Russia-Ukraine war live: Zaporizhzhia engineer accused of collaborating; 40% of Ukraine’s electricity grid still damaged | Ukraine

Ukraine sacks Zaporizhzhia engineer accused of collaboration

Ukraine dismissed the deputy chief engineer of its Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Thursday, accusing him of collaborating with Moscow’s forces and treason, the Energoatom state nuclear energy company said.

The statement was published a day after Russia said it had promoted the engineer, Yuriy Chernichuk, to serve as the director of the vast nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine.

Key events

Another PoW exchange will take place later on Thursday between Russia and Ukraine.

Fifty prisoners of war will be handed over in the latest swap between the two sides.

The news was revealed by the Russian-installed official in charge of the Russian-occupied region of Donetsk Denis Pushilin on Telegram.

Some more on that news conference with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov earlier on Thursday (see 9:34am).

He said that it is impossible to discuss nuclear arms control while the war in Ukraine continues, claiming the “western involvement” must not be ignored.

Russia backed out of talks that were due to start on Monday on the Start treaty, on nuclear disarmament, which expires in 2026.

“It is crystal clear that it is impossible to discuss strategic stability today while ignoring everything that is happening in Ukraine. Because the goal in Ukraine has been declared – not to save Ukrainian democracy, but to defeat Russia on the battlefield, or even destroy Russia,” Lavrov said.

The foreign minister claimed that Russia would have looked at extending the Start treaty in the past to include hypersonic weapons, and that the Kremlin was prepared to go beyond a statement in June 2021, issued jointly with the US, that a nuclear war could not be fought and was unacceptable. He said that it could have included that war between nuclear powers would be unacceptable.

However Lavrov added it was “niave” of the US to expect Russia to discuss strategic nuclear issues while the US appeared to be trying to destroy Russia, in the view of Moscow.

Nearly half of Ukraine’s electricity grid still damaged

A private energy company in Ukraine has said that 40% of the country’s power infrastructure is damaged, as Russian attacks continue to target the supply.

Millions have been without or with intermittent power since October, as Russia has focused on Ukraine’s energy system.

“Russia has destroyed 40% of the Ukrainian energy system with terrorist missile attacks. Dozens of energy workers were killed and wounded,” DTEK company said in a statement on social media.

“Electrical engineers are doing everything possible and impossible to stabilise the situation regarding energy supply,” the company said according to Agency France-Presse, adding its technical teams are working “day and night” to quickly repair the infrastructure.

Nine people were confirmed to have died on Tuesday according to authorities, as incidents have increased where Ukrainians are trying to find alternative sources of energy, including generators and gas cylinders, both of which can be dangerous.

Summary

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

  • Police in Spain are investigating four more incendiary devices and letter bombs, a day after one exploded at Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid. The devices have now been sent to the prime minister, the defence ministry, an arms company that makes rocket launchers donated to Kyiv, and a military airbase near the Spanish capital, as well as the one found at the embassy.

  • Ukraine dismissed the deputy chief engineer of its Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Thursday, accusing him of collaborating with Moscow’s forces and treason, the Energoatom state nuclear energy company said. The statement was published a day after Russia said it had promoted the engineer, Yuriy Chernichuk, to serve as the director of the vast nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine.

  • The US army awarded a $1.2bn contract to Raytheon Technologies Co for six national advanced surface-to-air missile systems (Nasams) for Ukraine on Wednesday, the Pentagon said. The United States has approved sending Ukraine a total of eight Nasams to help fend off Russian missile and drone attacks.

  • The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the west had a real chance to avoid conflict in Ukraine, but had chosen to spurn Russian proposals to halt the expansion of Nato and agree a special security status for Kyiv. Lavrov made the comments during a news conference in Moscow, Reuters reported.

  • Russia said on Thursday the German parliament’s move to recognise the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine as a Soviet-imposed genocide was an anti-Russian provocation and an attempt by Germany to whitewash its Nazi past. In a decision welcomed by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, German lawmakers passed a resolution on Wednesday declaring the death by starvation of millions of Ukrainians – the Holodomor – was genocide.

