The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has appeared to admit severe losses in Ukraine, conceding the severity of the Kremlin’s recent military reversals and insisting Russia would “stabilise” the situation in four Ukrainian regions – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – it illegally claimed as its own territory last week. “We are working on the assumption that the situation in the new territories will stabilise,” Putin told Russian teachers during a televised video call on Wednesday.
The UN nuclear agency chief is en route to Kyiv to discuss creating a security zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, after Putin ordered his government to take it over. “On our way to Kyiv for important meetings,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Rafael Grossi wrote on Twitter, saying the need for a protection zone around the site was “more urgent than ever”. Grossi is also expected to visit Moscow in the coming days to discuss the situation at the plant. The IAEA said it had learned of plans to restart one reactor at the plant, where all six reactors have been shut down for weeks.
Ukraine’s forces are pushing their advance in the east and south, forcing Russian troops to retreat under pressure on both fronts. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s military had made major, rapid advances against Russian forces in the past week, taking back dozens of towns in regions in the south and east that Russia has declared annexed. Military experts say Russia is at its weakest point, partly because of its decision not to mobilise earlier and partly because of massive losses of troops and equipment.
Ukraine has extended its area of control in the Kherson region by six to 12 miles, according to its military’s southern command. Zelenskiy confirmed the recapture of the villages of Novovoskresenske, Novohryhorivka and Petropavlivka, saying the settlements were “liberated from the sham referendum and stabilised,” in an address on Wednesday. Kherson region’s Moscow-appointed governor, Kirill Stremousov, said the withdrawal was a tactical “regrouping” to “deliver a retaliatory blow”. The extent of Russia’s retreat remains unclear.
Moscow’s forces have left behind smashed towns once under occupation and, in places, mass burial sites and evidence of torture chambers. In Lyman, which was retaken by Ukrainian forces on Sunday, more than 50 graves have been found, some marked with names, others with numbers, the Kyiv-based outlet Hromadske reported on Wednesday.
The UN has warned Russia’s claimed annexation of Ukraine territory will only exacerbate human rights violations. Christian Salazar Volkmann, said UN experts had documented “a range of violations of the rights to life, liberty and security” and warned the situation would only worsen as Russia pushes forward with the annexation of some Ukrainian regions.
Attempts to play down retreats in Ukraine are no longer washing inside Russia with the latest military failures spilling on to local television screens. “Why do we advance metre by metre when they advance village by village?” Olga Skabeyeva, the country’s top state-TV host, asked a Russia-appointed official in Luhansk in a recent broadcast. Pro-war military bloggers and journalists are also criticising the Kremlin and painting a bleak picture of deteriorating Russian morale. Roman Saponkov, a prominent war correspondent, described his despair over the pullback in Kherson on his Telegram channel: “I really don’t know what to say to you. The retreat … is catastrophic.”
Poland says it has asked to have US nuclear weapons based on its territory, amid growing fears that Putin could resort to using nuclear arms in Ukraine. The request from the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, is widely seen as symbolic and appears to be the latest example of nuclear signalling to deter Putin. The White House, however, said it had not received such a request.
The car bombing that killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of prominent Russian political figure Alexander Dugin, was allegedly authorised by elements within the Ukrainian government, according to US intelligence sources who spoke with the New York Times and CNN. The United States took no part in the attack, either by providing intelligence or other assistance, the officials said.
A SpaceX rocket carrying Russian cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, the only female cosmonaut in service, soared into orbit from Florida on Wednesday. The International Space Station crew comprising Kikina, two Americans and a Japanese astronaut flew together in a demonstration of US-Russian teamwork in space despite Ukraine war tensions.