There are signs that Russian forces might be preparing to leave the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the head of Ukraine’s state-run nuclear energy firm has said. “In recent weeks we are effectively receiving information that signs have appeared that they are possibly preparing to leave the (plant),” Petro Kotin, head of Energoatom, said on national television on Sunday. “One gets the impression they’re packing their bags and stealing everything they can,” he added. Russia seized the plant in March and repeated shelling around the site has spurred fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, claims Russia is planning to launch new missile attacks on his country, warning defence forces and citizens to prepare for the strikes. “We understand that terrorists are preparing new strikes. We know that for sure. And as long as they have missiles, they won’t stop, unfortunately,” he said in his Sunday evening address.
The mayor of Kyiv has traded verbal jabs with Zelenskiy and his allies over how to help residents withstand power cuts. Former professional boxer Vitali Klitschko said 430 “warming centres” were helping residents cope with the effects of Russian attacks on power stations, and more than 100 extra centres were planned in case of extreme conditions. Klitschko said Zelenskiy’s allies had engaged in “manipulation” about the city’s efforts, including “incomprehensible photos” posted online. “I do not want to become involved in political battles, particularly in the current situation,” he said in a video posted on Telegram on Sunday. “That is senseless. I have things to do in the city.” Zelenskiy had previously said Kyiv had not done enough to help residents.
Hundreds of Ukrainians fled Kherson city on Sunday as Russian shelling intensified. The liberation of Kherson earlier this month marked a major battlefield gain for Kyiv, but inhabitants have struggled with a lack of water, heating and electricity. Evacuations began last week amid fears that damage to infrastructure caused by the war was too severe for people to endure over Ukraine’s harsh winter. The exodus has been exacerbated by Russian shelling, which has killed 32 civilians since Russian forces left the city on 9 November.
Britain will promise to maintain or increase military aid to Ukraine next year, according to an extract of a speech released by the office of the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, which he plans to deliver on Monday. “We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. We will maintain or increase our military aid next year. And we will provide new support for air defence,” Sunak will reportedly say.
The UK will provide Brimstone 2 missiles, a precision-guided missile, to Ukraine as part of its latest aid package. “This aid has played a crucial role in stalling Russian advancements,” the UK Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
Ukrainian authorities are gradually restoring power, aided by the reconnection of the country’s four nuclear plants, but millions of people are still without heat or electricity after the most devastating Russian airstrikes of the war. “We have been restoring electricity generation and supply day after day,” Zelenskiy said in his Sunday night address. “As of today, in most regions of the country, only stabilisation schedules of shutdowns are in effect.”
Russia is firing ageing cruise missiles stripped of their nuclear warheads at Ukrainian targets because Vladimir Putin’s stocks are so depleted, the UK Ministry of Defence has suggested. An intelligence update from the ministry said the desperate improvisation by Russia’s struggling forces were “unlikely to achieve reliable effects”. Russian forces have also suffered heavy casualties during fighting in Ukraine’s south-central Donetsk province and are unlikely to achieve a breakthrough there, the ministry added.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s survival may depend on his value to Vladimir Putin as a future bargaining chip, his chief aide has said. Leonid Volkov, speaking on a visit to London, added that Navalny had lost access to his family and was being permanently detained in a “8 by 12ft” cell after being forced into indefinite solitary confinement by Russian authorities last week. Only Navalny’s lawyers were allowed to visit his prison colony on weekdays, and even then, Volkov said, “they are not allowed to see him; they only can talk to him through an opaque glass”, meaning they cannot determine his physical condition.