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Ukraine's top military leader says war is at a stalemate and a 'beautiful breakthrough' is unlikely

This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine on November 2, 2023.

Valery Zaluzhnyi at an event commemorating Ukraine's Independence Day on Aug. 24, 2023, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine's commander-in-chief has conceded that there have been few gains in Ukraine's five-month long counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory.

Likening the current state of conflict to World War I, in which battles were often fought over a few miles of territory at the expense of huge numbers of men, Ukraine's General Valery Zaluzhny said the war had reached an impasse.

"There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough," he told The Economist magazine in an interview published Thursday.

Ukraine has repeatedly said it needs longer-range weapons, more air defenses and its own airpower to be able to fight Russia effectively. While its allies have donated massive amounts of equipment, decisions over further tranches of weaponry, such as tanks, have been tortuous affairs and supplies slow to materialize.

Ukraine risking nuclear disaster with drones, Russia says

Ukrainian drones are increasing the threat of nuclear disaster, Russia's defense ministry said, according to a Google translation of a report by state media outlet TASS.

Russian forces intercepted nine Ukrainian drones close to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and then described the attacks as having "the aim of creating the threat of a man-made disaster."

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

U.S. introduces new sanctions targeting Russia

US Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen speaks about the Biden's administration's economic approach toward the Indo-Pacific, ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Finance Ministers' and APEC Economic Leaders meeting, in Washington, DC, November 2, 2023.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. government extended its list of sanctions against Moscow, the Treasury said in a press statement Thursday, with almost 100 new measures targeting energy production, mining and defense.

The list of measures also includes a crackdown on sanctions evasion in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and China.

"Russia is dependent on willing third-country individuals and entities to resupply its military and perpetuate its heinous war against Ukraine and we will not hesitate in holding them accountable," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in the statement.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Russia says Israeli call for citizens to leave North Caucasus is 'anti-Russian'

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that Israel's recommendation that its citizens leave Russia's North Caucasus region after a violent anti-Israeli protest in Dagestan on Sunday was "anti-Russian".

Pro-Palestinian protesters storm an airport terminal in Makhachkala, Dagestan, Russia, October 29, 2023, in this screengrab taken from video obtained by REUTERS.
Social Media | Via Reuters

In a briefing with reporters, Zakharova said that the Israeli warning against travel in the mostly Muslim regions of the North Caucasus bore "no relation to reality".

Dozens were arrested after hundreds of protesters stormed Makhachkala airport in Dagestan on Sunday, looking for Jewish passengers on board a plane arriving from Tel Aviv.

— Reuters

Ukraine blocks Russian attempts to advance near Vuhledar

Ukrainian forces repelled the latest Russian assault near the strategically-important town of Vuhledar in the eastern Donetsk region, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday.

Vuhledar, held by Ukraine, has long been a fighting hotspot as it's located between the eastern and southern front lines.

"There was an attempt by the enemy to advance in the Vuhledar, direction, but our soldiers stopped it, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy: dozens of vehicles, many killed and wounded," Zelenskyy said on Telegram. 

Ukrainian soldiers fire targets on the front line in the direction of the city of Vuhledar in Donetsk, Ukraine.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

"Defensive actions in Avdiivka and our offensive operations in the south are also ongoing," he added. Zelenskyy said Ukraine's defense ministry had reported the arrival of shells, missiles, and equipment at the front. CNBC was unable to immediately verify Zelenskyy's comments.

Defense analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said Wednesday that battles around Avdiivka now were reminiscent of an unsuccessful offensive last year against Vuhledar.

"The current situation near Avdiivka is a microcosm of the Russian General Staff's wider failure to internalize and disseminate lessons learned by Russian forces during previous failed offensive efforts in Ukraine to other force groupings throughout the theater," the ISW said in analysis.

"Various Russian elements have engaged in similarly catastrophic mechanized attacks with infantry-led frontal assaults on fortified Ukrainian positions along several different axes over the course of 2022 and 2023," it said.

