November 17, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

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See images Ukraine says show Russian torture chambers in Kherson
01:17 - Source: CNN

What we covered here

  • Ten million Ukrainians are enduring emergency power cuts Thursday night after more Russian missile attacks, just as temperatures fall to freezing and below, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
  • NATO, Polish and US officials said this week’s deadly missile strike in Poland was likely launched by Ukrainian air defenses, but that Russia bore ultimate responsibility.
  • US basketball star Brittney Griner has been moved to a penal colony in Russia’s Mordovia region, her lawyers said.
  • A Dutch court has convicted two Russians and one Ukrainian separatist of murder for their roles in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people onboard.
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Top US general spoke with Ukrainian counterpart about Russian invasion

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke today with his Ukrainian counterpart, Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, according to a readout of the call provided by his spokesperson.

“They discussed the unprovoked and ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and exchanged perspectives and assessments. The Chairman reaffirmed unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Joint Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler said in the readout.

People in Ukraine's Kherson region try to return to normal — but the war is still dangerously close

A man harvests corn in his backyard.

A Ukrainian man harvests corn from his backyard in the cold autumn rain. Next to the broken fence sits a rusting Russian tank, destroyed when Kyiv’s military forced Russian forces to retreat from the west bank of the Dnieper river.  

A Russian tank, destroyed when Kyiv's military forced Russian forces to retreat, sits on the side of the road.

In the absence of Russian soldiers, life is slowly returning to normal in the liberated areas of Kherson province. But even if the frontline has moved, the war remains a constant presence in the village of Dudchany, which sits on the Dnieper’s west bank, with daily shelling a constant threat. 

A white flag marks an unexploded missile.

“Two days ago there was shelling and shrapnel landed right here in our yard,” said Olga Gritsuniak, 68, as she showed the remains of the weaponry. On Thursday, another five Russian rockets landed in her village.  

“Thank God we survived all this,” she said. 

Olga Gritsuniak shows the stores of food in her basement, where she and her husband often took shelter while the Russians occupied the area.

Gritsuniak and her husband often hid in their basement when the Russians occupied the area, not just to escape the Ukrainian counterfire, but also to steer clear of Moscow’s armies. 

“We decided to stay. They didn’t touch some people, but some were missing… Some people were taken and beaten, young men,” she said. 

Gritsuniak doesn’t have power, gas or water, a concern as winter fast approaches, with temperatures expected to drop below zero in the coming days. 

Lesya Koval

Nearby, Lesya Koval, 59, is felling trees with her husband. Without power or gas, they’ll have to use wood for heating. She never doubted Ukrainian forces would retake Kherson and wants to forget the time spent under Russian occupation. 

“It was scary they could come anytime and check our houses at any time,” she said. “They kept asking if we had a better life with Ukrainians or them [Russians]. We had good life, were in our own land, minded our own business.”

She wishes life would soon return to normal – but a few meters away, the local kindergarten, with its collapsed roof and walls barely standing after persistent shelling, is a reminder that this is very much still an active war zone.   

“Even if Kherson has been liberated… they keep firing at us,” she said.

Far-right House Republicans, led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, seek to cut off Ukraine aid

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene  speaks as Rep. Matt Gaetz, left, and Rep. Thomas Massie listen during a news conference at the US Capitol on Thursday, November 17.

In a preview of the intra-party battle ahead, far-right House Republicans, led by MAGA firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, vowed Thursday to fight against Ukraine aid.

She said, at a news conference with other members, that she’d introduced an effort to force a vote on a resolution requiring the Biden administration to provide all documents related to the security assistance that has already been appropriated to Ukraine.

The long-shot bid does not have buy-in from members of the Republican leadership, though they were given a heads-up about the news conference. 

The far-right members also seized on House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s previous promise of no more “blank checks” to Ukraine, even though McCarthy later clarified he just wants to ensure greater oversight of any federal dollars. 

“Is Ukraine now the 51st state of the United States of America and what position does Zelensky have in our government?” Greene said, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“I will not vote for one more dollar to Ukraine,” added Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Some background: While the anti-Ukraine wing of the party only represents a fraction of the GOP, this group could have leverage in a razor-thin majority.

CNN projects that Republicans will win control of the House – but their majority will be a narrow one. As of Thursday evening, CNN projected Republicans will control 218 seats compared to 210 for the Democrats. If the current leaders of the remaining uncalled races wind up winning, that would leave Republicans with 221 seats.

