Pentagon announces $275 million in additional assistance for Ukraine
From CNN's Jamie Crawford and Niamh Kennedy
The Pentagon announced that an additional $275 million in security assistance for Ukraine has been approved.
“This authorization is the Biden Administration’s twenty-seventh drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021,” according to a statement from the Defense Department.
The package includes weapons and artillery rounds, as well as equipment to help Ukraine boost its air defense, according to the statement.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the United States for its "unwavering support" in this country's "fight against Russian aggression" in a tweet Friday.
"No missile terror will stop our fight for freedom! It is important that the people of the United States are side by side with the people of Ukraine in this struggle," Zelensky said.
The Defense Department said the US have provided more than $19 billion in aide to Ukraine since the beginning of the war in February.
12:16 p.m. ET, December 9, 2022
Ukraine says it has identified Russian commander who allegedly ordered troops to shoot at civilians
From CNN's Julia Kesaieva
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) says it has identified a Russian commander who ordered troops to fire at civilians in the early days of the invasion.
The SBU alleges that Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeniy Zelenov — a deputy commander in the Western Military District — ordered troops to shoot at civilian cars at the entrance to Kharkiv on Feb. 24, the first full day of the invasion.
The SBU claims in a statement that on that day, Zelenov was commanding a Russian battalion-tactical group and "conducted active hostilities with the units of the Defense Forces in the eastern direction."
"According to the investigation, his occupation group approached the Kharkiv ring road from the side of the village of Lyptsi and blocked the entrance to the regional center," the SBU continues.
"At the same time, local residents who were traveling from the border settlements of the region demanded the traffic be unblocked and resisted the occupiers."
The SBU claims that Zelenov ordered his subordinates to open fire on the cars with civilians.
"As a result of the crime, one person was killed, at least two were seriously injured," the security service alleges.
CNN is reaching out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment on the accusations. Russia has consistently denied targeting civilians in what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.
11:54 a.m. ET, December 9, 2022
CNN's "Navalny" airs this weekend. Here's how to watch.
Saturday, Dec. 10 at 9 p.m. ET on CNN. You can also stream anytime on HBO Max.
Who is Navalny?
Navalny is a Russian opposition leader, Kremlin critic and activist. He has been a prominent organizer of street protests and has exposed corruption in the Russian government on social media.
Earlier this year, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison on fraud charges he said were politically motivated.
Where is Navalny now?
Navalny has been transferred into a solitary prison cell, according to tweets from himself and his staff, in what he described as a move designed to “shut me up.”
In his isolation, Navalny said he is allowed just two books, and his parents, children and wife can no longer see him.
11:00 a.m. ET, December 9, 2022
Here's the official order Biden signed commuting Viktor Bout's sentence
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
President Joe Biden signed the official commutation for Viktor Bout last Friday, Dec. 2, according to the document that was posted on the Justice Department website.
The conditions of Bout's commutation include that he not return to the United States and not profit from any book or movie about his arrest or release.
On Thursday, the White House said Bout's commutation was not finalized until US officials saw Brittney Griner on the tarmac in Abu Dhabi.
Here's a look at the full document:
10:21 a.m. ET, December 9, 2022
Brittney Griner has arrived at Texas Army medical center for routine evaluation
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
Brittney Griner “arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas early Friday, December 9, and was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center for a routine evaluation," a State Department official confirmed.
“The US government is focused on ensuring that Brittney Griner and her family’s well-being are prioritized and that all assistance available be offered in an appropriate manner,” the official said.
“Due to privacy reasons and out of respect to the family, we do not have anything additional to provide,” they said.
Griner was released from a Russian jail in a Thursday prisoner swap for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.
11:03 a.m. ET, December 9, 2022
Pentagon has some "concern" about release of Viktor Bout in exchange for Brittney Griner's freedom
From CNN's Barbara Starr
The Pentagon said Thursday there is some “concern” that Viktor Bout, who returned to Russia yesterday in a prisoner exchange for Brittney Griner, could return to the illicit international arms trade.
“I think there is a concern that he would return to doing the same kind of work that he's done in the past,” a senior defense official told reporters after Bout’s release from US custody.
Bout is allegedly the most prolific arms dealer of the past decades, fueling conflicts in Africa and beyond. He was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the US on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization.
The official said the Defense Department will continue to work with its partners in Africa to understand the current risk factors in the international arms trade.
“There are a number of actors out there who have influence in the Russian oligarchy,” the official said. “We will continue to work with African partners so that they understand the risks and the threats of the people that they're working with and the organizations that they're working with,” the official added.
8:22 a.m. ET, December 9, 2022
Some critical infrastructure for electricity is "totally destroyed," Ukraine's infrastructure minister says
From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Eve Brennan in London
Around 50% of Ukraine's critical infrastructure for electricity have been “damaged more” and some has been “totally destroyed,” Oleksandr Kubrakov, the country's infrastructure minister, has told CNN.
Ukraine was using “big bags of sand” to protect the targets, he added.
However, the company did admit that “all thermal and hydroelectric power plants are partially damaged,” and that the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is not supplying electricity to the grid.
The company noted that that there will be little “major improvement” on the restoration of power across the country over the weekend. Russian shelling and missile strikes have continued to impact Ukraine's energy infrastructure.
7:59 a.m. ET, December 9, 2022
Kremlin critic Yashin calls his jail time sentence a "hysterical verdict" by the Moscow court
From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova, Anna Chernova and Sugam Pokharel
Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin said on Friday that the "authors" of the "hysterical verdict" of a Moscow court handing him eight and a half years of jail time are "optimistic about Putin's prospects," according to a post on Yashin’s official Telegram account.
"The authors of the verdict are optimistic about Putin's prospects. In my opinion, they are too optimistic," he said.
"With this hysterical verdict, the government wants to intimidate us all, but in fact, it only shows its weakness.
"Strong leaders are calm and self-confident, and only weaklings seek to shut everyone up, burn out any dissent. So today it only remains for me to repeat what was said on the day of my arrest: I am not afraid, and you should not be," the post added.
The reaction came after a Moscow court announced the sentencing after finding Yashin guilty of spreading "false information" about the Russian army, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.
"But we also have no reason to be sad, because we have won this trial, friends," Yashin continued. "We spoke the truth about war crimes and called for an end to the bloodshed."
Russian investigators said his statements about the circumstances of the killings in Bucha are a criminal offense under recently introduced legislation, which considers discrediting the Russian armed forces to be illegal.
Some background: Yashin, also a close ally of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, came to prominence during the protests between 2011 and 2012, which he helped organize against Putin's re-election for the third term and unfair elections. Yashin remained a fierce Putin critic for years to come, also serving as a municipal deputy in small Moscow municipality before being barred from running for a public office.
8:17 a.m. ET, December 9, 2022
It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know
From CNN staff
US basketball player Brittney Griner has landed in the US after being released in a high-profile prisoner swap.
Griner lands in Texas: The WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist landed in San Antonio early Friday morning after being released from Russian custody in exchange for Viktor Bout, an alleged armed dealer who had been convicted by a US court of conspiring to kill Americans.
US-Russian relations not thawed: The exchange comes amid a deep chill in the Washington-Moscow relationship, and a spokesman for the Kremlin said it would be wrong to view the prisoner swap as a sign that the relationship between the two countries is improving.
Fighting in Ukraine: A Ukrainian military official said the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk remains the focus of Russian attacks. The head of the Kherson regional military administration said a hospital there was hit by Russian shelling on Friday morning. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russian forces were holding their lines along the border between the Kharkiv and Luhansk regions and had shelled nearly a dozen settlements in the course of the day.
Human rights concerns escalate: United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said on Friday that Ukraine is a "human rights emergency" where people are suffering from both Russian attacks and the biting cold, without the ability to heat themselves due to damage wrought on energy infrastructure.
Progress on NATO accession: The US will "soon be able to call" Sweden and Finland NATO allies, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday following a meeting with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts, when asked about their admission into the defense alliance. "There can be no doubt on anyone's part that they are ready today to be members of the alliance," Blinken said.