Russia-Ukraine – live: Finland closes 830-mile eastern border as Kyiv suffers another drone attack

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Finland has announced it will close its last remaining border crossing with Russia amid concerns that Moscow is using migrants as part of “hybrid warfare” to destabilise the Nordic country following its entry into NATO.

“The government has decided to close all the crossing points on the entire (830-mile) eastern border,” prime minister Petteri Orpo told reporters, saying Finland faced an “exceptional” situation that the government blames on Moscow for orchestrating.

The Kremlin has denied encouraging migrants to enter Finland and says it regrets the Finnish border closures.

It comes as multiple drones were fired towards Kyiv on Tuesday evening, causing air raid sirens to go off and sending civilians down into the bomb shelters.

A Ukrainian monitoring group announced the presence of a handful of drones at around 9pm local time heading towards southern regions of Kyiv Oblast.

Russia appears to have stepped up its assault on Ukrainian hubs hundreds of miles from the frontline in the last fortnight. Last winter, a similar trend occured as Russia tried to destroy critical infrastructure across the country.

Key Points

  • Vladimir Putin signs Russia’s largest national budget as he bolsters military spending

  • Putin suffering losses ‘well behind the front line’, says UK

  • Ukraine targets Moscow in major drone assault

  • Explosions heard overnight in Kyiv as Putin launches biggest drone attack yet

Ukraine says bad weather slows Russian offensive in east

08:07 , Athena Stavrou

Bad weather has slowed Russia’s campaign to secure eastern Ukraine and capture the shattered town of Avdiivka, Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday.

Russian troops, backed by air strikes, have been trying to seize control of Avdiivka since mid-October as part of their slow-moving advance through eastern Ukraine.

After two days of storms - and snow in the south - the forecast was for more rain in the east, leaving the ground sodden and unsuitable for military manoeuvres.

“They’ve started to shell the town centre from Donetsk. Our brigade is holding its ground, but we can’t see any equipment coming,” Serhiy Tsekhotskyi, a Ukrainian officer in the town, told national television.

“The weather is unsuitable. But once the frosts come and the ground hardens, an attempted assault with equipment is possible.”

Another military spokesperson, Volodymyr Fitio, said inclement weather had forced the Russians to make “adjustments”.

“You cannot advance when the ground is like this,” Fitio told the media outlet Espreso TV. “The Russians previously brought in reserves and threw them into battle. There are a lot fewer movements like that now because of the weather.”

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

UK defence ministry intelligence update

10:30 , Athena Stavrou

The UK’s latest defence intelligence update has given an insight into Russia’s use of weaponry.

The Ministry of Defence said that the Russian air force has likely started to use the RBK-500 500kg cluster munition bomb more frequently.

They added that these have reportedly been deployed against Ukrainian forces near Avdiika and the Vuhledar axis in Donetsk Oblast.

Russia preparing ‘loyalty agreement’ requirement for foreigners

10:00 , Athena Stavrou

Russia’s interior ministry has prepared draft legislation that would force foreigners to sign a “loyalty agreement”.

The agreement would forbid them from criticising official policy, discrediting Soviet military history or contravening traditional family values.

The state TASS news agency reported that draft legislation had been prepared by the interior ministry which would force all foreigners entering Russia to sign an agreement that essentially restricts what they can say in public.

A foreigner entering Russia would be prohibited from “interfering with the activities of public authorities of the Russian Federation, discrediting in any form the foreign and domestic state policy of the Russian Federation, public authorities and their officials,” TASS said.

The proposed agreement would include clauses about morality, family, “propaganda about non-traditional sexual relations” and history.

In particular, foreigners would be barred from “distorting the historical truth about the feat of the Soviet people in the defence of the Fatherland and its contribution to the victory over fascism.”

German minister calls for protective winter shield over Ukraine

09:30 , Athena Stavrou

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday called on Ukraine’s supporters to create a winter shield over the country to protect it from Russian attacks.

“Russia again is aiming at civil infrastructure”,” Baerbock told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Ukraine receives 300,000 promised EU shells

09:10 , Athena Stavrou

The European union has delivered about 300,000 of its promised million shells to Ukraine so far, Ukraine‘s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday while visiting a NATO event in Brussels.

Speaking to reporters on the event’s sidelines, Kuleba called for greater alignment of Ukraine‘s and NATO’s defence industries to ensure Kyiv has the supplies it needs to defeat Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

16-year-old named to post in rifle battalion

08:40 , Athena Stavrou

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s teenage son has been named as an observer in a new battalion that is part of Russia’s defence ministry forces, a senior Chechen official said late on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Adam Delimkhanov, who heads the Chechen division of the Russian national guard and is also a member of Russia’s parliament, said the young Adam Kadyrov - who turned 16 last week - was named a curator, or observer, of a rifle battalion.

“This appointment was a natural result of Adam’s significant services in upholding the religious, family and cultural values of our people,” Delimkhanov, who is seen as Chechnya’s second most senior official behind Kadyrov, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia’s air defence forces destroy Ukraine-launched drone flying towards Moscow

08:00 , Athena Stavrou

Russian air defence forces destroyed a Ukraine-launched drone flying towards Moscow, the mayor of the capital, Sergei Sobyanin, said on Wednesday.

