Russia hammers Ukraine with missile strikes after Zelensky calls for peace

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KYIV, Ukraine — Russia responded to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for peace in a speech to Group of 20 leaders on Tuesday by firing volleys of missiles into cities across Ukraine, hitting residential areas far from the front lines in one of the biggest strikes yet on the country.

The capital, Kyiv; Kharkiv in the east; and Lviv in the west were among at least six major cities reporting strikes after air raid sirens wailed across the country in the early afternoon, just hours after Zelensky, speaking by video link, presented a 10-point peace plan to G-20 leaders at a summit in Bali, Indonesia.

At least one missile reportedly hit the town of Przewodow, Poland, just over the border from Ukraine, killing two people, according to a Polish official — a potentially provocative strike, even if inadvertent, on the territory of a NATO ally. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called an emergency meeting of the country’s national defense and security council Tuesday night in response to the incident, the official said.

Mayors throughout Ukraine took to Twitter and Telegram to urge residents to take shelter as successive waves of missile strikes were launched. People huddled in basements for hours as the strikes continued. After the all-clear, most emerged into pitch darkness because the strikes had knocked out power supplies to much of the country.

Critical energy infrastructure again appeared to be the primary target, Ukrainian officials said, as was the case in a series of strikes last month. Tuesday’s barrage was far heavier, Zelensky told the nation in a video address. He said at least 85 missiles were fired, making this the single biggest assault since the start of the Feb. 24 invasion.

Zelensky adviser Kirill Timoshenko later tweeted that more than 90 missiles were fired, of which 70 were shot down by air defenses. Timoshenko said 15 energy infrastructure targets were damaged, leaving much of the country without electricity.

After the strikes, widespread power outages were also reported in the neighboring country of Moldova. The Ukrainian and Moldovan power grids are connected, and officials said a key transmission line had automatically shut down as a safety measure.

The fusillade of missiles was expected. Ukraine had been bracing for retaliation following the Russian retreat from the southern city of Kherson, the latest major battlefield setback in President Vladimir Putin’s failing war. By surrendering Kherson, Russia lost control of the only regional capital that its forces had managed to capture since the beginning of the invasion.

Ukraine’s air force also warned over the weekend that Russia might be planning strikes to coincide with the G-20 summit, which Putin declined to attend.

Ukrainian officials said the attack was evidence that Moscow had no interest in peace talks, despite public assertions in recent weeks that it was prepared to negotiate a settlement.

“Russia responds to Zelensky’s powerful speech at G-20 with a new missile strike,” Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote on Twitter. “Does anyone seriously think that the Kremlin really wants peace? It wants obedience.”

The precise scale of the damage was not immediately clear. In Kyiv, at least one person was killed and two residential buildings caught fire, Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on Twitter. It was unclear if the damage was caused by a missile strike or parts of a missile intercepted by air defenses.

A power plant was near one of the buildings that burned in Kyiv, and the mayor of Kharkiv, in the northeast, said parts of that city were without power after hits on energy infrastructure there. Lviv, near the Polish border, also reported damage to power supplies and blackouts.

Many of Tuesday’s strikes were in the center and north of the country, areas that have been relatively untouched by the war for most of the year, Timoshenko said.

Timoshenko urged Ukrainians to conserve energy and warned of rolling outages. “The situation in the capital is extremely difficult,” he said. “Use electricity sparingly and keep it up! The terrorists will still be defeated.”

Witnesses recount detentions, torture, disappearances in occupied Kherson

Most of the missiles were fired from warplanes flying over the Russian province of Rostov and the Caspian Sea according to the Ukrainian air force. In all 90 missiles were fired, it said, and 73 were shot down along with 10 Iranian-made Shahed drones.

