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Russian forces to retreat behind Dnieper River

An old woman walks in the Kherson region village of Arkhanhelske, Ukraine on Nov 3, 2022. (BULENT KILIC / AFP)

MOSCOW/KYIV/UNITED NATIONS/TEHRAN – Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday ordered Russian troops to leave the right (western) bank of the Dnieper River and strengthen defense against Ukrainian offensives on the left bank.

Shoigu announced the decision after hearing a report from Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russia's joint group of forces in Ukraine, on the latest development of the special military operation.

Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russia's joint group of forces in Ukraine, expressed concerns that Ukraine's continuous shelling of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Station on the Dnieper River could flood a large area downstream, causing many civilian casualties and isolating Russian troops on the right bank

"After a comprehensive assessment of the current situation, it is proposed to build up defense along the left bank of the Dnieper River," Surovikin told Shoigu.

The main part of the Kherson city is located on the right bank of the wide river, and Surovikin called it a difficult decision to withdraw but it would most importantly preserve lives and combat capability of the Russian forces.

He explained that although the Russian air defense has been successfully repelling Ukrainian shelling of Kherson, up to 20 percent of the rockets can still hit targets and the city and nearby settlements cannot be fully supplied.

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Surovikin also expressed concerns that Ukraine's continuous shelling of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Station on the Dnieper River could flood a large area downstream, causing many civilian casualties and isolating Russian troops on the right bank.

Shoigu demanded that Surovikin take all measures to ensure the safe relocation of the personnel, armaments and hardware behind the Dnieper River.

Following the withdrawal, Russian troops could be deployed to carry out offensives in other directions, Surovikin reported.

More than 115,000 people had been evacuated from the river's right bank in the Kherson region, Surovikin added, stressing that Russia's losses in the Kherson direction were significantly smaller than those of Ukraine.

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However, Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv sees no signs that Russia's troops are withdrawing from Kherson.

"We see no signs that Russia is leaving Kherson without a fight," Podolyak tweeted.

A part of the Russian military group is preserved in the city, and additional reserves are charged to the Kherson region, Podolyak said.

Russian forces took control of the Kherson city council in late April.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a joint news conference with Greece's President following their meeting at the Mariinskiy palace in Kyiv on Nov 3, 2022. (GENYA SAVILOV / AFP)

The European Commission proposed granting the assistance package to Ukraine, saying that the aid averaging 1.5 billion euros per month will help Ukraine cover a significant part of its short-term funding needs for 2023

Support package from EU

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the decision of the European Commission to propose a support package for Ukraine of up to 18 billion euros ($18 billion) for next year.

"Grateful to the European Commission and its President Ursula von der Leyen for announcing an 18-billion-euro financial aid package for 2023," Zelensky tweeted.

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He stressed that the gesture shows the "true solidarity" of the European Union (EU) with Ukraine.

Earlier in the day, the European Commission proposed granting the assistance package to Ukraine, saying that the aid averaging 1.5 billion euros per month will help Ukraine cover a significant part of its short-term funding needs for 2023.

The legislative proposals aimed at the smooth delivery of the package need approval by the European Parliament and the European Council before entering into force.

An aerial photograph taken on Oct 31, 2022 shows a cargo ship loaded with grain being inspected in the anchorage area of the southern entrance to the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Cargo ships loaded with grain and other agricultural products left Ukrainian ports on Oct 31, 2022 despite Russia's decision to pull out from a landmark deal designed to ease a global food crisis. (OZAN KOSE / AFP)

UN: Effort continues to renew grain deal

The United Nations continues to conduct consultations in an effort to have the Black Sea Grain Initiative renewed, said a UN spokeswoman.

"We continue to urge parties to continue exerting full and good faith in the implementation of the initiative and to facilitate the timely, safe and unimpeded movement of vessels," said Stephanie Tremblay, an associate spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "As we mentioned before, this is a critical supply line, and it needs to continue delivering more and much-needed food to the world."

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Asked whether the United Nations has received any information from Russia regarding its intentions on the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Stephanie Tremblay, an associate spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said negotiations are ongoing

The head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Rebeca Grynspan, and UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths will be meeting with a high-level delegation from Russia on Friday in Geneva, she said. "So, this is a new development on the negotiations."

The initial duration of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports, is 120 days and expires on Nov 19. The parties had agreed that the deal could be extended automatically on the condition that no party objects.

Russia announced on Oct 29 the suspension of its participation in the deal brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye following an attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Moscow agreed to resume its participation days later following intense diplomatic engagement.

Along with the Black Sea Grain Initiative, there was a concurrent agreement on the facilitation of the export of Russian food products and fertilizer. Moscow has repeatedly complained about the lack of progress concerning Russian exports.

ALSO READ: Ukraine suspends grain export for 'corridor blockage'

Asked whether the United Nations has received any information from Russia regarding its intentions on the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Tremblay said negotiations are ongoing.

"There's going to be this meeting (in Geneva) in two days. So let's not prejudge what will happen at this meeting," she said.

In this file photo taken on Sept 26, 2018, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, speaks during the first meeting of national security secretaries of Afghanistan, China, Iran, India and Russia, in the Iranian capital Tehran. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani noted that Iran welcomes and supports any initiative that leads to a ceasefire and peace talks between Russia and Ukraine and is ready to play a role in ending the conflicts, according to Iran's Nour news website

Iranian, Russian security officials meet

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani held here a meeting with Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, during which the two sides discussed the ongoing Ukraine crisis and ways to strengthen the bilateral ties.

Shamkhani noted that Iran welcomes and supports any initiative that leads to a ceasefire and peace talks between Russia and Ukraine and is ready to play a role in ending the conflicts, according to Iran's Nour news website.

He also called for strengthened cooperation between Iran and Russia in the areas of energy, transportation, agriculture, trade, finance, and the environment.

READ MORE: Raisi, Putin vow to expand Iran-Russia cooperation

The Iranian official also stressed the need to continue and increase regional and international cooperation to eradicate terrorism, adding that terrorism and extremism continue to threaten the security of the region and the world.

Patrushev, for his part, lauded the pace of cooperation between the two countries in various fields, stating that presidents of the two countries have stressed the will of the two sides to improve relations in their bilateral talks this year, Nour news reported.