  • The UN appealed for record funds for aid next year, AFP reports, as the Ukraine war and other conflicts, climate emergencies and the still-simmering pandemic push more people into crisis, and some towards famine. The United Nations’ annual Global Humanitarian Overview estimated that 339 million people worldwide will need some form of emergency assistance next year – a staggering 65 million more people than the estimate a year ago.

  • As Ukrainians wake up on the first official day of winter, nearly 6 million people across a majority of Ukraine’s regions have no electricity, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday night. Ukraine’s state emergency service has said nine people had been killed in fires, after breaking safety rules in an attempt to heat their homes after Russian attacks on power facilities.

  • The European Commission president has proposed a special tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russia’s “crime of aggression” against Ukraine. Ursula von der Leyen also wants to use the proceeds of Russian funds that have been frozen under western sanctions to aid Ukraine.

  • Russian forces tried to advance in eastern Ukraine and trained tank, mortar and artillery fire on Kherson in the south, the Ukrainian military said, as western allies sought to buttress Ukraine and its neighbours against Moscow.

  • Ukraine needs the US made Patriot missile defence systems to protect its civilian infrastructure, under heavy attack by Russia, foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said, adding he would be working with the German government on this issue. Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warned Nato on Tuesday against providing Ukraine with Patriot systems, Reuters reported.

  • The UK has announced a fresh round of sanctions against 22 Russians, including those the Foreign Office says were involved in enlisting criminals to fight in Ukraine. James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, said on Wednesday his department would target a new set of officials, including Denis Manturov, the deputy prime minister, who is responsible for troop equipment supplies.

  • US president Joe Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, pledged on Wednesday to make the release of detained Americans a priority if she is confirmed to one of most important, and challenging, US diplomatic posts.

That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, for the moment. My colleague Harry Taylor will be with you shortly to continue bringing you all the latest news from Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Spanish police investigate four more incendiary devices and letter bombs

Sam Jones

Police in Spain are investigating four more incendiary devices and letter bombs, a day after one exploded at Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid.

The devices have now been sent to the prime minister, the defence ministry, an arms company that makes rocket launchers donated to Kyiv, and a military airbase near the Spanish capital, as well as the one found at the embassy.

The first letter bomb exploded when it was opened by an embassy employee on Wednesday, causing minor injuries to the worker’s hands and leading Ukraine to warn its diplomats to bolster their security precautions.

The second, discovered hours later at the Instalaza weapons firm in Zaragoza in the Aragón region that manufactures C90 rocket launchers, was deactivated by bomb squad officers.

A child swings at a park in front of damaged residential building due to airstrikes in Vyshorod, Kyiv oblast, Ukraine.

A child swings at park in front of damaged residential building due to airstrikes as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Vyshorod, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine on November 30, 2022.
A child swings at park in front of damaged residential building due to airstrikes as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Vyshorod, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine on November 30, 2022. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukraine sacks Zaporizhzhia engineer accused of collaboration

Ukraine dismissed the deputy chief engineer of its Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Thursday, accusing him of collaborating with Moscow’s forces and treason, the Energoatom state nuclear energy company said.

The statement was published a day after Russia said it had promoted the engineer, Yuriy Chernichuk, to serve as the director of the vast nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine.

Spanish PM office confirms ‘similar’ package to letter bombs sent to him

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez’s office received on 24 November a letter containing an explosive device “similar” to the ones received by the Ukrainian embassy, a Spanish weapons manufacturer on Wednesday and an air force base on Thursday, the interior ministry said.

Security around public and diplomatic buildings are to be stepped up after a series of letter-bombs were received around the country, the ministry added.

Spanish security forces found a third suspected explosive device hidden in an envelope mailed to a European Union satellite centre located at an air force base in Torrejon de Ardoz, outside Madrid, the defence ministry said on Thursday.

After scanning the envelope by X-ray, air force security officers determined it contained “a mechanism”, the ministry statement said. Police were still analysing the parcel on Thursday morning.

The satellite centre supports the EU’s common foreign and security policy by gathering information from space intelligence devices, according to its website. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described such systems as “the eyes of Europe” in September.

