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Russia-Ukraine war - live: Blow for Putin as Kyiv destroys major train route between Russia and China

Kyiv’s security services sabotaged a major railway connection between Russia and China, according to Ukrainian officials.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) set off several explosions inside the Severomuysky tunnel of the Baikal-Amur highway in Buryatia, Russia, which is used to supply Moscow’s military.

Four explosive devices went off while a cargo train was moving inside the tunnel. Later, another train was blown up whcih destroyed four carriages.

“This is the only serious railway connection between the Russian Federation and China. And currently, this route, which Russia uses, including for military supplies, is paralyzed,” the official told Politico.

It comes as Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu claimed Russia was advancing in all directions on the frontline in Ukraine.

While the claim cannot be verified and is likely to be exaggerated, it speaks to a fear among western military experts that Russia could begin to make gains in 2024 owing to a deeper arsenal of weapons and personnel compared with Ukraine.

Ukrainian president Volodmyr Zelensky vowed that his country’s forces will “not back down” despite a difficult counteroffensive and a recent spate of Russian attacks.

Key Points

  • Putin’s troops repelled on six fronts

  • Vladimir Putin signs Russia’s largest national budget as he bolsters military spending

  • Putin suffering losses ‘well behind the front line’, says UK

  • Ukraine targets Moscow in major drone assault

  • Explosions heard overnight in Kyiv as Putin launches biggest drone attack yet

Zaporizhizhia power plant loses power

13:25 , Alexander Butler

The Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant lost its power supply after the last remaining line to it from Ukrainian-controlled territory was disrupted.

In its statement, the Ukrainian energy ministry stated that it was the eighth blackout at the nuclear power plant, which was captured by Russia in early March 2022. The ministry warned that this latest incident could have led to “nuclear catastrophe”.

Latvia accuses Russia of committing war crimes

12:34 , Alexander Butler

Russia has violated human rights and committed war crimes during its invasion of Ukraine, Latvia’s representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe claimed.

Speaking at the organisation’s conference in North Macedonia, Katrina Kaktina said Russia was waging an “unprovoked” war and was deliberatley killing civilians.

“It is Russia that is waging an unprovoked and unlawful war against Ukraine, and it is Russia that is obstructing the OSCE agenda,” she said.

“Russia is continuing violations of human rights: deliberate killings of civilians, including children, forced deportations, tactics of torture and sexual violence. Those are war crimes being committed by Russia in Ukraine.”

Imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny handed new charges

11:58 , Alexander Butler

Imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been handed new charges by Russian prosecutors in what he described as “sad, funny and absurd”.The 47-year-old is already serving more than 30 years in prison after being found guilty of crimes including extremism — charges that his supporters characterize as politically motivated.

In comments passed to his associates, Navalny said he had been charged under article 214 of Russia’s penal code, which covers crimes of vandalism.

“I don’t even know whether to describe my latest news as sad, funny or absurd,” he wrote in comments on social media Friday via his team. “I have no idea what Article 214 is, and there’s nowhere to look. You’ll know before I do.”

Navalny is one of President Vladimir Putin’s most ardent opponents, best known for campaigning against official corruption and organizing major anti-Kremlin protests.

The former lawyer was arrested in 2021, after he returned to Moscow from Germany where he had recuperated from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

He has since been handed three prison terms and has faced months in solitary confinement after being accused of various minor infractions.

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Zelensky acknowledges need for increased war mobilisation

11:34 , Alexander Butler

President Volodymyr Zelensky said changes to mobilisation are necessary as he ordered a strategic turn focused on defense following a lackluster counteroffensive in Ukraine’s southern regions.

“Everything necessary for our state, our brigades. These specific results must be calculated precisely. This includes issues of mobilization,” Zelensky said.

Official EU data revealed 650,000 Ukrainian men of fighting age had fled Ukraine and received residency in Europe since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

Under martial law, male citizens between the ages of 18–60 are generally prohibited from leaving the country. Exemptions exist for medical, education, and business reasons.

Wives of Russian soldiers ‘paid not to protest'

10:50 , Alexander Butler

The wives of Russian soldiers are being paid not to protest against the government following small-scale demonstrations in Moscow, the UK ministry of defence said.

“The Russian authorities are likely attempting to quash public dissent by wives of deployed Russian soldiers, including by attempting to pay them off and discrediting them online,” the MoD said.

“In recent weeks, the authorities have likely offered increased cash payments to families in return for them refraining from protest,” it added.

