Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 246

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Aid agencies warn “deep suffering” for some in Ukraine left without heating as temperatures drop

A wave of Russian attacks on critical energy infrastructure has left some Ukrainian communities without access to heat, water and electricity.

Now the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are worried about its impact as cold weather begins to set in.

“We are extremely worried about the humanitarian impact of continued attacks on energy infrastructure as they deprive communities of heat and water just as the temperatures are dropping,” UN OCHA spokesperson Anna Jefferys told CNN in an email.

Russian missile and drone attacks have targeted Ukraine’s power plants and electrical grid in recent weeks, leading to rolling blackouts and disrupting water supplies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said more than a third of the country’s energy sector has been destroyed.

Jefferys stated the UN was especially worried about those who had stayed in their homes near Ukraine’s frontline, many of whom are old, disabled or chronically ill.

“We are particularly concerned about people in eastern and southern oblasts who have suffered relentless shelling for months and have been left utterly traumatized,” she continued, adding, “Their ability to cope is wearing thin.”

The ICRC echoed the UN’s concerns, telling CNN that attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure had led to “deep suffering” that could worsen as temperatures drop.

“Across Ukraine, electricity grids are tied directly to water systems, meaning that when the electricity is knocked out, residents also do not have access to water in their homes and places of business,” Achille Després, the ICRC’s spokesperson in Ukraine, said in an email.

“This is already causing deep suffering for civilians as temperatures started to drop significantly,” Després stated.

“As winter closes in, people across the country are going to struggle to meet their basic needs like having clean drinking water, staying warm, using electricity or cooking,” Després warned, adding that “the needs are massive.”


Kyiv faces power outages as city authorities seek to avoid “complete blackout”

Ukraine’s energy agency will implement “severe” and “unprecedented” emergency power cuts in the capital Kyiv to avoid a “complete blackout,” the city administration said in a Telegram post on Thursday.

The announcement came after Russian strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities overnight, which left Kyiv and the surrounding region with ”a power shortage of 30% of consumption,” it said.

“In order to prevent a complete blackout of the capital and central regions of Ukraine, the state energy company Ukrenergo is introducing unprecedented emergency restrictions. The schedule of outages announced yesterday is no longer relevant. Unfortunately, more severe and longer blackouts will be implemented in the coming days,” it continued.

The post urged residents to use electricity “sparingly,” especially in the morning and at night, while businesses were asked to turn off the lights outside offices, restaurants and shopping centers.

Ukraine’s state emergency service announced the strikes were by Iranian-made drones on “infrastructure facilities” in the region.

The government in Kyiv has noted Russia is damaging critical infrastructure to make life more difficult as temperatures drop as the country heads into winter.


Russia warns it will retaliate if EU confiscates assets

Russia will retaliate if its state and citizens’ assets are confiscated by the European Union, the country’s foreign ministry has said.

Asked about comments reportedly made by European leaders suggesting Russian assets in the bloc could be confiscated, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that this would be “stealing”.

“The EU judiciary refuses to protect Russians’ property,” she told reporters.


Energy crisis risks upending Europe’s essential medicine supply chains: Report

Surging energy costs in Europe risk accelerating the exodus of companies critical to the manufacture of essential medicines, further endangering drug supply chains hit by shortages at the height of COVID-19, pharmaceutical firm Teva has warned.

Essential medicines are crucial to treating long-term conditions as well as being key to surgical procedures. They are also typically off-patent, sold at the lowest possible prices set by national health agencies or insurers’ associations in European member states.

This pressure on pricing for these key generic medicines has long pushed manufacturing of the most energy-intensive component – active pharmaceutical ingredients – eastwards to India and China, where costs are dramatically lower.

Now, the war in Ukraine and the associated energy and economic crisis threatens to “debase the continent’s pharmaceutical sector for good for some critical medicines”, Teva wrote in a report.


Russia will hit US satellites if war escalates

Commercial satellites from the United States and its allies could become legitimate targets if they were involved in the war in Ukraine,  a senior Russian foreign ministry official said.

