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Ukraine: Russia denies plans to give up Zaporizhzhia plant

Published November 28, 2022last updated November 29, 2022

The Kremlin says the Zaporizhzhia plant will remain under Russian control despite reports to the contrary. Ukraine's new ambassador to Germany has asked Berlin for generators as well as more weapons. DW has the latest.

 Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant Two cooling towers pictured on the premises of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia Region, southeastern Ukraine.
Cooling towers at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant Two in a 2019 photoImage: Dmytro Smolyenko/NurPhoto/IMAGO

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied reports that Russia intends to give up the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, saying it is still under Russian control and will remain so.

"There's no need to look for signs where there are none and cannot be any," Peskov told reporters in a briefing on Monday.

His remarks came after the head of Ukraine's state-run nuclear energy company said there were signs that Russian forces might be preparing to vacate what is Europe's biggest nuclear plant, which they seized in March shortly after invading Ukraine.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak also said late on Sunday that he was sure Russian forces would leave the plant.

Both Ukraine and Russia have warned of the danger of a nuclear catastrophe, while accusing one another of shelling the six-reactor complex.

The two countries were both badly affected by the world's worst nuclear accident in Chernobyl, northern Ukraine, in 1986.

Ukrainian staff are still working at the plant despite the Russian takeover.

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Monday, November 28:

Zelenskyy: Russia shelled Kherson nearly 260 times this week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said intense and consistent Russian strikes on the Kherson region have destroyed a water pumping station, as he continued to warn of intense and incessant Russian shelling of his country.

In his nightly video address on Monday, Zelenskyy said that Russians have shelled 30 settlements in the southern Kherson region nearly 260 times this past week. He said a pumping station which supplies water to the city of Mykolaiv, northwest of Kherson, has been damaged as a result.

Russian forces retreated from Kherson earlier this month but have been shelling towns and villages in the region since.

On his previous nightly address on Sunday, Zelenskyy warned Ukrainians of another cold and dark week ahead.

Ukraine's first lady urges global response to sexual assault in war

Russian soldiers must be held accountable for using sexual violence as a weapon of war in Ukraine, the country's first lady Olensa Zelenska said.

"The opportunities for the occupiers widened to humiliating Ukrainians and unfortunately, sexual violence and sexual crimes are within their arsenal," she told delegates at the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative conference in London.

"Everyone knows about the huge numbers of rapes," Zelenska said. "They're (Russian soldiers) very open about this."

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly praised Zelenska’s efforts to highlight the "horrific use of sexual violence by Russian forces."

The Ukrainian government has launched a support program to help victims of the war, which Zelenska said she hoped could be a "first step towards an investigation and prosecution".

"There has to be a global response to this. Unfortunately, such war crimes will keep on going in the world as long as the servicemen think that they can go without any punishment."

Zelenska also visited Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's official residence at No. 10 Downing Street and was greeted by Sunak's wife Akshata Murty.

She is expected to address British lawmakers on Tuesday as part of her UK visit.

Ukraine runs test imports of Romanian electricity

Ukrainian state energy trading company EKU said it had conducted a test import of one megawatt of power from Romania.

"The import of electricity can become an additional tool for stabilizing the energy system of Ukraine," EKU said.

Ukraine has grappled with energy shortages and blackouts following waves of Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure.

Ukraine lawmaker says air defense a top priority in war against Russia

Ukrainian lawmaker Kira Ruddick told DW that Ukraine needs air defense systems from the West more than anything else to preserve what remains of the country’s infrastructure against continuous Russian strikes.

Ruddick said her country was now receiving from western allies weapons, supplies and spare parts to help rebuild the energy infrastructure.

Ruddick said Russia was "weaponizing everything" to win the war, ranging from food to electricity, and nuclear plants.

"They are doing everything possible and impossible to win the war. However, they are losing on the military side," she said.

She said that half of Kyiv’s population was currently without electricity and heat. However, she warned that the lack of connectivity was the most dangerous weapon Russia was using against the Ukrainian people.

Ruddick also warned that despite its assurances, Russia might attack the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, the largest in Europe. She stressed that if that happens, it could be another Chernobyl.

"We know that radiation is not picking who has which passport. And it would be a generational tragedy to so many people, to so many nations."

NATO's Stoltenberg says Putin winter as 'weapon'

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia will likely continue targeting critical Ukrainian infrastructure and basic services.

"Doing that when we enter winter demonstrates that President (Vladimir) Putin is now trying to use ... the winter as a weapon of war against Ukraine," he said.

Ukraine war increases chemical weapons threat — watchdog

The war in Ukraine has increased the threat from weapons of mass destruction, the world's chemical weapons regulator said.

"The situation in Ukraine has again increased the real threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons," Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) chief Fernando Arias said.

"It has exacerbated existing tensions to a point where unity of the international community on common global challenges related to international security and peace cannot be presumed," he added.

Arias said that the Hague-based OPCW and other international disarmament bodies have "become places for confrontation and disagreement." Kyiv and Moscow have traded allegations over the possible use of nuclear and chemical weapons since the start of the war.

The organization "continues to closely monitor this serious situation and remains in contact with the permanent representations of the Russian Federation and Ukraine," Arias stressed.

The OCPW chief added that the organization has provided Kyiv with training for first responders of chemical attacks and for the detection of chemical leaks.

EU agrees to give itself legal powers to punish sanction violators

European Union member states on Monday unanimously agreed to make violations of sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine an "EU crime" that can be prosecuted throughout the bloc.

The EU will thus be able to take action against those who help Russia avoid the restrictive measures taken against it.

The move will help standardize the interpretation and enforcement of EU sanctions law across all 27 countries making up the union.

"Currently, member states have different definitions of what constitutes a violation of restrictive measures and what penalties should be applied in the event of violation," said a statement issued by the bloc's current Czech presidency.  

"This could lead to different degrees of enforcement of sanctions and a risk of these measures being circumvented, potentially allowing sanctioned persons to continue accessing their assets and supporting regimes targeted by EU measures," the statement added.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, will now draw up a proposed legal directive that will then be submitted to the member states and the European Parliament.

US-Russia nuclear disarmament talks postponed

Talks in Cairo between Russia and the US on resuming inspections under the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty have been postponed, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday in response to a question.

Russia's Kommersant newspaper cited the US Embassy as saying that the talks had been postponed unilaterally by Moscow.

The talks were to have taken place in the Egyptian capital between November 29 and December 6.

The inspections had been suspended in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moscow has been accused of nuclear brinkmanship in statements Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have made regarding the possibility of atomic weapons being employed to defend Russian territory. Moscow claims to have "annexed" parts of Ukraine, making it unclear what the Kremlin might consider its own.

Ukrainian ambassador asks Berlin for generators

The new Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Oleksii Makeiev, has called on Berlin to provide his country with equipment to counter the power cuts caused by recent Russian missile attacks.

"We need generators and car transformers, which are particularly affected by Russian missile attacks," Makeiev told public broadcaster ZDF on Monday. 

Makeiev said that the capital, Kyiv, has electricity only for a few hours per day after the massive damage to energy infrastructure across the country.

The ambassador however also reiterated the need for more air-defense systems and other weapons from Germany, saying: "German weapons save lives."

Makeiev said his main concern was to build and maintain trust. 

"We need this support from Germany very much," he said.

Ukraine power outages: Nick Connolly reports from Kyiv

Ukraine warns of more Russian aerial attacks

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russian forces are preparing a fresh wave of missile attacks targeting energy infrastructure.

A Ukraine military spokesperson said a Russian warship capable of firing cruise missiles had recently deployed to the Black Sea with Kalibr-type missiles on board, indicating that preparations were underway.

This comes after President Volodymyr Zelensky also said in an address to Ukrainians late on Sunday that Russia was preparing new aerial attacks.

He said Russia's military would continue such attacks "as long as they have missiles."

Repeated Russian attacks in recent days have disrupted power and water supplies to millions over recent weeks as winter sets in.

Russia has said it targets only infrastructure linked to military use and has blamed the blackouts on Kyiv's refusal to negotiate with Moscow.

More coverage of the war in Ukraine

DW's Ihor Burdyga, who hails from Kherson in southern Ukraine, describes life in his home town after it was liberated from the Russian forces that held it for months.

And there have been calls for Russia to pay for the damage it has inflicted on Ukraine. DW looks at how realistic the prospects of this occurring are.

rmt, tj/ar, kb (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)