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Russia's war on Ukraine latest news: 10 million Ukrainians reported to be without power

Nov 18 (Reuters) - Russian forces kept up a barrage of shell and missile attacks on various regions of Ukraine, many hitting power infrastructure, while heavy fighting persisted in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the east of the country.

CONFLICT

* Russia's defence ministry said its strikes in Ukraine on Thursday were aimed at military and energy infrastructure, Russian news agencies reported.

* About 10 million people are without power, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a Thursday evening video address, in a country with a pre-war population of about 44 million. He said authorities in some areas ordered forced emergency blackouts.

* A Reuters witness heard explosions in the centre of Kherson city on Friday morning and saw black smoke rising from behind buildings.

* Ukraine's military said Russian forces had fired artillery on the towns of Bakhmut and nearby Soledar in the Donetsk region. Russian fire had also hit Balakliya in northeastern Kharkiv region, which Ukraine recaptured in September, and Nikopol, a city on the opposite bank of the Kakhovka reservoir from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, it said.

Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield reports.

DIPLOMACY

* Russia said it hoped to clinch a prisoner swap with the United States to return convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the "Merchant of Death", in an exchange that would likely include U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner.

* Russia is open to more high-level talks with the United States, a top diplomat said on Friday, but the Kremlin dismissed the idea of a summit between President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden as "out of the question" for now.

* The Dutch government will summon the Russian ambassador in the Netherlands over Russia's response to the verdict in the trial over the downing of passenger flight MH17, news agency ANP reported. Russia said on Thursday the Dutch court's decision to convict two former Russian intelligence agents and a Ukrainian separatist leader "neglected impartiality".

* Ukrainian experts are already working at the site in the border area of southeastern Poland where a missile killed two people, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. Warsaw and its Western allies say the blast was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile that went astray in pursuit of a Russian missile. Kyiv says it has evidence of a "Russian trace".

ECONOMY

* A senior U.N. official welcomed the extension by four months of a deal aimed at easing global food shortages by helping Ukraine export its agricultural products from Black Sea ports, but said there was still work to be done.

* Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the idea of creating a Turkish "gas hub" with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a phone call, the Kremlin said on Friday.

* Russia's energy exports to China have increased in value by 64% this year, and by 10% in volume as Moscow redirects shipments towards "friendly" nations, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday.

The European Union expects to have its regulations completed in time for the introduction of a G7 plan to cap the price of Russian crude oil on Dec. 5 , the EU's energy policy chief told Reuters.

QUOTE

"The Gulag, created in 1933, and the current prison system(in Russia) are identical except for the name," Olga Romanova, a representative of the prison rights group Russia Behind Bars, on the conditions Griner can expect in the IK-2 colony in Yavas. Russia's prison service has not responded to questions from Reuters about conditions in such institutions. (Compiled by Philippa Fletcher)

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