The drone was destroyed over the Podolsk district in Moscow’s region, Sobyanin said on the Telegram messaging app.

“According to preliminary information, there was no damage or casualties at the site where the debris fell,” Sobyanin said.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet hits Ukraine’s military infrastructure

07:52 , Athena Stavrou

A frigate of the Russian Black Sea Fleet launched an attack with four cruise missiles on Ukraine’s military infrastructure, Russia’s TASS state news agency reported on Wednesday.

“The crew of a frigate of the Black Sea Fleet received a sudden task of launching a strike with Kalibr cruise missiles in the shortest possible time against enemy military infrastructure,” TASS cited the ministry as saying.

The ministry said that “the designated targets” were hit but there was no immediate comment early on Wednesday from Ukraine about infrastructure being hit overnight.

Ukraine defends from Russian drones attacks overnight

07:34 , Athena Stavrou

Russia launched 21 drones and three cruise missiles overnight on Ukraine, Ukraine‘s Air Force said on Wednesday, adding that all the drones and two missiles were destroyed before reaching their targets.

The Iranian-made Shahed drones were headed towards the Khmelnitskyi region, which is home to an airbase.

The missiles were headed for the southern parts of Ukraine, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

Although not destroyed, the third missile “did not reach” the target, the air force said, without further detail and there were no immediate reports of damage from falling debris.

Good morning

07:28 , Athena Stavrou

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s Ukraine live blog.

We will be bringing you the latest updates on the war in Ukraine, where several drones and missiles have been launched by Russian forces overnight, according to the Ukrainian military.

‘Our Nato allies will never turn a blind eye to Russian aggression’

06:00 , Katy Clifton

British foreign secretary Lord Cameron is urging his counterparts in Nato not to waver in their support for Ukraine as it continues to fight against Russian invaders.

The former prime minister has travelled to Brussels to demonstrate the UK’s continued support for Kyiv as it battles President Vladimir Putin’s attack. There has been less focus on the war in eastern Europe as Western allies address the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

But Lord Cameron said Nato must show the Kremlin that Nato backing for Ukraine will not dampen.

He said: “Nato keeps over one billion people safe and secure and, nearly 75 years on, the alliance is stronger than ever. Putin first believed that Nato would be divided and that Ukraine would crumble.

“Now he believes he can wait out his war in Ukraine. He was wrong then and he is wrong now. Together, the UK and our Nato allies will never turn a blind eye to Russian aggression.

“The UK will continue to be a steadfast supporter of Ukraine and a champion for European peace and stability.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) speaks with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron (EPA)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) speaks with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron (EPA)

ICYMI: Wife of Ukrainian spy chief poisoned

04:00 , Katy Clifton

The wife of Ukraine‘s intelligence chief has been diagnosed with heavy metals poisoning and is undergoing treatment in hospital, a spokesperson for the agency said as the country’s war with Russia stretched into its 22nd month.

Marianna Budanova is the wife of Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine‘s military intelligence agency known by its local acronym GUR.

Her condition was confirmed to The Associated Press by Andrii Yusov, the agency’s spokesman.

Mr Yusov did not provide more details about the alleged poisoning, nor did he say if it was believed to have been intended for Mr Budanov or whether Russia was thought to be behind it.

Earlier this year, he told Ukrainian media that the military intelligence chief had survived 10 assassination attempts carried out by the Russian state security service, or FSB.

Previously, Mr Budanov had also told local media that his wife lives with him in his office, which could suggest he was the intended target for the poisoning.

Latest pictures from Ukraine

02:00 , Katy Clifton

Ukrainian servicemen of the 22nd Mechanized Brigade take part in a military training exercise in the Donetsk region (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen of the 22nd Mechanized Brigade take part in a military training exercise in the Donetsk region (AFP via Getty Images)
People standing on the rubbles of a destroyed house following Russian shelling, in Seredyna-Buda (UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR OFFICE IN T)
People standing on the rubbles of a destroyed house following Russian shelling, in Seredyna-Buda (UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR OFFICE IN T)
A local resident inspects his flat damaged by recent shelling in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)
A local resident inspects his flat damaged by recent shelling in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian service members help to clear a highway and release cars stuck in snow following a heavy snowstorm in Odesa region (via REUTERS)
Ukrainian service members help to clear a highway and release cars stuck in snow following a heavy snowstorm in Odesa region (via REUTERS)

UK must reveal plans to fund Ukraine war efforts in 2024, ministers told

00:30 , Katy Clifton

The British government has given £4.6 billion of aid to Ukraine since the war started, but ministers have faced questions about why no extra money to help the eastern European country defend itself against Russia’s invading forces throughout 2024 was announced in the Chancellor’s autumn statement.

Labour and senior Conservatives pressed the British government about future support, with defence minister James Heappey giving assurances that an announcement would be made in the Commons once plans were confirmed.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey told the Commons: “The Defence Secretary (Grant Shapps) said last month ‘Let’s not forget about Ukraine’. So why did the autumn statement do just that? No 2024 military funding for Ukraine, no 2024 action plan for Ukraine. At the very time when Ukraine needs confidence that it has strong, continuing support from allies, the prime minister is stepping back.”

