NATO foreign ministers reiterate solidarity with Ukraine and pledge to assist with infrastructure repairs
From CNN's Radina Gigova in London
NATO foreign ministers said Tuesday in a joint statement they remain steadfast in the "commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity" and pledged allies will assist Ukraine as it repairs its energy infrastructure amid Russian attacks.
"Russia’s unacceptable actions, including hybrid activities, energy blackmail, and reckless nuclear rhetoric, undermine the rules-based international order," according to the statement.
"We condemn Russia’s cruelty against Ukraine’s civilian populations and violations and abuses of human rights, such as forcible deportations, torture, and barbaric treatment of women, children, and persons in vulnerable situations," it said.
"We also remain resolute in supporting Ukraine’s long-term efforts on its path of post-war reconstruction and reforms, so that Ukraine can secure its free and democratic future, modernize its defense sector, strengthen long-term interoperability and deter future aggression," according to the statement.
Ukraine has been experiencing blackouts as Russia continues to bombard energy infrastructure.
"We will continue to strengthen our partnership with Ukraine as it advances its Euro-Atlantic aspirations," the ministers said.
3:01 p.m. ET, November 29, 2022
Russians are shelling settlements in liberated areas of Kherson along Dnipro River, official says
From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv
Ukrainian officials said that Russian forces are shelling "all settlements" along the west bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region, including recently liberated territory.
Serhii Khlan, a member of the Kherson regional council, told a news conference that "the occupiers continue shelling both the city of Kherson and the west-bank part of Kherson region."
"They are shelling absolutely all settlements located along the Dnipro River coast," he said.
He said there had been no casualties Tuesday, but Russian forces continue to strike at vital infrastructure.
"Power company crews are working to fully restore power supply to Kherson city. Critical infrastructure is supplied, but not all of it. Hospitals have received electricity supply," he said.
"Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to fully supply water," Khlan said. "The Internet began to appear — not throughout the city — but in some areas. Now we can talk about 20% of connected consumers in Kherson."
Khlan said that only a quarter of Kherson city's pre-war population of 320,000 remains — and more were leaving every day because of the shelling and lack of utilities. Additional carriages were being added to a daily evacuation train, and evacuation by bus routes continued, he added.
"People are gradually leaving. So far, people are not returning to the city en masse. There are cases when people come to check their homes and return back to the regions where they are now. So far, a small number of people have left ... but there are many people who want to leave," Khlan said.
He also asserted that the bulk of Russian forces were positioned some 15 to 20 kilometers (about 9 to 12 miles) from the east bank of the river, but that personnel of the Russian security service (FSB) occupied observation posts close to the river in towns like Kakhovka and Nova Kakhovka. They were exerting pressure on the remaining civilian population to leave, he claimed.
Khlan said that he expected people already in temporary accommodation would be forced to leave for Russia. He also claimed that pro-Russian administrators had left the east bank towns and set up an administration in the city of Henichesk, closer to Crimea. "They defined it as the center of the occupation region, and now all supporters and collaborators are there," he said.
10:17 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022
US will provide $53 million to Ukraine to support its electrical system
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
The United States will provide $53 million to support Ukraine’s electrical system as it faces a barrage of attacks from Russia.
The funding will go toward “the acquisition of critical electricity grid equipment,” which “will be rapidly delivered to Ukraine on an emergency basis to help Ukrainians persevere through the winter,” according to a media note from the US State Department.
“This supply package will include distribution transformers, circuit breakers, surge arresters, disconnectors, vehicles and other key equipment,” the note said.
The funding adds to the United States' existing $55 million in emergency energy sector support. It was announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a meeting of the G7+ Tuesday, which took place on the margins of the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Bucharest, according to the media note.
US and European officials have strongly condemned Russia’s strikes on Ukrainian civilian populations and infrastructure, accusing Moscow of deliberately targeting Ukraine’s energy grid in an effort to leave people without electricity and heat – an act that they say would amount to a war crime.