Putin ‘really needs elections’

09:18 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, said Vladimir Putin “really needs elections, at least in theory” in reference to the presidential election in spring next year.

The Russian journalist said that by voting for Putin in 2024, “Russians will legitimise the war”.

He said: “In addition to refreshing his legitimacy, they serve as a way to show that the opposition—through the predictable landslide outcome—remains a tiny minority and cannot go against the overwhelming will of the Russian people.

RUSIA-EJÉRCITO (AP)
RUSIA-EJÉRCITO (AP)

Putin orders Russian military to increase troop numbers by 170,000

09:01 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered a significant boost in the country’s military, increasing the troop numbers by nearly 170,000 to reach a total of 1.32 million as the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion enters its 22nd month.

Mr Putin signed the decree on Friday in response to “the aggressive activities of the Nato bloc” and its special military operation in Ukraine, as stated by the Kremlin.

“In accordance with the decree of Russian president signed on November 29, 2023, the maximum size of the armed forces of the Russian Federation has been increased by 170,000 military personnel to 1,320,000 military personnel,” the defence ministry said.

Putin orders Russian military to increase troop numbers by 170,000

Control over devastated eastern Ukrainian town uncertain

08:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Control over Maryinka, a town in eastern Ukraine all but destroyed by more than a year of fighting, remained uncertain on Friday, with unofficial reports suggesting Russian forces had registered some gains.

Most accounts of Maryinka, southwest of the Russian-held regional centre of Donetsk, describe it as a ghost town amid daily reports of Ukrainian forces defending different districts. Once a city of 10,000, there are no civilians left.

Ukraine‘s General Staff, in its evening report, said Russian forces had been unsuccessful in attempts to advance on villages near Maryinka, but said nothing of troop movements in the town.

Russia‘s Defence Ministry made no mention of the town in its dispatches.

Unofficial Russian blogger Rybar referred to a photo circulating on social media showing Russian forces hoisting the national flag in the southwest of the town. Ukrainian forces, it said, remained in control of other districts.

“However, if information about the movement of Russian troops to the south is accurate, the enemy’s retreat is a question that is fast approaching,” it said.

Ukrainian social media accounts noted Russian advances, but quoted soldiers as rejecting the notion that Moscow’s troops controlled the entire town.

“The Russians have been taking Maryinka since March 2022,” read one post on the blog DeepState. “Maryinka has been in ruins for more than a year.”

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

08:21 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine’s war with Russia complicated by winter, Zelensky says

Ukrainian official predicts Kyiv airport soon to reopen

07:38 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine has become progressively stronger over the past year and will soon be able to reopen Kyiv’s international airport, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff said on Friday.

Andriy Yermak made the pledge while addressing diplomats at Boryspil International Airport outside the capital.

“This return to the elements of peace is possible because Ukraine has grown stronger,” Yermak told the diplomats in remarks posted on Zelensky’s website.

“We are now capable of providing security for this site. Thanks to our defence forces and our friends, your countries. I am certain that the symbolic boarding cards that you were given when you came in today will soon turn into real ones.”

Yermak’s deputy, Andriy Sybiga, told the gathering that the airport was the first major site to be closed in Ukraine as Russian troops poured over the border on Feb. 24, 2022 and would be the first to be reopened once conditions permitted.

Yermak had invited the diplomats to discuss elements of Zelenskiy’s 10-point peace plan, which calls for a withdrawal of Russian troops, recognition of Ukraine‘s 1991 borders and the establishment of a tribunal to examine war crimes.

US issues fresh sanctions over shipment of Russian oil above price cap

06:45 , Tom Watling

The United States on Friday imposed additional sanctions related to the price cap on Russian oil, targeting three entities and three oil tankers as Washington seeks to close loopholes in the mechanism designed to punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine.

The US Treasury Department in a statement accused those targeted on Friday of using price cap coalition services while carrying Russian crude oil above the agreed price cap.

It marks Washington’s latest sanctions action cracking down on the shipment of oil above the Russian price cap as the United States seeks to enforce the punitive measures it has imposed on Russia over the war in Ukraine, which has killed or wounded tens of thousands and reduced cities to rubble.

“Enforcement of the price cap on Russian oil is a top priority for the United States and our Coalition partners,” Treasury deputy secretary Wally Adeyemo said in the statement.

“By targeting these companies and their ships, we are upholding the dual goals of the price cap by restricting Russia’s profits from oil while promoting stable global energy markets.”

The Treasury Department on Friday also issued a general license authorizing limited safety and environmental transactions involving those targeted, including transactions necessary for the safe docking and anchoring of the blocked vessels, until 29 February.

Here are some of the latest photos from Ukraine

06:00 , Tom Watling

Below are some of the latest photos from Ukraine.

A woman looks at flags bearing symbols and colours of Ukraine that commemorate fallen Ukrainian soldiers at Independence Square (AFP via Getty Images)
A woman looks at flags bearing symbols and colours of Ukraine that commemorate fallen Ukrainian soldiers at Independence Square (AFP via Getty Images)
A Ukrainian military Mi-8 helicopter fires unguided missiles towards Russian troops in an undisclosed location in eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)
A Ukrainian military Mi-8 helicopter fires unguided missiles towards Russian troops in an undisclosed location in eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)
Medics of the 47th 'Magura’ Separate Mechanised Brigade help a Ukrainian serviceman, who was recently wounded in the town of Avdiivka (REUTERS)
Medics of the 47th 'Magura’ Separate Mechanised Brigade help a Ukrainian serviceman, who was recently wounded in the town of Avdiivka (REUTERS)

Ukraine’s war with Russia complicated by winter, Zelensky says

05:00 , Tom Watling

Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday 30 November that the war with Russia was in a new stage, with winter expected to complicate fighting after a summer counteroffensive that failed to produce desired results.

Despite setbacks, however, the president of Ukraine said his nation wouldn’t give up.

“We have a new phase of war, and that is a fact,” Zelensky said, speaking in Kharkiv after a morale-boosting tour of the region.

“Winter as a whole is a new phase of war.

“Am I satisfied? Look, we are not backing down, I am satisfied.”

Ukraine’s war with Russia complicated by winter, Zelensky says

Russia’s top court bans LGBT+ activism as ‘extremist’ in latest crackdown

04:00 , Tom Watling

Russia’s top court has ruled that LGBT+ activists should be designated as “extremists” and issued a ban against such work – the most drastic step in a years-long crackdown on the community in the country.

This effectively outlaws LGBT+ activism across the country, in a move that representatives of the gay and transgender communities fear will lead to arrests and prosecutions.

The hearing took place behind closed doors and with no defendant. Multiple rights activists have pointed out that the lawsuit targeted the “international civic LGBT movement”, which is not an entity but rather a broad and vague definition that would allow Russian authorities to crack down on any individuals or groups deemed to be part of the “movement”.

Russia’s top court bans LGBT+ activism as ‘extremist’ in new crackdown

Finland closes last crossing point with Russia, sealing off entire border as tensions rise

03:00 , Tom Watling

NATO member Finland on Wednesday closed its last remaining border crossing with Russia after the government decided to seal the entire border with its eastern neighbor amid rising political tensions.

The decision to close the entire 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border was made by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo on Tuesday over concerns that Moscow is using migrants to wage “hybrid warfare” to destabilize the Nordic country following its entry into NATO.

The Raja-Jooseppi crossing point in Finland’s Arctic Lapland region, located some 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the northern Russian city of Murmansk, was closed at 2pm Wednesday, according to the checkpoint’s normal November schedule.

Finland closes last crossing point with Russia

The director of Russia's Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev, is also put in charge of the Bolshoi

02:00 , Tom Watling

The Russian government on Friday named Valery Gergiev, the renowned director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, to also lead Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.

Gergiev is replacing Vladimir Urin at the Bolshoi. Urin announced Thursday that he was stepping down after a decade, but didn’t explain the reason behind his move.

Some Russian media said the departure of 76-year-old Urin was related to health issues. Others speculated it was linked to a letter calling for an end to Moscow’s military action in Ukraine that he and some other prominent cultural figures signed after the Kremlin sent troops across the border in February 2022.

The director of Russia's Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev, is also put in charge of the Bolshoi

Senior Russian general ‘killed by one of Putin’s own landmines’ in Ukraine

01:00 , Tom Watling

Russia may have lost as many as six high-ranking officers in Ukraine in just one week following reports a senior general was killed by a landmine placed by his own side.

Major general Vladimir Zavadsky, 45, the deputy commander of the 14th Army Corps, died in occupied Ukraine on Tuesday, reported pro-Kremlin newspaper Lenta.

The elite military academy where Zavadsky studied, the Moscow Higher Combined Arms Command School, also announced his death in a social media post, although that has now been deleted.

