Our live coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine has moved here.
Russia has suffered more than 100,000 killed and wounded soldiers as a result of the war in Ukraine, the top US general said Wednesday evening, and Ukraine is probably looking at similar numbers.
Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley, speaking at an event at The Economic Club of New York, called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “tremendous strategic mistake” for which the country would pay “for years and years and years to come.”
The war, which began in late February, has caused a tremendous amount of human suffering, Milley said, including between 15-30 million refugees and about 40,000 innocent Ukrainian civilians killed.
"You’re looking at well over 100,000 Russian soldiers killed and wounded," Milley said. "Same thing probably on the Ukrainian side."
Milley said there may be a window of opportunity to negotiate an end to the conflict if and when the front lines stabilize during winter.
“When there’s an opportunity to negotiate when peace can be achieved, seize it,” Milley said. “Seize the moment.”
But if negotiations never materialized or failed, Milley said the US would continue to arm Ukraine, even as an outright military victory for either side looks increasingly unlikely.
“There has to be a mutual recognition that military victory is probably in the true sense of the word may be not achievable through military means, and therefore you need to turn to other means.”
Milley also said the US was seeing initial indications that Russia was indeed pulling out of Kherson, as it had stated. But he said the withdrawal of 20,000-30,000 troops from the west bank of the Dnipro River could take days or even weeks.
“I believe they’re doing it in order to preserve their force, to re-establish defensive lines south of the river, but that remains to be seen,” Milley said. “Right now, the early indicators are they’re doing what they say they’re doing and we’re seeing those early indicators.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday that Russia's announcement of a withdrawal near the southern city of Kherson may be a strategic move to regroup forces.
But he also said, in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, that at a time of his choosing, Ukrainian progress on the battlefield would come.
"So they [The Russians] are ready to defend this region and they’re not ready to leave the city, and the fact that they are in these homes [they’ve occupied] means that they are seriously preparing, but we are also seriously prepared for these developments."
He added that Ukrainians "are not considering this as just one single operation."
"We have a strategy and different directions," he added.
Some background: Russian state media reported that Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has ordered a withdrawal of Russian forces from the west bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region. His order comes as Ukrainian forces make advances toward the city of Kherson from two directions.
Watch a clip from the interview:
US President Joe Biden said he’s hopeful that with the midterm election over, Russian President Vladimir Putin will be more willing to discuss the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was recently transferred to a Russian penal colony to serve the remainder of a nine-year drug smuggling sentence that was upheld in late October.
“My guess is – my hope is that now that the election is over, that Mr. Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about prisoner exchange,” Biden said Wednesday during a news conference at the White House. “That is my intention. My intention is to get her home.”
The president said the US has had discussions with Russia – but is hoping that with the election over, "there is a willingness to negotiate more specifically with us."
Asked if he could explain some of the alternative ways forward the administration had previously referred to and how Russia had responded to them, Biden answered, “I can but I won’t.”
“I’m determined to get her home safely, along with others I might add,” he said.
US President Joe Biden said the timing of Russia's announcement that it is withdrawing its troops from part of Kherson region was “interesting,” and that he had been told that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not likely to attend the upcoming G20 summit in Indonesia.
“I find it interesting they waited until after the election to make that judgment, which we knew for some time they were going to be doing, and it’s evidence of the fact that they have some real problems – the Russian military,” Biden said Wednesday.
He said where the withdrawal leads and “whether or not Ukraine is prepared to compromise with Russia” remains to be seen.
Biden added that he was “told that President Putin is not likely” to attend the G20 in Indonesia, but other world leaders would be “and we're going to have an opportunity to see what the next steps may be.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country will "move very carefully, without emotions, without unnecessary risk," in the light of Russia's announcement that it is withdrawing its troops from part of Kherson region.
In his daily video message, Zelensky said, "We are gradually moving to the south, strengthening our positions. Step by step."
"There is a lot of joy in the information space today — and it is clear why," Zelensky said.
"But our emotions must be restrained — always during the war. I will definitely not feed the enemy with all the details of our operations. Whether in the south, or in the east, or anywhere else — when our result is achieved, everyone will see it."
"This is how we will ensure the liberation of Kherson, Kakhovka, Donetsk and our other cities," the Ukrainian president said.