9:53 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022
Russia and US are not in a dialogue regarding Ukraine, Russian deputy foreign minister says
From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said Russia and the United States do not hold dialogue on Ukraine because of what he called "different approaches,” according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.
"I am not aware about any de-escalating channel in relation to what is happening in Ukraine. I don’t know about it at all. We don’t have a dialogue with the United States on the Ukrainian topic, because our approaches are radically different,” said Ryabkov, as quoted by TASS.
“We have a periodic exchange of signals about how certain actions of Moscow and Washington are perceived in Washington and Moscow, respectively, but you understand that the difference of approaches and the inconsistency of arguments do not lead to the development of this dialogue. We send signals to the Americans, that their line of escalation and their line of ever deeper involvement in this conflict is fraught with dire consequences, the risks are growing," he added.
Ryabkov also said that there is a "chance" to resume a strategic dialogue with the United States, but only if Washington realizes that "there should be no one-sided imposition of certain positions."
According to Ryabkov, the situation in Ukraine does not affect Russia's approach on nuclear deterrence, despite "continuous speculation" from the US " on Russia's "irresponsible nuclear rhetoric."
9:51 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022
G7 justice ministers condemn Russia’s use of "winter as a weapon" as a "war crime"
From CNN’s Inke Kappeler in Berlin
The G7 ministers of justice condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s use of “winter as a weapon,” the German justice minister said Tuesday at a meeting with his counterparts in Berlin.
Minister Marco Buschmann told a news conference that Ukrainian civilians had been living in freezing temperatures as a result of Russia’s strikes on civilian infrastructure, adding the ministers had agreed this was “a terrible war crime that is aimed at ensuring that many people fall victim to winter.”
The group vowed to coordinate criminal investigations into war crimes, which they agreed was “of the highest priority,” Buschmann said, adding Ukrainian authorities had so far documented nearly 50,000 instances of war crimes and listed around 600 suspected war criminals.
It is a shared goal of the G7 countries “to achieve maximum accountability and to deliver justice for victims and survivors,” according to a statement published after the meeting. “There can be no impunity for war crimes and other atrocities.”
The “entire Russian leadership” should be investigated in the International Criminal Court for “crimes against humanity” Buschmann told the press conference.
CNN's Allegra Goodwin contributed to this post.
9:14 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022
Russian minister doesn't rule out potential prisoner swap with US before end of year
From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday that there is "always a chance" for an exchange of prisoners with the United States, and he did not rule out the possibility of a prisoner swap before the end of the year, according to state media RIA Novosti.
“There is always a chance. Unfortunately, there were several situations before when it seemed that a decision in favor of this was about to take place. This did not happen. But I'm just talking about previous experiences — we, as a department, do not conduct such dialogue, so we do not fully feel the dynamics," Ryabkov said, as quoted by RIA.
“I would like to note that if this happened, it would undoubtedly, send a positive signal that not everything is hopeless in Russian-American relations," he added, according to RIA.
Ryabkov said an agreement on the exchange of prisoners with the United States "would show that quiet diplomacy is bearing fruit." He added that recent methods of "megaphone diplomacy" from the United States "did not help the case."
Some background: In July, CNN reported that the Biden administration offered to exchange a convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout as part of a potential deal to secure the release of two Americans held by Russia, basketball star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. But Russian officials have requested that Vadim Krasikov, a former colonel from the country’s domestic spy agency, be included in the US’ proposed swap of Bout for Griner and Whelan, multiple sources familiar with the discussions have previously told CNN.
Earlier this month, Ryabkov said that Russia hoped for a “positive outcome” on the issue of exchanging Bout, according to state media TASS.The possibility of a prisoner swap is not only possible but is getting stronger, he said, adding that “and the time will come when the prospect will become a concrete agreement,” according to TASS.
However, the US State Department has cautioned against optimism based on Ryabkov’s comments, noting that Russia still has yet to engage in good faith. “Ultimately here, actions speak louder than words,” said State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel.
