Overnight attacks on Kyiv damage energy infrastructure facilities, mayor says
From CNN's Josh Pennington
Ukraine's capital Kyiv was experiencing power outages Monday, after overnight strikes damaged energy infrastructure facilities in the city, its mayor said.
Vitaly Klitschko said some heat supply facilities were disconnected from the power supply, but the city’s water supply remains normal.
Russian strikes in recent weeks targeting critical infrastructure across Ukraine have left much of the country without access to heat and power, amid a harsh winter season. Crews worked for days ahead of New Year's Eve to repair systems and fortify the grid, but Ukrainian officials said Saturday that Moscow's attacks aim to plunge cities into darkness on the holiday.
Klitschko previously said 30% of the capital was left without power on New Year's Eve due to emergency shutdowns.
Meanwhile, locals in Kyiv expressed a resolve to celebrate the new year, telling CNN they hope that 2023 could bring peace, as Russia's invasion grinds on.
2:06 a.m. ET, January 2, 2023
Ukraine strike hits Russian military personnel stationed at Donetsk vocational school
From CNN's Josh Pennington
Ukrainian forces on Sunday struck a vocational school in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, where mobilized military personnel were stationed, a senior Russian-backed leader said.
“On New Year's Eve, literally at midnight, the vocational school was struck with a massive blow from the American HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System]," Daniil Bezsonov, the deputy information minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, wrote on Telegram. "There were fatalities and wounded, the exact number is not yet known," he said, adding the building was badly damaged.
Donetsk has been held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014 and it is one of four Ukrainian regions that Moscow attempted to annex in October, in violation of international law.
The news comes after the Ukrainian military said 760 Russian soldiers were killed Saturday, but did not specify where.
Russian forces "lost 760 people killed just yesterday, (and) continue to attempt offensive actions on Bakhmut," the military's general staff said Sunday.
Some context: Russian units have been pressing an offensive towards the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk for months but have suffered heavy losses as Ukrainian forces have targeted them in what is largely open rural territory.
Russian strikes killed at least six people in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Chernihiv regions.
3:11 a.m. ET, January 2, 2023
Zelensky vows Ukrainian air defense will become "even stronger" in the new year
From CNN's Mariya Knight
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he thinks Ukraine's air defense can become "the most powerful in Europe" and help uphold security for his country and Europe.
“Ukrainian air defense can become the most powerful in Europe, and this will be a guarantee of security not only for our country, but also for the entire continent,” Zelensky said in his nightly address Friday.
“This year, we not only maintained our air defenses, but we made them stronger than ever,” Zelensky continued. “But in the new year, Ukrainian air defense will become even stronger, even more effective.”
Latest round of attacks: Ukrainian officials again praised the efforts of their air defense crews when a new round of Russian strikes pounded several regions Saturday.
The country's military said it was able to knock away 12 of the more than 20 missiles launched at Ukraine.
“Air Defense Forces are heroes and a real shield of our sky. We thank them!” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a post on Telegram.
2:16 a.m. ET, January 2, 2023
Russian ruble hits 8-month low against dollar, as falling oil prices and sanctions bite
From CNN's Clare Sebastian
Russia’s currency hit an eight-month low Thursday, adding to sharp declines in December as global oil prices fell, and Western sanctions targeted Russia’s energy sector.
The ruble hovered below 72 to the dollar, down 18% from the start of the month, and its weakest level since late April.
After almost halving in value in the first weeks of the war, the ruble has held up remarkably well for most of the year, trading within a narrow range.
The ruble has been helped by measures from Russia’s central bank, which more than doubled interest rates at the start of the war, introduced capital controls, and forced exporters to convert 80% of their earnings into rubles, artificially creating demand for the currency. It later rolled back some of those policies as the exchange rate stabilized.
Russian republic offers paid tuition for children of military conscripts
From CNN's Josh Pennington
A remote Russian republic is offering to pay the tuition fees of students whose parents are enlisted in the military, according to the region's education minister.
Aybulat Khazhin, education minister of Bashkortostan, said on Telegram that students whose parents have been drafted to serve in the Russian army will receive coverage for their college tuition, dormitory expenses and additional financial support.
Khazhin said the effort is meant as a "means of social support to students studying in programs of secondary professional education and higher education whose parents have been drafted during the partial mobilization."
"China is ready to increase political cooperation with Russia," Xi says
From CNN's Jessie Yeung
In opening remarks during a video conference Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to visit Moscow next spring. He added that the two countries would strengthen cooperation between their armed forces, and pointed to growth in trade despite “unfavorable market conditions.”
Bilateral relations are “the best in history, and withstand all tests,” he said. “We share the same views on the causes, course and logic of the ongoing transformation of the global geopolitical landscape.”
Xi also delivered opening remarks, saying “against the background of a difficult international situation, China is ready to increase political cooperation with Russia” and to be “global partners,” according to the Russian state media translation of the broadcast.
Moscow and Beijing have drawn closer in recent years, with Xi and Putin declaring the two countries had a “no limits” partnership weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
China has since refused to condemn the aggression, instead repeatedly laying blame for the conflict on NATO and the United States – and remaining one of Russia’s key remaining supporters as it grows increasingly isolated on the global stage.
But more than 10 months into the grinding war, the world looks much different – and the dynamic between both partners has shifted accordingly, experts say.
On Thursday, Russia launched what Ukrainian officials described as one of the biggest missile barrages since the war began in February, with explosions rattling villages and cities across Ukraine, damaging civilian infrastructure and killing at least three people.
Ukrainian officials have been cautioning for days that Russia is preparing to launch an all-out assault on the power grid to close out 2022, plummeting the country into darkness as Ukrainians attempt to ring in the New Year and celebrate the Christmas holidays, which for the country’s Orthodox Christians falls on January 7.
“China is eager for (the war) to end,” said Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Washington-based think tank Stimson Center.
“Xi will try to emphasize the importance of peace to Putin,” she added. “As Russia is getting impatient with the lack of progress on the battlefield, the timing is ripening for peace talk in China’s eyes.”