"No one just leaves if they do not feel strong. The enemy does not give us gifts, does not make 'gestures of goodwill.' We fight for it," Zelensky said.
"And when you fight, you must understand that every step is always the enemy's resistance, it is always the loss of lives of our heroes."
"Currently, the toughest battles are in Donetsk region, a lot is being decided there," he said.
Zelensky also referred to warnings from Ukrainian officials that Russia might try to destroy the large hydro-electric project and dam on the Dnipro River.
"I want to warn once again and separately everyone in Moscow who makes the relevant decisions: any attempt to blow up Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant and flood our territory and dewater the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant [which is upstream from the dam] will mean your declaration of war to the whole world," he said.
The Russian general in command of forces in the Kremlin's so-called Special Military Operation, Sergey Surovikin, has claimed it is the Ukrainians who are planning to destroy the dam.
"The implementation of the enemy's plans to create a flood zone below the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station can lead to dangerous consequences. This is confirmed by the constant missile attacks on the dam of the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station, as well as on the spillway gates of this dam," Surovikin said Wednesday.
"If the Kyiv regime goes for a further increase in the release of water from reservoirs or a more powerful missile attack on the Kakhovka dam, a flow of water will be formed that will create vast flood zones and cause significant casualties among the civilian population," Surovikin said.
Zelensky also addressed ongoing power outages caused by waves of Russian missile attacks.
"As of this evening, there are stabilization (scheduled) restrictions on electricity supply in 15 regions and the city of Kyiv. There are no emergency shutdowns," he said.
The UK government said Wednesday that a British man lost his life in Ukraine.
The UK foreign office in a statement said that it was "supporting the family of a British national who has lost his life in Ukraine," but did not reveal the person's name.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) added that it was in touch with "the local authorities in connection with his death."
In June, former British Army soldier Jordan Gatley was shot and killed while fighting in Ukraine's Severodonetsk, CNN reported at the time.
British aid worker Paul Urey died in the annexed Donetsk region of Ukraine earlier this year after the Russian invasion started, CNN reported.
US diplomats have asked Russia for information about the current location of WNBA star Brittney Griner and where she is going but the Russians have not provided any answers, a senior State Department official said Wednesday.
The diplomats’ requests come after news broke that Griner is being transferred to a remote penal colony in Russia, a move that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called “another injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention.”
“We are communicating very clearly to the Russians requesting information on her current location as well as her destination in addition to the message that we expect consistent with their obligations, including under under the Vienna Convention, to have a consistent consular access to Brittney Griner,” the official said.
Russia "unfortunately followed past practice" and did not notify the US ahead of moving Griner to a penal colony, the official said. While the US expected that she would be transferred, they found out about the move from Griner's legal team and press reports.
Past American detainees in Russia have gone to a central location before they arrive at a prison camp and that process can take a couple of weeks, the official said. The US does not know how she will be treated at the prison camp because Russia has many different kinds of camps that treat prisoners differently.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the the pro-Kremlin leader of Russia's Chechnya region, said he supports the decision by the Russian Defense Ministry and the commander in Ukraine to withdraw troops from part of the Kherson region.
Kadyrov, who has frequently criticized the ministry and the leadership of the operation, said that Gen. Sergey Surovikin had "saved a thousand soldiers who were in actual encirclement."
"After weighing all the pros and cons, General Surovikin made a difficult but right choice between senseless sacrifices for the sake of loud statements and saving the priceless lives of soldiers," he said.
"There is no need to talk about the 'surrender' of Kherson. 'Surrender' means together with the fighters. And Surovikin protects the soldiers and takes a more advantageous strategic position - convenient, safe," Kadyrov said on his Telegram channel.
"Everyone knew from the very first days of the special operation that Kherson was a difficult combat territory. The soldiers of my units also reported that it was very difficult to fight in this area," especially "without the possibility of a stable regular supply of ammunition and the formation of a strong, reliable rear."
But again criticizing past mistakes, he asked: "Why was this not done from the first days of the special operation? This is another question."
"I believe that Surovikin acted like a real military general, not afraid of criticism. He is responsible for the people," Kadyrov concluded.