December 2, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Amy Woodyatt, Hannah Strange and Heather Chen, CNN

Updated 9:00 p.m. ET, December 2, 2022
23 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
1:05 p.m. ET, December 2, 2022

Top Ukrainian official says letters with explosives and animal parts are aimed at "sowing fear"

From CNN’s Matthew Chance and Mick Krever in Kyiv, Ukraine

A local fire engine and police car are seen with some diplomatic cars in front of Ukraine's embassy in Budapest on December 2.
A local fire engine and police car are seen with some diplomatic cars in front of Ukraine's embassy in Budapest on December 2. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine’s foreign minister told CNN in an exclusive interview that a series of letters containing explosives or animal parts are meant to terrorize Ukrainian diplomats around the world.

“This campaign is aimed at sowing fear and terrorizing Ukrainian diplomats,” Dmytro Kuleba told CNN’s Matthew Chance in Kyiv Friday. 

Kuleba said that there had been 17 cases of embassies receiving either letter bombs, false bomb letters, or letters containing animals parts, like the eyes of cows and pigs.

CNN has been shown an image of one of the letters containing what officials said was the eyeball of a pig inside a padded envelope.

“It started with an explosion at the embassy of Ukraine in Spain,” he said. “But what followed this explosion was more weird, and I would even say sick.”

Asked who he thought was behind the letters, he said, “I feel tempted to say, to name Russia straight away, because first of all you have to answer the question, who benefits?”

“Maybe this terror response is the Russian answer to the diplomatic horror that we created for Russia on the international arena, and this is how they try to fight back while they are losing the real diplomatic battles one after another,” he said.

Investigators have not made any statement about any person or group behind the letters.

Kuleba added that he thought that Russia was either directly responsible, or someone “who sympathizes [with] the Russian cause and tries to spread fear.”

“The conclusion will be made by investigators, but I think these two versions make most of the sense,” he said.

A Ukrainian embassy staff member in Madrid was slightly injured Wednesday after handling an envelope that exploded in his hands, according to the Kubela’s spokesperson, Oleg Nikolenko.

Ukraine has put all embassies and consulates abroad under enhanced security measures. This week, Ukrainian embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Italy, Austria, the consulates general in Naples and Krakow, and the consulate in Brno have received bloody packages containing animal eyes, Nikolenko said on Facebook.

12:40 p.m. ET, December 2, 2022

Ukraine says it has carried out more special forces operations in Zaporizhzhia region

From CNN's Tim Lister

Ukraine's military says its special forces are carrying out operations behind enemy lines in the Zaporizhzhia region.

The Special Operations Forces said it identified a Russian electronic warfare system in occupied territory. 

"Our warriors passed the coordinates of the enemy EW to friendly artillery units, which destroyed the enemy complex," it said.

In a Telegram statement, it said the electronic warfare complex in the city of Polohy had been used to interfere with both the communications of the Ukrainian military and "to suppress mobile communication in the settlement. Thus, they actually cut off the townspeople from communication with the outside world."

The Special Operations Forces said it had also destroyed an S-300 missile complex that had fired on a maternity hospital in the town of Vilniansk.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian military claimed that some Russian troops were withdrawing from their positions in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia and that the Russians were��preparing the evacuation of "the personnel of the occupation administrations" in the region.

The military's General Staff said that Russian units had left the settlements of Mykhailivka, Polohy and Inzhenerne.

What the Russians say: The Russian-appointed head of the occupied part of Zaporizhzhia, Yevgeniy Balitskiy, denied the Ukrainian claims on Friday.

"Pro-Ukrainian media have been spreading false information for several days that the city of Polohy has allegedly been seized by the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine], that the administration and residents are being evacuated from Mykhailivka and Vasylivka, and that there is no power or water in Zaporizhzhia region," he said.

He said these were "the fantasies of the propaganda machine in Kyiv. ... Borders of Zaporizhzhia region are well protected, not a single meter of land has been given to the enemy."

But Balitskiy added that "our cities are bombarded daily," saying there had been an artillery strike on the transformer substation in Tokmak, which is near Polohy.

The ISW's analysis: In its commentary on the situation in Zaporizhzhia, the Institute for the Study of War said Thursday that "Russian military movements in Zaporizhzhia oblast may suggest that Russian forces cannot defend critical areas amidst increasing Ukrainian strikes on Russian force concentrations and logistics."

