© Reuters. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during a joint news conference with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala (not seen), as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine October 31, 2022. REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi
(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that conditions in Russian-held areas of Ukraine were “extremely difficult” and Ukraine’s leader showed up Russia’s faltering war by visiting a shattered frontline town that has long defied capture by Moscow.
* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy paid a surprise visit to the frontline city of Bakhmut, where he hailed the “superhuman” troops waging a battle that has come to symbolise the grinding brutality of the war in Ukraine.
* Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s Security Services Day, widely celebrated in Russia, Putin ordered the strengthening of Russia’s borders as Moscow tries to regain momentum in its war against Ukraine.
* Electricity supplies in the Kyiv region were at a “critical” level, with less than half the capital’s power needs being supplied following Russian missile and drone attacks, regional officials said.
* Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukraine should prepare for new Russian attacks on its energy grid because Moscow wanted Ukrainians to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays in darkness.
* Russia attacked Ukrainian oil and gas facilities in eastern Ukraine overnight, causing a fire but no casualties, Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz said.
* Reuters was not able to independently verify battlefield reports.
DIPLOMACY AND REACTION
* There are conflicting views in Russia on whether or not to launch a renewed offensive in Ukraine, a senior U.S. State Department official said, reiterating that Washington would keep backing Kyiv regardless of which scenario plays out.
* Russia is planning to give Iran advanced military components in exchange for hundreds of drones, British defence minister Ben Wallace said, calling on the West to do more to expose the trade.
* The EU foreign policy chief told Iran’s foreign minister that Tehran should immediately halt military support for Russia and internal repression in Iran, reflecting worsening ties as diplomacy to revive a nuclear deal remains at a standstill.