Fierce fighting between forces of Moscow and Kiev continues in the eastern Donetsk region while Ukraine reports Russian shelling in southern areas, as the conflict rolls into its 281st day.

Ukraine's presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak says more soldiers had been wounded than had died.
Ukraine's presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak says more soldiers had been wounded than had died. (Reuters)

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Ukraine provides first estimate of soldiers death since August

Ukraine's armed forces have lost somewhere between 10,000 and 13,000 soldiers so far in the conflict against Russia, presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak has told a Ukrainian television network. 

The remarks appeared to be the first estimate of dead since late August, when the head of the armed forces said nearly 9,000 military personnel had been killed.

"We have official figures from the general staff, we have official figures from the top command, and they amount to (between) 10,000 and 12,500 to 13,000 killed," Podolyak told the Kanal 24 channel. "We are open in talking about the number of dead," he added, saying more soldiers had been wounded than had died.

Biden ready to speak with Putin

US President Joe Biden has said he would be willing to speak to Vladimir Putin for the first time since the Ukraine invasion if the Russian leader truly wants to end the conflict.

Biden was speaking during a state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has said he will speak again to Putin after his trip to Washington and has warned against cutting off the Russian leader.

At a joint news conference with Macron, Biden said he had no immediate plans to contact Putin but left the possibility open.

"I'm prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he's looking for a way to end the war. He hasn't done that yet," Biden said.

Zelenskyy says over 1,300 prisoners of war handed to Ukraine 

More than 1,300 prisoners have been returned to Ukraine since Russia launched its February 24 military operation against the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said. 

Zelenskyy's comments came after a new exchange of prisoners with Russian and pro-Russian forces. 

"After today's (Thursday's) exchange, there are already 1,319 heroes who returned home," Zelenskyy said through Instagram, posting a photo showing a few dozen men holding Ukrainian flags. 

"We will not stop until we get all our people back," the Ukrainian leader said. 

Russia announces exchange of more PoWs  

Russia has announced another round of exchange of war prisoners with Ukraine. 

Fifty Russian servicemen returned from captivity in Ukraine, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. 

The released soldiers will be transported to Moscow for medical treatment and rehabilitation, the ministry said.

Nationwide air raid alert declared in Ukraine 

Local authorities have said that a nationwide air raid alert sounded in Ukraine, including in the capital Kiev, due to impending Russian attacks. 

Governors of Ukraine's administrative divisions took to Telegram to urge residents to move to bomb shelters. 

In Kiev, lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko and the military administration warned residents of the impending Russian strikes on the city, while the regional administration declared the alarm for the surrounding region.

Ukraine presses for EU sanctions on Russia's missile industry 

Future EU sanctions must target Russia's missile industry, Ukraine's foreign minister said in talks with the bloc's top diplomat. 

"Josep Borrell and I agreed: total war against Ukraine means total support for Ukraine," Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement after their meeting on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Ministerial Council in the Polish city of Lodz. 

"I thanked the EU for its continued defense assistance and stressed that next EU sanctions should include those hitting Russia's missile production industry: it must be put to a halt," he added.

China's Xi urges Ukraine talks in meeting with EU's Michel 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has urged negotiations to find a political solution to the Ukraine conflict in talks with visiting European Council President Charles Michel in Beijing, state broadcaster CCTV said. 

Xi was quoted as saying that "solving the Ukrainian crisis through political means is in the best interest of Europe and the common interest of all countries in Eurasia." 

"Under current conditions, we must avoid escalation and expansion of the crisis and work for peace," Xi said.

Swiss freeze nearly $8 bn in Russian assets 

Switzerland said that it has to date frozen a total of 7.5 billion Swiss francs ($7.9 billion) in Russian assets in connection with the sanctions imposed over Moscow's military action in Ukraine. 

The amount, which has been fluctuating for months, is nearly one billion francs more than the figure provided by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in July. 

Switzerland, a favoured destination for wealthy Russians and their assets, has also seen 15 Russian properties seized, it said.

40% of Ukraine power grid still damaged: operator 

Nearly half of Ukraine's electricity grid remains damaged, a private operator has said, a week after the latest Russian strikes on the country's energy infrastructure disrupted power to millions of people. 

"Russia has destroyed 40 percent of the Ukrainian energy system with terrorist missile attacks. Dozens of energy workers were killed and wounded," DTEK company said in a statement on social media. 

After suffering humiliating military defeats on the ground, Russia began targeting Ukrainian energy facilities in October, causing severe damage and power shortages. 

China is not an adversary: NATO chief 

China posed a challenge to the defence alliance's security and values but was not considered an adversary, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said. 

"Each individual ally has to find a balance between economic engagement with China and at the same time preventing becoming too dependent or vulnerable related to economic interaction with China," Stoltenberg said at the Berlin Security Conference.

Russia is ready to listen if anyone wants Ukraine talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow was ready to listen if anyone wanted to hold talks on Ukraine.

Lavrov, speaking at a news conference in the 10th month of the war, said Ukrainian allegations that Russia wanted talks in order to win time to regroup and rebuild its armed forces were absurd.

He said Russia would also be willing to return to talks with the West if it changed its mind about the merit of discussing security proposals that Moscow floated in December. 

Better for OSCE to carry on without Russia: Ukraine

Ukraine's top diplomat said that it would be better for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to carry on its operations without Russia’s involvement.

“Everything has been tried in regards to Russia: to please, to appease, to be nice, to be neutral, to engage, not to call a spade a spade. The bottom line: it would be better for OSCE to carry on without Russia,” Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter following the start of the OSCE Ministerial Council in the Polish city of Lodz.

Kuleba also expressed disagreement with the title of the event – “OSCE at the crossroads,” as he said the bloc is rather “on a highway to hell.”

Lavrov: European security body is hobbled by West

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said 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.

Ukraine making major gains, but we should not underestimate Russia: NATO

Ukraine is making major gains in its counteroffensive, but Western allies should not underestimate Russia, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned.

“Thanks to the heroic resistance of the Ukraine people, and the unprecedented support from NATO allies, Ukraine has made significant gains,” Stoltenberg said in his speech at the Berlin Security Conference.

“But we should not underestimate Russia. Russian missiles and drones continue to rain down on Ukrainian cities, civilians, and critical infrastructure, causing enormous human suffering, as winter sets in,” he added.

Allies delivered advanced weapon systems to Ukraine: NATO

NATO's Stoltenberg says allies delivered advanced weapon systems to Ukraine, which are "making a huge difference on battlefield" every day.

Ukraine has made significant gains, but we should not underestimate Russia, NATO chief Stoltenberg tells at Berlin Security Conference.

Swiss have frozen $8B in financial assets under Russia sanctions

Switzerland has frozen financial assets worth $7.94 billion as of Nov. 25 under sanctions against Russians to punish Moscow for its attack against Ukraine, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said.

SECO, the agency overseeing sanctions, also said that 15 properties in six cantons are also "blocked".

Up until June 3, SECO had been notified of existing deposits held by Russian nationals, and individuals and legal entities in Russia, amounting to $48.7 billion, it said.

This was far below the $158 billion to $211 billion of Russian wealth that the Swiss Bankers Association has estimated Swiss banks hold.

Russian law on increasing restrictions against ‘foreign agents’ becomes effective

Russia officially entered into force a law increasing restrictions against “foreign agents,” previously adopted by the State Duma in June.

According to the new law - titled “On control over the activities of persons being under the foreign influence - “foreign agents” can also be Russian or foreign legal entities, regardless of their organizational and legal form, as well as public associations. Based on the new law, “foreign agents” are obliged to inform authorities and employees about their status, and they have to label what they produce.

In addition, “foreign agents” will not be able to undertake certain tasks, including “performing educational activities in relation to minors or pedagogical activities in state and municipal educational organizations, creating information products for minors, and managing facilities of significant objects of critical information infrastructure and activities to ensure its security.”

Ukrainian orphans are in safe hands in Türkiye: First lady Erdogan

Ukrainian orphans who were brought to Türkiye due to the Russia-Ukraine war are in safe hands in the country, said Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan.

"I saw that they were very happy here. They are in safe hands and happy with the ministry officials and their caregivers from Ukraine accompanying them," Erdogan said after meeting with a group of children in the capital Ankara.

Since the war erupted in February, thanks to the efforts of Erdogan and Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska, hundreds of children and their caregivers have been brought to Türkiye. Across the country, the Turkish Family and Social Services Ministry provides them shelter and psychiatric and social support to help them overcome the trauma of displacement.

Of course, the heart wishes that this war had not happened, that no one was left without a mother, father, or displaced. My hope is that the war will end as soon as possible, that the wounds there will be healed, and that everyone can return to their homes safely.

Emine Erdogan, Türkiye's First Lady

Ukraine military says preparing counter-measures in east

Russian forces tried to advance in eastern Ukraine and trained tank, mortar and artillery fire on Kherson in the south, the Ukrainian military has said, as Western allies sought to buttress Ukraine and its neighbours against Moscow.

In the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, site of the heaviest fighting, Russian forces tried to make further advances and shelled several towns, including Bakhmut and nearby Soledar and Opytne, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has said in a statement. 

It said that on the southern front, Russian forces took up defensive positions and trained tank, mortar and artillery fire on Ukrainian positions and on the regional capital of Kherson, abandoned by Russian troops earlier in November. Other battleground activity was reported in northeastern and central Ukraine, the military said.

"We are analysing the intentions of the occupiers and preparing counter-measures - tougher countermeasures than is now the case," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his evening address.

For live updates from Wednesday (November 30), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies