November 20, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Matt Meyer, Maureen Chowdhury and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 11:05 p.m. ET, November 20, 2022
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4:23 p.m. ET, November 20, 2022

Church that survived two world wars is destroyed by shelling in southern Ukraine

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Radina Gigova 

A church in the southern Ukrainian Mykolaiv region, which survived World War I and World War II, has been "completely destroyed" by Russian shelling, according to Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne. 

The Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, located about 43 kilometers (around 27 miles) east of the city of Mykolaiv, "was mutilated by shelling, only a few walls survived," and "there is no roof," according to Suspilne.

"There is a small room where our liturgical things have been preserved. In particular, a chalice for the 'blood of the Lord,'" the church's priest, Father Oleksandr, is quoted as saying. 

Before the church caught fire, one of the parishioners hid the icons and images that were in the central part.

"We saved most of the images, but the main part was destroyed by the rain. Many (pieces) were destroyed by field mice," Father Oleksandr said.

The oldest icons of the Mother of God could not be saved. They were of great value to the parishioners, Suspilne reports. 

"They were handed over by people who saved these icons from being destroyed by the communist authorities. That's why they had such a value. These people hid the icons in their houses and then, when the church was restored, they brought them here. Unfortunately, they could not be saved. They were very covered, the rains soaked them. They are destroyed," Father Oleksandr said.

The damage to the temple is so significant that it is impossible to restore, Father Oleksandr said. 

4:11 p.m. ET, November 20, 2022

Russia has used more than 4,700 missiles to strike Ukraine since start of war, President Zelensky says

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Russia has already used more than 4,700 missiles in Ukraine since the beginning of war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday.

“Today is the 270th day of the full-scale war. Russia used more than 4,700 missiles,” he said in an address to members of the International Organization of La Francophonie.

“Hundreds of our cities are simply burned. Thousands of people died. Hundreds of thousands were forcibly deported to Russia. Millions left Ukraine for other countries, fleeing the war.”

President Zelensky also spoke about what he called “the Ukrainian peace formula.”

“The Ukrainian peace formula is very clear, and each of its points has been thoroughly worked out,” he said. “Radiation and nuclear safety. Food security. Energy security. Release of all prisoners and deportees. Implementation of the UN Charter and restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the world order. Withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities. Restoring justice. Countering ecocide. Prevention of escalation. Fixing the end of the war.”

Zelensky invited world leaders “to choose the element of the peace formula they can help Ukraine implement."

4:09 p.m. ET, November 20, 2022

More than $2.7 million allocated for restoration of newly liberated Kherson region, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal attends a joint briefing with Executive Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis in Kyiv, on Friday.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal attends a joint briefing with Executive Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis in Kyiv, on Friday. (Ruslan Kaniuka/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

More than $2.7 million has been allocated for the restoration of the newly liberated Kherson region, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal wrote in a Facebook post Sunday. 

“The government allocated 100 million hryvnia ($2.7 million US) for the priority restoration of the liberated Kherson region,” Shmyhal wrote.

“This is the beginning of the reconstruction of the region. First of all, we are talking about the critical needs of the residents of the region: access to light, water, heat, communication and medicine,” he continued. “People will receive pensions that were accrued to them during the occupation."

Shmyhal also elaborated on the financial support Ukraine has received from its partners.

“Canada issued five-year government bonds that are worth 500 million Canadian dollars (nearly $374 million US)," he wrote. “The Ukrainian government made a decision to attract an additional $4.5 billion in grant funds from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association.”

The Prime Minister said these resources will be directed to social security and salaries of state employees.

“Next week, Ukraine will also receive 2.5 billion euros from the European Union,” he added. 

Shmyhal also noted that, amid Russian attacks on the Ukrainian energy sector, the Kyiv government is “activating the import of energy-generating means.” 

“Every Ukrainian can import a generator or charging station from abroad without paying customs duties and VAT,” he said. “About 8,500 generator sets are imported to Ukraine a day.” 

2:06 p.m. ET, November 20, 2022

"Returning fire is not a war crime," Ukrainian official says of incident in eastern Luhansk

From CNN's Olga Vitovych and Radina Gigova

The Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets, commented Sunday on an incident in eastern Luhansk, saying Russian servicemen "are those who are fighting and committing treachery" and that "returning fire is not a war crime." 

Russia has accused Ukraine of war crimes after video emerged on social media, which Moscow says shows Russian soldiers killed after surrendering to Ukrainian forces.

The precise details of what happened remain unclear.

"From some pieces of video about the incident with the Russian military in Luhansk region it may be concluded that using the staged surrender, the Russians committed a war crime - they opened fire on the military of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," Lubinets said in a Telegram post on Sunday, implying that the Russians from the video may have acted as if they would surrender but did not.

"In this case, persons among the Russian servicemen cannot be considered prisoners of war, but are those who are fighting and committing treachery," he said. "Returning fire is not a war crime. On the contrary, those who want to use the protection of international law to kill must be punished."

What the video appears to show: The edited video purports to show captured Russian soldiers in an act of surrender, with several men lying on the ground on their fronts with their hands over their heads. More soldiers are seen emerging one by one from a building and lying down next to them in the yard.

A voice apparently directing the surrender can be heard shouting: “Come on out, one by one. Which of you is the officer? Has everyone come out? Come out!"

After about 10 men are down on the ground, another soldier emerges from the same building and appears to open fire in the direction of the Ukrainian soldiers conducting the surrender. 

A short burst of gunfire is heard before the video clip ends abruptly.

A second clip filmed later from a drone above the same location shows the bodies of what appear to be the same Russian soldiers in the yard, most just a few meters from where they had been lying in the first clip.

CNN has been unable to verify exactly what happened in the first video clip, and it is unclear exactly what happened in the period that elapsed between the first clip and the filming of the drone footage.

The UN investigates: Marta Hurtado, a spokesperson for the United Nations Human Rights Office, said, according to Reuters: "We are aware of the videos and we are looking into them. Allegations of summary executions of people hors de combat should be promptly, fully and effectively investigated, and any perpetrators held to account."

More context: A UN panel of experts said in September that their investigation has found evidence that war crimes have been committed during Russia's war in Ukraine, including cases of rape and torture of children.

12:50 p.m. ET, November 20, 2022

Nearly 45,000 criminal cases opened against Russian military since Feb. 24, Ukrainian national police say

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Radina Gigova

Ukraine's national police said Sunday that 44,662 criminal cases have been opened since Feb. 24 involving what it called "crimes committed by the Russian military."

The charges include "violation of laws and customs of war," the "encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine," as well as "treason" and "subversion," officials said in a statement.

To date, a total of "47 places where the Russians illegally detained and tortured Ukrainian citizens" have been discovered in the de-occupied regions of Sumy, Chernihiv, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv, according to the statement.

Some context: Outside organizations, including representatives from the United Nations, have documented alleged atrocities at the hands of Russian service members in Ukraine.

Earlier this year, a report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found that patterns of violent acts by Russian forces in Ukraine meet the qualification of crimes against humanity.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has dismissed such probes as "undoubtedly a put-up job" by Ukraine's Western allies.

9:51 a.m. ET, November 20, 2022

Southern Ukrainian communities damaged by overnight artillery fire

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

Four communities in Ukraine's southern Nikopol district were struck by Russian artillery fire overnight, according to a local official.

"At least 40 Russian shells hit residential areas," Valentyn Reznichenko, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said in a Telegram post Sunday.

Chervonohryhorivka, Myrove, Marganets and Nikopol were all hit by "heavy artillery" and saw damage to residential buildings, vehicles, and gas and electricity lines, Reznichenko added.

A 59-year-old man was injured and is now recovering.

The situation is now "calm," the official added.

10:25 a.m. ET, November 20, 2022

Ukraine and Russia blame each other for shelling Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

From CNN's Radina Gigova, Darya Tarasova and Olga Vitovych  

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on October 14.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on October 14. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Ukraine and Russia on Sunday blamed each other for recent shelling at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. 

Ukraine's national nuclear power company Energoatom said in a statement Sunday that Russian shelling has hit the plant's infrastructure more than 12 times.

"As a result, the communication overpasses with special corps, chemically desalinated water storage tanks, steam generators' blowdown system, auxiliary systems of one of the two station-wide diesel engines and other equipment of the station infrastructure were damaged," Energoatom said. "Three hits were also recorded near the 'Raiduha' ('Rainbow') substation."

Energoatom said "the nature and list of damaged equipment" at the plant indicate that the aim was to disable "exactly the infrastructure that was necessary to launch power units 5 and 6 and resume electricity production by Zaporizhzhia NPP for the needs of Ukraine."

Russia's Ministry of Defense also reported shelling at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant Saturday and Sunday, saying it was the result of artillery fired by the Ukranian military. 

Russia's Ministry of Defense claimed the shelling was carried out from the area of the town of Marganets, near Dnipro, controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. "The enemy's firepower was suppressed by return fire from Russian artillery units," Russia's Ministry of Defense said in a statement. 

"The radiation situation in the area of the nuclear power plant remains normal," the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding experts from IAEA and Russia's State Nuclear Energy Corporation, Rosatom, will assess the possible damage. 

CNN is not able to verify the claims by Energoatom and the Russian Defense Ministry. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement Sunday that powerful explosions shook the area of the plant Saturday evening and Sunday morning. More than a dozen blasts were heard within a short period of time Sunday morning local time, "in what appeared to be renewed shelling both close to and at the site" of the plant, IAEA said. 

10:26 a.m. ET, November 20, 2022

UN nuclear agency: Powerful explosions shake area of Zaporizhzhia power plant

From CNN's Radina Gigova

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on October 29.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on October 29. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

Powerful explosions shook the area of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant Saturday evening and Sunday morning, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The statement described the explosions as "abruptly ending a period of relative calm at the facility and further underlining the urgent need for measures to help prevent a nuclear accident there."

IAEA experts at the plant reported that more than a dozen blasts were heard within a short period of time Sunday morning local time, "in what appeared to be renewed shelling both close to and at the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant," IAEA said.

The IAEA team could also see some of the explosions from their windows, the agency said. 

“The news from our team yesterday and this morning is extremely disturbing. Explosions occurred at the site of this major nuclear power plant, which is completely unacceptable. Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire,” Rafael Grossi, IAEA director general, said in the statement. 

Based on information provided by the plant management, the IAEA team said there had been damage to some buildings, systems and equipment at the plant's site, "but none of them so far critical for nuclear safety and security," IAEA said. 

There are no reports of casualties and IAEA experts are in "close contact" with the site management about the situation on the ground, IAEA said. 

Grossi "renewed his urgent appeal to both sides in the conflict to agree and implement a nuclear safety and security zone around the ZNPP as soon as possible," according to the statement, which adds that Grossi in recent months "has engaged in intense consultations with Ukraine and Russia about establishing such a zone, but so far without an agreement."

“I’m not giving up until this zone has become a reality. As the ongoing apparent shelling demonstrates, it is needed more than ever,” Grossi said in the statement. 

8:41 a.m. ET, November 20, 2022

Zelensky says regions of Kyiv, Odesa and Kharkiv are experiencing most electricity issues

From CNN's Mariya Knight

A shopkeeper works in a candle-lit store in the Odesa region on Thursday, during a 48-hour-long power blackout after Russian airstrikes.
A shopkeeper works in a candle-lit store in the Odesa region on Thursday, during a 48-hour-long power blackout after Russian airstrikes.

In his nightly address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that work continues to restore power in areas targeted by Russian strikes on infrastructure this week.

"We are working throughout the country to stabilize the situation," he said.

"The most problems with electricity are in the city of Kyiv and Kyiv region, the city of Odesa and Odesa region, the city of Kharkiv and Kharkiv region. Vinnytsia, Ternopil, Cherkasy, Chernihiv and other regions – energy workers are doing everything possible to give people a normal life," he added.

Zelensky also thanked UK Prime Minster Rishi Sunak for meeting with him in Kyiv.

"Thank you, Rishi, Mr. Prime Minister, for your willingness to defend freedom even more strongly with us. We also have some very necessary decisions – we agreed on them today," Zelensky said.