November 17, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Eliza Mackintosh, Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 2:32 a.m. ET, November 18, 2022
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8:03 p.m. ET, November 17, 2022

Top US general spoke with Ukrainian counterpart about Russian invasion

From CNN's Jamie Crawford

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke today with his Ukrainian counterpart, Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, according to a readout of the call provided by his spokesperson.

“They discussed the unprovoked and ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and exchanged perspectives and assessments. The Chairman reaffirmed unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Joint Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler said in the readout.
9:03 p.m. ET, November 17, 2022

People in Ukraine's Kherson region try to return to normal — but the war is still dangerously close

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

A man harvests corn in his backyard.
A man harvests corn in his backyard. (CNN)

A Ukrainian man harvests corn from his backyard in the cold autumn rain. Next to the broken fence sits a rusting Russian tank, destroyed when Kyiv's military forced Russian forces to retreat from the west bank of the Dnieper river.  

A Russian tank, destroyed when Kyiv's military forced Russian forces to retreat, sits on the side of the road.
A Russian tank, destroyed when Kyiv's military forced Russian forces to retreat, sits on the side of the road. (CNN)

In the absence of Russian soldiers, life is slowly returning to normal in the liberated areas of Kherson province. But even if the frontline has moved, the war remains a constant presence in the village of Dudchany, which sits on the Dnieper's west bank, with daily shelling a constant threat. 

A white flag marks an unexploded missile.
A white flag marks an unexploded missile. (CNN)

"Two days ago there was shelling and shrapnel landed right here in our yard," said Olga Gritsuniak, 68, as she showed the remains of the weaponry. On Thursday, another five Russian rockets landed in her village.  

“Thank God we survived all this,” she said. 

Olga Gritsuniak shows the stores of food in her basement, where she and her husband often took shelter while the Russians occupied the area.
Olga Gritsuniak shows the stores of food in her basement, where she and her husband often took shelter while the Russians occupied the area. (CNN)

Gritsuniak and her husband often hid in their basement when the Russians occupied the area, not just to escape the Ukrainian counterfire, but also to steer clear of Moscow’s armies. 

“We decided to stay. They didn’t touch some people, but some were missing… Some people were taken and beaten, young men,” she said. 

Gritsuniak doesn’t have power, gas or water, a concern as winter fast approaches, with temperatures expected to drop below zero in the coming days. 

Lesya Koval
Lesya Koval (CNN)

Nearby, Lesya Koval, 59, is felling trees with her husband. Without power or gas, they’ll have to use wood for heating. She never doubted Ukrainian forces would retake Kherson and wants to forget the time spent under Russian occupation. 

“It was scary they could come anytime and check our houses at any time,” she said. “They kept asking if we had a better life with Ukrainians or them [Russians]. We had good life, were in our own land, minded our own business.”

She wishes life would soon return to normal – but a few meters away, the local kindergarten, with its collapsed roof and walls barely standing after persistent shelling, is a reminder that this is very much still an active war zone.   

“Even if Kherson has been liberated… they keep firing at us,” she said.

6:50 p.m. ET, November 17, 2022

Far-right House Republicans, led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, seek to cut off Ukraine aid

From CNN's Melanie Zanona

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene  speaks as Rep. Matt Gaetz, left, and Rep. Thomas Massie listen during a news conference at the US Capitol on Thursday, November 17.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks as Rep. Matt Gaetz, left, and Rep. Thomas Massie listen during a news conference at the US Capitol on Thursday, November 17. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In a preview of the intra-party battle ahead, far-right House Republicans, led by MAGA firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, vowed Thursday to fight against Ukraine aid.

She said, at a news conference with other members, that she'd introduced an effort to force a vote on a resolution requiring the Biden administration to provide all documents related to the security assistance that has already been appropriated to Ukraine.

The long-shot bid does not have buy-in from members of the Republican leadership, though they were given a heads-up about the news conference. 

The far-right members also seized on House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s previous promise of no more “blank checks” to Ukraine, even though McCarthy later clarified he just wants to ensure greater oversight of any federal dollars. 

