US warns of world nuclear proliferation; Ukraine says Russia plans ‘provocations’ in Belarus

US warns of world nuclear proliferation; Ukraine says Russia plans ‘provocations’ in Belarus
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (right) visit a display of damaged Russian military machinery in Kyiv on 19 November 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service)

Powerful blasts shook the area of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant over the past day, including more than a dozen on Sunday morning, the UN’s atomic agency said. Some buildings and systems have been damaged, but none critically so far.

Russian special services plan “provocations” on targets in Belarus, including the Ostrovets nuclear power plant near the Lithuanian border, Ukraine’s defence intelligence said. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin warned of a potential “dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation” spinning off from Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears the nine-month mark, a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky said holding talks with Moscow now would be “capitulation.” UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new air defence package for Ukraine after travelling to Kyiv on Saturday.

Key developments

On the ground

Russian forces fired missiles at civilian infrastructure in Kramatorsk and Sviatohirsk in the northern Donetsk region over the past day, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in an update. Four missile strikes, almost sixty multiple rocket launcher attacks and one aerial bombardment were made. Kyiv’s forces repelled Russian attacks in Bilohorivka in the Luhansk oblast and settlements including Spirne and Bakhmutin in the Donetsk region.

Moscow’s troops are bolstering defences and supply lines near Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine and Kherson, and continue shelling Ukrainian forces on the recaptured right bank of the Dnipro River. Russian units that withdrew from Kherson this month are being redeployed to Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

Ukraine calls for ban on Russian ‘propaganda’

Ukraine’s foreign minister called for a ban on “Russian state propaganda in the EU and elsewhere.”

In a tweet, Dmytro Kuleba said commentators on Russian state television were inciting “genocide” by admitting that a campaign to bomb critical Ukrainian infrastructure was meant “to inflict unbearable conditions on the life of civilians.”

Some 50% of Ukraine’s electricity systems have been damaged by a weeks-long campaign of Russian missile and drone strikes.

Macron speaks to IAEA’s Grossi after Zaporizhzhia blasts

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi on Sunday after blasts shook the area of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to a statement from the Elysee presidential palace.

Macron was to speak to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday, the statement said. The French leader has suggested Ukraine restart talks with Moscow.



Finland, Poland urge using Russian assets to help Ukraine

Finland and Poland will push for the assets of Russia that have been frozen by the European Union to be used to help rebuild Ukraine.

The two countries plan to raise the issue at the European Council meeting on 15-16 December 2022 and will push the European Commission to find a legal way to use the assets to help reconstruct Ukraine, Prime Ministers Sanna Marin and Mateusz Morawiecki told a joint news conference in Helsinki.

UN agency cites ‘powerful’ blasts at atomic plant; no critical damage

“Powerful explosions” shook the area of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the UN’s atomic agency said, adding that there had been no critical damage so far.

Ukrainian forces fired on the plant, Russian state media reported, citing an official from Russia’s nuclear power operator. There was no comment from Kyiv. Moscow and Kyiv have traded blame for months of sporadic shelling of the facility.

“Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Ukraine warns of Russian provocations in Belarus

Russia plans to stage “provocations” on key Belarusian infrastructure, including the Ostrovets nuclear power plant in the northwest, and blame Kyiv and Nato countries, Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency warned.

“The location of the alleged ‘incidents’ is the territory bordering EU countries and Ukraine — in particular, the Grodno and Brest regions,” the agency said on its website.

There was no comment from Russia. The Ostrovets plant is located about 60km from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

German agency warns of winter blackouts

Germany’s top civil protection authority warned of potential temporary regional power outages in winter, with risks increasing from January and February.

“The cause will not only be energy shortages, but also the targeted, temporary shutdown of the grids by the operators, with the aim of protecting the grids and not endangering the overall supply,” Ralph Tiesler, president of the Federal Office for Civil Protection, told Welt am Sonntag.

Europe’s largest economy is at the centre of the region’s energy crisis after Russia cut natural gas shipments in retaliation for sanctions over the war in Ukraine. The government has been reluctant to say whether power cuts might be necessary this winter.

Aide says negotiating with Russia would be ‘capitulation’

A top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky pushed back on attempts by allies to persuade Ukraine to negotiate with Moscow, saying such talks would be “capitulation.”

“When you have the initiative on the battlefield, it’s slightly bizarre to receive proposals like: ‘you will not be able to do everything by military means anyway,’ ” Mykhaylo Podolyak told AFP in an interview.

Podolyak laid out a wish list for new arms deliveries from Western allies, including 50 to 70 multiple rocket launcher systems, 200 tanks and 100 artillery systems.