Konstantin Vorontsov, deputy director of the Russian foreign ministry’s department for non-proliferation and arms control, told the UN that the US and its allies were trying to use space to enforce Western dominance.

Vorontsov added the use of Western satellites to aid the Ukrainian war effort was “an extremely dangerous trend”.

Russia launched the first manmade satellite into space in 1957 – the Sputnik 1 – and in 1961 put the first man in outer space.

In 2021, Russia launched an anti-satellite missile to destroy one of its own satellites.


Kyiv region suffers drop in power generation after Russian strikes: Governor

The Kyiv region, including the capital city itself, is facing a 30 percent deficit in its capacity to generate the power it needs following Russian strikes overnight targeting energy infrastructure, according to its governor.

“Last night the enemy damaged the facilities of the energy infrastructure of our region. A number of critical facilities have been disabled,” Oleksiy Kuleba said in a video clip posted on Telegram.

Separately, the Kyiv region’s military administration announced the region must “prepare for emergency power outages for an indefinite period” because of the Russian strikes.


Authorities in Russian-occupied Zaporizhia order phone checks on residents

Russian-installed authorities in Ukraine’s partly-occupied Zaporizhia region have ordered phone checks on local residents, announcing the implementation of military censorship under Russian President Vladimir Putin’s martial law decree.

“From today … law enforcement officers have begun a selective preventing check of the mobile phones of citizens,” Moscow-appointed official Vladimir Rogov said in a Telegram post.

Rogov added those subscribed to “propaganda resources of the terrorist Kyiv regime” will receive a warning, before being fined.


Ukraine boosts forces near Belarus border in case of attack: General staff

Ukraine has boosted the number of forces it has deployed in northern regions near Belarus to counter any possible renewed Russian attack across the border, the country’s general staff has said.

“At the current time, the creation of a strike force [in Belarus] is not observable. [But] there are and will be threats. We are reacting, we have already increased our troops in the northern direction,” Oleksii Hromov, deputy head of the general staff’s main operations directorate, told a regular news briefing.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has previously allowed Moscow’s forces to use its territory as a springboard to attack Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stated Belarus and Russia would deploy a joint military task force near Ukraine in response to what he claimed was a clear threat to his country from Kyiv and its backers in the West, without providing evidence for the assertion.


EU proposals to cap Russian gas prices ‘unthinkable’: Rosneft chief

The head of Russia’s largest oil producer, Rosneft, has described proposals by the European Union’s executive arm to introduce price caps on Russian gas as “unthinkable”.

Speaking at an international forum in Baku, Igor Sechin said that Western sanctions were destroying corporate law.

He also added a refusal by some countries to buy Russian hydrocarbons is leading to an “acute energy deficit”, boosting global inflation.


Several airstrikes hit Kyiv

Several airstrikes hit Kyiv on Thursday morning local time, according to Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv regional military administration.

The strikes hit a community in the region, Kuleba said.

The fire was extinguished, and the local air defense forces have taken out some “enemy objects” from the sky, he added.

No casualties have been reported.


Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut holding out against ‘crazy’ Russian tactics: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russian commanders of using “crazy” tactics in a bid to capture Bakhmut.

Moscow’s forces have repeatedly tried to seize the eastern town, which sits on a main road leading to the Ukrainian-held cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region.

Delivering his nightly address from Kyiv, Zelensky noted Ukrainian troops were holding out against the repeated attacks.

“This is where the craziness of the Russian command is most evident. Day after day, for months, they are driving people to their deaths there, concentrating the highest level of artillery strikes,” he added.


UN aid chief ‘relatively optimistic’ on Black Sea grain deal extension

The United Nations aid chief said he remains “relatively optimistic” that a U.N.-brokered deal that allowed Ukraine Black Sea grain exports to resume would be extended beyond mid-November.

Martin Griffiths travelled to Moscow with senior UN trade official Rebeca Grynspan earlier this month for discussions with Russian officials on the deal.

