November 15, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Jack Guy and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 7:07 a.m. ET, November 16, 2022
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7:17 a.m. ET, November 15, 2022

CNN exclusive: US intelligence suggests Russia put off announcing Kherson retreat until after midterm elections

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Zachary Cohen and Natasha Bertrand

A man removes a banner from the Russian occupation period "Russians and Ukrainians are one people, one whole" in the newly liberated Kherson, Ukraine, on November 14.
A man removes a banner from the Russian occupation period "Russians and Ukrainians are one people, one whole" in the newly liberated Kherson, Ukraine, on November 14. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

The US has intelligence that Russia may have delayed announcing its withdrawal from the Ukrainian city of Kherson in part to avoid giving the Biden administration a political win ahead of the midterm elections, according to four people familiar with the intelligence.

Senior Russian officials discussed the US midterms as a factor during deliberations about the withdrawal announcement, one person familiar with the intelligence said. Waiting until after the US election was always a “pre-planned condition” of Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson, a second person familiar with the intelligence told CNN.

Still, the election was far from the only consideration in Russia’s retreat, officials said. Military analysts say Russia had few other operational options and had been preparing to pull back for weeks, leading US officials to wonder when the Russians would officially acknowledge the withdrawal.

While the intelligence is not a formal assessment of Russia’s intentions, it is a sign that Russia has a continued interest in influencing the US political landscape — although the sources said Russia probably miscalculated the impact such an announcement would actually have on the elections.

Read more here.

6:34 a.m. ET, November 15, 2022

Kherson power station "practically destroyed," says Ukraine's national power company

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

A power station in a formerly-occupied area of the Kherson region was “practically destroyed" prior to the withdrawal of Russian troops, the head of Ukraine’s national power company said on Tuesday.

“The energy facility, which provided power supply to the entire right [west] bank of the Kherson region and a significant part of the Mykolaiv region, is practically destroyed,” Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, CEO of NPC Ukrenergo, said on Facebook. “It no longer exists.”

“Two autotransformers, each weighing 250 tons, were blown up. The relay protection room, compressor room, battery room – which, according to the terrorists, did not cause explosions – were additionally shot and smashed," added Kudrytskyi.

"Several hectares of the consequences of the powerless anger of the occupiers before fleeing from the right (west) bank of Kherson region. A vile horde that knows only how to destroy.”

He said that the company was working to supply the region with electricity from other parts of the country.

“The level of mines there is very high. We work cautiously, but do not lose a single minute. Most of the liberated Kherson region has been without electricity since November 6," he said.

"We are doing our best to supply people with electricity as soon as possible using the selected backup schemes.”

6:24 a.m. ET, November 15, 2022

Future of Black Sea grain deal depends on existing conditions being met, says Lavrov

From CNN's Eve Brennan and Stephanie Halasz 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres attend a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on November 15.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres attend a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on November 15. (Russian Foreign Ministry/Reuters)

The future of the vital Black Sea grain deal depends on existing terms being met, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday.

The agreement guarantees safe passage for ships carrying grain exports from Ukraine, which are key to global food supplies, but is due to expire at the end of this month.

The first term, Lavrov said, is “the export of Ukrainian grain and it is taking place after the Ukrainian Armed Forces used the humanitarian corridor for grain exports for military means.” 

Russia withdrew from the deal at the end of October, citing drone attacks on the city of Sevastopol in occupied Crimea as the reason for its withdrawal from the deal.

Russia blamed Ukraine for the Sevastopol attacks. Ukraine has not confirmed that its forces attacked the city.

“We suspended this operation, but then Ukrainians confirmed that they won't do this again. So, our Turkish colleagues and Western colleagues understand that they need to stop Ukraine from doing these things,” Lavrov said.  

The second term, according to Lavrov, is to “remove barriers to the export of Russian grain.”

Lavrov praised United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who he said was doing “all he can.” 

“But, it has been five months now and no real results have been achieved," said Lavrov. “This isn't about promises. We need to see some action.”

“The Secretary General of the UN assures us citing his Western colleagues that all the economic operators that are securing the logistical chains of fertilizer and grain supplies from Russia are assuring him that no sanctions will be imposed on the implementation of trade agreements for our grain, including the entry of Russian ships into European ports, and the entry of foreign ships into our ports,” said Lavrov. 

