equipment is observed in the settlement of Oleshky," the Ukrainian military said.

"Enemy troops were withdrawn from certain settlements of the Kherson oblast and dispersed in forest strips along the section of the Oleshky - Hola Prystan highway.”

They suggested that Moscow's best-trained professional troops had already left the area. Until now the military has stopped short of saying Russian forces were leaving towns.

Although Russian forces have been pushed back, officials added that Russia had intensified shelling across the river, knocking out power again in Kherson.

03:00 PM

A round-up of today

Today's live blog is closing. Here is a roundup of the key events:

  • An “imminent large-scale attack” could be launched by Russia amid unusually high activity at a key airbase in the country, according to experts.

  • Almost six million Ukrainians were without power as they woke up on the first official day of winter, Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday night.

  • Air raid alerts were issued across all of Ukraine on Thursday following warnings by Ukrainian officials that Russia was preparing a new wave of missile and drone strikes.

  • The United States embassy in Madrid received a suspicious package on Thursday and has been placed under police control following a spate of similar deliveries across Spain.

  • The US Army awarded a $1.2 billion contract to Raytheon Technologies Co for six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) for Ukraine on Wednesday, the Pentagon said.

02:38 PM

EU's Michel urges Xi to use 'influence' on Russia over war with Ukraine

European Council President Charles Michel once again urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to use the country's "influence" on Russia over its war in Ukraine during a visit to Beijing on Thursday.

The war took up "a lot of time" during their three-hour meeting at Beijing's Great Hall of the People where trade, climate, human rights, Covid-19 recovery, Xinjiang and Taiwan, were also discussed, Mr Michel told reporters via video link from Beijing.

"I urged President Xi, as we did at our EU-China summit in April, to use his influence on Russia to respect the UN charter," Mr Michel said.

President Xi made it clear that China is not providing weapons to Russia and that nuclear threats are not acceptable, the European Council president said.

02:10 PM

Suspicious envelope found at US Embassy

The United States embassy in Madrid received a suspicious package on Thursday and has been placed under police control following a spate of similar deliveries across Spain.

Five letter bombs have been sent to various targets in the country, including one sent to the Ukrainian embassy that ignited.

Police say other explosive devices concealed in postal packages were sent over the past two days to Spain's Defense Ministry, a European Union satellite centre and an arms factory that makes grenades sent to Ukraine.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's office also received a letter containing an explosive device on November 24.

Read the full report here.

01:51 PM

US embassy in Madrid receives letter similar to five letter bombs, reports claim

The United States' embassy in Madrid has received a letter similar to the five letter-bombs sent to the Ukrainian embassy to Spain and other targets in the country, La Sexta TV station reported on Thursday.

01:50 PM

Ukraine hands 50 prisoners over to Russia in POW exchange

Russia's Defence Ministry said Ukraine had handed over 50 captured Russian service personnel on Thursday in the latest prisoner exchange between the two sides.

A group of Russian servicemen former prisoners of war (POW) walk after their exchange - RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A group of Russian servicemen former prisoners of war (POW) walk after their exchange - RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Earlier on Thursday, the top Russian-installed official in Ukraine's partly-occupied Donetsk region said Moscow and Kyiv would each hand over 50 prisoners of war.

Russia said it would fly the released prisoners to Moscow for medical checks and rehabilitation.

01:26 PM

Russia intelligence services in touch on possible prisoner swap

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that discussions with Washington about potential prisoner exchanges were being conducted by the two countries' intelligence services, and that he hoped they would be successful.

Elizabeth Rood, the US chargée d'affaires in Moscow, told Russia's state-owned RIA news agency in comments published on Monday that talks were continuing through the "designated channel" about a deal to free jailed Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

But she said Moscow has not provided a "serious response" to any of Washington's proposals.

Basketball star Griner was last month taken to a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia to serve a nine-year drug sentence after being arrested in February with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

Whelan, a former US Marine, is serving 16 years in the same region on charges of espionage, which he denies.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Nov. 18 he was hopeful of agreeing on a prisoner swap that could see the release of Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian weapons trafficker who is in prison in the United States.