Condemnation poured in from Ukraine’s allies. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States remained committed to supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes.” British Foreign Minister James Cleverly denounced the attacks as “callous” and “sickening” and said they showed weakness.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Nov. 15 asked the G-20 to back a plan to end the war after Russia’s defeat in the southern city of Kherson. (Video: Reuters)

Zelensky’s 10 conditions for a peace settlement included a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from all occupied territories, the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, the payment of reparations by Russia, the release of all prisoners and deported Ukrainian citizens, and accountability for war crimes.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was left to defend Russia’s war at the G-20 summit after Putin declined to attend, insisted Tuesday that Russia was willing to negotiate with Ukraine on an end to the war, and he accused Kyiv of avoiding peace talks .

Russia, however, still insists that Ukraine must accept the loss of illegally annexed territory.

In recent days, Russian propagandists have reiterated that Russia’s conditions for ending the war remain the “denazification and demilitarization” of Ukraine, even as officials like Lavrov claim there are no preconditions for talks.

“If anyone refuses, it is Ukraine, and the longer it refuses, the more difficult it will be to agree,” Lavrov told reporters, according to state media. He said Ukraine’s proposals were “unrealistic and inadequate.”

Ukraine’s central demand is that Russia remove its forces and restore Ukraine’s control over its borders. “Russia must withdraw all its troops and armed formations from the territory of Ukraine,” Zelensky said in his speech.

“Ukraine’s control over all sections of our state border with Russia must be restored,” Zelensky said. “This will result in a real and complete cessation of hostilities. Every day of delay means new deaths of Ukrainians, new threats to the world, and an insane increase in losses due to continuation of the Russian aggression.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed Kyiv, saying that “de facto and de jure Ukraine cannot and does not want to negotiate,” so the war would continue.

Visiting liberated Kherson, Zelensky sees ‘beginning of the end of the war’

Lavrov described Zelensky’s speech as “Russophobic and aggressive” and called on Western nations to “discipline” him — comments that underscored Russia’s view of Ukraine as a nonstate, lacking agency.

“We want to see concrete evidence that the West is seriously interested in disciplining Zelensky and explaining to him that this cannot continue, that this is not in the interests of the Ukrainian people,” Lavrov told reporters.

The Kremlin said Putin decided not to attend the G-20 summit because of his schedule and “the need for him to be in the Russian Federation,” although Putin has traveled outside Russia since invading Ukraine, including to the Uzbek city of Samarkand and the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Instead of going to Bali, Putin met with a patriotic group, the Pobeda Organizing Committee, and accused Western nations of distorting history to weaken Russia and “create prerequisites for new aggressive actions.”

Despite Russia’s invasion, the Kremlin has claimed repeatedly to be a victim of external aggression and insisted that it had no choice but to attack.

Putin on Tuesday also signed a decree naming two Ukrainian cities — Mariupol and Melitopol, which are under occupation in territory Russia illegally claims to be annexed — as Russian “Cities of Military Glory,” emphasizing Russia’s land grabs yet again.

Peskov also insisted that Kherson city remains the capital of the Kherson region — and part of Russia.

While the missile attacks Tuesday were part of the Kremlin’s ongoing strategy to degrade Ukraine’s infrastructure as winter approaches, they also seemed intended to demonstrate that Russia can still inflict damage despite being forced repeatedly to retreat from its military objectives.

Fighting-age men in Russia are still hiding in fear of being sent to war

As Russia becomes more isolated, Putin has crushed dissent, promoted militaristic nationalists and carried out a repressive crusade against activists, journalists and human rights advocates.

On Tuesday, he lashed out at traitors in Russia and accused them of using “pseudo-nationalistic interests” to hide their betrayals.

Putin said the country must “unmask all attempts of this kind and show the truth — good or bad, but objective information, make sure of this once again, figure it out and leave this truth for future generations.”

Peskov ruled out paying reparations to Ukraine, calling this an effort to rob Russia’s foreign currency and gold reserves, after a nonbinding UN General Assembly vote Monday calling on Russia to compensate Ukraine for war damage. “This decision is not legally binding; that is how we will treat it,” Peskov said. “We are categorically against it.”

Dixon reported from Riga, Latvia. Paul Sonne in Washington and Serhiy Morgunov in Kyiv contributed to this report.

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