"Russian forces previously suffered significant personnel and materiel losses during an unsuccessful offensive against Vuhledar ... in winter 2022-2023, which was characterized by multiple waves of mechanized attacks against fortified Ukrainian positions."

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia denies Ukraine's claims that war has reached a 'stalemate'

Russia rejected a claim by Ukraine's most senior military commander that the 20-month conflict in Ukraine has reached a deadlock.

""No, it has not reached a dead end," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday, according to comments published by news agency RIA Novosti.

"Russia consistently continues to carry out a special military operation. All goals that are set must be achieved," the Kremlin's press secretary said. Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a "special military operation."

A New Year decoration stylized as the "Kremlin Star," a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, in Moscow, on Jan. 2, 2023.
Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

"The Kyiv regime, in fact, long ago needed to understand that even talking about any prospects for the Kyiv regime's victory on the battlefield is absurd. The sooner the Kyiv regime understands this for itself, the sooner some prospects will open up," Peskov added.

The Kremlin's comments came after Ukraine's commander-in-chief conceded that there have been few gains in Ukraine's five-month-long counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory.

Likening the current state of conflict to World War I, in which battles were often fought over a few miles of territory at the expense of huge numbers of men, Ukraine's General Valery Zaluzhny said the war had reached an impasse.

"There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough," he told The Economist magazine in an interview published Thursday.

— Holly Ellyatt

Wagner Group reportedly begins recruiting again after Prigozhin's death

Russia's Wagner mercenary group has begun to recruit fighters again several months after the death of its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to Russian media reports.

After halting recruitment following Prigozhin's failed military uprising in June, and his subsequent death in a plane crash in August, recruitment is again taking place in at least two regions months, the Moscow Times reported, citing other media outlets in Russia.

A member of private mercenary group Wagner pays tribute to Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin after their apparent deaths in a plane crash on Aug. 23, 2023.
Vladimir Nikolayev | Afp | Getty Images

"According to the online news outlets 59.ru and NGS.ru, the private military company has started to recruit fighters as part of Russia's National Guard (Rosgvardia) in the central Perm region and the Novosibirsk region in Siberia," the English-speaking news outlet said.

"The emblems and symbols remain the same," an anonymous Wagner spokesperson was quoted as saying by 59.ru, while the Novosibirsk outlet NGS.ru was told by another Wager source that the new "contracts are signed not with the Defense Ministry, but Rosgvardia."

Prigozhin's 25-year-old son Pavel is reportedly heading the new National Guard unit under the nominal title of "Wagner," the Moscow Times said.

The Wagner Group's mercenaries had been fighting alongside regular Russian units in Ukraine but Prigozhin rejected plans announced earlier this year by the Russian Defense Ministry, of which he was highly critical, to force Wagner fighters to sign contracts with the ministry.

Russia rejected accusations that it had a role in Prigozhin's death and said it was investigating the plane crash in which he died.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia lost at least four long-range missile launchers over past week, UK says

A rocket launches from an S-400 missile system at the Ashuluk military base in Southern Russia on Sept. 22, 2020.
Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

Russia likely lost at least four long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) launchers to Ukrainian strikes over the last week, Britain's Ministry of Defense said Thursday.

Russian media reported that three Russian SA-21 launchers had been destroyed in the Luhansk region of Ukraine in late October while Ukrainian sources reported additional Russian air defense losses in Crimea in recent days.

"Russia has long prioritised ample, high-tech, long range SAM systems as a key component of its military strategy," the U.K. said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"The recent losses highlight that Russia's Integrated Air Defence System continues to struggle against modern precision strike weapons and will highly likely increase the already significant strain on remaining systems and operators," it added.

The ministry believes there's a realistic possibility that as Russia replaces the destroyed systems in Ukraine, it will weaken its air defenses in other operational areas.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine's top military leader admits war is at a 'stalemate'

Valery Zaluzhnyi at an event commemorating Ukraine's Independence Day on Aug. 24, 2023, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine's commander-in-chief has conceded that the war against Russia has reached a "stalemate," with few successes and advances in Ukraine's five-month-long counteroffensive.

