American included in 65-person prisoner swap in Ukraine
From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Victoria Butenko in Kyiv
An American was part of a 65-person prisoner swap in Ukraine on Wednesday, according to the Ukrainian presidential office.
The American was named as 35-year-old Suedi Mureksezi.
“He was captured by the occupiers in June in Kherson city allegedly "for participation in pro-Ukrainian rallies," Andrii Yermak, head of the Office of the President, said.
Fifty-nine of the prisoners were “representatives of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," while five others were from the territorial defense, the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War in Ukraine said.
Four were officers and the rest were part of the “rank and file," it said, adding that the oldest person in the swap was 57 and the youngest was 19.
“The vast majority” of those captured were from frontline areas such as Bakhmut, Soledar, Zaitseve and other places in Donetsk and Luhansk, the Coordination Headquarters added.
6:40 a.m. ET, December 14, 2022
Ukrainian children's physical and mental health "at desperate risk" as war drags on, says UNICEF
From CNN's Radina Gigova
Russian strikes on critical infrastructure in Ukraine have put the physical and mental health of "almost every child" in the country "at desperate risk," UNICEF warned Wednesday.
As the war approaches the ten-month mark, temperatures continue to drop and residents are left without sustained access to electricity, heating and water, the almost seven million children in Ukraine face not only extreme cold, but are also unable to get access to education and healthcare, UNICEF said in a statement.
“Millions of children are facing a bleak winter huddled in the cold and the dark, with little idea of how or when respite may arrive,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
“Beyond the immediate threats the freezing conditions bring, children are also deprived of the ability to learn or stay connected with friends and family, putting both their physical and their mental health at desperate risk.”
Damaged health facilities may be unable to provide critical services, while malfunctioning water systems "raise the already extremely high risks of pneumonia, seasonal influenza, waterborne diseases and Covid-19," UNICEF said.
Furthermore, a "bleak winter will also likely worsen the psychosocial situation for children, who are already facing a looming mental health crisis," UNICEF said, with an estimated 1.5 million children at risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental conditions.
"The harsh winter, combined with a loss of income and the energy and socioeconomic crisis triggered by the war are devastating to the well-being of children and families," UNICEF said. It added that the situation is "especially acute" for the 6.5 million people, including 1.2 million children, who are currently displaced within Ukraine.
Moscow has unleashed a wave of strikes in recent months that has destroyed about 40% of Ukraine’s power production, "further exposing families to harsh winter conditions, impacting livelihoods, and increasing the likelihood of additional large population movements," UNICEF said.
“The rules of war are clear -- children and the essential civilian infrastructure they rely on to survive must be protected,” said Russell.
5:40 a.m. ET, December 14, 2022
No energy infrastructure facilities damaged in Kyiv following drone attacks, says state energy supplier
From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv
Ukraine's state energy supplier said none of its power infrastructure in Kyiv was damaged on Wednesday morning, following a wave of drone attacks across the city.
“Thanks to the brilliant work of air defense forces, energy infrastructure facilities were not damaged -- all 13 UAVs were shot down," Ukrenergo said in a statement.
The company also gave a brief update on the energy supply situation nationwide.
In the east of the country repairs are slow and getting more dangerous to undertake “due to almost daily shelling," it said.
"Energy facilities are constantly damaged. Repair works are slowing down due to the danger to the lives of repairmen."
Russia has unleashed a barrage of strikes targeting critical infrastructure in Ukraine in recent months, leaving millions of residents without access to heat and electricity amid a harsh winter season.
5:14 a.m. ET, December 14, 2022
Pope suggests buying fewer Christmas presents and donating to Ukraine instead
From CNN's Delia Gallagher in Rome
Pope Francis has suggested buying fewer presents at Christmas this year and donating the proceeds to Ukraine instead, as Russia's invasion approaches the ten-month mark.
"Let's have a Christmas with Ukrainians in our hearts," the Pope said during his general audience at the Vatican Wednesday morning.
"They are suffering so much, so so much," Francis added, citing the cold weather and the lack of food and medicine.
"It's good to celebrate this Christmas.
"But let's spend less, have a more humble Christmas with more humble presents and send what we save to the people in Ukraine."
