Ukraine news – live: Putin will fail in attempts to break civilian spirit, US predicts

Russia’s strategy of targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure – so far cutting power to millions of civilians – will not work, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said.

Vladimir Putin has focused his “fire and ire” on Ukraine’s civilian population, bombing more than one-third of Ukraine’s water and electricity supply, Mr Blinken said.

“Heat, water, electricity ... these are President Putin’s new targets. He’s hitting them hard. This brutalisation of Ukraine’s people is barbaric,” he told a news conference in Bucharest following a two-day Nato summit where he represented Washington.

Mr Blinken accused Mr Putin of trying to divide western allies with his campaign against Ukrainian infrastructure, which has demanded additional support and will further drive up energy prices.

“This strategy has not, and will not, work. We will continue to prove him wrong. That’s what I heard loudly and clearly from every country here in Bucharest,” Mr Blinken added.

Meanwhile, The Independent heard accounts of people being tortured and raped by Russian soldiers, on visits to recently liberated Ukrainian towns.

Key Points

  • Putin’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid won’t work, says Blinken

  • War escalates in Ukraine’s east, mortar and shells rained

  • New laws take aim at growing dissent in Russia – MoD

  • Russia firing unarmed missiles to exhaust Ukraine air defense, says US

Germany and Norway call for NATO co-ordination to protect underwater infrastructure

16:41 , Sam Rkaina

Germany and Norway will jointly ask NATO to set up a coordination office to protect subsea infrastructure in light of the attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipeline network, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said today.

No-one should think that attacks on Europe’s critical infrastructure should go unanswered, Mr Scholz said in a briefing alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.

Russia should use advanced weapons in Ukraine, says defence minister

15:53 , Liam James

Russia’s defence minister said the military should use new advanced weapons systems against Ukraine.

“It is necessary to continue the modernisation and creation of promising systems with their subsequent use during the special military operation,” Sergei Shoigu said at a defence ministry meeting of senior generals, according to Reuters.

Mr Shoigu, one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, did not specify any weapons but said he wanted to discuss with the generals new ways of improving artillery and missile attacks.

In Ukraine, Mr Shoigu said, counter-battery fire was being improved by using long-range rocket systems such as Tornado-S and high-power “Malka” artillery systems.

Jailed Belarus opposition figure ‘in intensive care’

15:01 , Liam James

Belarus’s jailed opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova is in a serious but stable condition in intensive care following surgery, her allies say (Matt Mathers writes).

Ms Kolesnikova, 40, was sentenced to 11 years in jail in 2021 for her role in protests against the authoritarian regime of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko.

She was taken to hospital earlier this week but doctors did not share her diagnosis or any other details about the surgery.

Jailed Belarus opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova ‘in intensive care’

Putin’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid won’t work, says Blinken

14:36 , Liam James

Russia’s strategy of targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure – so far cutting power to millions of civilians – will not work, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said.

Vladimir Putin has focused his “fire and ire” on Ukraine‘s civilian population, bombing more than a third of Ukraine’s water and electricity supply Mr Blinken said.

“These are President Putin’s new targets. He’s hitting them hard,” Mr Blinken said after a Nato meeting in Bucharest. “His strategy has not, and will not, work.”

 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

One killed in strike on Kherson, says governor

14:00 , Liam James

One person was killed and another wounded in Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on Wednesday, the regional governor said.

Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych wrote on Telegram that several residential buildings and medical facilities had been damaged in the city, which was liberated this month after months of Russian occupation.

A 70-year-old woman was killed at home and a 64-year-old man injured on the street, Mr Yanushevych said.

Russian troops have launched repeated attacks on the city from a distance after fleeing the city over the Dnipro river.

Last night, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was “planning something in the south”, without elaborating.

Yanushevych shared images with his statement that showed damage to a flat block (Kherson Governor)
Yanushevych shared images with his statement that showed damage to a flat block (Kherson Governor)
Another image showed a shell casing in the road (Kherson governor)
Another image showed a shell casing in the road (Kherson governor)

Russia’s spy chief says he discussed Ukraine with CIA boss

13:30 , Reuters

Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin said in an interview published on Wednesday that he discussed nuclear issues and Ukraine in a meeting earlier this month with CIA director William Burns.

