10 million Ukrainians without power, Kyiv says; Evidence of ‘gross sabotage’ found at Nord Stream blast site

Ukraine says half energy system crippled by Russian strikes

A picture shows damaged equipment at a high-voltage substation of the operator Ukrenergo after a missile attack, in central Ukraine, on November 10, 2022 amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Genya Savilov | AFP | Getty Images

Successive waves of Russian missile strikes have crippled almost half of Ukraine’s energy system, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said as heavy fighting raged in areas in the east and south.

With temperatures falling and the capital Kyiv seeing its first winter snow, authorities were working to restore power nationwide after some of the heaviest bombardment of Ukrainian civilian infrastructure in nine months of war.

The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine this winter due to power and water shortages.

“Unfortunately Russia continues to carry out missile strikes on Ukraine’s civilian and critical infrastructure. Almost half of our energy system is disabled,” Shmyhal said.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with a vice-president of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, who offered Ukraine the 27-nation bloc’s “unwavering support” and condemned Russia’s “brutal war” on its neighbour.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier about 10 million people were currently without power in a country with a pre-war population of about 44 million. He said authorities in some areas ordered forced emergency blackouts.

“The aggressor country has officially recognized that its goal is to destroy our energy infrastructure and leave Ukrainians without electricity and heat,” Ukraine’s national grid operator Ukrenergo said on the Telegram messaging app. It said Russia had launched six large-scale missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure from Oct. 10 to Nov. 15.

— Reuters

Kremlin spokesperson says Kyiv is “very, very changeable” when not in talks with the West

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends a joint news conference of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow, Russia February 18, 2022. 

Sergey Guneev| Sputnik | Reuters

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that perhaps the key to peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv could be Kyiv’s communication with Western allies.

“Previous experience of contacts with Kyiv show that, when they are not talking with the West, Kyiv’s position is very, very changeable,” Peskov said in a daily press briefing. “The guiding, reinforcing and strengthening element could be communication with the West, since the directives that come from there are scrupulously carried out by Kyiv.”

Peskov also confirmed that there are no plans for a summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the moment.

While Russia has said it is open for peace talks, Ukraine remains firmly against talks until Russia completely withdraws from Ukrainian territory. The United States and other Western countries, which have supported Ukraine with weapons, funds and sanctions against Russian entities, have said they will not pressure Ukraine into peace talks.

Meanwhile, Turkey has urged the West to encourage peace talks, as the NATO member nation continues its neutral stance in the war.

— Rocio Fabbro

Russia warms to U.S. prisoner swap for arms trader Bout

US’ Women’s National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, waits for the verdict inside a defendants’ cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. 

Evgenia Novozhenina | AFP | Getty Images

Russia said on Friday it hoped to clinch a prisoner swap with the United States to return convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” in an exchange that would likely include U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner.

“I want to hope that the prospect not only remains but is being strengthened, and that the moment will come when we will get a concrete agreement,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Interfax.

“The Americans are showing some external activity, we are working professionally through a special channel designed for this,” Ryabkov said. “Viktor Bout is among those who are being discussed, and we certainly count on a positive result.”

For the two former Cold War foes, now grappling with the gravest confrontation since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the exchange would mark one of the more extraordinary prisoner swaps in their history.

The distinctly upbeat remarks from Ryabkov, the foreign ministry’s point man for the Americas and arms control, contrast with previous statements from Moscow which have cautioned Washington against trying to engage in megaphone diplomacy over the prisoner swap.

— Reuters

Russian soldiers accused of executing 7 civilians in their home

Ukrainian serviceman takes part in a national flag raising ceremony in Kherson, recently recaptured by Ukrainian Armed Forces, Ukraine November 14, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Russian soldiers allegedly executed seven civilians at a home in the Kherson region while Moscow forces occupied the area, according to evidence uncovered by the office of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General in conjunction with local police.

“According to preliminary data, in April 2022, during the occupation of one of the villages of the Kherson district by the Russian army, the Russian military shot dead seven civilians in a house,” the Prosecutor General’s office said in a statement posted to Telegram. “After that, the occupiers blew up the house with the shot people.”

The investigation found that employees of the company guarding irrigation units near the village and a young girl were among the victims. A pre-trial investigation into possible violations of the laws and customs of war, combined with intentional murder as part of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, remains ongoing.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that since Russia’s recent withdrawal from Kherson, which it had occupied since March, Ukrainian investigators have already uncovered more than 400 Russian war crimes across the region.

— Rocio Fabbro

Bank of Canada to issue C$500 million bond to help Ukraine

The Bank of Canada announced a five-year bond worth 500 million Canadian dollars ($373 million) through which Canadian citizens can directly help Ukraine.

Called the “Ukraine Sovereignty Bond,” the financial tool will be issued later this month and denominated in Canadian dollars, according to the bank. Canada has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, providing it with military and financial support. Its government announced last April that it is looking into ways to use seized Russian assets to help fund Ukraine’s reconstruction.

