Russian-installed authorities in Ukraine told all residents of the city of Kherson to leave "immediately" Saturday ahead of an expected advance by Ukrainian troops waging a counteroffensive to recapture one of the first urban areas Russia took after invading the country.
In a post on the Telegram messaging service, the pro-Kremlin regional administration strongly urged civilians to use boat crossings over a major river to move deeper into Russian-held territory, citing a tense situation on the front and the threat of shelling and alleged plans for "terror attacks" by Kyiv.
Kherson has been in Russian hands since the early days of the nearly 8-month-long war in Ukraine. The city is the capital of a region of the same name, one of four that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and put under Russian martial law on Thursday.
On Friday, Ukrainian forces bombarded Russian positions across the province, targeting pro-Kremlin forces' resupply routes across the Dnieper River and preparing for a final push to reclaim the city.
The Ukrainian military has reclaimed broad areas in the north of the region since launching a counteroffensive in late August. It reported new successes Saturday, saying that Russian troops were forced to retreat from the villages of Charivne and Chkalove in the Beryslav district.
Russian-installed officials were reported as trying desperately to turn Kherson city — a prime objective for both sides because of its key industries and ports — into a fortress while attempting to relocate tens of thousands of residents.
The Kremlin poured as many as 2,000 draftees into the surrounding region to replenish losses and strengthen front-line units, according to the Ukrainian army's general staff.
The wide Dnieper River figures as a major factor in the fighting, making it hard for Russia to supply its troops defending the city of Kherson and nearby areas on the west bank after relentless Ukrainian strikes rendered the main crossings unusable.
Taking control of Kherson has allowed Russia to resume fresh water supplies from the Dnieper to Crimea, which were cut by Ukraine after Moscow's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula. A big hydroelectric power plant upstream from Kherson city is a key source of energy for the southern region. Ukraine and Russia accused each other of trying to blow it up to flood the mostly flat region.
Kherson's Kremlin-backed authorities previously announced plans to evacuate all Russia-appointed officials and as many as 60,000 civilians across the river, in what local leader Vladimir Saldo said would be an "organized, gradual displacement."
Another Russia-installed official estimated Saturday that around 25,000 people from across the region had made their way over the Dnieper. In a Telegram post, Kirill Stremousov claimed that civilians were relocating willingly.
"People are actively moving because today the priority is life. We do not drag anyone anywhere," he said, adding that some residents could be waiting for the Ukrainian army to reclaim the city.
Ukrainian and Western officials have expressed concern about potential forced transfers of residents to Russia or Russian-occupied territory.
Ukrainian officials urged Kherson residents to resist attempts to relocate them, with one local official alleging that Moscow wanted to take civilians hostage and use them as human shields.
Elsewhere in the invaded country, hundreds of thousands of people in central and western Ukraine woke up on Saturday to power outages and periodic bursts of gunfire. In its latest war tactic, Russia has intensified strikes on power stations, water supply systems and other key infrastructure across the country.
Ukraine's air force said in a statement Saturday that Russia had launched "a massive missile attack" targeting "critical infrastructure," adding that it had downed 18 out of 33 cruise missiles launched from the air and sea.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later said that Russian launched 36 missiles, most of which were shot down.
"Those treacherous blows on critically important facilities are characteristic tactics of terrorists," Zelenskyy said. "The world can and must stop this terror."
Air raid sirens blared across Ukraine twice by early afternoon, sending residents scurrying into shelters as Ukrainian air defense tried to shoot down explosive drones and incoming missiles.
"Several rockets" targeting Ukraine's capital were shot down Saturday morning, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging service.
The president's office said in its morning update that five suicide drones were downed in the central Cherkasy region southeast of Kyiv. Similar reports came from the governors of six western and central provinces, as well as of the southern Odesa region on the Black Sea.
Ukraine's top diplomat said the day's attacks proved Ukraine needed new Western-reinforced air defense systems "without a minute of delay."
"Air defense saves lives," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine's presidential office, said on Telegram that almost 1.4 million households lost power as a result of the strikes. He said some 672,000 homes in the western Khmelnytskyi region were affected and another 242,000 suffered outages in the Cherkasy region.
Most of the western city of Khmelnytskyi, which straddles the Bug River and had a pre-war population of 275,000, was left with no electricity, shortly after local media reported several loud explosions.
In a social media post on Saturday, the city council urged local residents to store water "in case it's also gone within an hour."
The mayor of Lutsk, a city of 215,000 in far western Ukraine, made a similar appeal, saying that power in the city was partially knocked out after Russian missiles slammed into local energy facilities and damaged one power plant beyond repair.
The central city of Uman, a key pilgrimage center for Hasidic Jews with about 100,000 residents before the war, also was plunged into darkness after a rocket hit a nearby power plant.