Zelensky focused on Donetsk in military advisers’ meeting

Zelensky met top military and intelligence advisers on Saturday. The situation in Donetsk — where Russia is reportedly relocating troops who’ve been evacuated from the Kherson region as well as new conscripts — was in focus, according to a posting on the presidential website.

Other topics included the restoration of energy supplies in newly de-occupied territories, and the overall situation with Ukraine’s energy system after a month of Russian airstrikes on key facilities.

Russian retreat from Kherson more orderly, UK says

Withdrawal of Russian troops from west of Kherson was “conducted in relatively good order compared to previous major Russian retreats during the war,” the UK defence ministry said.

Vehicle losses by Kremlin forces could probably be counted in the tens rather than the hundreds, the ministry said in a Twitter thread.

The relative success “is likely partially due to a more effective, single operational command under General Sergei Surovikin,” who was appointed in early October to lead Russia’s efforts in Ukraine.

Putin ally favoured in Kazakh presidential vote

The Central Asian state of Kazakhstan holds a presidential election on Sunday, with the incumbent, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, expected to romp to victory without meaningful opposition.

An ally of President Vladimir Putin, who sent in troops to help crush protests earlier in the year, Tokayev nonetheless has been openly defiant of the Russian leader over the war in Ukraine.

Read more: Kazakh vote sets stage for Putin ally to move past riots, purges

 US defence chief warns of possible ‘nuclear spiral’

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin warned of a potential “dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation” as a by-product of Russia’s war in Ukraine, but said Nato wouldn’t be “dragged into Putin’s war of choice”.

“Russia’s invasion offers a preview of a possible world of tyranny and turmoil,” Austin said on Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada. “It’s an invitation to an increasingly insecure world haunted by the shadow of nuclear proliferation.”

The Russian president’s “fellow autocrats are watching. And they could well conclude that getting nuclear weapons would give them a hunting licence of their own,” Austin said.

Iran, Russia ‘in deal on drone production’

Vladimir Putin’s government reached an agreement with Tehran to start manufacturing Iranian-designed drones on Russian soil, the Washington Post reported, citing intelligence seen by US and Western officials.

The deal was inked during a meeting in Iran in early November and the countries are moving ahead rapidly to transfer designs and key components with an eye to starting production within three months, the newspaper reported.

Five more ships sail under Black Sea initiative

Five vessels left Ukrainian ports on Saturday, carrying a total of 244,143 tons of grains and other food products, the Black Sea Grain Initiative’s coordination centre said.

Among the cargoes was one carrying 62,843 tonnes of sunflower meal for China. Others carried wheat and corn to South Korea, rapeseed to Belgium and soybeans to Egypt.

Sunak meets Zelensky, offers air defence

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday made his first visit to Kyiv since taking office in October to affirm the UK’s continued support for Ukraine’s war efforts.

The UK will provide air defence equipment worth £50-million to help protect Ukrainians from a barrage of Russian strikes on critical infrastructure.

In a Facebook post, Ukraine’s president said the pair discussed “the most important issues both for our countries and for global security.”

Read more: Sunak visits Ukraine to offer major UK air defence package 



First Kyiv-Kherson train arrives

The first train from Kyiv to Kherson since Russia’s invasion in February arrived early on Saturday, carrying about 200 passengers, days after Ukrainian troops wrested the southeastern city from Moscow’s control.

“This is our victory train!” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, an official with the Ukrainian presidential office, said on Telegram.

US to allocate up to $20m to buy Ukraine grain

The US, through USAID, has become the first country to back a Ukrainian initiative for developed countries to purchase its grain for countries in need, said Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov.

President Volodymyr Zelensky called in his address to the G20 this week to fund new shipments of grain around the anniversary of the 1930s Holodomor famine, orchestrated by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to punish farmers in Ukraine who resisted collective farms. An estimated seven million people died in the famine.

Russia plans more ‘covert mobilisation efforts,’ ISW says

Russian officials “are preparing for further covert mobilisation efforts” to shore up troop numbers, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

Telegram channels in Russia have discussed indicators that the Kremlin is preparing for a second mobilisation wave, the US-based military analysts said in an update. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a formal end to the Kremlin’s earlier partial mobilisation on 31 October.

An image was circulated of a draft summons to a man in St Petersburg reportedly told to report for service in January. Russian “milbloggers” also circulated claims that general mobilisation will begin in December or January, ISW said, adding that “it is evident that Russian authorities never fully halted mobilisation efforts.” DM


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