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
With winter approaching, soldiers fighting in Ukraine will face new challenges.
But volunteering drives are hoping to keep Ukrainian soldiers warm as they defend the country.
Speaking on Sky’s Ukraine War Diaries podcast, IT specialist Ilyas says his wife has been collecting clothes for the soldiers.
“We’ve almost gathered the necessary amounts of money,” he said, adding the funds would be used to buy gloves and warm socks.
Meanwhile, he said the Russian soldiers would likely “freeze”.
You can listen to the full episode below…
Conditions in Russian captivity ‘worse than Auschwitz’, Ukrainian official claims
The Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol has detailed harrowing reports of what is happening inside his city, which is currently occupied by Russian forces.
Ivan Fedorov said residents who showed support for Ukraine were kidnapped and tortured, with “prisoners” returning malnourished and wounded.
“I have just been informed about a released prisoner from Melitopol who was left with only skin and bones,” he told the Kyiv Post.
“His skull is fractured, and he said conditions in Russian captivity are worse than in Auschwitz.
“When they come to the next cell and break the arms and legs of prisoners so that their screams can be heard throughout the detention centre, you understand that, at any moment, they can come to your cell and do the same to you.”
Mr Fedorov was allegedly abducted by Russian forces early in the invasion but was later released in exchange for nine captured Russian conscripts.
Melitopol is in Ukraine’s southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, which was annexed by Russia in September.
Putin reportedly set to meet mothers of Russian soldiers
A Russian news outlet is reporting Vladimir Putin will meet the mothers of soldiers fighting in Ukraine.
Three unnamed sources within the presidential administration told the Vedomosti newspaper the meeting would take place in the coming days.
However, this has not been officially announced by the Kremlin and spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reportedly refused to confirm or deny the plans.
In September, Moscow announced a partial mobilisation of 300,000 additional soldiers – drafting many more Russians into the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s efforts to control information about war ‘look like a kitten against a rhinoceros’
The Kremlin has been attempting to control information about its war in an effort to keep ordinary Russians on board, according to Western analysts.
At the beginning of the invasion, Moscow blocked Western social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram. It has also heavily controlled news reporting on the conflict, referring to it as a “special military operation”.
The Russian State Duma could now be set to consider a bill that would allow the government to turn off specific algorithms and regulate social media networks, online cinemas, search engines and internet marketplaces.
Reports of the new bill have appeared in Russian news outlet Kommersant, and it is now being discussed by Russian military bloggers.
One blogger noted Moscow’s efforts to control the information space look like “a kitten against a rhinoceros” compared with foreign think tanks, non-profit organisations and independent media.
US-based think tank The Institute for the Study of War said the proposed bill indicates the Russian government is “scrambling to take control of the information space as it is increasingly inundated by criticisms of the Russian military that are levied both internally and externally”.
It said the Kremlin is trying to “consolidate censorship measures to crack down on the prevalence of foreign voices and domestic critiques”.
Moscow says it is not planning to change Ukraine’s government
Russia is not planning a change of government in Ukraine, the Kremlin has said.
When the Russian invasion began, Western experts believed Moscow wanted to topple the Ukrainian government and install its own leadership.
There had been fears for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s life at the time, although he remained in the country’s capital.
In new comments, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said his country “does not intend the ‘special operation’ to change the government in Ukraine”.
He said Vladimir Putin has “already spoken about this”.
Russia has named a range of goals for its war in Ukraine, including helping Russian speakers in the eastern Donbas region and fighting against a so-called “anti-Russian enclave”.
Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said at the beginning of the invasion that regime change in Ukraine was not the goal – but he later made a conflicting statement.
In July, he said: “We will definitely help the Ukrainian people to free themselves from the regime that is absolutely anti-people and anti-history.”
UK ‘sends advanced missile to Ukraine’
Britain’s Royal Air Force has been spotted sending supplies of Brimstone 2 missiles to Ukraine, according to The Telegraph.
The UK sent Brimstone missiles to Ukraine about six months ago, but this latest model has double the range of the previous version – allowing defence forces to target Russian positions even further away.
Ukrainian troops have been attempting to destroy Russian tanks, vehicles and supply routes from long range in recent months.
The Brimstone missiles cost about £175,000 and use laser guidance to hit targets.
The weapons are particularly precise and able to minimise the potential for collateral damage.