Ukraine was able to restart its Black Sea grain and fertilizer exports under the July 22 agreement, which had stalled when Russia invaded.

“We are keen to see that renewed promptly, now. It’s important for the market. It’s important for just continuity. And I’m still relatively optimistic that we’re going to get that. We’re working hard,” Griffiths noted.


‘Putin won’t use nukes’: Ukraine’s DM

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov says he did not believe Russia would use nuclear weapons.

President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned that Russia has the right to defend itself using any weapons in its arsenal, which includes the world’s largest nuclear stockpile.

“My personal opinion is that Putin won’t use nukes,” Reznikov told a news briefing when asked about the issue.

Russia’s setbacks in the war in Ukraine have increased Western concerns that Putin might use a tactical nuclear weapon.


Only way to peace is helping Ukraine fight: Italian PM

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni says the only way to facilitate a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine is by helping Kyiv defend itself militarily.

“Peace can be achieved by supporting Ukraine … it is the only chance we have for the two sides to negotiate,” Meloni told parliament ahead of a confidence vote on her newly appointed rightist government.

Meloni has repeatedly pledged support for Kyiv, but her coalition allies Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini have been much more ambivalent on the issue due to their historic ties with Putin.

Meloni added that while the arms Italy supplies to Ukraine are not decisive for the outcome of the war, they are vital for Italy to maintain its international credibility.


Russia has used around 400 Iranian drones to attack Ukrainian civilians: Zelensky

Russia has so far used around 400 Iranian-made drones to attack Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure since the invasion started, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky alleged on Wednesday.

Moscow’s “dialogue” involves “400 missiles instead of words,” Zelensky said in a press conference with Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embaló.

Zelensky noted “60-70% of those deadly (drones) were downed” by Ukraine’s military.

“My condolences to all those who lost their near and dear as a result of the Iranian drones attacks,” he added.

While Iran denies providing drones to Russia used against Ukraine, top British, French and German diplomats wrote to the UN secretary general on Friday urging investigation into Iran’s transfer of drones to Russia.

These diplomats cited “significant open source evidence” of the Iranian drones in Ukraine.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian denied the Western allegations on Saturday.

“We condemn the allegations of giving drones to Russia in the Ukraine war. We are against war anywhere in the world,” Amirabdollahian stressed.


Russia tries to halt a UN investigation into the use of Iranian-made drones in Ukraine

Russia tried again at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to shift the focus on the use of Iranian-made drones in Ukraine.

Russia claimed the senior UN leadership was stepping outside its responsibilities by planning to send experts to Ukraine to examine drones the US insists were made and shipped by Iran.

Russia believes that Article 100 of the UN Charter prohibits the UN Secretary-General and his staff from receiving or seeking instructions from a member state.

However, the UN legal office disagreed and provided past examples of countries asking the Secretary-General for assistance, including Russia.

Wednesday’s discussions came after British, French and German diplomats wrote to the Secretary-General last Friday urging the UN to investigate Iran’s transfer of drones to Russia, saying it violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which restricts certain arms transfers to or from Iran.

US Ambassador Robert Wood said that Moscow was again wasting time to deflect attention from its egregious wrongdoing while UK Ambassador James Kariuki stated Russia and Iran had been “caught red-handed violating resolution 2231.”

The resolution was linked to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and elements of that resolution, including a ban on the transfer of conventional weapons, were phased out in 2020. But the Western countries noted that both Iranian drone models were manufactured after the resolution entered into force and that the transfer “has not been permitted in advance by the Security Council.”


CIA director traveled to Ukraine earlier this month

CIA director Bill Burns traveled to Ukraine earlier this month to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials as the war appears poised to grind into its second year, according to two sources familiar with the trip.

“While there, he reinforced the US commitment to provide support to Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression, including continued intelligence sharing,” a US official told CNN.

The sources declined to provide further details about the trip.

Burns’ trip comes as the US has grown increasingly concerned that Russia may turn to a nuclear weapon in its struggling war. Burns and other US officials have said publicly that they see no evidence that Moscow is actively preparing to take such a step, but officials familiar with the intelligence warn that the risk is perhaps the highest it has been since Russia invaded in February.


