Representatives from Russia and Ukraine met in the United Arab Emirates last week to discuss the possibility of a prisoner-of-war swap, according to a Reuters report.
Any swap would be linked to a resumption of Russian ammonia exports, which go to Asia and Africa, via a Ukrainian pipeline, three sources with knowledge of the meeting told the news agency.
The sources said the talks were being mediated by the Gulf Arab state and did not include the United Nations despite the UN’s central role in negotiating the ongoing initiative to export agricultural products from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Ammonia is used to make fertiliser.
However the talks aim to remove remaining obstacles in the initiative extended last week and ease global food shortages by unblocking Ukrainian and Russian exports, they added. The sources asked not to be named in order to freely discuss sensitive matters.
The Russian and Ukrainian representatives travelled to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on 17 November where they discussed allowing Russia to resume ammonia exports in exchange for a prisoner swap that would release a large number of Ukrainian and Russian prisoners, the sources said.
Reuters could not immediately establish what progress was made at the talks.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has said contacts with the UN nuclear watchdog over safety at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine were “constructive” and showed some promise.
The Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russia seized shortly after its 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, which both Ukraine and Moscow have accused each other of shelling, Reuters reported.
Hungary will provide €187m ($195m) in financial aid to Ukraine as its contribution to a planned EU support package worth up to €18bn in 2023, according to a government decree.
Prime minister Viktor Orbán’s government has said it was willing to pay its share of support for Ukraine but would rather pay it bilaterally than through the EU’s joint borrowing, Reuters reported.
“The government continues to be committed to take part in financial support to war-gripped Ukraine,” the government said in the decree.
“So it calls on the finance minister to make sure to provide the €187m that would be Hungary’s share in the €18bn EU loan to be granted to Ukraine.”
The decree, signed by Orbán, also says that the Hungarian foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, should start talks with Ukraine to work out an agreement needed for the financial assistance.
To secure the funds for the loans, which Ukraine will have to repay within 35 years, the European Commission would borrow on the capital markets.
However, proposals for the package will need to be approved by the European parliament and the EU’s 27 member states and Hungary said it would not take part in joint borrowing.
Ukraine expects three nuclear power plants that were switched off because of Russian missile strikes on Wednesday will be operating again by Thursday evening, energy minister German Galushchenko said.
“We expect that by evening the nuclear power plants will start working, providing energy to the network, and this will significantly reduce the [energy] deficit,” he said in comments broadcast on national television.
More than two-thirds of the Ukrainian capital was still without power on Thursday morning and a number of residents had no running water, a day after Russian missile strikes caused Kyiv’s biggest outages in nine months of war.
The capital was one of the main targets of the latest wave of attacks on energy facilities that cut power in many regions and made emergency blackouts necessary in others to conserve energy and enable repairs as winter sets in.
The temperature plunged below zero degrees Celsius overnight in a city that had 2.8 million residents before the war and where it is already snowing and the streets are icy, Reuters reported.
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.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s staff, said power supplies had been restored in the Kirovohrad and Vinnytsia regions.
In the south, the Mykolaiv region’s governor, Vitaliy Kim, appealed to Ukrainians to be as frugal as possible in their use of power.
“Consumption has been growing this morning [which is logical], there isn’t enough capacity in the system to switch it on for more consumers!!,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
“The energy system is united like we all are! If you’ve turned off a few unneeded lights, that’s really important!!!”
Ukrainian servicemen shoot towards Russian positions on the frontline near Kherson, southern Ukraine.
Ground battles continue to rage in eastern Ukraine, where Russia is pressing an offensive along a stretch of frontline west of the city of Donetsk, which has been held by its proxies since 2014, Reuters reports.
Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces tried again to make advances on their main targets in the Donetsk region – Bakhmut and Avdiivka. Russian forces shelled both areas and used incendiary devices to set Ukrainian positions ablaze with only limited success, the general staff said.
Among those fighting the Russians in Bakhmut are a unit of Chechen fighters, who hope a Ukrainian victory could spark political crisis in Russia and bring down the powerful pro-Moscow leader of Chechnya.
Further south, Russian forces were digging in on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, the general staff said, shelling areas on the west bank including the town of Kherson, which was recently reclaimed by Ukrainian forces.
Reuters was not able to immediately verify the battlefield accounts.
The resignation of Russia’s ambassador to Unesco will end the deadlock in a key group he chaired that is charged with preserving cultural sites around the world, a diplomatic source told AFP.
The World Heritage Committee, responsible for adding properties to Unesco’s list of world heritage sites, had been unable to function for months after the international backlash against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I have the honor to inform you of the end of my mission as permanent delegate of the Russian Federation to Unesco,” Russian ambassador Alexander Kuznetsov said on Tuesday in a letter to the members of the World Heritage Committee obtained by AFP.
The resignation will allow the committee to “quickly appoint a new president” and resume its activities, a UN diplomat told AFP. Russia’s position as chair of the committee had sparked an outcry among other members following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
The committee had been due to meet in June in the Russian city of Kazan, but 46 countries, including France and the UK, boycotted the event. The meeting was supposed to update the landscapes, monuments and cities included in the body’s list of heritage sites.
Unesco regulations dictate that replacements for a resigning committee chair are to be appointed by the country that follows in alphabetical order in English.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s military said Russian forces had fired about 70 cruise missiles at targets across the country and also deployed attack drones.
The strikes killed 10 people and disconnected three nuclear power stations from the grid, officials said.
The country’s energy ministry said supplies were cut to “the vast majority of electricity consumers”. All of Kyiv lost water, the capital’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said. The city’s administration said water and heating would return to residential buildings on Thursday morning.
Late Wednesday, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office said that Kyiv and over a dozen regions, including Lviv and Odesa in the south, had been reconnected to the power grid.
Klitschko said 21 out of 31 missiles targeting Kyiv were shot down before they reached their targets. One of the 10 that evaded the defences hit an apartment block in Vyshgorod, a northern suburb of the city, killing three people and wounding 15.
There was a kindergarten in the lower ground floor of the building, but it was evacuated after air raid sirens went off. The blast left a three-metre crater in front of the building, destroyed apartments around it, blew the tops off nearby trees and ruined a children’s playground.
Earlier in the day, a newborn baby was killed when a Russian rocket struck a hospital maternity ward in southern Ukraine. Ukraine’s state emergency service said a woman with her two-day-old baby and a doctor were in the facility in the town of Vilniansk, close to the city of Zaporizhzhia, when it was hit. The mother and the doctor were pulled alive from the rubble by rescue workers but the baby died, it said on the Telegram messaging app.
Lorenzo Tondo and Julian Borger report from Kyiv:
Fresh Russian strikes battered Ukraine’s already failing electricity grid, causing blackouts across the country and in neighbouring Moldova, in attacks Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the UN were “an obvious crime against humanity”.
Addressing an urgent meeting of the UN security council late on Wednesday, Zelenskiy said Ukraine would put forward a resolution condemning “any forms of energy terror”. Referring to Russia’s likely veto, he said: “It’s nonsense that the veto right is secured for the party that wages this war.
“We cannot be hostage to one international terrorist,” Zelenskiy said.
He also invited the UN to send experts to examine and evaluate Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.
“When we have the temperature below zero, and scores of millions of people without energy supplies, without heating, without water, this is an obvious crime against humanity,” Zelenskiy told the security council via video link:
Hello, my name is Helen Sullivan and you’re reading the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.
On Wednesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the United Nations Security Council to act against Russia over air strikes on civilian infrastructure that again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.
Russia unleashed a missile barrage across Ukraine on Wednesday, killing 10 people, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and cutting water and electricity supply in many places.
“Today is just one day, but we have received 70 missiles. That’s the Russian formula of terror. This is all against our energy infrastructure… Hospitals, schools, transport, residential districts all suffered,” Zelenskiy said via video link to the council chamber.
At least 10 people were killed in the strikes, Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said, including a two-day-old infant.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the United Nations security council to act against Russia over air strikes on civilian infrastructure that have again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in. Russia unleashed a missile barrage across Ukraine on Wednesday, killing 10 people, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and cutting water and electricity supply in many places.
Neighbouring Moldova said it was suffering massive blackouts caused by the missile barrage and its EU-friendly president, Maia Sandu, accused Russia of leaving her country “in the dark”.
European Union governments failed to reach a deal on Wednesday on the level at which to cap prices for Russian sea-borne oil under the G7 scheme and will resume talks, EU diplomats said. Earlier on Thursday, EU representatives met in Brussels. The move is part of sanctions intended to slash Moscow’s revenue from its oil exports so it has less money to finance the invasion of Ukraine.
UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the UN security council on Wednesday that an exchange of 35 Russian and 36 Ukrainian prisoners was a positive development amid the “dark news” of Russian strikes on Ukraine. DiCarlo encouraged the parties to continue prisoner releases and follow international humanitarian law in relation to prisoners of war, Reuters reports.
A Russian court on Wednesday extended by six months the detention of opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who risks being jailed for 10 years for denouncing president Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine. The 39-year-old Moscow city councillor is in the dock as part of an unprecedented crackdown on dissent in Russia, with most opposition activists either in jail or in exile. He faces up to 10 years behind bars, if convicted.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday it had faith in the “success” of its offensive in Ukraine. “The future and the success of the special operation are beyond doubt,” the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said on a visit to Armenia, using the official Moscow term to describe Russia’s assault, Agence France-Presse reports.
European cities were urged to send spare generators to Ukraine to help the country through the winter in the face of Russia’s attacks on electricity infrastructure. Ukraine’s power grid came under bombardment again as the European parliament president, Roberta Metsola, launched an appeal to get generators to Ukraine.