8:56 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022
Russia claims it had "no choice" but to postpone nuclear arms reduction talks, Russian deputy FM says
From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London
Moscow had "no choice" but to postpone the meeting on the START nuclear arms reduction treaty in Cairo, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian journalists on Tuesday, according to state media TASS.
"The situation developed in such a way that we had no other choice. The decision was made at the political level," Ryabkov told journalists, as quoted by TASS.
"We were faced with a situation where our American colleagues in a number of areas demonstrated not just an unwillingness to perceive our signals and take into account our priorities but acted in the opposite direction," Ryabkov said. "Of course, there is an effect of what is happening in Ukraine and around it."
US President Joe Biden's administration is blaming Russia for postponing the meetings that were scheduled to begin on Tuesday, with a State Department spokesperson saying the decision was made “unilaterally” by Russia. Russia did not provide a reason to the US for postponing the talks, a senior State Department official told CNN.
According to Ryabkov, the United States tried to concentrate on the topic of inspections, while for Moscow, "the priority was and remains the solution of other issues." Ryabkov said Moscow will offer Washington new dates for a meeting on the START treaty, but it is "unlikely" that it will take place before the end of the year.
“The major issues that dominate our agenda with the United States today are more important than some technique and mechanics of work under the new START,” Ryabkov added.
8:58 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022
NATO is "not running out" of tanks, Lithuanian foreign minister says
From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London
NATO is "not running out" of tanks, Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said, refuting claims that the alliance is low on stock.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Bucharest, Romania, on Tuesday, Landsbergis said Ukraine needs "air defense, missile defense."
"Everything that we have needs to be shipped right away," he said.
"NATO is not running low on tanks, neither on tank ammunitions," the foreign minister added.
Acknowledging that there may be "difficulties" with the supply of other ammunition, Landsbergis said that NATO countries "basically have almost unlimited amount of ammunition for main battle tanks."
8:26 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022
It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know
From CNN staff
Relentless Russian airstrikes have sapped much of Ukraine's heat and power supply, with freezing temperatures and less daylight compounding the hardship for people.
Meanwhile, Moscow has said it will start installing federal courts in four regions of Ukraine that it annexed in violation of international law.
Here are the latest developments:
Energy crisis looms over Christmas: The power deficit in Ukraine was running at 30% as of 11 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) on Tuesday amid a recent barrage of Russian shelling targeting power facilities, according to the country's state-run electricity company. Russian strikes have devastated energy supplies in Ukraine.
Christmas in Kyiv: The capital's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said Christmas trees will be erected across the city. "We cannot let Putin steal our Christmas," Klitschko told Ukrainian news outlet RBC-Ukraine. The trees will be installed but without their lights on, according to Ukrainian energy company YASNO.
Zelenska urges continued support: Ukrainian first ladyOlena Zelenska appealed to Britons not to forget the "tragedy" facing her country this Christmas. "We do hope that the approaching season of Christmas doesn’t make you forget about our tragedy and get used to our suffering," she said in a BBC radio interview on Tuesday.
Federal courts in annexed regions: Federal courts will be installed in the four Ukrainian regions annexed by Russia — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — and the courts of the territories will be integrated into the Russian judicial system "as soon as possible," President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday. Through the annexation process, which is illegal under international law, Moscow has recognized the four Ukrainian regions as Russian territory.
NATO vows assurance to Ukraine: NATO's "critical" and unprecedented support in Ukraine remains ongoing, the head of the alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, said Tuesday. "The main focus now is on supporting Ukraine, ensuring that President Putin doesn’t win, but that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation in Europe."
Pope sparks row with Moscow: Pope Francis described two of Russia’s ethnic minority groups, the Chechens and Buryats, as some of the "cruelest" troops fighting in Ukraine, prompting ire from Russia's foreign ministry. Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova defended the country's ethnic make-up, saying: "We are one family."