December 1, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Heather Chen, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 3:01 a.m. ET, December 2, 2022
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10:17 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

100 soldiers exchanged in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

From CNN's Sebastian Shukla

One hundred soldiers have been exchanged in Ukraine on Thursday, according to Ukrainian and pro-Russian senior figures.

Andrii Yermak — the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine — and Denis Pushilin — head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic — confirmed that 50 soldiers on each side have been exchanged Thursday. 

Yermak said fighters from Mariupol's Azovstal steel facility and prisoners from Olenivka in the Donetsk region were returned to Ukraine.

“We will work until the last Ukrainian is released,” Yermak said.  

Pushilin also confirmed that a mixture of Russian and pro-Russian fighters were returned. He said on Telegram that 12 fighters from the DPR and eight from the [self-declared Luhansk People's Rebuplic] were among the 50 prisoners. 

There was no mention of the location or time of the swap. 

10:24 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Russia's war in Ukraine means "we need to become brothers in arms" once more, Macron says at White House

From CNN's Betsy Klein

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks alongside US President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday, December 1.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks alongside US President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday, December 1. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

US President Joe Biden welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron to the White House Thursday, kicking off an official state visit aimed at shoring up the US-France alliance as Macron has emerged as a critical ally amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

“Our hearts are warm to welcome such close friends to the White House,” Biden said at a formal arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn on the cold December morning. 

“It’s a genuine honor to host you for the first state visit of my administration and to celebrate the current strength and vitality between France and the United States of America," he continued.  

"As war returns to the European soil, following Russia's aggression to Ukraine and in light of the multiple crises our nations and our societies face, we need to become brothers in arms once more," Macron said via a translator after Biden delivered remarks.

Following last year’s low point in French-American relations following the US-Australia submarine deal, the two presidents have forged a close relationship, as Biden highlighted in his opening remarks Thursday.

France, Biden said, is the United States’ “oldest ally” and an “unwavering partner,” referencing the history of the relationship from the Revolutionary War's Marquis de Lafayette to the beaches of Normandy during World War II. 

“The alliance between our two nations remains essential to our mutual defense,” he added. 

Biden said both countries are united amid Russia’s “brutal war” in Ukraine and said that the two countries are working to ensure “democracies deliver” on numerous key issues.

He said the alliance will “grow stronger for decades to come” as he welcomed Macron and his delegation to Washington.

Following the Macrons’ arrival, the two leaders greeted dignitaries, observed a 21-gun salute, and inspected the troops on the South Lawn, keeping with the tradition of a formal arrival ceremony.  

10:30 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Russia says its open to a "new start" in talks with the West but it won't be "business as usual"

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Anna Chernova 

Russia would be ready to restart conversations with the United States and NATO on security guarantees, but so far Moscow hasn't seen willingness on their part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed Thursday.

"If our Western interlocutors realize their mistakes and express their readiness to return to the discussion of the documents that we proposed in December, I think that this will be a positive move," Lavrov said during his annual news conference in Moscow, when asked whether it is possible to reach an agreement on the security guarantees proposed by Russia.

"I doubt that they will find the energy and mind to do it," he said. "However, if this suddenly happens, we will be ready to return to the conversation with them."

"But, since they rejected our proposals, they have already taken a number of steps that completely contradict the prospects for resuming the dialogue," he added.

While answering another question at the news conference, Lavrov reiterated that Russia is open to dialogue with Western partners as the security situation in Europe has deteriorated, but said it won't be "business as usual." 

"If our Western partners develop an interest in somehow restoring our joint work on European security," Lavrov said, "it won't be business as usual." 

"If the West understands that it is better to develop neighborly relations based on mutually agreed foundations, we will listen to what the West would propose," he said. "But it is clear that it needs to be a completely new start. Whether there is a chance of this new start in the near future, I don't know. It is up to the West," he added. 

On a possible meeting with US President Joe Biden: Moscow "never avoids contacts," Lavrov claimed, but there haven't been "substantial ideas" when it comes to a possible meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We have said a few times, Putin himself has said that, as well as myself, that we never avoid contacts,” Lavrov said during his annual news conference in Moscow. 

“But so far, we are not hearing any substantial ideas,” he added.

Prior to the G20 summit in Indonesia, Biden said he didn’t see a good reason for a sit-down.

“It would depend on specifically what he wanted to talk about,” Biden told CNN in late October, adding if Putin wanted to discuss the jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner, then he would be open to talking.

“But look, he’s acted brutally, he’s acted brutally,” Biden said. “I think he’s committed war crimes. And so I don’t, I don’t see any rationale to meet with him now.”

9:59 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

"Fortification" work being undertaken by Russia on left bank of Dnipro River, Russian-appointed official says

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

The Russian-appointed head of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said a “large number of fortifications works” are being conducted on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in Russian-occupied territory. 

Saldo added the fortifications are being built quickly, and “significant financial resources have been allocated for these purposes and a large number of construction companies have been engaged.��

Speaking on his Telegram channel, Saldo finished by saying there were problems with phone communications, but that the internet is “fairly stable.”

10:03 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Ukraine accuses new Russian-appointed head of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant of treason

From CNN's Sebastian Shukla

The new director-general of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has been denounced as a collaborator following his appointment to the position by Russia’s occupying forces.

In a statement, Ukrainian energy company Energoatom — which ran the plant before the war — accused Yuiry Chernichyuk of “collaboration and treasonous activities” and said it had fired him from the company.

On Wednesday, the Russian agency running the plant since its capture by Russian forces in March claimed Chernichuyk had been promoted from chief engineer to director-general. CNN has been unable to verify whether Chernichuyk was under any form of duress when he allegedly assumed his new position.

The president of Energoatom, Petro Kotin, condemned Chernichuyk, saying he had “betrayed Ukraine and gone over to the enemy.” 

“Instead of making every effort to liberate the plant as soon as possible, he decided to help the Russian occupiers legalize its criminal seizure and now incites other nuclear employees to do the same,” Kotin said.

Since falling under Russian control, none of the nuclear facility’s engineers have been allowed to leave the plant, and Energoatom said all those who had reportedly signed new employment contracts with the Russian agency, Rosenergoatom, had been forced to do so.

“Allegedly thousands of Ukrainian nuclear workers happily joined [Rosenergoatom] and are proud of it, because new and bright prospects have opened up for them. This is a cynical lie,” according to a statement from the Ukrainian company.

The statement also contained a warning to former employees about the situation they were facing, saying the "structure will make you direct accomplices of the aggressor, and therefore enemies of your own compatriots."

"[This is] because the Russian invaders use ZNPP not as a nuclear power plant, but primarily as a military base and a means of nuclear blackmail of the entire world. Therefore, the personnel they recruit to work under the flag of the Russian Federation will be obliged to support military aggression against Ukraine," the statement added.

10:27 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Ukraine will be key topic in Biden’s White House meeting with Macron Thursday 

From CNN's DJ Judd

US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron review troops during a welcoming ceremony for Macron at the White House on December 1.
US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron review troops during a welcoming ceremony for Macron at the White House on December 1. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Challenges posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be “front and center” Thursday when US President Joe Biden welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron to the White House for his administration’s first official state visit, a senior administration official told reporters Monday. 

Macron will hold a bilateral meeting with Biden at 10 a.m. ET and a joint news conference at 11:45 a.m. ET.

Macron’s visit serves “as an opportunity to highlight a foundational component of the administration's approach to foreign policy, strengthening our alliances,” the official said, who also noted that France’s status as the United States’ oldest ally made it “fitting” that the nation was the first to receive a state visit. Former President Donald Trump also hosted Macron for his first state visit.

Russia’s continued attacks on civilian and energy infrastructure in Ukraine are likely to loom large during the meetings between the two leaders, with focus on the “numerous diplomatic and global coordination efforts that are underway in terms of responding to what really is a critical need of the Ukrainians right now,” the official said Monday.

The administration is expecting the two “to continue discussing ways that they can support Ukraine – not only in terms of its energy security needs, but also with security assistance means, humanitarian assistance, budgetary support, and the full range of areas in which the United States, France and the rest of our allies and partners are continuing to support Ukraine,” the official said. 

Read more about Macron's visit here.  

8:31 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Russian strikes continue to impact the power supply across Ukraine, with shelling leaving the southern city of Kherson without electricity on Thursday. Meanwhile, a letter bomb that injured a worker at the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid, Spain, is one of a series that have now been discovered in the past week.

These are the latest headlines:

Russian shelling leaves Kherson without electricity: The recently liberated city of Kherson in southern Ukraine is without power in the wake of heavy Russian shelling. Energy company Khersonoblenergo is "already working to fix the problem," said local official Yaroslav Yanushevych.