Likening the current state of conflict to World War I — in which many long and intense battles were fought over, at times, a few miles of territory and at the expense of huge numbers of men — Ukraine's General Valery Zaluzhny said the war had reached an impasse.

"Just like in the first world war, we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate," he told The Economist magazine, adding that it would take a massive technological leap to break the deadlock.

"There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough."

Ukraine launched its much-anticipated counteroffensive in June, in the hope of breaking Russia's hold on a swathe of territory along the south and east of Ukraine. Russia had months to fortify its positions in the lead-up, however, and Ukraine has struggled to overcome layers of deep defensive lines made up of minefields, trench networks and anti-tank obstacles while being hit with Russian artillery and airpower.

Ukraine has repeatedly said it needs longer-range weapons, more air defenses and its own airpower to be able to fight Russia effectively. While its allies have donated massive amounts of equipment, decisions over further tranches of weaponry, such as tanks, have been tortuous affairs and supplies slow to materialize.

Ukrainian military personnel receive armored maneuver training on German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks at the Spanish army's training center of San Gregorio in Zaragoza on March 13, 2023.
Oscar Del Pozo | AFP | Getty Images

Zaluzhny told The Economist that he had made a mistake thinking that he could stop Russia by bleeding its troops. "That was my mistake. Russia has lost at least 150,000 dead. In any other country such casualties would have stopped the war."

Russia has shown it can quickly mobilize thousands of men at will and it's estimated that it has amassed over 420,000 troops in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian defense intelligence, with the troops having varying degrees of military skill and training. Some Russian units are, for example, made up of former prisoners offered the chance to fight in exchange for reduced sentences and pay.

Russia launched a partial mobilization last year, calling up around 300,000 people. Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in October that Russia had no plans for an additional mobilization as more than 335,000 have signed up so far this year to fight.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine sees most attacks in a day since the start of the year

A Ukrainian soldier drives a car near the frontline as the Russia-Ukraine war continues in Kharkiv, Ukraine on October 27, 2023.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia has ramped up the intensity of its attacks on Ukraine, with a minister saying the country on Tuesday experienced the most attacks in one day since the start of the year.

Russian troops fired on 118 settlements in 10 regions of Ukraine over the past day, causing deaths and casualties, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on Telegram Wednesday

"This is the largest number of towns and villages hit since the beginning of the year," he said, adding, "At night, the occupiers launched massive shelling on the territory of Ukraine, there are dead and wounded."

Klymenko said a number of regions were targeted, including Poltava, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv.

— Holly Ellyatt

Italian PM discussed international "fatigue" over Ukraine war with pranksters, Reuters reports

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said there was international "fatigue" regarding the war in Ukraine in a phone call with Russian pranksters in September, Reuters reported.

"I see that there is a lot of fatigue, I have to say the truth, from all the sides. We (are) near the moment in which everybody understands that we need a way out," she reportedly said.

"The problem is to find a way out which can be acceptable for both without destroying the international law," she added.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
Antonio Masiello | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Meloni also commented that Italy was not receiving enough help from other nations to deal with the large number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Two Russians leaked the 13-minute audio from the call online Wednesday after several similar pranks in which they try to get Western politicians and celebrities to make unguarded remarks.

"They do all agree that only Italy has to solve this problem alone. It's a very stupid way of thinking," she allegedly said.

Meloni's office said the imposters had posed as the head of the African Union Commission.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Any F-16s given to Ukraine will only last 'around 20 days,' Russia claims

Russia's defense minister claimed Wednesday that any F-16 fighter jets that the West supplies to Ukraine will be only last around 20 days if Russian air defense systems are operating effectively.

The United States has said that it will begin flight training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.
Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

In a conference call with military officials, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russian air defense systems had shot down 37 aircraft in the past month and that this was almost twice the number of F-16 aircraft that was expected to be given to Ukraine by its Western allies.

"That is, with such work, our air defense systems [would have] approximately 20 days of work," he said in comments posted on the Telegram account of Russia's Ministry of Defense. CNBC was unable to verify Shoigu's claims.