Senior Russian general ‘killed by one of Putin’s own landmines’ in Ukraine

Putin urges Russian women to have ‘eight or more’ children amid soaring deaths in his Ukraine war

00:00 , Tom Watling

Vladimir Putin has urged Russian women to have eight or more children and make large families “the norm” amid soaring numbers of casualties in his war against Ukraine.

Russia’s birth rate has been steadily falling since the 90’s and the country has suffered more than 300,000 casualties since the start of the Ukraine conflict, according to data maintained by Kyiv.

In a speech via video link at the World Russian People’s Council in Moscow on Tuesday, Mr Putin said boosting the Russian population will be “our goal for the coming decades”.

Putin asks Russian women to have ‘eight or more’ children amid deaths in his war

In Romania, tens of thousands attend a military parade to mark Great Union Day

Friday 1 December 2023 23:00 , Tom Watling

Tens of thousands of people turned out in Romania’s capital on Friday to watch a military parade that included troops from NATO allies to mark the country’s national day.

The annual parade at the Arc de Triomphe in Bucharest brought together thousands of marching soldiers as dozens of combat jets and helicopters flew overhead. Many spectators waved Romanian tricolor flags: red, yellow, and blue.

In Romania, tens of thousands attend a military parade to mark Great Union Day

Ukraine’s war with Russia complicated by winter, Zelensky says

Friday 1 December 2023 22:00 , Tom Watling

Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday 30 November that the war with Russia was in a new stage, with winter expected to complicate fighting after a summer counteroffensive that failed to produce desired results.

Despite setbacks, however, the president of Ukraine said his nation wouldn’t give up.

“We have a new phase of war, and that is a fact,” Zelensky said, speaking in Kharkiv after a morale-boosting tour of the region.

“Winter as a whole is a new phase of war.

“Am I satisfied? Look, we are not backing down, I am satisfied.”

Ukraine’s war with Russia complicated by winter, Zelensky says

Ukraine says it is repelling Russian attacks across six fronts as Zelensky orders more fortifications

Friday 1 December 2023 21:00 , Tom Watling

Missile attacks and ground clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces surged on Thursday, according to the Ukrainian military, as Russian troops launched offensives but failed to move forward on as many as six fronts.

A total of 73 combat skirmishes took place across the war’s frontline in the past 24 hours, an update from Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces on Thursday read, a day after Russia launched more than 100 attacks to recapture its lost positions in eastern Ukraine’s Robotyne.

Ukraine repelling Russian attacks across six fronts as Zelensky seeks fortifications

Russia's Lavrov insists goals in Ukraine are unchanged as he faces criticism at security talks

Friday 1 December 2023 20:00 , Tom Watling

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday his government was not prepared to “review its goals” in Ukraine — delivering a blunt and confrontational message to Western leaders on a rare trip to a NATO member state.

“We aren’t seeing any signals from Kyiv or its masters about their readiness to seek any kind of political settlement,” Lavrov told reporters while attending a security conference in North Macedonia.

“We see no reason to review our goals,” he said.

Russia's Lavrov insists goals in Ukraine are unchanged as he faces criticism at security talks,

Takeaways from AP's Interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Friday 1 December 2023 19:00 , Tom Watling

The Associated Press was invited to tour an embattled town in northeastern Ukraine with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as part of an exclusive interview with him.

Takeaways from AP's Interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukraine says some measures agreed with Poland to ease border situation

Friday 1 December 2023 18:00 , Tom Watling

Ukraine said on Friday it had agreed some measures with Poland that could ease the pressure at border crossings blockaded by Polish truckers, but that they had not discussed the main demands of the protests.

Meanwhile, Slovak truckers blocked the main crossing from Ukraine to Slovakia, joining their Polish peers in demanding that the European Union reintroduce a permit system for Ukrainian competitors.

Protests by Polish truckers over what they see as unfair competition from their Ukrainian peers started on Nov. 6, with four border crossings now under blockade.

Ukraine‘s finance ministry put out data which showed the country’s customs service had missed its planned revenues for November by 78%, or $255 million - an apparent consequence of the protests.

Ukraine‘s economy minister posted data on the X platform which showed the tonnage of cargoes exported from Ukraine through Poland in November was down 39.3% from October.

A Ukrainian senior official said on Thursday the protests would reduce the country’s overall imports by about a fifth in November and could cost one percentage point of GDP growth if they drag on.

In a statement on its website, the ministry said that the request to reintroduce a permit system for Ukrainian truckers entering the EU had not been discussed.

