January 3, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes and Leinz Vales, CNN

Updated 1:18 a.m. ET, January 4, 2023
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5:53 a.m. ET, January 3, 2023

Warm weather eases Ukraine's electricity demand

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Unseasonably warm weather in Ukraine is easing demand on the country’s electricity grid, the country’s state-owned electricity operator said Tuesday.

“Due to warm weather, consumption in Ukraine is reduced,” Ukrenergo said on its official Facebook page.

“Power plants produce enough electricity to cover the load," it added. "In addition, due to clear weather in the morning and afternoon hours, the production of electricity by solar power plants is increased.”

Nonetheless, Ukrenergo said that power restrictions would need to be implemented again by Tuesday afternoon as demand increased through the day, and urged Ukrainians to “consume electricity wisely.”

We do not forget about the enemy's goals to deprive Ukrainians of light and are ready to counteract it and restore the damaged under any circumstances,” said the company.

Russia has repeatedly targeted Ukraine's energy infrastructure, disrupting the supply of electricity, water and heat in the country this winter.

10:09 a.m. ET, January 3, 2023

Top Russian military blogger casts doubt on official defense ministry death toll from strike on Makiivka

From CNN's Mick Krever and Olly Racz

Workers and emergency services remove debris from a destroyed building purported to be a vocational college used as temporary accommodation for Russian soldiers in Makiivka in Russian-controlled Ukraine, on January 3.
Workers and emergency services remove debris from a destroyed building purported to be a vocational college used as temporary accommodation for Russian soldiers in Makiivka in Russian-controlled Ukraine, on January 3. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

A top Russian military blogger, who just weeks ago received an award from President Vladimir Putin, has cast doubts on Moscow's official death toll from an attack on Russian barracks in occupied eastern Ukraine.

Semyon Pegov, who blogs under the alias “WarGonzo,” posted a five-minute video on his Telegram channel Tuesday morning discussing what he called the “Makiivka tragedy.”

“Despite the official statement of the Ministry of Defense, the exact number of casualties is still unknown,” Pegov said in the video.

“To the degree we can trust our own sources who work at the spot where this tragedy happened, they are still digging up the rubble at this moment. And unfortunately, the number of victims of this tragedy – the HIMARS strike on the quarters of both newly mobilized and the serving military, including National Guard – could be bigger.”

In a rare admission, the Russian Ministry of Defense on Monday said that 63 servicemen had been killed in Makiivka when Ukraine used HIMARS missiles to attack a building where Russian soldiers were quartering.

The Ukrainian military claims around 400 Russian soldiers were killed and a further 300 wounded, and says the exact number is “being clarified.”

In any case, it would represent one of the deadliest single episodes of the war for Russian forces.

Putin personally awarded Pegov with the “Order of Courage” at the Kremlin on December 20.

Pegov is not alone is casting doubt on Russia’s official account. 

Igor Girkin, a former official in the Russia-backed Donetsk People's Republic, suggested on Monday that the number of dead and wounded could run into the hundreds.

“There are still no final figures on the number of casualties, as many people are still missing,” said Girkin, who was found guilty by a Dutch court of mass murder for his involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

3:12 a.m. ET, January 3, 2023

"It's like a constant gamble": Ukrainian couple await birth of twins in wartime Kyiv

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Tim Lister

Kateryna and her husband Oleg endure what every citizen of Kyiv must – long blackouts, hours without any internet connection and constant apprehension about the next missile barrage.

But as they begin 2023, they are also preparing for the arrival of twin boys. Kateryna, who is 34, is eight months pregnant. CNN agreed to use only first names for her and Oleg as they fear for their privacy.

She’s not getting much rest ahead of the big day. The air-raid sirens blare almost every day, the crump of explosions is all too familiar. Their lives are shaped by the scheduled power cuts, as electricity is shared among the regions to mitigate the impact of Russia’s strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

“On New Year’s Eve, I tried to take a nap,” she told CNN from her house in the Kyiv suburbs. “But I woke to the sound of explosions, and they went on through the night. The sirens were on for much of the night, until 4:30 a.m.,” she said.
It’s difficult for residents to distinguish between the sound of air defenses in operation and the impact of Russian cruise missiles and drones.
“I don’t mind the blackouts,” Kateryna said, “but we worry about the next wave of Russian missiles. Will it be us? It’s like a constant gamble."

12:22 a.m. ET, January 3, 2023

Zelensky says Russia planning prolonged attack with Iranian-made drones

From CNN's Mariya Knight

(Office of the President of Ukraine)
(Office of the President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia is planning a prolonged campaign of attacks with Iranian-made Shahed drones to exhaust Ukraine.

“We have information that Russia is planning a prolonged attack with Shaheds. Its bet may be on exhaustion,” Zelensky said in his nightly address Monday. “On exhaustion of our people, our air defense, our energy sector.” 

Zelensky said Ukraine's main task is to ensure Russia's drone plans fail.

He said more than 80 have been shot down over Ukraine since the start of 2023. 

"This number may increase in the near future. Because these weeks the nights can be quite restless.
"Now is the time when everyone involved in the protection of the sky should be especially attentive."
12:22 a.m. ET, January 3, 2023

Ukrainian military chief says 40% of territories occupied during Russian invasion now liberated

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Some 40% of territories occupied after Feb. 24 — when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine — were liberated over the past year, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, said Monday.

“The Armed Forces liberated 40% of the territories occupied during the full-scale invasion and 28% of all territories occupied by Russia since 2014,” he reported in a round-up post of 2022 on the Telegram app.

The current front line is 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) long, the general said.

According to Zaluzhny, Ukrainian Armed Forces have undergone military training in the territory of 17 European countries.

“Thanks to international partners it was possible to train more than 20,000 soldiers,” he said. “In 2022, more than 600,000 people were evacuated from the areas of hostilities and more than 2 million tonnes of humanitarian goods were brought in.”
12:22 a.m. ET, January 3, 2023

Russia's Belgorod region "came under fire," governor says

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Denis Lapin

The governor of Belgorod, a Russian region bordering Ukraine, reported shelling on Monday.

Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram that "the village of Murom in the Shebekinsky urban district came under fire from the Ukrainian Armed Forces.” 

He said there were no casualties, but the shelling caused damage to two homes and a car.

Gladkov also reported a local cemetery was hit by shelling.  

According to Gladkov, the village of Vyazovoye in the Belgorod region also came under fire on Monday.

“There were no casualties,” he said. “Windows of one private house were blown out, the facade and the fence were affected.”  

“A power transmission line was also damaged,” Gladkov added. "Emergency services are on site and are dealing with the aftermath.” 

Some background: Belgorod, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the Ukrainian border, has been struck previously. In December, the governor said one person was killed and eight others injured in strikes.

3:05 a.m. ET, January 3, 2023

$35 billion in ecological damages caused by Russia's war, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych, Sarah Dean and Mariya Knight

Ukrainian soldiers drive a captured Russian tank in the Kupiansk region of Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine, on October 15.
Ukrainian soldiers drive a captured Russian tank in the Kupiansk region of Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine, on October 15. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

The damage to Ukrainian ecology caused by Russia's invasion is estimated at $35.3 billion, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, said on Monday.

"Millions of hectares of nature preserves are under threat. Article 55 of the Protocol I [Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts] prohibits waging war VS the natural environment by way of reprisals, but Russia doesn’t care," he tweeted, referencing a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions.

Ukraine's Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources said in a Facebook post Monday: "The conduct of hostilities deepens the climate crisis, causing significant emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere."

According to the latest calculations of the Ministry of Environment, the war has directly led to emissions of 33 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. The ministry broke that figure down, listing the estimated emissions from combat, the movement of internally displaced people and fires in the country. 

Some background: In May last year, CNN reported how Ukraine’s fertile soil was becoming contaminated with heavy metals and other potentially poisonous substances leaking from missiles, military equipment and spent ammunition.

Spilled fuel is polluting ground waters and ecosystems are being hammered by tanks and other heavy technology. All of this is damage that will be felt for decades after the war ends.

In December, Kyiv-based non-profit the Center for Environmental Initiatives Ecoaction published a report that said, "the population’s access to water in many regions of the country has significantly deteriorated." 

"As a result of Russia’s armed military aggression against Ukraine, water treatment and purification infrastructure facilities are destroyed, and environmental components are polluted, in particular sources of drinking water and water bodies," it said.
12:22 a.m. ET, January 3, 2023

Ukraine claims hundreds of Russian troops killed in strike; Moscow says 63 died

From CNN's Mick Krever, Olga Voitovych and Darya Tarasova

A screen grab from video shows the aftermath of shelling of a building in Makiivka, in the Russian controlled Donetsk region of Ukraine.
A screen grab from video shows the aftermath of shelling of a building in Makiivka, in the Russian controlled Donetsk region of Ukraine. (Reuters)

An apparent Ukrainian strike in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine appears to have killed a large number of Russian troops, according to the Ukrainian military, pro-Russian military bloggers and former officials.

The strike took place just after midnight on Sunday, New Year’s Day, on a vocational school housing Russian conscripts in Makiivka, in the Donetsk region, according to both Ukrainian and pro-Russian accounts.

The attack has led to vocal criticism of Moscow’s military from pro-Russian military bloggers, who claimed that the troops lacked protection and were reportedly being quartered next to a large cache of ammunition, which is said to have exploded when Ukrainian HIMARS rockets hit the school.

The Ukrainian military said later on Monday that the number of Russian servicemen killed in Makiivka is “being clarified” after claiming earlier that around 400 Russian soldiers were killed and a further 300 were wounded. It has not directly acknowledged a role in the strike. CNN cannot independently confirm those numbers or the weapons used in the attack.

Some pro-Russian military bloggers have also estimated that the number of dead and wounded could run in the hundreds.

The Russian defense ministry on Monday acknowledged the attack and claimed that 63 Russian servicemen died, which would make it one of the deadliest single episodes of the war for Moscow’s forces.

Read more here.