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Ukraine Latest: Putin Denies Russia Plans to Use Nuclear Weapons

(Bloomberg) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was no need for Russia to launch a nuclear strike on Ukraine, and denied his country had ever discussed the use of atomic weapons in the war, now in its ninth month.

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Putin claimed Russia has only used “hints” in response to repeated US and European discussion of a possible atomic conflict, telling an audience of foreign-policy experts that the West was trying to influence Moscow’s friends and allies by showing “how terrible Russia is.”

China is willing to deepen its cooperation with Russia at all levels, according to a Chinese readout of a phone call between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that also said the pair discussed Ukraine. Russia hasn’t commented.

Ksenia Sobchak, the celebrity-journalist daughter of Putin’s political mentor fled Russia for Europe as police detained a close associate and raided her home as part of a criminal case for alleged extortion.

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)

Key Developments

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  • Is Putin Strangling Russia’s Golden Gas Goose? The IEA Thinks So

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On the Ground

Russian forces struck the Kyiv region and the southern city of Zaporizhzhia overnight, Ukrinform reported, citing local authorities. Ukraine’s “South” command said air defense downed a Russian Ka-52 helicopter and an Su-25 fighter jet in the Kherson region Thursday morning. Ukrainian troops downed 18 out of 20 Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones launched by Russia over the past 24 hours at the country’s critical infrastructure, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on Telegram. Russian assaults near seven settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions were repelled over the past day, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military reported on Facebook.

(All times CET)

Putin Keeps Up Suspense on G-20 Summit Plans (7:15 p.m.)

Putin said he still hasn’t decided whether to go to next month’s G-20 summit in Indonesia, as the US and its allies have pushed for him to be excluded over his invasion of Ukraine.

“We’ll think about how we’ll do it. Russia definitely will be represented at a high level,” Putin told a questioner from Indonesia at the Valdai Discussion Club outside Moscow. “I may still go.”

Most Russians Want Peace Talks With Ukraine, Survey Shows (6:36 p.m.)

For the first time, a majority of Russians favor opening peace talks with Ukraine, according to a poll by the independent Levada Center, which also found that just a third of respondents now support the war.

Those backing negotiations with Ukraine rose to 57% in October from 48% a month earlier, while the proportion supporting continuation of the invasion fell to 36% from 44% in September, according to the nationwide survey of 1,600 Russians conducted Oct. 20-26.

Support for peace talks was highest among 18-to-24-year-olds, at 68%, and lowest among those 55 years and older, at 42%, Levada said on its website. The figures were reversed when it came to backing Russia’s mobilization of reservists to fight in Ukraine, with 58% of the younger respondents opposed to the measure and 66% of older Russians in favor.

Putin Says Plan for Ukraine Operation Remains Unchanged (6:21 p.m.)

Putin said his plan for the “special military operation” in Ukraine remains to ensure the security of the Donbas region, but didn’t mention the sweeping goals of “de-Nazification” and “de-militarization” that he’d cited earlier in the invasion.

Putin, whose public statements of his goals for the war have shifted in the months since he dispatched troops, didn’t explain the apparent omission. He described the neighboring regions of Ukraine that Russia also illegally annexed last month as part of a historic ‘Novorossiya’ region.

His comments came in response to a question from the host of the Valdai event, foreign policy analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, who noted that “society doesn’t really understand what the plan is.”

US Defense Secretary Says No Sign Putin Plans Nuclear Attack (6 p.m.)

“We have not seen anything to indicate that Putin has made a decision to use a dirty bomb,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday. “Nor have we seen any indications that the Ukrainians are planning such a thing. Ukrainians have, in fact, their leadership have indicated to us that is not in their plans.”

Austin said it was important to keep talking to both allies and adversaries to tamp down “dangerous talk.”

Putin Says ‘No Point’ in Making Nuclear Strike on Ukraine Weapons (5:48 p.m.)

“We don’t need a nuclear strike on Ukraine –there is no point, either military or political,” Putin said.

Former President Dmitry Medvedev has been among Kremlin officials warning that using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine was possible. US and European defense officials said this week that a claim by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that Ukraine may use a so-called “dirty bomb” may be an indication the Kremlin is planning such an operation.

Pentagon Rejects Ban on Using Nukes Against Conventional Threats (5:36 p.m.)

Citing burgeoning threats from Russia and China, the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy rejects limits on using nuclear weapons long championed by arms control advocates and, in the past, by President Joe Biden.

Read more: Pentagon Rejects Ban on Using Nukes Against Conventional Threats

Ukraine Grain Group Says Exports May Hit 50M Tons, Urges Extension of Deal (3:25 p.m.)

If the safe-transit deal for Black Sea grain exports is renewed, shipments for the current marketing year could reach 50 million tns, the Ukrainian Grain Association said.

The group petitioned the UN to secure an extension beyond November for the agreement, which has seen more than 9 million tons shipped since August from three ports.

If the corridor is suspended, Ukraine will be able to send abroad a maximum of 35 million tns of grains and oilseeds, the group said. Either way, shipments will trail the 62 million tns exported in 2021-22.

Russia Authorizes Drafting Convicts to Fight in Ukraine (2:19 p.m.)

The Russian lower house of parliament has passed a law that allows for drafting convicts to fight in Ukraine, the state news service RIA Novosti reported.

The mechanism excludes prisoners convicted of the most serious crimes, such as terrorism, spying and treason, it said.

Separately, Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has recently been recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine, offering them early release.

Kyiv May Face 30% Power Deficit From Repeated Attacks (1:27 p.m.)

