As it happened

Russia and Ukraine each free 50 POWs in latest prisoner swap

Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) pose after a swap in the Zaporizhzhia region on November 24, 2022
Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) pose after a swap in the Zaporizhzhia region on November 24, 2022 © Press service of Ukraine's military intelligence via Reuters

Moscow and Kyiv carried out the latest in a series of prisoner of war exchanges on Thursday, with both sides handing over 50 POWs. It took place as Ukrainian energy workers raced to restore power after Russian missile strikes destroyed energy infrastructure across the country, leaving millions without power. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has accused Moscow of “weaponising winter” and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for urgent UN action against the Russian “formula of terror”. Read our blog to see how the day's events unfolded.  All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

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01:06pm: UK foreign minister to pledge further winter support on Ukraine visit

British foreign minister James Cleverly will pledge millions of pounds in further support for Kyiv during a visit to Ukraine to ensure the country has the practical help it needs through the winter, his office said.

Cleverly, who is set to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on the trip, also condemned Russia for its "brutal attacks" on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure. 

"The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine," said Cleverly, as he set out 3 million pounds to help rebuild vital infrastructure and committed another 5 million for a Ukraine-led initiative to ship grain to countries at risk of famine.

11:55pm: Poland asks Germany to send air defense system to Ukraine

Poland’s government says an anti-missile system which Germany offered to send to Poland should instead go to Ukraine, a proposal that is a likely non-starter for Berlin because it would significantly ratchet up NATO involvement in Ukraine.

Poland's surprising response to Berlin's offer was welcomed by Ukraine, which is desperate to protect its airspace as barrage upon barrage of Russian missiles have knocked out power across the country.

But Germany's Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht stressed that use of NATO defense systems outside its territory needs to be agreed by all member states.

7:45pm: Ukrainians face 'worst winter of their lives'

Ukrainians face what some are calling the " worst winter of their lives" following Wednesday's series of Russian strikes against critical infrastructure, which left millions without electricity or water as temperatures plummet.

FRANCE 24's Luke Shrago reports from the southern port city of Odesa.

 

6:55pm: More than 15,000 people missing since start of war

More than 15,000 people have gone missing during the war in Ukraine, an official at the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has said.

The Hague-based organisation, created in the wake of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, opened an office in Kyiv in July to help Ukraine to document and track down missing people.

The ICMP's programme director for Europe, Matthew Holliday, said it was unclear how many people had been forcibly transferred, were being held in detention in Russia, were alive and separated from their family members, or had died and had been buried in makeshift graves.

"The numbers are huge and the challenges that Ukraine faces are vast. Besides which they're fighting an ongoing war as well against the Russian Federation," Holliday said.

5:25pm: Russia and Ukraine swap 50 prisoners of war each

Russia and Ukraine have carried out the latest in a series of prisoner of war exchanges, with both sides handing over 50 people, officials in Kyiv and Moscow say.

Russia's defence ministry said Ukraine had released 50 Russian soldiers who had been captured.

Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, said on Telegram that Ukraine received 48 soldiers and two officers, among them marines, infantrymen, border guards and members of the territorial defence,

"We have managed to bring back 19 defenders of Mariupol ... as well as 15 prisoners (of war) from the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and seven from Zmiiny Island," Yermak said.

4:50pm: Zelensky calls into question Russia's OSCE membership

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called into question Russia's continued membership of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) given Moscow's invasion of his country.

He made his comments in a video address to the regional security body's Parliamentary Assembly, currently gathered in the Polish capital Warsaw, nine months into the war in Ukraine.

Zelensky spoke a day after the European Parliament recognised Russia as a "state sponsor of terrorism" and its MEPs urged the governments of the 27-nation EU to follow suit.

"We see various international platforms finding the necessary solutions to help stop Russian terror, isolate the terrorist state as much as possible, and find a way out of the brutal global crises created by Russia," Zelensky said.

"But why is there still no OSCE among these platforms?" he asked.

