At a defense summit of former Soviet republics on Wednesday and Thursday, it became apparent just how much of a crisis there is now between Putin and his last allies. At the end of the talks, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is said to have refused to sign the joint final declaration. Videos from social networks show how Putin and Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko then look visibly irritated.

The CSTO Defense Alliance includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Previously there have been differences between Armenia over Azerbaijani aggression. In a joint photo, it was noticed that Pashinyan kept a clear distance from Putin.

The democratically elected Pashinyan has long been a thorn in Moscow’s side. He prevailed in the elections against the governor favored by Russia. The most recent rhetoric against the country was Yevgeny Fedorov, a high-ranking representative of the Russian parliament: “Armenia is an illegal state,” said Fedorov. The country did not legally secede from the Soviet Union at the time. “We have to act on this basis,” says Fedorov.

Zelenskyi: “Russia will not find a way to break us”

Faced with cold and darkness in Ukrainian cities as a result of massive blackouts, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invoked his people’s spirit of resistance against the Russian invasion. “We endured a full-scale war for nine months, and Russia didn’t find a way to break us. And it won’t find anyone,” Zelenskyy said in his evening video address on Thursday. “We must carry on as we are right now, in unity and mutual aid.” Russia invaded the neighboring country on February 24.

The restoration of power and water supplies after Wednesday’s heavy rocket attack lasted throughout Thursday and into Friday night. “Russia not only wants the Ukrainians to be without electricity and heat,” Zelenskyy said in Kyiv. “The terrorists want to isolate us from each other and make sure we don’t feel each other.” Russian shelling in the city of Cherson in southern Ukraine killed 7 and wounded around 20, regional authorities said. Friday marks the 275th day of Ukraine’s defense against invasion.

Technicians repair destroyed power grids around the clock

Although many Ukrainian households were still without electricity, water or heating, the authorities reported progress in restoring the supply. The power grid is recovering from the blackout on Wednesday. Half of the demand can be covered again, the network operator Ukrenerho said on Thursday evening.

Most thermal power plants and hydroelectric power plants produced electricity again. The nuclear power plants that had been shut down in an emergency returned to the grid. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Russian-occupied Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was again supplied with electricity from outside and was not dependent on diesel generators.

The situation in the capital Kyiv remained tense. According to the utility DTEK, only 30 percent of households there had electricity. The light can initially only be switched on for two or three hours.

“As of tonight, there are still water problems in 15 regions,” Zelensky said. The attacks on civilian targets are “the revenge of those who lost,” he said. “They don’t know how to fight. The only thing they can do is terrorize. Whether energy terror, artillery terror or rocket terror – Russia has come down to this under its current leadership.” Only the liberation of the entire country and security guarantees could permanently protect Ukrainians from Russia.

Liberated city of Cherson is shelled

The situation report of the Ukrainian general staff on Thursday spoke of ongoing heavy fighting in the Donbass in eastern Ukraine. Russian troops continued to attempt a breakthrough at Bakhmut and at Avdiivka.

Zelenskyy said that the city of Kherson, which was only recently liberated by Ukrainian troops, was shelled almost every hour. On Thursday, Russian troops fired artillery and multiple rocket launchers at the city in southern Ukraine, killing 7 people. About 20 people were injured, said regional governor Yaroslav Yanuschevych. “Today is another terrible page in the history of our hero city.”

Under pressure from Ukrainian attacks, Russian troops evacuated Cherson and their bridgehead on the north-west bank of the Dnipro in mid-November. The Russians, however, hold positions on the other bank of the river and use their artillery from there.

Zelenskyj: Liberation of Crimea remains war goal

Despite Western skepticism, Zelenskyy is sticking to the liberation of the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, as a war goal. “If someone shows us a way of ending the occupation of Crimea by non-military means, then I will be very much in favor of it,” he told the British newspaper “Financial Times”. But if a proposal meant that Crimea would be occupied and remain part of Russia, “nobody should waste their time on that”.

Western supporters of Ukraine assume that Ukraine will eventually be able to recapture the areas occupied by Russia since February 24 and the Donbass. But they are more cautious about Crimea: The peninsula is strategically and symbolically so important for Moscow that there is a risk of an escalation of the war.

Lukashenko rules out using his army against Ukraine

The authoritarian Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko has ruled out direct deployment of his army in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. “If we get directly involved in this conflict with the armed forces, with soldiers, we are not contributing anything, we are only making it worse,” said Lukashenko, according to a report by the Belta agency on Thursday. Belarus supports Russia, but its role is different.

Lukashenko has made his country dependent on Moscow available as a deployment area for Russian troops. Ukraine therefore regards the neighboring country as a warring party and keeps troops in reserve in case it has to fend off a direct attack from Belarus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in Moscow that Russia does not need a war economy to supply its armed forces in the conflict. He demanded that the armaments industry should supply the troops faster and with better products. However, no extraordinary measures are necessary for this. “You just have to organize the work precisely, with quality and in a well-coordinated manner,” he was quoted as saying by the state agency Tass.

That will be important on Friday

On Friday, Putin wants to meet with the mothers of soldiers deployed or preparing to serve in Ukraine. The Kremlin announced that mothers of professional and temporary soldiers, volunteers and conscripted reservists were invited. After the partial mobilization, mothers in some regions complained that their sons were being sent into battle ill-equipped.

Also Read: The Ukraine Update of November 24th

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