Lavrov said that he hopes that the UN will keep its promises, especially since Guterres himself “said it is a matter of principle,” according to Lavrov.

Some background: The agreement put in place a procedure that guaranteed the safety of ships carrying Ukrainian grain, fertilizer and other food stuff through a humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea.

Under the deal, all vessels coming to and from Ukraine’s ports were inspected and monitored by international teams made up of officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN.

5:55 a.m. ET, November 15, 2022

Lavrov again blames the West and its allies for provoking Russia's invasion of Ukraine 

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London 

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a working session on energy and food security during the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 15.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a working session on energy and food security during the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 15. (Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images)

The West and its allies have provoked Russia's actions in Ukraine, and not vice versa, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, using a familiar justification for Moscow's invasion.

"The more they [the West and allies] talk about unprovoked aggression, the more everybody is convinced it was provoked by them," Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali on Tuesday.

"And it is not aggression, it is [an] operation to defend the legitimate interests of Russian security because of threats on Russia's borders and to defend the Russian population in Donbas," he added, using one of the Kremlin's common propaganda lines.

Lavrov also accused NATO and the European Union of interfering in the war in Ukraine.

"I believe NATO and the European Union have long been participants in a hybrid war in Ukraine, hybrid conflict with their arms supplies and training servicemen, and helping with a large amount of intelligence, helping with targeting," he said.

Despite speaking out against the West, Lavrov also told reporters that he had spoken to France's President Emmanuel Macron, claiming that the French leader told Lavrov he wanted to keep talking to the Russian president.

“I spoke to President Macron and he confirmed his intention to continue contacts with President (Vladimir) Putin, to look for agreements that will allow a settlement to the situation,” said Lavrov. 

“I reminded him, as I said, that all the problems are on the Ukrainian side, because of their categorical refusal of any negotiations," he added. "They are putting forward conditions that are clearly unrealistic and inconsistent with the situation.”

In October, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree formally ruling out the possibility of negotiations with Putin. It was dated the day that Putin announced he would annex Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics — in violation of international law.

Last week, however, Zelensky told CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour he had not completely ruled out peace negotiations with his counterpart in Moscow.

“I haven’t closed the door. I said we would be ready to talk to Russia — but with a different Russia. One that is truly ready for peace. One that is ready to recognize that they are occupiers … They need to return everything. Land, rights, freedom, money. And most importantly, justice.

“And so far, I haven’t heard statements like that from the Russian Federation — either from Putin or from anyone else.”

5:05 a.m. ET, November 15, 2022

Russia "cannot continue existence in its current form," Ukrainian official says

Russia must “undergo political transformation” and "cannot continue existence in its current form," a Ukrainian presidential adviser has said.

“No need to be afraid of the truth,” Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter Tuesday.

“Russia cannot continue existence in its current form and ruling elites. Russia must lose, be punished for neglecting international law and undergo political transformation. The sooner everyone understands this, the fewer victims there will be.”

In October, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree formally ruling out the possibility of negotiations with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. 

Speaking with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last week, Zelensky said that “other than ultimatums, I’ve not heard anything from the current president of the Russian Federation.”

“But I haven’t closed the door. I said we would be ready to talk to Russia – but with a different Russia. One that is truly ready for peace. One that is ready to recognize that they are occupiers ... They need to return everything. Land, rights, freedom, money. And most importantly, justice.”

5:30 a.m. ET, November 15, 2022

Ukraine post office to resume pension services in Kherson

From CNN's Victoria Butenko in Kyiv

Ukrainians gather at Independence Square in Kherson as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the city after the withdrawal of the Russian army, November 14.
Ukrainians gather at Independence Square in Kherson as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the city after the withdrawal of the Russian army, November 14. (Andre Luis Alves/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukraine's post office will resume facilitating the payment of state pensions in the formerly Russian-occupied city of Kherson, the head of the organization said on Tuesday.

The announcement was made by post office director Igor Smelyanskiy on Facebook.

In the last week of October CNN spoke to a man still living in the city who said Russia was withdrawing facilities for services like pensions and passports as Moscow prepared to leave Kherson.

Then Ukrainian forces swept into Kherson on Friday as Russian troops retreated to the east, delivering a major victory to Kyiv and marking one of the biggest setbacks for Russian President Vladimir Putin since his invasion began.

2:45 a.m. ET, November 15, 2022

Explosion rocks Russian-occupied Melitopol, Ukrainian mayor says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv, Ukraine

Russian-occupied Melitopol was rocked by a large explosion Tuesday morning, according to the exiled mayor of the southern Ukrainian city.

“Loud explosion in a residential area in the north of Melitopol, near the 24th lyceum, where another occupiers' nest is concentrated,” Ivan Fedorov said on Telegram. “According to preliminary information, the blast wave in a neighboring house broke the windows up to the 4th floor.”

Fedorov is not in Melitopol but has been a regular conduit for information from the city, which has come under increasing Ukrainian attack in recent weeks.

Some context: In a Telegram post on Sunday, Fedorov said Russian forces had turned Melitopol into a "huge military base" while under their occupation, which began in the early days of the war.

Columns of Russian forces have been arriving in Melitopol from the neighboring Kherson region to the west, and from other parts of Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia region to the north, he said. “The Russian military is settling in local houses they seized, schools and kindergartens. Military equipment is stationed in residential areas,” he said. 

3:18 a.m. ET, November 15, 2022

Zelensky proposes total prisoner swap with Russia in G20 address

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie

World leaders attend a working session on food and energy security during the G20 Summit on November 15, in Nusa Dua, Indonesia.
World leaders attend a working session on food and energy security during the G20 Summit on November 15, in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed an “all for all” prisoner swap with Russia during his virtual address to the G20 leaders in Bali on Tuesday, according to a transcript of his remarks shared by the Embassy of Ukraine in Indonesia.

“Thousands of our people — military and civilians — are in Russian captivity. They are subjected to brutal torture — this is mass abuse… we know by name 11,000 children who were forcibly deported to Russia,” Zelensky said. 
“Add to that hundreds of thousands of deported adults, and you will see what a humanitarian catastrophe the Russian war has caused. Add political prisoners — Ukrainian citizens who are held in Russia and in the temporarily occupied territory, in particular in Crimea. We must release all these people … we must unite for the sake of the only realistic model of the release of prisoners — "all for all."

Ukraine's peace plan: The prisoner swap proposal is one of 10 areas outlined by Zelensky during his speech Tuesday on a path to end the war. They are:

  1. Radiation and nuclear safety
  2. Food security
  3. Energy security
  4. Release of prisoners and deportees
  5. Implementation of the UN Charter
  6. Withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities
  7. Justice
  8. Ecocide and the protection of the environment
  9. Prevention of escalation
  10. Confirmation of the end of the war
12:42 a.m. ET, November 15, 2022

President Zelensky outlines Ukraine's peace plan in G20 speech

From CNN’s Masrur Jamaluddin in Bali, Indonesia and Xiaofei Xu

President Volodymyr Zelensky during his video speech to G20 leaders in Bali on Tuesday.
President Volodymyr Zelensky during his video speech to G20 leaders in Bali on Tuesday. (Ukrainian President's Office)

President Volodymyr Zelensky presented a 10-point peace plan to end Russia's invasion of Ukraine in a video speech to G20 leaders in Bali on Tuesday, according to a transcript shared by the Embassy of Ukraine in Indonesia.

The steps includes a path to nuclear safety, food security, a special tribunal for alleged Russian war crimes, and a final peace treaty with Moscow, according to a transcript of the speech.

He also urged G20 leaders to use all their power to “make Russia abandon nuclear threats” and implement a price cap on energy imported from Moscow.

Foundation for victory: In the address, Zelensky compared the recent liberation of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson to the battles leading to the Allied defeat of Germany in World War II.

“It is like, for example, D-Day — the landing of the Allies in Normandy. It was not yet a final point in the fight against evil, but it already determined the entire further course of events,” Zelensky said in the address.
“If the victory will be ours in any case, and we are sure of it, then shouldn't we try to implement our formula for peace to save thousands of lives and protect the world from further destabilization?”

Zelensky also called on Russia to stop bombing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as winter approaches. “Let Russia prove by its rejection of terror that it is really interested in the restoration of peace,” he said.

Moscow has been isolated at this year’s G20 summit as multiple Western leaders vowed not to have any contact with its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who is in attendance on behalf of the Kremlin.