Ukraine’s military intelligence says Russia is reinforcing Kherson with recruits as “cannon fodder”

Ukraine’s military intelligence says Russia continues to remove its “occupation administration” from the southern Kherson region but is reinforcing the city with recently mobilized recruits and suggests they are being used as “cannon fodder.”

The head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Agency, Major Gen. Kyrylo Budanov told CNN on Wednesday, “the Russians are trying to remove and take with them all the remains of their so-called ‘occupation administration’ from Kherson city and surrounding areas.”

But at the same time, Budanov said, Russia is “bringing into Kherson some new ‘cannon fodder’ from the newly mobilized Russian soldiers, getting ready for the street fighting.”

Russia, he added, “realizes and understands the whole difficulty of their situation and they don’t want to be totally encircled.”

Budanov stated the Russian withdrawal will accelerate when Ukraine “takes the Nova Kakhovka dam under our artillery fire control.”

“That’s why all our fighting units are moving towards both Kherson and Nova Kakhovka,” he continued.


US has warned Putin about possible consequences for use of a nuclear weapon: Secretary of state

The consequences for any use of a nuclear weapon have been conveyed directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated Wednesday.

“We’ve also communicated directly and very clearly to the Russians, President Putin about the consequences,” the top US diplomat said at a Bloomberg event.

Blinken did not indicate who or how it was communicated to Putin.

Officials in US President Joe Biden’s administration have said that Moscow has been warned at the highest levels about use of nuclear weapons in Russia’s war against Ukraine, but Blinken’s remark is the first explicit acknowledgement that the message has been communicated to Putin himself.

Blinken reiterated that the US is tracking the Kremlin’s nuclear saber-rattling “very carefully” but hasn’t “seen any reason to change our nuclear posture.”

He noted Russia’s latest claim that Ukraine is considering the use of a dirty bomb is “another fabrication and something that is also the height of irresponsibility coming from a nuclear power.”

“The reason this particular allegation gives us some concern is because Russia has a track record of projecting, which is to say, accusing others of doing something that they themselves have done or are thinking about doing,” Blinken added.

He stated the US has also communicated directly with the Russians “about trying to use this false allegation as a pretext for any kind of escalation.”


Over 70,000 civilians have left Kherson region in recent days

More than 70,000 people have left the right bank of the Dnieper river in the southern Kherson region in recent days, the region’s Russian-appointed governor, Vladimir Saldo, said on Wednesday.

Saldo stated in an interview with the Crimea 24 channel that Russian-backed authorities of the region had organized the evacuation of residents away from the frontline in light of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Saldo noted that there is a threat of Ukrainians “blowing up” the dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant and it shouldn’t be ignored.

He added that preventive measures of discharging water from the Kakhovka reservoir are now being taken in case of action from Ukraine.

“The North Crimean and main canals will be additionally opened for water discharge. Water is being discharged,” the official said, adding that “some missiles reach the area of the station, but most of them are shot down by our air defense.”


Ukrainian official says Russia dirty bomb allegations have become “something of a joke”

Ukraine is not developing a so-called dirty bomb — as Russia has alleged without evidence — Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, told CNN.

“This is a question that became something of a joke. And my answer is direct: We’re not getting prepared. We are not working on a dirty bomb,” Budanov told CNN’s Nic Robertson.

A dirty bomb is a weapon that combines conventional explosives like dynamite and radioactive material like uranium.

Ukraine has invited the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the facilities where Russia alleges the bombs are being developed.

“We’re absolutely supporting the visit of IAEA mission, and we are waiting for them. We’re waiting for them to visit all nuclear facilities,” Budanov said, adding that the sooner they arrive, the quicker Ukraine can clear Russia’s allegations.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated Moscow’s claim that Ukraine was planning to use the bomb for “provocations.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has called the claims “transparently false” and said that they must not be used by the Kremlin as a pretext to escalate the war.

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