Ukraine's state energy company, Ukrenergo, responded to the strikes by announcing that rolling blackouts would be imposed in Kyiv and 10 Ukrainian regions to stabilize the situation.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, the company accused Russia of attacking "energy facilities within the principal networks of the western regions of Ukraine." It claimed the scale of destruction was comparable to the fallout earlier this month from Moscow's first coordinated attack on the Ukrainian energy grid.
Both Ukrenergo and officials in Kyiv have urged Ukrainians to conserve energy. Earlier this week, Zelenskyy called on consumers to curb their power use between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. and to avoid using energy-guzzling appliances such as electric heaters.
Zelenskyy said earlier in the week that 30% of Ukraine's power stations have been destroyed since Russia launched the first wave of targeted infrastructure strikes on Oct. 10.
In a separate development, Russian officials said two people were killed and 12 others were wounded by Ukrainian shelling of the town of Shebekino in the Belgorod region near the border.
Cyclone Michaung landfall has started near Bapatla on Andhra Pradesh coast after causing rain mayhem in Tamil Nadu. So far, at least eight people have died in rain-related incidents in Chennai.
The southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, as well as Odisha in the east, experienced heavy downpours Monday as authorities issued warnings for Tropical Cyclone Michaung, which is likely to hit the southern coast with maximum sustained winds of 90-100 kph (56-62 mph) and gusts up to 110 kph (68 mph), the Indian Meteorological Department said.
A deep depression over the Bay of Bengal intensified into a tropical storm Monday as it inched towards Bapatla, a coastal district in Andhra Pradesh state.
On Monday night, authorities in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, said people in the city had died as the impending storm unleashed rains that caused trees to topple and walls to collapse, and submerged roads and cars in knee-deep waters.
Videos showed water streaming onto the city's airport tarmac, forcing authorities to shut it down and divert more than 30 flights while around 70 were canceled, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Schools were shut in Andhra Pradesh, where the storm might make landfall, and officials evacuated nearly 2,000 people from coastal and low-lying villages with instructions to move over 7,000 more to safer areas, local media reported.
Tamil Nadu authorities have set up nearly 5,000 relief camps in coastal areas. In Chennai, rescuers used boats to evacuate hundreds of people stranded on the roads and inside homes that had filled with floodwaters. Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said the state was ready to face the storm with authorities deployed to vulnerable areas, and asked the public to stay indoors until it subsided.
India's weather department said parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh could see over 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain as the storm approaches.
: BSS, NDTV
The United Nations has said they do not deploy observers to elections like Bangladesh one, noting that they rarely do that without a specific mandate.
"The UN is not deploying observers to these elections. We don't… we rarely, rarely do that without a specific mandate," Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at a regular briefing on November 29.
He said they have seen the reports from Human Rights Watch and other organisations.
"We again call on all parties involved to ensure that people are able to express their votes freely, their opinion freely, free of any harassment,” the spokesman said.
Candidates of 30 political parties out of 44 registered political parties have submitted nomination papers for the January 7 national election.
The United States has said it is aware of Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova's “deliberate mischaracterization” of US foreign policy and US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas’ meetings.
“The United States does not support any political party in Bangladesh. Nor does the United States favor one political party over another,” a State Department spokesperson said on Saturday.
The US State Department reiterated that they want what the Bangladeshi people want: free and fair elections conducted in a peaceful manner.
To support that shared goal of free and fair elections conducted in a peaceful manner, the US embassy personnel engage and will continue to engage with the government, opposition, civil society, and other stakeholders to urge them to work together for the benefit of the Bangladeshi people, said the State Department spokesperson.
Maria Zakharova, during a weekly briefing on November 22, said that Russia has spoken repeatedly about the attempts by the United States and its allies to influence the internal political process in Bangladesh, ostensibly under the banner of ensuring “transparency and inclusiveness” in the upcoming parliamentary election.
Information has come to light regarding a meeting at the end of October between US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas and a high-ranking representative of the local opposition, according to the Russian side.
They reportedly discussed plans to organize mass anti-government protests in the country during the meeting, the Russian side said.
In particular, the American Ambassador “promised” the representative of the opposition information support in the event that the authorities use force against participants in “peaceful demonstrations.”
These assurances were purportedly made on behalf of the embassies of the United States, Britain, Australia and several other countries, according to a Facebook post shared by the Russian Embassy in Dhaka.
"How can these actions of the American Ambassador to Bangladesh be regarded? They can be seen as nothing less than gross interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state on the part of Washington and its satellites, demonstrating open disregard for the norms and rules enshrined in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," the Russian spokeswoman said.
"On our part, we have no doubts regarding the ability of the Bangladeshi authorities to hold the parliamentary election scheduled for January 7, 2024, in full compliance with national legislation, independently, without the help of overseas well-wishers," said the Russian spokeswoman.
Bangladesh has underlined the need for early conclusion of the Teesta agreement and other water-sharing treaties of common rivers as foreign secretaries of Bangladesh and India held a meeting at Hyderabad House here this afternoon.