Defence minister Mr Heappey responded: “As for the plan for next year, I completely accept that he is right in saying there could have been a number in the autumn statement.

“But what is more important surely is a number that reflects the discussions that the chairmen of the joint chiefs, the Chief of the Defence Staff (Admiral Sir Tony Radakin), and General Zaluzhny have had, the conversations that senior politicians UK, US and Ukrainian have had, in order to understand what the Ukrainian ambition is for their operations next year, so that we can resource that properly.

“All the way through, the thing that the UK has done better than anybody else in the world is understood what the Ukrainians want to do next and got their first in terms of delivering that capability, and in so doing emboldening others to follow.

“As soon as that plan for next year is confirmed, I am certain that the amount of money that it will cost will be announced to Parliament, and the plan firmed up.”

Cleverly in the Commons (Parliament TV)
Cleverly in the Commons (Parliament TV)

Putin ‘won’t make peace before US election'

Tuesday 28 November 2023 23:30 , Katy Clifton

Vladimir Putin will not make peace in Ukraine before he knows the results of the November 2024 US election, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday, amid concerns that a potential victory for former president Donald Trump could upend Western support for Kyiv.

Trump, who is seeking reelection in 2024 and is the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has been sharply critical of US support for Kyiv.

A senior official briefing reporters after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels said the alliance reiterated its support for Ukraine knowing that a peace agreement in the next year is unlikely.

“My expectation is that Putin won’t make a peace or a meaningful peace before he sees the result of our election,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the outcomes of the meeting.

Finland will close its entire border with Russia over migrant concerns

Tuesday 28 November 2023 21:30 , Tom Watling

Finland said Tuesday it will close its last remaining border crossing with Russia amid concerns that Moscow is using migrants as part of “hybrid warfare” to destabilize the Nordic country following its entry into NATO.

Finland already had shut seven of the eight checkpoints on its 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia this month following a surge in arrivals of migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

Helsinki has accused Moscow of ushering them toward the frontier — through thick forests in the south to the rugged Arctic landscape in the north.

“The government has decided to close all the crossing points on the entire eastern border,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told reporters, saying Finland faced an “exceptional” situation that the government blames on Moscow for orchestrating.“

Finland has a profound reason to suspect that the entry (of migrants) is organized by a foreign state. This deals with Russia’s influencing operations and we won’t accept it,” Orpo said bluntly. “We don’t accept any attempt to undermine our national security. Russia has caused this situation and it can also stop it.”

Migrants arrive at the international border crossing between Finland and Russia, in Salla, Finland, (Lehtikuva)
Migrants arrive at the international border crossing between Finland and Russia, in Salla, Finland, (Lehtikuva)

Four killed in Russia attack on homes and coal mine

Tuesday 28 November 2023 20:30 , Sam Rkaina

Russian attacks on Ukraine on Tuesday hit residential buildings, private houses, and a coal mine, killing four and injuring at least 10 people, Ukrainian officials said.

A five-storey building was shelled in the morning in the southern town of Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk region governor Serhiy Lysak said.

“A 63-year-old man was killed. Two women, aged 65 and 63, were injured,” he said on Telegram messenger.

Later, Lysak added, Russian troops launched a drone attack, injuring one more person. “Nikopol district experienced a dozen attacks in a day,” he added.

Three apartment buildings, two industrial enterprises, an administrative building, and vehicles were damaged. Power lines and a gas pipeline were also targeted.

Images shared by Lysak showed the remains of a building under fire, shattered windows, and piles of construction waste.

‘Without strong Russia, no stable world order is possible’ Putin says

Tuesday 28 November 2023 19:31 , Sam Rkaina

Mr Putin denounced what he described as Western “Russophobia”, claiming that “our diversity and unity of cultures, traditions, languages, and ethnic groups simply don’t fit into the logic of Western racists and colonialists, into their cruel scheme of total depersonalisation, disunity, suppression and exploitation”.

“If they can’t do it by force, they will try to sow strife,” he said, vowing to block “any outside interference, provocations with the aim of causing interethnic or interreligious conflicts as aggressive actions against our country, as an attempt to once again foment terrorism and extremism in Russia as a tool to fight us”.

Russian authorities have intensified their crackdown on dissent amid the fighting in Ukraine, arresting and imprisoning protesters and activists and silencing independent news outlets.

Mr Putin said that the US-dominated global order has become increasingly decrepit, declaring that “it is our country that is now at the forefront of creating a more equitable world order”.

“And I want to emphasise: without a sovereign, strong Russia, no lasting, stable world order is possible,” he said.

Putin accuses west of trying o ‘dismember and plunder’ Russia

Tuesday 28 November 2023 18:00 , Sam Rkaina

Russian President Vladimir Putin has cast Moscow’s military action in Ukraine as an existential battle against purported attempts by the West to destroy Russia in a ranting speech ahead of a presidential election campaign.

Mr Putin, who has been in power for more than two decades and is the longest-serving Russian leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, is expected to soon declare his intention to seek another six-year term in a presidential election next March.

“We are defending the security and wellbeing of our people, the highest, historical right to be Russia - a strong, independent power, a country-civilisation,” Mr Putin said, accusing the US and its allies of trying to “dismember and plunder” Russia.

