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Ukraine war latest: Zelensky is considering holding presidential elections in March, FM says

by The Kyiv Independent news desk November 3, 2023 9:58 PM 7 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky poses for a photo before a meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during the European Political Community summit at the Palacio de Congreso on Oct. 5, 2023 in Granada, Spain. (Juan Medina - Pool/Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Key developments on Nov. 3:

  • Kuleba: Zelensky is considering holding elections as scheduled
  • Russian mass drone attack against Ukraine hits infrastructure, civilian sites overnight
  • Death toll of Russian attack on Nova Poshta depot rises to 8
  • Moldova's security chief says Russia spent $55 million on destabilization campaign
  • Zelensky appoints new head of Special Operations Forces

President Volodymyr Zelensky is considering holding presidential elections as scheduled in the spring of 2024, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said during a briefing on Nov. 3.

"We are not closing this page. The president of Ukraine is considering and weighing the different pros and cons," Kuleba said during an online appearance at the World Policy Conference, Reuters reported.

Ukraine's parliamentary elections were supposed to be held in October 2023, while presidential elections are scheduled for March 2024.

Under Ukraine's Constitution, elections are prohibited while the country is in a state of martial law.

Kuleba said that there are clearly logistical and security challenges involved in holding free and fair elections during wartime.

Millions of voters live abroad or in territories currently occupied by Russia.

A poll published by the International Republican Institute (IRP) on Oct. 24 showed that 62% of Ukrainians believe that elections should only be held after the war is over.

According to the results of the survey, only 22% of respondents prefer to see elections take place as early as March 2024, if the war is still ongoing.

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Russia unleashes dozens of drones in latest mass attack against Ukraine

Russia’s mass drone attack against Ukraine early on Nov. 3 struck infrastructure facilities in Lviv and Odesa oblasts, as well as civilian sites in Kharkiv and Ivano-Frankivsk oblasts, regional authorities reported.

Russia used around 40 kamikaze drones and a Kh-59 missile to attack the country, according to the Air Force. Ukraine’s military reportedly shot down a total of 24 Shahed-type drones and the missile.

Air defenses were at work in Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Lviv, Vinnytsia, and Khmelnytskyi oblasts, President Volodymyr Zelensky said following the attack.

“We realize that as winter approaches, Russian terrorists will try to do more damage. We will respond to the enemy,” Zelensky added.

Four drones targeted the northeastern city of Kharkiv, causing large-scale fires and damaging a residential building, an educational institution, a service station, an administrative building, outbuildings, cars, and garages, Governor Oleh Syniehubov reported.

Eleven drones were downed in Lviv Oblast, but another five hit a critical infrastructure facility in the region, Governor Maksym Kozytskyi said on Telegram.

Odesa Oblast’s air defenses destroyed two more Iranian-designed drones, but a local infrastructure facility was struck, Governor Oleh Kiper reported.

In Ukraine’s western Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, debris from a downed drone fell on a dormitory in the Kalush district, causing a fire, according to the Interior Ministry. Governor Svitlana Onyshchuk said that the Russian drones hit a military site in the region.

The Kh-59 guided aerial missile was intercepted over Kirovohrad Oblast, and three more drones were downed in Mykolaiv Oblast, according to the regional governors who didn’t report any hits.

No casualties were reported in the targeted Ukrainian regions.

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US announces new $425 million military aid package

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced a new aid package on Nov. 3 consisting of $300 million in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) and $125 million in drawdowns from DoD inventories.

The package is the 50th such tranche of drawdowns sent to Ukraine since 2021, and includes munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), TOW anti-tank missiles, 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds, Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor system, small-arms ammunition, and cold weather gear.

Drawdowns entail the delivery of military equipment that was previously authorized and requires presidential authorization only, not a specific funding bill from Congress.

Under USAI, the DoD will provide Ukraine with additional laser-guided anti-drone munitions.

The $300 million USAI funds stem from the continuing resolution recently passed by Congress, and "exhausts the remaining USAI funds currently available to support Ukraine."

