Russia-Ukraine war: Ukraine 'could reach Crimea by Christmas'

Ukrainian forces could reach Crimea by Christmas and end the war by the spring, according to Volodymyr Havrylov, Ukraine's deputy defence minister.

The retired major general said it was possible that Ukrainian troops could "step in Crimea" by the end of the year.

He said he wouldn't rule out the possibility of a "black swan" event within Russia helping Ukraine in the coming months - for example an unexpected political development affecting the Kremlin. But he said that even without such an event, the timeline for reaching Crimea was "possible".

Asked by Sky News whether the war could be over by February 24th - the anniversary of Russia's invasion - he said that "being realistic... we will need some time".

"But my feeling is that by the end of the spring, this war will be over," he said.

05:25 PM

That's all for today

Today's top stories included:

  • British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a surprise trip to Kyiv, announcing a £50 million defence package for the country

  • Ukraine said it was probing the authenticity of videos that Moscow claims show the execution of surrendering Russians

  • The head of Ukraine's biggest private energy company urged Ukrainians to leave for the winter if they can, in order to preserve energy supplies for hospitals and other critical needs

  • The funeral was held for Boguslaw W, one of the Polish men killed by a missile near the Ukrainian border

  • Russia is attempting to exhaust Ukraine's air defences by overwhelming it with missile strikes, a senior Pentagon official said

  • Russia raised $13.6 billion to fund its war in Ukraine by issuing its largest-ever daily debt issuance, according to the Ministry of Defence

  • Russian forces in Melitopol are paying civilians to give blood to treat injured Russian soldiers, the city's ousted Ukrainian mayor said

  • The first train arrived in Kherson after its liberation from Russian occupation last week, reuniting families that have been separated for months

  • Foreign Secretary James Cleverly slammed Iran for 'spreading bloodshed' to Kyiv with its drone sales to Russia

05:14 PM

Failure in Ukraine could lead to 'a world of tyranny and turmoil'

Failure to help Ukraine secure its own future could lead to a "world of tyranny and turmoil," according to US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Mr Austin's remarks, delivered at a security forum in Canada, were some of his most powerful to date on Russia's nearly nine-month-old invasion. He warned of the risks of global nuclear proliferation.

"Putin's fellow autocrats are watching. And they could well conclude that getting nuclear weapons would give them a hunting license of their own. And that could drive a dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation," he said.

04:42 PM

Russia slams its exclusion from regional security talks as 'provocative'

Russia blasted Poland's refusal to allow its Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, to attend a meeting next month of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe as "unprecedented and provocative".

"The decision from Poland, which is the acting chairman of the OSCE, to refuse the participation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov in the OSCE's ministerial meeting in Lodz on December 1-2 is unprecedented and provocative," the foreign ministry said of the gathering of ministers from the world's largest security body.

"Not only did Warsaw discredit itself, it also caused irreparable damage to the credibility of the organisation as a whole," the ministry said.

Poland said on Friday it would not let Lavrov, who is under European sanctions, into the country for the meeting.

"Delegations should be adjusted to the current EU regulations and not include persons that are sanctioned by the European Union," the Polish OSCE chairmanship said in a statement.

The Russian foreign ministry said the move would be "depriving [OSCE] of the last chance to show its relevance in strengthening security and establishing cooperation".

04:04 PM

UK will support Ukraine 'until it has won'

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday vowed the country would stand by Kyiv's side "until Ukraine has won" during a visit to the Ukrainian capital.

"I am here today to say that the UK will continue to stand with you... until Ukraine has won the peace and security it needs and deserves," Mr Sunak said in a press conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

"And then we will stand with you as you rebuild your great country," Sunak added.

03:31 PM

Powerful explosion reported in St Petersburg

There are reports of a significant explosion in St Petersburg, Russia.

Photos and videos on social media show a huge fire raging.

Nexta is reporting that it was caused by an explosion on the gas pipeline between Berngardovka and Kovalev, citing the Governor of the Leningrad region.