01:00 PM

Ukraine says Russia pulls back forces from river towns opposite Kherson

Ukraine's military said on Thursday Russia had pulled some troops from towns on the opposite bank of the Dnipro River from Kherson city, the first official Ukrainian report of a Russian withdrawal on what is now the main front line in the south.

The statement gave only limited details and made no mention of any Ukrainian forces having crossed the Dnipro. Ukrainian officials also stressed that Russia had intensified shelling across the river, knocking out power again in Kherson where electricity had only begun to be restored nearly three weeks after Russian troops vacated the city and fled across the river.

"A decrease in the number of Russian soldiers and military equipment is observed in the settlement of Oleshky," the military said, referring to the town opposite Kherson city, on the far side of a destroyed bridge over the Dnipro.

"Enemy troops were withdrawn from certain settlements of the Kherson oblast and dispersed in forest strips along the section of the Oleshky - Hola Prystan highway," it said, referring to a 25-km (15-mile) stretch of road through riverside towns scattered in woods on the bank opposite Kherson city.

It said most of the Russian troops in the area are recently mobilised reservists, suggesting that Moscow's best-trained professional troops had already left the area.

12:36 PM

Air raid warning issued over all Ukraine

Air raid alerts were issued across all of Ukraine on Thursday following warnings by Ukrainian officials that Russia was preparing a new wave of missile and drone strikes.

"An overall air raid alert is in place in Ukraine. Go to shelters," country's border service wrote on Telegram messaging app.

12:00 PM

Early indications suggest envelopes with explosives were sent from within Spain

Early indications suggest five envelopes with explosives received by the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid, a Spanish weapon manufacturer and three government institutions were sent from within Spain, Deputy Interior Minister Rafael Perez told reporters on Thursday.

Police officers stand guard as other officers in yellow vests walk back at the cordoned off area next to the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid, Spain - AP Photo/Paul White
Police officers stand guard as other officers in yellow vests walk back at the cordoned off area next to the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid, Spain - AP Photo/Paul White

11:39 AM

Ukraine sacks engineer accused of collaborating at occupied nuclear plant

Ukraine sacked a top engineer at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Thursday, accusing him of collaborating with Russian forces, and urged other Ukrainian staff at the plant to remain loyal to Kyiv.

The head of state nuclear energy firm Energoatom made the appeal a day after Russia said it had promoted Ukrainian engineer Yuriy Chernichuk to serve as director of the vast plant in southeastern Ukraine.

"Instead of taking all efforts to liberate the station as fast as possible, he decided to help the Russian occupiers legalise its criminal seizure and is now inciting other atomic workers to do this," Energoatom chief Petro Kotin said.

Chernichuk could not immediately be reached for comment.

Moscow said in October it was putting Europe's largest nuclear power plant under the control of Russian nuclear authorities. Kyiv says the move is illegal.

"The only worthy option is to hold on!" Kotin told nuclear workers in a statement on the Telegram messaging app. "Hold on and don't sell your soul to the devil - don't sign pathetic 'contracts' with criminal Rosatom and affiliated firms."

Russia captured the plant in March, shortly after its invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian technicians have continued to operate the facility but Kyiv has accused Russia of putting the technicians under immense pressure.

11:20 AM

The latest in pictures

Here is a roundup of the latest pictures coming out of Ukraine:

Aerial photos of the Russian fortified area and its fortifications near the village of Vladimirovka, 10 kilometers from Bakhmut - nexta_tv
Aerial photos of the Russian fortified area and its fortifications near the village of Vladimirovka, 10 kilometers from Bakhmut - nexta_tv
Members of the public are seen in Solomianskyi district in Kyiv, Ukraine - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Members of the public are seen in Solomianskyi district in Kyiv, Ukraine - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Serhiy Siryi stands amid his destroyed house as he works to cleanup debris in the village of Posad Pokrovske on the outskirts of Kherson - Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Serhiy Siryi stands amid his destroyed house as he works to cleanup debris in the village of Posad Pokrovske on the outskirts of Kherson - Chris McGrath/Getty Images
A local chops wood sticks as he prepares firewood for winter in Bakhmut City, Ukrain - Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A local chops wood sticks as he prepares firewood for winter in Bakhmut City, Ukrain - Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A child swings at park in front of damaged residential building due to airstrikes as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Vyshorod, Kyiv Oblas - Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A child swings at park in front of damaged residential building due to airstrikes as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Vyshorod, Kyiv Oblas - Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

10:51 AM

Spain steps up security as PM's office targeted in spate of letter-bombs

Spain has stepped up security at public and diplomatic buildings after a letter-bomb was sent to the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry said that an "envelope with pyrotechnic material" addressed to Mr Sanchez was received on November 24 and disarmed by his security team.

A police officer stands near an ambulance at a cordon outside an arms company's building after it received a letter bomb in Zaragoza, Spain - FORTA
A police officer stands near an ambulance at a cordon outside an arms company's building after it received a letter bomb in Zaragoza, Spain - FORTA

The device was "similar" to subsequent packages received by the Ukrainian embassy and a Spanish arms firm on Wednesday, it said, and a device intercepted at Spain's Torrejon de Ardoz air force base in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The first letter-bomb was received and opened by a security officer at the Ukrainian embassy on Wednesday lunchtime and exploded, causing minor injuries to the official.

10:26 AM

Lavrov says US and Nato are direct participants in war

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that the United States and Nato were direct participants in the Ukraine war because of their support to Kyiv and defended Moscow's strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure.

Lavrov told a news conference that Washington and the Atlantic alliance were directly involved in the war because they were supplying arms to Ukraine and providing it with military training on their territory.

Ukrainian servicemen warm themselves next to their tank at a position near Bakhmut, Donetsk region - ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian servicemen warm themselves next to their tank at a position near Bakhmut, Donetsk region - ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images

He defended Russian strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, which Kyiv and the West say are a war crime aimed at inflicting suffering on civilians - by cutting off heating, light and power.

"We disable energy facilities (in Ukraine) that allow you (the West) to pump lethal weapons into Ukraine to kill Russians," Lavrov said.

"So don't say that the US and Nato are not participants in this war - you are directly participating. Including not only the supply of weapons, but also the training of personnel - you train the (Ukrainian) military on your territory."

10:02 AM

Spanish PM office confirms 'similar' package to letter bombs sent to him

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's office received on November 24 a letter containing an explosive device "similar" to the ones received by the Ukrainian embassy, a Spanish weapons manufacturer on Wednesday and an air force base on Thursday, the Interior Ministry said.

Security around public and diplomatic buildings are to be stepped up after a series of letter-bombs were received around the country, the ministry added.

10:02 AM

Kherson loses power supply after Russian shelling

The recently liberated city of Kherson has lost its power supply after heavy shelling by Russian forces, the regional governor said on Thursday.

Kherson, which had endured weeks without basic utilities such as running water and electricity, partially regained its power supply last week after Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city from Russian forces earlier in November.

Victor Tsap prepares wood for the winter season next to his destroyed house in the village of Pravdyne, outside Kherson - ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Victor Tsap prepares wood for the winter season next to his destroyed house in the village of Pravdyne, outside Kherson - ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Yaroslav Yanushevych, the governor of the Kherson region, blamed Russian shelling for the new power cut and said in a statement on the Telegram messaging platform that energy workers were working to fix the problem.

After living under Russian occupation for almost nine months, Kherson residents now face the danger of regular shelling in some parts of the city from Russian troops who retreated only to the opposite side of the Dnipro River.

Other Ukrainian cities are also suffering power cuts after Russian air strikes.

09:36 AM

Lavrov says European security body is hobbled by West

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that big problems had accumulated in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), accusing the West of spurning the chance to make it a real bridge with Russia after the Cold War.

Lavrov made the comments at the start of a news conference during which he gave a long recital of Russian historical grievances against the West, saying the "reckless enlargement" of Nato had devalued the basic principles of the OSCE.

"Taking advantage of its numerical superiority in this organization, the West has been trying for many years to, if you like, privatise it. Or perhaps it's more correct to say it is trying to carry out a takeover raid on the OSCE, to subjugate this last platform for regional dialogue," said Lavrov.

