President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has told world leaders that the time to end Russia’s war in Ukraine is “now” and called for the extension of a grain-export deal due to expire shortly, as heavy fighting continues in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
“I am convinced that now is the time when the Russian destructive war must and can be stopped,” Zelenskiy said in a video address to the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Bali, Indonesia, on November 15.
“It will save thousands of lives,” he said.
Zelenskiy said Ukraine would not allow Russian troops to regroup after their withdrawal from the southern strategic city of Kherson, and said there would be more fighting until Ukraine reclaims control of all of its occupied territory.
The liberation of Kherson over the weekend was one of Ukraine’s biggest successes in nearly nine months since the start of the Russian invasion.
Zelenskiy urged Moscow to withdraw all its forces from Ukraine and reaffirm Ukraine’s territorial integrity, warning that Kyiv would not compromise its sovereignty, territory, or independence. He also called for all Ukrainian prisoners to be released.
Zelenskiy outlined several approaches to achieve peace, including ensuring nuclear and food safety, the ending of hostilities, and a prevention of escalation.
He blasted “the crazy threats of nuclear weapons that Russian officials resort to,” referring to rhetoric employed repeatedly by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Zelenskiy thanked the “G19,” pointedly excluding Russia, for making clear that “there cannot be any excuses for nuclear blackmail.”
Putin has shunned the gathering and sent Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Bali in his place.
A deal struck in July between the United Nations and Russia that allows the export of Ukrainian grains and other food products from ports blocked by Russian warships is due to expire on November 19.
Zelenskiy said the deal, which according to the UN has allowed the export of 10 million tons of grain and other food, should be extended indefinitely.
“I believe our export grain initiative deserves an indefinite extension — no matter when the war ends,” Zelensky said.
“The right to food is a fundamental right of every person in the world,” he said, proposing to expand the deal to more Ukrainian ports.
Zelenskiy accused Moscow of an “attempt to turn the cold into a weapon” by launching waves of air strikes against key infrastructure ahead of the coming winter.
He also spoke in favor of a U.S.-led push for a price cap on Russian oil exports “so that energy resources are no longer used as weapons.”
The Ukrainian military reported early on November 15 that its forces repelled waves of Russian attacks on positions in the Donetsk region, including Bakhmut and Belohoryivka, and on Novoselivske in Luhansk.
According to Ukraine’s General Staff, the Russian military is accommodating recently arrived reinforcements in abandoned private houses in Luhansk.
The General Staff had previously said that in Luhansk, occupying Russian forces plan to carry out a complete evacuation of the civilian population from three settlements.
The Russian Army is also trying to hold captured territories and continues to equip defensive lines on the left bank of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region, the military said.
In the parts of Kherson region recaptured by the Ukrainian Army over the past week, Russia has destroyed “all critical infrastructure,” Zelenskiy said in his regular nightly address on November 14.
Zelenskiy said there is no electricity, no communication, and no television in Kherson, saying the withdrawing Russian troops destroyed everything intentionally.
Earlier on November 14, Ukrainian national energy company Ukrenerho said Russia had destroyed key energy infrastructure supplying the entire right bank of the Kherson region and a significant part of the Mykolayiv region.
“Most of the liberated Kherson region has been without electricity since November 6,” Ukrenerho chief Volodymyr Kudrytskiy said. “We are doing our best to supply people with electricity as soon as possible.”
Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valeriy Zaluzhniy said he spoke with U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on November 14 and told him that the Ukrainian military will not accept any negotiations, agreements, or compromise decisions 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 land from Russian occupation,” Zaluzhniy said on Facebook. “There is only one condition for the negotiations: Russia must leave all captured territories.”
The White House announced separately that CIA Director Bill Burns met in Ankara, Turkey, with Russian intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).
Burns underscored the consequences if Russia were to deploy a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, according to a White House spokesperson.
The Kremlin confirmed a U.S.-Russia meeting had taken place in Ankara but declined to give details.
Russian officials have alarmed Western governments by raising the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons after suffering massive setbacks in Ukraine.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and BBC