— Natasha Turak

Steven Mnuchin calls G-7 Russian oil price cap ‘most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard’

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin described the G-7′s plan for a price cap on Russian oil as “ridiculous.”

Speaking to CNBC’s Hadley Gamble during a panel at the Milken Institute’s Middle East and Africa Summit, Mnuchin said the idea was “not only not feasible, I think it’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard.”

He added that while there were no certainties, sanctions on Russia and Russian officials — which the U.S. and other nations have continued to roll out since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine — could have had an impact before the war started rather than after.

Read the full story here.

— Jenni Reid

Dutch government to summon Russian ambassador over Russia’s response to MH17 verdict

The wrecked cockipt of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is presented to the press during a presentation of the final report on the cause of the crash at the Gilze Rijen airbase October 13, 2015.

Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | Getty Images

The Dutch government will summon Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands over its response to the verdict of the downing of passenger jet MH17.

The trial, which was held in a Dutch court, convicted two former Russian intelligence officers and a Ukrainian separatist leader for the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17 in 2014, which killed all 298 people on board.

Russia responded by calling the verdict “scandalous” and saying that it “neglected impartiality.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra called the response “utterly despicable” and detached from reality.

“Russia itself violates international laws in every way. We can’t let this pass … and have to show that we do respect the rule of law and do have an independent judiciary,” Hoekstra said.

— Natasha Turak

Russian missile attacks leave 10 million Ukrainians without power, Zelenskyy says

Vehicles drive along a street with St. Sophia Cathedral in the background, as the city is plunged into near darkness following a military strike that partially brought down the power infrastructure, in Kyiv on Oct. 31, 2022.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

Russian missile strikes on critical energy infrastructure around Ukraine have left some 10 million people in the country without power, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

“Currently, more than 10 million Ukrainians are without electricity,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address, detailing that regions of Kyiv, Odesa, Vinnytsia, and Sumy were most severely affected.

Kyiv has for several weeks been urging Ukraine’s residents to conserve their energy use as power plants around Kyiv operate at a fraction of their normal capacity amid Russian attacks. Engineers have been working round the clock to repair power facilities, which have become key targets of Russian strikes. The attacks on urban areas follow humiliating losses for Moscow as Ukrainian forces launched successful counter-offensives to retake regions previously under Russian occupation.

— Natasha Turak

Nord Stream blast was ‘gross sabotage,’ Swedish prosecutor says

BORNHOLM, DENMARK – SEPTEMBER 27: Danish Defense shows the gas leaking at Nord Stream 2 seen from the Danish F-16 interceptor on Bornholm, Denmark on September 27, 2022.

Danish Defence/ | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Swedish prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist, who is heading the investigation into the September explosion that damaged Germany’s Nord Stream pipeline, called the blast “gross sabotage” and said that remnants of explosives were identified.

“During the crime scene investigations that were carried out on site in the Baltic Sea, extensive seizures were made, and the area has been carefully documented,” Ljungqvist said in a statement. “The incident is gross sabotage,” the heading of the statement read.

“Analysis that has now been carried out shows traces of explosives on several of the foreign objects that were found. Advanced analysis work continues in order to be able to draw firmer conclusions about the incident.”

The statement added that work continues on the preliminary investigation, which “is very complex and comprehensive.” It does not name potential suspects, and said that no further information can be provided at this time.

— Natasha Turak

Diplomats make last push for Ukraine crisis at APEC meeting

After ASEAN and G-20 meetings, the possible spillover of the war in Ukraine into Europe’s eastern flank looms large over the two-day APEC summit.

The meeting of world leaders in the Thai capital of Bangkok may be the last chance in a recent flurry of diplomatic efforts in the region to try and find consensus to forge a path toward peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

“How do we help bring all the parties in the conflict here to the table and try to find a solution? We need to get to that point as soon as we can,” Kasemsit Pathosak, executive director of the APEC CEO Summit told CNBC.

Attendees for the group’s first in-person summit in four years include Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Major stakeholders like U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin won’t be there.

— Lee Ying Shan, Sri Jegarajah

U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley and Swedish counterpart discuss NATO membership at Pentagon

U.S. Joint Chiefs Chair Army General Mark Milley speaks during a news briefing after participating a virtual Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, November 16, 2022.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley met with his Swedish counterpart at the Pentagon.

Milley discussed the NATO accessions process and regional security concerns with Swedish Supreme Commander Gen. Micael Bydén, according o a Pentagon readout of the meeting.

In May, Sweden and Finland began the formal process of applying to NATO. All 30 members of the alliance have to ratify the countries’ entry into the group. In August, U.S. President Joe Biden signed ratification documents following a 95-1 Senate vote to bring Finland and Sweden into NATO.

— Amanda Macias

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