Kyiv may face a 30% power supply deficit due to additional heavy Russian strikes on local energy infrastructure on Thursday morning, the capital’s grid operator Yasno said in a Facebook statement. “The damage is serious. Therefore, we have a sharp shortage of energy supply,” the company said.

“Usually, Kyiv consumes 1,000-1,200 MW. Currently, the estimated available capacity is 600-800 MW.” Yasno said upcoming blackouts will be longer and will affect much larger number of consumers than before.

City authorities expect more widespread, stricter limits on power supply in the next days to avoid complete outages.

Putin Told Guinea-Bissau Leader He’s Still Ready for Ukraine Talks (12:20 a.m.)

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Guinea-Bissau counterpart that his country remains ready for talks with Ukraine, while accusing Kyiv of refusing dialog, the Kremlin said.

Putin accepted an offer by President Umaro Sissoco Embalo to convey this message to Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. The African leader met with Putin and Zelenskiy on consecutive days this week.

“Russia isn’t changing its position, we’re ready to talk at the table, but it’s a matter now of the complete refusal of Ukraine to negotiate,” Peskov said. Putin has so far refused to meet Zelenskiy. The Ukrainian leader has formally ruled out holding talks with Putin and tied negotiations with a future leader to a withdrawal by Russia from all the territory it’s occupied in Ukraine.

Russian Missile Attacks Become Less Intense, Official Says (11:45 a.m.)

The number of Russian missile attacks has fallen by almost two-thirds since Oct. 19 compared to a previous seven-day period, Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksiy Hromov said in a video briefing Thursday.

Ukrainian forces downed nearly half of the 52 missiles fired by Russia during the latest period, he said, which compares to Russia firing 146 missiles over the previous seven days. Single-use drone attacks declined by a third, with Ukraine shooting down 79% of the 114 drones fired.

Russian Lawmakers Tighten Ban on ‘Gay Propaganda’ (11:35 a.m.)

Russian lawmakers approved a sweeping expansion of a ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” broadening the restrictions to include adults and outlawing the portrayal of gay relationships in books, films, the media and the internet.

The Kremlin has stepped up its public embrace of what it calls “traditional values” in the months since its invasion of Ukraine, a conflict it portrays as a showdown with what it describes as western attitudes alien to Russia.

Ukraine Exports 9M Tns of Farm Products Through Grain Corridor (11 a.m.)

Ukraine has loaded 397 ships and exported over 9 million tns of grain and other farm products to Africa, Europe and Asia since the opening of the grain corridor, the Ukrainian Sea Ports Administration said on Facebook.

Oleksiy Vostrikov, the administration’s chief, said Russia is “deliberately delaying the full implementation of the ‘grain initiative,’ thus Ukrainian ports work at only 30% of their capacity.” He added: “But we are doing everything possible to ensure the regularity of shipments and increase the volume of cargo processing.”

Foodstuffs have been shipped under a safe-transit deal brokered by Turkey and the UN for three Black Sea ports. There’s currently a huge and growing backlog of ships — some 175 — waiting to move to port to load grain.

Ukraine to Get Hawk Defense from Spain, Reznikov Says (10:45 a.m.)

Spain will be the first country to provide Ukraine with Hawk air defense systems, the country’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Twitter. Reznikov wrote that he expects the new military aid package from Spain to arrive soon.

Ukraine Limits Power Supply in Central Regions After Latest Attacks (10:05 a.m.)

Ukraine’s grid operator Ukrenergo instructed local operators to limit power consumption in four regions and in the city of Kyiv after Russian attacks overnight hit the electric grid in the center of the country. Energy supply will be limited in the regions around Kyiv, Chernihiv, Cherkasy and Zhytomyr after infrastructure was damaged by Russian forces.

Journalist Daughter of Putin Mentor Flees Russia (9:45 a.m.)

Ksenia Sobchak, 40, a socialite and TV presenter who has publicly questioned the invasion of Ukraine, is in Lithuania, authorities in the Baltic nation said Thursday. She called the investigation an attack on her online media outlet.

Sobchak, a celebrity who took part in anti-Kremlin protests that erupted before the 2012 presidential election, also ran in the 2018 race against Putin but got less than 2% of the vote. The opposition branded her participation as a ploy by the Russian leadership to give the appearance of democracy after officials barred Putin’s top opponent from contesting the vote. Her late father Anatoly Sobchak was the mayor of St. Petersburg.

Ukraine’s Grid Operators Still Struggling, IEA Says (9:05 a.m.)

Ukraine’s electricity-grid operators continue struggling to cover nationwide demand after two weeks of Russian strikes against power infrastructure. Generation trailed supply for a fourth consecutive day on Wednesday, according to the latest data published by the International Energy Agency.

Zelenskiy has appealed to Ukrainians to save energy after convening a meeting with advisers to discuss infrastructure repairs made more difficult by the Russian attacks, according to the Telegram channel of grid operator Ukrenergo.

Russia Says Civilian Satellites Used By Ukraine May Be Targets: Tass (8:45 a.m.)

Russia may consider civilian satellites used by Ukraine and its allies as “legitimate targets for retaliation,” a senior diplomat said, according to Tass.

Calling such equipment “quasi-civilian infrastructure,” Konstantin Vorontsov, deputy head of the arms control department at the Foreign Ministry, told a United Nations session that its use for military purposes is a “very dangerous trend.” He didn’t specify under what circumstances Russia might make such a strike.

Kyiv and its allies have used commercial satellites for intelligence information and communications to combat the Russian invasion.

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