Two letter-bombs were found on Wednesday addressed to the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid and to a weapons manufacturer, Instalaza in Zaragoza, in northeastern Spain, police said.

Instalaza manufactures the C90 rocket launcher that Spain has supplied to Ukraine.

The first letter-bomb exploded, causing minor injuries to a Ukrainian embassy official.

A bridge is seen collapsed over a river near Lyman city, Ukraine.

A bridge is seen collapsed over a river nearby Lyman City, Ukraine, November 30th, 2022.
A bridge is seen collapsed over a river nearby Lyman City, Ukraine, November 30th, 2022. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov also accused Nato of trying to drag India into what he called an anti-Russian and anti-Chinese alliance at a time when he said the West was attempting to squeeze out Russian influence.

Lavrov, speaking at a news conference, added that the South China Sea was becoming a region where Nato was willing to ratchet up tensions and accused the United States of trying to subvert the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the west had a real chance to avoid conflict in Ukraine, but had chosen to spurn Russian proposals to halt the expansion of Nato and agree a special security status for Kyiv.

Lavrov made the comments during a news conference in Moscow, Reuters reported.

Western countries say Russia’s proposals made in the run-up to the Ukraine war were unrealistic and insincere.

Third mail-bomb found in Spanish air force base – reports

Spanish security forces found a third explosive device hidden in a mailed parcel to an air force base in Torrejón de Ardoz outside Madrid, the newspaper El Mundo reported on Thursday morning.

Two letter bombs were found on Wednesday addressed to the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid and to a weapon manufacturer in Zaragoza, in northern Spain, police said.

The first one exploded causing minor injuries to a Ukrainian official.

Russia said on Thursday the German parliament’s move to recognise the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine as a Soviet-imposed genocide was an anti-Russian provocation and an attempt by Germany to whitewash its Nazi past.

In a decision welcomed by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, German lawmakers passed a resolution on Wednesday declaring the death by starvation of millions of Ukrainians – the Holodomor – was genocide.

In November 1932, the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, dispatched police to seize all grain and livestock from newly collectivised Ukrainian farms, including the seed needed to plant the next crop. Millions of Ukrainian peasants starved to death in the following months from what the Yale University historian Timothy Snyder calls “clearly premeditated mass murder”.

Russia on Thursday rejected the claim that this was a genocide and said millions of people across other parts of the Soviet Union, including in Russia, also suffered.

“There is another attempt to justify and push forward a campaign – being planted in Ukraine and sponsored by the West – to demonise Russia and to pit ethnic Ukrainians against Russians,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The Germans are trying to rewrite their history … downplay their own guilt and muddy the memory of the unprecedented nature of the countless crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the second world war,” it added.

The ministry accused the German parliament of “reviving the fascist ideology of racial hatred and discrimination and attempting to absolve itself of responsibility for war crimes” by passing the declaration.

Geoffrey Pyatt, assistant secretary for energy resources at the US State Department, said on Thursday he was confident that agreement would be reached on the level at which to cap prices for Russian sea-borne oil under a G7 scheme.

Pyatt was speaking to reporters in Tokyo after a meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Ryo Minami. A former US ambassador to Ukraine, Pyatt is in Japan to meet officials on aspects of energy security, Reuters reports.

The UN appealed for record funds for aid next year, AFP reports, as the Ukraine war and other conflicts, climate emergencies and the still-simmering pandemic push more people into crisis, and some towards famine.

The United Nations’ annual Global Humanitarian Overview estimated that 339 million people worldwide will need some form of emergency assistance next year – a staggering 65 million more people than the estimate a year ago.

“It’s a phenomenal number and it’s a depressing number,” UN aid chief, Martin Griffiths, told reporters in Geneva, adding that it meant “next year is going to be the biggest humanitarian programme” the world has ever seen.

If all the people in need of emergency assistance were in one country, it would be the third-largest nation in the world, after China and India, he said.

And the new estimate means that one in 23 people will need help in 2023, compared to one in 95 back in 2015.

