December 7, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Amy Woodyatt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 3:11 a.m. ET, December 8, 2022
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10:08 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

US has neither "encouraged" nor "enabled" Ukrainian strikes on Russia, White House says

From CNN's Betsy Klein and MJ Lee

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House, November 28, in Washington D.C.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House, November 28, in Washington D.C. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The White House sought to distance the US Wednesday from recent reported Ukrainian attacks on Russia, saying that the US will “respect” Ukraine’s decisions on the battlefield but has not encouraged escalation.

National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby deferred to Ukraine for confirmation of who was responsible for recent reported strikes on Russia, but said the US has neither “encouraged” nor “enabled” any such attacks.

“We have not certainly not encouraged, nor have we enabled Ukraine to strike into Russia. Our focus has been — and remains on — making sure that they have the capabilities they need, the resources they need to defend themselves," Kirby said. "Everything that we're providing is really designed with that in mind.”

“We are providing them information to help them defend themselves. We certainly are providing them resources and material weapons to defend themselves. But they make their own decisions. And the whole idea, the whole principle behind this war is one of sovereignty and unlike the Russians, we respect Ukrainian sovereignty. When we give them a weapons system, it belongs to them, where they use it, how they use it, how much ammunition they use, to use in that system, those are, those are Ukrainian decisions and we respect that,” he added.

But any escalation outside of Ukraine’s borders, he said, is “not good” for US national security interests.

"We have clearly had conversations with [Ukraine] about accountability on weapons systems. We certainly have made it very clear our concerns about escalation. But in the end, these are Ukrainian decisions that they have to make and that they have to speak to one way or the other,” he told CNN.

9:35 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Orthodox priest sentenced to 12 years in Ukraine for passing information to Russians

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Tim Lister

A priest accused of leaking information about the positions of Ukrainian troops to Russia has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, according to the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU).

The SBU said the rector of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the city of Lysychansk "passed to the occupiers information about the combat positions of Ukrainian troops in the city, as well as in the area of Severodonetsk" in the Luhansk region. 

The SBU said the priest had also "informed" the Russians about locals who could potentially resist the occupation.

The priest was detained in April, two months before Lysychansk fell to Russian forces.

The SBU said the priest had been recruited by Russia during a visit there in 2014 and had since been in constant contact with a leader of the separatist self-declared Luhansk People's Republic.

The SBU also said it had collected evidence against two other Russian informants in the same region, including a second priest in Luhansk.

It alleged that two Ukrainians had been kidnapped after he provided the Russians with information. The SBU said the priest was currently in occupied territory.

Some background: The Ukrainian government has begun taking action against some Orthodox Church premises and priests and proposed a new law that would ban the operation of religious organizations "affiliated with centers of influence" in Russia.

"Unfortunately, even Russian terror and full-scale war did not convince some figures that it is worth overcoming the temptation of evil. Well, we have to create conditions where no actors dependent on the aggressor state will have an opportunity to manipulate Ukrainians and weaken Ukraine from within," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week.

The SBU raided a historic Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, on Nov.r 22 as part of an effort to counter suspected “subversive activities" of Russia's special services.

"All bodies responsible for ensuring national security must intensify measures to identify and counter the subversive activities of Russian special services in the religious environment of Ukraine. And apply personal sanctions — the surnames will be made public soon," Zelensky said.

In May, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church officially broke allegiance with the Russian Orthodox Church and its leader Patriarch Kirill over the war.

9:28 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Fire at Russia's Kursk airfield extinguished

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London 

Smoke rises from the area of Kursk airport outside Kursk, Russia, on December 6.
Smoke rises from the area of Kursk airport outside Kursk, Russia, on December 6. (Administration of the Kursk region of Russia/AP)

The fire at an airport in Russia's Kursk region alleged by Russian officials to have been caused by a Ukrainian drone strike on Tuesday has been extinguished, a senior local official said on Wednesday. 

Over 200 people from several departments battled for more than a day to put out the fire, the governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoyt, said in a statement published on his Telegram.

On Tuesday, the governor alleged a drone attack hit an oil tanker near Kursk airfield. 

Kursk is located about 90 kilometers (nearly 56 miles) from the Ukrainian border. On Monday, Russia blamed Ukrainian forces for two attacks on airfield across Russia. 

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has offered no comment on the explosions. Officially, the targets are well beyond the reach of the country’s declared drones. However, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted a cryptic message on Tuesday, hinting at the possibility that Kyiv was indeed behind the attacks.

8:43 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

UN documents 441 killings of northern Ukrainian civilians, some while "cutting firewood or buying groceries"

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Seb Shukla

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights published a report on Wednesday that looks at 441 killings of civilians in the northern Ukrainian regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said the report details the murder of civilians for “cutting firewood and buying groceries” in the regions previously occupied by Russian forces following the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

The Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions were taken back following a Russian withdrawal in late March. 

Türk just concluded a four-day visit to the Ukrainian capital.

“We are working to corroborate allegations of additional killings in these regions, and in parts of Kharkiv and Kherson regions that were recently retaken by Ukrainian forces,” he said in a statement, indicating that the number could rise further.

“There are strong indications that the summary executions documented in the report constitute the war crime of [willful] killing,” he added.

In his statement, Türk listed the levels of assistance needed for the Ukrainian people, including 17.7 million people requiring humanitarian assistance and 9.3 million in need of food and livelihood assistance. 

