Our live coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine has moved here.
December 13, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news
By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy, Adrienne Vogt and Leinz Vales, CNN
Deserter from Russian army unit speaks about crimes against civilians in Ukraine
From CNN's Fred Pleitgen and Ivana Kottasová
Nikita Chibrin says he still remembers his fellow Russian soldiers running away after allegedly raping two Ukrainian women during their deployment northwest of Kyiv in March.
“I saw them run, then I learned they were rapists. They raped a mother and a daughter,” he said. Their commanders, Chibrin said, shrugged when finding out about the rapes. The alleged rapists were beaten, he says, but never fully punished for their crimes.
“They were never jailed. Just fired. Just like that: ‘Go!’ They were simply dismissed from the war. That’s it.”
Chibrin is a former soldier from the Russian city of Yakutsk who says he served in the 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, the notorious Russian military unit accused of committing war crimes during their offensive in Bucha, Borodianka and other towns and villages north of Kyiv.
He deserted from the Russian military in September and fled to Europe via Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Troops from Chibrin’s brigade were labeled war criminals by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense in April after mass graves containing murdered civilians and dead bodies lying in the streets were discovered following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kyiv region.
Chibrin’s military documents, seen by CNN, show his commander was Azatbek Omurbekov, the officer in charge of the 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade. Omurbekov, known as the “Butcher of Bucha” is under sanctions by the European Union and the United Kingdom. The United States have sanctioned the entire brigade.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the mass killings while reiterating baseless claims that the images of civilian bodies were fake.
In a move that sparked outrage across the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the unit an honorary military title and praised it for its “heroism” and “bold actions.”
Chibrin said he didn’t see any of the supposed heroism, but many of the crimes.
Zelensky thanks EU for pledging billions in aid at Paris donor conference
From CNN’s Philip Wang in Atlanta
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the European Union on Tuesday for its $19 billion aid package, as well as an additional $1 billion pledged by dozens of countries during a donor conference in France earlier in the day.
“Every day we gain new strength for Ukraine to get through this winter, and I thank everyone who works for this and who helps our country, ” Zelensky said in his nightly address.
The funding will focus on Ukraine’s embattled energy sector, which has been targeted during the war against Russia, along with other humanitarian support.
Zelensky also thanked other European countries that provided additional support beyond the EU funding, specifically naming Spain, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic.
He added that during a forum that focused on French business relations on Wednesday, Ukrainian officials presented French entrepreneurs with opportunities for investment in Ukraine during and after the war.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misstated when Zelensky spoke. It was Tuesday.
DOJ charges 5 Russian and 2 US nationals with smuggling equipment to Russian military
From CNN's Holmes Lybrand
The Justice Department has charged five Russian nationals and two US nationals for allegedly conspiring to violate US sanctions by smuggling US-made equipment to the Russian military, according to a recently unsealed indictment.
According to the 16-count indictment, the defendants were associated with two Moscow companies that worked with the Russian Federal Security Service to purchase and smuggle sanctioned items — including semiconductors and other electronic equipment — from the US to the Russian military.
The seven individuals – Yevgeniy Grinin, Aleksey Ippolitov, Boris Livshits, Svetlana Skvortsova, Vadim Konoshchenok, Alexey Brayman and Vadim Yermolenko – “unlawfully sourced, purchased and shipped millions of dollars in military and sensitive dual-use technologies from US manufacturers and vendors located in the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere for Russian end users,” the indictment says.
“As alleged, the defendants perpetrated a sophisticated procurement network that illegally obtained sensitive U.S. technology to facilitate the Russian war machine,” Breon Peace, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement Tuesday.
According to the indictment, Russian nationals Grinin and Skvortsova would receive requests from Ippolitov, also a Russian national, for sanctioned items from the US.
Grinin and Skvortsova would allegedly map out shipping routes while Livshits – through shell companies and US bank accounts – would allegedly purchase the items from US companies, according to the indictment.
Based in the US, Brayman and Yermolenko would allegedly fabricate shipping documents and invoices to ship items around the world before they would eventually be sent to Russia, according to the DOJ.
Konoshchenok, who the Justice Department believes is an officer for the FSB, was allegedly one of their smugglers.
Grinin, Skvortsova, Ippolitov and Livshits remain at large, according to the Justice Department, while Brayman, a permanent resident in the US, Yermolenko, a US citizen, and Konoshchenok, a Russian national, are in custody.
World leaders are pledging weapons and aid to Ukraine. Here are the latest headlines.
From CNN staff
The United States could soon be sending the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, once plans are approved and finalized, officials said. Ukraine has been calling for the US to send the advanced long-range air defense system that is highly effective at intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles for months. Across the globe, the European Union is also pledging their support — announcing a $19 billion aid package to Ukraine.
It comes after central Ukraine was hit with heavy artillery and missiles overnight, according to a regional official. A key bridge is also being targeted.
Here are the top headlines today:
- Aid from the European Union: Member states have agreed plans to provide a $19 billion aid package for Ukraine in 2023 after Hungary dropped its opposition in return for funding from the EU. Hungary had initially blocked the package last week, amid a long running standoff — Brussels had called for EU funds for Hungary be frozen due to concerns over corruption and insufficient reforms to strengthen the rule of law.
- Defense from the US: The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine that could be announced as soon as this week, according to two US officials and a senior administration official. It would be the most effective long-range defensive weapons system sent to the country and officials say it will help secure airspace for NATO nations in eastern Europe. Ukraine has been asking for the system for months but the logistical challenges of delivering it and operating it are immense.
- Potential next moves from Russia: Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, said Russia’s capability to launch a “large offensive may be restored" by the end of January or February. Kuleba said there are signs that Russia still has its sights set on larger portions of Ukraine. On the state of the war now, Kuleba said Russia’s huge missile attacks have turned the “entire country into a frontline."
- Key Melitopol bridge targeted: A bridge essential to the resupply of Russian forces occupying the city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine was targeted by strikes overnight, according to both Ukrainian and Russian officials. The bridge appears to have buckled or collapsed inwards in a video posted online. Russian-installed administrators claim "two explosive devices" were used to blow up part of the bridge. It is part of the M14 highway, which runs along Ukraine’s southern coastline from Melitopol to Berdiansk and Mariupol to the east before reaching the Russian Federation.
- Belarus announces military drills: The Belarusian Defense Ministry has announced snap military drills across the country. "A sudden inspection of combat readiness has begun under the leadership of the State Secretariat of the Security Council," said the ministry in a short statement. Belarus shares Ukraine's northern border, which was used as a platform by Russian troops during the invasion in February.
Ukrainian foreign minister: Russian missile attacks have turned the "entire country into a frontline"
From CNN's Seb Shukla in London and Victoria Butenko in Kyiv
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday, that Russia’s huge missile attacks against Ukraine have turned the “entire country into a frontline”.
Kuleba continued to say that “it doesn't matter whether you are a soldier or a civilian, you are under attack. And that's how we feel.”
Speaking to foreign journalists from Kyiv, Kuleba responded to a question about whether he places more value on weapons or energy supplies, he said both are “almost equally important."
Russia launched its barrage of missile attacks across Ukraine, targeting its energy infrastructure on Oct. 10.
Earlier on Tuesday, CNN was able to report exclusively that the United States is finalizing plans to send Patriot missile defense systems to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in Paris Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal had been leading a delegation where over $1 billion in aid had been pledged to Ukraine to help it through the tough winter months.
Ukrainian foreign minister says Russia may be able to launch a "large offensive" in January or February
From CNN's Seb Shukla in London and Victoria Butenko in Kyiv
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, said Tuesday that Russia’s capability to launch a “large offensive may be restored" by the end of January or February.
Speaking to foreign reporters from a bomb shelter in Kyiv on Tuesday, Ukraine’s top diplomat said “they definitely still keep hopes that they will be able to break through our lines and advanced deeper in Ukraine.”
Kuleba explained that he felt several reasons contributed to the signs that Russia still has its sights set on larger portions of Ukraine.
He attributed that view to, “the conscription they have announced, and the training of new conscripts and the movement of their heavy weapons supports the country.”
Russia launched a drive in September to mobilize 300,000 soldiers.
European Union agrees to $19 billion Ukraine aid package after striking a deal with Hungary
From CNN's Gayle Harrington
European Union member states have agreed plans to provide a $19 billion aid package for Ukraine in 2023 after Hungary dropped its opposition in return for funding from the EU.
Hungary had initially blocked the package last week, amid a long running standoff over EU aid. Brussels had called for EU funds for Hungary be frozen due to concerns over corruption and insufficient reforms to strengthen the rule of law.
On Monday evening, the EU struck a deal with Hungary. Under the new agreement, Brussels will give Budapest $6.1 billion in grants to "enable Hungary to foster its economic recovery from the Covid 19 pandemic and finance the green and digital transitions."
It will still freeze some funds, around $6.9 billion, but that is less than the near $8 billion the EU had previously planned on suspending.
The Czech Presidency of the European Council tweeted about the deal and the aid package for Ukraine Monday evening.
Exclusive: US finalizing plans to send Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine
From CNN's Barbara Starr
The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine that could be announced as soon as this week, according to two US officials and a senior administration official.
The Pentagon’s plan still needs to be approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin before it is sent to US President Joe Biden for his signature. The three officials told CNN that approval is expected.
Why this matters: Ukraine has been calling for the US to send the advanced long-range air defense system that is highly effective at intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles as it comes under a barrage of Russian missile and drone attacks that have destroyed key infrastructure across the country. It would be the most effective long-range defensive weapons system sent to the country and officials say it will help secure airspace for NATO nations in eastern Europe.
It is not clear how many missile launchers will be sent but a typical Patriot battery includes a radar set that detects and tracks targets, computers, power generating equipment, an engagement control station and up to eight launchers, each holding four ready to fire missiles.
Once the plans are finalized, the Patriots are expected to ship quickly in the coming days and Ukrainians will be trained to use them at a US Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, officials said.
Ukraine has been asking for the system for months but the logistical challenges of delivering it and operating it are immense. Despite those obstacles, “the reality of what is going on the ground” led the administration to make the decision, the senior administration official told CNN, noting the continuing intense Russian missile barrages.
Read more here.