US on Russian remarks about Patriot systems: "The only provocative measures ... are being made by Russia"
From CNN's Michael Conte
The US State Department, responding to comments by the Russian government that a possible US shipment of Patriot missile systems to Ukraine would "lead to unpredictable consequences" and threaten global security, reiterated that Russia is singlehandedly responsible for provocations in Ukraine.
“The only provocative measures that have been taken over the course of this entire conflict are being made by Russia,” State Department Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said at a press briefing Friday.
“The US is not now nor has it ever been at war with Russia,” Patel said.
Though Patel did not announce any new US security assistance to Ukraine, he said that the US has been doing “exactly what President Biden told President [Vladimir] Putin we’d do ... that if Russia attacked Ukraine, we would provide security assistance and help Ukraine defend itself and defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
1:27 p.m. ET, December 16, 2022
Russia's goal is to leave Ukrainians without light, water or heat, Ukraine's prime minister says
From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Denis Lapin
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal issued a dire warning at a government meeting Friday after a fresh round of Russian strikes battered the nation's infrastructure.
"They have set a goal to leave Ukrainians without light, water and heat," Shmyhal said. "The world should definitely respond to these actions of Russia with quick and decisive steps.”
The prime minister claimed that air defenses shot down 60 of the 76 missiles from the barrage. “We thank the defenders of the Ukrainian sky for this,” Shmyhal said.
But some of the missiles that did find their intended targets hit high-voltage substations and electricity generators, the prime minister said.
"Once again there is a serious shortage in the power system," Shmyhal told attendees at the meeting. "And now emergency blackouts are applied almost throughout the country."
Local leaders report on current energy supply: Oleh Syniehubov, a leader in the northeastern Kharkiv region, said on Telegram that engineers have started to restore electricity to Kharkiv city and more than half a dozen surrounding towns, including Izium.
Andrii Raykovych, who is head of the Kirovohrad region's military administration in central Ukraine, said power had been restored to more than 30% of local consumers.
"First of all, critical infrastructure facilities, medical institutions are being supplied with electricity. Then — the houses," he explained.
State power company Ukrenergo is yet to release national data on power outages Friday.
11:40 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022
Brittney Griner says she intends to play for WNBA team this season
From CNN's Abby Phillip
In an Instagram post announcing her departure from a medical military facility in Texas on Friday, WNBA star Brittney Griner said she plans to play basketball for the Phoenix Mercury this season after being held in Russian detention since February.
"I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon," she wrote.
Griner played for a Russian basketball team during the WNBA offseason, and she was arrested on drug smuggling charges shortly prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 17 before being released on Dec. 9 in a prisoner exchange for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Griner took off from Kelly Field in San Antonio Friday around 11 a.m., CNN confirmed via her agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas.
As she boarded the plane, Griner was greeted by Phoenix Mercury General Manager Jim Pitman, Phoenix Mercury President Vince Kozar and her Mercury teammate Diana Taurasi, all of whom made a surprise appearance to welcome her home.
Griner is heading back to Arizona, though her representatives would not confirm exactly where, citing security concerns. CNN previously reported that Griner and her wife Cherelle had already made plans to move upon her return to the United States.
CNN is reaching out to the Phoenix Mercury about Griner's intention to play on the team this season, but has not heard back yet.
11:28 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022
Russian forces continue shelling residential areas of Kherson, Ukrainian officials say
From CNN's Tim Lister
While much of Ukraine has been targeted by Russian missiles Friday, the southern city of Kherson has suffered further artillery and rocket attacks.
The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office said that shelling early Friday morning set on fire several apartments in a multi-story building. The body of a man was found in one of the apartments.
Local Telegram channels said there had also been Russian shellings Friday afternoon in Kherson and further north near Kakhovka
Friday's shelling comes at the end of a week of persistent Russian attacks on the city and surrounding areas, which were liberated in November.
Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of Kherson region military administration said the Kherson region was shelled 30 times Thursday.
The "enemy hit critical infrastructure, residential buildings, public transport, medical aid and humanitarian aid distribution point."
He said a total of four people were killed.
The struggle to restore basic services in Kherson continues. Ukrainian officials say almost all the water supply has been reconnected and about three-quarters of boilers for heating.
Additionally, two more Starlink Wi-Fi access points have been installed.
Food aid continues to be delivered — the regional council says there are now 23 distribution points for free food packages.
11:30 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022
Brittney Griner has departed military medical facility in Texas
For the two-time Olympic gold medalist, who was released last week in a prisoner swap after nearly 300 days in Russian custody, the day marks another step in her reintegration into American life.
In an Instagram post, she thanked her family, the WNBA, advocates and US President Joe Biden, among others.
"President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too. I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you. I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole," she wrote, referencing American citizen Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since 2018.
"I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon," she added.
Some background: Griner’s detention, after Russian officials found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage, became an international cause during a delicate time in relations between Washington and Moscow. US officials deemed it a wrongful detention.
She had traveled to Russia to play basketball in the WNBA offseason and was arrested on drug smuggling charges at an airport in the Moscow region.
Despite her testimony that she had inadvertently packed the cannabis oil in her luggage, Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August and was moved to a penal colony in the Mordovia republic in mid-November after losing her appeal.
The Phoenix Mercury center became a pawn in Russia’s war in Ukraine and returned to the US on Dec. 9 after a prisoner swap for notorious convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Griner had been staying at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio for routine evaluation. She has been staying with her wife, Cherelle Griner, in a residential facility on the base.
Her arrest and conviction brought attention to the plight of other Americans in Russian custody, including Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed. Whelan's release could not be secured in the latest prisoner swap, while Reed returned to the US in April after a nearly three-year ordeal.
12:38 p.m. ET, December 16, 2022
Russia launched new missiles at Ukraine today. Here's everything you need to know.
In an escalated assault on Friday, Russia launched at least 76 missiles at different parts of Ukraine, including Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. If you're just joining us, catch up on Friday's developments in Moscow's war on Ukraine here.
Where: After an official from the Ukrainian Presidential Office urged people to stay in shelters as air raid sirens sounded across the country on Friday, missile attacks were reported across Ukraine on Friday, including in Kyiv, Odesa, Poltava, Zhytomyr, Kharkiv and Sumy.
Details on attack: Preliminary data from Friday’s wave of Russian missile attacks against Ukraine suggests at 76 missiles were fired, according to Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander in chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Of the 76 missiles, 72 were “cruise missiles” of the Kh-101, "Kalibr" and Kh-22 variety. The other four were “guided aircraft missiles," Kh-59 and KH31P.
Targets: Russia has waged a series strikes against Ukraine since October that have damaged the energy system and civilian infrastructure, causing power outages in the freezing winter. Friday's strikes were in the same vein. In northeastern Kharkiv, Oleh Syniehubv, head of the regional military administration, said the region had been hit “10 times” with “Russian S300” missiles and “critical infrastructure facilities” were hit in Chuhuiv district. CNN cannot independently verify the number of times Kharkiv was hit.
Defense: The country's defenses shot down 60 of the 76 missiles from the barrage, Ukraine's prime minister claimed at a meeting Friday. That included 37 of the 40 missiles launched at Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian capital’s city administration. Leaders said the city had "withstood one of the largest missile attacks since the beginning of the full-scale invasion!”
Energy facilities in the east and south of Ukraine have been damaged, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said on Telegram, and added that there will be emergency power outages in some parts of the country.
“Kharkiv city is without power," Mayor Ihor Terekhov said, but added that some centers were open where residents could warm up and recharge their phones. The strikes knocked out power on a number of railway sections, including northeastern Kharkiv and central Kirovohrad. Trains in the eastern region of Donetsk and central Dnipropetrovsk are also affected. Trains will continue to run under backup diesel locomotives, officials said.
Kryvyi Rih appears to be hit the hardest: At least two were killed and 8 were injured in Russian missile attacks in southern Ukrainian city, according to Oleksandr Vilkul, head of Kryvyi Rih city military administration. The energy infrastructure facility was completely destroyed, and one missile had hit an apartment building, he added. There are emergency power cuts in place and rescue work is underway for people under rubble in the apartment building as well as the region's mines.
9:45 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022
White House condemns Russian strikes on Ukraine's civilian infrastructure
From CNN's Betsy Klein
The Biden administration on Friday condemned the new barrage of strikes from Russia into Ukraine, with National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby saying the attacks hit “largely civilian infrastructure.”
Kirby said Russia is “again trying to put fear into the hearts of the Ukrainian people and to make it that much harder on them as winter is now upon them.”
He declined to announce any details on the next security assistance package for Ukraine, but said that there “will be another one” and that additional air defense capabilities should be expected. Conversations with Ukraine on needs continue “in lockstep.”
Kirby also announced that the first tranche of $53 million in energy-related equipment “has arrived in Ukraine coming from the United States.”
“It includes the kinds of equipment that they need to make emergency repairs,” he said, adding that “there will be more coming” to fulfill the US’ $53 million pledge.
9:19 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022
Kyiv subway closed as hospitals rely on generators after missile attacks
From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv
In the aftermath of a barrage of Russian missiles targeting Kyiv on Friday, the city's subway system has been closed for the rest of the day and emergency power cuts are in force in the region.
Oleksiy Kuleba, head of Kyiv region military administration, said in a Telegram post that "due to the massive attack, a critical infrastructure facility and 9 private houses in different districts of the region were damaged."
He said one person had been seriously injured.
"Emergency power cuts are in effect in the region. Hospitals and critical infrastructure are operating on generators," he said.
"Some communities are experiencing interruptions in communication, water and heat supply. Utilities and energy companies are working in an enhanced mode, the priority is to restore water and heat," Kuleba said.
In the Kyiv region, over 400 "Invincibility Points" — which provide electricity, heat, internet, tea and coffee and first aid kits — are operating around the clock.
The Kyiv city administration announced on its Telegram channel that "due to damage to the power system and emergency power outages, subway trains will not be running today until the end of the day."
"At the same time, underground stations will operate in the shelter mode," it added.
9:25 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022
At least 76 Russian missiles were fired at Ukraine, the country's armed forces say
From CNN's Maria Kosetenko in Kyiv
Preliminary data from Friday’s wave of Russian missile attacks against Ukraine suggests at 76 missiles were fired, according to Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander in chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Of the 76 missiles, 72 were “cruise missiles” of the Kh-101, "Kalibr" and Kh-22 variety. The other four were “guided aircraft missiles," Kh-59 and KH31P.
The origin of the missiles were from the Caspian and Black Seas.
Ukraine’s top military chief added that 60 missiles were destroyed.