Snake Island defenders freed in prisoner swap with Russia

Ukarine Over the last week, we managed to return 98 Ukrainians. We are working on the release of all our people. Thank you for the work of the Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War
Ukarine Over the last week, we managed to return 98 Ukrainians. We are working on the release of all our people. Thank you for the work of the Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War

Some of the Snake Island soldiers who famously stared down death by telling a Russian warship to "go f--- Yourself’ have been freed in a prisoner swap.

"Another exchange of prisoners," said Andrey Yirmak, head of president Zelensky’s office, said.

"We managed to free 12 of our people. The soldiers who defended, in particular, Mariupol, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and the Snake Island are going home."

In footage posted online, about a dozen soldiers can be seen walking towards a white van and what appear to be military vehicles waiting for them. Their location is not clear.

The Snake Island soldiers became symbols of heroism and resistance soon into the war after they refused to surrender to threats from the Moskva warship.

When the airwaves from the strategic island outpost in the Black Sea later fell silent, they were presumed killed. It later emerged, however, the 8 border guards, 50 soldiers and two handymen had survived and were being held as prisoners of war. Some were later released in a prisoner swap in April.

Moscow and Kyiv have carried a series of prisoner of war swaps lately, with both sides handing over 50 POWs on Thursday.

Reacting to Saturday's news, one Ukraine resident said on Twitter: "God bless our heroes! Thanks to everyone who brings them home!"

05:32 PM

Today's top stories

That's all for today. Thanks for following our live blog. Here are the top stories:

  • Ukraine should take responsibility for any legal action against Russia because the West could “corrupt the process” for “cheap gas and oil”, a former international criminal prosecutor has told The Telegraph.

  • Russia is likely removing nuclear warheads from ageing nuclear cruise missiles and firing unarmed munitions at Ukraine, Britain's military intelligence said on Saturday

  • The Pentagon has set up a repair facility in Poland for howitzers being used by the Ukrainian military, the New York Times reported

  • Chechnya's leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in a sign of continued support for the Russian leader amid recent battlefield losses

  • Fifteen people have been killed by Russian shelling in an attack that marks the deadliest bombardment of Kherson in recent days

  • The head of the Russian mercenary outfit Wagner has said that a former US Marine general was working for the group

05:20 PM

West 'should not lead legal action' against Russia over Ukraine as they would 'corrupt the process'

Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice KC has said 'there are real risks of it subcontracting out' internationally, writes Gabriella Swerling

Ukraine should take responsibility for any legal action against Russia because the West could “corrupt the process” for “cheap gas and oil”, a former international criminal prosecutor has told The Telegraph.

Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice KC was the lead prosecutor against Slobodan Milošević, a former president of Serbia, at the UN's The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) between 1998 and 2006.

He has been visiting Kyiv in recent months to discuss with the Ukrainian government how perpetrators of potential war crimes might be held to account.

Speaking to The Telegraph, he warned that “there are real risks of it subcontracting out” any legal action to the international community, saying it may end up with Crimea and the Donbas being sacrificed for a peace deal in exchange “for cheap oil and gas” for the West.

Read the full story

05:07 PM

Ukraine has secured the release of more prisoners including some from Snake Island

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04:50 PM

US sets up howitzer repair facility in Poland

The Pentagon has set up a repair facility in Poland for howitzers being used by the Ukrainian military, the New York Times reported.

About 350 Western-made howitzers have been given to Kyiv but roughly one third are out of action at any given time. That is due to overuse or being damaged in combat, the newspaper reported.

Ukrainian soldiers in the field are not able to change the barrels of the howitzers and doing so has become a priority for the Pentagon.

04:21 PM

Ukrainians determined to face bleak winter as Russia strikes power grid

People in Izyum are more worried about Russian troops pushing through again as Vladimir Putin tries to weaponise the cold season, writes Ben Farmer.

At the bottom of a shrapnel-pocked stairwell, Oleg methodically chops discarded green Russian ammunition crates into firewood.

Early snow has already fallen around his damaged apartment block and he and his grandmother are racing to prepare for the onset of the real winter.

Their block has no water or heating. Vladimir Putin’s latest missile barrage against the national grid has now also cut their electricity, along with that of millions of other Ukrainians.

“We know how winter can be,” says Oleg, a softly spoken youth, who declines to give his full name. “Somehow we will survive.”

Read the full dispatch

03:30 PM

Head of humanitarian aid organisation recalls harrowing moment in Kherson

A British humanitarian aid group narrowly escaped a Russian rocket attack as they attempted to deliver food and medicine in Kherson.

Vans Without Borders were driving into areas under Russian occupation when forces three kilometres away started to shell the village they were in.

At one point the team of about six were stuck on the side of the road hurriedly changing a car tyre as Ukrainian forces were fleeing around them.

In footage posted online the group’s founder Jack Ross can be seen in a car talking to the camera  as a plume of smoke rises from a field in the distance.

“We had a missile go over the top of us – big impact,” he said, “so we are now fleeing the area.”

Mr Ross said while the dangers of delivering aid into Ukraine are known to them, the incident in Kherson was no less “heartbreaking”.

“We are fortunate enough to escape but who knows about them. It’s heartbreaking. You try to do good and [someone] decides to bomb the f---- out of civilians,” he said.

03:25 PM

Donating to the Kyiv School of Economics' aid campaign

The Kyiv School of Economics has launched a humanitarian aid campaign for Ukraine. Here's how you can donate:

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03:18 PM

'We cannot be broken', says Zelensky

President Zelensky vowed on Saturday that Ukraine would continue to resist Russian attacks, as the country marked the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor famine that affected millions of Ukrainians under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Several European leaders travelled to Ukraine to pledge support after weeks of Russian strikes on Ukraine's energy grid caused widespread power and water cuts as temperatures plunge with the onset of winter.

"Ukrainians went through very terrible things... Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger, now - with darkness and cold," Mr Zelensky said in a video posted on social media.

"We cannot be broken," he added.

02:50 PM

Watch: Humanitarian aid group narrowly escapes rocket attack

02:32 PM

The Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsing in darkness amid widespread powercuts

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02:26 PM

Belarus foreign minister Makei dies, local media reports

The Belarus Foreign Minister, Vladimir Makei, has died at the age of 64, state news agency Belta reported on Saturday.

"Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei has passed away suddenly," Belta reported.

Makei had held his post since 2012.

He had attended a conference of the Collective Security Treaty Organization - a military alliance of several post soviet states - in Yerevan earlier this week and was due to meet Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday.

Before the presidential elections and mass anti-government protests in Belarus in 2020, Makei had been one of the initiators of efforts to improve Belarus' relations with the West and had criticised Russia.

However, he abruptly changed his stance after the start of the protests, claiming they were inspired by agents of the West.

02:16 PM

Hospitals across Ukraine need our support, says Johnson

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01:44 PM

Boris Johnson launches appeal for medical supplies for Ukraine

The former prime minister has asked the ‘great British public’ to ‘dig deep’ this Christmas and help Ukrainian medics battling to save lives, writes Danel Martin.

Boris Johnson has launched a Christmas appeal for medical supplies for hospitals in Ukraine.

The former prime minister warned that without donations, hospitals in the war-torn country face running out of vital items such as bandages and defibrillators within weeks.

He has teamed up with Circle Health, the UK’s largest hospital group, which has delivered £3 million-worth of medical supplies in 13 lorry loads to hospitals across Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Lviv and Kherson since the war began.

It came as Mr Johnson was awarded the title of the honorary citizen of Kyiv.

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01:18 PM

Latest figures for total Russian losses since the start of the war, according to Ukraine

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01:02 PM

Russia says 9 POWs freed in prisoner exchange with Ukraine

Nine Russian prisoners of war were released as part of a prisoner exchange with Ukraine on Saturday, Russian news agencies reported.

"On Nov 26, as a result of the negotiation process, nine Russian servicemen who were in mortal danger in captivity were returned from the territory controlled by the Kyiv regime," the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

12:42 PM

Ukraine holds food security summit in Kyiv

President Zelensky hosted an international summit in Kyiv on Saturday to discuss food security and agricultural exports with the prime ministers of Belgium, Poland and Lithuania and the president of Hungary.

Mr Zelensky opened the summit speaking at a panel flanked by his chief of staff and prime minister. French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen delivered speeches that were shown by video.

12:14 PM

Watch: Russian MP Boris Chernyshov calls for ordinary Ukrainians to 'freeze and rot' in their homes

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11:57 AM

EU leaders pledge support to Ukraine on anniversary of Stalin famine

European leaders renewed pledges of support to Ukraine on Saturday on the 90th anniversary of the start of the Holodomor famine that affected millions of Ukrainians under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country will continue to resist Russian attacks that have systematically targeted Ukraine's energy grid, causing power cuts as temperatures plunge with the onset of winter.

"Ukrainians went through very terrible things... Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger, now - with darkness and cold," Zelensky said in a video posted on social media.

"We cannot be broken," he added.

11:38 AM

Chechnya's Ramzan Kadyrov meets with Putin in Moscow

Chechnya's leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in a sign of continued support for the Russian leader amid recent battlefield losses, writes James Kilkner.

In a photo published on his Telegram channel, Mr Kadryov beams at the camera as Putin stands on the other side of a table, appearing somewhat less enthused.

"The Supreme Commander-in-Chief stressed that today Russia is a country of close-knit patriots that are coping with Western attacks as a single big and friendly family," he said.

Mr Kadryov has been one of the most vocal supporters of the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. He has sent Chechen units to fight in the war since the initial invasion.