There are not currently believed to be casualties, it says.

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03:13 PM

Ukraine probes videos over Russian claims of prisoner executions

The Ukrainian army is checking the authenticity of footage that Moscow says shows the execution of several surrendering Russian soldiers.

Videos circulated on Russian social media this week purport to show the bodies of Russian servicemen killed after surrendering to Ukrainian troops.

The Russian defence ministry said on Friday the videos show the "deliberate and methodical murder of more than 10 restrained Russian soldiers".

"Before launching an investigation, there must be grounds for it," Ukraine's spokesman for the general staff Bogdan Senyk said on Saturday. "We are currently establishing whether these videos are fake".

Senyk said the videos have been "given to specialists".

One video shows soldiers apparently surrendering. They lie down on the ground in the backyard of a house. The video abruptly cuts off as shots are heard.

"We are aware of the videos and we are looking into them," a UN spokesperson said.

The UN recently published a report saying it had evidence that prisoners of war on both sides had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

03:01 PM

UK backs eight reconstruction projects in Ukraine

UK Export Finance will support an initial eight construction projects that were identified in collaboration with the government of Ukraine, it was announced on Saturday.

The projects will help repair Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and lay the foundations for economic recovery, Downing Street said.

They include six bridges and two housing projects, including a development in Bucha for some 2,250 residents.

Bucha, a city just outside Kyiv, suffered a massacre in the first few weeks of the war and residential buildings were heavily damaged.

A woman walks past the rubble of a destroyed house - Paul Grover for the Telegraph
A woman walks past the rubble of a destroyed house - Paul Grover for the Telegraph

02:38 PM

UK confirms millions in aid for Ukraine

The UK "confirmed" additional aid for Ukraine as Rishi Sunak met President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv today.

In a statement, Downing Street said the Prime Minister was confirming £12 million for the World Food Programme’s response and £4 million for the International Organisation for Migration, in recognition of the fact "that Ukrainians face a very difficult winter, with widespread blackouts [and] destruction of homes, schools and hospitals".

The funding will help provide generators, shelter, water repairs and mobile health clinics, it said.

02:24 PM

'Proud to stand with Ukraine'

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was proud of the UK's support for Ukraine from the start of the war as he visited Kyiv on Saturday.

“I am proud of how the UK stood with Ukraine from the very beginning," he said. "And I am here today to say the UK and our allies will continue to stand with Ukraine, as it fights to end this barbarous war and deliver a just peace."

“While Ukraine’s armed forces succeed in pushing back Russian forces on the ground, civilians are being brutally bombarded from the air," he said, as he announced new aid.

Having heard from Ukraine's leaders and first responders he added: “It is deeply humbling to be in Kyiv today and to have the opportunity to meet those who are doing so much, and paying so high a price, to defend the principles of sovereignty and democracy.”

02:12 PM

Sunak lays flowers at war memorial and hears from first responders

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak laid flowers at a memorial for the war dead in Kyiv and lit a candle at a memorial for victims of the Holodomor famine.

He also met first responders at a fire station. The team of emergency responders described their harrowing work rescuing survivors from the rubble and fighting fires in the aftermath of Russian airstrikes and mortar attacks.

In addition, he saw captured Iranian-made drones which have been used to target and bomb civilians in recent months.

02:04 PM

UK military package to include 125 anti-aircraft guns

Rishi Sunak said the UK will provide a £50 million package of defence aid to Ukraine.

It will comprise 125 anti-aircraft guns and technology to counter deadly Iranian-supplied drones, including dozens of radars and anti-drone electronic warfare capability.

It follows more than 1,000 new anti-air missiles announced by the Defence Secretary earlier this month.

02:02 PM

Rishi Sunak meets Zelensky at presidential palace

Rishi Sunak has travelled to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv as he announced a £50 million military package for the country.

