Belarus minister’s death delays Lavrov’s Minsk visit; Ukrenergo says power generation at nearly 80%

Belarus minister’s death delays Lavrov’s Minsk visit; Ukrenergo says power generation at nearly 80%
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and the late Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei (left) exchange documents at a signing ceremony in Moscow on 10 November 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Yuri Kochetkov / Pool)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov postponed a planned visit to Minsk after the death of his Belarusian counterpart, Vladimir Makei, was announced. No cause of death was given for the 64-year-old diplomat, a former chief of staff to President Alexander Lukashenko.

Ukraine’s grid operator said power generation is running at about 80% of demand, and consumption restrictions will continue for now. Repairs are ongoing after the series of Russian missile strikes on Wednesday.

Russia continues to reinforce positions in Ukraine’s east. Moscow may be setting up for another big northward push in the Donetsk region, the UK defence ministry said. For now, frontline operations have slowed due to deteriorating weather, said the Institute for the Study of War. Missiles on Sunday struck Kryvyi Rih, a major military transport hub.

Key developments

On the ground

Two Russian missiles hit transport infrastructure in Kryvyi Rih, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s home town, causing significant damage in a major supply hub for Ukraine’s military. A Russian strike on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday night caused a fire at an agriculture company, according to the Telegram channel of regional governor Oleksandr Starukh. Russia continues to regroup its forces near Liman, Avdiivka and Novopavlivka, Ukraine’s General Staff reported in its regular update on its Facebook page. Over the past day. The Defence Forces of Ukraine repelled the attacks in some settlements in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Ukraine’s General Staff says Russia plans another wave of mobilisation from 10 December, something Moscow hasn’t confirmed.

Republicans ‘may push for more spending oversight’

Republicans in the US House of Representatives, who’ll hold a narrow majority in 2023, will push for greater oversight of military assistance provided to Ukraine, The Washington Post reported.

In the first instance, there was the question of bipartisan support for legislation that would require greater scrutiny of the roughly $20-billion in military aid sent so far, the newspaper reported. 

Anticipating what lay ahead, the Biden administration has in recent weeks stepped up efforts to track weapons shipments.




Ukrenergo says power generation running at near 80% of demand

The state energy company Ukrenergo said almost 80% of Ukraine’s electricity needs were now being generated even as power demand rose due to cold weather. It urged people to use electricity “sparingly” to allow for fewer restrictions to bridge the 20% deficit.

Power had been restored to most of Kyiv, days after extensive damage on Wednesday from Russian missile strikes on infrastructure, military officials in the capital said on Sunday.

Most electricity, water, heating and mobile phone services were running, the officials said. President Volodymyr Zelensky criticised Kyiv’s mayor on Friday night for being slow to set up emergency services for city residents left without power and heat.

Lavrov postpones Minsk visit after Belarusian minister dies

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov postponed a two-day visit to Minsk after the death of his Belarusian counterpart, Vladimir Makei, was announced on Saturday. Details of a rescheduled trip will be announced later, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Belarusian authorities gave no cause of death for the 64-year-old in an extended tribute posted on Sunday, citing the father of three’s “sharpness of thinking and foresight, wisdom, rigour and humanity.” A memorial service is planned for Tuesday, the foreign ministry said. 

Makei had been foreign minister since 2012 and before that a chief of staff to Belarus’s strongman President Alexander Lukashenko. The Russian Foreign Ministry praised him as an “outstanding diplomat” and “true friend of Russia.”

Makei was shown receiving Vatican envoy Ante Jozic in Minsk on Friday. Earlier in the week, he attended the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation meeting in Armenia. 

Makei presided over the foreign ministry during unprecedented repression in 2020 and as Belarus became a staging ground for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year. 

Russia setting up for another northern advance, says UK

Intense combat continues around the towns of Pavlivka and Vuhledar in south-central Donetsk Oblast, though little territory has changed hands over two weeks, the UK defence ministry said. 

Russia is likely to have assessed that “the area has potential as a launch point for a future major advance north to capture the remainder of” Ukrainian-held parts of Donetsk, the UK said. 



Ukraine formally launches food initiative for poorest countries

“Grain From Ukraine” aims to send grain and agrarian products to the poorest nations of Africa and Asia. It’s already attracted funding of about $150-million and support from more than 20 countries.

Zelensky hosted an international food summit in Kyiv on Saturday attended by the prime ministers of Belgium, Lithuania and Poland, as well as the president of Hungary. Several other leaders joined via video.

“Food security is one of the elements of the Ukrainian peace formula”, Zelensky said. Among the countries that will receive Ukrainian cargoes are Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Kenya and Yemen, he said, helping more than a million people.

Russia, Ukraine make another prisoner swap

Russia released another 12 Ukrainian service members, Andriy Yermak, a top presidential aide, said on Twitter. 

The soldiers included those who served in Mariupol, at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, and on Snake Island, he said. Over the past week, 98 Ukrainian POWs had been returned, Yermak said. 

The Russian defence ministry said nine of its servicemen had been released, according to Interfax. No further details were offered. DM


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