December 12, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Aditi Sangal and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 12:50 a.m. ET, December 13, 2022
15 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
8:05 a.m. ET, December 12, 2022

"Significant generation deficit" after all of Ukraine's thermal and hydroelectric power plants damaged in Russian attacks, prime minister says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Apartment buildings without electricity during a power outage after critical civil infrastructure was hit by Russian drone attacks in Odesa, Ukraine, on December 10.
Apartment buildings without electricity during a power outage after critical civil infrastructure was hit by Russian drone attacks in Odesa, Ukraine, on December 10. (Serhii Smolientsev/Reuters)

All of Ukraine's thermal and hydroelectric power stations have been damaged in the relentless Russian missile strikes targeting the country's power system, Ukraine's prime minister said Sunday.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that "there is a significant [power] generation deficit" in the country's energy system, following eight waves of Russian attacks targeting critical infrastructure.

"All thermal and hydroelectric power stations were damaged, and 40% of the high-voltage network facilities were damaged to varying degrees," said Shmyhal. "Each of us must realize that this winter we will have to live through with significant restrictions on electricity consumption."

Ukraine's state energy provider Ukrenergo said Monday that destruction caused by Russian attacks has limited the capacities of thermal power plants, and "additional time is needed to restore their work."

Power and water supplies are gradually being restored around the key port of Odesa, which was hit by Russian drone strikes over the weekend, the city's mayor said.

“The situation in Odesa region is still difficult, the restoration of power supply to consumers continues,” Ukrenergo said in an update posted on Facebook on Monday.

7:37 a.m. ET, December 12, 2022

Viktor Bout joins pro-Kremlin nationalist party and claims leader helped with his release

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Radina Gigova

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout sits in a temporary cell ahead of a hearing at the Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand, on August 20, 2010.
Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout sits in a temporary cell ahead of a hearing at the Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand, on August 20, 2010. (Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images)

Freed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was exchanged in a prisoner swap with WNBA star Brittney Griner, has joined the pro-Kremlin ultranationalist party Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), according to state media. 

"I am deeply touched by the honor. And naturally, I am very nervous to be in the spotlight," said Bout as he accepted his membership card from party leader Leonid Slutsky in footage aired on Russian state channel Russia 24. 

"Leonid Eduardovich [Slutsky] has done a lot to free me. LDPR strongly supported me," said Bout. "It is my honor, it is my duty to do all I can not only to help, but also to be actively involved in the work [of the party]."

Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” by his accusers, was released Thursday from US detention while serving a 25-year prison sentence on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization. He claimed that the LDPR's leader helped with his release.

"It has been my motto throughout this difficult time not to lie and not to be afraid," he added. "This helped me. I hope that now at this difficult time for Russia, LDPR always stands for you, for Russia and for the truth." 

Some background: Since it was founded in 1991, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia -- whose name belies its xenophobic views -- has backed a hardline, ultranationalist ideology, advocating for Russia to retake former Soviet countries. For three decades, the party's founder and longtime leader, far-right politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, espoused fringe views on Russia's revival as a great power and imperial expansion, which have now become mainstream in Russia with the invasion of Ukraine. Zhirinovsky died in April.

7:04 a.m. ET, December 12, 2022

Conflicting claims on casualties after Ukrainian forces shell Russian-occupied city of Melitopol over the weekend

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

The Russian-occupied city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine saw heavy shelling at the weekend, according to both Russian and Ukrainian sources, but there are conflicting reports on the number of casualties.

Following an “evening of strikes on Russo-fascist bases, 200 occupiers were roasted [killed]” and 300 more wounded, wrote Ivan Federov, the exiled mayor of Melitopol, on Telegram on Saturday.

Fedorov later rowed back on these claims, instead saying there were "dozens" dead.

Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-installed governor of Zaporizhzhia region, where Meliopol is located, confirmed there had been explosions in the city in a Telegram post.

Balitsky posted a video showing emergency services attending a huge fire on Saturday night.

