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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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.

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

Ukraine begins voluntary evacuations from Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, according to officials

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

A member of the Ukrainian military searches destroyed sections of the Kherson International Airport on Friday.
A member of the Ukrainian military searches destroyed sections of the Kherson International Airport on Friday. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Ukraine’s government will pay for all costs related to voluntary evacuations from areas of the southern Kherson and Mykolaiv regions that have been liberated from Russian forces, according to a Ukrainian official.

There are several issues in the liberated areas as winter approaches, according to Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk, who spoke at a briefing with Ukrainian media Saturday in Mykolaiv. A large amount of territory in southern Ukraine suffered extensive damage to infrastructure after Ukrainian forces took it back, making it hard for the local residents to survive without electricity, heat and water supply.

“It is about preparing for winter. The temperatures are dropping as we speak; we understand we won’t be able to repair the damage done to the infrastructure in time,” she said. 

“It is only voluntary evacuation; we are not talking about mandatory evacuations at the moment. And voluntary evacuations means that the state assumes all costs and responsibilities associated with transportation, people needing to be taken to the areas where they are going to spend the winter, also accommodations and living expenses and also medical assistance. If people have kids, we need to make sure we provide all the necessary care for the kids,” Vereshchuk said. 

She said residents of Kherson will be able to evacuate through Mykolaiv.

Vitalii Kim, head of the regional military administration in Mykolaiv, said that lists of those willing to evacuate are being drawn up in the liberated settlements of his region. 

“A transit point has been created in Mykolaiv where people can stay for a week before departure. From there, they are sent to different regions of Ukraine, where places to stay have been prepared for them,” Kim said.