09:10 AM

Russia's Lavrov says West missed a chance to avoid Ukraine conflict

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that the West had a real chance to avoid conflict in Ukraine, but had chosen to spurn Russian proposals to halt the expansion of Nato and agree a special security status for Kyiv.

Lavrov made the comments during a news conference in Moscow.

The West says Russia's proposals made in the run-up to the Ukraine war were unrealistic and insincere.

08:58 AM

In pictures: Russia preparing for 'imminent large-scale attack'

An “imminent large-scale attack” could be launched by Russia amid unusually high activity at a key airbase in the country, according to experts.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

08:39 AM

Third mail-bomb found in Spanish air force base, El Mundo reports

Spanish security forces found a third explosive device hidden in a mailed parcel to air force base in Torrejon de Ardoz outside Madrid, newspaper El Mundo reported Thursday morning.

Two letter bombs were found on Wednesday addressed to the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid and to a weapon manufacturer in Zaragoza, in northern Spain, police said.

The first one exploded causing minor injuries to a Ukrainian official.

08:20 AM

Pentagon awards Raytheon $1.2 bln contract for Ukrainian NASAMS

The US Army awarded a $1.2 billion contract to Raytheon Technologies Co for six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) for Ukraine on Wednesday, the Pentagon said.

The United States has approved sending Ukraine a total of eight NASAMS to help fend off Russian missile and drone attacks.

Ukraine received its first delivery of two NASAMS air defence systems in November. Others will be delivered in future months once they are built.

The United States has approved sending Ukraine a total of eight NASAMS - Raytheon
The United States has approved sending Ukraine a total of eight NASAMS - Raytheon

"NASAMS are just the latest in the diverse set of air-defence capabilities we are delivering to Ukraine," said Bill LaPlante, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.

These six NASAMS systems were part of the fifth Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) package which was announced on Aug. 24 and had a total value of $2.98 billion, according to an Army Statement. USAI funds allow the Biden administration to procure weapons from industry rather than taking weapons from existing US weapons stocks.

07:50 AM

Six million without power as first day of winter hits

Almost six million Ukrainians were without power as they woke up on the first official day of winter, Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday night.

As desperate Ukrainians try to heat their homes, nine people were killed in fires after breaking safety rules, the country’s state emergency service said.

“Only in the last day there were 131 fires in Ukraine, 106 of them in the residential sector. Nine people died, eight were injured,” the emergency service said.

Snow hit the Solomianskyi district in Kyiv, Ukraine - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Snow hit the Solomianskyi district in Kyiv, Ukraine - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

07:23 AM

Ukraine embassy and Spanish arms company receive letter bombs

Police in Spain are examining a possible link between two letter bombs sent to the Ukrainian ambassador in Madrid and to an arms company that manufactures rocket launchers donated to Kyiv, they confirmed in a statement on Wednesday.

In the first incident, an officer at Ukraine's embassy in Madrid was injured when he opened a letter bomb addressed to the ambassador, prompting Kyiv to order greater security at all its representative offices abroad.

Ambassador Serhii Pohoreltsev told the Ukrainian news site European Pravda that the suspicious package addressed to him was handed to the embassy's commandant, a Ukrainian staff member.

"The package contained a box, which raised the commandant's suspicions and he decided to take it outside – with no one in the vicinity – and open it," Pohoreltsev was quoted as saying.

"After opening the box and hearing a click that followed, he tossed it and then heard the explosion...Despite not holding the box at the time of the explosion, the commandant hurt his hands and received a concussion."

Hours later, an arms company in Zaragoza, northeastern Spain, received a similar package, police confirmed.

The government representative in Zaragoza, Rosa Serrano, said in an interview with the SER station that the two envelopes appeared to have the same sender, since the same e-mail address was written on the back of both of them. Serrano said the packages came from Ukraine and this is what alarmed the arms company, which called the police.

The arms company is Instalaza, the manufacturer of the C90 rocket launcher that Spain donates to Ukraine.

07:21 AM

Russia's Gazprom to ship 42.4 mcm of gas to Europe via Ukraine

Russia's Gazprom said it would ship 42.4 million cubic metres of gas to Europe via Ukraine on Thursday, a volume similar to those of recent days.