“Ukrainian HIMARS were launched on the outskirts of Melitopol," he said. "Two missiles were shot down by anti-aircraft defense, but four reached their target."

Balitsky described the target of the attack as a “recreation center” where civilians and military personnel were “having dinner on Saturday night,” but he did not name the target.

According to Balitsky, there were two dead and 10 injured in the attack.

"Three of them need to be hospitalized, and now they are being treated as inpatients in a medical facility," he said.

On Sunday night, Fedorov told Ukrainian television that “yesterday the enemy had a disappointing day and a disappointing night in the temporarily occupied Melitopol district.”

He listed three sites that were struck, including a “restaurant-hotel complex on the outskirts of Melitopol – ‘Prival Okhotnika’ [‘Hunter's Rest’].”

The other two were a checkpoint 20km (12 miles) from Melitopol in Novobohdanivka, and a military unit that was “completely destroyed” near the village of Semenivka.

Melitopol lies south of the city of Zaporizhzhia and to the east of Kherson. It is a major Russian logistics hub and has been in Russian hands since the early days of the invasion.

Some background: Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, underlined the importance of the city in comments made to local media outlet Feigin Live on Saturday.

"If Melitopol falls, the entire defense (of the occupiers) to Kherson collapses, the Ukrainian armed forces jump right to the border with Crimea on the isthmus," said Arestovych.

The attacks on Melitopol came as Ukrainian forces also struck a hotel in Luhansk which allegedly housed a Wagner mercenary unit.

6:32 a.m. ET, December 12, 2022

Ukrainian embassy in Greece receives "bloody package," says Ukrainian foreign ministry 

From CNN’s Eve Brennan and Irina Morgan in London 

The Ukrainian embassy in Greece has received a “bloody package,” according to Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko.

“The sender's address is the same as on the rest of the envelopes that had been previously received at Ukrainian embassies and consulates: Tesla car showroom in the German town of Sindelfingen," said Nikolenko on Facebook on Monday. 

Last Wednesday, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said that suspicious packages which have been sent to Ukrainian diplomatic missions across Europe over the past two weeks all displayed the same “sender’s address,” the Tesla dealership in Germany. 

CNN has reached out to the Tesla Germany press office for a comment but has not yet heard back.

Nikolenko went on to say that Greek police have launched an investigation into Monday’s incident. 

“We look forward to the acceleration of the investigation by German law enforcement,” he added. 

Nikolenko also said that Monday’s incident brings the total number of threats sent to Ukrainian embassies and consulates to 33 cases across 17 countries. 

“1 attempted terrorist attack, 2 mine alerts, 1 case of vandalism, 1 written threat and 28 bloody packages,” he added. 

“As Dmytro Kuleba said, no matter how hard the enemies try to intimidate Ukrainian diplomacy, they will not succeed. We are working towards victory,” said Nikolenko.  

6:05 a.m. ET, December 12, 2022

"Our mere existence is illegal." As Moscow toughens anti-gay law, LGBTQ Russians fear for the future

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Sana Noor Haq

Activists say a new legislative package that beefs up an existing anti-gay law is a threat to LGBTQ people in Russia.
Activists say a new legislative package that beefs up an existing anti-gay law is a threat to LGBTQ people in Russia.

Young mothers Yana and Yaroslava don’t want to leave Russia with their 6-year-old son. But they fear a harsh new anti-gay law passed by Russian lawmakers will leave them little choice.

“We are citizens, same as everyone else. We pay taxes, support charities. But the government is doing everything to force us to leave the country. Honestly, it is scary to stay,” Yaroslava told CNN.

Russia’s upper house of parliament gave its final approval in late November to a new legislative package that toughens an existing law on so-called “LGBTQ propaganda,” and it was signed into law Monday by President Vladimir Putin. The added restrictions on “propaganda” seen as promoting “non-traditional sexual relations and/or preferences” carry heavy penalties – a move activists say will put LGBTQ communities under heightened scrutiny and surveillance.

As the Kremlin prepared to finalize the expansion of the 2013 discriminatory anti-gay law, members of the LGBTQ community in Russia told CNN they feared the uncertain future ahead.

“We are the most vulnerable category within LGBT. We have a child, and they (Russian authorities) can put pressure on us,” Yaroslava said.

Read the full story here.

2:53 a.m. ET, December 12, 2022

Russian attack kills at least 1 in Donetsk, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

A man walks past a damaged building in Donetsk region on December 11.
A man walks past a damaged building in Donetsk region on December 11. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

A Russian attack killed at least one civilian and injured three others Sunday in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, according to a Ukrainian military official.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said Monday the casualties were reported in the settlement of Velyka Novosilka.

The city of Donetsk has been occupied by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, however Ukrainian forces remain within a few miles of its limits and maintain a majority of control over the region.

In October, Russia’s legislature approved President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex four parts of Ukraine, namely Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Luhansk, despite not having full control of those regions. The move is illegal under international law.

1:53 a.m. ET, December 12, 2022

Brittney Griner is recuperating at a Texas military medical facility

From CNN's Nouran Salahieh

Brittney Griner is seen aboard a plane before her departure to the United States in Abu Dhabi, UAE on December 8.
Brittney Griner is seen aboard a plane before her departure to the United States in Abu Dhabi, UAE on December 8. (RIA)

Finally back on American soil after nearly 10 months of imprisonment in Russia, WNBA star Brittney Griner is spending time at a medical facility in Texas before she returns to her regular life.

The basketball star — who was released Thursday as part of a prisoner exchange between the US and Russia for notorious convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout — arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio for a routine evaluation early Friday, and officials have not specified how long she will be there.

“I’m understanding that it’s going to be a few more days before she gets out,” Bill Richardson, a former New Mexico governor, told CNN on Sunday.

Richardson and his center privately work on behalf of families of hostages and detainees. He previously traveled to Russia to discuss Griner’s release, as well that of Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who remains in custody.

Griner’s release through the prisoner exchange took months to negotiate and marked an end to months in confinement after the basketball star was arrested on drug charges at a Russian airport in February and then sentenced to nine years in prison.

The Texas facility Griner is at would stand in stark contrast to the Russian penal colony she was held in before her release.

Read more here.

1:53 a.m. ET, December 12, 2022

Heavy artillery fire in Ukraine's Dnipropetrovsk region, official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Heavy artillery fire, including Grad missiles, was reported in Dnipropetrovsk overnight, a Ukrainian military official said on Telegram Monday.

Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said the communities of Nikopol and Marhanets were impacted and at least 30 shells were fired. There were no casualties, he added.

"The whole night was tense in Nikopol district," he said.

Nikopol sits across the river from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. 

Representatives of the State Emergency Service are inspecting the affected areas for more details, he added. 

2:41 a.m. ET, December 12, 2022

Ukraine's counteroffensive will resume after ground freezes, defense minister says

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Sunday said Ukrainian forces will resume “active counteroffensive actions” when the ground freezes and “becomes firmer for easier passage of equipment”, at a press conference with his Swedish counterpart, Defense Minister Pal Jonson, in Odesa.

"The weather conditions, the transition from a dry autumn to a not-yet-freezing winter...we encountered rain and very difficult conditions for attacks from either side. Because the soil is wet, and wheeled vehicles can hardly pass through,” Reznikov said. “I think this decrease in activity is due to weather conditions.” 

Reznikov also vowed that “the Ukrainian Armed Forces do not intend to stop.” 

“Therefore, we are taking advantage of the moment when the ground becomes firmer,” he continued.” I am convinced that we will continue our counterattacks, the campaign to liberate our territories." 

The Defense Minister called Ukraine's plan "very simple.” “It is the liberation of all temporarily-occupied territories of Ukraine as they were in 1991, when Ukraine's borders were internationally recognized," he said. 

Reznikov said he believes Russians "are fighting civilians in order to persuade the Ukrainian government to start negotiating on Russia’s terms, but they will not succeed in it."