November 21, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

Updated 2:28 a.m. ET, November 22, 2022
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11:34 a.m. ET, November 21, 2022

Approximately 1 in 5 Ukrainians struggle to access medicine, WHO says  

From CNN’s Eve Brennan in London 

An aid worker delivers medicine to locals near Novopetrivka, following the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson region, Ukraine, on November 17.
An aid worker delivers medicine to locals near Novopetrivka, following the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson region, Ukraine, on November 17. (Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Around one out of five people in Ukraine have trouble getting access to medicine, Dr. Jarno Habicht, the World Health Organization's representative in Ukraine, said on Monday.   

The problem is worse in Ukrainian regions occupied by Russia, with one in three people there not able to get the medicine they need, Habicht told a news briefing Monday in Kyiv.  

This winter season and particularly snow which has already been witnessed in parts of Ukraine will pose a "formidable challenge" to the health system, he added.    

Continuous attacks to the health infrastructure in Ukraine have also impacted availability to health services, such as medicine, Covid-19 vaccines, and machinery in hospital intensive care units, the WHO official said.     

“I would say that with 50% of the civilian energy infrastructure being damaged or destroyed at a moment that there is a onset of a brutal winter where temperatures can plummet down to minus 20 degrees, that this is to be considered as the largest attack on health care on European soil since the Second World War,” WHO Europe’s regional director Hans Kluge said at the same news briefing.

The agency has so far verified some 703 attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine since the war began in February, according to WHO's latest data.

10:29 a.m. ET, November 21, 2022

Russia will build attack drones for Ukraine war with the help of Iran, intelligent assessment says

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

Local residents look at parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), that Ukrainian authorities consider to be an Iranian-made drone Shahed-136, after a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on October 17.
Local residents look at parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), that Ukrainian authorities consider to be an Iranian-made drone Shahed-136, after a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on October 17. (Vladyslav Musiienko/Reuters)

Iran and Russia have reached an agreement to begin the production of attack drones in Russia, according to a new intelligence assessment from a country that closely monitors Iran’s weapons program. 

Iran is beginning to transfer blueprints and components for the drones to Russia after the initial agreement was struck earlier this month, said a source familiar with the assessment.

US officials have said that Russia has received hundreds of drones from Tehran which have had a deadly effect in Ukraine.   

Earlier this month, the Iranian government acknowledged for the first time that it had sent a limited number of drones to Russia in the months before the start of its invasion of Ukraine.

“Some Western countries have accused Iran of helping the war in Ukraine by providing drones… we did provide a limited number of drones to Russia in the months before the start of the war in Ukraine,” Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told reporters in Tehran. 

The goal is for Russia to produce thousands of new attack drones using Iranian components and blueprints, the source explained. If the two countries move ahead full-steam with their plan the expectation is that production could begin in a few months and its possible that the drones could be used by Russia on the battlefield in Ukraine next year, the source said.

It would be a move that would further cement the partnership between Tehran and Moscow and likely provoke significant anger from Ukraine and its western allies including the US. 

The Washington Post first reported the agreement.

More background: The efforts come after CNN and other outlets reported that Iran was preparing to send weapons, including surface-to-surface short range ballistic missiles and more attack drones to Russia before the end of the year. 

The source familiar with the assessment said those reports caused concern in Iran, which appears to have prompted the regime to rethink its approach with the plan for Russia to manufacture the drones rather than Iran directly transfer them. 

The production process for the attack drones is not complicated when compared to the production of other weapons, the source explained.

CNN has asked the Russian embassy in Washington and the Iran mission at the United Nations for comment. 

When asked for comment on the assessment, White House national security council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said, “Iran and Russia can lie to the world, but they can’t hide the facts: Tehran is helping kill Ukrainian civilians through the provision of weapons and assisting Russia in its operations. It’s another sign of how isolated both Iran and Russia are.” 

Why this agreement matters: Drones have played a significant role in the conflict since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, but their use has increased since the summer, when the United States and Kyiv say Moscow acquired drones from Iran. In recent weeks these Iranian drones have been used to target critical energy infrastructure in Ukraine.

The Iranian drones are known as a “loitering munition” because they are capable of circling for some time in an area identified as a potential target and only striking once an enemy asset is identified.

They are small, portable and can be easily launched, but their main advantage is that they are hard to detect and can be fired from a distance.

9:53 a.m. ET, November 21, 2022

Ukrainian prosecutors detail allegations of torture in Kherson during Russian occupation

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych in Kyiv and Jo Shelley in London

Inside a cell at a preliminary detention centre, which is believed to have been used by Russian forces to jail and torture civilians, on November 16, in Kherson, Ukraine.
Inside a cell at a preliminary detention centre, which is believed to have been used by Russian forces to jail and torture civilians, on November 16, in Kherson, Ukraine. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The office of the prosecutor in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region released a statement on Monday giving more details about what it said were four “torture chambers” discovered in the regional capital after it was liberated from Russian occupation earlier this month. 