"We are today providing new air defence, including anti-aircraft guns, radar and anti-drone equipment, and stepping up humanitarian support for the cold, hard winter ahead," said Mr Sunak.

Footage posted by Downing Street on Saturday shows Mr Sunak being greeted outside the presidential palace by the Ukrainian leader.

The pair can be seen having an animated discussion and smiling before sitting down for a meeting with staff, including the head of the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The visit was Mr Sunak's first to Kyiv since taking office.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits President Zelenskyy in Ukraine, , , LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuktdUa_Dyo
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits President Zelenskyy in Ukraine, , , LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuktdUa_Dyo
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits President Zelenskyy in Ukraine, , , LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuktdUa_Dyo
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits President Zelenskyy in Ukraine, , , LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuktdUa_Dyo
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits President Zelenskyy in Ukraine, , , LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuktdUa_Dyo
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits President Zelenskyy in Ukraine, , , LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuktdUa_Dyo

01:22 PM

Ukrainians 'should leave for the winter' to save energy

Those who can afford to should consider leaving Ukraine for the winter amid critical energy shortages, according to the head of Ukraine's biggest private energy company.

Maksym Tymchenko, head of DTEK, told the BBC that if those who were able to left, it would reduce the burden on the energy system for those remaining.

"If they can find an alternative place to stay for another three or four months, it will be very helpful to the system," he said, adding that if the general public is consuming less energy "then hospitals with injured soldiers will have guaranteed power supply."

President Volodymyr Zelensky warned last night that nearly half of the country's energy system is currently disabled following a wave of Russian strikes.

"The situation is getting worse," Mr Tymchenko said. "Unfortunately, after each attack we have less and less reliable and stable energy system. That's reality."

The government has previously asked Ukrainians abroad not to return home because of energy shortages but it hasn't asked people to leave, according to the BBC.

01:04 PM

Polish villagers bury man killed in blast near Ukrainian border

One of the Polish men killed by a missile near the Ukraine border is being buried today.

The man, identified only as 62-year-old Boguslaw W., was working at a grain-drying facility in the village of Przewodow when the missile struck.

"It is sad for the family and the community," said 67-year-old retired mechanic Ryszard Turczanik as he made his way towards the church. "Everybody is in deep sadness and we are going on this final road."

Villagers described the victims as kind people and said they had helped Ukrainian refugees.

The funeral of the second victim, 60-year-old Bogdan C., will take place tomorrow.

Poland says the explosion was caused by a misfired Ukrainian air defence missile, which Kyiv denies.

A funeral procession in the village of Przewodow includes a hearse, soldiers and villagers - REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
A funeral procession in the village of Przewodow includes a hearse, soldiers and villagers - REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

12:38 PM

'We are holding our positions everywhere', says Zelensky

Ukraine isn't giving in anywhere along the front line and is responding to attacks in all directions, Ukrainian President Zelensky said in his nightly address on Friday.

"Nowhere on the frontline do we give in to the enemy," he said. "We respond everywhere, we hold positions everywhere. We are preparing future successes in certain areas."

He specifically thanked the border guards of the Kharkiv and Sumy detachments, who are currently operating in the Donetsk region. "Their mortars help a lot, giving the invaders no rest," he said. "Nice job, guys! Thank you!"

He also thanked "the 4th operational brigade of the National Guard, which protects Ukraine in the direction of Bakhmut."

There are currently front lines in the south and east of the country where Ukrainian forces are attempting to push back Russian troops.

12:26 PM

'Fierce fighting' in Donetsk

"Fierce fighting" is continuing in the Donetsk region, according to Ukrainian President Zelensky.

"To this day, there has been no alleviation of hostilities or respite. About a hundred Russian attacks were repelled in the Donetsk region only yesterday," the president said late on Friday. "All our warriors who are holding out in Donbas are true heroes."

Donetsk has been the site of some of the most intense fighting since Kherson was reclaimed by Ukrainian forces last week.