In the meeting styled Bangladesh-India Foreign Office Consultation (FOC), the Bangladesh side also stressed on removing trade barriers from Bangladesh's exportable goods and uninterrupted supply of essential commodities between the two countries.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and his Indian Counterpart Vinay Mohan Kwatra led their respective sides in the meeting that also discussed wide range of bilateral issues covering from border security to trade and commerce and water, power and energy cooperation.
After the meeting, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh issued separate statements in New Delhi and Dhaka on the FOC, an institutional dialogue mechanism between the foreign secretaries to review the entire gamut of bilateral relations.
The foreign ministry statement said that the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary requested his counterpart to deepen and expand the people-to-people contacts and sought India's assistance in resolving Rohingya crisis.
The two sides also stressed on deepening collaboration for greater prosperity of the people of the two friendly countries.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary thanked the Government of India for inviting Bangladesh Prime Minister to attend the "G20 Leaders' Summit" as the only South Asian leader under India's G20 Presidency.
Both the Foreign Secretaries expressed satisfaction over the existing bilateral relations and the progress made in the year 2023.
Referring to the recent inauguration of number of projects for enhancing connectivity and power and energy sector cooperation by the two Prime Ministers, they said that this sort of cooperation reflects the tangible outcomes of the strong bilateral relations.
The two foreign secretaries further emphasized bolstering cooperation in important areas such as development, trade and commerce, regional connectivity, regional power grid connection, security and water related issues, consular and cultural issues.
They also discussed to address the challenges to be faced by Bangladesh during post-graduation scenario. Both the sides reiterated that the two border guard forces should continue their cooperation to have a peaceful border.
According to MEA statement issued here the two sides reviewed entire gamut of bilateral relations as they held comprehensive discussions on a wide range of issues covering border and security, trade, commerce and connectivity, cooperation in water, power and energy sectors, people to people ties and development cooperation in Bangladesh.
Apart from bilateral issues, the both sides also exchanged views on sub-regional, regional and multilateral issues.
The Indian side appreciated Bangladesh's participation in the recently held Virtual G20 summit and the Voice of Global South Summit 2.0.
The meeting agreed that the next FOC will be hosted by Bangladesh on a mutually convenient date.
This was the second Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) between Bangladesh and India this year as the first one was held in February in Dhaka.
An Israeli man whose
family was kidnapped by Hamas and freed on Friday said he was happy but could
not celebrate their return without the release of all those still held in the
Hamas released 13 Israeli hostages on the first day of a truce in the Palestinian territory, bringing the total number of captives released to 29 of around 240 taken when the Islamist group launched its deadly October 7 attack on Israel.
Yoni Asher was at home near Tel Aviv that day when his wife Doron Asher Katz, 34, and their two children, aged two and four, where kidnapped while visiting Doron's mother, 69-year-old Efrat Katz, who was killed during the attack.
"I am happy that I received my family back. It's allowed to feel joy and it's allowed to shed a tear. That's a human thing," Asher said in a video released by the Hostage Families Forum on Friday evening.
"But I am not celebrating. I will not celebrate until the last of the hostages returns home," he added.
"Our children, fathers, mothers, sisters are currently hostages. There are people whose hearts are breaking at this time and I want to ensure that each and every hostage returns home."
Doron's brother and her mother's partner were also kidnapped and are still being held hostage in Gaza.
"I am determined to help my family recover from the terrible trauma and loss we went through", Asher said. "Difficult days are still ahead of me."
The renewable agreement that led to their release covers four days during which 50 hostages held in Gaza must be released, as well as 150 Palestinians held in Israel.
On Friday, 39 Palestinian women and children were released from Israeli prisons.
Ten Thai hostages and one Filippino were also released Friday in a separate agreement, according to Qatar, which led the negotiations along with Egypt and the United States.
Cyclone Michaung landfall has started near Bapatla on Andhra Pradesh coast after causing rain mayhem in Tamil Nadu. So far, at least eight people have died in rain-related incidents in Chennai. The southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, as well as Odisha in the east, experienced heavy downpours Monday as authorities issued warnings for Tropical Cyclone Michaung, which is likely to hit the southern coast with maximum sustained winds of 90-100 kph (56-62 mph) and gusts up to 110 kph (68 mph), the Indian Meteorological Department said.
The United Nations has said they do not deploy observers to elections like Bangladesh one, noting that they rarely do that without a specific mandate. "The UN is not deploying observers to these elections. We don't… we rarely, rarely do that without a specific mandate," Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at a regular briefing on November 29.
An Israeli man whose family was kidnapped by Hamas and freed on Friday said he was happy but could not celebrate their return without the release of all those still held in the Gaza Strip. Hamas released 13 Israeli hostages on the first day of a truce in the Palestinian territory, bringing the total number of captives released to 29 of around 240 taken when the Islamist group launched its deadly October 7 attack on Israel.