As the extreme events seen in 2022 spill into 2023, Griffiths described the humanitarian needs as “shockingly high”.

“Lethal droughts and floods are wreaking havoc in communities from Pakistan to the horn of Africa,” he said, also pointing to the war in Ukraine, which “has turned a part of Europe into a battlefield”.

The global humanitarian plan will aim to provide $1.7bn in cash assistance to 6.3 million people inside Ukraine, and also $5.7bn to help the millions of Ukrainians and their host communities in surrounding countries.

Six million without power on first official day of winter

As Ukrainians wake up on the first official day of winter, nearly 6 million people across a majority of Ukraine’s regions have no electricity, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday night.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s state emergency service has said nine people had been killed in fires, after breaking safety rules in an attempt to heat their homes after Russian attacks on power facilities.

“Only in the last day there were 131 fires in Ukraine, 106 of them in the residential sector. Nine people died, eight were injured,” the emergency service said.

People walk in Solomianskyi district on 30 November 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Ukrainian officials expect a new wave of Russian bombing this week, with previous rounds targeting critical infrastructure and causing massive water and power cuts, including in the capital Kyiv.
People walk in Solomianskyi district on 30 November 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Ukrainian officials expect a new wave of Russian bombing this week, with previous rounds targeting critical infrastructure and causing massive water and power cuts, including in the capital Kyiv. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

US hands Raytheon $1.2bn Ukraine missile systems contract

The US Army awarded a $1.2bn contract to Raytheon Technologies Co for six national advanced surface-to-air missile systems (Nasams) for Ukraine on Wednesday, the Pentagon said.

The United States has approved sending Ukraine a total of eight Nasams to help fend off Russian missile and drone attacks.

Ukraine received its first delivery of two Nasams air defence systems in November. Others will be delivered in future months once they are built.

“Nasams are just the latest in the diverse set of air-defence capabilities we are delivering to Ukraine,” said Bill LaPlante, under secretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment.

These six Nasams systems were part of the fifth Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) package which was announced on 24 August and had a total value of $2.98bn, according to an Army Statement. USAI funds allow the Biden administration to procure weapons from industry rather than taking weapons from existing US weapons stocks.

The contract is for the Nasams batteries, training, and logistical support to Ukraine’s military and security forces.

Funds for the two other Nasams came from the third USAI package announced in July.

Last week Doug Bush, the chief weapons buyer for the Army, told reporters the US Army is accelerating its weapons acquisition process to speed through a backlog of contracts needed to replenish US stocks of weapons depleted by arms shipments to Ukraine.

The Pentagon has said the newly US-provided Nasams air defence systems so far have had a 100% success rate in Ukraine intercepting Russian missiles.

In total, the United States has committed more than $19.3bn in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration.

Summary

Hi, this is the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine, with me, Helen Sullivan.

In Washington, a $1.2bn contract for six national advanced surface-to-air missile systems (Nasams) for Ukraine was awarded to Raytheon, the Pentagon said. The United States has approved sending Ukraine a total of eight Nasams to help fend off Russian missile and drone attacks. Ukraine received its first delivery of two Nasams air defence systems in November. Others will be delivered in future months once they are built.

Meanwhile as Ukrainians wake up on the first official day of winter, nearly six million people across a majority of Ukraine’s regions have no electricity, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday night.

Here are the other key recent developments:

  • A security officer at Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid was injured when he opened a letter bomb addressed to the ambassador on Wednesday. The security officer suffered light injuries, Spanish government official Mercedes Gonzalez told broadcaster Telemadrid.

  • In the wake of the incident, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba ordered all Kyiv’s embassies abroad to “urgently” strengthen security, a ministry spokesperson said.

  • The European Commission president has proposed a special tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russia’s “crime of aggression” against Ukraine. Ursula von der Leyen also wants to use the proceeds of Russian funds that have been frozen under western sanctions to aid Ukraine.

  • Russian forces tried to advance in eastern Ukraine and trained tank, mortar and artillery fire on Kherson in the south, the Ukrainian military said, as western allies sought to buttress Ukraine and its neighbours against Moscow.

  • Ukraine needs the US made Patriot missile defence systems to protect its civilian infrastructure, under heavy attack by Russia, foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said, adding he would be working with the German government on this issue. Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warned Nato on Tuesday against providing Ukraine with Patriot systems, Reuters reported.

  • The UK has announced a fresh round of sanctions against 22 Russians, including those the Foreign Office says were involved in enlisting criminals to fight in Ukraine. James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, said on Wednesday his department would target a new set of officials, including Denis Manturov, the deputy prime minister, who is responsible for troop equipment supplies.

  • US president Joe Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, pledged on Wednesday to make the release of detained Americans a priority if she is confirmed to one of most important, and challenging, US diplomatic posts.

  • Ukraine’s state emergency service has said nine people have been killed in fires in the past 24 hours, after breaking safety rules in an attempt to heat their homes after Russian attacks on power facilities. “Only in the last day there were 131 fires in Ukraine, 106 of them in the residential sector. Nine people died, eight were injured,” the emergency service said.

  • Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, has arrived in Kyiv for a three-day visit to show solidarity with the people and churches of Ukraine. Welby will meet leaders of Ukraine’s churches, refugees and internally displaced people.

  • The head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, Sergei Naryshkin, discussed nuclear issues and Ukraine in a meeting this month with the CIA director, William Burns, the RIA news agency reported. Elizabeth Rood, the charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Moscow, previously told RIA that Burns “did not negotiate anything and he did not discuss a settlement of the conflict in Ukraine”.

  • Moscow has promoted the chief engineer of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Yuriy Chernichuk, to become its head, according to Russia’s nuclear agency Rosenergoatom. The position has been vacant since October, when Kyiv says the plant’s boss Ihor Murashov was abducted by Russian authorities.

  • Oleksandr Starukh, the head of Zaporizhzhia regional military administration, said on Telegram early on Wednesday morning that Russian strikes in the region overnight hit a gas distribution point, causing a fire that has since been extinguished. There were no injuries or casualties.

  • One person was killed and another wounded in Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on Wednesday, the regional governor said. Yaroslav Yanushevych wrote on the Telegram messaging app that several residential buildings and medical facilities had been damaged in the city, which was liberated this month after months of Russian occupation.

  • Ukraine claims to have killed another 500 Russian soldiers in the last 24 hours, bringing the total who have died in combat since 24 February to about 88,880. The general staff of the armed forces said it had taken out three more tanks and six armoured personnel carriers.

  • Ukrainian forces have downed three Russian reconnaissance drones in the last 24 hours, according to its armed forces. In an early morning bulletin from Ukraine, the spokesperson for the general staff of the armed forces, Alexander Štupun, said Ukraine had been subjected to a number of missile attacks from planes and artillery, including on Kivsharivka in Kharkiv and Sloviansk in Donetsk.

  • A teenager was killed in Russian shelling of a hospital in the northern Ukrainian region of Sumy, a presidential aide has said. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said on the Telegram messaging app that Russian forces had pounded the region with artillery and mortar bombs over the past 24 hours.

  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he did not believe Russian president Vladimir Putin will use nuclear weapons. He made the comment while speaking by video link at the New York Times ‘DealBook’ summit in New York City. It comes as Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said it was vital to avoid any kind of military confrontation between nuclear powers, even if it only involved conventional weapons, the TASS news agency reported.

  • Russia’s defence minister has said it will focus on nuclear arms infrastructure in 2023, including facilities to accommodate new missile systems. Sergei Shoigu told a meeting of the board of the department on Wednesday that it would be a priority for Russia next year. “When preparing the list of major construction facilities for 2023, special attention will be paid to construction in the interests of the strategic nuclear forces,” Shoigu was quoted by RIA news agency as saying.

  • The city council in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa has voted to remove and relocate a monument to Empress Catherine the Great of Russia that has been daubed with red paint at least twice. The statue to the city’s founder, which towers over a central square, has been vandalised repeatedly since the invasion of Ukraine that has prompted many Ukrainians to reject their country’s historical ties to Moscow, Reuters reported.

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