Sergey Mikhailov, former head of Russian State news agency TASS, and Vladimir Putin (Getty/File)
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1255 GMT:
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has rejected reports that US and European officials are pressing Kyiv to enter negotiations which would leave Russia in control of some Ukrainian territory (see 1046 GMT).
Alongside European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, Zelenskiy told a news conference:
Today no one is putting pressure, not one of the leaders of the EU or the United States. For us now to sit down with Russia and talk and give it something — this will not happen.
Zelenskiy pushed back on this week’s statement by Ukraine military commander Gen. Valery Zaluzhnyi about a “static and attritional stalemate” on the battlefield (see 1231 GMT).
This is not a stalemate. Russia controls the sky. We take care of our military. No one wants to simply abandon them, like Russia abandons its people like meat.
How to overcome this? F-16 [fighter jets], we have to wait for the guys to learn, when they come back. When there is air defense at the front, the military goes forward and uses equipment.
He noted similar proclamations of stalemate in summer 2022, before Ukraine’s liberation of much of the northeast and south of the country.
A few military tricks, and you remember, the Kharkiv region [in the northeast] was liberated.
We have difficulties and different opinions, but we have no right to give up. Because what is the alternative? If we give away a third of our country, nothing will end. We know what a frozen conflict is.
Von der Leyen praised Ukraine over its campaign for accession to the European Union.
I must say, you have made excellent progress, it is impressive to see. We will testify to this next when the Commission will present its report on enlargement.
She said Kyiv has “reached many milestones” as “the result of hard work”, and looked to further reforms: “If this happens, and I am confident, Ukraine can reach its ambitious goal of moving to the next stage of the accession process.”
Dear President @ZelenskyyUA, we are impressed by the reforms Ukraine has made in the midst of a war.
I am confident that you can complete the outstanding reforms very soon.
If this happens, Ukraine can reach its ambitious goal. pic.twitter.com/ydD97QAZAf
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 4, 2023
UPDATE 1244 GMT:
UK military intelligence assesses that Russia has lost about 200 armored vehicles and thousands of troops since early October in the assault on Avdiivka in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.
The analysts cite “a combination of relative effectiveness of Ukraine’s modern hand-held anti-armour weapons, mines, uncrewed aerial vehicle-dropped munitions, and precision artillery systems”.
They foresee the assault continuing as “Russia’s leadership contribute to demonstrate a willingness to accept heavy personnel losses for marginal territorial gains”.
UPDATE 1231 GMT:
The deputy head of the Ukraine Presidential office, Igor Zhovkva, has said that the remarks of armed forces commander Gen. Valery Zaluzhnyi about the battlefield situation — in an interview and an essay for The Economist — have caused “panic” among international partners.
Zaluzhnyi warned of a “static and attritional stalemate” and cited the need for new military capabilities and technological innovation to make a decisive breakthrough against the Russians.
Zhovkva said during a telethon:
I received a call from one of the heads of the leaders’ cabinets, and they asked in a panic: “What should I report to my leader? Are you really at a dead end?”
Is this the effect we wanted to achieve with this article?.
He added that there is no need to comment on what is happening at the front because it “makes the aggressor’s job easier”. The advisor said, “Weapons love silence” and talking about them “does harm”.
If in this way we somehow achieve success, perhaps this is some kind of very deep strategic plan. But to me, to be honest, [it seems] very strange.
UPDATE 1205 GMT:
Ukrainian State security service SBU has charged the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, with promoting Moscow’s aggression, undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and involvement in the “planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of an aggressive war”.
The SBU said Kirill is a “member of the inner circle of Russia’s top military and political leadership and was one of the first to publicly support a full-scale war against Ukraine”. It noted that the patriarch has used Orthodox staff and members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to spread pro-Russian propaganda.
Kirill has included pro-invasion narratives in his sermons and other religious services. He blessed invading troops in March 2022, just after the start of the Russian assault: “Sacrifice in the course of carrying out your military duty washes away all sins.”
In June 2022, the primate said invaders were “protecting Russia…guided by an inner moral feeling based on the Orthodox faith”. Three months later, he told followers that the troops were doing a “heroic deed”.
UPDATE 1200 GMT:
A Russian attack on Kherson city in southern Ukraine has seriously injured an 82-year-old woman and also wounded an 84-year-old man and another woman.
The attack about 11 a.m. targeted the Korabel district in the southwestern part of Kherson. A residential building was damaged.
UPDATE 1139 GMT:
Ukraine President Volodmyr Zelenskiy has thanked the US for its latest $425 million military aid package, including $300 million for laser-guided munitions to down attack drones.
I am grateful to @POTUS Joe Biden, Congress, and the American people for today’s military aid package.
It will strengthen our brave warriors and help us protect lives and infrastructure from Russian strikes.
The U.S. demonstrates strength in the face of aggression and terror.
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) November 4, 2023
Defense Minister Rustem Umerov posted similar thoughts after a phone conversation with US counterpart Lloyd Austin:
Weekly call with @SecDef.
Grateful to the US and Secretary Austin for the new military aid package for 🇺🇦.
Discussed latest battlefield updates and Future Force preparation status.
Urged on the current Ukraine’s needs: more ammo for our warriors.
Grateful for the constant… pic.twitter.com/lDcVsfJElX
— Rustem Umerov (@rustem_umerov) November 4, 2023
UPDATE 1132 GMT:
Italy’s Defense Minister Guido Crosetto has pushed back on chatter about talks leaving Russia in control of Ukrainian territory.
Crosetto told the Quotidiano Nazionale newspaper:
Support for Kyiv from the West and the EU is unchanged. Ukraine is fighting for the protection of its sovereignty, as well as for the observance of international law.
It is obvious that a lasting peace cannot be based on military actions alone. A political “ceasefire” is needed. The time is not yet ripe for that.
UPDATE 1046 GMT:
US and European officials are speaking with the Zelenskiy Government about what might be included in negotiations with Russia to end Moscow’s invasion, according to “one current senior U.S. official and one former senior U.S. official familiar with the discussions”.
The officials said the talks, which include outlines of what territory Ukraine might have to give up, took place last month on the sidelines of a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group with representatives from more than 50 nations.
As an incentive for Kyiv to consider negotiations, NATO could offer Kyiv some security guarantees, the officials said.
The sources said US and European officials are concerned about stalemate in Ukraine’s efforts to liberate occupied territory, and the depletion of Ukrainian manpower. Some officials have privately said Ukraine likely only has until the end of the year or shortly thereafter before more urgent discussions about peace negotiations begin.
US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson rejected the report:
Any decisions about negotiations are up to Ukraine. We are focused on continuing to stand strongly in support of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and independence against Russian aggression.
A Biden Administration official said the US participated with Ukraine in discussions of its Peace Formula but the White House “is not aware of any other conversations with Ukraine about negotiations at the moment.
However, two officials said, “Manpower is at the top of the administration’s concerns right now.” The US and allies can provide Ukraine with weaponry, “but if they don’t have competent forces to use them it doesn’t do a lot of good”.
Two US officials noted that the Administration does not have any indication that Vladimir Putin. Western officials say Putin still believes he can “wait out the West”, fighting until the US and its allies lose domestic support for funding Ukraine or supply of Kyiv with weapons and ammunition becomes too costly.
UPDATE 1034 GMT:
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is in Kyiv for discussions with Ukraine counterpart Volodomyr Zelenskiy and senior officials, including about forthcoming talks for Ukrainian accession to the European Union.
Von der Leyen told reporters, “The enlargement topic will be at the top of the agenda but also our financial and military support. The most important message is reassuring that we stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
Good to be back in Kyiv for my 6th war time visit.
I’m here to discuss Ukraine’s accession path to the EU.
The EU’s financial support to rebuild Ukraine as a modern, prosperous democracy.
And how we will continue to make Russia pay for its war of aggression. pic.twitter.com/dLJ6bUz4UU
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 4, 2023
UPDATE 1014 GMT:
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has replaced the commander of special forces, Maj. Gen. Viktor Horenko, naming Col. Serhiy Lupanchuk as his successor.
In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskiy said Lupanchuk is “an experienced officer, combat officer and the right man in command”.
The President said Horenko, who led the special forces from July 2022, “will continue to perform special tasks” within the Defense
Ministry’s Intelligence Directorate.
However, Horenko complained, “I personally don’t know the reasons. Let me just say that I learned of this from the media.” He claimed that Ukraine’s military commander, Gen. Valery Zalushnyi, had not been consulted about the change.
Asked if he had any conflict with the President’s office, Horenko replied, “Let certain persons answer that.”
