December 27, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Ivana Kottasová, Laura Smith-Spark, Aditi Sangal, Leinz Vales, Mike Hayes and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 2:22 a.m. ET, December 28, 2022
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5:54 a.m. ET, December 27, 2022

Russia "bringing in huge amount of reserves" to fight in Kreminna, Ukraine says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Radina Gigova 

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, is seen in Dnipro on August 17.
Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, is seen in Dnipro on August 17. (David Goldman/AP)

The Ukrainian city of Kreminna, northwest of Lysychansk, continues to experience heavy fighting as the Russian military keeps renewing its forces there, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, Serhiy Haidai, said Tuesday.

"The Russian occupation troops managed to build a very powerful defense in a month, even a little more. They are bringing there a huge amount of reserves and equipment. They are constantly renewing their forces," Haidai said.  

He said the Russian military had suffered a large number of casualties "but they still bring new [personnel], because they understand that if they lose Kreminna, in principle, the entire line of defense will crumble."  

CNN has not been able to verify the number of casualties on the Russian side. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged on Monday evening that the situation on the frontlines in Bakhmut, Kreminna and other areas in the eastern Donbas region is “difficult, painful” as Russian forces use all resources available to them "to squeeze out at least some progress."

Why Kreminna matters: The town in eastern Ukraine's Luhansk region has been occupied since the spring.

Kreminna lies on a key north-south road from Svatove, which Russian troops had been using to resupply and which became even more important to them after Ukrainian troops took over Kupyansk, a resupply hub to the northwest of Kreminna and Svatove. Losing Kreminna would limit Russia's ability to resupply its troops in the key city of Severodonetsk.

Haidai said the road remained under Ukraine's fire control, which meant there was "no safe and calm way for the occupiers to bring in the equipment or ammunition towards Kreminna using this road," he said.

Ukrainian forces appeared to be on the verge of retaking Kreminna a few weeks ago, but Ukrainian officials said the approaches to the city were difficult because of extensive mining.

"Every meter is difficult, because everything there is mined and they are constantly shelling with large caliber," Haidai said, saying the situation in Kreminna was "radically different from Bakhmut."

"[Russian troops] are trying to shell more powerfully, they have occupied all the forests, they have completely mined everything and no one knows the map of minefields. Therefore, it is very difficult to advance," Haidai said.  

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, which follows the conflict closely, said information from Russian military bloggers suggests that "Russian forces are pulling troops from various points throughout the theater to fill holes in the Svatove-Kreminna line and compensate for the continued degradation of conventional units."

4:57 a.m. ET, December 27, 2022

Zelensky's adviser says Kremlin is trying to buy time by talking of negotiations

From Xiaofei Xu in Paris

An adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN that comments about peace negotiations from the Kremlin are just ways for the Russian government to buy more time and cannot be trusted.

Alexander Rodnyansky, Zelensky's economic adviser, said:

“The Blitzkrieg has gone terribly wrong for them and they know that, so they need more time to regroup and rebuild their troops.”

He added that the Kremlin was trying to dissuade the world from sending more military aid to Ukraine. “We must not fall into that trap,” he said.

Some context: Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was ready to “negotiate with everyone involved in this process about acceptable solutions” regarding the war in Ukraine, according to Russian state news agency TASS, citing Putin’s interview with state TV Sunday.

On Monday, Putin's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov threatened Ukraine, saying it must fulfil Moscow's proposals regarding Russia's "new territories" -- the four Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson that Russia claims to control after sham referendums in September -- or the Russian military will take action, according to TASS.

The Ukrainian government has repeatedly said it will not accept any deal that would jeopardise its territorial integrity.

1:52 p.m. ET, December 27, 2022

Blackouts pose potentially deadly risk to Ukrainians who need power for lifesaving medical devices

From CNN's Gul Tuysuz, Pierre Bairin, Svitlana Vlasova and Will Ripley

Olena Isayenko suffers from respiratory failure and can't breathe on her own. She says she lives in fear of power cuts.
Olena Isayenko suffers from respiratory failure and can't breathe on her own. She says she lives in fear of power cuts. (CNN)

For Olena Isayenko, the beeping sound her oxygen machine makes when disconnected from power is far scarier than the screeching of the air raid sirens now commonly heard throughout Kyiv.

She suffers from respiratory failure, meaning she can’t breathe adequately on her own and must receive a constant flow of oxygen through an electrical ventilator just to stay alive.

But the repeated Russian assaults on Ukraine’s power grid have left her gasping for air at times as the capital city continues to experience long blackouts. Other Ukrainians who require a constant power supply to keep vital medical devices running suffer similar fear each time the lights go out.

Green tubes carrying oxygen run across Isayenko’s face as she speaks with CNN at the home she shares with her husband, on the 15th floor of a residential block in Kyiv. Her portable oxygen machine is her lifeline. When the air raid sirens sound during blackouts, putting the elevator out of use, Isayenko, 49, is unable to get down to the block’s bomb shelter — but this worries her less than the lack of power for her ventilator.

“When there is no power, this machine makes a long beep and it reminds me of when I was in intensive care, surrounded by many machines. It sounds like a flatline,” she told CNN.

Read more here.

1:17 a.m. ET, December 27, 2022

Zelensky seeks Indian Prime Minister Modi's help with peace plan

From CNN's Rhea Mogul

Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi via phone line in Kyiv on December 26.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi via phone line in Kyiv on December 26. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday he was relying on India’s help to implement a “peace formula” during a phone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The call comes as New Delhi seeks to boost trade ties with Moscow after becoming one of the largest purchasers of Russian oil — defying Western sanctions and providing a vital financial lifeline to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Kremlin wages an unprovoked war against its neighbor.

“I announced the peace formula and now I count on India’s participation in its implementation,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter. “I also thanked for humanitarian aid and support in the UN.”

In a statement following the call, the Indian government said Modi had repeated his calls “for an immediate cessation of hostilities” and to “revert to dialogue and diplomacy.”

“Prime Minister also conveyed India’s support for any peace efforts,” the statement added.

Zelensky presented a 10-point peace formula to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November. India assumed the G20 presidency this month, and will hold it until next year.

Read more here.

1:55 a.m. ET, December 27, 2022

Russian foreign minister gives Ukraine ultimatum over 4 occupied regions

From CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Ukraine must fulfil Moscow's proposals regarding their "new territories" — or the Russian military would take action, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

"The enemy is well aware of our proposals for the demilitarization and denazification of the regime-controlled territories and the elimination of threats to Russian security from there, including our new territories (the DNR, LNR, and the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions)," Lavrov said, repeating false accusations of Nazism against Ukraine used by Moscow in an attempt to justify its invasion.
"There is just one thing left to do: to fulfill them before it's too late. Otherwise the Russian army will take matters into its own hands.
"With regard to the duration of the conflict, the ball is now in the court of Washington and its regime. They can stop this futile resistance at any moment."

The four occupied territories: Russia claimed control over the four regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson after sham referendums in September, widely slammed by Kyiv and Western governments as violating international law.

But Russia has struggled with setbacks in these areas from the start — Moscow's forces were not in full control of the territories when they were rubber-stamped as part of the Russian Federation.

Just weeks after illegally annexing Kherson, Ukraine reclaimed its regional capital with the same name, liberating about 10,000 square kilometers of land and moving its Western-supplied artillery within range of Crimea.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that the situation in the four occupied territories was "extremely complicated," a rare window into the challenges that Moscow faces in areas it has attempted to illegally annex.

This post has been updated to more accurately reflect Lavrov's comments.

9:47 p.m. ET, December 26, 2022

Ukraine says it has neutralized more than 4,500 cyberattacks this year

From CNN's Denis Lapin and Duarte Mendonca

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has neutralized more than 4,500 cyberattacks on the country this year, an official said Monday.