"Why, in particular, is a terrorist state -- even after nine months of its continuous crimes -- still a member of your Parliamentary Assembly?"

3:15pm: Germany's Merkel 'no longer had the strength' for pre-invasion Ukraine talks  

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had aimed to convene European talks with Vladimir Putin the year before his invasion of Ukraine but in the end did not see any possibility of influencing the Russian president at the end of her term.

Merkel told the Spiegel news magazine in an interview published on Thursday that she and French President Emmanuel Macron had planned to hold an independent talk format with Putin within the European Council in 2021, her last summer in office.

"But I no longer had the strength to push through because, after all, everyone knew: she's leaving in autumn," she said.

Merkel, who retired from politics after 16 years in power following Germany's September 2021 election, officially handed over the reins to Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats in December that year. U.S President Joe Biden met the Russian leader in June 2021.

Referring to her farewell visit to Moscow in August 2021, Merkel, who speaks fluent Russian, told Spiegel: "The feeling was very clear: 'In terms of power politics, you're through.' For Putin, only power counts

1:42pm: Ukrainian teams working ‘around the clock’ to restore power

Reporting from the southern Ukrainian port city of Odesa, FRANCE 24’s Luke Shrago says engineering teams across Ukraine are working around the clock to restore basic services a day after Russian strikes decimated energy infrastructure in western Ukraine.

 

1:24pm: Russia blames 'foreign and Ukrainian' air defence for Kyiv damage

Responding to widespread international condemnations of Wednesday's Russian strikes on Kyiv, Moscow has denied targeting the Ukrainian capital. A Russian defence ministry statement said "foreign and Ukrainian" air defence systems damaged critical energy infrastructure in Kyiv.

"Not a single strike was made on targets within the city of Kyiv," said the defence ministry statement.  

Any damage was "the result of the fall of missiles from foreign and Ukrainian air defense systems located in residential areas of the Ukrainian capital," the statement added.

The ministry did however acknowledge "massive strikes... on the military command of Ukraine and energy facilities linked to it."

12:43pm: Russia and Ukraine to free 50 prisoners of war each, Moscow-backed leader says

Russia and Ukraine will each hand over 50 prisoners of war to the other on Thursday, the Moscow-backed administrator of Ukraine's Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, said on the Telegram messaging service

11:42am: Russian attacks create real danger of 'catastrophe', says Ukraine's nuclear energy boss

Russia caused a "real danger of a nuclear and radioactive catastrophe" by launching attacks in which all Ukraine's nuclear reactors were disconnected from the power grid for the first time in 40 years, Ukraine's nuclear energy chief said.

Petro Kotin, head of nuclear power company Energoatom, said in a statement Thursday that the vast nuclear power plant in the Zaporizhzhia region had been reconnected to the national power grid after Russian air strikes on Wednesday, and that the backup diesel generators at the site had been turned off.

11:04am: Offered German air defence system, Poland says it should be for Ukraine 

Polish leaders say that an air-defense system which Germany offered Poland would be best given to Ukraine to help it protect itself against Russian strikes. 

Germany said earlier this week that it offered Warsaw Eurofighter planes and Patriot defense systems to help defend Poland’s airspace after two men were killed when an apparently stray Ukrainian defense projectile fell in Poland near the border with Ukraine.

Poland’s Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak initially said he received Germany's offer with “satisfaction.” 

But following Russia's heavy barrage of Ukraine on Wednesday, Polish leaders said it would be better if the defense systems were placed in western Ukraine.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Warsaw, Vasyl Zvarych, thanked Blaszczak, saying on Twitter that Ukraine needs as many air defense weapons as it can get.

Poland's apparent decision not to accept the German Patriot system met with some criticism from the opposition in Poland. Marcin Kierwinski of the opposition Civic Platform party said Kaczynski “has gone mad” for “rejecting” the Patriot missiles and EU funding “during war and crisis.”

