Ukraine live briefing: U.S. confirms Moscow communications; Zelensky calls for peace in address to climate summit

People stand in front of a display of destroyed armored vehicles in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Nov. 7, 2022. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in remarks late Monday that world leaders should “force Russia into genuine peace negotiations” and that Kyiv had “repeatedly proposed” talks. Zelensky accused Russia of obstructing those efforts and criticized it for objecting to Ukraine’s “completely understandable” demands, including the restoration of territory and security guarantees.

His remarks followed reporting from The Washington Post that the Biden administration has privately encouraged Kyiv to signal an openness to negotiating an end to the war. Washington and Moscow have maintained communication channels at senior levels, the White House said.

“The military assistance we give is so that when Ukraine does get to the negotiating table, it is in the strongest possible position. That military support, our economic support, our humanitarian support, our political support will continue,” Karen Donfried, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday, following a visit to Ukraine.

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

1. Key developments

  • Conversations with Moscow “focused only on risk reduction,” according to the White House. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday that the Biden administration had to “protect the timing and content” to ensure the channels are not cut off. “We reserve the right to speak directly at senior levels about issues of concern to the United States,” she said. “That has happened over the course of the past few months.”
  • Ukraine will negotiate once Russian troops leave its territory, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Tuesday, answering questions about The Post’s reporting. Podolyak told Radio Svoboda that Ukraine’s stance has not changed and that Russia has offered only ultimatums. A Russian Foreign Ministry official, meanwhile, told reporters that the Kremlin did not have “preconditions” for negotiations, blaming Kyiv instead.
  • “There can be no effective climate policy without the peace,” Zelensky said in an address on Tuesday to the U.N. climate conference in Egypt. He said the war had served to stall collective efforts to address climate change. Russia’s invasion has worsened the world’s energy and food crises, undermining efforts to halt “the destruction of the climate,” he said in remarks on Monday.
  • The head of Russia’s central bank warned Tuesday that the effect of Western sanctions on the economy should not be underestimated. Russia’s economy would have to go through a major restructuring to adjust, Elvira Nabiullina said. “Sanctions are very powerful. … It will be impossible to isolate oneself from their influence,” she told a parliamentary committee. She said Russian banks have thus far withstood the shock of sanctions.
  • Actor Sean Penn, who was spotted in Ukraine in March working on a documentary about the war, met with Zelensky in Kyiv on Tuesday, according to a post on the Ukrainian president’s Telegram account. Penn presented one of his Oscars to Zelensky and received Ukraine’s order of merit.
  • Meetings will resume “in the near future” between U.S. and Russian officials responsible for ensuring compliance with the treaty that governs the two nations’ deployment of nuclear weapons, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday, after tensions over Ukraine halted such talks for more than a year. The meetings are intended to facilitate the inspection of nuclear sites in the two countries. Moscow said in August that it was suspending its cooperation, citing travel restrictions imposed by the United States and other Western nations in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

2. Battlefield updates

  • A U.S. citizen was killed fighting in eastern Ukraine, a spokesman from his unit, the International Legion of Defense of Ukraine, said Tuesday. Mamuka Mamulashvili said Timothy Griffin was killed “during counteroffensive operations.” A State Department spokesperson confirmed the death of a U.S. citizen in Ukraine but did not identify the individual.
  • Ukrainian forces “are gradually pushing back” Russian troops in parts of the country’s east and south, according to Zelensky, who said fighting raged in the eastern Donetsk region.
  • Criticism of battlefield losses in Donetsk prompted a Russian Defense Ministry statement playing down the death toll among soldiers who waged an offensive there. It was the first time during the war that the ministry has officially responded in this way to reports of mass casualties and an uproar on Telegram.
  • Russia has started building defensive antitank structures named “dragon’s teeth” around the occupied city of Mariupol, according to Britain’s Defense Ministry. The “teeth” are rows of pyramid-shaped fortifications that block the path of tanks. Mariupol is close to the Russian border and is a key area of control.
  • The United States delivered two surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine, Pentagon press secretary Patrick Ryder said Tuesday. “These systems will contribute to Ukraine’s air defense capabilities and will help protect the Ukrainian people against Russian aerial attacks to include those conducted by unmanned, aerial vehicles or cruise missiles,” Ryder said, according to a news release.

3. Global impact

  • North Korea denied U.S. allegations that it is covertly shipping artillery shells to Russia. “We once again make clear that we have never had ‘arms dealings’ with Russia and that we have no plan to do so in the future,” a North Korean official said Tuesday in a statement carried on state media.
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry said contacts with the United States on a potential prisoner swap were ongoing, but spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed Washington for the lack of progress. Washington has urged Moscow to accept a deal to free WNBA star Brittney Griner, whose appeal of a 9½-year prison sentence in Moscow was rejected.
  • Russia has considered lists provided by Pope Francis for prisoner exchanges with Ukraine, its ambassador to the Vatican told an Italian news agency. The pontiff said earlier that the Vatican has offered to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow during the war and that it was trying to help with the issue of prisoners.
  • Top officials at the U.N. climate conference highlighted the war’s effects on energy systems and the crisis wrought by dependence on fossil fuels. Former U.S. vice president Al Gore and French President Emmanuel Macron warned against sacrificing long-term climate commitments for energy needs triggered by the conflict in Ukraine.
  • India will continue buying oil from a heavily sanctioned Russia, said the country’s external affairs minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, per the Hindustan Times. “We have seen that the India-Russia relationship has worked to our advantage,” he was quoted as saying in Moscow on Tuesday. “So, if it works to my advantage, I would like to keep that going.” The outlet added that this was the first time Jaishankar, who Tuesday renewed his call to end the war, had visited Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

4. From our correspondents

In one Ukrainian village, occupation ended — and the feud began: A month after Ukrainian troops recaptured a village in the southern Kherson region, its once-close-knit community is divided over allegations that some residents collaborated with Russian forces, Michael E. Miller and Anastacia Galouchka report from Shevchenkivka.

“Neighbors have pointed fingers against neighbors, severing relationships spanning generations,” they write. “Intelligence agents have asked questions about who did what, but so far have provided no justice to those who feel betrayed.”