Ilya Vitiuk, head of the SBU cybersecurity department said in a statement that Ukraine had "entered 2022 with eight years of hybrid warfare experience behind us,” adding that “at the time of the invasion, we were already ready for the worst scenarios.”

“And the massive cyberattacks that we repelled in January and February became additional 'training' before the invasion,” he said.

The scale of cyberattacks is now much wider, particularly compared to previous years, he said. In 2020, nearly 800 cyberattacks were recorded, while in 2021 it jumped to 1,400, and in 2022 the number increased more than three times.

“Today, the aggressor country launches an average of more than 10 cyberattacks per day. Fortunately, Ukrainian society does not even know about most of them,” Vitiuk said.

He added that attackers are most likely to target energy, logistics, military facilities, government databases and information resources.

“We monitor risks and threats in real-time 24/7. We know most of the hackers from the Russian special services working against us by name. We are working on documenting them,” Vitiuk said, declaring they would face hearings at a future international military tribunal.
7:44 p.m. ET, December 26, 2022

Zelensky calls situation on front lines in Donbas region "difficult, painful"

From CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton

Ukrainian President Zelensky said the front lines of Bakhmut, Kreminna and other areas in the eastern Donbas region are “difficult, painful.”

“The situation there is difficult, painful. The occupants are spending all the resources available to them — and these are significant resources — to squeeze out at least some progress,” he said in his nightly address Monday. 

He thanked employees who worked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to restore energy to different parts of the country. He said that while there are still some outages, the situation is improving.

"As of this evening, about 9 million people are cut off in different regions of Ukraine. But the number and duration of outages is gradually decreasing. I am grateful to each and every person who ensured this result,” he said. 

"Today, I held a special meeting with government officials on the situation in the energy sector and infrastructure. We are preparing for the next year — and not only for the winter months. There are threats that must be eliminated. There are steps to be taken. And the state will definitely make them."

The Ukrainian president told people to be prepared for further Russian attacks as the war stretches on, saying, "Air defense is preparing, the state is preparing, and everyone must be prepared. Please pay attention to the sirens."

7:41 p.m. ET, December 26, 2022

Putin says he is ready to "negotiate with everyone involved" regarding Ukraine

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Hira Humayun

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is ready to “negotiate with everyone involved in this process about acceptable solutions” regarding the war in Ukraine, according to Russian state news agency TASS, citing Putin’s interview with state TV Sunday.

"I don't think it is so dangerous, I think we are moving in the right direction, protecting our national interests and the interests of our citizens, our people. And we simply have no other choice but to protect our citizens," Putin said. "We are ready to negotiate with everyone involved in this process about acceptable solutions, but it's up to them. It's not us who is refusing to negotiate, it's them.”

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted in response saying, “Putin needs to come back to reality.”

Russia “single-handedly attacked Ukraine and is killing citizens,” Podolyak added. “Russia doesn’t want negotiations, but tries to avoid responsibility. This is obvious, so we are moving to the Tribunal.”

Remember: Putin’s remarks comes as Russia continues its offensive against Ukraine. On Sunday, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of Donetsk regional military administration, said Russian troops hit Kramatorsk with three rockets. An industrial area was hit but there were no casualties.

7:40 p.m. ET, December 26, 2022

Russia puts foreign investigative journalist on its "wanted" list

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Ivana Kottasová

Russia has put the investigative journalist Christo Grozev on its “wanted” list, according to the Russian Interior Ministry.

Grozev, who is Bulgarian, is the lead Russia investigator at the journalism group Bellingcat.

Information published on the ministry’s website said he was “wanted under an article of the Criminal Code,” without specifying the exact article.

According to the independent human rights monitor OVD-Info, a criminal case on disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army has been opened against Grozev.

The Russian government adopted a law criminalizing the dissemination of what it calls “deliberately false” information about the Russian armed forces in early March, just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The maximum penalty under the law is 15 years in prison.

Read more here.