Moscow says it is no longer aiming to change Ukraine’s government; Kherson residents claim Russia burned bodies of its own soldiers at a landfill site; listen to the latest episode of Ukraine War Diaries as you scroll.
Raccoon stolen from Kherson zoo becomes ‘symbol of Russian paratroopers and their victories’
A raccoon that was stolen from a Ukrainian zoo by Russian troops has now become a “symbol” of the Kremlin’s paratroopers and their “victories”.
Footage shared by BBC journalist Francis Scarr shows a newsreader on Russia’s Rossiya 1’s regional news channel describing how the animal was “evacuated” by Russian forces from the zoo in Kherson.
She says: “A raccoon from Kherson is becoming a symbol of our paratroopers and their victories.
“The story of the creature evacuated from Kherson zoo and who is now living in a paratrooper unit is gaining momentum, not just in Russian media but in foreign media as well.”
The news segment goes on to share a clip of Russian paratroopers with the raccoon.
In the clip, the soldiers say the animal “motivates them” and “drives us towards further victories”, with one paratrooper saying: “The raccoon has become a symbol of our unit.”
Earlier this month, footage showed a Russian zookeeper and Kremlin troops stealing animals from a zoo in Kherson before the region was liberated by Ukrainian soldiers.
In total, seven raccoons, two wolves, peacocks, a llama and a donkey were stolen from the zoo.
‘We must be ready for an escalation,’ says Scholz
Germany must be ready for the crisis in Ukraine to escalate, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.
Speaking at a conference in Berlin, which was hosted by the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, Mr Scholz said: “In view of the development of the war and Russia’s visible and growing failures, we must be ready for an escalation.”
This could include the destruction of infrastructure, he added.
Mr Scholz also said that his recent trip to China was worth it as it allowed both countries to share their joint stance against using nuclear weapons.
Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to his citizens to conserve energy amid relentless Russian strikes that have halved the country’s power capacity.
Authorities said millions of Ukrainians, including in the capital Kyiv, could face power cuts at least until the end of March due to the missile attacks.
Russia’s targeting of Ukrainian energy facilities follows a series of battlefield setbacks that have included retreating from the southern city of Kherson.
Violinist serving in Ukrainian army plays for crowds in Kherson
Footage has emerged of professional musician Moisey Bondarenko – who is currently serving in the Ukrainian army – playing a musical piece on his violin in the recently liberated city of Kherson.
The clip shows crowds gathered around Mr Bondarenko as he plays for them in Freedom Square.
Earlier this year, the violinist, who previously lived in Kyiv and was in an orchestra when the war broke out, was filmed lifting the spirits of his fellow soldiers by playing songs for them in a bunker in Odesa.
Speaking at the time, he told Zenger News: “I was inspired to sign up for the army by Alexander Yarmak, a Ukrainian musician and family man who volunteered for the war in the very first days without any hesitation.
“This is a historical moment, this is the most useful thing I can do, the coolest feeling is when you feel fulfilled, needed, yes I have never held a machine gun in my hands before and it’s very scary, but if you understand that, you will be fine.
“I care about my country, I want to live here, it is important to prove myself and show courage in such moments, I finally found peace here.”
Analysis: Russia ‘trying to revise its objectives’
Earlier, we brought you comments from Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Russia’s objectives for its war. He said Moscow was not aiming for regime change in Ukraine.
However, this contradicts comments from Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov – who previously said Moscow “will definitely help the Ukrainian people to free themselves from the regime that is absolutely anti-people and anti-history.”
Providing analysis for Sky News, retired Air Vice-Marshal Sean Bell said it was “very clear early on in the war” that Russia wanted to instal its own government in Ukraine.
It has installed pro-Russian officials in occupied areas of Ukraine throughout the war.
Bell said the new comments from Mr Peskov show Russia is “trying to revise its objectives” as it is evident the war is not going the way Vladimir Putin planned.
Polish president tricked by hoax caller pretending to be Macron on night of missile hit
Russian hoax callers pretending to be French President Emmanuel Macron managed to get through to the Polish president on the night a missile hit a village near the Ukrainian border.
A seven-and-a-half-minute recording of the call was posted online by Russian comedians Vovan and Lexus, where one of them could be heard speaking in an attempted French accent to Andrzej Duda.
Mr Duda’s office has confirmed the incident took place – an admission that is likely to raise questions.
It is the second time in recent years that pranksters from Russia have managed to get through to Mr Duda.
Particularly concerning for the Polish government is that it came on an evening when the world feared the conflict in Ukraine could escalate.
“Emmanuel, believe me, I am extra careful,” Mr Duda was heard telling the caller. “I don’t want to have war with Russia and believe me, I am extra careful, extra careful.”
His office wrote on Twitter: “After the missile explosion in Przewodow, during the ongoing calls with heads of state and government, a person claiming to be French President Emmanuel Macron was connected.
“During the call, President Andrzej Duda realized from the unusual way the interlocutor conducted the conversation that there might have been an attempted hoax attempt and ended the conversation.”
Polish officials are now investigating how the callers managed to get through to the president.
Russian propaganda posters exhibited in Kyiv
Propaganda posters from recently liberated areas of Kherson have been put on display in the Ukrainian capital.
Ukraine took back part of the region – including the city of Kherson – after Russian forces withdrew.
‘Colossal’ damage to Ukrainian energy facilities
The head of Ukraine’s national power grid operator has said the country’s power generating facilities have suffered “colossal” damage in Russian attacks.
Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, chief executive officer of Ukrenergo, said his company wanted to make sure Ukrainians could stay in the country through winter.
Some areas of Ukraine are without key supplies such as heating, water or electricity, while it’s expected that widespread energy blackouts could last for months.
But Mr Kudrytskyi said calls to evacuate were “inappropriate”.
Russian Orthodox Church says raid was ‘act of intimidation’
This morning, we reported on a raid by Ukrainian security services at an Orthodox monastery in Kyiv.
Ukrainian officials said they suspected a Russian spy ring was operating within the building of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra complex.
The Russian Orthodox Church has now said the searches are an “act of intimidation”.
“Like many other cases of persecution of believers in Ukraine since 2014, this act of intimidation of believers is almost certain to go unnoticed by those who call themselves the international human rights community,” Vladimir Legoida, a spokesperson for the church, said.
The building is the headquarters of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, known as the Moscow Patriarchate.
However, it cut ties with the Russian church over the invasion of Ukraine.
Kremlin confirms Putin meeting with soldiers’ mothers is ‘in preparation’
A little earlier, we brought you reports from Russian media that Vladimir Putin is set to meet the mothers of some Russian soldiers in the coming days.
This has now been confirmed by the Kremlin, which said the meeting is “in preparation”.
“The president often holds such meetings, they are not all public. In any case, the president receives first-hand information about the real state of affairs,” said spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
Ukraine demands apology over Viktor Orban’s scarf
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been getting flak after going to a football match wearing a scarf showing some Ukrainian territory as part of Hungary.
Ukraine has now said it will summon the Hungarian ambassador to protest against the matter.
“The promotion of revisionism ideas in Hungary does not contribute to the development of Ukrainian-Hungarian relations and does not comply with the principles of European policy,” said Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko.
He said he wanted an apology and a rebuttal of any Hungarian claims on Ukrainian territory.
Mr Orban’s scarf was said to have depicted a map of “Greater Hungary” including territory that is now part of Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Ukraine.
Moscow urges politicians to condemn alleged executions
Russian MPs have called on foreign politicians to condemn the alleged execution of Russian soldiers by Ukrainian forces.
Videos circulating on social media purported to show Ukrainian soldiers shooting dead Russian troops who were lying on the ground at close range.
The footage appears to show one of the Russian troops suddenly opening fire on Ukrainian soldiers standing nearby.
It has ignited a debate as to whether the Ukrainian troops were acting in self-defence or were committing a war crime, although it’s not clear exactly what happened.
The US has said it is monitoring the allegations and that all parties should face consequences if they commit abuses.
Russia’s State Duma said politicians should “unequivocally condemn the Kyiv regime’s crimes, to help hold the immediate perpetrators of this brutal murder and their patrons accountable”.
Volunteer killed in shelling on aid centre
A volunteer was killed and two women wounded in Russian shelling on a humanitarian aid distribution centre, a Ukrainian official has said.
The aid centre is in the town of Orihiv, in southeastern Ukraine.
“Russian terrorists are shelling humanitarian delivery points, continuing nuclear blackmail – a pitiful tactic of military losers,” Andriy Yermak, chief of the presidential staff, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
“Well, for every such action there is a Ukrainian counteraction,” he added.
Expert warns of ‘even more dangerous’ situation if Putin loses power
Dissatisfaction appears to be growing within Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, and experts have been discussing whether Vladimir Putin could be toppled.
Veteran Moscow correspondent Owen Matthews said the Russian president would not be able to politically survive a “military catastrophe on the ground” – such as if the Kremlin was forced to give back land taken by its forces as far back as 2014.
But he warned the alternative to Mr Putin is “scarier” than the current leader.
“What you don’t want, what is even more current dangerous than the current situation, even more dangerous than Putin, is a revolutionary situation inside Russia where Putin falls,” he told Sky News.
He said the opposition to Mr Putin includes “nationalists who are actually much more aggressive than Putin himself”.
Mr Matthews, who lived and worked in Moscow for more than 25 years, said he could not understand why the Russian leader had started the war.
He said Mr Putin “was already winning with his sabre-rattling diplomacy” and had been “getting quite far” with this.
Mr Putin had thought that toppling Kyiv’s leadership would be a “cakewalk” and had not prepared for a drawn-out war, Mr Matthews said.
Ukraine’s security service raids Christian monastry in Kyiv
Police and security service members raided a 1,000-year-old Orthodox Christian monastery in the Ukrainian capital early this morning.
Ukrainian authorities said they suspected a Russian spy ring was operating within the monastery and carrying out “subversive activities”.
The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra complex is seen as a Ukrainian cultural treasure and is the headquarters of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, known as the Moscow Patriarchate.
The raid was carried out to stop the cave monastery being used as “the centre of the Russian world”, the Security Service of Ukraine said.
It added there were suspicions “about the use of the premises… for sheltering sabotage and reconnaissance groups, foreign citizens, weapons storage”.
It did not go into detail on the result of the raid.
Back in May, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate had ended its ties with the Russian church over the invasion of Ukraine.
It also condemned Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia’s church, for his support of the invasion.
Top Russian officials could be implicated in war crimes, US says
Mounting evidence has emerged of “deliberate, indiscriminate and disproportionate” attacks on civilians by Russian forces, according to a top US official.
The US state department’s ambassador for global criminal justice, Beth Van Schaack, said there is evidence of “systemic war crimes committed in every region where Russian forces have been deployed”.
Commenting on evidence from liberated areas, she detailed custodial abuses of civilians and prisoners of war, the forced removal of Ukrainian citizens to Russia, execution-like murders, and sexual violence.
Ms Van Schaack suggested that Russia’s top officials bear responsibility for the alleged crimes.
“When we’re seeing such systemic acts, including the creation of a vast filtration network, it’s very hard to imagine how these crimes could be committed without responsibility going all the way up the chain of command,” she said.
However, she declined to say whether Vladimir Putin could be prosecuted for war crimes in Ukraine.
She said prosecutors will “follow the evidence where it leads”.
Volunteers collecting warm clothes for Ukrainian soldiers