A Ukrainian unit fires grad rockets in Donetsk - Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency
A Ukrainian unit fires grad rockets in Donetsk - Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency

12:11 PM

Russia trying to exhaust Ukraine's air defences, Pentagon official says

Russia is attempting to exhaust Ukraine's air defences by bombarding the country with missile strikes, a senior Pentagon official said on Saturday.

Russia has been conducting heavy strikes across Ukraine in recent days, which are partly designed to dry up its supply of air defences - making it easier for Moscow to achieve dominance of the skies above the country - according to Colin Kahl, the US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy.

"They're really trying to overwhelm and exhaust Ukrainian air defence systems," Mr Kahl told reporters during a trip to the Middle East.

"We're committed to making sure that's not going to work by making sure that the Ukrainians get what they need to keep their air defences viable," he said.

12:00 PM

Russia conducts largest-ever daily debt issuance to finance war

Russia has conducted its largest-ever debt issuance in a single day in order keep funding its war in Ukraine, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

The ministry said Russia had raised $13.6 billion (£11.4 billion) on November 16th.

"This is important for Russia as debt issuance is a key mechanism to sustain defence spending, which has increased significantly since the invasion of Ukraine," the ministry explained.

"Russia’s declared ‘national defence’ spending for 2023 is planned at approximately RUB 5 trillion (USD $84 billion), a more than 40% increase on the preliminary 2023 budget announced in 2021."

Since debt issuance is expensive during periods of uncertainty, "the size of this auction highly likely indicates the Russian Ministry of Finance perceives current conditions as relatively favourable but is anticipating an increasingly uncertain fiscal environment over the next year," the ministry added in its daily intelligence update.

11:49 AM

Take a peek inside a Ukrainian military dugout

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence has shared a video from inside a military dugout in an undisclosed location.

The video shows the soldiers' living quarters in the semi-underground shelter and the inventive ways they have found to make life more comfortable.

Take a peek inside.

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11:35 AM

Relief points offer Kherson residents somewhere to keep warm

Special points have been opened in Kherson to help residents as they continue to struggle even after the city's liberation.

Electrical and water supplies have not yet been restored and residents are struggling to keep warm as winter sets in.

The so-called "Points of Invincibility" are tents where residents can keep warm, drink hot tea and charge their cell phones.

President Zelensky said there are only two so far but promised that more will be opened soon.

"We know that it's very hard on people because the occupiers destroyed everything when they were retreating," Zelensky said in his address to the nation on Friday night. "But we will put everything back online, we will restore everything."

The city's rail link has already been restored, with the first train arriving this morning.

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11:28 AM

Russians 'paying Ukrainians for blood' in Melitopol

Russia’s occupying forces in Melitopol, southern Ukraine, are paying civilians to give blood for injured Russian soldiers, the ousted Ukrainian mayor of the city has said.

Ivan Fedorov said that the Russian occupying forces had dropped a previous ploy pretending that the blood was for women giving birth or cancer patients and were instead openly paying 736 roubles (£10.17) for blood.

“The losses of the occupying forces are now obvious to everybody,” he told a Ukrainian news programme. “They are turfing out inpatients at Meltipol hospital for their own injured soldiers.”

Melitopol had a population of around 150,000 people before the start of the war and is one of the biggest cities captured by Russian forces since their full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.

Since Russian forces surrendered Kherson, to the southwest, earlier this month, Ukrainian officials have increased rhetoric about recapturing Melitopol and fighting has intensified.

“Russians who fled from Kherson are digging in around Melitopol and the Melitopol region. Today they are settling in villages, taking away houses, taking away apartments," Mr Fedorov said.

Reporting by James Kilner

11:17 AM

Joyous reunions at Kherson train station

There were scenes of joyous reunions at Kherson central station this morning as the first train since the city's release from Russian occupation brought passengers from Kyiv, some of whom have been separated from loved ones for nine months.

