November 29, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Heather Chen, Sana Noor Haq and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 2:14 a.m. ET, November 30, 2022
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6:02 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022

Do not forget Ukraine's "tragedy" this Christmas, first lady Zelenska says

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin in London

Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska walks outside Downing Street in London, England, on November 28.
Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska walks outside Downing Street in London, England, on November 28. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska appealed to the British public not to forget the "tragedy" facing her country this Christmas, days after it marked nine months since the first day of Russia’s invasion. 

"I realize that nine months is a very long time, and Ukrainians are very tired of this war, but we have no choice in the matter. We are fighting for our lives. The British public do have a choice: They can get used to our tragedy and concentrate on their own important things in life," she said in a BBC radio interview on Tuesday.

But she added: "It’s not just a war for our freedom and our lives. This is the war of opposing worldviews: A war of values. It’s important that these are preserved."

We do hope that the approaching season of Christmas doesn’t make you forget about our tragedy and get used to our suffering."

The first lady’s words come amid relentless Russian attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, which have left millions of civilians without power and bracing themselves for a freezing winter with no central heating.  

Zelenska said Russia was aiming "to terrorize people in Ukraine this coming winter, to scare us that we might not survive the cold, the darkness, without internet."

"The winter is treacherous, and that’s what Russia leaders are counting on.

"Luckily, we are resilient. It would probably be wrong to say that these things do not scare us, they do, but we understand why we can and we should endure this, and we will fight for the world, for electricity and for the light," Zelenska said.

Asked how often she is able to see her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the first lady said: "I can't complain, I'm just like everybody else. I can see my husband a couple of times a week at work because I visit the president's office often, but he rarely sees our children unfortunately."

Zelenska is due to address the British Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

8:12 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022

Pope Francis calls Chechens and Buryats "the cruelest" Russian troops fighting in Ukraine

From CNN's Sebastian Shukla

Pope Francis delivers his speech after his traditional Wednesday General Audience at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City on November 23.
Pope Francis delivers his speech after his traditional Wednesday General Audience at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City on November 23. (Stefano Costantino/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Pope Francis has described two of Russia’s ethnic minority groups, the Chechens and Buryats, as some of the "cruelest" troops fighting in Ukraine.

"The cruelest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryats and so on," the Pope said in an interview published Monday.

"I speak of a people who are martyred. If you have a martyred people, you have someone who martyrs them," he added in the interview with Jesuit magazine America, which took place on November 22, according to the outlet.

Chechens are an ethnic group originating from Chechnya in southern Russia. The leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has largely been supportive of the war in Ukraine — including, allegedly, sending his sons to fight there.

Buryats are an ethnic group from eastern-Siberia which borders Mongolia.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova defended Russia’s ethnic make-up on her official Telegram channel.

"We are one family with Buryats, Chechens and other representatives of our multinational and multi-confessional country. And together we will definitely pray for the Holy See, each in his own way."

The leader of the Catholic Church also addressed the anniversary of the Holodomor, which usually takes place on the fourth Saturday of November.

The Holodomor was a man-made famine that is widely attributed to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. It led to millions of Ukrainians dying of starvation between 1932 and 1933.

"The genocide that Stalin committed against the Ukrainians [in 1932-33]. I believe it is appropriate to mention it as a historical antecedent of the [present] conflict," Pope Francis said in the interview.

Some background: Since the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the two figure heads of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, and Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill have been at loggerheads. In June, Pope Francis described the war as Russian "expansionism and imperialism," after urging Patriarch Kirill not to "become Putin’s altar boy."

Two meetings have also been cancelled between the two churches. One in April was due to be in Jerusalem, with the second scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan in September. The two leaders of the church have only ever met once, in Cuba in 2016, since the Great Schism in the 9th century.

5:11 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022

Festive trees to be installed around Kyiv, as mayor says: "We cannot let Putin steal our Christmas"

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Christmas trees will be erected across Kyiv in celebration of the festive season, the mayor of the Ukrainian capital has said.

"We cannot let Putin steal our Christmas," Vitali Klitschko told Ukrainian news outlet RBC-Ukraine.

Though mass events will be prohibited under martial law, "no one is going to cancel the New Year and Christmas, and there should be an atmosphere of the New Year," he added.

The trees will be installed but without their lights on, according to Ukrainian energy company YASNO.

Millions of Ukrainians are in the throes of an energy crisis following Russian airstrikes targeting power infrastructure.

The Christmas trees will be set up at different sites across the city, including the iconic St. Sophia Square.

Klitschko said that the trees will be installed "to remind our children of the New Year mood. You know, we do not want to take away St. Nicholas from children."

8:24 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022

NATO will continue "critical" and unprecedented support of Ukraine, alliance chief says

From CNN's Lauren Kent in London

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at a press conference at the end of a meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at Cotroceni Presidential Palace in Bucharest, Romania, on November 28.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at a press conference at the end of a meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at Cotroceni Presidential Palace in Bucharest, Romania, on November 28. (Robert Ghement/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

NATO's "critical" and unprecedented support in Ukraine remains ongoing, the head of the alliance said Tuesday.

"Our relationship is a very close partnership — it is a relationship, where NATO allies have proven their willingness to support Ukraine in an unprecedented way," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

"When the invasion happened, NATO was not taken by surprise. Actually, we have been preparing, we have been ready to face situations like this since we started the big adaptation of NATO in 2014," Stoltenberg told reporters in Bucharest, Romania. 

Stoltenberg reiterated that the war began in 2014, referring to Moscow's annexation of Crimea, with Canadian troops, British troops, and US troops from NATO helping to train Ukrainian forces that year.

"The war didn’t start in February this year, the war started in the spring of 2014. And since then, NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement, the biggest adaptation of our alliance since the end of the Cold War, with more presence in the eastern part of our alliance.

"So the reality was that when the invasion happened in February this year — compared to 2014 — the Ukrainian troops and armed forces were much better trained, much bigger, much better equipped, and much better led," Stoltenberg said. "That’s one of the main reasons why they were able to fight back."

Of course, the gains and the victories the Ukrainians have made, that belongs to the bravery, to the courage of Ukrainian troops and armed forces," Stoltenberg added. "But it has been critical that they have received support from partners in NATO, and we will continue to do so."

"The main focus now is on supporting Ukraine, ensuring that President Putin doesn’t win, but that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation in Europe.

"It is a mixture of partly more presence in the east, we have already doubled the number of groups, but also working on how to scale those battle groups up from battalions to brigade size levels quickly." 

"So the combination of more presence, earmarked troops, higher readiness, prepositioned equipment, all of that will strengthen our ability to react and act.

"The purpose of all this, is every day, 24/7, to deliver credible deterrence and defense. And by doing that, we are not provoking conflict, but we are preserving peace, preventing a conflict."

Stoltenberg added that the alliance is working to build on the agreement made at the NATO summit in Madrid earlier this year. 

3:36 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022

Desperation and defiance on show in Kherson as Russians shell city just two weeks after pulling out

From CNN's Mick Krever and Matthew Chance

The site of a Russian shelling in Kherson where four were killed, according to the local administration.
The site of a Russian shelling in Kherson where four were killed, according to the local administration. (Mick Krever/CNN)

A pool of blood-stained water and the charred wreckage of a car mark the spot in Kherson where Russian shells tore into this city Thursday, killing four, according to local officials, and shattering any sense of calm.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claims he’s annexed this region, and that the people here are now Russians. But his troops have left, and now they’re killing the civilians they once vowed to protect.

Amid acute power and water shortages, the people of Kherson are suffering and, with winter fast approaching, it’s only set to get worse.

Soon after the invasion of Ukraine began, Kherson was taken over by Russian forces, only emerging from months of occupation on November 11 when the Kremlin’s troops withdrew. Now residents are suffering the kind of violence familiar to so many across this country.

In a small grocery store also destroyed by the recent shelling, a desperate local man searches in the rubble for scraps of food and rolls of toilet paper, scavenging for what little he can to survive.

“Is everything so bad?” we ask. “It’s not good,” he responds, bleakly.

Read the full story here.

1:55 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022

Dnipro struck by Russian missiles Monday night, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Josh Pennington

The Ukrainian city of Dnipro was the target of a Russian rocket attack Monday night, according to Valentyn Reznichenko, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration.

"Several rockets were launched at the city tonight. They were targeting a private enterprise. Manufacturing facilities were destroyed. A fire broke out," Reznichenko posted on Telegram.

He did not disclose the identity of the enterprise. 

Some background: Dnipro is frequently targeted by Russian missiles and other longer-range weapons. On Saturday, Reznichenko said at least 13 people were wounded in a Russian rocket attack.

3:47 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022

More than half of damaged heating facilities in Ukraine have been restored, state company says

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv

People walk past damaged buildings in Borodyanka, Ukraine, on November 9.
People walk past damaged buildings in Borodyanka, Ukraine, on November 9. (Ed Ram/Getty Images)

More than half of the damaged heating facilities in Ukraine have been restored, according to the YASNO energy company, which supplies electricity and natural gas. 

The company's CEO said "316 heat supply facilities have already been restored, which is 53.3% of the total number of affected facilities."

"Despite the constant shelling, Ukraine has started the heating season - 99.7% of boiler houses have started functioning, 99.6% of residential buildings, 97.9% of kindergartens, 98.9% of schools and 99.9% of healthcare facilities have been provided with heating," YASNO's CEO, Sergey Kovalenko, said. 

"Special efforts are now being made to restore the operation of heat generating enterprises in the liberated territories of Kharkiv and Kherson regions, where the situation with access to communications remains difficult," he added.

8:23 p.m. ET, November 28, 2022

UN calls humanitarian situation in southern Ukraine "critical" as people struggle without power and heat

From CNN's Richard Roth

The situation remains "dire" and "critical" in the southern Ukrainian cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv — with nearly a quarter of a million people in Mykolaiv alone facing a lack of heat, water and power, the United Nations says.

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that Humanitarian Coordinator Denise Brown visited the two southern cities over the weekend. Brown reported that people fleeing Kherson are going to Mykolaiv, according to Dujarric.

"Some heating points have already been established in Mykolaiv to help people who cannot heat their homes. Aid workers are providing supplies and generators to make these places functional," Dujarric said.

In Kherson, "We expect that, with support of the authorities, we will be able to cover the basic needs of people who have stayed in the city, if we are able to sustain the same level of aid sent over the past two weeks."  

"The situation with water, heating and electricity, however, remains dire, although the electricity supply is gradually being restored," the spokesman added.

Donors have provided $3.1 billion in humanitarian aid through the UN this year, but Dujarric said continued funding is important, especially during winter months.

3:49 a.m. ET, November 29, 2022

Russia postpones nuclear arms control talks with US, State Department says

From CNN's Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler

Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers parade through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9.
Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers parade through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is blaming Russia for postponing meetings to discuss a key nuclear arms control agreement between the two countries that were scheduled to begin in Egypt on Tuesday, with a State Department spokesperson saying the decision was made “unilaterally” by Russia.

The meetings on the New START Treaty — the only agreement left regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals — were scheduled to be held in the wake of Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling toward Ukraine and following complications around inspections related to the treaty. US officials have repeatedly stressed the need for dialogue on nuclear matters in order to reduce risk.

In a statement Monday, the State Department spokesperson said that “the United States and the Russian Federation were set to convene a meeting of the New START Treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) in Cairo, Egypt, to discuss New START Treaty implementation on Tuesday, November 29.”

“The Russian side informed the United States that Russia has unilaterally postponed the meeting and stated that it would propose new dates,” the spokesperson said.

Russia did not provide a reason to the US for postponing the talks, a senior State Department official told CNN. Moscow informed the US of its decision in “recent days,” the official said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry told Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti that the talks had been postponed, but did not give a reason for the delay.

Read more here.