"Russian forces may be withdrawing personnel from positions closer to the frontline in Zaporizhzhia Oblast to reduce the impact of increasing Ukrainian strikes on Russian manpower and equipment concentrations," the ISW said.

"The potential withdrawal from Polohy is particularly notable as the settlement lies at a critical road junction, and Russian forces would likely have a harder time defending Tokmak from potential Ukrainian operations without control of that junction," it added.

11:20 a.m. ET, December 2, 2022

Ukrainian officials hope freezing weather will aid troops' mobility in Luhansk

From Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Ukrainian officials say they are hoping the weather will get colder in the Luhansk region — and freeze the mud that has been impeding the progress of troops.

Serhiy Hayday, head of Luhansk region military administration, said that "as the weather is changing, winter is taking its toll. I hope temperatures below zero will help our military."

Hayday told Ukrainian television that muddy conditions had affected the mobility of units along a frontline that has become largely static.

"It was only last week that our soldiers were returning from the frontline covered in mud and dirt. The equipment could get stuck in the mud at any moment. There was mud everywhere. However, yesterday we saw that the ground is frozen and hard, and the equipment can move better and a little faster," Hayday said.

Ukrainian forces are probing along frontlines that run north-south through Kharkiv and Luhansk from the Russian border to the industrial belt of towns such as Kreminna and Rubizhne.

Hayday said Ukrainian troops are close to Kreminna, just "a few kilometers from the city."

"There are indications that the Russians realize they will not hold Kreminna. They are constructing a second and rather strong line of defense near Starobilsk. The town of Rubizhne cannot be a strong fortress, because the Russians have destroyed 50% of the city. Therefore, they will not hold the defense there for a long time," he said.

"However, it will not be an easy walk for our military, as the occupiers brought a huge amount of equipment and manpower to the area."

Hayday also said that Ukrainian strikes continued on Russian positions behind the frontlines.

"Russian barracks, places of accumulation of equipment, ammunition depots are constantly exploding in the enemy's rear. Russian units that were transferred from Kherson region are now concentrated around Starobilsk; they are setting up the line of defense there," he said.

Hayday said there were a variety of Russian units in Luhansk — newly mobilized Russian units, convicts, as well as Chechen and Buryati fighters, and claimed that "a huge number of additional checkpoints appear even on small roads that are set up to catch deserters."

10:41 a.m. ET, December 2, 2022

Ukraine says its embassy in Spain received a bloody package

From Al Goodman, Pau Mosquera in Madrid and Eve Brennan in London 

Police cordon off the perimeter outside the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid after a bloody package arrived at the embassy, in Madrid, Spain, on December 2.
Police cordon off the perimeter outside the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid after a bloody package arrived at the embassy, in Madrid, Spain, on December 2. (Violeta Santos Moura/Reuters)

The Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid received a “bloody” package on Friday, similar to those recently received at other Ukrainian diplomatic institutions, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko said Facebook.  

The receipt of a suspicious package at the embassy prompted an immediate evacuation but a Spanish police bomb squad determined the package did not contain explosives, Spain’s Interior Ministry press office said in a statement.  

“The fact that its postmark is not from Spain, along with its characteristics, could mean it’s linked to the packages that have been intercepted in other Ukrainian embassies and consulates in different countries of Europe,” the Interior Ministry statement said.   

Ukraine has put all embassies and consulates abroad under enhanced security measures after a series of incidents involving threatening packages, letter bombs and vandalism at its diplomatic missions. This week Ukrainian embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Italy and Austria, along with several Ukrainian consulates, have received bloody packages, containing animal eyes, Nikolenko said Friday on Facebook. 

It was the second evacuation of the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid this week, just two days after a letter bomb detonated when an embassy employee was handling it. He was slightly injured, Spanish officials said.  

That was among a spate of letter bombs that were received in recent days at the Spanish prime minister’s official compound, the United States Embassy in Madrid and other high-profile Spanish addresses, Spanish officials said.  


9:45 a.m. ET, December 2, 2022

IAEA chief hopes for agreement on protecting Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant by end of year

From CNN's Tim Lister and Sharon Braithwaite 

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attends the IAEA's Board of Governors meeting at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on November 16.
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attends the IAEA's Board of Governors meeting at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on November 16. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he hopes to reach an agreement with Russia and Ukraine on protecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by year's end.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica published on Friday, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, said, "My commitment is to reach a solution as soon as possible. I hope by the end of the year."

