Investigators have found traces of explosives at the site of the damaged Nord Stream pipelines, confirming that sabotage had taken place, a Swedish prosecutor said on Friday. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+1)
1:51pm: UN plans further Russian fertiliser exports to Africa, upbeat on ammonia pipeline
A UN official on Friday said she hoped that a shipment of Russian fertiliser exports to Malawi would lead to a further easing of a 300,000 tonne backlog in European ports, as the global body works to address Russian concerns that have threatened a Black Sea grains export deal.
“We are really very pleased on the extension of the Black Sea grains initiative….,” Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) told a Geneva press briefing. “But we have said very clearly that we are still not where we want to be, there is still work to be done and especially on fertilisers.”
1:15pm: Kyiv says Ukrainian experts are working at Poland missile blast site
Ukrainian experts are already working at the site in the border area of southeastern Poland where a missile killed two people, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday.
He wrote on Twitter that Ukraine would continue “open and constructive” cooperation with Poland over Tuesday’s incident in which two people were killed.
Warsaw and its Western allies say evidence from the scene points to the explosion being caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile that went astray in pursuit of a Russian missile. Kyiv denies this, saying it has evidence of a “Russian trace” in the blast.
Ukrainian experts are already working at the site of the tragedy in Przewodów caused by Russian missile terror against Ukraine. I am grateful to the Polish side for granting them access. We will continue our cooperation in an open and constructive manner, as closest friends do.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) November 18, 2022
12:36pm: Putin discussed idea of Turkish ‘gas hub’ with Erdogan, Kremlin says
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the idea of creating a Turkish “gas hub” with President Tayyip Erdogan, the Kremlin said on Friday.
“Particular attention is paid to the prospects of implementing the initiative, launched by the Russian President in October and supported by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to create a major gas hub in Turkey,” the Kremlin said.
12:29pm: Ukraine to restore rail link to Kherson after Russian retreat
A railway link between the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and the recently reclaimed city of Kherson will restart on Friday, a week after a Russian retreat, a senior official said Friday.
“The first train departs today at 10:14 pm (2014 GMT) from Kyiv and will arrive in Kherson at approximately at 09:00 am (0700 GMT) tomorrow,” the deputy head of the Kherson region Sergiy Khlan said on social media.
12:03pm: EU trade commissioner visits Kyiv to discuss support for Ukraine
European Union trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis visited Kyiv on Friday for talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on EU support for Ukraine.
“Arrived in Kyiv to discuss EU’s support to #Ukraine, focus on emergency financial support and our plans for 2023,” Dombrovskis, one of three executive vice presidents among the EU’s 27 commissioners, wrote on Twitter.
“I’ll also discuss with @ZelenskyyUa and @Denys_Shmyhal concrete steps for closer economic integration between EU and Ukraine.”
11:47am: UN optimistic that Ukraine, Russia could agree on ammonia pipeline exports
A UN senior official on Friday voiced optimism that Russia and Ukraine would agree on terms to resume exports of Russian ammonia via a pipeline to the Black Sea.
A deal aimed at easing global food shortages by helping Ukraine export its agricultural products from Black Sea ports was extended for four months on Thursday, but ammonia exports via the pipeline were not part of the renewal.
“There are elements of that agreement (on ammonia) that have to happen between the two countries,” said Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). “We have reason to believe that there is interest for that to happen.”
11:34am: EU’s Russia sanctions a ‘step towards war’, Orban says
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called EU sanctions against Russia “a step towards war” on Friday, describing the bloc’s Russia policy as dangerous.
Orban has sought to take a neutral position since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, refusing to send Kyiv military aid and opposing an 18-billion-euro EU support package for Ukraine.
Although Budapest didn’t block EU sanctions against Russia after obtaining key exemptions, it has blamed both soaring energy bills and sky-high inflation in Hungary on Brussels’ measures.
“It’s a step towards war, if someone intervenes economically in a military conflict,” Orban said during a radio interview, adding that “taking a stand” could quickly amount to “becoming an actual belligerent.”
11:32am: UN senior official welcomes extension of Black Sea grain export deal
A senior UN official on Friday welcomed the extension by four months of a deal aimed at easing global food shortages by helping Ukraine export its agricultural products from Black Sea ports, but said there was still work to be done.
“We are really very pleased on the extension of the Black Sea grains initiative. It is very good news for the world, for the food insecurity crisis that we are going through,” Rebeca Grynspan told reporters in Geneva.
“But we have said very clearly that we are still not where we want to be, there is still work to be done and especially on fertilisers,” she added.
