Ukraine live briefing: Electricity coming back online, Zelensky says; Russians may be fleeing power plant

A nurse looks after an orphan during an electricity outage at a Kherson, Ukraine, children's hospital on Saturday. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Ukraine was restoring electricity this weekend in a situation that was “under control,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday evening. Russian forces had targeted infrastructure in a heavily damaging midweek attack that left most Ukrainians without power and led to public criticism between the president and the capital city’s mayor.

Zelensky did not specify how many people were without power during his nightly address Sunday.

Meanwhile, the leader of Ukraine’s nuclear regulator said he saw signs that Russian forces may be leaving the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that has stood as a tense focus of international observers worried that fighting could lead to a catastrophe.

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

1. Key developments

  • Zelensky thanked “the thousands of people who worked round the clock all over our state to restore light, water, heat and communication.” Electricity was not restored everywhere this weekend, he said, but crews were making significant progress in turning the lights and heat back on as wintry weather descended.
  • Russian forces may be preparing to exit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Energoatom president Petro Kotin told Ukrainian media Sunday. “I am under the impression that they are packing their bags and stealing everything they see,” Kotin reportedly told a Ukrainian broadcaster. The International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. nuclear watchdog, did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment Sunday.
  • Russia is slowing Ukraine’s international grain shipments with frivolous inspections, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said Sunday. The inspections are allowed under a U.N.-brokered deal that was extended this month, Kubrakov said on Facebook, but they are halving Ukraine’s capability to ship 6 million tons per month.
  • U.S. legislation would require greater scrutiny of the $20 billion in military aid sent by President Biden to Ukraine, and it has bipartisan support, The Post reports. It comes as Republican skeptics call for audits and other accountability measures regarding U.S. assistance.
  • Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko pushed back on Zelensky’s criticism from Friday that the local government had not done enough to restore power there. Klitschko said that more than 430 heating centers had been installed in the city and that the president’s remarks had “a political color.” “In Kyiv, we are doing everything we can for the life-support of the capital, for the comfort of its residents,” Klitschko wrote on Telegram.

2. Battleground updates

  • A Russian lawmaker says troops don’t have enough doctors or basic supplies, the Associated Press reports. Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the foreign relations committee of the lower house of parliament, told mothers of soldiers that doctors in medical units “are practically not seen,” the AP reported. Slutsky, who has supported the invasion, said he would discuss the matter with the Russian Defense Ministry.
  • Weather is slowing front-line operations in Ukraine, but a consistent ground freeze expected in early December would allow Russian and Ukrainian forces to pick up where they left off, according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.
  • Russia is unlikely to make a breakthrough in Ukraine’s south-central Donetsk region, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Sunday, noting that Russian troops have suffered “heavy casualties,” which is likely to hinder their operational advances. Pavlo Kyrylenko, Donetsk’s regional military leader, said two people in the city of Kurakhove were killed by Russian shelling and warned that anyone who stays in Donetsk is putting their life at risk.
  • People were fleeing Kherson in a kilometer-long line of vehicles on Saturday, the Associated Press reported. They told the news outlet they were trying to escape intense shelling in the area a few weeks after Ukraine retook the regional capital. Yaroslav Yanushevych, governor of the Kherson region, urged area businesses with bomb shelters or basements to keep them open for remaining residents.

3. Global impact

  • Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei died “suddenly,” the Foreign Ministry said Saturday, without giving the cause of death or any other details. Makei was set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week. Belarus has remained a close ally of the Kremlin throughout the war, with President Alexander Lukashenko hosting Russian troops and equipment, and allowing Russia to use his nation as a launchpad for hundreds of airstrikes against Ukraine.
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry paid tribute to Makei, calling him a “true friend” in a statement Sunday. “The leadership and staff of the Russian Foreign Ministry deeply mourn the untimely death of Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei,” the ministry said, adding that Lavrov had sent a telegram of condolence to Makei’s wife.
  • A Russian advocacy group is urging Russian authorities to end the invasion of Ukraine because of the war’s effects on the economy and domestic violence at home. In a petition posted on Sunday — Russian Mother’s Day — a group called Feminist Anti-War Resistance says Kremlin officials should bring home their countrymen because international sanctions are hurting the economy, which can lead to more domestic violence. On Friday, amid domestic anger over the nine-month war, Russian President Vladimir Putin gathered mothers in a made-for-TV appearance and said Kremlin leaders “share this pain with you and, of course, we will do everything so you do not feel forgotten.”
  • Belgium’s prime minister signed a declaration of support for Ukraine’s full membership in NATO as he and the leaders of Poland, Hungary and Lithuania gathered in Kyiv on Saturday, offering a show of support as Ukraine commemorated those who died in the Holodomor, a famine orchestrated by the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1933.
  • The Kremlin said that the European Parliament’s recent declaration that Russia is “a state sponsor of terrorism” is not legally binding, and that it would treat the designation as such. “It is not a secret to us that in recent years the European Parliament has had no special liking for us. In response, we have had no special desire to take note of what has been happening there and … to take it to heart,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a Sunday television interview. He added that Moscow sees “a huge shortage of professionalism” in the European Parliament’s work.

4. From our correspondents

Western sanctions catch up with Russia’s wartime economy: For months, Putin said that the “economic blitzkrieg” against Russia had failed. But Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine are digging ever deeper into Russia’s economy, Catherine Belton and Robyn Dixon report, exacerbating military equipment shortages and hampering its ability to launch ground offensives or build new missiles, economists and Russian business executives said.

Recent figures show the situation has worsened considerably since the summer, when the Russian economy seemed to stabilize amid a steady stream of oil and gas revenue.

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