Several of Ukraine's allies in Europe, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Norway, have promised to supply kyiv with F-16 jets although the timeframe for training and supply, as well as the number of aircraft that will be donated, differs between the nations and is not yet fully confirmed.

Denmark is expected to supply Kyiv with 19 jets but the deliveries will be made in tranches with the first six to be delivered in March or April 2024.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine says Russian warplanes drop explosives on Black Sea shipping lanes

Ukraine said on Wednesday Russian warplanes had dropped "explosive objects" into the likely paths of civilian vessels in the Black Sea three times in the last 24 hours, but that its fledgling shipping corridor was still operating.

Ukraine is trying to build up a new shipping lane without Russian approval to revive its vital seaborne exports. Russia said it would consider any vessel a potential military target after it quit a U.N.-brokered deal in July that allowed some food exports to flow despite the war.

The first cargo ship using new Black Sea shipping lanes is seen leaving the southern port of Odesa on August 16, 2023. Ukraine said the first cargo ship to use the shipping lanes had exited a southern port despite threats from Russia that its navy could target vessels leaving the country. "The first vessel is moving along the temporary corridors established for civilian vessels to and from Black Sea ports," Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a statement. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)
Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

"The occupiers are continuing to terrorise the paths of civilian shipping in the Black Sea with tactical aviation, dropping explosive objects into the likely paths of civilian vessel traffic," the southern military command said.

"There were three such drops registered in the last 24 hours. However, the navigation corridor continues to function under the watch of the defense forces," it said.

Russia's defense ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The spokeswoman for Ukraine's southern command said on Tuesday that Russia was regularly dropping guided aerial bombs, sea mines or other as-yet unknown explosive devices near the corridor, the Suspilne public broadcaster reported.

— Reuters

Two Russian tanks explode on their own mines, Ukraine claims

View of a captured Russian T-72 tank hidden in a forest near Kivsharivka, Ukraine.
Michael Brochstein | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Ukraine claimed two Russian tanks exploded on their own mines as they retreated following an attempt to storm Ukrainian positions.

"In the Kupyansk direction, two enemy T-72 tanks, after another unsuccessful assault on our positions, were returning to the original line and exploded on their own mines," the Steel Frontier 15th Mobile Border Detachment said on Facebook Wednesday.

"One of them immediately exploded, and the other only 'took off', damaging the track," the post said, with an accompanying video showing an explosion.

The detachment said wryly that it had sent two drones to the damaged tank to carry out "explosive maintenance" and that "now both tanks are beyond repair." CNBC was unable to verify the information in the post.

The Kupiansk area in the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine is one of the combat hotspots in the war with a significant increase in fighting in the area in recent days, defense analysts say. Ukraine says Russian forces are trying to re-occupy the city of Kupiansk as it's an important logistics hub.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine is being defeated despite NATO help, Russia's defense minister claims

Russia's defense minister claimed Wednesday that Ukraine is facing defeat, despite massive amounts of military support from Western military alliance NATO.

"Despite the supply of new types of NATO weapons, the Kyiv regime is suffering defeat. The group of Russian troops continues to conduct an active defense, inflicting effective fire damage on the enemy," Sergei Shoigu said in a conference call Wednesday, reported by news agency RIA Novosti.

Shoigu then claimed that Ukraine's forces were "desperately and unsuccessfully" trying to attack in the Zaporozhzhia, Donetsk and Kherson directions, but that this was leading to large losses.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu (R) during the annual Navy Day Parade on July 30, 2023, in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Contributor | Getty Images

"The forces of Ukraine are being depleted, and the demoralization of personnel is growing," Shoigu claimed, without presenting evidence. In the meantime, he said, Russian units were advancing.

Russia has ramped up the intensity of its attacks on Ukraine, with the country's interior minister noting Wednesday that the country had experienced the most attacks in one day, on Tuesday, since the start of the year.

Defense experts tend to agree that Ukraine's counteroffensive that was launched in June has not been as successful as hoped, with the front line having shifted little and fighting remaining highly attritional.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said Tuesday that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in the western Zaporizhia region while "Russian forces "continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast [region] and advanced near Avdiivka."

— Holly Ellyatt

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