Ukraine war: Kyiv monastery raid; Kherson evacuations; and Poland to deploy missile launchers

1. Ukraine searches Kyiv monastery over suspected Russia links

Ukraine’s security service (SBU) has raided the main Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv over suspected links to Russia.

The SBU said on Telegram that it had carried out “counter-espionage measures” at the 1,000-year-old Kyiv Caves monastery on Tuesday morning.

The operation aimed to “counter the subversive activities of the Russian special services in Ukraine” it added.

The searches were carried out alongside Ukrainian police and the national guard, the SBU said. Worshippers were allowed to continue prying at the monastery but were subjected to SBU security checks.

“These measures are carried out to prevent the use [of the monastery] as a centre of the ‘Russian world’,” the SBU said.

The Kyiv Caves Lavra is the oldest monastery in Ukraine and has been on the Unesco World Heritage List since 1990. It is also the headquarters of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Moscow branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church had maintained close ties to Russia until May, following the invasion of Ukraine.

Two similar raids were also conducted on monasteries and Orthodox Church properties in the northwestern Ukrainian region of Rivne.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has condemned the raids as “military action against the Russian Orthodox Church”.

2. Ukrainians may have to live with blackouts until March

The head of a major Ukrainian energy provider has warned that citizens will likely have to live with blackouts at least until the end of March.

Sergey Kovalenko, head of the YASNO, said on Facebook that workers were rushing to complete repairs before winter arrives.

“Stock up on warm clothes and blankets and think about options that will help you wait a long outage,” he said.

Half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been damaged by Russian attacks, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

In his nightly address on Monday, Zelenskyy also appealed to Ukrainians to conserve energy.

Amid frequent blackouts, millions of people have been left without electricity and water as winter sets in and temperatures drop below freezing. Grid operator Ukrenergo said more planned shutdowns are scheduled for Tuesday.

The Ukrainian government has begun evacuating citizens from the liberated city of Kherson, which remains mostly without electricity and running water. Residents in Kherson may apply to be relocated to areas where heating and security problems are less acute.

“Given the difficult security situation in the city and infrastructure problems, you can evacuate for the winter to safer regions of the country,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram.

Moscow says its strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure are the consequences of Kyiv not willing to negotiate.

Russia has been targeting Ukrainian power facilities after a series of battlefield setbacks, including its withdrawal from Kherson to the east bank of the Dnipro river.

3. ‘Ukraine’s health system is facing its darkest days in the war so far,’ says WHO

The World Health Organization’s regional director to Europe has issued a stark warning after visiting Ukraine.

Up to 3 million more people could leave their Ukrainian homes this winter in search of warmth and safety, according to Hans Kluge.

“Ukraine’s health system is facing its darkest days in the war so far,” Kluge said in a statement.

“Having endured more than 700 attacks, it is now also a victim of the energy crisis. Access to healthcare cannot be held hostage,” he added.

The WHO says hundreds of Ukrainian hospitals and healthcare facilities lacked fuel, water, and electricity to meet people’s basic needs.

“We expect 2-3 million more people to leave their homes in search of warmth and safety,” Kluge said.

“They will face unique health challenges, including respiratory infections such as Covid-19, pneumonia, influenza, and the serious risk of diphtheria and measles in the under-vaccinated population.”

The UN health agency has called for a “humanitarian health corridor” to be created for all areas of Ukraine that have been recaptured by Kyiv, as well as those occupied by Russian forces.

Temperatures in Ukraine are starting to taban below zero and are expected to drop to – minus 20 Celsius during the winter months.

Fighting continues to rage on the ground in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has mobilised its forces from Kherson.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Tuesday that it had repelled numerous Russian attacks in several areas in the Donetsk region.

“The enemy does not stop shelling the positions of our troops and settlements near the contact line,” it claimed. “Attacks continue to damage critical infrastructure and civilian homes.”

Four people were killed and four others wounded in Ukraine-controlled areas of the Donetsk region over the past 24 hours, regional governor Pavlo Kyryleno said on Telegram.

Russian missiles also reportedly hit a humanitarian aid distribution centre in the Zaporizhzhia town of Orihiv, killing one person and injuring two others.

4. Poland to place German Patriot missiles near the border with Ukraine

Poland’s defence minister says the country will deploy additional Patriot missile launchers from Germany near the Ukrainian border.

Berlin had offered the air defence system to help Warsaw intercept missiles after two people were killed by a rocket last week.

“The German Defence Minister confirmed her willingness to deploy the Patriot launcher at the border with Ukraine,” Polish minister Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.

“The version of the system remains to be determined, as does how quickly they will reach us and how long they will be stationed.”

The NATO allies had already said that German Eurofighters would offer to help police Polish airspace.

Last week’s deadly strike on the Polish border village of Przewodow had raised fears that the Ukraine war could spill into NATO territory.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the missile appeared to have been fired accidentally by Ukraine’s air defences.

The military alliance has moved to strengthen air defences in eastern Europe since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

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