The two men met in Turkey on 14 November in the highest-level face-to-face contact between the two sides since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Russia has not previously commented on what was discussed, saying the subject matter was sensitive. Washington has said Mr Burns delivered a warning about the consequences of any Russian use of nuclear weapons.

Elizabeth Rood, a top diplomat at the US embassy in Moscow, told Russia’s RIA news agency this week that Mr Burns “did not negotiate anything and he did not discuss a settlement of the conflict in Ukraine“.

Mr Naryshkin told RIA: “For my part, I confirm Ms Rood’s statement. Additionally, I can note that the most frequently used words at this meeting were ‘strategic stability’, ‘nuclear security’, ‘Ukraine‘ and ‘Kyiv regime’.”

He also confirmed Ms Rood’s comments that the two countries had a channel to manage risks and that if there was a need for another such conversation, it could happen.

Russian oligarchs’ money could be used to rebuild Ukraine, says EU chief

12:30 , Liam James

Russian assets frozen as punishment for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine could be used to rebuild the war-torn country, in a scheme proposed by the European Commission that seeks to answer the long-running question of what western allies should do with the hundreds of billions of pounds trapped by sanctions on the Kremlin and its associates.

Ursula von der Leyen, Commission head, said Ukraine’s allies should seize the more than €300bn (£259bn) of Russian money held up by sanctions and invest it, putting the returns towards Kyiv’s estimated €600bn restoration bill.

In a statement on Russia’s accountability for the devastation wrought by the invasion, Ms von dr Leyen also said the EU was pushing to set up a specialised court “to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression”.

The 27 EU member states along with the US, Britain, Canada and others have frozen billions of euros worth of Russian oligarch assets, with around €300bn of the Russian central bank’s foreign reserves locked abroad.

Russian oligarchs’ money could be used to rebuild Ukraine, says EU chief

‘Every second felt like eternity’: Inside the torture chambers of Ukraine’s occupied northeast

11:58 , Liam James

From Bel Trew on the ground in Ukraine: At night, when the street outside was quiet, Olga would hear the screams of women being gang-raped by Russian soldiers in the interrogation room one floor above her tiny squalid cell.

Together with her fellow female inmates, sleeping stacked side-by-side like cutlery in a drawer, she would try to block out the terrifying sound.

But the sharp barks of the Chechens spurring each other on, punched through the cries.

“I could hear them shouting ‘come on, you have a go next’,” says the 50-year-old call centre operator at her hometown’s fire department.

“They threatened all of us with rape during the day but the torture and violence always took place at night. Because the street outside was quiet and our cell was under the torture room, we heard it all,” she adds her voice shrinking into a pause.

‘Cruel violence’: Inside the torture chambers of Ukraine’s occupied north-east

Ukraine probes church over suspected Russian links

11:34 , Reuters

Ukraine’s SBU security service conducted another search of a monastery in the west of the country today in what it said was an operation to counter suspected “subversive activities by Russian special services.”

The search, in the Mukachevo diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Transcarpathia, was the latest in a series of raids conducted in the past week as Russia‘s war in Ukraine entered its tenth month.

The historically Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church announced a formal severing of ties with Moscow in May, but is still mistrusted by many Ukrainians and frequently accused of secret co-operation with Russia.

In the latest search, the SBU said it had inspected the territory and premises of the monastery in the Mukachevo diocese to identify prohibited items and carried out checks on people “regarding their involvement in illegal activities to the detriment of the state sovereignty of Ukraine.”

It did not say what was uncovered or whether anyone had been detained.

Frozen Russian assets could be used to rebuild Ukraine, says EU chief

10:57 , Liam James

Watch Ursula von der Leyen’s statement earlier in which she proposed seizing frozen Russian assets, investing the money and using the proceeds to fund the rebuilding of Ukraine:

Russia to focus on nuclear arms infrastructure next year – report

10:23 , Liam James

Russia’s defence minister said on Wednesday that Moscow will pay special attention to construction of infrastructure related to its nuclear forces in 2023, state media reported.

“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,” defence minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by RIA news agency as saying.

RIA quoted him as saying that facilities were being built to accommodate new missile systems at five military complexes.

Russian and Chinese warplanes rattle South Korea

09:41 , Liam James

South Korea said it mobilised military aircraft after two Chinese and six Russian warplanes entered its airspace in a joint patrol today.

Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency said, citing the Kremlin’s defence ministry, that a group of Russian Tu-95MS strategic missile carriers and Chinese Hun-6K strategic bombers flew over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea.

The report said the patrol jets were at times accompanied by foreign aircraft, though the defence ministry stressed the patrol respected foreign airspace boundaries and acted in accordance with international law at all times.

According to Reuters, Moscow and Beijing do not recognise South Korea’s air defence zone, with China saying it is not territorial airspace and all countries should enjoy freedom of movement there.

Russian planes landed in China and the Chinese planes landed in Russia, according to RIA, in what the agency said was a first for the joint patrols.

In May, Japan raised alarm over the frequency of Russia and China’s flight patrols which began as an annual event in 2019 but have taken place every six months since last November.

File photo: Russian TU-95MS missile carriers fly over Red Square in Moscow’s victory parade in 2019 (Getty)
File photo: Russian TU-95MS missile carriers fly over Red Square in Moscow’s victory parade in 2019 (Getty)

Britain and Ukraine sign digital trade agreement

09:13 , Liam James

Ukraine will be guaranteed access to UK financial services as it seeks to rebuild its shattered economy following the signing of a ground-breaking new deal, the British government has said (Gavin Cordon writes).

British trade secretary Kemi Badenoch and Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister Yulia Svyrydenko will sign the digital trade agreement in London today.

Officials said the deal – based on a similar agreement earlier this year between the UK and Singapore – will support digital commerce through the facilitation of cross-border data flows. It follows an approach by the government in Kyiv over the summer to see if such an agreement would be possible.

Digital trade is considered to be particularly important in the current conflict with Russia where the fighting and the damage to infrastructure makes physical trade more difficult.

Britain and Ukraine sign digital trade agreement

Russia and Ukraine fighting ‘war between democracy and dictatorship,’ says MP

08:52 , Liam James

British shadow minister Stephen Kinnock said Ukraine and Russia were fighting a “war between democracy and dictatorship” as he backed first lady Olena Zelenska’s call for the formation of a special tribunal to punish Russian war crimes.

On a visit to London Ms Zelenska urged the UK to become a leader in helping Ukraine achieve “justice” against Russia, addressing an audience of MPs and peers that included Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer.

Her visit has focused on the use of sexual violence and rape by Russian forces in the months-long war, which is now heading into a long winter.

Zelenska receives a standing ovation from parliamentarians in London (Reuters)
Zelenska receives a standing ovation from parliamentarians in London (Reuters)

EU could use Russian oligarchs’ money to repair Ukraine, says von der Leyen

08:21 , Liam James

The European Commission has proposed confiscating Russian assets frozen as punishment for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in order to pay for regeneration of the war-torn country.

“We have blocked €300bn of the Russian Central Bank reserves and we have frozen €19bn of Russian oligarchs’ money,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Union’s executive body said in a statement.

She said that in the short term the EU and its partners could manage the money and invest it, with proceeds going to Ukraine as compensation for war damage.

“We will work on an international agreement with our partners to make this possible. And together, we can find legal ways to get to it,” she said.

She also said that the EU was proposing to set up a specialised court, backed by the United Nations, “to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression”.

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Large Russian oil storage facility ablaze, says local official

08:00 , Liam James

A large oil storage tank was on fire early this morning in Russia’s Bryansk region, according to a local governor.

The tank was located in the Surazh district in the north of the region. Bryansk region borders with Ukraine’s northeast.

Governor Alexander Bogomaz said the fire had spread across 19,000 square feet.

More than 80 fire fighters and 30 fire engines were sent to tackle the blaze, Russian state-owned news agency Tass reported.

There were no reports of casualties and the governor did not mention a potential cause for the fire. the fire was under control by around 6am, Mr Bogomaz said.

The Independent was not able to immediately verify the reports.

Nato to pledge support for Ukraine’s neighbours

07:40 , Liam James

Nato foreign ministers will today seek to reassure fragile countries in proximity to Russia over fears of instability due to the war on their neighbour.

“The reason we are having this gathering is a signal from us on how important it is to create stability not just for Nato countries but beyond,” Netherlands foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra said on arrival for a second day of talks in Bucharest.

Ministers yesterday pledged more help to Ukraine to repair war-battered energy infrastructure and restated a committment to one day offer alliance membership to the country.

Wopke Hoekstra in Bucharest this morning (AFP/Getty)
Wopke Hoekstra in Bucharest this morning (AFP/Getty)

Putin likely acting preemptively to prevent greater dissent in Russia - MoD

07:01 , Arpan Rai

The Kremlin is likely “acting preemptively to prevent greater domestic dissent” as the war in Ukraine remains unresolved and “increasingly impacts Russians’ everyday lives”, the British defence ministry said today.

The ministry pointed to Moscow’s approved amendments to the 2012 ‘Foreign Agents Law’, in July this year, stating that these have been widely used to “repress opponents of the regime.”

The new measures are scheduled to come into force starting tomorrow, the ministry said.

Under the 2012 law, ‘foreign agents’ are defined as “individuals or organisations who have received financial support from abroad.”

The amendments will extend the definition to those which are merely under undefined ‘influence or pressure’ of foreign actors, the ministry noted.

It added that the ministry of justice will also have the “power to publish the personal details and addresses of designated ‘foreign agents’, almost certainly placing them at risk of harassment.”

“The new laws will further extend the repressive powers available to the Russian state. This continues a trend since Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, but which has dramatically accelerated since the invasion of Ukraine,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

Must ensure Ukraine wins war against Russia, says Finland

06:47 , Arpan Rai

Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin says it must give more weapons and support to Ukraine to ensure it wins its war against Russia.

Ms Marin made the comments today in Auckland on the first-ever visit by a Finnish prime minister to New Zealand and Australia. Among the aims of the visit are improving diplomatic relations and trade ties.

“We need hard power when it comes to Ukraine,” Marin told reporters when asked what soft-power influence smaller countries like Finland and New Zealand could exert.

Read the full story here:

Finland says it must ensure Ukraine wins war against Russia

Russia firing unarmed missiles to exhaust Ukraine air defense, says US

06:39 , Arpan Rai

Vladimir Putin’s forces are firing unarmed cruise missiles designed to carry nuclear warhead towards Ukraine to exhaust Kyiv’s air defence, a US military official has said.

“It’s certainly something that they’re trying to do to mitigate the effects of the air defense systems that the Ukrainians are employing,” the US military official said, responding to the assertion by the Britain’s military intelligence which said that Russia was “likely” removing nuclear warheads from cruise missiles and firing the unarmed munitions into Ukraine.

The Pentagon has said that Russia’s surge in missile strikes in Ukraine is partly designed to exhaust Kyiv’s supplies of air defenses and finally achieve dominance of the skies above the country.

For that reason, the US and other allies have focused on providing air defense supplies for Ukraine. That ranges from everything from legacy Soviet-era systems to more modern, Western ones.

The British ministry’s intelligence update cited open source imagery showing wreckage of an air-launched cruise missile fired at Ukraine that seemed to have been designed in the 1980s as a nuclear delivery system.

Belarus' top diplomat buried as his death raises suspicions

06:13 , Arpan Rai

Officials in Belarus held a state funeral for its foreign minister Vladimir Makei who died suddenly at age 64, triggering speculation about possible foul play in his death after he leaned toward Western countries.

Belarusian authorities didn’t give the cause of Makei’s death on Saturday. He wasn’t known to suffer from any chronic illness.

Some media and observers alleged without offering evidence that Makei could have been poisoned by security agencies of Belarus’ main ally Russia, which has warily watched Makei’s efforts to negotiate a rapprochement with the West.

Read the full story here:

Belarus' top diplomat buried as his death raises suspicions

Ukraine repels Russian attacks in Luhansk and Donetsk

06:06 , Arpan Rai

Ukrainian military has countered Russian attacks around six settlements on the eastern front over the past day, army officials said today.

The attacks also targetted Russian artillery systems and shot down three Orlan-10-type drones, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said

These Russian attacks have been repelled near Stelmakhivka in Luhansk oblast and Bilohorivka, Marinka, Bakhmutske, Pervomaiske, and Nevelske in Donetsk oblast.

At least 15 strikes were carried out by the Ukrainian aviation on Russian areas of concentration of personnel, weapons and military equipment and two strikes on the positions of Russia’s anti-aircraft missile systems, officials said today.

Snow envelopes Kyiv as more than 985,500 customers remain without power

05:42 , Arpan Rai

Temperatures in Kyiv continued to dip as snow covered the Ukrainian capital region last night, leaving millions stripped of electricity connection to struggle to heat their homes.

Around 985,500 customers in Kyiv were without power, an official from the power company said on Facebook. Another electricity provider said the city would have emergency power cuts today.

Russia has been carrying out huge attacks on Ukraine‘s electricity transmission and heating infrastructure roughly weekly since October, in what Kyiv and its allies say is a deliberate campaign to harm civilians, a war crime.

However, Ukrainian officials have succeeded in restoring electricity in half of Kherson city yesterday, regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said.

Fire at oil storage tank in Russia's Bryansk region - governor

05:11 , Arpan Rai

A large oil storage tank was set ablaze this morning in Russia’s Bryansk region, a local governor said.

Governor Alexander Bogomaz said that the fire and rescue teams have been dispatched and are on the site

The fire had spread across 1,800 square metres (19,000 square feet), Mr Bogomaz said.

The tank was located in the Surazh district in the north of the region. Bryansk region borders with Ukraine‘s northeast.

The cause of the fire is not immediately known. There are also no preliminary reports of casualties.

Ukraine’s first lady asks Britain to become ‘leader’ in fight for justice

04:43 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine‘s first lady has asked the UK to become a “leader” in the fight for justice as her country continues to be torn apart by war.

Olena Zelenska addressed MPs and House of Lords peers, including Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer, as part of her trip to London.

In her speech, she said: “Ukrainians are now going through a terror which will resonate with you.

“Your island survived the air raids which were identical to those that Russia uses now.”

She added: “We know that justice is one of the benchmarks of the British way of life.”

Watch the video here:

Ukraine’s first lady asks Britain to become ‘leader’ in fight for justice

Putin wasted his ‘regular army’, loses hundreds of mobilised soldiers in Donetsk - Zelensky

04:38 , Arpan Rai

Vladimir Putin has already wasted his regular army in eastern Ukraine since the invasion began, Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“But we are holding out and - most importantly - do not allow the enemy to fulfil their intentions. They said they would capture the Donetsk region in spring, summer, autumn... Winter begins this week already. They wasted their regular army there, they lose hundreds of mobilized and mercenaries there every day, they use barrier troops there,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address.

He added: “This year, Russia will lose a hundred thousand of its soldiers killed and only God knows how many mercenaries. And Ukraine will stand. And the world will do everything to ensure that everyone guilty of this criminal war is brought to justice.”

Read more about Russian shelling over the weekend here:

Pockets of shelling across Ukraine as wintry warfare looms

Britain and Ukraine sign digital trade agreement

04:19 , Arpan Rai

Britain will now guarantee access for Ukraine to financial services as Kyiv looks to rebuild its shattered economy following the signing of a ground-breaking new deal, the Rishi Sunak administration has said.

Trade secretary Kemi Badenoch and Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister Yulia Svyrydenko are set to sign the digital trade agreement in London today.

Officials said the deal – based on a similar agreement earlier this year between the UK and Singapore – will support digital commerce through the facilitation of cross-border data flows.

It follows an approach by the government in Kyiv over the summer to see if such an agreement would be possible.

Digital trade is crucial for Ukraine in the current conflict with Russia where the fighting and the damage to infrastructure makes physical trade more difficult.

Read the full story here:

Britain and Ukraine sign digital trade agreement

War escalates in Ukraine’s east, mortar and shells rained

04:05 , Arpan Rai

Russian forces pounded Ukrainian targets with artillery, mortar and tank fire in the battered eastern region of Donetsk.

Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian military was also attacking in Luhansk in the east and Kharkiv in the northeast, an area Ukraine recaptured in September.

“The situation at the front is difficult. Despite extremely large losses, the occupiers are still trying to advance” in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv. And “they are planning something in the south,” the wartime president said said.

Ukraine regained control of Kherson in the south this month after Russian forces retreated. Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba urged the country’s allies to send aid for keeping Ukrainians safe and warm as Kyiv looks to endure the war in the winter campaign.

“We need air defence, IRIS, Hawks, Patriots, and we need transformers (for our energy needs),” he said on the sidelines of the Nato meeting, enumerating various Western air defence systems.

“In a nutshell: Patriots and transformers are what Ukraine needs the most,” he said.

03:30 , Arpan Rai

Good morning, welcome to our coverage of the Ukraine war on Wednesday, 30 November.