The latest developments from the Ukraine war.
Hopes rise for Ukrainian counteroffensive breakthrough
Ukraine has established positions on the Russian-controlled bank of the Dnipro river in the south, according to Russia, which admitted for the first time on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces were in the area.
If Ukraine's army has managed to break through Russian lines in this sector, it would be a significant success, as its vast counteroffensive elsewhere in the country has not yielded the expected results.
"About one and a half companies, divided into small groups, are on a stretch from the railway bridge to Krynky [village]," Vladimir Saldo, leader of the Russian-occupied Kherson region, wrote on Telegram.
He is the first Russian official to admit that Ukrainian forces managed to cross the River Dnipro in this area and anchor positions there.
A company, according to the military glossary of the Russian news agency Tass, can consist of several dozen or hundreds of soldiers.
Saldo, however, sought to downplay the importance of the advance, claiming Russian reinforcements had been deployed and Ukrane's troops were under heavy shelling.
“Now additional [Russian] forces have been deployed. The adversary is stuck in Krynky, in a fiery hell: bombs, rockets, munitions of thermobaric systems, artillery, drones are falling on him,” he said on Telegram.
The official also affirmed that the Ukrainians were suffering significant losses, without mentioning those of the Russians.
If Ukraine manages to consolidate its positions, it could hope for a breakthrough, with the Dnipro constituting the southern front since Moscow retreated from Kherson city in November 2022.
To hope to penetrate this Russian-occupied region in depth, the Ukrainian army will have to expand the area under its control and deploy heavier equipment, though this sandy and marshy area remains relatively difficult to access.
Kyiv maintains secrecy about its operations. The head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, Andri Iermak, has limited himself to simply saying on Tuesday that the Ukrainian forces had “established a foothold on the left bank of the Dnipro".
Russian officials in North Korea to 'revitalise' alliance
A Russian delegation is visiting North Korea, Pyongyang state media said on Wednesday, as increased cooperation between the two worries Washington and Seoul.
The visit comes about a week after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said ties between Pyongyang and Moscow were "growing and dangerous" before urging Beijing - North Korea's principal ally - to rein in the nuclear-armed country.
The delegation - led by Russia's Natural Resources Minister Alexander Kozlov - arrived in the North Korean capital on Tuesday to discuss "cooperation in the fields of trade, economy, science and technology," according to the official KCNA agency.
A reception was held at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang on Tuesday, during which participants agreed to "further revitalise bilateral relations in all areas and take them to a higher stage," KCNA detailed.
The historic allies are both subject to international sanctions: Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and North Korea for its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.
South Korea has accused Pyongyang of supplying more than a million artillery shells to Moscow for its war against Ukraine.
North Korea has reportedly benefited in return from Russian expertise in satellite technology military, a major objective of the North Korean regime.
Pyongyang also needs food and humanitarian aid, with the COVID pandemic causing devastating shortages in the country, Fyodor Tertitskiy, an expert in North Korean history and military, told Euronews in September.
Moscow is "eager to develop substantive cooperation in accordance with the agreements reached at the Russia-DPRK summit," KCNA said Wednesday, using North Korea's official name.
The state news agency added that a North Korean delegation led by its Minister of Sports and Culture had left for Russia to join a forum in the Russian city of Perm.
Analysts say the latest moves indicate the two countries want to emphasise their growing alliance, despite criticism from the international community.
The North "could potentially expand its planned trade by exporting war-related goods to Russia," Ahn Chan-il, a defector-turned-researcher who heads the Global Institute of Korea Studies, told the French news agency AFP.
An impoverished Pyongyang would do so "in exchange for importing food and energy resources," he added.