Poland will move quickly with investigation into missile incident, official says

A Polish official told CNN on Thursday that his country will move quickly with its investigation into the missile that landed on the Polish village of Przewodow on Tuesday.

Speaking to CNN’s Isa Soares, Polish Ministry for Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lukasz Jasina said that Poland is pushing ahead with its investigation into the incident, adding that the authorities expect to receive the results in the next few days.

Jasina said that Ukrainian experts will also be allowed access to the site, stressing there first needs to be “some legal arrangements to create a good space for their expertise.”

Some background: Earlier today, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Ukrainian investigators will be allowed to observe the investigation, “but when it comes to participation in proceedings and access to documents and information, it requires specific treaty grounds, specific grounds in the field of international law and international agreements.”

Jasina, who told CNN that he comes from the region where the missile exploded, said the mood among his friends and neighbors is “very very sad.”

“Russian threat is direct not only for Ukraine but also for Poland and other European states. That war is against all of us, against our values, against Europe, against our style of life,” he added.

10 million Ukrainians are without electricity after another wave of missile attacks, Zelensky says

A view of the dark streets after a massive Russian missile strike on critical infrastructure in Lviv, Ukraine, November 15.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country is enduring emergency power cuts Thursday night after more Russian missile attacks, just as temperatures fall to freezing and below.

In his daily video message, Zelensky said crews are doing everything to normalize supply, but there were “emergency power cuts again in addition to the planned stabilization ones.”

“As of now, more than 10 million Ukrainians are without electricity,” he said — the same number as on Tuesday night after a barrage of missile attacks.

Most of the outages are in Vinnytsia, Odesa, Sumy and Kyiv regions, the president said.

Yasno, a power supplier in Kyiv, said the city had experienced emergency blackouts all day, with the grid having less than half of its normal supply. It said power engineers were trying to stabilize the system to avoid even greater damage. 

Zelensky said that dozens of people were wounded as a result of a missile strike in Dnipro. In Zaporizhzhia, seven bodies had been recovered from the debris of a residential building destroyed by Russian shelling on Wednesday night, he said.

“Again and again, we repeat to our partners that only full protection of Ukrainian skies will save both Ukraine and Europe from many possible escalations of Russian aggression and will definitely encourage Russia to truly end the war,” Zelensky said as Ukraine endures waves of missile strikes.

Zelensky also welcomed the renewal for four months of the Black Sea grain export accord and the verdict at the MH17 trial in the Netherlands.

Brittney Griner moved to Russian penal colony

US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony in August for drug smuggling, is seen on a screen via a video link from a remand prison during a court hearing to consider an appeal against her sentence, at the Moscow regional court on October 25.

US basketball star Brittney Griner has been moved to a penal colony in Russia’s Mordovia region, her legal team told CNN in a statement Thursday.

“We can confirm that Brittney began serving her sentence at IK-2 in Mordovia. We visited her early this week. Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment,” Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, told CNN on Thursday.

Griner’s lawyers said they would like to “thank everyone who has expressed care for her,” and that they have received “numerous messages of support.”

They added that “considering that this is a very challenging period for her,” there will be no further comment from them.

The US State Department said that Griner’s location has still not been shared with them by the Russian government. 

“We are aware of reports of her location, and in frequent contact with Ms. Griner’s legal team,” a State Department spokesperson said Thursday.

“However, the Russian Federation has still failed to provide any official notification for such a move of a U.S. citizen, which we strongly protest. The Embassy has continued to press for more information about her transfer and current location,” the spokesperson added.

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, also told CNN that the Russian legal team has seen the WNBA star at the penal colony, where she has begun serving her 9-year sentence.

“Despite the fact she is alone and now nearing her ninth month in detention separated from her loved ones, she is trying to stay strong. At this time, we will not be sharing any further details, but want to express our deepest thanks to the Biden Administration, the Richardson Center, and to everyone who has reached out to offer words of encouragement to her,” Colas said.

Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport shortly before the war began and accused by Russian prosecutors of trying to smuggle less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.

The Russian region of Mordovia, which is more than 300 miles from Moscow, is the same region where American Paul Whelan is being held. The former US Marine is serving 16 years in a different penal colony on espionage charges that he denies.

What is life like in a penal colony? While the conditions vary greatly in different Russian penal colonies, there are reports of political prisoners being placed in harsh conditions. Prisoners can be subjected to “solitary confinement or punitive stays in psychiatric units,” the State Department’s human rights report says.

Russian law also allows for forced labor in penal colonies, and in some cases, inmates have been tortured to death, the report says. There are also reports of prison authorities recruiting inmates to abuse other inmates, the report adds.

“No indication” that Poland is dealing with a direct threat, says Polish government spokesman

There is “no indication” that Poland is dealing with a direct threat, Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller told reporters in Warsaw on Thursday, following Tuesday’s incident that left two people dead when a missile landed in the Polish village of Przewodow.

Based on the materials that have been collected by expert teams, “the reason for this event were Ukraine’s defensive actions against Russia’s offensive actions. There is no indication that we are dealing with a direct threat to our country,” he added. “At the moment, we know that on Nov. 15, Russia, which carried out a massive missile attack on the territory of Ukraine, led to a situation in which the Ukrainian anti-aircraft forces had to take defensive measures.”

Ukrainian officials said on Thursday that their investigators were getting access to the site of the blast.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said earlier today that Ukrainian investigators will be allowed to observe the investigation, “but when it comes to participation in proceedings and access to documents and information, it requires specific treaty grounds, specific grounds in the field of international law and international agreements.”

Russian Foreign Ministry announces automatic extension of grain deal for 120 days

The UN-brokered deal that allows Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports during the war will be extended for 120 days in the same format, according to a news release from the Russian Foreign Ministry published on Thursday.

“The four-party deal by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations, signed in Istanbul on July 22, will expire on November 18. The text of the document provides for its automatic extension for another 120 days in the absence of objections from any of the parties,” the ministry said.

“No such objections have been received,” it added.

According to the ministry, Moscow “has clearly and openly emphasised that the agreements on Ukrainian food and the effective implementation of the Russian-UN Memorandum on the normalisation of Russian agricultural exports is a package deal, and that remains unchanged.”

“We took note of the intensification of the UN Secretariat’s effort to fulfill its obligations in this regard and the information provided to us on the intermediate results of its work to remove obstacles to Russian fertiliser and food exports. All these issues must be resolved within 120 days, the period for which the package deal is to be extended,” the ministry said.

The ministry added that “any attempt to use the humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea for military provocations will receive a harsh response.”

Some context: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday cast doubt on the future of the agreement, saying it depended on existing terms being met. Earlier this month, Russia rejoined the deal after saying it was pulling out.

Ukraine and Russia together account for nearly a third of global wheat exports, and the grain deal has played a crucial role in lowering the price of wheat and other commodities globally.

Russia will not extradite its citizens sentenced to life in prison by Dutch court in MH17 case, state media reports

Russia says it will not extradite its citizens who were sentenced in absentia by a Dutch court to life imprisonment, Russian state media TASS reported on Thursday.

“The court decision does not create any legal consequences for us,” TASS reported, quoting Andrei Klishas, chairman of the Federation Council committee on constitutional legislation. “In general, we do not extradite Russian citizens to other states under any circumstances.”

This comes after a Dutch court sentenced three men — former Russian intelligence officers Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian separatist leader — to life imprisonment after they were convicted for their roles in the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which killed all 298 people onboard.

The men all refused to take part in the trial and were tried in absentia, meaning it is highly unlikely they will serve those sentences.

Russia continues rocket and artillery fire on the front lines, Ukraine's military says

Russian forces have carried out rocket and artillery attacks along the front lines in seven different regions — from Kherson and Mykolaiv in the south to Luhansk and Kharkiv in the northeast, the Ukrainian military said. The military added that these attacks are separate from the spate of Russian cruise missile attacks on Thursday against infrastructure.

There have been 25 missile strikes, and civilian infrastructure was hit in six regions, the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said, adding that 23 people were injured in missile strikes in Dnipro and several people were killed in Zaporizhzhia.

Some of the shelling in the northeastern corner of Kharkiv appears to have come from Russian territory. 

In Donetsk and Luhansk regions, there was also heavy shelling in several areas — both where Ukrainian forces are on the attack around Svatove and where Russian units have been trying to break through around Bakhmut. In occupied Luhansk, it said, the movement of civilians had been restricted. 