11:25am: Kremlin says no talk of Putin-Biden summit for now
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden have no plans to meet for the time being, the Kremlin said on Friday after Russia’s deputy foreign minister said Moscow was not ruling out high-level meetings between the two countries.
“A summit is out of the question at the moment,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier that Russia was not ruling out further high-level meetings with the United States on “strategic stability” as an upcoming meeting between the two powers in Cairo on nuclear proliferation nears.
10:51am: US-Russia meeting was key to prevent escalation, Erdogan tells Putin
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin the meeting between American and Russian intelligence services was important to prevent “uncontrolled” escalation in the field, the Turkish presidency said on Friday.
In a phone call, Erdogan said diplomatic efforts to end the war in Ukraine must be revived and he thanked Putin for the extension of the Black Sea grain deal.
10:45am: Russia to wait for full Nord Stream damage assessment before any repair decision, Kremlin says
Russia will wait until a full damage assessment to the Nord Stream gas pipelines is done before deciding on any repairs, if any, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.
Swedish investigators have found traces of explosives at the site of the damaged Nord Stream pipelines, confirming that gross sabotage had taken place.
Neither Gazprom, nor the Nord Stream 1 and 2 replied to Reuters requests for comment.
10:45am: Putin to take part in CSTO summit in Armenia next week
The Kremlin said on Friday that President Vladimir Putin will visit a summit of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) next week in Armenia.
9:52am: Russia says ‘fortifying’ annexed Crimean peninsula
Russia said on Friday it was strengthening positions on the Crimean peninsula, annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as Kyiv’s forces reclaim territory in the neighbouring Kherson region.
“Fortification work is being carried out on the territory of Crimea under my control with the aim of guaranteeing the security of all Crimeans,” the Moscow-appointed governor of the region, Sergei Aksyonov, said on social media.
Russia annexed Crimea in the wake of nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations that led to the ouster of Ukraine’s former Kremlin-friendly president.
It was used as a launching pad in February for what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
9:47am: Russia ready for high-level talks with US if Washington is willing
Russia is ready for high-level meetings with the United States regarding strategic stability if Washington is ready, Moscow’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted in state media as saying on Friday.
He also said Russia does not rule out new contacts with the United States after upcoming talks in Cairo on the New START nuclear arms treaty.
9:35am: Traces of explosives found at Nord Stream pipelines, Sweden says
Investigators have found traces of explosives at the site of the damaged Nord Stream pipelines, confirming that sabotage had taken place, a Swedish prosecutor said on Friday.
Swedish and Danish authorities are investigating four holes in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which link Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea and have become a flashpoint in the Ukraine crisis.
Denmark last month said a preliminary investigation had shown that the leaks were caused by powerful explosions.
8:32am: Russia hopeful of US prisoner swap including arms dealer Bout
Russia hopes it can make a prisoner swap with the United States that would include convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death”, a deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying on Friday.
“The Americans are showing some external activity, we are working professionally through a special channel designed for this,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying on Friday by Interfax.
“It is undeniable that Viktor Bout is among those who are being discussed, and we certainly count on a positive result,” Ryabkov said.
7:07am: Pope Francis says Vatican ready to mediate end of Ukraine war
Pope Francis reiterated on Friday the Vatican was ready to do anything possible to mediate and put an end to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the pontiff said in an interview with Italian daily La Stampa.
Asked whether he believed reconciliation between Moscow and Kyiv was possible, the pontiff called on everyone not to give up.
“But everyone must commit to demilitarising hearts, starting with their own, and then defusing, disarming violence. We must all be pacifists. Wanting peace, not just a truce that may only serve to rearm. Real peace, which is the fruit of dialogue,” he told the paper.
6:01am: Ukraine war is Asia’s problem too, Macron says
French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday urged Asian countries to join the “increasing consensus” against the conflict in Ukraine, telling them the war was “your problem” too.
Macron told business leaders on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim summit that France was trying to “create an increasing consensus in order to say this war is also your problem, because it will create a lot of destabilisation”.
5:40am: New wave of Russian strikes batter Ukraine grid as first snow falls
Fresh Russian strikes hit cities across Ukraine on Thursday, crippling the country’s energy infrastructure and plunging millions into darkness as winter sets in and temperatures drop.
Repeated barrages have disrupted electricity and water supplies across Ukraine, but the Kremlin blamed civilians’ suffering on Kyiv’s refusal to negotiate, rather than on Russian attacks.
AFP journalists in several Ukrainian cities said the latest assault coincided with the season’s first snow, after officials in Kyiv warned of “difficult” days ahead.
“Currently, more than 10 million Ukrainians are without electricity,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday, adding that the regions of Odesa, Vinnytsia, Sumy and Kyiv were most affected.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters and AP)