Ukrainian war crimes investigators have previously said they found 11 detention centers in the Kherson region and evidence of “torture” used in four of them.

Today’s statement said the four locations were in the city, “in the seized buildings of the Kherson temporary detention center, the pre-trial detention center and in one of the district police departments.”

“Parts of rubber truncheons, a wooden bat, a device used by the occupiers to torture civilians with electricity, an incandescent lamp and bullets from the walls were seized,” it said. “In the cells and basements, various methods of torture, physical and psychological violence were used against people.”

CNN cannot independently verify the claims.

Russia has previously denied allegations of war crimes and claimed its forces do not target civilians, despite extensive evidence gathered by international human rights experts, criminal investigators and international media in multiple locations. 

Last week, Alexander Malkevich, a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, an advisory body largely packed with pro-government loyalists, said that Kyiv was planning to accuse the Russian military of crimes in Kherson, in an interview on Russian state-owned Sputnik radio.

CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva and Katharina Krebs contributed reporting to this post.

8:44 a.m. ET, November 21, 2022

Zaporizhzhia power plant "at risk of a nuclear accident," according to Russia's state-run energy agency

From CNN’s Jo Shelley and Anna Chernova

Satellite image of the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant facility in Enerhodar, Ukraine, on August 19.
Satellite image of the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant facility in Enerhodar, Ukraine, on August 19. (Maxar/EYEPRESS/Reuters)

The Zaporizhzhia power plant is “at risk of a nuclear accident,” according to the head of Russia's nuclear energy agency Rosatom.

"We are informing the world community that the [nuclear power] plant is at risk of a nuclear accident, and it is obvious that Kyiv considers a small nuclear incident acceptable,” Alexey Likhachev, head of Rosatom, told reporters on Monday, according to the state-run TASS news outlet. 

“This will be a precedent that will forever change the course of history. Therefore, everything must be done so that no one has in their minds to encroach on the safety of the nuclear power plant," he added. 

There has been frequent shelling in and around the plant and more powerful explosions were heard there over the weekend, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Sunday.

Today an IAEA team of experts will conduct an assessment of the shelling impact on the site. The nuclear facility is in Ukraine but occupied by Russian forces.  

8:07 a.m. ET, November 21, 2022

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

From CNN staff

Restoring power to recently liberated Kherson city is the "number one task," according to a Ukrainian official, while Norway has agreed to provide $200 million in funding to help Ukraine buy natural gas this winter.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • One wounded in Nikopol shelling: A 78-year-old man was wounded when Russian shelling hit the southern Ukrainian district of Nikopol overnight into Monday, according to a Ukrainian military official. Nikopol is located in the Dnipropetrovsk region across the river from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. On Sunday, Ukraine and Russia blamed each other for recent shelling that hit the plant's infrastructure.  
  • Kherson remains without power: The city of Kherson is still without electricity, an official in the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday. “There is no electricity in Kherson city. We are working on it,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said. “This is the number one task for sure.”
  • Norway to fund Ukrainian gas purchases: Norway has signed an agreement to provide funding of almost $200 million to help Ukraine purchase natural gas this winter, according to a Norwegian government statement on Monday. It is part of a 10 billion Norwegian kroner (approximately $976 million) package that the Norwegian government has allocated to Ukraine in 2022 and 2023, the statement said.
  • Austria reducing Russian gas imports: Austria has successfully reduced its dependence on gas deliveries from Russia, the country's climate action minister tweeted on Monday. Russia's share of total gas deliveries to Austria fell from 79% in February to 21% in September, said Leonore Gewessler.
  • Spain to send police to Ukraine: Spanish police will be deployed to Ukraine to support the country’s authorities “in the investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced Monday.
  • Russia will do “everything possible” to find those responsible for alleged soldier execution: Kremlin spokesperson Dimitri Peskov told journalists Monday that those responsible must be "punished." On Saturday, Russia accused Ukraine of war crimes after a video emerged on social media which Moscow says shows Russian soldiers killed after surrendering to Ukrainian forces, but Ukrainian officials have disputed that account.
  • Russia not aiming to topple Zelensky government: A change of the Ukrainian government is not one of the goals of Russia's “special operation,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. A senior Russian senator had earlier said that any normalization of ties between Moscow and Kyiv can "only happen after a change in Ukraine's leadership."
  • US defense secretary underlines support for Ukraine: Washington is committed to supporting Kyiv "for as long as it takes," said US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday. It is “hard to predict how things will evolve and on what timeline, but we’re in this in support of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he said.
9:20 a.m. ET, November 21, 2022

Russia will do "everything possible" to find those responsible for alleged soldier execution

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Russia will do “everything possible” to search for those responsible for allegedly executing a number of Russian soldiers, adding that they must be “punished,” Kremlin spokesperson Dimitri Peskov told journalists Monday.

