Russia-Ukraine war live: Russian missile attacks risked ‘nuclear and radioactive catastrophe’, Ukraine energy chief says

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

Russlands Angriffe auf zivile Infrastruktur sind ein unerträgliches, unmenschliches Verbrechen. Putin mag die Menschen in der #Ukraine mit seinen Raketen in Kälte und Dunkelheit stürzen. Ihren Willen nach Freiheit und unsere Unterstützung wird er niemals brechen. 1/2

— Außenministerin Annalena Baerbock (@ABaerbock) November 24, 2022

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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 [email protected].

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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