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Russia-Ukraine war live: UK confirms supply of missiles to Kyiv as Russian forces might be preparing to leave Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant – as it happened

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-11-27

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5.59pm GMT

That’s it from the UK blog team for today. Thank you for following our coverage.

Here is a roundup of what we know on day 277 of the invasion.

And a young couple’s account of helping citizens and Kyiv’s army during the Russian onslaught in Kherson .

5.01pm GMT

Hundreds of Ukrainians streamed out of Kherson city on Sunday to flee Russian shelling, two weeks after its recapture from Russian occupying forces prompted jubilant celebrations.

The liberation of Kherson marked a major battlefield gain for Kyiv – reconquered after the Russians retreated to the east bank of the Dnipro River. However, since then inhabitants have struggled with no water, heating and electricity, because Moscow’s troops destroyed thermal and power plants before they left.

Evacuations began last week amid fears that damage to infrastructure caused by the war was too severe for people to endure over Ukraine’s harsh winter. The exodus has been exacerbated by Russian shelling, which has killed 32 civilians since Russian forces left the city on 9 November.

“It is sad that we are leaving our home,” Yevhen Yankov told the Associated Press as a van he was in inched forward. “Now we are free, but we have to leave, because there is shelling, and there are dead among the population.”

Related: Hundreds of Ukrainians flee Kherson as Russian shelling intensifies

4.39pm GMT

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Ukrainian service members fire a shell from an M777 Howitzer at a front line in Donetsk Region. Photograph: RFE/RL/Serhii Nuzhenko/Reuters

Updated at 4.55pm GMT

4.38pm GMT

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Local people receive humanitarian aid from volunteers at a frontline village in the Beryslav district, in Kherson region, southern Ukraine. Photograph: Roman Pilipey/EPA

4.17pm GMT

Ukraine only has enough power to cover 80% of its electricity needs, according to the country’s state grid operator Ukrenergo.

It comes after Russia’s seventh attack on Ukrainian energy infrastructure as part of a new strategy.

3.57pm GMT

Summary

Here’s a quick look at the latest news at it approaches 6pm in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

  • The head of Ukraine’s state-run nuclear energy firm said on Sunday there were signs that Russian forces might be preparing to leave the vast Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant which they seized in March soon after their invasion. “One gets the impression they’re packing their bags and stealing everything they can,” Petro Kotin, head of Energoatom, said on national television.

  • The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed that as part of its aid package, the UK has provided Brimstone 2 missiles, a precision-guided missile, to the Ukrainian armed forces. “This aid has played a crucial role in stalling Russian advancements,” it said.

  • The Belgian prime minister, Alexander De Croo, was on the second day of an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Sunday. Accompanied by the Belgian foreign minister, Hadja Lahbib, De Croo used the visit to announce additional Belgian support of around €37.4 m .

  • Russian forces have suffered heavy casualties during fighting in Ukraine’s south-central Donetsk province and are unlikely to achieve a breakthrough there, the UK Ministry of Defence says.

  • Ukrainian authorities are gradually restoring power, aided by the reconnection of the country’s four nuclear plants, but millions of people are still without heat or electricity after the most devastating Russian airstrikes of the war.

  • Russia kept up its onslaught on Ukrainian cities on Saturday with an attack on Dnipro which injured six people and destroyed seven houses, said the regional governor, Valentyn Reznichenko.

  • Thirty-two civilians have been killed in Kherson since 9 November , when Russian forces withdrew from the southern city they had occupied for eight months, the Kyiv Independent quoted Ukraine’s national police chief, Ihor Klymenko, as saying. Since then, Russian troops have shelled Kherson frequently.

  • Ukraine accused the Kremlin of reviving the “genocidal” tactics of Jose ph Stalin as Kyiv commemorated a Soviet-era famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the winter of 1932-33.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy hosted a summit in Kyiv with allied nations on Saturday to launch a “grain from Ukraine” initiative to export $150m worth of grain to countries most vulnerable to famine and drought . Up to 60 Ukrainian grain ships could be sent by the middle of next year to some of the world’s poorest countries in Africa, the Ukrainian president has said in a statement released to the Guardian.

  • Belarus’s long-time foreign minister, Vladimir Makei, has “passed away suddenly” , the Belarusian state-run news agency Belta reported, without giving further detail. Belarus has been an ally of Russia and a base over the border for the invasion of Ukraine. The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova posted on her Telegram channel that “we are shocked by the reports of the death”. Makei had been due to meet Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Minsk on Monday.

  • The prime ministers of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine – Ingrida Šimonytė, Mateusz Morawiecki and Denys Shmyhal, respectively – met in Kyiv on Saturday for talks to discuss and reiterate their commitment to work together “in countering Russia’s armed aggression” .

  • Russia is firing ageing cruise missiles stripped of their nuclear warheads at Ukrainian targets because Vladimir Putin’s stocks are so depleted, the UK Ministry of Defence has suggested. An intelligence update from the ministry on Saturday said the desperate improvisation by the Russian president’s struggling forces were “unlikely to achieve reliable effects”.

Updated at 4.05pm GMT

3.18pm GMT

Russian forces might be preparing to leave nuclear power plant, reports suggest

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Petro Kotin Photograph: Reuters

The head of Ukraine’s state-run nuclear energy firm said on Sunday there were signs that Russian forces might be preparing to leave the vast Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant which they seized in March soon after their invasion, Reuters reports.

Such a move would be a major battlefield change in the partially-occupied south-eastern Zaporizhzhia region where the frontline has hardly shifted for months. Repeated shelling around the plant has spurred fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

“In recent weeks we are effectively receiving information that signs have appeared that they are possibly preparing to leave the [plant],” Petro Kotin, head of Energoatom, said on national television.

“Firstly, there are a very large number of reports in Russian media that it would be worth vacating the [plant] and maybe worth handing control [of it)] to the [International Atomic Energy Agency],” he said, referring to the United Nations nuclear watchdog. “One gets the impression they’re packing their bags and stealing everything they can.”

Russia and Ukraine, which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in Chornobyl in 1986, have for months repeatedly accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia reactor complex, which is no longer generating energy.

Asked if it was too early to talk about Russian troops leaving the plant, Kotin said on television: “It’s too early. We don’t see this now, but they are preparing [to leave].”

“All of the [Ukrainian] personnel are forbidden to pass checkpoints and travel to Ukrainian[-controlled] territory.”

Updated at 3.52pm GMT

3.05pm GMT

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has likened Russia’s tactics in Ukraine to the Holodomor, a man-made famine engineered by Joseph Stalin that led to the deaths of millions of Ukrainians.

Saturday was Holodomor Remembrance Day.

Updated at 3.59pm GMT

2.36pm GMT

UK Ministry of Defence confirms supply of missiles to Ukraine

The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed that as part of its aid package, the UK has provided Brimstone 2 missiles, a precision-guided missile, to the Ukrainian armed forces.

”This aid has played a crucial role in stalling Russian advancements,” it said.

Updated at 2.42pm GMT

2.05pm GMT

My colleague Dalya Alberge has a story of a film studio that had to help the artists working out of its Kyiv branch flee the country when Russia invaded.

Related: ‘Everyone was completely terrified’: the British film-maker who helped Ukrainian crew escape war

12.52pm GMT

The Kremlin has sought to play down reports that a Russian-led security alliance of former Soviet countries is weakening in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

The Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, called into question the effectiveness of the six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) at a summit this week.

During a “family” photograph of leaders of countries in the CSTO in Yerevan on Wednesday, Pashinyan stepped away from Putin, who had been standing to his left.

Pashinyan then refused to sign a summit declaration, as he railed against the recent failures of the CSTO, which ties Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan into a mutual defence agreement.

Armenia’s criticism follows comments from Kazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, at the UN general assembly in September during which he implicitly criticised Russia’s war in Ukraine.

On Sunday, Reuters reported that Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had said attempts to break up CSTO had always existed and would continue to do so, but insisted that the alliance remained in high demand despite criticism this week from Armenia.

“There have always been attempts to [bring about] the CSTO’s disintegration,” news agencies quoted Peskov as saying in an interview broadcast on state television.

“But at least now we see that, despite all the difficulties, despite the possible contradictions even between member countries, this structure remains in high demand,” he said. “And it fully demonstrated its relevance and effectiveness, meaning the resolution of the situation in Kazakhstan.”

Russia, the dominant player in the CSTO, risks losing influence in parts of the former Soviet Union that it has long seen as its sphere of influence, as the conflict in Ukraine drags into its 10th month.

Updated at 1.38pm GMT

12.27pm GMT

The retired Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly, who embarked on the longest single space flight by an American, has visited Ukraine.

Kelly, 58, a veteran of four space flights, visited the Okhmatdyt specialised children’s hospital.

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Retired Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly with Kateryna Iorhu, 13, who was injured and lost her mother in a Russian missile strike on a railway station in Kramatorsk. Photograph: Reuters

Updated at 1.40pm GMT

11.48am GMT

Some shocking images of the destroyed Antonivsky Bridge in Kherson have been published by AP photographer Bernat Armangué.

The bridge, the main crossing point over the Dnipro River in Kherson, was destroyed by Russian troops earlier in November, after Kremlin forces withdrew from the southern city.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, accused the Russian army of deliberately destroying critical infrastructure during their withdrawal from the city, including electricity and water supplies.

Ukrainian troops entered Kherson on 11 November after the Russian army had withdrawn from the city, which they captured in the early stage of the conflict, shortly after Russian troops had entered Ukraine in February 2022.

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The damaged Antonivsky Bridge in Kherson, Ukraine. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP
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The damaged Antonivsky Bridge in Kherson. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP
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The damaged Antonivsky Bridge in Kherson. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP

Updated at 1.41pm GMT

11.08am GMT

The Associated Press news agency has filed this update on the ongoing shelling by Russian forces in eastern and southern Ukraine overnight.

With persistent snowfall blanketing the capital, Kyiv on Sunday, analysts predicted that wintry weather — bringing with it frozen terrain and gruelling fighting conditions — could have an increasing impact on the direction of the conflict that has raged since Russian forces invaded Ukraine more than nine months ago.

But for the moment, both sides were bogged down by heavy rain and muddy battlefield conditions in some areas, experts said.

After a blistering barrage of Russian artillery strikes on at least two occasions over the past two weeks, infrastructure teams in Ukraine were fanning out in around-the-clock deployments to restore key basic services as many Ukrainians dealt with only a few hours of electricity per day — if any.

Ukrenergo, the state power grid operator, said on Sunday that electricity producers are now supplying about 80% of demand. That’s an improvement from Saturday’s 75%, the company says.

In the eastern Donetsk region, five people were killed in shelling over the past day, according to governor Pavlo Kyrylenko. Overnight shelling was reported by regional leaders in the Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk areas to the west.

Kharkiv governor Oleh Syniehubov said one person was killed and three wounded in the northeastern region.

10.37am GMT

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The Belgium prime minister, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in Ukraine Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

The Belgium prime minister, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, is on the second day of an unannounced visit to Ukraine.

Accompanied by Belgian foreign minister, Hadja Lahbib, De Croo used the visit to announce additional Belgian support of around 37.4 million euros.

De Croo has been visiting different parts of the country including Bucha, where in April almost 500 bodies of residents were discovered in the streets of the city, victims of the Bucha massacre, the mass murder of Ukrainian civilians by Russian Armed Forces.

The Belgian PM also visited Borodianka in Kyiv Oblast and was photographed standing in front of a recent Banksy mural, showing a small boy throwing a man, thought to represent Russian president Vladimir Putin, in judo attire over his shoulder.

Most of the buildings in Borodianka, a small town on an important access road to Kyiv, have been destroyed by Russian bombings in the first months of the Russian invasion.

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Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo in front of the Church of St Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints during a visit to Bucha. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

10.09am GMT

Ukraine should take responsibility for any legal action against Russia because the West could “corrupt the process” for “cheap gas and oil”, a former international criminal prosecutor has told the Sunday Telegraph.

Prof Sir Geoffrey Nice KC was the lead prosecutor against Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Serbia, at the UN’s Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia between 1998 and 2006.

He has been visiting Kyiv in recent months to discuss how perpetrators of potential war crimes might be held to account.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, he warned that “there are real risks of it subcontracting out” any legal action to the international community, saying it may end up with Crimea and the Donbas being sacrificed for a peace deal in exchange “for cheap oil and gas” for the West.

He warned that foreign powers could pressure Ukraine into accepting “a negotiated settlement” that could compromise the Donbas and Crimea - Ukrainian regions invaded by Russia.

Karim Ahmad Khan KC, the British barrister who serves as International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor, launched an investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine in March. But there has been no meaningful update since then.

9.41am GMT

The UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has posted a message of support for Ukraine this morning on his official Twitter account, accompanied with a video narrated by Ukrainian voices.

I believe in freedom. I believe we should stand up for the fundamental rights that matter so much to us all.

For our sovereignty, for our self determination and for the foundations of a stable international order we are all fighting to restore.

The Ukrainian people face bombing in the day and blackouts at night.

But we know our friends will always be there to help see us through.

The UK is one of our most steadfast allies. They give weapons for our battle, kit to keep us warm and friendship to restore our spirits.

We know they will never let us down as we fight to win this war.

With your help, we will secure our freedom. Together we will never back down, together we will be strong, together we will protect Ukraine and the freedoms we all cherish so much.

9.09am GMT

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James Cleverly Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

The UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, has warned rape in war violates international values as severely as the use of chemical weapons.

Speaking to the Sunday Times on the eve of hosting a major international conference on preventing sexual violence in conflict in London, Cleverly said the “abhorrent act” is being used in Ukraine and other parts of the world.

“This is an absolutely abhorrent act and yet we are seeing in Ukraine and other parts of world this is still being used as a weapon of war. We need to make sure that military commanders understand that it is just as unacceptable as the use of chemical weapons or as the killing or abuse of prisoners of war,” he said.

Cleverly said he was horrified when he met victims in Yemen and Iraq as a junior foreign office minister two years ago. “It’s harrowing and now I ‘hear similar stories coming out from Ukraine and it never gets less painful,” he said.

He had a chance to hear testimony first-hand in Ukraine where he spent two days seeing the missile damage that has left much of the country, including the British embassy, without power and water.

More than 50 ministers from around the world are flying in, as well as 50 survivors from 20 countries from Colombia to South Sudan, including the Nobel peace prize winner Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who has become a powerful advocate after being held as a sex slave by Islamic State fighters.

8.37am GMT

Zelenskiy: Ukraine will continue to resist Russian attacks

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed on Saturday that Ukraine would continue to resist Russian attacks, as the country marked the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor famine that affected millions of Ukrainians under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin .

Agence France-Presse reported that several European leaders travelled to Ukraine to pledge support after weeks of Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy grid caused widespread power and water cuts as temperatures plunge with the onset of winter.

Zelensky said in a video posted on social media:

Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger, now – with darkness and cold.

We cannot be broken.

Leaders from Belgium, Lithuania and Poland were in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Saturday to commemorate victims of the 1932-33 Holodomor – Ukrainian for “death by starvation” – regarded by Kyiv as a deliberate act of genocide by Stalin’s regime.

The Polish and Lithuanian prime ministers were also in Ukraine for talks that, according to local media, could focus on a possible new wave of migration from Ukraine this winter.

The Belgian prime minister, Alexander De Croo , paid his respects at a Holodomor memorial in Kyiv during his first visit to the country since Russia invaded.

He posted photos on Twitter of him shaking hands with Zelenskiy, writing:

Arrived in Kyiv. After the heavy bombing of recent days, we stand with the people of Ukraine. More than ever before.

Belgium pledged a further €37.4m ($39m) of financial aid for Ukraine, the Belga news agency reported.

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Alexander De Croo (left), Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his wife Olena, and parliamentary speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk (right) at a monument to Holodomor victims in Kyiv. Photograph: Ukrainian presidential press service/Reuters

Updated at 10.21am GMT

7.58am GMT

Russian breakthrough in central Donetsk unlikely, says UK

Russian forces have suffered heavy casualties during fighting in Ukraine’s south-central Donetsk province and are unlikely to achieve a breakthrough there, the UK Ministry of Defence says.

Its latest intelligence update said the area around the towns of Pavlivka and Vuhledar, in Ukraine’s east, had seen “intense combat” in the past two weeks but that little territory had changed hands.

The ministry tweeted:

Both Russia and Ukraine have significant forces committed to this sector, with Russian naval infantry having suffered heavy casualties.

This area remains heavily contested, likely partially because Russia assesses the area has potential as a launch point for a future major advance north to capture the remainder of Ukrainian-held Donetsk Oblast.

However, Russia is unlikely to be able to concentrate sufficient quality forces to achieve an operational breakthrough.

Updated at 8.13am GMT

7.41am GMT

The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz , and the French president, Emmanuel Macron , have both announced new financial aid packages to support Ukrainian grain exports, which have been disrupted by the war.

Macron said in a video statement:

The most vulnerable countries must not pay the price of a war they did not want.

Agence France-Presse also reported that the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen , vowed the EU would continue to support Ukraine, accusing Russia of using “food as a weapon”.

7.20am GMT

Heavy snowfall was expected in Kyiv starting on Sunday, with temperatures dropping below freezing day and night, while millions of people who still live in and around the Ukrainian capital remain with little electricity and heat.

Reuters reported grid operator Ukrenergo as saying on Saturday that electricity producers were able to cover only three-quarters of consumption needs, necessitating restrictions and blackouts across the country.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said there were restrictions on the use of electricity in 14 of Ukraine’s 27 regions and in Kyiv, for “more than 100,000” customers in each of the regions.

He said in his nightly video address:

If consumption increases in the evening, the number of outages may increase.

This once again shows how important it is now to save power and consume it rationally.

Sergey Kovalenko , chief operating officer of Yasno, which provides energy to Kyiv, said the situation in the city had improved but remained “quite difficult.” He indicated residents should have at least four hours of power a day.

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Snow covering Kyiv’s city centre last week. Photograph: Andrew Kravchenko/AP

Updated at 8.24am GMT

7.00am GMT

Kherson civilians flee Russian shelling

Ukrainians have streamed out of Kherson to flee Russian shelling, just weeks after celebrating Ukraine’s recapture of the southern city.

Associated Press reported that a line of trucks, vans and cars – some towing trailers or ferrying out pets and other belongings – stretched a kilometre or more on the outskirts of Kherson on Saturday.

Days of intensive shelling by Russian forces prompted a bittersweet exodus: many civilians were happy that their city had been won back but lamented that they couldn’t stay.

“It is sad that we are leaving our home,” said Yevhen Yankov, as a van he was in inched forward.

Now we are free, but we have to leave, because there is shelling, and there are dead among the population.

Poking her head out from the back, Svitlana Romanivna added:

We went through real hell. Our neighborhood was burning, it was a nightmare. Everything was in flames.

Emilie Fourrey , emergency project coordinator for aid group Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine, said an evacuation of 400 patients of Kherson’s psychiatric hospital, which is situated near both an electrical plant and the frontline, had begun on Thursday and was set to continue in the coming days.

Russia has ratcheted up its attacks on critical infrastructure after suffering battlefield setbacks. A prominent Russian nationalist said Saturday that the Russian military didn’t have enough doctors – a rare public admission of problems within the military.

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A line of cars near a Ukrainian monument leave Kherson on Saturday amid the civilian exodus. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP

6.59am GMT

Summary

Hello and welcome back to our ongoing live coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war . Here’s a quick look at the latest news at it approaches 9am in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

  • There are growing fears Russia’s relentless targeting of Ukraine’s electricity grid will threaten the safety of the country’s nuclear power plants , in the wake of the unprecedented emergency shutdown on Wednesday. Petro Kotin, the president of Ukraine’s nuclear power company, Energoatom, said all safety mechanisms had worked as intended on Wednesday but two generators were damaged in the process.

  • Ukrainian authorities are gradually restoring power, aided by the reconnection of the country’s four nuclear plants, but millions of people are still without heat or electricity after the most devastating Russian air strikes of the war.

  • Russia kept up its onslaught on Ukrainian cities on Saturday with an attack on Dnipro which injured six people and destroyed seven houses, said the regional governor, Valentyn Reznichenko.

  • Thirty-two civilians have been killed in Kherson since 9 November , when Russian forces withdrew from the southern city they had occupied for eight months, the Kyiv Independent quoted Ukraine’s national police chief, Ihor Klymenko, as saying. Since then, Russian troops have shelled Kherson frequently.

  • Ukraine accused the Kremlin of reviving the “genocidal” tactics of Josef Stalin as Kyiv commemorated a Soviet-era famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the winter of 1932-33.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy hosted a summit in Kyiv with allied nations on Saturday to launch a “grain from Ukraine” initiative to export $150m worth of grain to countries most vulnerable to famine and drought . Up to 60 Ukrainian grain ships can be sent by the middle of next year to some of the world’s poorest countries in Africa, the Ukrainian president has said in a statement released to the Guardian.

  • Belarus’s long-time foreign minister, Vladimir Makei, has “passed away suddenly” , the Belarusian state-run news agency Belta reported, without giving further detail. Belarus has been an ally of Russia and a base over the border for the invasion of Ukraine. Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova posted on her Telegram channel that “we are shocked by the reports of the death”. Makei had been due to meet Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Minsk on Monday.

  • The prime ministers of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine – Ingrida Šimonytė, Mateusz Morawiecki and Denys Shmyhal, respectively – met in Kyiv on Saturday for talks to discuss and reiterate their commitment to work together “in countering Russia’s armed aggression” .

  • Russia is firing ageing cruise missiles stripped of their nuclear warheads at Ukrainian targets because Vladimir Putin’s stocks are so depleted, the UK Ministry of Defence has suggested. An intelligence update from the ministry on Saturday said the desperate improvisation by the Russian president’s struggling forces were “unlikely to achieve reliable effects”.

    • This post was amended on 27 November 2022. The Belta news agency is Belarusian, not Russian as an earlier version said.

Updated at 2.05pm GMT

Comments / 46

Cal Johnson
11-27

Artillery fire into towns, destroy infrastructure, the elderly and sick will perish, all the people in Ukraine will suffer in cold and hunger. No electricity, no heat. But Russia cannot win the war or occupy Ukrainian territory. This is just an endless pit of misery.

Reply(2)
19
Thomas Gee
11-27

I think anybody who glorifies and worships Putin is just as bad. If you look at and read about Trump from the time he was a kid till now you'd actually know who the real bedwetting champ!

Reply
6
Greg Misenko
11-27

Hopefully, Putin will be held accountable for murdering innocent people.

Reply(5)
22

Comments / 0