Although the continuing resolution that was passed on Sept. 30 to prevent the impending government shutdown did not include additional aid for Ukraine, it did re-approve funds originally allocated the previous year, a DoD official told the Kyiv Independent.

Death toll of Russian attack on Nova Poshta depot rises to 8

A 29-year-old employee of a Nova Poshta postal depot in Kharkiv Oblast injured in Russia’s Oct. 21 missile strike against the facility died in the hospital on Nov. 3, Governor Oleh Syniehubov reported.

His passing brings the death toll of the attack to eight, Syniehubov said, adding that seven more victims were undergoing medical treatment. Their condition is stable, he added.

A Russian missile hit a postal depot of Ukraine's largest privately-owned postal service Nova Poshta in the village of Korotych in Kharkiv Oblast on Oct. 21.

Two days after the attack, Nova Poshta's co-founders said the company would arrange additional bomb shelters in its depots.

The Korotych depot had a bomb shelter, but the victims didn't have time to get to it as only 15 seconds passed between the air raid alert and the strike, said Nova Poshta co-founder Viacheslav Klymov, citing the wounded workers.

Korotych lies just 16 kilometers west of Kharkiv, 33 kilometers from the Russian border, and some 135 kilometers from the front lines.

The northeastern Kharkiv Oblast remains a frequent target of Russian attacks due to its proximity to Russia and the front line.

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Moldova's security chief says Russia spent $55 million on destabilization campaign

Russia has spent over a billion Moldovan lei ($55.45 million) on attempting to destabilize Moldova, Alexandru Musteata, the head of Moldova's Information and Security Service, said on Nov. 3.

Speaking at a press conference, Musteata said that 90 million lei ($5 million) have been spent on voter bribery and illegal financing of the Chance political party, Moldovan outlet Newsmaker reported.

Investigators believe that a coup was planned by members of an "organized criminal group led by Ilan Shor."

Shor is a Moldovan businessman and politician who headed the pro-Russian Shor political party, and fled to Israel in 2019.

A Moldovan court sentenced him in absentia to 15 years in prison for fraud and money laundering in April 2023.

He went on to set up the Chance political party almost immediately after the Shor party was banned by Moldova's Constitutional Court in June 2023.

The West and the Moldovan government have repeatedly accused him of trying to destabilize the country.

Both Shor and his political party have been under U.S. sanctions since October 2022.

According to the U.S. Treasury, in 2021, Shor worked "with Russian individuals to create a political alliance to control Moldova's parliament, which would then support several pieces of legislation in the interests of the Russian Federation."

Moldovan President Maia Sandu also said on Nov. 1 that Russia has been funneling money into the country in an attempt to "buy" votes ahead of the upcoming local elections, and has pumped millions of dollars into pro-Russian parties into Moldova in the last few months.

Sandu, a pro-European politician elected president in 2020, has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and sought to remove Moldova from Russia's sphere of influence.

However, Russia has continued to put pressure on Moldova, weaponizing its energy supply, funneling money to pro-Russian parties as Sandu claimed, and even allegedly fomenting an attempted coup.

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Zelensky appoints new head of Special Operations Forces

President Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed Brigadier General Viktor Khorenko from his role as the commander of the Special Operations Forces (SOF), according to a presidential decree published online on Nov. 3.

A separate decree announced Colonel Serhii Lupanchuk as the new commander.

The SOF became an independent branch of the Ukrainian military in 2016, making it one of the seven branches of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Its soldiers often conduct reconnaissance missions and covert operations behind enemy lines.

The force claimed responsibility for overnight strikes on Russian military airfields in occupied Luhansk and Berdiansk on Oct. 17, which destroyed nine helicopters, an air defense system, and an ammunition warehouse.

Earlier in October, the SOF reported that a unit of its "Resistance Movement" sabotaged a train in Russian-occupied Melitopol that was carrying ammunition and fuel for the Russian military.

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