“Is Ukraine now the 51st state of the United States of America and what position does Zelensky have in our government?” Greene said, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“I will not vote for one more dollar to Ukraine,” added Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Some background: While the anti-Ukraine wing of the party only represents a fraction of the GOP, this group could have leverage in a razor-thin majority.

CNN projects that Republicans will win control of the House – but their majority will be a narrow one. As of Thursday evening, CNN projected Republicans will control 218 seats compared to 210 for the Democrats. If the current leaders of the remaining uncalled races wind up winning, that would leave Republicans with 221 seats.

5:33 p.m. ET, November 17, 2022

Poland will move quickly with investigation into missile incident, official says

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy, Zoe Cantley and Anna Gorzkowska

A Polish official told CNN on Thursday that his country will move quickly with its investigation into the missile that landed on the Polish village of Przewodow on Tuesday.

Speaking to CNN’s Isa Soares, Polish Ministry for Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lukasz Jasina said that Poland is pushing ahead with its investigation into the incident, adding that the authorities expect to receive the results in the next few days.

Jasina said that Ukrainian experts will also be allowed access to the site, stressing there first needs to be “some legal arrangements to create a good space for their expertise.”

Some background: Earlier today, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Ukrainian investigators will be allowed to observe the investigation, “but when it comes to participation in proceedings and access to documents and information, it requires specific treaty grounds, specific grounds in the field of international law and international agreements.”

Jasina, who told CNN that he comes from the region where the missile exploded, said the mood among his friends and neighbors is “very very sad.”

“Russian threat is direct not only for Ukraine but also for Poland and other European states. That war is against all of us, against our values, against Europe, against our style of life,” he added.

5:43 p.m. ET, November 17, 2022

10 million Ukrainians are without electricity after another wave of missile attacks, Zelensky says

From CNN's Denis Lapin in Kyiv and Tim Lister

A view of the dark streets after a massive Russian missile strike on critical infrastructure in Lviv, Ukraine, November 15.
A view of the dark streets after a massive Russian missile strike on critical infrastructure in Lviv, Ukraine, November 15. (Olena Znak/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country is enduring emergency power cuts Thursday night after more Russian missile attacks, just as temperatures fall to freezing and below.

In his daily video message, Zelensky said crews are doing everything to normalize supply, but there were "emergency power cuts again in addition to the planned stabilization ones."

"As of now, more than 10 million Ukrainians are without electricity," he said — the same number as on Tuesday night after a barrage of missile attacks.

Most of the outages are in Vinnytsia, Odesa, Sumy and Kyiv regions, the president said.

Yasno, a power supplier in Kyiv, said the city had experienced emergency blackouts all day, with the grid having less than half of its normal supply. It said power engineers were trying to stabilize the system to avoid even greater damage. 

Zelensky said that dozens of people were wounded as a result of a missile strike in Dnipro. In Zaporizhzhia, seven bodies had been recovered from the debris of a residential building destroyed by Russian shelling on Wednesday night, he said.

"Again and again, we repeat to our partners that only full protection of Ukrainian skies will save both Ukraine and Europe from many possible escalations of Russian aggression and will definitely encourage Russia to truly end the war," Zelensky said as Ukraine endures waves of missile strikes.

Zelensky also welcomed the renewal for four months of the Black Sea grain export accord and the verdict at the MH17 trial in the Netherlands.

3:54 p.m. ET, November 17, 2022

Brittney Griner moved to Russian penal colony

From CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, Zahra Ullah and Kylie Atwood

US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony in August for drug smuggling, is seen on a screen via a video link from a remand prison during a court hearing to consider an appeal against her sentence, at the Moscow regional court on October 25.
US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony in August for drug smuggling, is seen on a screen via a video link from a remand prison during a court hearing to consider an appeal against her sentence, at the Moscow regional court on October 25. (Kirll Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

US basketball star Brittney Griner has been moved to a penal colony in Russia’s Mordovia region, her legal team told CNN in a statement Thursday.

“We can confirm that Brittney began serving her sentence at IK-2 in Mordovia. We visited her early this week. Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment,” Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, told CNN on Thursday.