"I know that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin is following the process, and I do not rule out another meeting with him soon, as well as with Ukrainian President [Volodymyr] Zelensky."

Grossi has been trying to get Ukraine and Russia to agree to a format for a demilitarized zone around the plant, which has been damaged by various forms of weapons fire several times.

"There is a concrete proposal on securing Zaporizhzhia and important progress has been made. ...The two sides now agree on some basic principles. The first is that of protection: it means accepting that you don't shoot 'on' the plant and 'from' the plant. The second is the recognition that the IAEA is the only possible way forward: that was the heart of my meeting with President Putin in St. Petersburg on October 11," he told La Repubblica.

"Russia is not against an agreement and the principle of protecting the plant," Grossi added.

As for the Ukrainian side, Grossi said, "The withdrawal of armaments from the plant is what, understandably from their point of view, the Ukrainians are demanding. And it would still be part of the overall agreement."

"Our goal is to avoid a nuclear accident, not to provoke a situation militarily favorable to one or the other," he continued.

Regarding the current status of the plant, Grossi said that "right now the plant has electricity to ensure the operation of cooling and emergency systems," but "some nodes of the electricity grid that supply it are being attacked periodically, with surgically precise strikes."

Asked who was responsible for those strikes, Grossi said, "It is not my job to assign responsibility. For me the important thing is to avoid a nuclear accident and reach the agreement, not to be a judge."

He also spoke about three other nuclear plants in Ukraine: Rivne, South Ukraine and Khmelnytskyi.

"A few days ago, they too lost external power supply. And the Ukrainian authorities have made a formal application to have a permanent IAEA presence at these plants as well, as in Zaporizhzhia. In this way the agency's staff will be stationed throughout Ukraine and will be vigilant that the nuclear power plants are not used by anyone as weapons of blackmail in the conflict," Grossi said.

8:52 a.m. ET, December 2, 2022

Germany will send more anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine

From CNN's Chris Stern

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned Russian airstrikes against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday.

Scholz also urged Putin to find a diplomatic solution “as soon as possible” during the one-hour conversation devoted to the ongoing “Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and its consequences,” German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said.

The chancellor stressed Germany's determination to support Ukraine in ensuring its defense capability against Russia, he added.

Germany plans to supply Ukraine with seven more Gepard anti-aircraft tanks and an additional, 100,000 first aid kits, according to a list of arms deliveries published by the German government.

The chancellor and the Russian president also discussed the global food crisis precipitated by the invasion of Ukraine and highlighted the important role of the recently extended grain agreement under the aegis of the United Nations.

10:53 a.m. ET, December 2, 2022

Russia is firing dummy missiles to exhaust Ukraine’s air defenses, Ukrainian military says 

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London

Colonel Mykola Danyliuk points at a dud warhead imitating a nuclear part of a Kh-55SM strategic cruise missile, during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 1.
Colonel Mykola Danyliuk points at a dud warhead imitating a nuclear part of a Kh-55SM strategic cruise missile, during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 1. (Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters)


The Ukrainian military says Russia is now using nuclear-capable missiles fitted with non-explosive warheads in a bid to exhaust Ukraine’s air defenses.

Mykola Danyliuk, a representative of the Ukrainian armed forces research unit, shared these updates at a Thursday briefing held at a site where missile fragments — from what Ukraine says is a Russian Kh-55 cruise missile — were on show.

"The use of such missiles is intended to distract the attention of Ukraine's air defence system and tire it out,” Danyliuk said, adding that more modern Russian missiles are generally aimed at infrastructure facilities and residential areas.

Pointing to a fragment on stage, Danyliuk said, “I would also like to add that even a missile without a warhead, a missile with a warhead like this, poses a great threat because of its kinetic energy and fuel. This is evidenced by... the impact of a Kh-55 missile into a residential building." 

“This exact fragment was a compartment of the warhead. So, this is a substitute for a thermo-nuclear guided charge, which is used in Kh-55 missiles," he said.

Danyliuk said tests on this Kh-55 missile did not show abnormal levels of radioactivity, “which means it didn't have contact with nuclear elements." 

On Nov. 26, the British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence update that “Russia is likely removing the nuclear warheads from ageing nuclear cruise missiles and firing the unarmed munitions at Ukraine.” 