Ukraine and its Western allies have condemned the Russian action against Ukraine as an unprovoked act of aggression.

“We are now fighting for the freedom of not only Russia, but the whole world,” Mr Putin said in a speech to participants of a meeting organised by the Russian Orthodox Church.

El presidente de Rusia, Vladimir Putin, asiste a una conferencia de prensa con su homólogo de Bielorrusia, tras sus conversaciones en el Kremlin de Moscú el 18 de febrero de 2022. (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
El presidente de Rusia, Vladimir Putin, asiste a una conferencia de prensa con su homólogo de Bielorrusia, tras sus conversaciones en el Kremlin de Moscú el 18 de febrero de 2022. (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Over a dozen people dead as Ukraine and Russia hit by powerful snow storms

Tuesday 28 November 2023 17:00 , Lydia Patrick

At least 14 people died due to extreme weather conditions as a winter storm lashed parts of Russia and Ukraine, knocking out power from hundreds and thousands of households.

The severe cold struck war-torn Ukraine at a time when thousands of both Russian and Ukrainian troops were engaged in intense fighting in the eastern towns near the Black Sea almost 22 months into Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Kyiv fears Moscow could attack its power grids with air strikes this winter.

In Ukraine, at least 10 people were killed and almost 1,500 towns and villages were left without power after storms dumped up to 10 inches of snow in some places.

At least 14 dead as Ukraine and Russia hit by powerful snow storms

EU executive's Jourova says no talks about Ukraine without Ukraine

Tuesday 28 November 2023 16:14 , Lydia Patrick

A deputy head of the European Union executive said on Tuesday she would find "unacceptable" any talks about the war in Ukraine that would not include Kyiv or envisage the country giving up territory.

The European Commission's vice-president Vera Jourova also said she would be "disappointed" if a Dec.14-15 summit of EU leaders refused to endorse proposals for more financial aid to Kyiv and a recommendation to launch accession talks with Ukraine.

The Czech EU Commissioner who worked on her own country's EU entry nearly 20 years ago offered Kyiv a sympathetic ear recalling how difficult it was to meet European accession requirements.

She said that, under President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine was finally ready to overcome endemic corruption.

But she refused to speculate on whether Hungary would lift its veto in December on money for Kyiv and starting membership talks, saying a "very intense" diplomatic push was taking place to convince Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

She said the Commission would adopt this year a draft EU law on using for Ukraine's benefit the proceeds on some 200 billion euros of frozen Russian assets. She said that unanimous backing of all the 27 EU countries would be needed to enact it.

Ukraine says Russian shells hit private homes, four killed

Tuesday 28 November 2023 15:20 , Lydia Patrick

Russian shells struck a residential building and private houses on Tuesday, killing four and injuring at least five people, local Ukrainian officials said.

A five-story building was hit in the morning in the southern town of Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk region governor Serhiy Lysak said.

“A 63-year-old man was killed. Two women, aged 65 and 63, were injured. There may be people under the rubble,” he said on Telegram messenger.

In a separate attack in the afternoon, Russian shelling destroyed at least five private houses in a northern settlement just on the border with Russia, Sumy regional prosecutors reported.

Two bodies have been recovered from the rubble, and a 7-year-old girl died in hospital after a car she was in came under fire, the prosecutors said on Telegram. Three people have been injured.

Russia has denied deliberately targeting civilians although many have been killed in its frequent air strikes.

UK must reveal plans to fund Ukraine war efforts in 2024, ministers told

Tuesday 28 November 2023 14:46 , Lydia Patrick

The UK must guarantee military funding for Ukraine‘s defence next year, ministers have been warned.

The Government has given £4.6 billion of aid to Ukraine since the war started, but ministers have faced questions about why no extra money to help the eastern European country defend itself against Russia’s invading forces throughout 2024 was announced in the Chancellor’s autumn statement.

Labour and senior Conservatives pressed the Government about future support, with defence minister James Heappey giving assurances that an announcement would be made in the Commons once plans were confirmed.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey told the Commons: “The Defence Secretary (Grant Shapps) said last month ‘Let’s not forget about Ukraine‘. So why did the autumn statement do just that?

“No 2024 military funding for Ukraine, no 2024 action plan for Ukraine. At the very time when Ukraine needs confidence that it has strong, continuing support from allies, the Prime Minister is stepping back.

“UK leadership on Ukraine is flagging. This year’s £2.3 billion of UK military funding runs out in March, while this month Germany announced military aid for next year of eight billion euros.”

The Labour frontbencher added: “When will the Prime Minister demonstrate by his decisions and actions that Britain will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes to win?”

James Heappey on Good Morning Britain, 13 November (Good Morning Britain, ITV)
James Heappey on Good Morning Britain, 13 November (Good Morning Britain, ITV)

Russian university students told to donate their vapes to make drones, report News X

Tuesday 28 November 2023 14:00 , Lydia Patrick

Students at Samara University were told to donate their e-cigarette devices, according to Russian media.

Those behind the movement are reportedly the Volunteers in Uniforms club, which is part of the Sokol students patriotic association.

They have reportedly been distributing leaflets explaining their goals, saying that the batteries and microcircuits in the smoking devices can be used to make drones.