"I promised I would come back. It happened so I kept my promise," said Anastasia Shevlyuga, 30, moments after stepping off the train and meeting her mother.

At the station, Svytlana Dosenko fought back tears as she waited for her only son who she last saw before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th.

Kherson railway station was the first building in the city to have its energy supply reconnected, just in time for the train's arrival.

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10:54 AM

First train arrives in Kherson

The first train from Kyiv arrived in Kherson this morning following the city's liberation a week ago.

The overnight train, painted by Ukrainian artists, reunited family members who hadn't been able to see each other for many months.

A guard stands on the platform next to the train with its colourful painted carriages - Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency
A guard stands on the platform next to the train with its colourful painted carriages - Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency
Anastasia kisses her mother Oksana as she arrives from Kyiv to Kherson on the first passenger train - REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Anastasia kisses her mother Oksana as she arrives from Kyiv to Kherson on the first passenger train - REUTERS/Murad Sezer

10:42 AM

Zelensky dismisses possibility of a 'short truce'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday dismissed the idea of a "short truce" with Russia, saying it would only make things worse.

"Russia is now looking for a short truce, a respite to regain strength. Someone may call this the war's end, but such a respite will only worsen the situation," he said in remarks broadcast at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada.

"A truly real, long-lasting and honest peace can only be the result of the complete demolition of Russian aggression," Zelensky said.

10:31 AM

'Glory to Ukraine': UK gifts Ukrainian soldiers special lighters

The UK Ministry of Defence is including a special gift with the winter kit it provides to Ukrainian recruits.

Some new Ukrainian soldiers have been training on British soil as part of a UK-led project to make sure they are battlefield ready.

Among the cold weather kit being provided to them is a lighter inscribed with the words: "Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the heroes".

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10:21 AM

'Most' Apec members condemn war in Ukraine

Asia-Pacific leaders added their voices to international pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, issuing a joint statement saying that "most" of them condemned the war.

The 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum said: "Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy,"

The statement, also signed off by Apec members Russia and China, followed the exact wording of a G20 declaration issued last week.

10:11 AM

'No country immune' from Ukraine turmoil, says Cleverly

No country is immune from the turmoil created by the war in Ukraine, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Saturday.

Cleverly was addressing leaders at a summit in Bahrain, where he slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin for threatening global security.

"No country is immune from the turmoil he has brought to world markets or the damage he has caused to global food security," he said.

"Putin's war is inflicting yet more suffering on Syrians and Yemenis, who were already enduring the privations of humanitarian emergency, and ordinary Lebanese, caught up in economic crisis."

10:01 AM

UK says Iran is 'spreading bloodshed' to Kyiv with drone sales

Iran is "spreading bloodshed" by supplying weapons to Russia, Britain's foreign secretary said on Saturday.

James Cleverly vowed to work with allies to counter Tehran as he addressed leaders in Bahrain.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Iran of supplying Russia with drones that it is using to attack Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Tehran admitted it had sent drones, but insisted they were supplied before Russia's invasion.

"Iranian-supplied weapons threaten the entire region," Cleverly told the annual Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain.

"The regime has resorted to selling Russia the armed drones that are killing civilians in Ukraine".

He added: "Iran's rulers are spreading bloodshed and destruction across the region and as far away as Kyiv".

09:52 AM

Finland's Nato bid was 'natural' following 'drastic security changes'

Finland's application to join Nato was the "natural step" to take following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Nordic country's foreign minister told a conference in Bahrain on Saturday.

Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and scrambled to become Nato members in May.

All 30 Nato member states except Hungary and Turkey have ratified Finland's accession, which requires unanimous approval.

The decision to apply for Nato membership is "a result of the drastic change in our security environment", Finland's top diplomat Pekka Haavisto told the annual Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain.

"Applying for Nato membership was... a natural step for us to take", he added.

On Friday, Finland unveiled a plan to increase security on its border with Russia, including a 200-kilometre (124-mile) fence.