“This improvisation highlights the levels of depletion in Russia’s stock of long-range missiles,” the British Defense Ministry said.

8:05 a.m. ET, December 2, 2022

It's past 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's the latest on Russia's invasion of Ukraine

By CNN staff

If you are just joining us, here are the latest developments in Russia's war in Ukraine so far on Friday.

Ukraine claims Russians are withdrawing from their positions in Zaporizhzhia: The Ukrainian military claims that some Russian troops are withdrawing from their positions in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia and that the Russians are preparing the evacuation of "the personnel of the occupation administrations."

CNN is unable to confirm the claims made by the General Staff.

A Ukrainian leader alleges that a census is underway in parts of the same region: The Ukrainian mayor-in-exile of the city of Melitopol claims that Russia has begun conducting a census in parts of occupied territory in Zaporizhzhia in preparation for "evacuation."

Kremlin warns Washington's refusal to accept annexed regions as part of Russia complicates possible Putin-Biden talks: The fact that Washington doesn't recognize annexed Ukrainian regions as part of Russia would complicate any possible talks between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday. The illegal annexations followed sham referendums in the four regions.

Biden and Macron have different views on engaging with Putin: US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday demonstrated a united front in addressing the ongoing war in Ukraine, but offered divergent answers over their willingness to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden told reporters during a joint White House news conference with Macron that he “has no immediate plans” to contact Putin, but added that he’s prepared to speak with the Russian leader if he’s looking for a way to end the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Macron said that once Ukraine sets conditions for a peace agreement, he’s willing to talk with Putin, and told ABC’s “Good Morning America” earlier Thursday that he intends to speak to the Russian president in the coming days.

Russia told US about Brittney Griner's transfer to penal colony weeks after she was moved: The Russian government formally told the US Embassy last week about Brittney Griner’s transfer to a remote penal colony, weeks after the wrongfully detained WNBA star had been moved, according to the Biden administration. Separately, the Kremlin said on Thursday that any details of prisoner swap discussions with the United States will not be publicly disclosed and that Moscow is not planning to engage with the Biden administration before the end of the year, according to Russian state media.

New law would ban religious groups in Ukraine associated with Russia: Ukraine's parliament will vote on a new law that would ban the operation of religious organizations “affiliated with centers of influence” in Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday, in an effort to prevent an "opportunity to manipulate" Ukrainians.

Between 10,000 and 13,000 Ukrainian troops killed, says Zelensky adviser: Between 10,000 and 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the war in Ukraine, according to Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky. But this figure is much lower than estimates suggested by the United States.

Electricity supplies are being restored in Kherson: The southern Ukrainian city was left without power due to Russian shelling early Thursday, a local official said.

Russians advance in Bakhmut: Social media videos indicate that Russian troops in the areas around Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region are taking heavy casualties, even as they take some territory, especially south of the city. 

8:13 a.m. ET, December 2, 2022

Putin tells Germany's Scholz Western states' position on Ukraine is "destructive"

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call on Friday that the position of Western states on Ukraine is "destructive" and that Germany should reconsider its approach, according to a statement by the Kremlin.

"Attention has been drawn to the destructive line of Western states, including Germany, pumping up the Kyiv regime with weapons, training the Ukrainian military. All this, as well as comprehensive political and financial support for Ukraine, leads to the fact that Kyiv completely rejects the idea of any negotiations," reads the statement.

"In addition, this stimulates radical Ukrainian nationalists to commit more and more bloody crimes against the civilian population," the Kremlin claimed.

Putin "called on the German side to reconsider its approaches in the context of the Ukrainian events," according to the Kremlin.

During the call, the Kremlin said that the Russian military "had long refrained from targeted missile strikes against certain targets on the territory of Ukraine, but now such measures have become a forced and inevitable response to Kyiv's provocative attacks against Russian civilian infrastructure."

This "Russian civilian infrastructure" includes, according to the Kremlin, the Crimean bridge, energy facilities, as well a "terrorist act" against the Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines, which requires "a transparent investigation with the participation of Russian specialized structures."

Swedish and Danish authorities have been investigating four holes in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines which link Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea. Both pipelines have been flashpoints in an escalating energy war between European capitals and Moscow since the February invasion of Ukraine.

Western nations have previously said that the leaks, which were first discovered on September 26, were likely the result of sabotage. Denmark last month said a preliminary investigation had shown they were caused by powerful explosions.