Russia orders withdrawal from occupied Kherson; Putin won’t attend G20 summit

Russia orders withdrawal from occupied Kherson; Putin won’t attend G20 summit
Ukrainian policemen inspect a damaged building after shelling in the city of Kramatorsk, Donetsk area, Ukraine, on 8 November 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Yeven Honcharenko)

Russian troops were ordered to withdraw from Kherson, the southern Ukrainian city that was the first major urban centre seized in its invasion, after Kyiv’s troops pressed forward with a counteroffensive in the region.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking in a televised briefing Wednesday, ordered the commander of Moscow’s forces to pull out of the Ukrainian city of Kherson and regroup on the other side of the Dnipro river.

President Vladimir Putin won’t attend the Group of 20 summit next week, people familiar with the planning said, as the Kremlin seeks to protect the president from potential high-level tensions over his invasion of Ukraine.

Key developments

On the ground

Russian troops blew up bridges on the right bank of the Dnipro river in the occupied Kherson region and strengthened fortifications near the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, Serhii Khlan, deputy of the Kherson regional council, said at a briefing. The city of Kherson has been without power and communication for four days, he said.

Russian forces launched major attacks overnight in the Dnipropetrovsk region with drones, five of which were shot down, local authorities said on Telegram, adding that four people were injured in the city of Dnipro.

Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near 14 settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions over the past day, Ukraine’s General Staff said in its morning update, with Bakhmut and Avdiyivka suffering the most sustained assault.

Putin to skip G20 Indonesia summit, facing cold shoulder

Ending months of suspense, the Russian leader’s decision avoids potential confrontations with other world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, who has labelled Putin a “war criminal”. The Kremlin also risked Putin being shunned by European leaders at the 15-16 November summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Russia will send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Putin’s place, one of the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that aren’t yet public. Spokespeople from the Foreign Ministry and Kremlin didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.



EU delivers €18bn funding package for Ukraine 

The European Union unveiled its €18-billion package to help cover Ukraine’s financial needs next year as part of a fixed system after promised disbursements were delayed for months. The package will include highly concessional loans with borrowing costs covered by the bloc, which could amount to €630-million annually, according to the European Commission’s estimate.

EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn said he was confident lingering reluctance among some member states could be overcome, with initial payments slated for January. Hungary said it won’t support changes in EU budget rules to borrow the funds on the markets.

Bulgaria steps up nuclear fuel search in pivot from Russia 

Bulgarian lawmakers urged the government to speed up the hunt for alternative suppliers for its nuclear fuel, as the Balkan country boosts efforts to diversify energy supplies away from Russia.

Bulgaria, which has close cultural and economic ties with Russia, was almost entirely dependent on the country’s natural gas and reactor fuel until the start of the war in Ukraine. Moscow cut gas flows after Bulgaria refused to pay for supplies in roubles, but the country still gets about a third of its electricity output from the Soviet-style Kozloduy nuclear plant that uses uranium provided by Russia’s TVEL Fuel Company.

Putin’s war call-up is blunting inflation for now, but risks lurk

Russian inflation is on track to reach the lowest since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, though risks are on the rise after the Kremlin’s call-up of reservists to fight in the war.

The mobilisation, alongside an even bigger flight of men abroad, is unsettling already weak consumer demand by prompting households to put off spending. Data on Wednesday showed annual inflation slowed below 13% in October, decelerating for a sixth month from a peak of almost 18% in April.

Russia tries dialling down nuclear tensions

The Russian note circulated among International Atomic Energy Agency diplomats in Vienna was the second Kremlin attempt this month to clarify its atomic doctrine. Fears rose in reason months that Russia could resort to the use of tactical nuclear warheads amid conventional military setbacks in Ukraine.

While Russia’s nuclear strategy allows it to “hypothetically resort to nuclear weapons”, an attack would be launched only in response to first use by another country or if the “very existence of the state is in jeopardy”, according to the document. “The most immediate task is to avoid any military clash of nuclear powers.”

Ukrainian power producer needs ‘billions’ of dollars to fix grid

Ukraine’s biggest private power producer, DTEK, said it’s running out of equipment to fix power stations damaged by Russian missile attacks.

“We need millions of dollars worth of equipment for immediate fixes and billions for the long-term, deep repairs of the grid,” Chief Executive Officer Maxim Timchenko said in an interview at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt. “We appeal to countries and companies to help us.” DTEK has had to halt power exports to the rest of Europe to focus on maintaining domestic supplies, he said.

Nato summit set for Vilnius in July 

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the next meeting of the alliance’s heads of state and government will be held on 11-12 July in Vilnius, close to Lithuania’s border with Russia’s ally Belarus.

The summit “will be an opportunity for allied heads of state and government to agree further steps to strengthen our deterrence and defence and review significant increases in defence spending, as well as to continue our support for Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.




Grid operator plans emergency power cuts 

Ukraine’s grid operator Ukrenergo planned electricity cutoffs lasting for several hours across the country on Wednesday, the company said on Telegram.

The widest restrictions in power supply were planned in the capital, Kyiv, and its surrounding region, as well as in Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Kharkiv, Poltava, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovohrad. Emergency blackouts were not expected yet, according to Ukrenergo.

Russian mogul’s superyacht due in Cape Town 

Russian tycoon Alexey Mordashov’s $500-million superyacht Nord is due to arrive in Cape Town after sailing more than 7,000 nautical miles from Hong Kong, seeking safe harbour from sanctions that have led to the seizure of more than a dozen vessels.

The Nord has challenged the effectiveness of Western attempts to clamp down on Russian billionaires. Mordashov, the country’s third-wealthiest citizen and the biggest shareholder in steelmaker Severstal, was sanctioned by the European Union, the UK and US following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Hong Kong and South Africa both said they wouldn’t enforce those sanctions.

US basketball star Griner heading to Russian penal colony

Women’s National Basketball Association star Brittney Griner, whose appeal against a nine-year sentence was rejected by a Moscow court last month, is being moved to a penal colony, her lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement. Under Russian regulations, her location will only be disclosed once she arrives at the prison and notification takes up to two weeks to be received, they said.

Read more: WNBA’s Griner gets nine-year Russia jail term in drug case

The US has continued to follow up with Russia through all available channels on alternative potential ways to secure Griner’s release, despite Moscow’s “lack of good-faith negotiation” on an earlier offer from Washington to try to resolve the situation, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. President Biden has directed officials to prevail on Russia to improve conditions Griner may face in the penal colony, she said. DM


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