Griner's lawyers said they would like to “thank everyone who has expressed care for her,” and that they have received “numerous messages of support.”

They added that “considering that this is a very challenging period for her,” there will be no further comment from them.

The US State Department said that Griner’s location has still not been shared with them by the Russian government. 

“We are aware of reports of her location, and in frequent contact with Ms. Griner's legal team,” a State Department spokesperson said Thursday.

“However, the Russian Federation has still failed to provide any official notification for such a move of a U.S. citizen, which we strongly protest. The Embassy has continued to press for more information about her transfer and current location,” the spokesperson added.

Griner's agent, Lindsay Colas, also told CNN that the Russian legal team has seen the WNBA star at the penal colony, where she has begun serving her 9-year sentence.

“Despite the fact she is alone and now nearing her ninth month in detention separated from her loved ones, she is trying to stay strong. At this time, we will not be sharing any further details, but want to express our deepest thanks to the Biden Administration, the Richardson Center, and to everyone who has reached out to offer words of encouragement to her,” Colas said.

Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport shortly before the war began and accused by Russian prosecutors of trying to smuggle less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.

The Russian region of Mordovia, which is more than 300 miles from Moscow, is the same region where American Paul Whelan is being held. The former US Marine is serving 16 years in a different penal colony on espionage charges that he denies.

What is life like in a penal colony? While the conditions vary greatly in different Russian penal colonies, there are reports of political prisoners being placed in harsh conditions. Prisoners can be subjected to “solitary confinement or punitive stays in psychiatric units,” the State Department’s human rights report says.

Russian law also allows for forced labor in penal colonies, and in some cases, inmates have been tortured to death, the report says. There are also reports of prison authorities recruiting inmates to abuse other inmates, the report adds.

3:08 p.m. ET, November 17, 2022

“No indication” that Poland is dealing with a direct threat, says Polish government spokesman

From CNN's Antonia Mortensen and Chris Liakos

There is “no indication” that Poland is dealing with a direct threat, Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller told reporters in Warsaw on Thursday, following Tuesday’s incident that left two people dead when a missile landed in the Polish village of Przewodow.

Based on the materials that have been collected by expert teams, “the reason for this event were Ukraine's defensive actions against Russia's offensive actions. There is no indication that we are dealing with a direct threat to our country,” he added. “At the moment, we know that on Nov. 15, Russia, which carried out a massive missile attack on the territory of Ukraine, led to a situation in which the Ukrainian anti-aircraft forces had to take defensive measures.”

Ukrainian officials said on Thursday that their investigators were getting access to the site of the blast.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said earlier today that Ukrainian investigators will be allowed to observe the investigation, “but when it comes to participation in proceedings and access to documents and information, it requires specific treaty grounds, specific grounds in the field of international law and international agreements.”

2:57 p.m. ET, November 17, 2022

Russian Foreign Ministry announces automatic extension of grain deal for 120 days

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

The UN-brokered deal that allows Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports during the war will be extended for 120 days in the same format, according to a news release from the Russian Foreign Ministry published on Thursday.

“The four-party deal by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations, signed in Istanbul on July 22, will expire on November 18. The text of the document provides for its automatic extension for another 120 days in the absence of objections from any of the parties,” the ministry said.

“No such objections have been received,” it added.

According to the ministry, Moscow “has clearly and openly emphasised that the agreements on Ukrainian food and the effective implementation of the Russian-UN Memorandum on the normalisation of Russian agricultural exports is a package deal, and that remains unchanged.”

“We took note of the intensification of the UN Secretariat’s effort to fulfill its obligations in this regard and the information provided to us on the intermediate results of its work to remove obstacles to Russian fertiliser and food exports. All these issues must be resolved within 120 days, the period for which the package deal is to be extended,” the ministry said.

The ministry added that “any attempt to use the humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea for military provocations will receive a harsh response.”

Some context: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday cast doubt on the future of the agreement, saying it depended on existing terms being met. Earlier this month, Russia rejoined the deal after saying it was pulling out.

Ukraine and Russia together account for nearly a third of global wheat exports, and the grain deal has played a crucial role in lowering the price of wheat and other commodities globally.