US State Department reiterates concern about China's "alignment with Russia" after Putin-Xi call
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
A US State Department spokesperson expressed concern about China's "alignment with Russia as Moscow continues its brutal and unlawful invasion of Ukraine" after a call today between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“Beijing claims to be neutral, but its behavior makes clear it is still investing in close ties to Russia,” the spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.
“The United States and Europe have warned the PRC of the consequences of providing Russia military assistance for its war against Ukraine or systematic assistance with sanctions evasion,” the spokesperson continued, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
“We are monitoring Beijing’s activity closely,” the spokesperson said, adding that “those that side with Moscow in this unjust war will inevitably find themselves on the wrong side of history.”
“The world is watching to see which nations stand up for the basic principles of freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty, and which stand by or tacitly support Russia in its premeditated and unprovoked war of choice,” the spokesperson said.
2:40 p.m. ET, December 30, 2022
Zelensky vows Ukrainian air defense will become "even stronger" in the new year
From CNN's Mariya Knight
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he thinks Ukraine's air defense can become "the most powerful in Europe" and help uphold security for his country and Europe.
“Ukrainian air defense can become the most powerful in Europe, and this will be a guarantee of security not only for our country, but also for the entire continent,” Zelensky said in his nightly address on Friday.
“This year, we not only maintained our air defenses, but we made them stronger than ever,” Zelensky continued. “But in the new year, Ukrainian air defense will become even stronger, even more effective.”
Ukraine’s president also said he held another staff meeting on Friday, with the main point of discussion about the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, “where the fiercest battles are going on.” He said Ukraine is holding its positions in the cities of Bakhmut, Soledar and Kreminna.
“There are also areas of the front where we are slowly advancing,” Zelensky said, without giving further details.
Zelensky also called the electricity supply issue “one of the most important tasks for the next year.”
1:38 p.m. ET, December 30, 2022
Backup power line at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant damaged and disconnected due to Russian shelling, IAEA says
From CNN's Mariya Knight
The backup power line at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was damaged and disconnected due to shelling, UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said in a statement on Friday.
“A 330 kilovolt (kV) backup power line to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) was disconnected late yesterday due to damage caused by shelling,” Grossi's statement read. “The ZNPP, whose six reactors are all in shutdown, continues to receive the off-site electricity it needs for reactor cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions from the plant’s only remaining operational 750 kV external power line.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team said the connection to the 330 kV backup power line was lost at 9:35 p.m. local time Thursday “as a result of damage on the other side of the Dnipro River, some distance away from the plant itself.”
The IAEA statement also informed that while there has been no direct shelling of the ZNPP since November, the IAEA experts on site reported on Friday that they heard “the sound of loud explosions today that appeared to come from a distance of a few hundred meters from the facility, in the area of the water channel connecting the nearby Zaporizhzhia thermal power station with the Dnipro River.”
The status of other nuclear plants: Ukraine informed the IAEA that the country’s three other NPPs, located in Ukrainian-controlled territory, were “in the process of restoring their electrical power production levels following a decrease in output after Thursday’s missile attacks.”
More background: During the first week of December, Ukraine claimed some Russian troops were withdrawing from their positions in Ukraine’s southern region of Zaporizhzhia. The General Staff of the Ukrainian military said Russian units left the settlements of Mykhailivka, Polohy and Inzhenerne, all towns south of the city of Zaporizhzhia.
1:15 p.m. ET, December 30, 2022
Ukraine's presidential office says more than 1,800 settlements have been taken back from Russian occupation
From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta
A total of 1,884 Ukrainian settlements have been liberated from Russian occupation since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to a Ukrainian presidential official.
“Infrastructure is one of our main priorities,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said in a Telegram post on Friday, adding that “15,199 infrastructure objects have already been restored, almost as many are in the process of restoration.”
“On the northern border, we are putting up protective structures — anti-vehicle and anti-personnel barriers, mine-explosive barriers, and reinforced concrete sections,” Tymoshenko added.
Tymoshenko said there are 11,500 so-called "Invincibility Points" in Ukraine that offer emergency shelter and services for Ukrainians without power following Russian attacks.
He said that Ukraine received another batch of Starlink satellite units from Poland that will power the "Invincibility Points" as well as go toward energy and medical institutions.
“This is the third batch we have received from Poland and the first part of a large batch that will arrive by the end of January,” he said.
Air attacks: Also on Friday, Serhii Popko, head of Kyiv city military administration, spoke about what he called "air genocide" in Kyiv that “continues to this day.”
Russia has carried out 52 air attacks on the city of Kyiv since the beginning of war and more than 600 buildings have been damaged, Popko said in a Telegram post on Friday.
According to Popko, 120 Kyiv civilians have been killed this year due to Russian shelling, including five children.
Another 495 residents have been injured, with 30 of them being children, Popko added.
Popko also said air raid sirens have sounded 638 times in Kyiv since the invasion.
“The total duration of the alarms was 693 hours and 49 minutes,” he wrote. “This makes almost 29 days! The whole calendar month this year the city residents spent in bomb shelters!”
10:33 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022
China and Russia should "inject more stability" into the world, Xi says according to Chinese state media
From CNN's Alex Stambaugh in Hong Kong
China and Russia should "strengthen strategic coordination" and "inject more stability into the world," Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin via video link on Friday, according to Chinese state media Xinhua.
China is "ready to work" with Russia to "stand against hegemonism and power politics" to oppose unilateralism, protectionism and "bullying," as well as to safeguard sovereignty, security, as well as international equity and justice, Xi said, according to Chinese state media.
Putin said that China and Russia have maintained a "sound momentum of development" in the midst of the "current complex and severe international situation," the media report added.
Putin said the two had progressed cooperation in various fields, including energy, agriculture, transportation, infrastructure, sports and people-to-people exchanges, the report further added.
"The resilience, maturity and stability of Russia-China ties have been enhanced further," Putin said, according to Chinese state media.
Xi also said China is ready to resume normal cross-border travel with Russia and other countries "in an orderly manner," Xinhua reported.
8:54 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022
It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know
From CNN's Eliza Mackintosh
As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine rages on and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping grapples with an unprecedented Covid outbreak, a call between the two leaders on Friday underscored their mutual relationship and increasing isolation.
Meanwhile, a day after what appeared to be one of Moscow's largest missile barrages since the war began, Ukraine said Russia was continuing to target the country with drone strikes, shelling and artillery attacks.
Here are the latest headlines:
Putin claims Russia-China partnership can "withstand all tests": In a virtual meeting on Friday, Putin told Xi that their partnership was more important than ever in the face of "unprecedented pressure and provocations from the West," Russian state TV reported. He also invited Xi to Moscow in the spring of 2023.
Ukraine's military says it intercepted more drone attacks: Sixteen Iranian-made drones launched by Russia overnight were shot down by Ukraine's air defense forces, its military said on Friday. Seven of the 16 drones were shot down in the Kyiv region, according to local authorities.
Battle for key city Bakhmut is "very serious": Ukraine's military said Russia is diverting many of its resources to the battle for Bakhmut, an embattled city in Donetsk, but they've made no advances, according to the Ukrainian military. An adviser to Ukraine's president said that Ukrainian and Russian forces were both experiencing heavy troop losses in Bakhmut, describing it as "very serious."
Ukraine's electricity deficit stable after Russian strikes: Ukraine's national energy company said that the electricity deficit was stable after Russia's missile attacks on Thursday, but the situation in the south and east "remains difficult," as crews try to repair damaged infrastructure and New Year's Eve approaches.
Russia claims "all targets" struck in Thursday's attacks: Russia's Defense Ministry has claimed that Thursday's missile strikes "neutralized'" all their assigned targets. Ukraine's military, on the other hand, said the vast majority of missiles were intercepted.
8:30 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022
Kremlin expresses "extreme concern" over claim of Ukrainian missile downed in Belarus
From CNN’s Darya Tarasova and Allegra Goodwin
The Kremlin on Friday expressed “extreme concern” after Belarus said the wreckage of a Ukrainian missile had landed on its soil Thursday.
“The Kremlin is concerned about the incident with the fall of the Ukrainian rocket in Belarus,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“This is an event that causes extreme concern not only among us, but also among our Belarusian partners,” Peskov continued, adding the armed forces of the two countries were “in constant contact.”
Peskov’s comments come after the Belarusian defense ministry claimed on Thursday that it had shot down the missile and that fragments from the Ukrainian S-300 anti-aircraft guided missile had then landed on its territory in an area close to the country’s border with Ukraine.
CNN was not able to independently verify the ministry's report.
Responding to the allegation, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said it was “aware of the Kremlin's desperate and persistent efforts to drag Belarus into its aggressive war against Ukraine,” adding it would "not rule out" a "deliberate provocation" from Russia.
CNN's Uliana Pavlova, Radina Gigova, Niamh Kennedy and Yulia Kesaieva contributed reporting to this post.
8:12 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022
3 Ukrainians killed in cross-border shelling
From CNN's Denis Lapin
Three people have died in cross-border shelling in northern Ukraine, according to the deputy head of the Ukrainian president's office.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko said that two people were killed and another two wounded in Russian shelling on the village of Katerynivka, in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
In the town of Semenivka, in the northern Chernihiv region, artillery fire left one person dead and cut off electricity, according to Tymoshenko.
8:04 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022
Ukraine's electricity deficit is stable after latest round of Russian attacks, energy provider says
From CNN's Denis Lapin
Ukrenergo, Ukraine's national energy company, said that the electricity deficit was stable after Russia's missile attacks on Thursday, but that the situation in the south and east "remains difficult."
"As of December 30, the power system deficit is at the same level as before the 10th massive Russian missile attack," it said Friday in a post on the messaging app Telegram.
"Thanks to the professional actions of Ukrenergo's dispatch centre, the consequences of the damage had a much smaller impact on the operation of the power system than the enemy expected," Ukrenergo said. "The power system resumes normal operation as planned. Power generation continues to increase its capacity."
The company said the situation in Ukraine's southern and eastern regions was "difficult" due to strikes on some power facilities. "Repair crews together with generation and regional power companies are working to repair the damage," it said.