Russian forces in the city of Kherson are occupying empty homes and dressing in civilian clothes to prepare for “street battles” in the event of an Ukrainian assault, Ukraine said Monday.
The reports came as attacks in the Kherson region killed more than 30 Russian military personnel and hit an anti-aircraft facility and an ammunition, Ukraine’s military said early Tuesday. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).
9:55am: White House does not deny report Biden advisor Sullivan in talks with Moscow
The United States reserves the right to hold talks with Russia at the senior level on risk reduction, the White House said on Monday in not denying a report that national security adviser Jake Sullivan has been talking with Moscow.
Sullivan, speaking on Monday at an event at the Economic Club of New York, did not say he had been engaged himself in direct talks but noted he had said repeatedly that “we have channels to communicate with the Russian Federation at senior levels”.
“We have done so when it’s been necessary to clarify potential misunderstandings and try to reduce risk and reduce the possibility of catastrophe like the potential use of nuclear weapons,” he said.
The White House, which has been careful not to make diplomatic moves concerning Ukraine without Ukrainian involvement, did not deny the talks.
“We reserve the right to speak directly at senior levels about issues of concern to the United States. That has happened over the course of the past few months. Our conversations have focused only on … risk reduction and the US-Russia relationship,” White House Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
She said US support for Ukraine will be “unflinching and unwavering”.
8:54am: Swedish PM set to meet with Turkey’s Erdogan over NATO membership bid
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson will seek Turkey’s approval for his country’s bid to join NATO during talks on Tuesday in Ankara with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has stalled the process and accused Sweden of harbouring militants.
Along with Finland, Sweden applied to join NATO in May in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey had objected over security concerns related to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and other groups, and over the Nordic states’ arms-export bans.
The three sides signed a memorandum in June that lifted Turkey’s veto and obligated obligated Sweden and Finland to address its remaining concerns.
Erdogan was set to host Kristersson at the presidential palace on Tuesday afternoon, with a news conference scheduled for 15:30 GMT.
Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told Swedish Radio on Saturday his country’s new government would distance itself from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in its bid to win Turkey’s support for its membership in the Western defence alliance.
Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the PKK, which launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984 and is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
Sweden, along with the United States and several other NATO countries, has supported the YPG in the fight against Islamic State. Turkey has vowed to block Sweden’s application if it doesn’t stop.
7:51am: Ukrainian military says attacks in Kherson region kill more than 30 Russian personnel
The Ukrainian military reported hits on a Russian anti-aircraft facility and an ammunition dump, and on the destruction of Russian armour in the Beryslav district of the Kherson region, in a statement early on Tuesday.
It said 32 Russian military personnel were killed.
7:35am: Ukraine’s military says Russian forces preparing for ‘street battles’ in Kherson
Ukraine accused Russia of looting empty homes in the southern city of Kherson and occupying them with troops in civilian clothes to prepare for street fighting in what both sides predict will be one of the war’s most important battles.
Ukraine’s military said Russian forces, “disguised in civilian clothes, occupy the premises of civilians and strengthen positions inside for conducting street battles”.
Russian forces were “involved in looting and theft from residents and from infrastructure sites and are taking away equipment, food and vehicles to the Russian Federation”, the military said in an update late on Monday.
Reuters was seeking comment from Russian authorities on the Ukrainian allegations. Moscow denies abusing civilians.
Kherson, with a prewar population of nearly 300,000, has been left cold and dark after power and water were cut to the surrounding area over the past 48 hours, both sides said.
In recent days, Russia has ordered civilians out of Kherson in anticipation of a Ukrainian assault to recapture the city, which was the first to be seized by Moscow’s forces following their invasion in February.
Russian-installed officials blamed Ukrainian “sabotage”, while Ukrainian officials said the Russians had dismantled 1.5 kilometres of power lines.