Peskov said Russia will use the full extent of “the framework of international mechanisms to draw attention to this crime and call to law and order those who may be involved in it.”

“Of course, Russia will search for those who committed this crime. They must be found and punished,” he added.

The precise details of what happened remain unclear.

The video -- which has been geolocated by CNN -- was filmed on the outskirts of the village of Makiivka, which lies in the eastern Luhansk region, about 25 miles (roughly 40 kilometers) northeast of the city of Lyman.

On Saturday, Russia accused Ukraine of war crimes after a video emerged on social media which Moscow says shows Russian soldiers killed after surrendering to Ukrainian forces.

The Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets, commented on the incident on Sunday, claiming the Russians staged a surrender and opened fire first, adding that “returning fire is not a war crime.”

9:21 a.m. ET, November 21, 2022

Restoring power in Kherson city is "number one task"

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych and Jo Shelley

People wait in line to buy SIM cards in the central square of Kherson, Ukraine, on November 21.
People wait in line to buy SIM cards in the central square of Kherson, Ukraine, on November 21. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

The city of Kherson is still without electricity, an official in the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Ukrainian television on Monday.

“There is no electricity in Kherson city. We are working on it,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said. “This is the number one task for sure.”

Ukrainian forces swept into the city and Russian troops retreated to the east on November 11 following a months-long Russian occupation.

Tymoshenko said the government had established a network of tents and buildings that had generators — so-called "invincibility points" — where people could access hot water and heat up food. Some 1,600 people accessed these facilities on Sunday, the State Emergency Service said on Telegram.

On Sunday, the Kherson city council also published a list of four water distribution points where residents could get water this week. 

7:04 a.m. ET, November 21, 2022

Norway signs agreement to help fund Ukraine gas purchases

From CNN’s Alex Hardie

Norway has signed an agreement to provide funding of almost $200 million to help Ukraine purchase natural gas this winter, the Norwegian government said in a statement on Monday.

The 2 billion Norwegian kroner (around $195 million) in funding will be “channeled” through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

It is part of a 10 billion Norwegian kroner (approximately $976 million) package that the Norwegian government has allocated to Ukraine in 2022 and 2023, the statement said.

“Ukraine has specifically asked Norway for support for the procurement of natural gas this winter. The timing is critical, and we are very pleased that the EBRD is to be our partner in carrying out gas purchases," Norwegian Minister of Finance Trygve Slagsvold Vedum said in the statement.

"It is important to channel the support through an established, internationally recognized organization, which will ensure effective and transparent use of the funding,”

The Ukrainian state-owned energy company Naftogaz will be the “formal recipient of the gas” in Ukraine, whilst payments will be made directly to European gas suppliers “that have received prior approval,” the statement added. 

6:55 a.m. ET, November 21, 2022

Austria says its dependence on Russian gas supplies is shrinking

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Equipment operated by GCA (Gas Connect Austria) and TAG (Trans Austria Gas pipelines) at one of the largest interconnection gas hubs in Europe at Baumgarten an der March, Lower Austria, on May 9.
Equipment operated by GCA (Gas Connect Austria) and TAG (Trans Austria Gas pipelines) at one of the largest interconnection gas hubs in Europe at Baumgarten an der March, Lower Austria, on May 9. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

Austria has successfully reduced its dependence on gas deliveries from Russia, the country's climate action minister tweeted on Monday.

Russia's share of total gas deliveries to Austria fell from 79% in February to 21% in September, said Leonore Gewessler.

“I would like to thank everyone who has helped - the energy suppliers who have been working to find new supply countries and all the people who have been able to save energy at home,” she said.

“One thing is clear: we have not yet reached the end of the road. We will only be truly free when we can completely do without Russian #gas. We are working on this every day at full speed.”

The Austrian Ministry for Climate Action tweeted a graph showing that imports from other sources had increased accordingly. Norway is now a major alternative gas supplier, it said.

“Alternative routes: While only about a third of the volumes previously supplied arrive in #Austria via the Ukraine route from Russia, #gas imports from Germany are currently at a record level,” the ministry tweeted.

Austrian gas reserves are now filled at 95.53% capacity, it added.

Many European economies have been working to reduce their reliance on Russian fuel imports since Moscow invaded Ukraine.