On Friday, apparently feeling the pressure from growing anger over the Kremlin's handling of mobilisation, Mr Putin met with the mothers of Russian soldiers.

11:06 AM

Russia 'will pay' for Holodomor famine

Russia will pay for a Soviet-era famine that left millions of Ukrainians dead during the winter of 1932-33 and for its actions in the current war in Ukraine, the head of Ukraine's presidential administration said on Saturday.

"The Russians will pay for all of the victims of the Holodomor and answer for today's crimes," Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram, using the Ukrainian name for the disaster.

Ukraine's annual memorial day for the victims of Holodomor takes place this year on Saturday.

In November 1932, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin dispatched police to seize all grain and livestock from newly collectivised Ukrainian farms, including the seed needed to plant the next crop.

10:49 AM

Faroe islands renew fishing deal with Russia

Denmark's autonomous Faroe Islands have renewed a fishing quota deal with Russia for one year despite Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, a local minister said on Saturday.

"The Faroe Islands are totally right to extend their existing fishing agreement with Russia," the North Atlantic archipelago's minister of fisheries Arni Skaale told the Jyllands-Posten daily.

He added however that the islands, which are not part of the European Union, condemned "all form of war - also the war in Ukraine" after Russian forces invaded in February.

The agreement has been in place since 1977 and is renewable each year.

10:31 AM

In pictures: Millions of homes and streets have been plunged into darkness as cities lose power

ODESSA, UKRAINE - NOVEMBER 23: Views of the city in dark during power cuts due the war in Odessa, Ukraine, on November 23, 2022. (Photo by Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) - Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
ODESSA, UKRAINE - NOVEMBER 23: Views of the city in dark during power cuts due the war in Odessa, Ukraine, on November 23, 2022. (Photo by Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) - Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A firefighter of the Ukrainian Emergency Service works next to a damaged residential building, following a Russian strike in the town of Vyshgorod on the outskirts of Kyiv on November 23, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. - Russian strikes across Ukraine battered the country's already failing electricity grid, leaving several dead, disconnecting three nuclear power stations from the grid and spurring "massive" blackouts in neighbouring Moldova. (Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP) (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images) - GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images
A firefighter of the Ukrainian Emergency Service works next to a damaged residential building, following a Russian strike in the town of Vyshgorod on the outskirts of Kyiv on November 23, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. - Russian strikes across Ukraine battered the country's already failing electricity grid, leaving several dead, disconnecting three nuclear power stations from the grid and spurring "massive" blackouts in neighbouring Moldova. (Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP) (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images) - GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images
A view shows the city without electricity after critical civil infrastructure was hit by Russian missile attacks, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine November 23, 2022. REUTERS/Vladyslav Sodel - REUTERS/Vladyslav Sodel
A view shows the city without electricity after critical civil infrastructure was hit by Russian missile attacks, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine November 23, 2022. REUTERS/Vladyslav Sodel - REUTERS/Vladyslav Sodel

10:13 AM

More than 6 million Ukraine households hit by power cuts, says Zelensky

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that over six million households in the country are still affected by power cuts, two days after targeted Russian strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

"As of this evening, blackouts continue in most regions [of Ukraine] and in Kyiv. In total, more than six million subscribers," Mr Zelensky said in his daily address, adding that the number of affected households has reduced "by half" since Wednesday.

Mr Zelensky said that some 600,000 subscribers were experiencing power cuts in the capital Kyiv with the Odessa, Lviv, Vinnytsia and Dnipropetrovsk regions also among the worst affected.

09:59 AM

Russian shelling kills 15 in deadliest bombardment of Kherson

Fifteen people have been killed by Russian shelling in an attack that marks the deadliest bombardment of Kherson in recent days.

A total of "15 residents were killed and 35 injured, including one child, as a result of enemy shelling", city official Galyna Lugova said. Several "private houses and high-rise buildings" had been damaged, she added.

"The Russian invaders opened fire on a residential area with multiple rocket launchers. A large building caught fire," said Yarovslav Yanushovich, head of the Kherson military administration.

Earlier Friday, the region's governor said patients in the city hospital and others from a psychiatric unit had been evacuated because of "constant Russian shelling".

09:35 AM

Latest update from the UK Ministry of Defence: Russia using improvised missiles as stocks run low

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09:19 AM

'Ex-US Marine general among Russia's Wagner mercenaries'

The head of the Russian mercenary outfit Wagner has said that a former US Marine general was working for the group.

In response to a request for comment from Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Yevgeny Prigozhin said: "There are not very many Finnish citizens in the Wagner PMC, about 20 people. But for obvious reasons, I cannot give exact information about them".

"I have a very good opinion about the Finns on the battlefield. They are fighting in a British battalion [as part of Wagner PMC], which is commanded by a US citizen, a former general of the Marine Corps," Mr Prigozhin said.