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December 16, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news
By Kathleen Magramo, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Leinz Vales, CNN
CIA doesn't believe Russia is serious about negotiations, agency director says
From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis
CIA director Bill Burns said Friday he believes Russia's attacks against Ukraine's infrastructure will continue, although the agency does anticipate a "reduced tempo" of fighting through the winter.
For now, the CIA does not see an immediate path to negotiations to end the conflict, he said.
“It's not our assessment that the Russians are serious at this point about a real negotiation,” Burns told PBS’s Judy Woodruff in an interview.
Putin's punishing attacks: Since October, Russia has launched a series of strikes that have damaged the energy system and civilian infrastructure, causing power outages in the freezing winter. On Friday, missile attacks were reported across Ukraine, including in Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia.
Only one-third of Kyiv residents have water and heat after Russian strikes Friday, mayor says
From CNN's Philip Wang
Officials in Ukraine's capital are working to get the power back to the majority of residents after the city was hit with a series of Russian missile strikes Friday, according to Mayor Vitalii Klitschko.
Only one-third of people have water and heat, and about 40% of people have power, he said in a post on Telegram. The outages are due to damaged power grids, Klitschko said.
"City services are working to return heat and water to all residents of the capital by morning. Power engineers are working to stabilize the power supply system," he said.
Transportation issues: The city's subway system has been closed and emergency power cuts are in force in the region.
"Tomorrow, additional buses will be launched in the capital to duplicate tram routes. In addition, the city will organize the movement of buses that will partially duplicate subway routes," Klitschko said.
Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv region military administration, said one person was seriously injured in the strikes.
3 killed, 13 injured as search continues for missing infant in Kryvyi Rih after Russian missile attacks
From CNN's Amy Cassidy
Rescuers continue to search for an infant boy buried in the rubble of an apartment block in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, which was struck by a Russian missile Friday, killing three people and wounding over a dozen others, according to officials.
Among the dead were the 20-month-old boy's parents, Kryvyi Rih's deputy mayor Serhiy Miliutin told CNN. Their relatives have been informed of their passing, he added.
An unnamed 64-year-old woman was also killed, Oleksandr Vilkul, head of the Kryvyi Rih city military administration, wrote on Telegram. He also added that the couple were in their 30's.
Thirteen people, including four children, were injured, Vilkul added, with a seven-year-old child among three people wounded who are in a "severe condition."
He continued that more than 100 people lived in the apartment block.
"Residents of this and neighboring houses, which have damage, are accommodated in the Temporary Accommodation Centers. They are getting everything they need," he said. "Emergency crews from all over the city are eliminating the consequences of damage in neighboring buildings — these are 30 houses, a school and a hospital. People will not be left without help."
The city in southern Ukraine was among the hardest hit in the latest wave of Russian missile attacks, officials said.
"All their targets today are civilians, and these are mainly energy and heat supply facilities," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday in his nightly address.
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.
CNN reported this week that President Joe Biden's administration is finalizing plans to send the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, according to two US officials and a senior administration official.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Brittney Griner has departed military medical facility in Texas
From CNN's Abby Phillip and Ray Sanchez
Brittney Griner departed a medical military facility in Texas on Friday, according to her Instagram feed, after arriving there one week ago following 10 months in Russian custody.
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.