Ukraine war: Russian 'hunger games', Kherson liberation, Turkey peace talks, Banksy

1. Ukraine reestablishes itself in Kherson

Ukrainian police officers returned to Kherson on Saturday, along with TV and radio services, after Kyiv recaptured the city on Friday.

It is part of a fast, but cautious, effort by Ukraine to reclaim the southern port city, following a withdrawal of Russian forces who had occupied Kherson since the early days of the war.

There were jubilant scenes across Ukraine after news of the liberation broke, though one official described the Black Sea city as “a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Moscow announced in the early hours of Friday morning that its forces had withdrawn from Kherson, moving tens of thousands of troops and military equipment to the other side of the Dnieper River.

The retreat is a significant blow for Moscow, coming some six weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed four regions of southeastern Ukraine, including where Kherson is located.

He declared the areas part of Russia in a move that breached international law.

Russian officials have maintained that the retreat does not change Russia's control over these annexed regions.

The Kherson region has been a flashpoint for Ukrainian and Russian forces, with Kyiv's soldiers pressing into the area as part of a broader offensive.

Roman Holovnya, a Ukrainian adviser, said the situation in Kherson was “a humanitarian catastrophe”.

The remaining residents were without water, medicine and food, he said. Essentials like bread were also lacking due to power cuts.

“The occupiers and collaborators did everything possible so that those people who remained in the city suffered as much as possible over those days, weeks, months of waiting” for Ukraine’s forces to arrive, Holovnya said.

“Water supplies are practically nonexistent.”

2. No agreement to extend grain deal, says Russia

Russia said on Saturday there was still no agreement to extend a deal allowing Ukraine to export grain across the Black Sea.

Moscow repeated its demand for unhindered access to world markets for its own food and fertiliser exports.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said talks with UN officials in Geneva on Friday were useful, but the issue of whether the deal could be renewed was yet to be resolved.

Brokered by the UN and Turkey, the deal signed by Kyiv and Moscow in July allows Ukrainian grain to be exported across the Black Sea, following a Russian blockade.

The agreement -- which is set to expire in a week -- helped lessen pressure on food prices and the risk of famine in the developing world.

Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
A dump track unloads grain in a granary in the village of Zghurivka, Ukraine, Aug. 9, 2022. - Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

The Russian Deputy FM said there could be no progress on renewing the deal until a Russian state bank was reconnected to the international SWIFT bank payments system, from which it has been cut off by Western sanctions.

10 million tonnes of grain and other foods have been exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea deal, according to the UN.

Russia has repeatedly complained that its own grain exports, though not directly targeted by Western sanctions, are effectively blocked because the sanctions cut access to finance, insurance and ports.

Ukraine and Russia are major world exporters of grain. Developments there are very influential on world food prices.

3. Turkey seeks peace talks despite West's actions: Erdogan

Turkey is committed to seeking peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, according to Turkish media.

Erdogan also accused the United States and other Western countries of provoking Moscow.

State broadcaster TRT quoted the Turkish leader as saying: "The West, and especially the US, is attacking Russia seemingly endlessly". He did not elaborate on what he meant by this.

"Of course, Russia is displaying great resistance in the face of all this," Erdogan told reporters on a flight from Uzbekistan.

Western countries have firmly supported Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion, providing Kyiv with weaponry and financial support, and have sanctioned Moscow.

"We are working on how to create a peace corridor here, like we had the grain corridor. We think the best way for this is a path from dialogue to peace," Erdogan said, adding Ukraine's view would be important.

NATO member Turkey has tried to tread a fine line between the warring parties. Turkish arms companies have supplied Ukraine with drones and Erdogan criticised the invasion in the past.

But Turkey did not participate in western sanctions.

Ankara brokered the deal to lift the blockade on Ukrainian grain exports four months ago, along with the UN.

Erdogan said "it would be wrong" for Turkey to propose a specific time to extend the deal beyond its 19 November deadline. But he added it should run "as long as possible".

There have been no recent public attempts to revive peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. Talks in Istanbul about a possible cease-fire during the first weeks of the conflict collapsed, without making any progress.

4. EU official urges China to convince Russia to respect international law

European Council President Charles Michel has encouraged China to "use all means" to convince Russia to respect international law.

He made the remarks on Saturday, days before a G20 summit which is set to be dominated by discussions around the conflict in Ukraine.

"We encourage the Chinese authorities to use all means at their disposal to convince Russia to respect internationally recognized borders, to respect Ukraine 's sovereignty," the EU leader told AFP.

Charles Michel spoke from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he met with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

He will then fly to the Indonesian island of Bali to attend the G20 summit, alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Andy Wong/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 23, 2022. China on Friday, Nov. 11. - Andy Wong/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

"It is important at this brutal moment in human history that there is international cooperation and the G20 will be another opportunity to look each other in the eye," he said.

"We stand including with countries that don't have exactly the same political regimes, but at the very least believe that international law should be protected," Michel said.

Relations between China and the European Union have deteriorated since the imposition of sanctions on both sides over allegations of human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang region.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February, EU leaders have repeatedly called on Beijing to publicly condemn Russia's actions, with no success so far.

5. Russian 'hunger games' need to stop: Ukrainian FM

Ukraine's foreign minister on Saturday urged Southeast Asian countries to do everything they can to stop Russia from playing "hunger games" over the Ukraine grain deal.

The deal -- which allows the export of food from Ukraine's Black Sea ports -- is set to expire next week. Little progress has been made so far on securing a renewal from the Russian side.

Speaking at a news conference in Cambodia, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said measures should be taken to ensure Russian inspectors do not intentionally delay shipments, forcing global prices to spike.

Under the terms of the grain agreement, Russia is allowed to inspect ships to ensure they are carrying what they purport to carry.

"It's not enough just to keep Russia on board," he said. "It's also important to make sure that Russian inspectors who participate in this initiative ... act in good faith and that they inspect ships without any artificial delays."

Kuleba added that African and Asian countries were suffering as a result of the impasse.

"I call on all ASEAN members to take every method possible to stop Russia from playing hunger games with the world," he said.

The Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain during the first few months of the war caused global food prices to spike, pushing parts of the developing world to the brink of famine.

Ukraine is joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and a parallel East Asian Summit for the first time.

Leaders of the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia are among those also attending, as is Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

6. Banksy unveils new work on bombed-out Ukraine building

Banksy has revealed one of his new artworks on a destroyed building in Ukraine.

The British graffiti artist posted images of a stencilled work on a bombed building in Borodianka, near Kyiv, on his Instagram account overnight from Friday to Saturday.

He confirmed he was the author.

The work of a gymnast balancing on a pile of rubble was stencilled on the wall of a mutilated building in Borodianka, a locality located a few kilometres northwest of the Ukrainian capital.

It has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to Russian bombardments.

"Borodianka, Ukraine", the famous street artist wrote in the caption of the images on his Instagram account.

"It is a symbol of our unwavering resistance," Oleksi Savochka, a 32-year-old Ukrainian, told AFP.

"From the unwavering resistance of our country," he added.

A number of Banksy-esque stencilled drawings have appeared in and around Kyiv recently, suggesting the artist may be working in the region.