Trucks stand in a queue at the Polish-Ukrainian border earlier this week (EPA)
Trucks stand in a queue at the Polish-Ukrainian border earlier this week (EPA)

NATO chief tells Turkey's Erdogan that 'the time has come' to let Sweden join the alliance

Friday 1 December 2023 16:53 , Tom Watling

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says he has told Turkey’s president that “the time has come” to let Sweden become a member of the military alliance.Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO countries that have not yet formally approved Sweden’s accession bid.

Stoltenberg told The Associated Press that he urged Turkey to finalize the process as he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday on the sidelines of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

“I met with President Erdogan this morning and I reiterated my message that the time has come to finalize the accession process for Sweden,” he said.

Turkey has delayed ratification for more than a year, accusing Sweden of not taking Turkey’s security concerns seriously enough, including its fight against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers to be security threats.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, right, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg looks on
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, right, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg looks on

Ukraine says one killed as Russia launched 25 drones overnight

Friday 1 December 2023 16:25 , Tom Watling

Russia launched 25 drone attacks on Ukraine overnight, killing one person and damaging a warehouse and farm equipment, the Ukrainian military said on Friday, adding that it had downed 18 of the drones, all but two of them in southern Ukraine.

One civilian was killed and another injured in attacks on the southern Kherson region, where a culture centre was damaged, Ukraine‘s Southern Military Command said on the Telegram messenger app.

In the neighbouring region of Mykolaiv, a warehouse, a hangar and agricultural machinery were damaged, it said.

The Ukrainian Air Force said the drones had been launched from southwestern Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea, as well as two missiles from the occupied part of Kherson region. It added that one of those missiles had been destroyed.

Rescuers work at the scene of a building damaged by shelling, in Novogrodivka, Ukraine (Ihor Moroz, Head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration)
Rescuers work at the scene of a building damaged by shelling, in Novogrodivka, Ukraine (Ihor Moroz, Head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration)

Ukraine blows up Russia-China railway

Friday 1 December 2023 15:52 , Alexander Butler

Kyiv’s security services sabotaged a major railway connection between Russia and China, according to Ukrainian officials.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) set off several explosions inside the Severomuysky tunnel of the Baikal-Amur highway in Buryatia, Russia, which is used to supply Moscow’s military.

Four explosive devices went off while a cargo train was moving inside the tunnel. Later, another train was blown up whcih destroyed four carriages.

“This is the only serious railway connection between the Russian Federation and China. And currently, this route, which Russia uses, including for military supplies, is paralyzed,” the official told Politico.

Ukraine’s war with Russia complicated by winter, Zelensky says

Friday 1 December 2023 15:22 , Tom Watling

Ukraine’s war with Russia complicated by winter, Zelensky says

EU official say it will be ‘very difficult’ to secure €50bn aid package to Ukraine

Friday 1 December 2023 14:45 , Tom Watling

It is going to be “very difficult” to agree at a December summit of European Union leaders on a proposal to grant Ukraine 50 billion euros of budget aid through 2027, a senior official with the bloc said on Friday.

The senior official, who is involved in preparing the summit and spoke under condition of anonymity, said the EU was still committed to supporting Ukraine, suggesting some assistance could be expected even if the 50 billion euros plan falls through.

On Thursday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said he was “not satisfied” with Western support.

Ukraine's ex-president says he was blocked from leaving country

Friday 1 December 2023 14:13 , Tom Watling

Ukraine‘s ex-President Petro Poroshenko said he had been stopped from leaving the country on Friday morning in what he described as a politically motivated bid to disrupt his work.

Poroshenko, who led Ukraine from 2014 to 2019 and is now an opposition lawmaker, posted a video of himself at a border crossing with Poland, saying he had been turned away and holding up papers that he said showed he had official permission to cross.

Under martial law, Ukrainian officials have to get special approval to travel abroad.

The Ukrainian parliament’s deputy speaker, Oleksandr Korniyenko, later confirmed he had cancelled Poroshenko’s permission to leave the country.

Korniyenko said that while lawmakers were allowed to travel for party political events, he had received a letter, which he could not comment on, that led him to cancel the permission for Poroshenko’s trip.

Ukraine‘s ex-President Petro Poroshenko said he had been banned from leaving the country (Petro Poroshenko Press Office)
Ukraine‘s ex-President Petro Poroshenko said he had been banned from leaving the country (Petro Poroshenko Press Office)

Russia's Lavrov insists goals in Ukraine are unchanged as he faces criticism at security talks

Friday 1 December 2023 13:45 , Tom Watling

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday his government was not prepared to “review its goals” in Ukraine — delivering a blunt and confrontational message to Western leaders on a rare trip to a NATO member state.

“We aren’t seeing any signals from Kyiv or its masters about their readiness to seek any kind of political settlement,” Lavrov told reporters while attending a security conference in North Macedonia.

“We see no reason to review our goals,” he said.

Russia's Lavrov insists goals in Ukraine are unchanged as he faces criticism at security talks,

Ukraine shoots down 18 Russian drones overnight - claim

Friday 1 December 2023 13:15 , Tom Watling

Ukraine shot down 18 out of 25 Russian kamikaze drones fired at southern regions of the country overnight, the Ukrainian air force has claimed.

They alleged that Russia fired Iranian-made Shahed drones and two Kh-59 Cruise Missiles, one of which was downed.

They claimed that there were no serious casualties but that there were hits on a warehouse in Mykolaiv.

Investigators find train in Russian tunnel was blown up in 'terrorist act' - newspaper

Friday 1 December 2023 12:45 , Tom Watling

Investigators have concluded that a train that caught fire in Russia’s longest tunnel on Wednesday was blown up in a “terrorist act” by unidentified individuals, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Friday.

A Ukrainian source told Reuters on Thursday that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) had detonated explosives in the rail tunnel in Siberia because Russia had been using the route for military supplies.

Kommersant cited unnamed sources as saying a criminal probe had been opened over the incident, which affected a cargo train moving through the Severomuysky tunnel in the Buryatia region, bordering Mongolia.

At 9.5 miles (15.3 km) long, the tunnel on the Baikal-Amur Mainline railway is Russia’s longest, excluding urban underground railway tunnels.

Preliminary findings suggested that explosives had been placed beneath the train, Kommersant cited a source as saying. There were no casualties.

The AP Interview: Ukraine’s Zelensky says the war with Russia is in a new phase as winter looms

Friday 1 December 2023 12:02 , Tom Watling

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the war with Russia is in a new stage, with winter expected to complicate fighting after a summer counteroffensive that failed to produce desired results due to enduring shortages of weapons and ground forces.

The AP Interview: Ukraine's Zelenskyy says the war with Russia is in a new phase as winter looms

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says he has been handed new criminal charges

Friday 1 December 2023 11:00 , Tom Watling

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on social media on Friday that he had been informed of new criminal charges against him.

Navalny, 47, is already serving sentences in a penal colony totalling more than 30 years on charges including extremism, which he denies, and has spent much of the last two years in solitary confinement for a range of alleged misdemeanours.

In comments issued through his associates, he said he had now been charged under Article 214 of the penal code, which covers vandalism.

“I have no idea what article 214 is, and there’s nowhere to look. You’ll know before I do,” he said on his Telegram channel.

“They really do initiate a new criminal case against me every three months. Rarely does an inmate confined to a solitary cell for over a year have such a vibrant social and political existence.”

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said new charges had been opened against him (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said new charges had been opened against him (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Lavrov: we see no readiness for political solution from Ukraine

Friday 1 December 2023 10:40 , Tom Watling

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow saw no signs that Kyiv was ready to move towards a political resolution and that there was no reason for Russia to change the goals of its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Lavrov was speaking at a news conference in Skopje, North Macedonia.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, front, attends the plenary session of the OSCE in North Macedonia (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, front, attends the plenary session of the OSCE in North Macedonia (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Russia advancing on all fronts in Ukraine, claims Kremlin defence minister

Friday 1 December 2023 10:04 , Tom Watling

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday that the Russian military was advancing in all directions in Ukraine, the state news agency RIA reported.

Shoigu also said that Russia would hold naval drills, called Ocean-2024, next year.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu chairs a roundtable meeting with military officials in Moscow (Russian Defence Ministry/AFP via)
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu chairs a roundtable meeting with military officials in Moscow (Russian Defence Ministry/AFP via)

Putin urges Russian women to have ‘eight or more’ children amid soaring deaths in his Ukraine war

Friday 1 December 2023 09:33 , Tom Watling

Vladimir Putin has urged Russian women to have eight or more children and make large families “the norm” amid soaring numbers of casualties in his war against Ukraine.

Russia’s birth rate has been steadily falling since the 90’s and the country has suffered more than 300,000 casualties since the start of the Ukraine conflict, according to data maintained by Kyiv.