Every time I meet our warriors—those at the frontlines, ready to return, or receiving state awards—I see their determination to not just defend but win for Ukraine. Win this war. We must do what is necessary.
I recall well the views of various people on February 24th and the… pic.twitter.com/hoNBW9vx5Q
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) November 3, 2023
UPDATE 0749 GMT:
An ongoing investigation has confirmed the identities of more than 35,780 Russian troops killed in the invasion of Ukraine.
The largest group in the updated list — compiled by Mediazona, the BBC Russian Service and a team of volunteers — is 6,691 recruited prisoners, followed by 4,232 mobilized military personnel.
The total is only a fraction of the casualties, with the dead from Russia’s weeks-long assault on Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine still to be tallied.
The death of naval doctor Lt. Artem Faizov, during the recent Ukrainian strike on ship repair docks in Sevastopol in occupied Crimea, has been confirmed. However, the identities of other fatalities — Faizov’s obituary said he perished “along with the entire crew” — have not been established.
The investigation also found two obituaries related to Ukraine’s attacks with US-supplied ATACMS missiles airfields in occupied Berdyansk and Lugansk on October 17. Maj. Sergey Korolenko and Maj. Yakov Zhigulev, responsible for ground maintenance of helicopters, were killed.
UPDATE 0733 GMT:
Vladimir Putin’s allies are reportedly funding the Russian Defense Ministry’s efforts to maintain a military presence in Africa after the break-up of the Wagner Group mercenaries.
The Wall Street Journal details that Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and officers of the Russian military intelligence service GRU have moved Wagner’s operations to the “private military companies” Redut and Convoy.
Vladimir Putin’s long-time friends, billionaires Arkady Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko, are bankrolling Convoy and Redut, respectively. The tactical coordination of operations is overseen by Andrey Averyanov, a senior GRU official.
Yevkurov and Averyanov visited Libya, Burkina Faso, Mali, and the Central African Republic — countries where the Wagner Group established its presence — in August and September as part of an official Russian delegation. The leader of the Redut PMC, Konstantin Mirzayants, was also on the trips.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Multiple officials have described how the Kremlin reasserted its control of the Russian State news agency TASS by firing its head Sergey Mikhailov — because the outlet dared to cover the June 23-24 rebellion of Wagner Group mercenaries.
The current and former officials explained how and why Mikhailov, who led TASS since 2012, was removed on July 5. The Kremlin declared that the outlet had been “overly zealous” in its reporting.
In particuar, Vladimir Putin and his inner circle were agitated by the details of Wagner’s quick capture of the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Command — which oversees the invasion of Ukraine — in the city of Rostov-on-Don. TASS published photographs which established that the mercenaries had occupied the city center and blocked the headquarters.
Wagner units then advanced quickly up the highway towards Moscow, closing within 200 km (125 miles) before the Kremlin reached a deal with Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin to halt the rebellion.
Prigozhin was killed — and possibly assassinated — along with other senior Wagner personnel in the crash of a private jet, north of Moscow, exactly two months later.
A “Russian government official” told The Moscow Times:
TASS covered all this in too much detail and quickly. Some kind of madness happened to them. They forgot that their main task is not to report news. It is to create an ideologically correct narrative for the Kremlin.
Alexey Gromov, the first deputy head in charge of Russian media, “was simply furious”, said a TASS staffer.
The Kremlin was further incensed that Mikhailov left Moscow, as Wagner’s tanks and armored vehicles were advancing and the jets of oligarchs and officials were flying out of the capital.
Others who reportedly departed were Putin’s childhood friend, billionaire Arkady Rotenberg; Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov; billionaires Vladimir Potanin and Boris Kovalchuk; and the son of another childhood friend of Putin, Yuri Kovalchuk.
Approached by The Moscow Times, Mikhailov claimed that “he was [still] in his office”: “I left work in the morning. There have never been any complaints about the work of TASS in my 11 years.
But on July 5, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko went to TASS headquarters and told the staff that Mikhailov, sitting next to him, that the agency’s head was resigning “in connection with his own desires”.
Andrey Kondrashov — director of the film Putin, deputy general director of All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, and former press secretary of Putin’s election headquarters — as the new director.
A government official told The Moscow Times:
No one needs TASS neutrality now. This is the time — war and elections are coming, in which the boss [Putin] should win in record numbers. Under the new director general, TASS will be more aggressive and provocative.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov flatly denied the testimonies of the current and former officias, “No, this is not true.”