Ukraine live briefing: Evidence points to Nord Stream sabotage, Swedish investigation finds

A residential building was heavily damaged by a strike in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Thursday.
A residential building was heavily damaged by a strike in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Stringer/Reuters)

A Swedish investigation into explosions that damaged the Nord Stream pipelines, which convey gas from Russia to Europe, found evidence of sabotage, Sweden’s Security Service announced Thursday. The Kremlin rejected the findings.

“This is the Russian formula for war: kill, intimidate, fix threats to free states and their losses, destroy borders and corrupt,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address to the European Political Community, a forum of more than 40 governments, which met for the first time in Prague on Thursday. “And each of these elements is anti-European. All of them are directed against Europe.”

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

As Ukraine war falters, Russians ask a risky question: Could Putin fall?

Key developments

  • President Biden said that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at its highest since the Cuban missile crisis, warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “not joking” about the potential use of nuclear weapons as his army struggles in Ukraine. Biden’s remarks at a New York fundraiser Thursday comes after administration officials have said there is no indication Russia is moving its nuclear weapons in preparation for an imminent strike.
  • Zelensky, in a speech delivered via video, said the newly formed European Political Community offered “not just another format of cooperation in Europe but an extremely powerful opportunity to restore peace in Europe,” The Washington Post reported.
  • “We do not think that any objective investigation is possible without the participation of the Russian side,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement, regarding Sweden’s Nord Stream findings. Moscow has sought to blame the West for the explosions.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu faced intensifying political pressure Thursday over a series of disorderly retreats in Ukraine, as powerful nationalist figures openly attacked Moscow’s military command for setbacks in areas President Vladimir Putin claims to have annexed.
  • Two Russian nationals fleeing President Vladimir Putin’s call-up of military reservists landed by boat on a remote Alaskan island in the Bering Sea and are seeking asylum in the United States, U.S. officials said Thursday. The unusual incident highlights the lengths some Russians have gone to avoid mobilization, with an estimated 200,000 Russians having fled since the call-up.
  • The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency met with Zelensky in Kyiv on Thursday to discuss a protection zone around the embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Rafael Mariano Grossi said at a news conference it is “obvious” the Russian-occupied plant is a “Ukrainian facility,” but the circumstances require him to discuss terms with both sides and he will soon visit Russia for “very high level” talks.
  • USAID Administrator Samantha Power visited Kyiv on Thursday, leading the first high-level U.S. delegation since Russia announced its illegal annexation of vast swaths of eastern and southern Ukraine. Power said the United States would provide an additional $55 million in aid to help Ukrainians this winter.
  • Moscow is pushing for a secret vote for when the U.N. General Assembly considers whether to condemn its illegal annexation of four Ukrainian areas next week, Reuters reported. The Kremlin said a nonpublic vote would allow countries to resist Western pressure.

Battleground updates

  • At least seven missiles struck residents “sleeping peacefully at their homes” overnight in Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter, adding that more attacks came Thursday. At least three people were killed according to local officials, Reuters reported. “Attention. Another enemy missile attack. Stay in shelters,” Zaporizhzhia’s governor, Oleksandr Starukh, wrote Thursday on Telegram. Zaporizhzhia was one of the four regions Russia claimed to annex, in defiance of international law, in a process finalized this week.
  • Russia has deployed most of its “severely undermanned” airborne troops to defend the southern Kherson region, the British Defense Ministry said Thursday. Zelensky said Thursday that Ukraine has recaptured more than 500 square kilometers of territory in Kherson since Oct. 1.
  • A lawmaker allied with Putin’s party proposed seizing cars abandoned along the border by men fleeing Russia’s military mobilization, state media said.
  • Russian forces in Ukraine’s Donetsk region blew up a dam, flooding a nearby area, according to a statement posted to the Facebook page of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Global impact

  • Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition politician who is being held in a detention center over comments he made in the United States opposing the war, now faces a new charge of treason. He writes opinion columns for The Washington Post.
  • European Union leaders are expected to discuss the war, economic challenges and energy woes in Prague this week. The meeting begins a day after the OPEC Plus coalition, which includes Russia, announced it would cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day starting in November.
  • Ukraine joined Spain and Portugal’s bid to host the 2030 World Cup, Zelensky announced Wednesday. The chances of success “are quite high,” he said, adding that “it will be very symbolic when three countries of the European Union: Spain, Portugal and Ukraine, will be able to hold the World Cup together.” Spain and Portugal are E.U. member states, while Ukraine was recently granted candidate status for membership.
  • Taiwan is looking to build a backup satellite internet network in the wake of the war in Ukraine, its digital minister told The Post. Taiwan is set to begin accepting proposals from service providers for satellite internet as soon as this month. Ukraine has used Starlink, through Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, as a backup internet provider since Russia’s invasion.

From our correspondents

As Ukraine war falters, Russians ask a risky question: Could Putin fall?: When President Vladimir Putin yelled, “We will win!” at a Red Square concert to celebrate his illegal annexation of Ukrainian lands on Friday, he projected the hubris of a man who cannot accept defeat.

Putin has said Russia will not lose in Ukraine. But multiple battlefield defeats and national fury over a botched military mobilization have broken a taboo in Moscow on discussions about what would happen if Putin did lose — not just the war, but his seeming bid to be leader-for-life, according to four members of Russia’s business elite. Kremlin-watchers, in and out of the capital, are asking: Who might come next?

Aaron Schaffer contributed to this report.

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