In a speech via video link at the World Russian People’s Council in Moscow on Tuesday, Mr Putin said boosting the Russian population will be “our goal for the coming decades”.

Putin asks Russian women to have ‘eight or more’ children amid deaths in his war

Hungary’s Orban says EU should first sign strategic partnership accord with Ukraine

Friday 1 December 2023 08:45 , Matt Mathers

The European Union should first sign a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine instead of starting membership talks with the country, Hungary’s Viktor Orban said on Friday.

The 27 national EU leaders are due to decide in mid-December on whether to accept the European Commission’s recommendation to invite Kyiv to begin membership talks as soon as it meets final conditions, even as it fights to repel Russia’s invasion.

Any such decision requires unanimity of the bloc’s 27 members, with Hungary seen as the main potential obstacle. The Hungarian prime minister has repeatedly said Hungary would not support the Commission’s proposal in its present form.

Orban reiterated on Friday that several issues would need to be cleared before membership talks could start with Ukraine, saying the country, making it impossible to assess what consequences Ukraine’s membership would have on the bloc.

"If we don’t know (what consequences it would have) then we should not start talks... So I will represent the view that the EU should first sign a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine," Orban said in an interview on state radio.

"This (agreement) could last for up to 5-10 years, let’s bring them closer, as the gap is too wide now," he said. "Let’s give time for us to work together, and when we see that we can work together, then let’s bring up the issue of membership."

File photo: Viktor Orban (MTVA - Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund)
File photo: Viktor Orban (MTVA - Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund)

Ukraine says it is repelling Russian attacks across six fronts as Zelensky orders more fortifications

Friday 1 December 2023 07:45 , Matt Mathers

Missile attacks and ground clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces surged on Thursday, according to the Ukrainian military, as Russian troops launched offensives but failed to move forward on as many as six fronts.

A total of 73 combat skirmishes took place across the war’s frontline in the past 24 hours, an update from Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces on Thursday read, a day after Russia launched more than 100 attacks to recapture its lost positions in eastern Ukraine’s Robotyne.

Arpan Rai reports:

Ukraine repelling Russian attacks across six fronts as Zelensky seeks fortifications

US senators to be briefed on Ukraine aid on Tuesday

Friday 1 December 2023 07:25 , Maira Butt

A classified briefing for all U.S. senators on Ukraine, Israel and elements of the national security supplemental funding package requested by President Joe Biden will be conducted on Tuesday 5 December, Senate aides said on Thursday.

The briefers will include Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General CQ Brown and US Agency for International Development Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman.

Biden asked Congress last month to approve $106 billion in national security funding, including aid for Ukraine as it battles a Russian invasion, support for Israel after the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants and money for additional security at the US border with Mexico.

But the funding has not been approved, raising concerns that funds for Ukraine in particular might never pass, particularly after the Republican-led House passed a bill including assistance for Israel, but not Ukraine.

In pictures: the latest in Ukraine

Friday 1 December 2023 06:25 , Maira Butt

Ukrainian crew members sit in a German Gepard anti-aircraft-gun tank that is used to target Russian launched drones, during the vehicle's demonstration to the media, in the outskirts of Kyiv, on November 30, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian crew members sit in a German Gepard anti-aircraft-gun tank that is used to target Russian launched drones, during the vehicle's demonstration to the media, in the outskirts of Kyiv, on November 30, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the drone hunting team gathered to receive a military award for their actions in shooting down drones on November 25, when Ukraine said they had downed 74 out of 75 drones that Russia launched at it, in what it said was the biggest such attack since the start of the invasion. The Ukrainian army said that day Russia had launched a “record number” of Iranian-made Shahed drones, the majority of which targeted Kyiv. (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen of a drone hunting team gather next to German Gepard anti-aircraft-gun tank  that is used to target Russian launched drones, in the outskirts of Kyiv, on November 30, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen of a drone hunting team gather next to German Gepard anti-aircraft-gun tank that is used to target Russian launched drones, in the outskirts of Kyiv, on November 30, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP via Getty Images)

Ukrainian families buried in rubble amid Russian strikes

Friday 1 December 2023 05:25 , Maira Butt

Hanna Arhirova reports:

Russian missiles tore through apartment buildings in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, local officials said Thursday, killing at least one person and burying families under rubble as the Kremlin’s forces continued to pound the fiercely contested area with long-range weapons.

Russian military units simultaneously launched six S-300 missiles during the night, according to Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Ihor Klymenko.

The missiles struck three Donetsk cities — Pokrovsk, Novohrodivka and Myrnohrad, he said. The cities lie 25-40 kilometers (15-25 miles) from the front line.

Emergency workers pulled the body of a 62-year-old man from the wreckage of a destroyed multi-story building in Novohrodivka. Four more people may be under the rubble, including a child, authorities said.

Read the full piece here.

In case you missed it: Putin urges Russian women to have ‘eight or more’ children amid soaring deaths in his Ukraine war

Friday 1 December 2023 04:36 , Maira Butt

Shweta Sharma reports:

Vladimir Putin has urged Russian women to have eight or more children and make large families “the norm” amid soaring numbers of casualties in his war against Ukraine.

Russia’s birth rate has been steadily falling since the 90’s and the country has suffered more than 300,000 casualties since the start of the Ukraine conflict, according to data maintained by Kyiv.

In a speech via video link at the World Russian People’s Council in Moscow on Tuesday, Mr Putin said boosting the Russian population will be “our goal for the coming decades”.

“Many of our peoples maintain the tradition of the family, where four, five or more children are raised,” said Mr Putin. “Recall that in Russian families our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had both 7 and 8 children. Let us preserve and revive these traditions. Having many children, a large family, should become a norm, a way of life for all the peoples of Russia.”

The conference is led by the head of Russia’s Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, and was attended by representatives of other traditional religious organisations of Russia. Its theme was “The Present and Future of the Russian World”.

Read the full piece here.

Latest figures on Ukrainian prisoners

Friday 1 December 2023 03:35 , Maira Butt

In November, the Ukrainian government said it had registered 3,574 Ukrainian military and 763 civilians taken into Russian or Moscow-backed separatists’ captivity since 2014.

The figure included those who have already returned to Ukraine, it said. However, it said the numbers did not show all the current prisoners.

Ukraine has already brought back 2,598 people from Russian captivity during 48 swaps, the Strategic Communications Department of the Armed Forces said on Tuesday.

Reuters could not independently verify the figures.

Ukraine says Russia to blame for months of no prisoner swaps

Friday 1 December 2023 02:30 , Maira Butt

Ukraine‘s human rights commissioner accused Russia on Thursday of refusing to agree new exchanges of prisoners of war after a stretch of three months in which no swaps have been reported.

Kyiv and Moscow have held many prisoner swaps since the early months of Russia’s invasion in February 2022. But their intensity dropped in 2023 and the last one took place in early August.

“Exchanges don’t happen because Russia doesn’t want them to,” said Dmytro Lubinets, the human rights ombudsman who has regularly had a role in prisoner exchanges in the past.

“All the initiatives, desires and actions of Ukraine regarding the return of our defenders from captivity are met by a Russian unwillingness to return its citizens,” he said on Telegram messenger.

He added that Russian prisoners held in Ukraine had expressed a wish to be exchanged.

“No one from the Russian side wants to take them back,” he said.

The Russian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In case you missed it: Ex-Marine Paul Whelan attacked in Russia jail, brother says

Friday 1 December 2023 01:28 , Maira Butt

Michelle del Rey reports:

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine currently being detained in Russia on a 16-year sentence for espionage, was reportedly attacked in a penal colony by another inmate on Tuesday afternoon.

The incident happened while Mr Whelan was working at a sewing table at around 1.30pm, his brother, David Whelan, said in an emailed statement provided to The Independent.

Paul Whelan had asked a new prisoner to move because he was blocking part of the production line he was working on. After several requests, the prisoner did not budge but instead allegedly hit Mr Whelan in the face, breaking his glasses.

The prisoner reportedly then tried to strike the American a second time, but he blocked the attempt.

Other prisoners intervened to stop the attack from continuing, the statement said. Paul Whelan later reported the attack to prison camp’s deputy warden. It is now being investigated by the prosecutor’s office.

Read the full piece here.

Zelensky address to Ukraine: ‘We will reclaim its territory and its people. We will not leave anyone to the occupiers'

Friday 1 December 2023 00:30 , Maira Butt

The Ukraininan military intelligence service (HUR) orchestrated a hacking of broadcast channels in Crimea to deliver an ardent message by President Zelensky to the people of Ukraine, according to the Kyiv Independent.

“All of you feel that the Russian presence on our land is not permanent. I know this. Ukraine will reclaim its territory and its people. We will not leave anyone to the occupiers.

“Ukraine will soon have fire control capabilities over Russian-occupied Crimea,” Zelensky said.