4:55 a.m. ET, December 14, 2022
Zelensky says "all 13" drones were shot down in Kyiv strikes
From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine's air defense shot down “all 13” drones used to strike Kyiv on Wednesday, as Moscow launched a barrage of attacks on the capital.
“This morning terrorists started with 13 Shaheds … All 13 were shot down by our Ukrainian air defense. Well done. I am proud. Dear citizens, we thank the air defense, and do not forget about the sirens," Zelensky said.
The assaults were “aimed at the critical infrastructure of the region and capital," according to Oleksii Kuleba, the head of Kyiv regional military administration.
Russia has targeted power facilities across Ukraine in recent months, using missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, in an attempt to wipe out the country's energy infrastructure amid a grueling winter season.
3:31 a.m. ET, December 14, 2022
"For Ryazan": Message on downed drone appears to reference alleged air base attack
From CNN's Victoria Butneko and Olga Voitovych in Kyiv, Ukraine
A drone launched by Russian in assaults on Kyiv Wednesday carried the message "For Ryazan" — an apparent reference to an alleged Ukrainian attack last week on an air base inside Russian territory.
The message was seen in a video posted to Telegram by a Kyiv municipal TV channel.
Last week, Russian officials claimed Ukrainian drones carried out strikes on two air bases and an air field in Russia, with satellite imagery and photographs indicating some damage was done to Russian military planes at one base in the western Ryazan region.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has offered no official comment on the explosions, and the Ukrainian government has not acknowledged adding long-range attack drones to its arsenal.However, a top Ukrainian official last week tweeted a cryptic message hinting at the possibility that Kyiv was indeed behind the attacks.
Kyiv attacks: Serhii Popko, head of Kyiv's military administration, said the number of Russian drones taken out by Ukrainian air defenses over the capital region on Wednesday had climbed to 13.
Popko said “two waves” of drones were launched toward the city, but did not specify the total number of devices.
Fragments of one of the downed drones hit an administrative building and four more residential buildings were "slightly damaged," he said. No casualties were reported.
3:09 a.m. ET, December 14, 2022
Drone attacks were launched from Sea of Azov, Ukrainian Air Force says
From CNN's Olga Voitovych
The Russian drones that targeted Kyiv in a series of attacks on Wednesday morning were “strike UAVs flying from the east coast of the Sea of Azov,” the Ukrainian Air Force said.
The inland Sea of Azov is located between mainland Ukraine to the north, Crimea to the west and Russia's Kuban region to the east.
Ukraine's air defense forces shot down multiple Iranian-made drones as Kyiv came under a barrage of Russian attacks that damaged buildings, the capital's military administration said earlier.
Attacks from Russian missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, over the past two months have destroyed key infrastructure across Ukraine.
3:09 a.m. ET, December 14, 2022
Kyiv air defenses shoot down another drone
From CNN’s Victoria Butenko
Ukraine's air defense forces shot down one more Iranian-made "Shahed" drone over the Kyiv region in the early hours of Wednesday, the city's military administration said on Telegram — taking the total to 11.
Earlier, Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported that 10 Russian drones had been taken out.
Two administrative buildings in the city's Shevchenkivskiy district and a home in the village of Vyshneve were damaged in the attacks, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian President’s office.
3:09 a.m. ET, December 14, 2022
Air defenses shot down most Russian drones in attacks on Kyiv, Ukrainian official says
The majority of Russia's drone attacks on the Kyiv region early Wednesday were taken down by Ukraine's air defenses, according to a Ukrainian military official.
Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv regional administration, said on Telegram that the day began with a Russian attack on the capital with Iranian-made Shahed drones.
According to preliminary information, two administrative buildings in the city's central Shevchenkivskiy district were damaged, the Kyiv city military administration said.
Kuleba said air raid warnings remained in effect and advised people to take shelter as the threat is ongoing.
Some context: Ukraine has come under a barrage of Russian missile and drone attacks over the past two months that have destroyed key infrastructure across the country.
According to US officials, the Biden administration is finalizing plans to send the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine in a deal that could be announced as soon as this week. Kyiv has repeatedly asked for the advanced long-range air defense system, which is highly effective at intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles.