Austin says Russia’s war on Ukraine has unified the international community

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had destroyed “all critical infrastructure” in parts of Kherson taken over by the Ukrainian military over the past week.

Zelenskiy said there was no electricity, no communication and no television in Kherson, adding that the withdrawal of Russian troops intentionally destroyed everything.

“That’s what the Russian flag means – utter devastation,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address after visiting liberated Kherson on Nov. 14, adding that the city’s and region’s most important facilities are mined.

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Earlier on November 14, Ukraine’s national energy company Ukrenergo said Russia had destroyed key energy infrastructure supplying the entire right bank of the Kherson region and a significant part of the Mykolaiv region.

“Most of the liberated region of Kherson has been without electricity since November 6,” Ukrenergo chief Volodymyr Kudrytskiy said. “We are doing our best to supply people with electricity as soon as possible.”

The liberation of Kherson this weekend was one of Ukraine’s biggest successes in the nearly nine months since the Russian invasion began.

During his visit to Kherson, Zelenskiy said that the liberation of the city was “the beginning of the end of the war”.

Ukrainian army chief Valeriy Zaluzhniy said he spoke to US General Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on November 14 and told him that the Ukrainian army would not accept no negotiation, agreement or compromise decision regarding the end of the war.

“I assured that we will fight as long as we have the strength. Our goal is to liberate all Ukrainian lands from Russian occupation,” Zaluzhniy posted on Facebook. “There is only one condition for the negotiations: Russia must leave all captured territories,” he said in the social media post.

Zaluzhniy said he also briefed Milley on the operational situation and the priority needs of the defense forces.

“The situation on the front is stable and under control. We are closely monitoring enemy actions on the border with Belarus and building a reliable shield to protect northern Ukraine,” Zaluzhniy said. “The defense forces, despite the fierce resistance of the occupying forces, continue their offensive in the direction of Kharkiv.

He said Russian forces were actively attacking areas to the east, including Bakhmut and Avdiyivka, but were unsuccessful.

“We maintain defense through the resilience of our forward units and combat-ready reserves. In the direction of Kherson, we are carrying out stabilization actions and strengthening the lines of defense,” Zaluzhniy added.

Earlier on November 14, US President Joe Biden hailed Ukraine’s takeover of the city of Kherson as a “significant victory”.

Biden commented on the development at a press conference after meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

“I can only applaud the courage, determination and ability of the Ukrainian people,” he said. “I think you’re going to see things slow down a bit because of the winter months…I think it remains to be seen exactly what the outcome will be.”

Biden also referred to Russia’s “irresponsible nuclear use threats,” according to a report from the White House meeting.

The White House separately announced that CIA Director Bill Burns would meet in Ankara, Turkey with Russian Intelligence Chief Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

Burns pointed to the consequences if Russia were to deploy a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, according to a White House spokesperson.

The Kremlin confirmed that a US-Russian meeting had taken place in Ankara but declined to give details.

Russian officials have alarmed Western governments over the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons after suffering massive setbacks in Ukraine.

The quoted official said there had been no change in the US intelligence assessment and declined to elaborate on the timing of the decision to send Burns to meet Naryshkin.

The Burns-Naryshkin meeting was the highest face-to-face engagement between US and Russian officials since before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion.

Burns was also to discuss the cases of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, two Americans detained in Russia. Washington pressed Moscow to release the two in a prisoner swap.

With reports from Reuters, AP and RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service