December 2, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Amy Woodyatt, Hannah Strange and Heather Chen, CNN

Updated 9:00 p.m. ET, December 2, 2022
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1:59 p.m. ET, December 2, 2022

Ukraine foreign minister urges a decision on Patriot missile system

From CNN’s Matthew Chance and Mick Krever in Kyiv

Ukraine’s foreign minister told CNN in an exclusive interview that the “time has come” for a decision on whether to provide his country with the Patriot missile defense system.

“We began our conversation about Patriots in the very beginning of the war – even actually before the war,” Dmytro Kuleba told CNN in Kyiv. “But now time has come to make decisions.”

The US is considering sending the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine to support their air defense capabilities against incoming Russian attacks, a senior US defense official told reporters Tuesday. NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday it is still “too early” to make a conclusion on Poland’s call to move the Patriot air-defense system, offered by Germany to Ukraine.

Kuleba also said that he does not have a “single doubt that we will get through this winter.”

“The question is what will be the price of getting through this winter. And definitely having Patriots, having other advanced air defense systems, having them delivered in Ukraine within weeks, not months, will dramatically lower the price. And will allow us to defend our cities and our critical energy infrastructure,” he said.

Kuleba said that he had spoken with his American and German counterparts about the missile defense system. 

“I will not conceal that it would be a huge help. It would really help us to defend the country and to minimize the price we are paying for surviving during the winter,” he added.

CNN’s Ellie Kaufman, Barbara Starr and Xiaofei Xu contributed reporting to this post.

1:55 p.m. ET, December 2, 2022

European Union approves Russian oil price cap at $60 a barrel, according to EU official

From CNN’s Chris Liakos in London

An oil tanker is moored at the Sheskharis complex, part of Chernomortransneft JSC in Novorossiysk, Russia, in October.
An oil tanker is moored at the Sheskharis complex, part of Chernomortransneft JSC in Novorossiysk, Russia, in October. (AP/File)

The European Union approves a price cap on Russian oil at $60 a barrel, an EU official with knowledge of the situation told CNN on Friday. 

The plan, which stops all EU countries from setting more than $60 a barrel, needs the agreement of all EU states. 

President of the European Commission Ursula von Der Leyen said on Friday the bloc and other G7 partners will have a “full import ban” on Russian seaborne oil starting Dec. 5.

In a video statement posted on Twitter, von der Leyen said the price cap has three objectives.

“First, it strengthens the effect of our sanction,” she said. “Second, it will further diminish Russia's revenues.”
“And thirdly, at the same time, it will stabilize global energy markets, because it allows some Russian seaborne oil to be traded broker transported by EU operators to third countries as long as it is sold below the cap.”

Von der Leyen said the price cap will directly benefit developing and emerging economies and will be adjustable over time so that “we can react to market developments.”

“Together with our partners, we stand united and firm in our opposition to Russia's atrocious war,” von der Leyen concluded.

1:23 p.m. ET, December 2, 2022

Plans appear to be underway for evacuation of Russian-held towns in Zaporizhzhia region

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Despite denials from Russian-appointed officials in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, there appear to be plans to evacuate civilians from several towns that are occupied by Russian forces.

The preparations come as Ukrainian forces step up targeting of Russian weapons and ammunition stocks behind the front lines.

One Zaporizhzhia community group posted the image of a notice in the town of Vasylivka, which is Russian-held and close to the only crossing point between Russian-claimed and Ukrainian-held territory.

The notice, in Russian, says: "Administration of Vasylivka district warns! Due to the preparations to possible evacuation of the residents of the city and the district, and ensuring safety to the citizens, the relevant measures are being prepared."

It also asks people to register with the local military administration.

Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of occupied Melitopol, claimed on his Telegram account that Russian forces in Vasylivka were becoming anxious and had "hidden behind civilians as human shields."  

"People who were going from Zaporizhzhia to support their loved ones in the occupation zone were not allowed to pass at the checkpoint in Vasylivka. The occupiers left the civilians to spend the night on the roadside in sub-zero temperatures. They say they are afraid of shelling. So they put a convoy of civilian cars in front of their military base," he claimed.

Further behind the front lines, Fedorov said that Russian forces "have started some fuss in recent days" and were "developing rapid activity — withdrawing equipment, conducting rotation, bringing in mobilized soldiers."

Fedorov said on Telegram that population censuses were underway in two towns "as if to prepare for evacuations." But he cautioned that the move might be a disinformation campaign.

Fedorov also mentioned two explosions at Russian headquarters and barracks in the towns of Myrne and Yasne, though gave no further details.

He also claimed that near Terpinnia, a strike by the Ukrainian military killed or wounded "dozens" of Russian soldiers.

CNN is unable to verify the claim. No images or video have emerged from the area.

The Ukrainian military said Friday that in some parts of occupied Zaporizhzhia, "the enemy is strengthening its advanced positions and conducting defense" while launching artillery barrages along several parts of the front line.

But it added that "the enemy continues to suffer losses," with a strike against a concentration of Russian troops near the village of Kamianske that left 100 people wounded.

There is no way to verify the claim.

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.