Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

Russian forces continued their barrage of grenade and missile attacks on various regions of Ukraine, many of which hit power infrastructure, while heavy fighting continued in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the east of the country.

As the capital Kyiv experienced its first snowfall of the winter, authorities said they were working to restore power across the country after Russia earlier this week began what Ukraine said was the heaviest bombardment of civilian infrastructure in the nine-month war.

About 10 million people are without electricity, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address Thursday night, in a country with a pre-war population of about 44 million. He said authorities have ordered forced emergency power cuts in some areas.

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Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that its forces used long-range weapons to attack defense and industrial facilities, including “missile production facilities” on Thursday.

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In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces shot down two Russian cruise missiles, five air-launched missiles and five Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, the Ukrainian military said.

Reuters was unable to verify reports from the battlefield.

The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine this winter due to power and water shortages. One of the three vice-presidents of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, arrived in Kyiv on Friday to discuss the EU’s urgent financial support for Ukraine in the coming months.

Click to play video: 'Russia accuses Ukraine of deliberately involving NATO in missile attack on Poland during UN Security Council meeting'

Russia accuses Ukraine of deliberately involving NATO in a missile attack on Poland during a UN Security Council meeting

Pope Francis reiterated that the Vatican is ready to do everything possible to help end the conflict.

“We must all be pacifists,” he told the Italian daily La Stampa. “We want peace, not just a truce that can only be used for rearmament. Real peace, which is the fruit of dialogue.”

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Investigators in areas of the Kherson region retaken by Ukraine in a counteroffensive last week discovered 63 bodies with signs of torture after Russian forces left, Ukraine’s interior minister was quoted as saying.

Ukraine’s parliamentary human rights commissioner, Dmytro Lubinets, released video of what he said were torture chambers used by Russian forces in the Kherson region, including a small room where he said up to 25 people were held at a time.

Reuters was unable to verify the claims made by Lubinets and others in the video – which included the use of electric shocks to extract confessions. Russia denies that its troops deliberately attacked civilians or committed crimes.

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Mass grave sites were found in other areas previously occupied by Russian troops, including some with civilian bodies showing signs of torture.

A Reuters witness heard explosions in the center of the city of Kherson on Friday morning and saw black smoke rising from behind buildings. Police blocked access, but the commotion did not seem to deter hundreds of people in the central square as they waited in line for humanitarian aid.

The square was a frenetic bustle of queues for humanitarian aid and displays of patriotism on Thursday as residents celebrated their liberation from months of Russian occupation, but the mood was also deeply uncertain.

“We are fine, but we don’t know what to expect. Nothing is over yet. (Russian) forces are gathering on that (eastern) bank of the river. They gather on this side. We are in the middle,” said 48-year-old Ihor, an unemployed builder.

Click to play video: 'Canada extends Ukraine military training in UK'

Canada extends Ukrainian military training in Great Britain

The deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration said Russian forces “looted” the Kherson region before withdrawing last week.

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“After the trip to… Kherson region, one thing became clear – our people there need a lot of help. The Russians not only killed and mined, but also looted all the towns and villages. There is practically nothing there,” Kirill Tymoshenko said on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia has moved some troops from Kherson to strengthen its positions in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired artillery at the towns of Bakhmut and nearby Soledar in the Donetsk region, among others.

Russian fire also hit Balaklia in the northeastern Kharkiv region, which Ukraine recaptured in September, and Nikopol, a city on the opposite bank of the Kakhovka reservoir from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the statement said.

The conflict in Ukraine has plunged Russia’s relations with the United States and other Western allies into a deep crisis.

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In the first known high-level face-to-face US-Russian contact since the invasion of Ukraine, CIA chief William Burns delivered a warning message this week during talks in the Turkish capital Ankara about the consequences for Moscow of any use of nuclear weapons.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Friday that talks in Ankara had helped prevent an “uncontrollable” escalation on the ground. Erdogan again called for diplomatic efforts to end the war.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow was not ruling out further high-level meetings with the United States on “strategic stability,” a term used to reduce the risk of nuclear war.

But Ryabkov also said that there is nothing to discuss with Washington on the issue of Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said any summit between Putin and US President Joe Biden was “out of the question at the moment”.