The General Staff did not indicate any territory had been won or lost. 

It's just after 8 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Thursday saw some big developments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict — including a spate of Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure, a Dutch court’s verdict in the MH17 case and an extension for the Black Sea grain deal. If you’re just joining us, catch up on the latest here.

  • Three men convicted in Flight MH17 tragedy: A Dutch court sentenced two Russian nationals — Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy — and one Ukrainian separatist, Leonid Kharchenko, to life imprisonment after they were convicted for their roles in the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which killed all 298 people onboard. The men all refused to take part in the trial and were tried in absentia, meaning it is highly unlikely they will serve those sentences. the crash took place in 2014, in the early phase of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The families of the victims of the MH17 tragedy were also awarded damages exceeding $16.5 million by a Dutch court on Thursday. Russia called the verdict “politically motivated,” while the Ukrainian president, Dutch prime minister, US secretary of state and NATO chief welcomed the sentence.
  • Przewodow missile fired by Ukraine, analysis suggests: NATO, Polish and US officials have said that the deadly missile strike in Poland Tuesday was likely launched by Ukrainian air defenses, but that Russia bore ultimate responsibility. Ukrainian investigators arrived at the site of the strike after President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has said the missile was not Ukrainian, demanded that a Ukrainian team join the investigation, which is being led by Polish and US experts. Russia denied “any relation” with the missile incident on Wednesday, and a Kremlin spokesperson said that some leaders have made statements without understanding “what actually happened.”
  • Russian strikes on civilian infrastructure continue: Russian shelling and missile strikes on civilian infrastructure hit various parts of Ukraine overnight. A missile strike in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region killed at least four people, while five people were wounded by Russian shelling in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro and another three men were hospitalized after being wounded in missile strikes in Izium in the Kharkiv region. Several gas production facilities in eastern Ukraine were destroyed and others damaged by shelling, and the southern region of Odesa was also hit by Russian strikes on Thursday.
  • Agreement reached to extend Black Sea grain deal: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres confirmed all parties had agreed to extend the UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal aimed at easing a global food crisis after Russia had cast doubt on its continued participation in the agreement. The deal, signed in July, had been due to expire on Saturday. In a tweet, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the deal would be “prolonged for 120 days.”

Ukraine says communications are being restored after latest Russian missile strikes

The Ukrainian government said communications are being brought back up after the recent spate of missile attacks from Russia. 

Many Ukrainian cities are again without electricity and have communication disruptions as base stations have lost power, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov said in a Telegram post.

But he added, “in just one day, thanks to the efforts of power engineers and mobile operators, 3,000 base stations resumed their work. Thus, residents of Kharkiv and Zhytomyr regions are back in touch.”

The status of communication and power services across the country varied, Fedorov said. In the Odesa region, only 38% of networks were working. But in other regions, more than two-thirds of networks were back up, with 77% in the Kyiv region and 81% in the Lviv region.

Russia is reinforcing defensive positions on east bank of the Kherson region, Ukrainian military says

The destroyed Antonivskyi bridge and the east and west banks of the Dnipro river, outside Kherson, Ukraine, on November 15.

Russian forces continue to equip “defensive borders” on the east bank of the Dnipro River, as well as regrouping their units, the Ukrainian military said.

Russia “continues to provide logistical support to units in the Kherson region, looking for safe ways to supply equipment, weapons and supplies,” Ukraine’s Operational Command South said. 

Russian forces withdrew to the east bank last week, but Ukrainian shelling of the area has continued. 

After targeting Russian positions around Kakhovka, “filtration measures against the local population have been intensified. In Kakhovka town itself, Russian invaders are mining infrastructure facilities and destroying cell towers,” according to the command.

The Ukrainian military’s General Staff echoed the Operational Command South’s comments, saying Russian troops continue the forced evacuation of Ukrainians from the occupied areas of the Kherson region.

On Wednesday night, the population from Novokyivka, a village not far from Crimea, had been forced to leave their homes, and the hospital in Nova Kakhovka stopped functioning because all medical equipment and ambulances were stolen, according to the General Staff.

Brigadier Gen. Oleksii Hromov, deputy chief of the General Staff, said that the presence of Ukrainian troops on the west bank of the Dnipro River “allows us to control the territory close to the temporarily occupied peninsula of Crimea.” Ukrainian artillery was “doing their best to hit” Russia “at the maximum range of our weapons,” he added. 

Russian shelling continued against communities further north, across the river, including Myrivka, Marhanets and Nikopol in the Dnipropetrovsk region, it said.

In the Black Sea, the command said Russia “has increased the number of cruise missile carriers in the Black Sea naval grouping. Currently, there are 3 of them, one of which is underwater. They are ready for a salvo by two dozen Kalibr missiles.”

Families of MH17 victims were awarded more than $16.5 million in damages 

Victims' relatives embrace amid the trial of the MH17 downing case on November 17.

The families of the victims of the MH17 tragedy were awarded damages exceeding $16.5 million by a Dutch court on Thursday.  

After assessing the 306 claims for compensation, according to Ukrainian law, “compensation for moral damages, including emotional damages” was “granted for a total amount exceeding 16 million euros ($16.5million),” a press release from the Hague District Court said. 

The press release noted that although under Ukrainian law, same-sex partners are not entitled to claim compensation, the court decided not to apply that exclusion as it would “violate the prohibition on discrimination.” 

The three accused, Leonid Kharchenko, Sergey Dubinskiy and Igor Girkin, were all sentenced to life imprisonment after the court ruled that downing Flight MH17 bore such “devastating consequences” that “a limited period of imprisonment will not suffice,” according to the press release.

Polish president says he is trying to support Zelensky following missile incident 

Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks to media on November 17, in the eastern village of Przewodow, Poland, where a missile strike killed two men, near the border with Ukraine.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said Thursday that he is trying to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky following what he called an “unintentional incident” that left two people dead on Tuesday when a missile landed in the Polish village of Przewodow, near the border with Ukraine.

“It is an extremely difficult situation, and it is not a surprise to anyone that there are emotions here. He is going through everything that his nation is going through. It is his nation, that chose him for this post and for which he feels responsible,” Duda told journalists on Thursday during a visit at the site of the blast in Przewodow.

Duda said that all three parties – Poland, Ukraine and the US – are collecting information on their end, reinstating that what happened on Tuesday was a “tragic” accident.

“Nobody wanted to hurt anyone in Poland,” Duda said, adding that “so far, we haven’t found any traces of the second missile on Polish territory.”

“This is a difficult time for this small community,” he said, and “the families ask that their pain and privacy be respected.”

NATO and US welcome the MH17 verdict

Three individuals were found guilty by Dutch juries of murder for their part in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 and were given life sentences on November 17, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands. 

Dutch court’s Thursday verdict, which found two Russians and a Ukrainian separatist guilty of mass murder for their role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, marked “an important day for justice and accountability,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. 

“There can be no impunity for such crimes. My thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the 298 innocent victims,” Stoltenberg tweeted.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also welcomed the verdict, saying the decision “is an important moment in ongoing efforts to deliver justice” for the victims.

Blinken added that “more work lies ahead to meet the UN Security Council’s demand in resolution 2166 that ‘those responsible … be held to account.’”

Earlier, the court stated that “the consequences [of their actions] are so severe and the attitude of the accused is so detestable that a mere time-prescribed sentence would not suffice.”

The men all refused to take part in the trial and were tried in absentia, meaning it is highly unlikely they will serve those sentences.

Russia says it has destroyed a Ukrainian command post in newly liberated part of Kherson  

The Russian military hit a Ukrainian command post and communications center in a recently liberated part of the Kherson region, the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday.

The ministry said that Russia’s aviation, missile forces and artillery had been in action and had hit “the command post of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the area of the settlement Naddnipryanske and the communications center of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the area of the settlement Chernobaevka” in the Kherson region.

Both places are close to the city of Kherson, on the west bank of the Dnipro River, and were taken back by Ukrainian forces last week.

The defense ministry said 74 artillery units had been hit.

In Zaporizhzhia — also in southern Ukraine — Russian forces destroyed the workshops of the Iskra research and production complex, which produced electronic components for the repair of radar stations and multiple launch rocket systems, the ministry added.

Ukrainian investigators are at the Poland missile site, according to source

A source in the president’s office in Kyiv has confirmed to CNN that Ukrainian investigators have arrived at the site in Poland struck by a missile on Tuesday.

President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded Wednesday that a Ukrainian team should be allowed to join the investigation, which is being led by Polish and US experts.