November 18, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Hannah Strange, Sana Noor Haq and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 8:59 p.m. ET, November 18, 2022
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6:14 a.m. ET, November 18, 2022

Nine people left dead from Russian missile strike in Zaporizhzhia

From CNN’s Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Police officers carry fragments of a body found under debris of a residential house destroyed by a Russian missile strike in the town of Vilniansk, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on November 17.
Police officers carry fragments of a body found under debris of a residential house destroyed by a Russian missile strike in the town of Vilniansk, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on November 17. (Reuters)

The death toll from Russian shelling on a residential building in Ukraine’s southeastern Zaporizhzhia region overnight into Thursday has risen to nine, according to the Ukrainian presidential office.

“As of this morning 2 more dead were found" in Vilniansk, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said on Telegram.

“Thus, 9 dead have already been found as a result of Russian terrorists' missiles that shelled residential buildings yesterday.”

Pictures posted in the aftermath of the attack by Ukraine's State Emergency Service showed dozens of rescuers working at the scene.

7:57 a.m. ET, November 18, 2022

As temperatures plummet in Ukraine, power grid comes under extra strain

From CNN’s Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv and Jo Shelley in London

A girl walks a dog during first snow fall in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on November 17.
A girl walks a dog during first snow fall in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on November 17. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

Temperatures have plummeted in Ukraine this week, putting the country’s power grid under extra strain as engineers try to repair damage caused by fresh Russian missile strikes, according to the state energy company.

“Due to a dramatic drop in temperature, electricity consumption is increasing daily in those regions of Ukraine where power supply has already been restored after massive missile strikes on November 15 on the energy infrastructure," Ukrenergo said in a statement Friday.

"This complicates the already difficult situation in the energy system."

The latest barrage of shelling from Moscow targeted critical infrastructure in multiple Ukrainian cities, leaving 10 million people without power, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Ukrenergo said it was restricting the use of electricity in some areas as “a necessary measure to preserve the stability of the energy system” and had teams “working around the clock to restore the damaged infrastructure in order to return light to Ukrainians.”

Many parts of Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv, saw the first snowfall of the season on Thursday.

Read the full story:

3:07 a.m. ET, November 18, 2022

Former detainees in liberated Kherson allege Russian brutality, torture under occupation

From CNN's Nic Robertson

A view from a detention center on Wednesday, which Ukrainians say was used by Russian forces to jail and torture people before they retreated from Kherson.
A view from a detention center on Wednesday, which Ukrainians say was used by Russian forces to jail and torture people before they retreated from Kherson. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

Oleksander’s restless pale blue eyes speak as loudly as his words. He is on edge, and with good reason, as he returns to the jail in the newly liberated city of Kherson where he says Russian guards beat him daily.

We pass cell blocks and rusting outdoor exercise cages, move through guard rooms, turnstiles and heavy iron doors, and travel along fences topped in reams of razor wire in this Soviet-era prison until we reach one of the epicenters of Russia’s brutal occupation of Ukraine.

It’s here, in a dark and rubble-strewn corridor, that Oleksander and another former prisoner who didn’t want to be interviewed say Russian guards executed Ukrainian prisoners for pro-Ukrainian chants or tattoos. CNN is identifying Oleksander only by his first name for security reasons.

As Oleksander pushes on a solid, red iron cell door at the end of the corridor, burning wood falls from the ceiling, smoke billows and glowing embers tumble out. The ceiling in this part of the cell block is alight and burning timbers are crashing down.

That’s where the Russian troops brought people for torture, Oleksander tells us. After the Russians withdrew from Kherson “they set fire [to] it to destroy evidence of their crimes,” he says. It is impossible to enter to check it out, due to the flames.

Read the full story here.

3:04 a.m. ET, November 18, 2022

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

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy, Zoe Cantley and Anna Gorzkowska

Police prepare for the arrival of Polish President Andrzej Duda in Przewodow on Thursday.
Police prepare for the arrival of Polish President Andrzej Duda in Przewodow on Thursday. (Artur Widak/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Poland will move quickly with its investigation into the missile that landed on the village of Przewodow on Tuesday, a Polish official told CNN on Thursday.

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

Jasina said 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 Thursday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said 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 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.
6:14 a.m. ET, November 18, 2022

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

From CNN's Denis Lapin in Kyiv, Ukraine and Tim Lister

A man helps a pharmacist find a product with his cellphone flashlight in Lviv on Wednesday.
A man helps a pharmacist find a product with his cellphone flashlight in Lviv on Wednesday. (Gaelle Girbes/Getty Images)

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 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, 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.

2:51 a.m. ET, November 18, 2022

Brittney Griner has been transferred to a penal colony in western Russia, her lawyers say

From CNN's Frederik Pleitgen, Kylie Atwood, Eliott C. McLaughlin and Rob Picheta

Brittney Griner before her court hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on August 2.
Brittney Griner before her court hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on August 2. (Evegenia Novozhenina/Pool/AFP/Getty Images/File)

American basketball star Brittney Griner has been transferred to a penal colony in Yavas, in the western Russian region of Mordovia, her lawyers said Thursday, ending days of speculation over her whereabouts.

Her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, thanked everyone who has reached out in support.

“First, on behalf of Brittney, we would like to thank everyone who has expressed care for her,” they said in a statement. “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. Considering that this is a very challenging period for her, there will be no further comments from us.”

On Wednesday, the US State Department said it had been in touch with Griner’s legal team and was aware of reports she had been sent to a penal colony roughly a seven-hour drive southeast of Moscow.

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.

Read more here.

8:05 p.m. ET, November 17, 2022

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

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

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.

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

Dutch court finds two Russians, one Ukrainian separatist guilty over downing of flight MH17

From CNN's Sophie Tanno

Judges enter the court room at the Schiphol Judicial Complex on November 17, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands.
Judges enter the court room at the Schiphol Judicial Complex on November 17, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands. (Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

A Dutch court on Thursday found two Russians and a separatist Ukrainian guilty of mass murder for their involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Igor Girkin, a former colonel of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and Sergey Dubinskiy, who worked for Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, were convicted along with Ukrainian separatist Leonid Kharchenko, who is believed to have led a combat unit in Donetsk in July 2014.

The three were sentenced to life in prison and ordered to pay the victims more than 16 million euros ($16.5 million), but as the convictions were handed down in absentia, none of them are likely to serve their sentences. A fourth suspect, Russian national Oleg Pulatov, a former soldier of the Russian special forces Spetsnaz-GRU, was acquitted.

“Causing the crash of Flight MH17 and the murders of all persons on board is such a serious accusation, the consequences are so devastating, and the attitude of the accused is so reprehensible, that a limited period of imprisonment will not suffice,” the court said following the verdict.

Flight MH17 was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, when it was shot out of the sky over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed, including 15 crew members and 283 passengers from 17 countries.

The downing of the jet happened in the early phase of the conflict between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces, a precursor to Moscow’s full invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

Read more here.

7:37 p.m. ET, November 17, 2022

Anger on the front lines and anxiety at home as Russia’s mobilization is mired in problems

From CNN's Tim Lister, Katharina Krebs and Anastasia Graham-Yooll

Russia’s first mobilization since World War II may be complete, but the deployment of thousands of soldiers to the battlefields of Ukraine is generating dissent and protest on the front lines — and back home.

With the Russian government touting that at least 50,000 of the recently drafted are now in Ukraine, a long list of complaints is emerging: Lack of leadership from mid-ranking officers, tactics that lead to heavy casualties, non-existent training, promised payments not received.

There are also logistical difficulties, as reported by soldiers, their families and Russian military bloggers: Insufficient uniforms, poor food, a lack of medical supplies.

And there are discipline issues, with some families complaining their men face charges of desertion and are being held in basements in occupied Ukrainian territory.

The Astra Telegram channel — a project of independent Russian journalists — reported that 300 mobilized Russians are being held in a basement in Zaitsevo in the Luhansk region for refusing to return to the front line, quoting their relatives.

One woman said her husband had told her: “New people are constantly brought in. They are in a large basement in the House of Culture in Zaitsevo. They feed them once a day: one dry ration to share between 5-6 people. They constantly threaten them.”

Astra reported it had the names of 42 people of those detained. It also cited relatives in identifying seven basements or detention facilities in Luhansk and Donetsk for soldiers.

It quoted the wife of one detained soldier as saying: “My husband and 80 other people are sitting in the basement; they were stripped naked in order to confiscate their phones, but one person, fortunately, hid the phone.”

Astra said the men were arrested after retreating from the town of Lyman and then refusing to return to the line of fire.

CNN is unable to verify the existence or location of detention centers for men refusing to fight.

Read more here.