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Russian strikes risked ‘nuclear catastrophe’, says Ukraine energy chief; Moscow says 50 PoWs freed – as it happened

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-11-24

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6.47pm GMT

Summary of the day

Here are all the key developments in the Ukraine war from today:

  • In a interview with the Financial Times, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s new strategy to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure would not weaken the country’s resolve to liberate all occupied land , describing the conflict as a “war of strength and resilience” and pushing back against western fears of escalation.

  • More than 15,000 people have gone missing during the war in Ukraine , an official at the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) said .

  • European Union governments remained split over what level to cap Russian oil prices at to curb Moscow’s ability to pay for its war in Ukraine without causing a global oil supply shock, with further talks expected on Friday. Six of the EU’s 27 countries are said to be opposed the price cap level proposed by the G7, which will come into force on 5 December.

  • Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Hungary’s parliament will ratify Nato membership for Finland and Sweden early next year. Hungary and Turkey are the only members of the alliance who have not yet cleared the accession.

  • Russia and Ukraine have carried out the latest in a series of prisoner of war exchanges, with both sides handing over 50 people , officials in Kyiv and Moscow confirmed

  • Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko provoked ire in Ukraine by suggesting that the end of the war is Ukraine’s responsibility , and that if it does not “stop”, it will end in the “complete destruction” of the country. He said that similar to relations with Germany following the second world war, once the Ukraine war has concluded “we will make it all up”.

  • Foreign ministers from the G7 will discuss how to further support Ukraine in ensuring its energy supply during a meeting in Bucharest next week, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said .

  • Russia risked causing a “nuclear and radioactive catastrophe” by launching attacks in which all Ukraine’s nuclear power plants were disconnected from the power grid for the first time in 40 years, Ukraine’s nuclear energy chief said . Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday that three nuclear power plants on territory held by Ukrainian forces had been switched off after the latest wave of Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities.

  • Ukraine expects the three nuclear power plants will be operating again by Thursday evening, energy minister German Galushchenko said.

  • The European Union is pressing ahead with a ninth sanctions package on Russia in response to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine , the European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, said during a visit to Finland. She said the EU would hit Russia where it hurts to blunt even further its capacity to wage war on Ukraine”.

  • More than two-thirds of the Ukrainian capital was still without power on Thursday morning and a number of residents had no running water, a day after Russian missile strikes caused Kyiv’s biggest outages in nine months of war.

  • Ground battles continue to rage in eastern Ukraine , where Russia is pressing an offensive along a stretch of frontline west of the city of Donetsk, which has been held by its proxies since 2014.

  • Russia’s federal security service (FSB) claimed it has prevented Ukrainian special services from carrying out what it said was sabotage on the “South Stream” gas pipeline, Russian news agencies reported .

  • Hungary will provide €187m ($195m) in financial aid to Ukraine as its contribution to a planned EU support package worth up to €18bn in 2023, according to a government decree.

  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the United Nations security council to act against Russia over air strikes on civilian infrastructure that have again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.

  • Neighbouring Moldova said it was suffering massive blackouts caused by the missile barrage and its EU-friendly president, Maia Sandu, accused Russia of leaving her country “in the dark”.

  • Ukraine’s military said Russian forces had fired about 70 cruise missiles at targets across the country and also deployed attack drones. The strikes killed 10 people and disconnected three nuclear power stations from the grid, officials said.

I’m closing the blog now for the day but it will reopen again tomorrow morning. Thanks again for following.

6.36pm GMT

Zelenskyy says Ukraine will not be weakened by Russia's strategy to destroy infrastructure

The Financial Times has an interview with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in which he said Russia’s new strategy to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure and plunge it into darkness would not weaken the country’s resolve to liberate all occupied land , describing the conflict as a “war of strength and resilience”.

Pushing back against western fears of escalation, Ukraine’s president insisted there would be no lasting resolution to the war unless Russia withdrew from all the territories it was occupying.

Moscow has stepped up a bombing campaign against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure since last month, hoping to force Kyiv to make concessions despite its advances on the battlefield.

Zelenskyy said:

We must return all lands . . . because I believe that the battlefield is the way when there is no diplomacy.

If you can’t get your land back entirely, the war is simply frozen. It’s a question of time before it resumes.

On Wednesday, Russia launched 70 missiles against infrastructure targets across Ukraine, leaving about 80 per cent of the country in the dark and without water.

All 15 of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors were taken offline because electricity became unstable.

Speaking in the presidential office, which was also out of water supply, Zelenskyy said:

It was the kind of incident that hasn’t happened for I don’t know how many years, maybe 80, 90 years: a country on the European continent where there was totally no light.

The state superbly fought back. Energy workers, the state emergencies’ ministry, deminers, everyone worked to fix and restore power and provide at least a bit of water.

This is a war about strength, about resilience, it is about who stands stronger.

Zelenskyy also appealed to Ukraine’s western partners to provide more air defence equipment to help protect critical infrastructure, as well as diesel supplies for emergency generators and additional gas to help offset power shortages.

The president said the attacks targeting civilian infrastructure showed Moscow had no intention of negotiating an end to the war. Kyiv has been pushing back at perceived pressure to show its openness to an eventual negotiated solution to the war.

Some western partners are concerned that any attempt by Ukraine to take back Crimea — annexed by Russia in 2014 and which it deems crucial for its security — could lead to a dangerous escalation by Moscow, possibly even the use of nuclear weapons.

As Ukrainian forces have made advances against Russian troops in the south and east, Ukraine’s military aims have hardened: it is seeking the return of territory occupied since February and land occupied in the 2014 Russian assault.

Zelenskyy acknowledged that the fate of Crimea was rising on the international agenda.

I understand that everyone is confused by the situation and what will happen to Crimea. If someone is ready to offer us a way regarding the de-occupation of Crimea by non-military means, I will only be in favour.

If the solution [does not involve] de-occupation and [Crimea] is part of the Russian Federation, no one should waste their time on this. It’s a waste of time.

5.40pm GMT

Over 15,000 people missing during Ukraine war - ICMP

More than 15,000 people have gone missing during the war in Ukraine , an official at the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has said.

Reuters reports:

The Hague-based organisation, created in the wake of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, opened an office in Kyiv in July to help Ukraine to document and track down missing people.

The ICMP’s programme director for Europe, Matthew Holliday, said it was unclear how many people had been forcibly transferred, were being held in detention in Russia, were alive and separated from their family members, or had died and had been buried in makeshift graves.

The process of investigating the missing in Ukraine will last years even after fighting stops, Holliday told Reuters in an interview. The 15,000 figure is conservative when considering that in the port city of Mariupol alone authorities estimate as many as 25,000 people are either dead or missing.

He said:

The numbers are huge and the challenges that Ukraine faces are vast. Besides which they’re fighting an ongoing war as well against the Russian Federation.

What is key now is setting in place all the correct measures to ensure that as many persons can be identified.

The vast majority of missing persons, those deceased, are victims of war crimes, and the perpetrators need to be held responsible.

By storing DNA samples on a database and seeking matches with relatives, the ICMP accounted for more than 27,000 out of 40,000 persons reported missing during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

In Kyiv, the ICMP has started to collect DNA samples and is ramping up capacity for a multi-year process that will also help prosecutors build war crimes cases.

4.47pm GMT

The Guardian’s video team have published footage of medics at a hospital in the Ukrainian capital carrying out a cardiac operation on a child despite the city’s blackouts amid Russian missile strikes.

According to Borys Todurov, the surgeon who filmed the operation, it was already under way when the electricity supply was suddenly cut.

He said:

This is how we perform heart surgery today.

4.39pm GMT

EU countries fail to decide Russian oil price cap

European Union governments remain split over what level to cap Russian oil prices at to curb Moscow’s ability to pay for its war in Ukraine without causing a global oil supply shock, with more talks possible on Friday if positions converge.

Reuters reports:

The EU states failed to reach a deal on the price level for Russian sea-borne oil on Wednesday because a Group of Seven nations (G7) proposal for a cap of $65-70 per barrel was seen as far to high by some and too low by others.

The European Commission, the Czech EU presidency, the United States and G7 presidency Germany were all engaged in talks on Thursday to bridge differences and reach a deal before the price cap is due to come into force on 5 December.

Diplomats said that six of the EU’s 27 countries opposed the price cap level proposed by the G7. Poland wants the cap to be set at $30, arguing that with Russian production costs that some estimate at $20 per barrel, the G7 proposal would allow Moscow too much profit. Lithuania and Estonia back Poland.

Cyprus, Greece and Malta, countries with big shipping industries that stand to lose most if Russian oil cargoes are obstructed, argue the cap is too low and want compensation for the loss of business or more time to adjust.

One EU diplomat said:

There are a lot of bilateral talks going on now at very high levels. There will be a meeting of representatives of all EU countries once there is progress. There is no point in calling another meeting if there is no change.

4.06pm GMT

The first reactor of Ukraine’s Khmelnytskyi nuclear plant has been reconnected to the country’s power grid , regional governor Serhiy Hamaliy said.

The Khmelnytskyi plant disconnected from Ukraine’s grid on Wednesday after Russian strikes on the country’s power system, Ukrainian officials said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Transneft said that pumping of oil through the Ukrainian section of the Druzhba pipeline had resumed at 6pm Moscow time, the TASS news agency reported, citing a company spokesperson.

Updated at 4.09pm GMT

4.01pm GMT

Hungary's leader confirms support for Sweden and Finland's Nato membership

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that Hungary’s parliament will ratify Nato membership for Finland and Sweden early next year.

Orban told a briefing after a meeting of the Visegrad Group in Slovakia that his government had already decided that Hungary would support Finland’s and Sweden’s Nato accession and that the country’s parliament would set this item on its agenda at its first session next year.

Hungary and Turkey are the only members of the alliance who have not yet cleared the accession.

3.54pm GMT

US President Joe Biden has confirmed that a price cap on Russian oil being proposed by the United States and its western allies is “in play”, adding that he had spoken to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the issue.

He made his comments to reporters during a Thanksgiving holiday visit to a fire station on Nantucket Island.

3.32pm GMT

Reuters has the full detail on the prisoner of war swaps:

Russia and Ukraine have carried out the latest in a series of prisoner of war exchanges, with both sides handing over 50 people , officials in Kyiv and Moscow have confirmed.

Russia’s defence ministry said Ukraine had released 50 Russian soldiers who had been captured.

Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, said on Telegram that Ukraine received 48 soldiers and two officers, among them marines, infantrymen, border guards and members of the territorial defence.

He said:

We have managed to bring back 19 defenders of Mariupol ... as well as 15 prisoners (of war) from the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and seven from Zmiiny Island.


Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-backed head of the part of Ukraine’s Donetsk region that is under Russian control, said earlier that a prisoner swap with Kyiv was taking place, involving 50 prisoners on each side.

Kyiv and Moscow have so far swapped over 1,000 prisoners of war since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine in February.

3.12pm GMT

The Ukraine Solidarity Project, a group of European and Ukrainian activists who target brands with ties to Russia, has unfurled a 400m2 banner outside energy drink company Red Bull’s headquarters in Salzburg depicting Vladimir Putin riding the company’s famous bull logo.

The banner reads “Red Bull gives Putin wings” in reference to the company’s decision not to pull its products from Russian supermarkets.

Red Bull was given a failing D grade by the Yale School of Management’s Russia business policy ranking for having postponed future planned investment and marketing while continuing “substantive business” in Russia.

The Ukraine Solidarity Project said:

It really matters that Red Bull is still on sale in Russia. It’s one of the world’s biggest brands and its decision to stick with Putin’s Russia is highly significant. Companies that sell their products there are paying taxes to the Kremlin and signalling that they’re comfortable with the illegal invasion of Ukraine. They need to pull out. As things stand, Red Bull gives Putin wings.

Updated at 3.14pm GMT

2.45pm GMT

Russia says 50 PoWs freed by Ukraine in prisoner exchange

Russia’s defence ministry has announced that Ukraine has released 50 Russian soldiers who had been captured, in the latest prisoner exchange between the two sides.

Earlier today, the Russian-installed head of Ukraine’s Donetsk region said Russia would also release 50 captured Ukrainians.

Updated at 3.00pm GMT

2.31pm GMT

Romania is willing to continue supplying neighbouring Moldova with electricity as Russian shelling in Ukraine hits its energy supply, but insufficient interconnections are a challenge, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis has said.

“Up until now we have delivered everything we were asked for,” Iohannis told reporters after meeting Lithuania’s president in Vilnius. “But outages happen because … Romanian-Moldovan interconnections are completely insufficient. Most of the power Romania is offering passes through Ukraine.”

Romanian power producers started selling electricity to Moldova at a capped price in October, Reuters reported.

Romania’s foreign minister, Bogdan Aurescu, said earlier this week the EU state was providing between 80% and 90% of Moldova’s electricity needs.

Updated at 2.59pm GMT

2.23pm GMT

Foreign ministers from the G7 will discuss how to further support Ukraine in ensuring its energy supply during a meeting in Bucharest next week, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said.

“Russia’s attacks on civilian infrastructure are an intolerable, inhumane crime. Putin may plunge the people of Ukraine into cold and darkness with his missiles. He will never break their will for freedom and our support,” she added.

A meeting of Nato foreign ministers is scheduled to take place in Bucharest on Tuesday and Wednesday, Reuters reported.

A G7 foreign ministers meeting held in Germany earlier this month on Baerbock’s initiative focused on how to support Ukraine through the winter in the face of Russian attacks on its power grid.

Ukrainian cities were plunged into darkness this week after a barrage of Russian missiles triggered one of the worst nationwide power outages of the war yet.

2.07pm GMT

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel said she had aimed to convene European talks with Vladimir Putin the year before his invasion of Ukraine but in the end did not see any possibility of influencing the Russian president at the end of her term.

Merkel told the Spiegel news magazine in an interview published on Thursday that she and French president Emmanuel Macron had planned to hold an independent talk format with Putin within the European Council in 2021, her last summer in office.

“But I no longer had the strength to push through because, after all, everyone knew: she’s leaving in autumn,” she said.

Merkel, who retired from politics after 16 years in power following Germany’s September 2021 election, officially handed over the reins to Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats in December that year, Reuters reported. US president Joe Biden met the Russian leader in June 2021.

Referring to her farewell visit to Moscow in August 2021, Merkel, who speaks fluent Russian, told Spiegel:

The feeling was very clear: ‘In terms of power politics, you’re through.’ For Putin, only power counts.

1.39pm GMT

The leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic have publicly criticised Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, over the war in Ukraine .

Reuters reports:

Unity within the Visegrad Group, set up in 1991 as the region emerged from decades of communist rule, has been sorely tested by the war, with Orbán opposing harsher European sanctions on Russia including on energy supplies.

By contrast, Hungary’s three Visegrad neighbours – which also include Slovakia – are among the EU’s toughest critics of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine.

The Czech prime minister, Petr Fiala, said as he headed for a meeting of Visegrad leaders in Slovakia on Thursday:

This is not the best of times for the (Visegrad) format, and Hungary’s different attitudes are significantly influencing and complicating the situation.

I make no secret of the fact that the views of the Hungarian prime minister, some of which can even be described as provocative, do not help this cooperation to proceed as well as in the past.

This week Orbán further annoyed his neighbours by wearing a scarf to a soccer match that depicted some Ukrainian territory as part of Hungary, prompting Kyiv to summon the Hungarian ambassador to lodge a protest.

Fiala said on Wednesday the “Greater Hungary” scarf – which also showed territory now in Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Croatia and Serbia as part of Hungary – would be discussed at Thursday’s summit gathering in the Slovak city of Kosice.

Poland, an ally of Hungary in their past disputes with the EU over the rule of law and human rights, has also turned more critical of Orbán because of his stance on Ukraine.

The Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, criticised Hungary’s failure so far to ratify Sweden and Finland’s application to join Nato.

He said:

I will tell ( Orbán) directly that for Poland this is one of the most important changes in international law, that is the accession of Finland and Sweden.

We can’t allow the Visegrad Group to fall apart. It is a structure which protects the interests of our countries against other interest groups from western Europe.

Updated at 1.52pm GMT

1.30pm GMT

Russian attacks risked 'nuclear and radioactive catastrophe', Ukraine energy chief says

Russia risked causing a “nuclear and radioactive catastrophe” by launching attacks in which all Ukraine’s nuclear power plants were disconnected from the power grid for the first time in 40 years, Ukraine’s nuclear energy chief has said.

Reuters reports that Petro Kotin, head of nuclear power company Energoatom, said the vast nuclear power station in the Zaporizhzhia region of southern Ukraine, which has been out of commission since September, had also been disconnected from the grid on Wednesday and became reliant on backup diesel generators.

He added that the Zaporizhzhia plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since soon after Russia invaded Ukraine nine months ago, had been reconnected to the grid by Thursday morning and that the backup generators were turned off.

He said in a written statement:

There is a real danger of a nuclear and radiation catastrophe being caused by firing on the entire territory of Ukraine with Russian cruise and ballistic missiles, and a huge risk of damage to nuclear plants.

Russia must answer for this shameful crime.

Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday that three nuclear power plants on territory held by Ukrainian forces had been switched off after the latest wave of Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities.

Each side has blamed the other for shelling of the Zaporizhzhia plant complex.

Updated at 1.33pm GMT

1.26pm GMT

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has provoked ire in Ukraine by suggesting that the end of the war is Ukraine’s responsibility , and that if it does not “stop”, it will end in the “complete destruction” of the country.

In a broadcast clip circulating on social media for its controversial comments, Lukashenko said that “everything is in Ukraine’s hands now if they don’t want a huge number of people to die”.

He said that similar to relations with Germany following the second world war, once the Ukraine war has concluded “we will make it all up”.

Advisor to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, Anton Gerashchenko, tweeted that this was “theatre of [the] absurd”.

12.35pm GMT

Hungary has obtained an exemption from the EU’s proposed Russian oil price cap during talks in Brussels, according to the country’s foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó.

Szijjarto said at a briefing in Brussels broadcast on his Facebook page that the European Union’s current proposal says that oil deliveries though pipelines would be exempt from the price cap, which means it would not affect Hungary if the proposed cap is adopted later.

Updated at 12.44pm GMT

11.44am GMT

Russia and Ukraine said to be planning PoW exchange today

A snap from Reuters suggests that Russia and Ukraine will each exchange 50 prisoners of war today, according to the Russian-installed leader in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, who posted on the Telegram messaging service.

More details to follow.

Updated at 11.56am GMT

11.11am GMT

Russia does not plan to supply oil to countries supporting a price cap on Russian oil , the Kremlin has said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that Ukraine’s leadership could “end suffering” in Ukraine by meeting Russia’s demands to resolve the conflict.

Peskov was asked whether Russia was worried about the effect on the civilian population of its strikes on energy infrastructure, which have caused repeated mass blackouts.

Peskov said Russia attacked targets of military, not “social”, relevance.

Rachel Hall here taking over the blog for the next few hours. If there’s anything we’ve missed, do drop me a line at rachel.hall@theguardian.com .

Updated at 11.22am GMT

11.00am GMT

Summary

The time in Kyiv is 1pm. Here is a round-up of the day’s headlines so far:

  • Ukraine expects three nuclear power plants that were switched off because of Russian missile strikes on Wednesday will be operating again by Thursday evening, energy minister German Galushchenko said. “We expect that by evening the nuclear power plants will start working, providing energy to the network, and this will significantly reduce the [energy] deficit,” he said in comments broadcast on national television.

  • More than two-thirds of the Ukrainian capital was still without power on Thursday morning and a number of residents had no running water, a day after Russian missile strikes caused Kyiv’s biggest outages in nine months of war. The capital was one of the main targets of the latest wave of attacks on energy facilities that cut power in many regions and made emergency blackouts necessary in others to conserve energy and enable repairs as winter sets in.

  • Representatives from Russia and Ukraine met in the United Arab Emirates last week to discuss the possibility of a prisoner-of-war swap, according to a Reuters report. Any swap would be linked to a resumption of Russian ammonia exports, which go to Asia and Africa, via a Ukrainian pipeline, three sources with knowledge of the meeting told the news agency.

  • Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has said contacts with the UN nuclear watchdog over safety at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine were “constructive” and showed some promise. The Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russia seized shortly after its invasion, was again rocked by shelling last weekend, prompting renewed calls from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to create a protection zone around it to prevent a nuclear disaster.

  • Russia is not planning contact with the United States and did not initiate contact with Washington at the G20 summit in Indonesia, the deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said on Thursday. He added that contacts with Washington happen over the phone but take place through diplomatic channels and not at a presidential level.

  • Ground battles continue to rage in eastern Ukraine , where Russia is pressing an offensive along a stretch of frontline west of the city of Donetsk, which has been held by its proxies since 2014, Reuters reports. Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces tried again to make advances on their main targets in the Donetsk region - Bakhmut and Avdiivka. Russian forces shelled both areas and used incendiary devices to set Ukrainian positions ablaze with only limited success, the general staff said.

  • Russia’s federal security service (FSB) claimed it has prevented Ukrainian special services from carrying out what it said was sabotage on the “South Stream” gas pipeline, Russian news agencies reported. The pipeline was a project intended to transport Russian gas through the Black Sea to Bulgaria, although was later cancelled in favour of TurkStream.

  • Polish leaders say that an air defence system which Germany offered Poland would be best given to Ukraine to help it protect itself against Russian strikes. Germany said earlier this week that it has offered Warsaw Eurofighter planes and Patriot defence systems to help defend Poland’s airspace after two men were killed when an apparently stray Ukrainian defence projectile fell in Poland near the border with Ukraine, the Associated Press reported.

  • Hungary will provide €187m ($195m) in financial aid to Ukraine as its contribution to a planned EU support package worth up to €18bn in 2023, according to a government decree. Prime minister Viktor Orbán’s government has said it was willing to pay its share of support for Ukraine but would rather pay it bilaterally than through the EU’s joint borrowing, Reuters reported.

  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the United Nations security council to act against Russia over air strikes on civilian infrastructure that have again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in. Russia unleashed a missile barrage across Ukraine on Wednesday, killing 10 people, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and cutting water and electricity supply in many places.

  • Neighbouring Moldova said it was suffering massive blackouts caused by the missile barrage and its EU-friendly president, Maia Sandu, accused Russia of leaving her country “in the dark”.

  • European Union governments failed to reach a deal on Wednesday on the level at which to cap prices for Russian sea-borne oil under the G7 scheme and will resume talks, EU diplomats said. Earlier on Thursday, EU representatives met in Brussels. The move is part of sanctions intended to slash Moscow’s revenue from its oil exports so it has less money to finance the invasion of Ukraine.

  • The resignation of Russia’s ambassador to Unesco will end the deadlock in a key group he chaired that is charged with preserving cultural sites around the world, a diplomatic source told AFP. The World Heritage Committee, responsible for adding properties to Unesco’s list of world heritage sites, had been unable to function for months after the international backlash against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine .

  • Ukraine’s military said Russian forces had fired about 70 cruise missiles at targets across the country and also deployed attack drones. The strikes killed 10 people and disconnected three nuclear power stations from the grid, officials said.

That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, for now. My colleague Rachel Hall will be along shortly to continue bringing you all the latest news from Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Updated at 11.06am GMT

10.40am GMT

Polish leaders say that an air defence system which Germany offered Poland would be best given to Ukraine to help it protect itself against Russian strikes.

Germany said earlier this week that it has offered Warsaw Eurofighter planes and Patriot defence systems to help defend Poland’s airspace after two men were killed when an apparently stray Ukrainian defence projectile fell in Poland near the border with Ukraine, the Associated Press reported.

Poland’s defence minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, initially said he received Germany’s offer with “satisfaction”.

But following Russia’s heavy barrage of Ukraine on Wednesday, Polish leaders said it would be better if the defence systems were placed in western Ukraine.

The head of Poland’s ruling party, Jarosław Kaczyński, called Germany’s offer “interesting” but said he believed “it would be best for Poland’s security if Germany handed the equipment to the Ukrainians, trained Ukrainian teams, with the caveat that the batteries would be placed in Ukraine’s west”.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Warsaw, Vasyl Zvarych, thanked Błaszczak, saying on Twitter that Ukraine needs as many air defence weapons as it can get.

Updated at 11.17am GMT

10.11am GMT

EU preparing ninth Russia sanctions package, says Von der Leyen

The European Union is pressing ahead with a ninth sanctions package on Russia in response to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, the European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, said during a visit to Finland.

“We are working hard to hit Russia where it hurts to blunt even further its capacity to wage war on Ukraine and I can announce today that we are working full speed on a 9th sanctions package,” von der Leyen told a news conference.

“And I’m confident that we will very soon approve a global price cap on Russian oil with the G7 and other major partners. We will not rest until Ukraine has prevailed over Putin and his unlawful and barbaric war,” she said.

Updated at 11.15am GMT

9.40am GMT

Russia is not planning contact with the United States and did not initiate contact with Washington at the G20 summit in Indonesia, the deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said on Thursday.

He added that contacts with Washington happen over the phone but take place through diplomatic channels and not at a presidential level.

Meanwhile, Russia’s federal security service (FSB) claimed it has prevented Ukrainian special services from carrying out what it said was sabotage on the “South Stream” gas pipeline, Russian news agencies reported.

The pipeline was a project intended to transport Russian gas through the Black Sea to Bulgaria, although was later cancelled in favour of TurkStream.

Updated at 10.01am GMT

9.19am GMT

Russia and Ukraine met in UAE to discuss prisoner swap – Reuters

Representatives from Russia and Ukraine met in the United Arab Emirates last week to discuss the possibility of a prisoner-of-war swap, according to a Reuters report.

Any swap would be linked to a resumption of Russian ammonia exports, which go to Asia and Africa, via a Ukrainian pipeline, three sources with knowledge of the meeting told the news agency.

Reuters reported:

The sources said the talks were being mediated by the Gulf Arab state and did not include the United Nations despite the UN’s central role in negotiating the ongoing initiative to export agricultural products from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Ammonia is used to make fertiliser.

However, the talks aim to remove remaining obstacles in the initiative extended last week and ease global food shortages by unblocking Ukrainian and Russian exports, they added. The sources asked not to be named in order to freely discuss sensitive matters.

The Russian and Ukrainian representatives travelled to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on 17 November where they discussed allowing Russia to resume ammonia exports in exchange for a prisoner swap that would release a large number of Ukrainian and Russian prisoners, the sources said.

Reuters could not immediately establish what progress was made at the talks.

Updated at 10.00am GMT

8.43am GMT

Russia ’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has said contacts with the UN nuclear watchdog over safety at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine were “constructive” and showed some promise.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russia seized shortly after its invasion, was again rocked by shelling last weekend, prompting renewed calls from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to create a protection zone around it to prevent a nuclear disaster.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog met a Russian delegation in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss safety at the plant, which both Ukraine and Moscow have accused each other of shelling, Reuters reported.

Updated at 9.04am GMT

8.16am GMT

Hungary will provide €187m ($195m) in financial aid to Ukraine as its contribution to a planned EU support package worth up to €18bn in 2023, according to a government decree.

Prime minister Viktor Orbán’s government has said it was willing to pay its share of support for Ukraine but would rather pay it bilaterally than through the EU’s joint borrowing, Reuters reported.

“The government continues to be committed to take part in financial support to war-gripped Ukraine,” the government said in the decree.

“So it calls on the finance minister to make sure to provide the €187m that would be Hungary’s share in the €18bn EU loan to be granted to Ukraine.”

The decree, signed by Orbán, also says that the Hungarian foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, should start talks with Ukraine to work out an agreement needed for the financial assistance.

To secure the funds for the loans, which Ukraine will have to repay within 35 years, the European Commission would borrow on the capital markets.

However, proposals for the package will need to be approved by the European parliament and the EU’s 27 member states and Hungary said it would not take part in joint borrowing.

Updated at 9.02am GMT

7.51am GMT

Ukraine expects three nuclear power plants that were switched off because of Russian missile strikes on Wednesday will be operating again by Thursday evening, energy minister German Galushchenko said.

“We expect that by evening the nuclear power plants will start working, providing energy to the network, and this will significantly reduce the [energy] deficit,” he said in comments broadcast on national television.

7.26am GMT

More than two-thirds of the Ukrainian capital was still without power on Thursday morning and a number of residents had no running water, a day after Russian missile strikes caused Kyiv’s biggest outages in nine months of war.

The capital was one of the main targets of the latest wave of attacks on energy facilities that cut power in many regions and made emergency blackouts necessary in others to conserve energy and enable repairs as winter sets in.

The temperature plunged below zero degrees Celsius overnight in a city that had 2.8 million residents before the war and where it is already snowing and the streets are icy, Reuters reported.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said electricians and repair workers were doing everything to get the power back on “as fast as possible” but the recovery would depend largely on the overall energy “balance” of the nationwide grid.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s staff, said power supplies had been restored in the Kirovohrad and Vinnytsia regions.

In the south, the Mykolaiv region’s governor, Vitaliy Kim, appealed to Ukrainians to be as frugal as possible in their use of power.

“Consumption has been growing this morning [which is logical], there isn’t enough capacity in the system to switch it on for more consumers!!,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“The energy system is united like we all are! If you’ve turned off a few unneeded lights, that’s really important!!!”

Updated at 8.57am GMT

7.06am GMT

Ukrainian servicemen shoot towards Russian positions on the frontline near Kherson, southern Ukraine.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2mrh7h_0jM6SMOf00
Ukrainian servicemen shoot towards Russian positions on the frontline near Kherson, southern Ukraine, on Wednesday. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP

Updated at 8.50am GMT

6.35am GMT

Ground battles continue to rage in eastern Ukraine, where Russia is pressing an offensive along a stretch of frontline west of the city of Donetsk, which has been held by its proxies since 2014, Reuters reports.

Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces tried again to make advances on their main targets in the Donetsk region - Bakhmut and Avdiivka. Russian forces shelled both areas and used incendiary devices to set Ukrainian positions ablaze with only limited success, the general staff said.

Among those fighting the Russians in Bakhmut are a unit of Chechen fighters, who hope a Ukrainian victory could spark political crisis in Russia and bring down the powerful pro-Moscow leader of Chechnya.

Further south, Russian forces were digging in on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, the general staff said, shelling areas on the west bank including the town of Kherson, which was recently reclaimed by Ukrainian forces.

Reuters was not able to immediately verify the battlefield accounts.

Updated at 8.45am GMT

6.13am GMT

Russian resignation has unblocked key Unesco committee

The resignation of Russia’s ambassador to Unesco will end the deadlock in a key group he chaired that is charged with preserving cultural sites around the world, a diplomatic source told AFP.

The World Heritage Committee, responsible for adding properties to Unesco’s list of world heritage sites, had been unable to function for months after the international backlash against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I have the honor to inform you of the end of my mission as permanent delegate of the Russian Federation to Unesco,” Russian ambassador Alexander Kuznetsov said on Tuesday in a letter to the members of the World Heritage Committee obtained by AFP.

The resignation will allow the committee to “quickly appoint a new president” and resume its activities, a UN diplomat told AFP. Russia’s position as chair of the committee had sparked an outcry among other members following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

The committee had been due to meet in June in the Russian city of Kazan, but 46 countries, including France and the UK, boycotted the event. The meeting was supposed to update the landscapes, monuments and cities included in the body’s list of heritage sites.

Unesco regulations dictate that replacements for a resigning committee chair are to be appointed by the country that follows in alphabetical order in English.

Updated at 8.50am GMT

6.01am GMT

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s military said Russian forces had fired about 70 cruise missiles at targets across the country and also deployed attack drones.

The strikes killed 10 people and disconnected three nuclear power stations from the grid, officials said.

The country’s energy ministry said supplies were cut to “the vast majority of electricity consumers”. All of Kyiv lost water, the capital’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said. The city’s administration said water and heating would return to residential buildings on Thursday morning.

Late Wednesday, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office said that Kyiv and over a dozen regions, including Lviv and Odesa in the south, had been reconnected to the power grid.

Klitschko said 21 out of 31 missiles targeting Kyiv were shot down before they reached their targets. One of the 10 that evaded the defences hit an apartment block in Vyshgorod, a northern suburb of the city, killing three people and wounding 15.

There was a kindergarten in the lower ground floor of the building, but it was evacuated after air raid sirens went off. The blast left a three-metre crater in front of the building, destroyed apartments around it, blew the tops off nearby trees and ruined a children’s playground.

Earlier in the day, a newborn baby was killed when a Russian rocket struck a hospital maternity ward in southern Ukraine. Ukraine’s state emergency service said a woman with her two-day-old baby and a doctor were in the facility in the town of Vilniansk, close to the city of Zaporizhzhia, when it was hit. The mother and the doctor were pulled alive from the rubble by rescue workers but the baby died, it said on the Telegram messaging app.

Lorenzo Tondo and Julian Borger report from Kyiv:

Related: Russia strikes are crime against humanity, Zelenskiy tells UN, as power cut in Ukraine and Moldova

Updated at 8.48am GMT

5.44am GMT

Fresh Russian strikes battered Ukraine’s already failing electricity grid, causing blackouts across the country and in neighbouring Moldova, in attacks Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the UN were “an obvious crime against humanity”.

Addressing an urgent meeting of the UN security council late on Wednesday, Zelenskiy said Ukraine would put forward a resolution condemning “any forms of energy terror”. Referring to Russia’s likely veto, he said: “It’s nonsense that the veto right is secured for the party that wages this war.

“We cannot be hostage to one international terrorist,” Zelenskiy said.

He also invited the UN to send experts to examine and evaluate Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

“When we have the temperature below zero, and scores of millions of people without energy supplies, without heating, without water, this is an obvious crime against humanity,” Zelenskiy told the security council via video link:

Related: Russia strikes are crime against humanity, Zelenskiy tells UN, as power cut in Ukraine and Moldova

Updated at 8.46am GMT

5.35am GMT

Summary

Hello, my name is Helen Sullivan and you’re reading the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

On Wednesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the United Nations Security Council to act against Russia over air strikes on civilian infrastructure that again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.

Russia unleashed a missile barrage across Ukraine on Wednesday, killing 10 people, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and cutting water and electricity supply in many places.

“Today is just one day, but we have received 70 missiles. That’s the Russian formula of terror. This is all against our energy infrastructure... Hospitals, schools, transport, residential districts all suffered,” Zelenskiy said via video link to the council chamber.

At least 10 people were killed in the strikes, Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said, including a two-day-old infant .

  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the United Nations security council to act against Russia over air strikes on civilian infrastructure that have again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in. Russia unleashed a missile barrage across Ukraine on Wednesday, killing 10 people, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and cutting water and electricity supply in many places.

  • Neighbouring Moldova said it was suffering massive blackouts caused by the missile barrage and its EU-friendly president, Maia Sandu, accused Russia of leaving her country “in the dark”.

  • European Union governments failed to reach a deal on Wednesday on the level at which to cap prices for Russian sea-borne oil under the G7 scheme and will resume talks, EU diplomats said. Earlier on Thursday, EU representatives met in Brussels. The move is part of sanctions intended to slash Moscow’s revenue from its oil exports so it has less money to finance the invasion of Ukraine.

  • UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the UN security council on Wednesday that an exchange of 35 Russian and 36 Ukrainian prisoners was a positive development amid the “dark news” of Russian strikes on Ukraine . DiCarlo encouraged the parties to continue prisoner releases and follow international humanitarian law in relation to prisoners of war, Reuters reports.

  • A Russian court on Wednesday extended by six months the detention of opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who risks being jailed for 10 years for denouncing president Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine . The 39-year-old Moscow city councillor is in the dock as part of an unprecedented crackdown on dissent in Russia , with most opposition activists either in jail or in exile. He faces up to 10 years behind bars, if convicted.

  • The Kremlin said on Wednesday it had faith in the “success” of its offensive in Ukraine . “The future and the success of the special operation are beyond doubt,” the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said on a visit to Armenia, using the official Moscow term to describe Russia’s assault, Agence France-Presse reports.

  • European cities were urged to send spare generators to Ukraine to help the country through the winter in the face of Russia’s attacks on electricity infrastructure. Ukraine’s power grid came under bombardment again as the European parliament president, Roberta Metsola, launched an appeal to get generators to Ukraine.

Comments / 68

Morris Phillips
11-24

I'm 67 they Have been Fighting over There for as long as I can Remember I wish Everyone a Happy Thanksgiving God Bless you All 🙏🇺🇸🦃‼️

Reply(3)
24
Deirdre Gossett
11-24

Putin and his army have committed atrocious war crimes. Ukraine like the United States wants to be a free country. So what is everyone's problem with that. I admire the Ukrainen people for fighting for their freedom. Putin's brain is eaten up with cancer. He can no longer make any rational decisions. I just hope sooner than later we can say RIP. PUTIN

Reply(11)
14
Roll Tide!!!!
11-25

NATO should start another alliance with Sweden and Finland added to it and all other countries in NATO that want them to join and leave Turkey out of it,I would add Japan,South Korea,Australia, and any other countries that want to join also and call it WPO World Peace Organization and basically set it up off of NATO 's doctrines and fix all the parts about NATO that need fixed but can't be fixed because of Turkey and Hungary voting against it. That way the world doesn't have to rely on Turkey for protection because they are obviously out for themselves and are a puppet of Russia.

Reply
4

Comments / 0