Key events

Another 107 Ukrainian service personnel were freed from Russian captivity in a prisoner of war swap on Thursday.

“Many of them were wounded, and very seriously,” Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in his latest national address.

Today we held another POWs swap. We managed to free and bring home 107 servicemen including many WIAs.
🇺🇦 government will do everything necessary to help each one of them. pic.twitter.com/t3VIsNlTMi

— Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) November 3, 2022

Ukraine fears Russia is setting trap by feigning pull-out in Kherson

In Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, a Russian-installed occupation official said Moscow was likely to pull its troops from the west bank of the Dnieper River, signalling a huge retreat that, if confirmed, would be a major turning point in the war.

“Most likely our units, our soldiers, will leave for the left [eastern] bank,” said Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-installed deputy civilian administrator of the Kherson region, in an interview with Solovyov Live, a pro-Kremlin online media outlet.

Previously, Russia had denied its forces were planning to withdraw from the area.

Ukraine said it was wary that Moscow could be setting a trap by feigning a pull-out from the Kherson region and maintained its forces were still fighting in the area.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command, said it could be a Russian trap.

This could be a manifestation of a particular provocation, in order to create the impression that the settlements are abandoned, that it is safe to enter them, while they are preparing for street battles,” she said in televised comments.

We continue fighting, also in the Kherson direction, despite the fact that the enemy is trying to convince us that they are leaving the settlements and creating the effect of a total evacuation.”

Ukraine’s forces can retake Kherson, US defence secretary says

US secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin, said he believes that Ukrainian forces are able to retake Kherson, calling their work “methodical” and “effective”.

In remarks made during a conference on Thursday with South Korea’s defence minister Lee Jong-sup, Austin said:

On the issue of whether or not the Ukrainians can take the remaining territory on the west side of the Dnieper River in Kherson, I certainly believe that they have the capability to do that. Most importantly, the Ukrainians believe that they have the capability to do that.

We’ve seen them engage in a very methodical but effective effort to take back their sovereign territory. I think you’ll see them continue to press until they secure the territory on the west side of the river. So to answer your question, I do think they have the capability.”

A western official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said some Russian military commanders had rebased across the river to the east.

We would assess that in Kherson, it’s likely that most echelons of command have withdrawn now across the river to the east, leaving pretty demoralised and often in some cases leaderless troops to face off Ukrainians on the other side,” the official said.

Ukrainian soldiers work on a self-propelled gun 2S3 in the Kherson region.
Ukrainian soldiers work on a self-propelled gun 2S3 in the Kherson region. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/EPA

Russia has fought for months to hang on to the pocket of land it holds on the west bank at the mouth of the Dnipro River that bisects Ukraine.

Ukraine has attacked the main river crossings for months, making it difficult for Russia to supply its force on the west bank. Ukrainian troops have been advancing along the river since the start of October, although their advance slowed in recent days.

However, battlefield reports are conflicting.

Ukrainian troops on the front line last week, visited by Reuters, said they saw no evidence Russian forces were withdrawing and believed they were in fact reinforcing.

Michael Kofman, a US expert on the Russian military who has just returned from the Ukrainian side of the Kherson front, said Moscow’s intentions were unclear.

“The situation in Kherson is clear as mud,” tweeted Kofman, director of Russia studies at the Centre for Naval Analyses.

Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine. I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments as they unfold over the next few hours.

US secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin, said he believes that Ukrainian forces are able to retake Kherson, calling their work “methodical” and “effective”.

As of Thursday night, 4.5 million Ukrainians in the capital Kyiv and ten other regions were temporarily without power, the latest outages caused by Russian attacks, president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address.

If you have an update or any feedback to share, please feel free to get in touch via email or Twitter.

If you have just joined us, here are all the latest developments:

  • The UN nuclear watchdog said it had found no sign of undeclared nuclear activity at three sites in Ukraine that it inspected at Kyiv’s request, in response to Russian allegations that work was being done on a “dirty bomb”. “Our technical and scientific evaluation of the results we have so far did not show any sign of undeclared nuclear activities and materials at these three locations,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement, adding that environmental samples taken would be analysed.

  • In southern Ukraine, a Russian-installed occupation official said Moscow was likely to pull its troops from the west bank of the Dnieper River, signalling a huge retreat that, if confirmed, would be a major turning point in the war. “Most likely our units, our soldiers, will leave for the left [eastern] bank,” said Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-installed deputy civilian administrator of the Kherson region, in an interview with Solovyov Live, a pro-Kremlin online media outlet.

  • Ukraine said it was wary that Moscow could be setting a trap by feigning a pull-out from the Kherson region and maintained its forces were still fighting in the area. Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command, said it could be a Russian trap. “This could be a manifestation of a particular provocation, in order to create the impression that the settlements are abandoned, that it is safe to enter them, while they are preparing for street battles,” she said in televised comments. “We continue fighting, also in the Kherson direction, despite the fact that the enemy is trying to convince us that they are leaving the settlements and creating the effect of a total evacuation.”

  • US secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin, said he believes that Ukrainian forces are able to retake Kherson, calling their work “methodical” and “effective”.

  • Ukraine has described the forced relocation of its citizens in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions as “deportations” and “war crimes”. Russian authorities in Kherson have been relocating civilians, claiming it is for their safety as Ukrainian forces move closer. One week after Russian authorities relocated 70,000 civilians from the right bank of the Dnieper River to the left bank, Russian authorities said they were moving 70,000 civilians from the left bank to be “temporarily resettled deep into the Kherson region, as well as to other regions of the Russian Federation,” citing “possible damage to the dam of the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station”.

  • The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine has again been disconnected from the power grid after Russian shelling damaged the remaining high voltage lines, leaving it with just diesel generators, Ukraine nuclear firm Energoatom said. The plant, in Russian hands but operated by Ukrainian workers, has 15 days’ worth of fuel to run the generators, Energoatom said.

  • The Russian ambassador to the UK has claimed UK special forces were involved in a Ukrainian drone attack on Moscow’s Black Sea fleet. Andrei Kelin told Sky News: “We perfectly know about [the] participation of British specialists in [the] training, preparation and execution of violence against the Russian infrastructure and the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. We know that it has been done.” Kelin added: “This is a warning actually that Britain is too deep in this conflict. It means the situation is becoming more and more dangerous.”

  • Another 107 Ukrainian service personnel were freed from Russian captivity in a prisoner of war swap, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy confirmed. “Many of them were wounded, and very seriously,” he said in his latest national address.

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered a one-time payment of 195,000 roubles (£2,800) for contract soldiers and those who have been mobilised to fight in Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Thursday. Last week Moscow said the “partial mobilisation” of 300,000 reservists was over but conceded there had been problems

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy has confirmed that he will not attend the G20 summit taking place in two weeks in Bali if Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation will be participating in the conference.

  • US embassy officials in Russia visited jailed basketball star Brittney Griner on Thursday. The White House said officials were continuing to work toward a prisoner swap offer with Russia for the release of Griner – but elaborated no further on what that meant, or how soon that could take place.

A woman receives a loaf of bread distributed in a village close to frontline in the south of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, 3 November.
A woman receives a loaf of bread distributed in a village close to frontline in the south of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, 3 November. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/EPA





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