One-third of the population have been forced to leave their homes, according to his statement, while 7.89 million have fled the country and 6.5 million have been internally displaced. 

Türk also said in the statement that he spent some of his visit in a bomb shelter on Monday as Russia launched another wave of missile attacks. He also visited the towns of Bucha and Izium.

Türk also noted the impact that Russia’s attacks on critical infrastructure will leave on the Ukrainian people.

“I fear that there is one long, bleak winter ahead for Ukraine. The consequences of the war on the enjoyment of human rights for people in the country have already been devastating, and the prognosis is very worrying,” he said.

8:02 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky named TIME Person of the Year

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has been named as TIME Magazine's Person of the Year. The 44-year-old, a former comedian, actor, writer and producer, has been president since 2019.

7:03 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

American fighter receives Ukrainian honor from President Zelensky

From CNN's Victoria Butenko in Kyiv

‘Stretch,’ an American fighter serving in the International Legion of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, has been honored for his services to Ukraine by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In a video released by Zelensky’s office, the Ukrainian leader is seen visiting soldiers in a military hospital in Kyiv on Tuesday evening. The footage shows him awarding medals to soldiers, including 'Stretch'.

In a very short exchange, the first name of the American is revealed to be Eric.

“Eric, thank you so much for your bravery,” Zelensky says in the video, to which Eric replies: “it is my honor. Thank you, sir.”

A statement from the International Legion said: ‘Stretch’ “got a medal from the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in recognition of his heroic efforts on the Ukrainian frontlines. Victories do not come cheap. They do not come easy. But our soldier's efforts are appreciated and awarded with official recognition.”

It was not immediately clear what the title of the honor was, what it was for or what injury the American had sustained.

6:45 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Crews race to repair Ukraine's energy system as hospitals suspend planned surgeries after Russian strikes

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Hannah Richie

People walk down a darkened street in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 6.
People walk down a darkened street in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 6. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Repair work on critical energy infrastructure facilities across Ukraine continued Wednesday, in an effort to fix the ongoing power deficit caused by Russian strikes.

“The gradual restoration of the power system after the missile attacks continues…The situation in the east of the country remains difficult -- last night, the enemy one more time shelled several infrastructure facilities, while the temperature in the region reached -17 C,” Ukrenergo, Ukraine's state-run energy operator said Wednesday.

“Repair crews are working to eliminate the consequences of the missile attack in Kyiv and Odesa regions, restoring power supply to the regions under backup schemes,” it continued, adding that there was still a “significant deficit” in the nation’s power system, triggering limits on consumption.

Some background: On Monday, Russia unleashed a wave of drone and missile attacks across Ukraine, targeting the country's energy infrastructure. Ukraine has been facing a wide assault on critical infrastructure and power sources since early October.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the strikes caused extensive power outages in several regions, including Kyiv and Odesa.

Power deficit: Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that after Monday's attacks "power engineers promise to eliminate the consequences" in the coming days.

"At the same time the power deficit in the energy system will remain. Currently, it is 19% of the forecast consumption."

On Tuesday, Ukraine’s health ministry announced the suspension of planned surgeries in an effort to insulate the medical system from the impacts of rolling power outages.

"They will be carried out when the situation around the supply of electricity stabilizes…all emergency medical care will be provided to patients in full," the statement said.

12:45 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Russia resorting to "cheap" methods by using Iranian drones, says Ukrainian presidential official

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv and Seb Shukla in London

Andrii Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, has said that Russia is resorting to using “cheap mopeds” -- referring to Iranian ‘Shahed’ drones -- in attacks against Ukraine. Ukrainians refer to 'Shahed' drones colloquially as 'mopeds' because of the noise they make in flight.

Writing on Telegram, he said that Russia is having to use Iranian drones because its missiles are “running out” and that the strikes are not having the “desired effect of terror” intended.

Yermak noted that Ukrainian forces have “worked out” how to combat the drone. He barbed that Russia has been left behind, saying that Ukraine is "smarter, stronger more creative and modern.”

On Wednesday Russia launched a series of drone attacks on Ukraine using Iranian made ‘Shahed’ drones. Ukrainian forces claimed to have shot down 14 out of 136 ‘Shaheds’ launched.

Some context: A variety of Iran-made drones have been used by Russian forces in Ukraine, often in attacks on infrastructure, with the 'Shahed' one of the most widely used models. In November, Iran acknowledged that it had sent a limited number of drones to Russia in the months before the start of its invasion of Ukraine.

5:28 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Kherson and Donetsk under shelling

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

The Kherson and Donetsk regions are under shelling, according to both regional heads.

In Kherson, Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson region military administration, said Kherson had been shelled 51 times and that “Russo-fascists fired at peaceful settlements of the region with artillery, MLRS, tanks and mortars.”

He added that there were also civilian casualties: 2 dead and 1 wounded.

In Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk region military administration, said that while there were no fatalities, 3 were wounded in Bakhmut, Pavlivka and Kurakhove on December 6. He added there is “destruction” including of infrastructure facilities in Kurakhove.

The general staff of the armed forces said they had repelled a number of attacks from the Russians, including in the Donetsk region in Verkhnokamianske, Spirne, Yakovlivka, Bakhmut, Bila Hora, Kurdiumivka, Novobakhmutivka, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka.