Russian colonel general latest military commander to be replaced in Ukraine, says UK

A Russian colonel general has purportedly been replaced in the latest of a “series of dismissals” of senior Russian military commanders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defence says.

It said in its latest intelligence update that Maj Gen Alexander Linkov was reportedly appointed acting commander of Russia’s central military district on Thursday, replacing Col Gen Alexander Lapin.

The ministry said:

Lapin has been widely criticised for poor performance on the battlefield in Ukraine by both Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin. These dismissals represent a pattern of blame against senior Russian military commanders for failures to achieve Russian objectives on the battlefield.

This is in part likely an attempt to insulate and deflect blame from Russian senior leadership at home.

Key events

Tens of thousands of Italians have marched through Rome calling for peace in Ukraine and urging Italy to stop sending of weapons to fight the Russian invasion.

Agence France-Presse reported that one large banner carried by protesters on Saturday read “No to war. No to sending weapons” as a vast crowd broke into cries of “give peace a chance”.

Italy, a founding member of Nato, has supported Ukraine from the start of the war, including providing it with arms. The new far-right prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, has said that will not change and the government has said it is expecting to send more weapons soon.

But some, including former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, have said Italy should be stepping up negotiations instead.

The peace rally was attended by about 30,000 people, Rome police told Italian media.

Demonstrator Roberto Zanotto told AFP:

The weapons were sent at the beginning on the grounds that this would prevent an escalation

Nine months later and it seems to me that there’s been an escalation. Look at the facts: sending weapons does not help stop a war, weapons help fuel a war.

Student Sara Gianpietro said the conflict was being dragged out by arming Ukraine, which “has economic consequences for our country, but for the respect of human rights too”.

The Group of Seven foreign ministers, including Italy, vowed on Friday to continue supporting Ukraine in the fight against Russia.

Pro-peace demonstrators in Rome on Saturday
Pro-peace demonstrators in Rome on Saturday. Photograph: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Russian colonel general latest military commander to be replaced in Ukraine, says UK

A Russian colonel general has purportedly been replaced in the latest of a “series of dismissals” of senior Russian military commanders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defence says.

It said in its latest intelligence update that Maj Gen Alexander Linkov was reportedly appointed acting commander of Russia’s central military district on Thursday, replacing Col Gen Alexander Lapin.

The ministry said:

Lapin has been widely criticised for poor performance on the battlefield in Ukraine by both Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin. These dismissals represent a pattern of blame against senior Russian military commanders for failures to achieve Russian objectives on the battlefield.

This is in part likely an attempt to insulate and deflect blame from Russian senior leadership at home.

Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has defended a controversial trip to China as “worth it” due to an agreement to oppose the use of nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.

Speaking to a meeting of his Social Democrats on Saturday, a day after his 12-hour visit to Beijing, Scholz hailed an accord with China’s President Xi Jinping that a nuclear escalation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine must be avoided, Agence France-Presse reported.

Scholz said:

I think that in light of all the debate about whether it was the right thing to travel there or not, the fact that the Chinese government, the president and I could state that there must not be any nuclear weapons used in this war, for that alone this trip was worth it.

The German leader said after talks with Xi that he had insisted “the Russia war in Ukraine is a dangerous situation for the whole world” and urged Russia’s ally Beijing to use its “influence” on Moscow to avert an escalation and stop the invasion.

Beijing’s Xinhua news agency reported:

Xi underscored the need for China and Germany, two major countries with great influence, to work together in times of change and instability and contribute more to global peace and development.

Xi Jinping gestures as he welcomes Olaf Scholz in Beijing on Friday
Xi Jinping welcomes Olaf Scholz in Beijing on Friday. Photograph: Kay Nietfeld/EPA

Surviving in besieged Bakhmut ‘becoming harder and harder’

Residents of the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut are living in dire conditions, with civilians killed and wounded daily, the deputy mayor said as fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces raged around the city.

“With every day it’s becoming harder and harder to survive in this city,” Reuters reported Oleksandr Marchenko as saying from inside an empty government building as mortar fire boomed nearby.

He said more than 120 civilians have been killed in Bakhmut since Russia’s invasion in February.

There are districts where we don’t know the exact number of people killed because active fighting is ongoing there or the settlements are temporarily occupied [by Russian forces].

Ukrainian troops were “firmly holding the frontline”, Marchenko said, while describing a deteriorating humanitarian situation facing the city, where the population has fallen from its pre-war level of about 80,000 to as low as 12,000 today.

Bakhmut has been an important target for Russia’s military in its slow advance through eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, one of the territories the Kremlin claims to have annexed.

Kyiv’s military has said the area is the site of some of the heaviest fighting with Russian forces. Marchenko said Russia’s troops were “trying to storm the city from several directions”.

Bakhmut has been without electricity, gas and running water for nearly two months. The coming winter would be most difficult for the elderly and infirm, Marchenko said.

People cross a destroyed bridge to collect aid after coming out of their underground shelters in Bakhmut
People cross a destroyed bridge to collect aid after coming out of their underground shelters in Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, last weekend. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Summary

Welcome back to the Guardian’s ongoing live coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Here’s a run through the latest developments as it passes 9am in Kyiv.

  • Russian troops have been looting Kherson ahead of a potential withdrawal from the south-eastern Ukrainian city. Items taken range from art and cultural exhibits to ambulances and tractors.

  • There has been an assassination attempt on a judge who sentenced two Britons to death in Russian-controlled Ukraine. Alexander Nikulin, who said Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner should be shot by a firing squad, was shot in Vuhlehirsk, in Donetsk, on Friday night. The local supreme court justice is in a serious condition in hospital.

  • Russian troops are allegedly searching for residents in the Kherson region who are refusing to evacuate, before the forces’ potential withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnieper River.

  • The Ukrainian foreign ministry has claimed its forces killed another 600 Russian soldiers in the past 24 hours.

  • Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, has said the country did supply Russia with drones but that it took place before President Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded Kyiv. The drones have been used in attacks on civilian infrastructure, notably targeting power stations and dams.

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dismissed talk of limited Iranian supplies to Russia, saying Kyiv had downed 11 drones on Friday alone. He said: “If Iran continues to lie about the obvious, it means the world will make even more efforts to investigate the terrorist cooperation between the Russian and Iranian regimes and what Russia pays Iran for such cooperation.” Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Oleg Nikolenko, said Iran “should realise that the consequences of complicity in the crimes of Russian aggression against Ukraine will be much larger than the benefits of Russia’s support”.

  • External power has been restored to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant two days after it was disconnected from the power grid after Russian shelling damaged high voltage lines, the UN nuclear watchdog said.

  • Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has said he does not believe Russia will use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

  • The 300,000 troops Putin conscripted as part of the mobilisation drive are providing “little additional offensive combat capability” as the Russian military is struggling to train them, UK’s Ministry of Defence has reported.

  • Scheduled power cuts will take place on Sunday in seven Ukrainian provinces including major cities such as Kyiv. Other provinces affected are Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Sumy and Poltava. About 500 power generators have been sent to Ukraine by 17 EU countries to help with the energy problems caused by Russian attacks.

  • At least 112,000 Russians have emigrated to Georgia this year, border crossing statistics show. Reuters reported that the first large wave of 43,000 arrived after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February and the second wave came after Putin announced a nationwide mobilisation drive in late September.





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