08/12/2022

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

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Defense group plans continued support for Ukrainian forces

A Ukrainian serviceman reacts while holding a weapon in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 25, 2022.

Maksim Levin | Reuters

The National Armaments Directors from the Ukraine Defense Contact Group met for the second time in Brussels to discuss “accelerated sourcing, production, procurement, and sustainment of capabilities” for Ukrainian defense against Russia, according to a statement from Pentagon spokesperson Tim Gorman.

The group built on four key areas to counter Russian aggression: ground-based, long-range fires; air defense systems; air-to-ground capabilities; and sustainment support.

“The discussion set the stage for member countries to collaborate on increasing production and identifying opportunities to create interoperability between systems,” Gorman said. “In addition, the NADs discussed building sustainment capacity in Ukraine, including forward repair activity, access to spares, and other sustainment enablers.”

Directors and representatives from 45 nations, the European Union, and NATO were present at the meeting. Joint coordination among the directors at the multi-national level has helped support production and procurement of defense systems, and has allowed for production to be shared across states, according to Gorman. The group is set to reconvene in early 2023 to share its progress on the initiatives.

— Rocio Fabbro

Fighting continues in Donetsk, with about 100 Russian attacks repelled in 24 hours, Zelenskyy says

“Russia is preparing (to attack) the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plan,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

Fighting continued in Donetsk as Ukraine pushed back against Russian forces in the eastern region of the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

“The fierce fighting in Donetsk continues to this day, there has been no easing of the fighting or respite,” he said. “Only yesterday about a hundred Russian attacks were repelled in the Donetsk region. All our soldiers who are holding positions in Donbas are real heroes.”

Meanwhile, hourly emergency electricity shutdowns will persist across 17 regions, he said. Two of the largest cities, Odesa and the capital Kyiv, are most affected by the shutdowns, according to Zelenskyy. Ukraine has been using outages to try and stabilize the electricity system, which has been battered by Russian missile strikes in recent weeks.

“All day today the energy technicians worked to restore the normal technical possibility of electricity supply,” Zelenskyy said. “Thanks to this, today there are significantly fewer emergency shutdowns.”

Earlier Friday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said almost half of Ukraine’s energy system was disabled by the attacks.

— Rocio Fabbro

White House Press Secretary says U.S. continues to work for release of Brittany Griner

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, September 23, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration is “working tirelessly” for the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner who is jailed in Russia, but Moscow hasn’t negotiated in good faith.

“We are in frequent contact with Britney Griner’s team and we are aware they were able to visit her this week,” Jean-Pierre said told reporters at the White House daily press briefing. Griner was moved to a Russian penal colony last week.

U.S. officials consider Griner to be unlawfully detained. National security adviser Jake Sullivan has characterized the court proceedings as a sham.

“The Russian government’s actions have contradicted what they said publicly,” Jean-Pierre said Friday. “We’re not going to comment on specifics of any proposals other than to say we’ve made a substantial offer.”

Emma Kinery

Unjust detention and disappearances in Kherson detailed in new report

A war crimes prosecutor examines the damage in a destroyed building, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, following shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, in this handout picture released on July 31, 2022.

Press Service of the Mykolaiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office | Via Reuters

A new report details unjust detentions and disappearances of Ukrainians across the Kherson region while it was occupied by Russia.

Researchers with the Conflict Observatory, in partnership with Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab, found 226 cases of detention and disappearances in Kherson. The report notes that the actual number is likely higher. A quarter of the people surveyed also said Russian forces tortured them.

“Russia must halt these operations and withdraw its forces to end a needless war that it cannot and will not win – no matter how despicable and desperate its tactics,” the United States State Department said in a statement following the report.

The Observatory is a State Department-supported program that researches and documents war crimes and other atrocities committed by Russia during its invasion of Ukraine. Using publicly available data from 226 victims of alleged Russian war crimes, the Observatory seeks to bolster efforts to hold Russia accountable for its actions in Ukraine.

“There is only one country waging this unprovoked, premeditated war of choice with willful disregard for human life: Russia,” the State Department said. “The United States is committed to holding those responsible to account, no matter how long that takes. The people of Ukraine demand and deserve justice.”

— Rocio Fabbro

USAID pledged up to $20 million for “Grain from Ukraine” initiative

A view shows silos of grain from Odesa Black Sea port, before a shipment of grain as the government of Ukraine awaits signal from UN and Turkey to start grain shipments, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine July 29, 2022. 

Nacho Doce | Reuters

The United States Agency for International Development will provide up to $20 million for the “Grain from Ukraine” initiative, a new program to further combat global food insecurity announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the G20 Summit earlier this week.

USAID support for the initiative will go through the United Nations World Food Program, according to a statement from the agency. U.S. funding will facilitate additional grain shipments through the UN-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative, which has helped mitigate some of the effects of the war on grain and other food supplies, especially for nations facing the most severe food crises.

“The Kremlin’s brutal war against Ukraine halted shipments and for months, millions of tons of grain and essential food exports were stuck in the country, exacerbating an already catastrophic global food crisis and sending food prices soaring,” reads the statement. “Since the UN-brokered agreement began in August, the initiative has helped to stabilize spiraling food prices worldwide and provided desperately needed food to millions of people. “

The U.S. has spent $173 million to date on Ukrainian grain to feed people in countries experiencing severe food insecurity, according to the statement. Since the start of the war, the U.S has provided more than $11 billion to respond to the global food crisis, including nearly $8.6 billion in humanitarian assistance.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative was extended on Thursday for an additional four months, with the support of Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN.

— Rocio Fabbro

Turkey’s Erdogan thanks Putin for “constructive stance” on Black Sea Grain Initiative extension

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia August 5, 2022.

Turkish Presidential Press Office | Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan thanked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for Russia’s “constructive stance” on its 120-day extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, in a phone call between the two leaders, according to Turkey’s Directorate of Communications.

The Black Sea Grain deal was initially brokered with backing from Turkey and the United Nations in July. Turkey has also served as a mediator in disputes over the deal, supporting Ukrainian exports in late October when Russia suspended its participation in the deal. Turkey also actively encouraged Russia to support of the deal afterwards.

In the same phone call, Erdogan also lauded the conversation held between CIA Director William Burns and Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin earlier this week in Turkey.

“Stressing the need to revive diplomacy traffic since prolonging the war would only raise the risks, President Erdogan noted that the talks held between Russian and U.S. intelligence chiefs in Turkey were vital in preventing uncontrolled escalation on the ground,” Turkey’s Communications Directorate said in a tweet.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that Istanbul has become an “essential center for discreet diplomacy to solve dramatic problems” for Turkey’s role in the agreement and in mediating developments in the Russia-Ukraine war.

— Rocio Fabbro

Ukrainian experts are working at the site of missile strikes in Poland, Ukraine Foreign Affairs Minister says

Ukrainian experts are working at the site of the missile strikes that hit a Polish village on Tuesday, according to Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba.

“Ukrainian experts are already working at the site of the tragedy in Przewodów caused by Russian missile terror against Ukraine,” Kuleba said in a tweet.

Ukraine has clashed with allies in recent days over who launched the missile that killed two farmers in Przewodów in southeastern Poland, near the western Ukrainian border. Ukraine has said that the strike was caused by an errant Russian missile. Poland, the United States and NATO have all indicated that the unintentional strike was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defense system.

However, Ukrainian allies, NATO and the United Nations have maintained that the accident would not have occurred had Ukraine not needed to defend itself against Russian attacks.

— Rocio Fabbro

Ukraine says half energy system crippled by Russian strikes

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

Genya Savilov | AFP | Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Reuters

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

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

Sergey Guneev| Sputnik | Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

— Rocio Fabbro

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

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

Evgenia Novozhenina | AFP | Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

— Reuters

Russian soldiers accused of executing 7 civilians in their home

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

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

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

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

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

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

— Rocio Fabbro

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

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

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

— Natasha Turak

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

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

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

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

Read the full story here.

— Jenni Reid

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

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

Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

— Natasha Turak

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

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

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

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

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

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

— Natasha Turak

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

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

Danish Defence/ | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

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

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

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

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

— Natasha Turak

Diplomats make last push for Ukraine crisis at APEC meeting

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

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

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

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

— Lee Ying Shan, Sri Jegarajah

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

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

Tom Brenner | Reuters

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

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

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

— Amanda Macias

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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