10:54am: Gas price cap divides EU energy ministers' meeting

EU energy ministers met Thursday to debate measures to mitigate the energy crunch in Europe but were divided over a gas price cap proposal slammed by many as a "joke".

They were to discuss a proposal by the European Commission, unveiled just two days earlier, that would set a cap on gas prices at 275 euros per megawatt hour.

Yet at least 15 EU countries -- more than half the bloc -- want some form of workable ceiling on wholesale gas prices to tackle a crunch in supply forced by Russia's war in Ukraine.

While the European Union hasn't banned Russian gas, the Kremlin has been turning off the taps in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Brussels in the wake of Moscow's invasion. 

10:40am: Moscow says it has issued over 80,000 Russian passports in 'annexed' Ukraine

Moscow said on Thursday it had issued more than 80,000 Russian passports to residents of four Ukrainian territories since President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed the regions last month.

"Since the addition ... of the four regions into the Russian Federation, and in accordance with the legislation, more than 80,000 people received passports as citizens of the Russian Federation," Valentina Kazakova, a migration official with the interior ministry, said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies. 

In September, Russia held so-called referendums in four regions of Ukraine - Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson - and said residents had voted in favour of becoming subjects of Russia.

10:37am: EU preparing 9th Russia sanctions package, EU chief von der Leyen says

The European Union is pressing ahead with a ninth sanctions package on Russia in response to Moscow's attack on Ukraine, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to Finland on Thursday.

10:12am: Ukraine nuclear plants reconnected to grid after strikes, says energy ministry

All three nuclear power plants still under Ukrainian control have been reconnected to the electricity grid, Ukraine's energy ministry said Thursday, after Russian strikes a day earlier forced them to automatically disconnect.

"After yesterday's massive shelling, energy workers were able to unify the power system and reconnect three nuclear power plants to the power grid by morning," the ministry said on social media, adding that they should start supplying electricity by "this evening".

10:02am: Russia says no contacts planned with United States

Russia is not planning contact with the United States and did not initiate contact with Washington at the G20 summit in Indonesia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday.

He added that contacts with Washington happen over the phone but that they take place through diplomatic channels and not at a presidential level.

9:50am: Contacts with IAEA over Zaporizhzhia plant are 'constructive': Russia

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said contacts with the UN nuclear watchdog over safety at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were "constructive" and showed some promise.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russia seized shortly after its February 24 invasion, was again rocked by shelling last weekend, prompting renewed calls from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to create a protection zone around it to prevent a nuclear disaster.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog met a Russian delegation in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss safety at the plant, with both Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of shelling.

9:42am: Most Kyiv residents without power, heating, water supply

More than two thirds of the Ukrainian capital is still without power Thursday morning with residents struggling without electricity, heating and running water, a day after Russian missile strikes caused Kyiv's biggest outages in nine months of war.

The temperature plunged below zero degrees Celsius overnight in a city that had 2.8 million residents before the war and where it has already snowed, leaving the streets icy.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said electricians and repair workers were doing everything to get the power back on "as fast as possible" but the recovery would depend largely on the overall energy "balance" of the nationwide grid.

Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said three nuclear power stations that were switched off because of the attacks on Wednesday were expected to be back on line later on Thursday, and this would help ease supply problems.

12:47am: Zelensky appeals to UN Security Council over Russian strikes on infrastructure

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to the United Nations Security Council late Wednesday to take action to stop Russian air strikes targeting vital infrastructure that have once again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.

Russia unleashed a missile barrage across Ukraine earlier in the day, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and killing civilians in Kyiv. 

"Today is just one day but we have received 70 missiles. That's the Russian formula of terror," Zelensky said via video link to the council chamber in New York, adding that hospitals, schools, transport infrastructure and residential areas had been hit.

Ukraine is waiting to see "a very firm reaction" to Wednesday's air strikes from the world, he added.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Putin was "clearly weaponising winter to inflict immense suffering on the Ukrainian people."

The Russian president "will try to freeze the country into submission," she added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

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