Ukraine war: Explosions at airbases in Russia; oil price cap; and intense fighting around Bakhmut

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP, Reuters
Ukrainian servicemen fire toward Russian positions in the frontline near Kherson, southern Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022
Ukrainian servicemen fire toward Russian positions in the frontline near Kherson, southern Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

1. Explosions reported at Russian airbases amid latest strikes on Ukraine

Explosions took place at two Russian airbases on Monday just hours before Ukrainian officials accused Russia of launching a “massive missile attack”.

Three people were reportedly killed and six injured after a fuel tanker exploded at a Russian airfield near the city of Ryazan, southeast of Moscow.

Another blast allegedly occurred in Russia’s Saratov region along the Volga river, far from the frontlines.

Saratov regional governor Roman Busargin said there was no damage to civilian facilities and added that the authorities are checking whether there have been any incidents at military facilities. The cause of the two explosions remains unclear.

The Kremlin later claimed that Ukrainian drones had struck two air bases deep inside Russian territory. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov added that the president was being regularly informed about ongoing developments.

Russian media has reported that Ukraine had been developing munitions that would allow it to target Russian airbases holding long-range nuclear bombers.

Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility for the attacks.

"If something is launched into other countries’ airspace, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to the departure point," Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

In recent weeks, Russia has been pounding Ukrainian infrastructure — including power plants — with military strikes.

Air raid sirens blared in the capital Kyiv and across the whole country on Monday as Russia allegedly unleashed a new barrage of missiles.

Two people were killed in Zaporizhzhia while several Ukrainian cities were hit by new water and electricity cuts, according to local and regional authorities.

The country's electricity provider, Ukrenergo, lashed out at Russia over "the eighth massive missile attack by a terrorist country," saying its facilities had been hit, triggering blackouts.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said energy facilities in three Ukrainian regions were hit but the nationwide power system remains functioning and intact.

But water supply in Odesa region had been stopped entirely as all pumping stations and reserve lines had lost power, the regional water company announced on Telegram.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky assured that his country's anti-aircraft defense had managed to "shoot down most of the Russian missiles".

“Every downed Russian missile is concrete proof that terror can be defeated,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

Moldovan police also said they found fragments of a missile that came down in a northern region near the border with Ukraine.

2. Ukraine forces holding positions on Donetsk frontline, says Zelenskyy

Intense fighting has also raged on the ground in eastern Ukraine, notably around the town of Bakhmut.

Russia's defence ministry said its troops were conducting successful operations and had pushed back Ukrainian attacks. 

President Zelenskyy said Kyiv's forces were holding positions along the front line in the Donetsk region.

Russian forces have also been digging in near the southern city of Kherson, which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces last month after an eight-month occupation.

The commander of Ukrainian ground forces said Russia’s recent "partial mobilisation" had increased its military threat in Ukraine, with better-trained soldiers now arriving at the frontline.

But he also claimed that Russia was now replenishing supplies with old equipment

“On the eastern front, the situation is very tense, the enemy attacks our units every day,” General Oleksander Syrskyi told national television.

Russian forces shelled the Kherson region 46 times on Sunday, killing one civilian, according to senior Ukrainian presidential aides. 

Two people were also killed in strikes on Kryvyi Rih and Kupyansk, according to Zelenskyy's office.

3. Price cap on Russian oil comes into force

Western countries have begun imposing a $60-per-barrel price cap and ban on some types of Russian oil.

The European Union, along with Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States agreed to the price cap on Friday.

The 27-member state bloc has also imposed an embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea.

The move is part of new measures aimed at ramping up pressure against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

The price cap has been rejected by the Kremlin, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also criticised the cap as being too high.

Kremlin spokesman Peskov said the price cap would not affect Russia's ability to sustain its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

"Russia and the Russian economy have the required capacity to fully meet the needs and requirements of the special military operation," Peskov told reporters on Monday.

The Ukrainian government had called for a lower price cap, to $30 per barrel, insisting that at the $60 level Russia would still reap annual oil revenues of $100 billion.

The EU and G7 had stated that a price cap of $60 would impact Russia, while also protecting the global economy from a sudden rise in energy prices.

Russia relies on the sale of oil and gas to underpin its economy, which has already come under sweeping international sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

Read more on the story here.

AP Photo
Oil tankers are seen at the Sheskharis complex in Novorossiysk, Russia.AP Photo

4. ICC prosecutor opposes EU plan for special Ukraine tribunal

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has denounced a European Union proposal to create a special tribunal to prosecute war crimes in Ukraine.

Karim Khan pushed back against the plan put forward by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, telling reporters that the bloc has "misstated the law".

The Hague-based ICC has already launched an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine.

But it is unable to prosecute the crime of aggression — the act of invading another country — because Russia is not a signatory to the ICC's founding treaty.

In her announcement last week, von der Leyen said the EU would work with international partners to get “the broadest international support possible” for the tribunal while continuing to support the ICC.

But Khan has defended the ICC's ability to prosecute high-ranking political figures for war crimes or genocide.

“We should avoid fragmentation, and instead work on consolidation,” Khan said on Monday.

5. No diplomatic solution to Ukraine war, says Russian Nobel Peace laureate

The Russian winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize has said that there is currently "no diplomatic solution" to the war in Ukraine.

Irina Shcherbakova, who co-founded the now-dissolved Russian NGO Memorial, said the only solution to the conflict is "now a military one".

"I am absolutely convinced that there is no diplomatic solution with Putin's regime, as long as he is still there," Shcherbakova said on Sunday.

The Russian laureate left the country after the invasion of Ukraine began and is currently living in Germany. She was recently awarded the Marion Doenhoff prize in Hamburg for her years of activism in Russia for human rights.

Shcherbakova also stated that premature calls for peace were "childish".

"These decisions, this diplomacy, can only take place when Ukraine believes it has won the war and can put an end to it," she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron was criticised over the weekend for suggesting that the West should consider Moscow's need for security guarantees in peace negotiations.

Lithuania's foreign minister Linas Linkevicius blasted the idea that concessions should be made to the Kremlin.

"Russia has all security guarantees if it doesn’t attack, annex or occupy its neighbours," Linkevicius wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Zelenskyy's top aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, added that it is the world that needs security guarantees from Russia, not the other way around.

Kyiv says peace talks are only possible if Russia halts its attacks and withdraws from all Ukrainian territories it seized.

But the Kremlin said the West must recognise Moscow's declared annexation in September of "new territories" before any talks with Putin. 

6. Ukraine and UAE to start talks on bilateral trade deal

The United Arab Emirates and Ukraine have announced their intention to start negotiations on a bilateral trade deal.

The UAE's minister of state for foreign trade, Thani Al Zeyoudi, and Ukraine's economy minister Yulia Svyrydenko signed a joint statement on negotiations, the UAE economy ministry said on Monday.

It would be the UAE's first such deal with a European country. The talks are expected to conclude by the middle of 2023.

The Arab nation has sought to remain neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war despite Western pressure on Gulf oil producers to help isolate Moscow

On Zelensky's last visit to the Gulf state in February 2021, Ukraine and the UAE made trade and investment pledges of more than $3 billion (€2.8 billion).

"For us, Ukraine is a key trade partner," Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE minister of state for foreign trade, told Reuters news agency.

"The growth and investment potential was high before the whole geopolitical situation; we think it's time to push things forward." 

"This is not only going to bring added value to the UAE but also to Ukraine as well," he added. 

Ukraine is a major supplier of grain to the Middle East.