Outages in Zaporizhzhia: Emergency power outages have been imposed in Ukraine's southern Zaporizhzhia region on Thursday, according to state-owned energy provider Ukrenergo. A statement from the company said the move was due to "significant exceeding of electricity consumption" in the region. Power would be restored when "consumption stabilizes," it added. 

Kyiv power supply cuts in the interests of fairness: Some 750 residential buildings across the Ukrainian capital that have enjoyed continuous electricity during power outages will now have their supply cut to “ensure fair and equal conditions," according to a local energy provider. 

Spate of letter bombs: A series of letter bombs have been sent to various offices in Spain, including one which exploded at the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid Wednesday afternoon, injuring an employee. This follows a letter bomb addressed to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez which was delivered on November 24.

UK sanctions more Russian officials: The United Kingdom has sanctioned another 22 Russian officials for aiding Russia’s war on Ukraine, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly announced Wednesday. In total, London has now sanctioned more than 1,200 individuals and 120 entities over the invasion, according to a UK Foreign Office press release.

12:13 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Spain steps up security after spate of letter bombs, including one that exploded at Ukrainian embassy

From CNN’s Al Goodman in Madrid and Eve Brennan in London

Spain said Thursday it was boosting security measures after a series of letter bombs was discovered in the country, including one that was sent to Spain’s prime minister last week.

The latest bomb, sent to an air force base near Madrid, was discovered before dawn Thursday, after one exploded at the Ukrainian embassy in the capital Madrid Wednesday, injuring a member of staff, and another was deactivated at an arms manufacturer.

The device addressed to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez arrived in the post at his official Moncloa compound on November 24 and his security detail singled it out as suspicious.

After establishing a security perimeter, they conducted a “controlled explosion” of the envelope, an interior ministry statement said.

The bomb “would be similar, for its features and content” to those received on Wednesday at the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid and at the arms manufacturer Instalaza in Zaragoza, and on Thursday at Spain’s Torrejon air force base near Madrid, the statement said.

The most recent letter bomb was intercepted just before dawn Thursday after being sent to the Torrejon air force base.

The letters were likely sent from Spanish territory, said Secretary of State for Security Rafael Perez on Thursday. 

Both Perez and Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska, who later spoke separately with reporters, said that people should remain "calm." 

Perez went on to say that there are not enough reasons to justify raising a terror threat just yet. 

Marlaska told reporters that he could not provide any further details. 

A sixth envelope: A new envelope with features similar to the five previously detected “incendiary envelopes” was intercepted around 12:30 p.m. local time at the security post of the US Embassy in Madrid, a police source told CNN. A special protocol was activated for these cases, the source added.

A suspicious package was received at the embassy in Madrid on Thursday, according to spokesperson Jamie Martin. “We are grateful to Spanish law enforcement for their assistance with this matter,” Martin added.

The mysterious envelope that arrived at the gate of the US embassy was detonated in a controlled environment, according to two US officials. No one was injured in the process, the officials said. A State Department spokesperson also confirmed that the suspicious package was received by the embassy.

Read more here.

CNN’s Pau Mosquera, Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting to this post.

7:09 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Hundreds of Kyiv buildings that have had constant power will now be restricted to ensure fairness

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Some 750 Kyiv residential buildings that have enjoyed continuous electricity during power outages will now have their supply cut to “ensure fair and equal conditions," according to a local energy provider.

Around 1,500 buildings in total are connected to the same supply lines “as critical infrastructure facilities" including pumping stations, boiler stations and hospitals, said DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private energy provider, on Thursday.

Power has been rationed in Kyiv as a result of persistent targeting of energy infrastructure by Russian strikes.

DTEK said that 750 of those residential buildings (out of a total 1,497) will now have their supplies cut in the interests of fairness.

The company has been carrying out “extensive technical work to optimize the power supply scheme for critical infrastructure and, where possible, created an alternative scheme for residential buildings,” meaning they can now apply “emergency or stabilization outages to them," it said.

The remaining 747 buildings will remain connected to the same supply lines because DTEK “cannot change the current electricity supply scheme due to the technical characteristics of the network."

DTEK is working with city authorities, housing cooperatives and management companies to “apply stabilisation or emergency outages to these houses,” it added.