The university’s press service told local media that these components are needed to make the release systems that are attached to drones so that they can drop their payloads of bombs.

The organisers of the vape collection push said that one donated electronic cigarette equals “one copter drop on the enemy”, according to a Soviet-style anti-alcohol poster they repurposed with their new message.

News channel, News X, have not been able to independently verify the claims or the footage.

Vape pens stand on a counter at a vape store, in Melbourne, Australia (REUTERS)
Vape pens stand on a counter at a vape store, in Melbourne, Australia (REUTERS)

Pictured- Odesa rescue efforts as snowstorm hits Ukraine

Tuesday 28 November 2023 13:30 , Lydia Patrick

Ukrainian service members release car stuck in snow in Odesa region (via REUTERS)
Ukrainian service members release car stuck in snow in Odesa region (via REUTERS)
Emergency workers release a car stuck in snow following a heavy snowstorm in Odesa region (via REUTERS)
Emergency workers release a car stuck in snow following a heavy snowstorm in Odesa region (via REUTERS)
A woman walks in a snow-covered park during the first snowfall, amid Russia's attack in Ukraine, in Kyiv (REUTERS)
A woman walks in a snow-covered park during the first snowfall, amid Russia's attack in Ukraine, in Kyiv (REUTERS)

Ukraine to boycott OSCE meeting due to decision to allow Russia’s Lavrov to attend - Kyiv

Tuesday 28 November 2023 13:00 , Lydia Patrick

Ukraine said on Tuesday its foreign minister would boycott a meeting of the OSCE in North Macedonia this week due to a decision to allow Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to take part.

“The Ukrainian delegation will not participate in the OSCE ministerial meeting at the level of the minister of foreign affairs,” Oleh Nikolenko, spokesman for Ukrainian foreign ministry, wrote in a statement on Facebook.

Snow storm forces Russia's Black Sea fleet to retreat

Tuesday 28 November 2023 12:30 , Lydia Patrick

The Institute for the Study Of War reported that the storm forced Russia to return all of its naval vessels and missile carriers to their bases, and suggested that the threat of mines drifting in the Black Sea will increase because the storm has dispersed minefields.

The damage caused by the storm affected “the tempo of military operations along the frontline in Ukraine“ but has not stopped military activity entirely, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said.

There were also reports that the storm damaged railways in coastal areas which could have an impact on the Russian military’s logistics capabilities in occupied Crimea and southern Ukraine, the ISW said.

Winds of 67 mph were forecast for Tuesday in Crimea, southern Russia and parts of north-western Russia, the state news agency Tass reported.

Russia Crimea Storm (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Russia Crimea Storm (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Tornadoes to sweep across Black Sea region

Tuesday 28 November 2023 12:00 , Lydia Patrick

Tornadoes have been forecast for the Black Sea region, a day after a storm that left more than two million people without electricity in Russia and Ukraine.

A think tank said the weather also affected Russian military operations.

The storm killed at least 14 people in Russia and Ukraine, officials said, as it toppled trees, tore down power lines and flooded coastal areas.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at least five people died in the Odesa region of southern Ukraine, and that engineers were working to restore electricity to villages that have been cut off.

Winds of 67 mph were forecast for Tuesday in Crimea, southern Russia and parts of north-western Russia, the state news agency Tass reported.

In the Vologda region, about 310 miles north east of Moscow, more than 10 days worth of snow - about 25cm (10in) - fell in one day, Tass said, citing the mayor of a small town who said road clearing took twice as long as usual.

The storm also caused the Moscow region to be blanketed with snow on Monday, piling drifts up to 25cm deep, three times heavier than normal, the Tass news agency said.

It was part of a weather system that created blizzard-like conditions in Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria and Serbia on Sunday, dumping snow and causing power outages and fatal traffic crashes.

Ukrainian emergency workers tow ambulance from snow as storm kills five (The State Emergency Service of Ukraine)
Ukrainian emergency workers tow ambulance from snow as storm kills five (The State Emergency Service of Ukraine)

UK's Cameron to underline support for Ukraine at NATO meeting

Tuesday 28 November 2023 11:43 , Lydia Patrick

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron will underline the country’s “unwavering” support for Ukraine at his first meeting with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday, his office said in a statement.

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron (left) and Minister of State for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell leave 10 Downing Street (PA)
Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron (left) and Minister of State for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell leave 10 Downing Street (PA)

In depth- Russian forces encircle Ukraine’s Avdiivka and ‘ready to storm city’ after months-long offensive

Tuesday 28 November 2023 11:15 , Lydia Patrick

Russian troops have encircled the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka from “all directions” following a months-long offensive that is yet to see a significant breakthrough on the battlefield.

Vladimir Putin‘s forces have suffered some of their heaviest losses in the war so far as they escalated land and air-based attacks on Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, but have been facing a strong pushback from Ukrainian forces in recent weeks.

“Things in the Avdiivka sector have become tougher. The intensity of clashes has been increasing for some time,” Vitaliy Barabash, head of Avdiivka’s military administration, told Espreso TV.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar has the full story

Russian forces encircle Avdiivka and ‘ready to storm city’

Russian forces surround Adviika

Tuesday 28 November 2023 10:39 , Lydia Patrick

Russian troops have been pressing land and air-based attacks, attempting to encircle the eastern town of Avdiivka,

Vitaliy Barabash, head of Avdiivka‘s military administration, said last week that Ukrainian troops had made some headway in halting and pushing back the Russian advance.

“Things in the Avdiivka sector have become even tougher. The intensity of clashes has been increasing for some time,” Barabash told the media outlet Espreso TV.

“The Russians have opened up two more sectors from which they have begun making assaults - in the direction of Donetsk ... and in the so-called industrial zone. The enemy is attempting to storm the city from all directions.”

Officials say not a single building remains intact after months of battles in the town noted for a vast coking plant. Fewer than 1,500 residents remain of 32,000 before the war.

Ukrainian serviceman stands next to residential buildings heavily damaged by permanent Russian military strikes in the front line town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region, Ukraine (REUTERS)
Ukrainian serviceman stands next to residential buildings heavily damaged by permanent Russian military strikes in the front line town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region, Ukraine (REUTERS)

Watch - Ukrainian Emergency Workers Tow Ambulance From Snow As Storm Hits Black Sea Region

Tuesday 28 November 2023 10:00 , Lydia Patrick

Wife of Ukraine military chief poisoned

Tuesday 28 November 2023 09:42 , Lydia Patrick

Marianna Budanova, the wife of Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Chief Kyrylo Budanov, was poisoned, a representative of the military intelligence agency (HUR)told the Kyiv Independent.

Budanova was hospitalised due to heavy metal poisoining, reported the Ukrainian media outlet Babel who say they were informed by undisclosed military intelligence sources.

The HUR representative confirmed Babel’s report in a comment for the Kyiv Independent.

The Independent has not been able to verify the reports.

Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov offers Putin thousands more fighters amid heavy Russian losses in Ukraine

Tuesday 28 November 2023 09:30 , Lydia Patrick

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said another 3,000 of his men were ready to join Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine amid reports of heavy losses for Vladimir Putin‘s troops in their push to capture an eastern city.

Mr Kadyrov, a self-proclaimed “foot soldier” of the Russian president, said his fighters were ready to form new units of the Russian defence ministry and the Russian National Guard forces.

His statement comes amid reports of Russian troops suffering “some of the highest” casualties of the conflict so far amid intense fighting in eastern Ukraine. The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Monday said Russia was losing an average of 931 men a day this month, largely in the fight for the town of Avdiivka.

Until now the heaviest casualties suffered in a month by Russia – according to Ukrainian data – was March this year, with an average of 776 losses per day during the push to capture Bakhmut.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar has the full story

Chechen warlord Kadyrov offers Putin 3,000 more fighters amid heavy Russian losses

WSJ says Russia's continued detention of Gershkovich is attack on free press

Tuesday 28 November 2023 09:00 , Lydia Patrick

The Wall Street Journal said on Tuesday that Russia’s continued imprisonment of U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich was a “brazen and outrageous attack” on a free press, and called for his immediate release.

A Russian court said on Tuesday it had extended the pre-trial detention of Gershkovich, who denies the Russian espionage charges, for two months until Jan. 30.

“Evan has now been unjustly imprisoned for nearly 250 days, and every day is a day too long,” the Journal said in an emailed statement.

“The accusations against him are categorically false and his continued imprisonment is a brazen and outrageous attack on a free press, which is critical for a free society. We continue to stand with Evan and call for his immediate release.”

Ten people die in Ukraine snowstorms - interior minister

Tuesday 28 November 2023 08:30 , Lydia Patrick

Ten people have died in snowstorms in Ukraine, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on Tuesday.

Icy winds and storms have swept in since Sunday, cutting power and blocking roads, particularly in the south.

“As a result of worsening weather conditions, 10 people died in Odesa, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Kyiv regions,” Klymenko wrote on the Telegram app.

“Twenty-three people were injured, including two children,” he added.

A total of 411 settlements in 11 regions had lost power, and more than 1,500 vehicles had to be rescued, Klymenko said.

This handout photograph taken and released by Ukrainian Emergency Service on November 27, 2023, shows a rescuer pushing a car during heavy snowfall in Odesa region (UKRAINIAN EMERGENCY SERVICE/AFP)
This handout photograph taken and released by Ukrainian Emergency Service on November 27, 2023, shows a rescuer pushing a car during heavy snowfall in Odesa region (UKRAINIAN EMERGENCY SERVICE/AFP)

Russian court extends pre-trial detention for WSJ reporter Gershkovich

Tuesday 28 November 2023 08:00 , Lydia Patrick

A Russian court has extended the pre-trial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich for two months until Jan. 30, 2024, the court’s press service said on Tuesday.

Gershkovich was arrested on March 29 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage that carry up to 20 years in prison. The reporter denies the charges.

“The court ruled to extend the term of detention of Gershkovich, accused of a crime under Article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, for up to 10 months, that is, until January 30, 2024,” Moscow’s Lefortovo district court said.

Nearly 2,500 rescued after snowstorm in Ukraine's Odesa region

Tuesday 28 November 2023 07:35 , Lydia Patrick

Nearly 2,500 people were rescued after a snowstorm in Ukraine‘s southern region of Odesa, local governor Oleh Kiper said, adding that 313 settlements in the region were without power as a result of the bad weather.

Odesa region, which lies on the shore of the Black Sea, has been hit by severe snowstorms since Sunday, stranding vehicles and downing power lines.

“849 vehicles have been towed out, including 24 buses and 17 ambulances,” Kiper wrote on the Telegram app.

He said all those trapped by the snow since the start of the snowstorm had now been rescued.

Emergency workers release a car which stuck in snow during a heavy snow storm in Odesa region (via REUTERS)
Emergency workers release a car which stuck in snow during a heavy snow storm in Odesa region (via REUTERS)

Ukraine and the Western Balkans top Blinken agenda for NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels

Tuesday 28 November 2023 05:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is turning his attention to Ukraine, NATO and the Western Balkans after weeks of intense focus on Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Blinken has spent much of the last month-and-a-half deeply engaged on the Gaza crisis, making two trips to the Middle East. Now, amid signs that a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas due to expire on Monday may be extended, Blinken is departing for Brussels for a NATO foreign ministers meeting.

In Brussels, the alliance will reaffirm its support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion, explore ways of easing tensions between Kosovo and Serbia and look at preparations for NATO’s 75th anniversary next year.

Ukraine and the Western Balkans top Blinken agenda for NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels

Putin unveils Russia’s new AI strategy to rival Western advances in artificial intelligence

Tuesday 28 November 2023 04:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Vladimir Putin has unveiled what he calls Russia’s new strategy to counter Western dominance of the field of artifical intelligence, claiming that new AI models “cancel Russian culture”.

The president addressed an AI conference in Moscow on Friday where he said Russian investment in AI development was being increased across all sectors.

Citing the example of Gazprom Neft, Mr Putin said one of Russia’s largest oil producers was using AI to slash the cost of oil well development and to address complicated logistics safety issues.

Putin targets AI as latest battleground with West

Russia forced to move air defences from Kaliningrad to Ukraine frontline amid heavy losses

Tuesday 28 November 2023 03:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia has likely been forced to move several air defence systems from its Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea coast to the frontline in Ukraine amid the losses it has suffered there, according to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Vladimir Putin appears to have been left with no choice but to weaken the defences of Kaliningrad, an outpost bordered by Nato members on three sides and considered one of Moscow’s most strategically sensitive regions.

“Exceptional Russian air transport movements through November 2023 suggest that Russia has likely moved strategic air defence systems from its Baltic coast enclave of Kaliningrad, to backfill recent losses on the Ukraine front,” the MoD said in its latest intelligence update on Sunday.

Russia forced to move air defences from Kaliningrad to Ukraine front after losses

Ukrainian police tow cars from severe snowstorm as extreme weather kills five

Tuesday 28 November 2023 21:30 , Katy Clifton

More than half a million people left without power in Crimea, Russia and Ukraine after huge storm

Tuesday 28 November 2023 02:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

More than half a million people were left without power in Crimea, Russia and Ukraine after a storm in the Black Sea area flooded roads, ripped up trees and took down power lines, Russian state news agency Tass and Ukraine’s energy ministry said. Meanwhile, the Moscow region experienced its heaviest snowfall in 40 years, the governor said.

The storms and snowfall were part of a weather front that left one person dead and many places without electricity amid heavy snow and blizzards in Romania and Moldova on Sunday.

The head of Russia’s national meteorological service said the storm that hit Crimea was the most powerful since record keeping began, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

More than half a million people left without power in Crimea, Russia and Ukraine after huge storm

Schumer to bring spending package on Israel and Ukraine to Senate floor

Tuesday 28 November 2023 01:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced that he’s set to bring a spending package connecting funding for Ukraine and Israel to the floor of the upper chamber.

In a letter to colleagues on Sunday, the New York Democrat wrote, “One of the most important tasks we must finish is taking up and passing a funding bill to ensure we as well as our friends and partners in Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific region have the necessary military capabilities to confront and deter our adversaries and competitors”.

Both GOP congressional leaders – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Mike Johnson – have argued that any Republican backing of aid to Ukraine must be tied to restricting immigration, CNN noted. Mr Schumer said talks regarding the border issue had gone on over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Schumer to bring spending package on Israel and Ukraine to Senate floor

Russian supermarkets are full of fruit, vegetables, cheese and meat. But shoppers can’t afford any of it

Tuesday 28 November 2023 00:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The shelves at Moscow supermarkets are full of fruit and vegetables, cheese and meat. But many of the shoppers look at the selection with dismay as inflation makes their wallets feel empty.

Russia’s Central Bank has raised its key lending rate four times this year to try to get inflation under control and stabilize the ruble’s exchange rate as the economy weathers the effects of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and the Western sanctions imposed as a consequence.

The last time it raised the rate — to 15%, doubled that from the beginning of the year — the bank said it was concerned about prices that were increasing at an annualized pace of about 12%. The bank now forecasts inflation for the full year, as well as next year, to be about 7.5%.

Russian supermarkets are full of fruit and vegetables. But shoppers can’t afford it

Lavrov says no meeting between Russia and US this week

Monday 27 November 2023 23:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia said on Monday there would be no meeting between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at an OSCE meeting in North Macedonia this week.

Lavrov had said earlier he would join the foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes Canada and the United States, in Skopje if Bulgaria opened its air space for him. He said some Western countries had requested meetings with him.

Since President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine in February 2022, the West has sought to isolate Russia, and face-to-face meetings between senior ministers have been rare.

But in response to a question at the same Primakov Readings foreign policy forum, the TASS news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying Washington had not requested a meeting “and will not request one. And there will be no meeting”.

The meeting of the 57-member OSCE, which is intended to prevent conflict and security crises, takes place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1.

“Apparently Bulgaria has promised Macedonia it will open its air space - if that happens then we will be there. Let’s see,” Lavrov said.

“There are already several requests for meetings - including from Western representatives,” Lavrov said, without naming any countries.

Putin pardons two cannibals who joined Russia’s war in Ukraine – report

Monday 27 November 2023 22:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Vladimir Putin has reportedly pardoned two Russian men convicted of cannibalism after they deployed to the frontline in the war with Ukraine.

One of the men, Denis Gorin, was recruited into a private military company after signing a contract with the Russian ministry of defence but is known to have been convicted thrice for murdering at least four people between 2003 and 2022. He was also convicted of eating the remains of his victims along with his brother, reported Sibir Realii, a news outlet aligned with Radio Free Europe.

He is the 17th person convicted for murder to be pardoned by the Russian president between 2022 and 2023. “At the trial, he (Gorin) admitted that they ate the murdered man who was their acquaintance,” said his neighbour Dmitry Vladimirovich.

Putin pardons two cannibals who joined Russia’s war in Ukraine – report

Putin to boost AI work in Russia to fight a Western monopoly he says is 'unacceptable and dangerous'

Monday 27 November 2023 21:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

In case you missed it...

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday announced a plan to endorse a national strategy for the development of artificial intelligence, emphasizing that it’s essential to prevent a Western monopoly.

Speaking at an AI conference in Moscow, Putin noted that “it’s imperative to use Russian solutions in the field of creating reliable and transparent artificial intelligence systems that are also safe for humans.”

“Monopolistic dominance of such foreign technology in Russia is unacceptable, dangerous and inadmissible,” Putin said.

Putin to boost AI work in Russia to fight a Western monopoly he says is 'unacceptable and dangerous'

Dead, wounded or AWOL: Secret recordings reveal Russian soldiers trying to get out of the Ukraine war

Monday 27 November 2023 20:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

In audio intercepts from the front lines in Ukraine, Russian soldiers speak in shorthand of 200s to mean dead, 300s to mean wounded. The urge to flee has become common enough that they also talk of 500s — people who refuse to fight.

As the war grinds into its second winter, a growing number of Russian soldiers want out, as suggested in secret recordings obtained by The Associated Press of Russian soldiers calling home from the battlefields of the Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk regions in Ukraine.

The calls offer a rare glimpse of the war as it looked through Russian eyes — a point of view that seldom makes its way into Western media, largely because Russia has made it a crime to speak honestly about the conflict in Ukraine.

They also show clearly how the war has progressed, from the professional soldiers who initially powered Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion to men from all walks of life compelled to serve in grueling conditions.

Secret recordings reveal Russian soldiers trying to get out of the Ukraine war

Ukraine and the Western Balkans top Blinken's agenda for NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels

Monday 27 November 2023 19:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is turning his attention to Ukraine, NATO and the Western Balkans after weeks of intense focus on Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Now, with the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas extended for two more days, Blinken departed Monday for Brussels for a NATO foreign ministers meeting.In Brussels, the alliance will reaffirm its support for Ukraine‘s defense against Russia‘s invasion, explore ways of easing tensions between Kosovo and Serbia and look at preparations for NATO’s 75th anniversary next year.

The two-day session on Tuesday and Wednesday will include the first foreign minister-level meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, a body created by alliance leaders at their last summit to improve cooperation and coordination and help prepare Kyiv for eventual membership.

“Allies will continue to support Ukraine‘s self-defense until Russia stops its war of aggression,” said Jim O’Brien, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe.

In a call with reporters on Monday, O’Brien said Blinken may travel to Skopje, North Macedonia, after Brussels for a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Putin signs Russia’s largest national budget as he bolsters military spending

Monday 27 November 2023 18:14 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a national budget for the next three years that increases spending by around 25% and reportedly devotes a record amount to defence as the country’s military operation in Ukraine drags on.

The budget foresees spending in 2024 of 36.6 trillion roubles with an expected deficit of 1.595 trillion roubles.

After the budget was passed by the lower house of the parliament, speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said it was developed specifically to fund the military and to mitigate the impact of international sanctions imposed after Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

Record low unemployment, higher wages and targeted social spending should help the Kremlin ride out the domestic impact of pivoting the economy towards the military, but could pose a problem in the long term, analysts say.

Part of the Russian budget is secret as the Kremlin tries to conceal its military plans and sidestep scrutiny of its operation in Ukraine.

But independent business journalists Farida Rustamova and Maksim Tovkaylo said this month that around 39% of all federal spending will go towards defence and law enforcement in 2024.

 (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
(Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)