December 30, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Eliza Mackintosh, Leinz Vales, Aditi Sangal, Matt Meyer and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 2204 GMT (0604 HKT) December 30, 2022
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5:35 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022

Putin says Russia-China partnership more important than ever amid "unprecedented pressure and provocations from the West"

From CNN's Darya Tarasova 

China's President Xi Jinping, left, is welcomed by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during the opening ceremony of "The Year of Chinese Tourism in Russia" in Moscow, on March 22, 2013.
China's President Xi Jinping, left, is welcomed by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during the opening ceremony of "The Year of Chinese Tourism in Russia" in Moscow, on March 22, 2013. (Sergei Ilnitsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping began a call via video link on Friday by reaffirming their mutual partnership in the face of international condemnation over Moscow's war in Ukraine.

In opening remarks broadcast on Russian state TV, Putin said that the stabilizing force of the Russia-China relationship was becoming even more critical against the backdrop of increasing geopolitical tensions.

He added that relations between the Russian Federation and China were "the best in history" and could "withstand all tests," and invited Xi to Moscow in the spring of 2023.

"We share the same views on the causes, course and logic of the ongoing transformation of the global geopolitical landscape," Putin said. "In the face of unprecedented pressure and provocations from the West, we defend our principled positions and defend not only our own interests, but also all those who stand for a truly democratic system and the right of countries to freely determine their own destiny."

The Russian leader also pointed to record growth in trade, despite "unfavorable market conditions," a veiled reference to sanctions, and said they would increase trade turnover to $200 billion ahead of schedule.

Putin also said that the two countries would strengthen cooperation between their armed forces: "We intend to strengthen cooperation between the armed forces of Russia and China."

6:59 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022

Iranian-made drone damages administrative and residential buildings in Kyiv

From CNN's Dennis Lapin in Kyiv and Martin Goillandeau in London

Damage to a residential building by a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 30.
Damage to a residential building by a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 30. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

An Iranian-made Shahed drone partially destroyed a four-story administrative building and damaged a nearby residential building in Kyiv on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said, amid a barrage of Russian attacks overnight.

The drone strike on the administrative building in Holosiivskyi, a leafy southwestern district in the capital, started a fire, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president's office, said in a post on the messaging app Telegram.

The strike blew out windows in a nearby nine-story residential building. Photos from the scene showed shattered panes of glass and shards strewn on the ground.

Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the damage was a "result of falling debris,” and that no one was injured in the attack.

Sixteen Iranian-made drones launched by Russia overnight were shot down by Ukraine's air defense forces, its military said on Friday, a day after what appeared to be one of Moscow's largest missile barrages since the war began.

Seven of the 16 drones were shot down in the Kyiv region, according to local authorities.

4:43 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022

Ukraine shoots down 16 Iranian-made drones, Air Force Command says

From Dennis Lapin in Kyiv and Martin Goillandeau in London

Ukrainian air defense forces shot down 16 Iranian-made Shahed drones overnight through Friday, the Air Force Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.

The attacks come a day after Russia launched one of the largest missile barrages against Ukraine since the war began.

The drones "attacked Ukraine from the southeastern and northern directions. To overcome the air defense system of Ukraine, the enemy tried to use the Dnipro riverbed,” the the Air Force Command statement said. “All 16 kamikaze drones were destroyed by the forces and equipment of the 'Skhid' (East) and 'Center' air commands, as well as air defense units of other units of the Ukrainian Defense Forces."

Five drones were shot down over the capital Kyiv in the early hours of Friday, the city’s military administration said in a Telegram post.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko added in a Telegram post that two other drones were shot down outside the city, bringing the total shot over the Kyiv region to seven.

3:30 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022

Xi and Putin to speak via video as grinding Ukraine war tests China-Russia partnership

From CNN's Jessie Yeung

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, greets Chinese President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting on November 13, 2019 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, greets Chinese President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting on November 13, 2019 in Brasilia, Brazil. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are scheduled to speak Friday via video conference, the Kremlin said, with analysts watching for any sign of a softening in the Chinese leader’s support for the Russian president after more than 10 months of war in Ukraine and as China faces an unprecedented Covid outbreak.

The two leaders will primarily discuss bilateral relations between their countries, and exchange views on regional issues and their strategic partnership, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

Moscow and Beijing have drawn closer in recent years, with Xi and Putin declaring the two countries had a “no limits” partnership weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

China has since refused to condemn the aggression, instead repeatedly laying blame for the conflict on NATO and the United States — and remaining one of Russia’s key remaining supporters as it grows increasingly isolated on the world stage.

But more than 10 months into the grinding war, the world looks much different — and the dynamic between both partners has shifted accordingly, experts say.

“China is eager for (the war) to end,” said Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Washington-based think tank Stimson Center.

“Xi will try to emphasize the importance of peace to Putin. As Russia is getting impatient with the lack of progress on the battlefield, the timing is ripening for peace talk in China’s eyes.”

Read more here.

8:18 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022

Ukrainian forces face "heavy losses" in Bakhmut and Soledar, presidential adviser says

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Oleksii Arestovych in Kyiv on October 10.
Oleksii Arestovych in Kyiv on October 10. (Oleksii Chumachenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Heavy Russian attacks on the eastern Ukrainian cities of Bakhmut and Soledar "smack of desperation, reminiscent of suicide bombers," according to a Ukrainian presidential adviser.

Oleksiy Arestovych was speaking during his nightly livestream on Feygin Live, a pro-Ukrainian channel.

As fighting continues in the area, Ukrainian forces are experiencing heavy troop losses, Arestovych said, adding "[the enemy] is losing more, of course, but we have heavy losses. It's a very serious fight." 

Some context: Bakhmut has become perhaps the most contested and kinetic part of the 1,300 kilometer (800 mile) front line in Ukraine and the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the war. The greater Donetsk region, where Bakhmut and Soledar are located, has been held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014 and is one of four Ukrainian regions that Moscow claims as Russian territory in violation of international law.

1:45 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022

Russian region offers paid tuition for children of military conscripts

From CNN's Josh Pennington

A remote Russian republic is offering to pay the tuition fees of students whose parents are enlisted in the military, according to the region's education minister.

Aybulat Khazhin, education minister of Bashkortostan, said on Telegram that students whose parents have been drafted to serve in the Russian army will receive coverage for their college tuition, dormitory expenses and additional financial support.

Khazhin said the effort is meant as a "means of social support to students studying in programs of secondary professional education and higher education whose parents have been drafted during the partial mobilization."

Some context: In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an immediate "partial mobilization" in a bid to reinforce his faltering invasion of Ukraine. The controversial move sparked protests and an exodus of young men from Russia who were at risk of punishment if they refused to be drafted.

Russian officials ended the draft in November and claimed that its target of recruiting 300,000 personnel had been completed.

8:19 a.m. ET, December 30, 2022

Ukrainian officials say power supply remains limited in key regions after Russian strikes

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Blackout in Lviv, Ukraine, after a Russian missile attack on December 29.
Blackout in Lviv, Ukraine, after a Russian missile attack on December 29. (Pavlo Palamarchuk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Russia’s latest attacks on Ukraine damaged power facilities and left key regions with limited electricity supply Thursday evening, a top Ukrainian official said in an update.

Even though the country's air defenses shot down many missiles from the Russian barrage, “some of them hit several power facilities," said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.

"We will not specify the locations of these objects, but because of these hits, we have limited power supply capacities in some regions," he continued.

Engineers are working to restore electricity across Ukraine, with capacity limitations remaining in Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa, he said.

Tymoshenko said he was hopeful the situation in Kyiv would improve Friday.

He praised the efforts of engineers who worked through the past week to stabilize supply in the capital, saying their hard work was realized on Christmas weekend, "when practically all households in Kyiv had electricity supply."

"I believe that now our power engineers will work a few more hours in such a mode and there will be a normal power supply to the city of Kyiv,” Tymoshenko said.

Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, CEO of the Ukrainian utility Ukrenergo, also reported that disruptions to energy supply persisted Thursday evening.

“At the moment, a significant part of the generating capacities in the system has been restored, but there is significant damage to the network and some power plants. That is related to the fact that it was not one missile attack, but in fact a series of attacks,” he said.

Repairs are ongoing, but due to significant network damage, “it is difficult for us to supply electricity in regions of Kharkiv, Kyiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson and Lviv,” he said.

8:14 p.m. ET, December 29, 2022

Ukraine says Russia is diverting resources to fight for key Donetsk city and claims gradual advance in Luhansk

From CNN's Tim Lister and Yulia Kesaieva

The Ukrainian military says Russian forces have diverted resources to the battle for the key city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region but have made no advances.

Brig. Gen. Oleksii Hromov, deputy chief of the General Staff’s main operational directorate, told a briefing Thursday that the situation in the east remained difficult for Ukrainian forces, as the Russians conducted offensive actions on several fronts, including Bakhmut, Avdiivka and toward Kupyansk, which was liberated in September.

"The main efforts of the enemy concentrated on the Bakhmut direction," Hromov said. "Around Bakhmut, the defenders of Ukraine are resisting up to 20 attacks of the enemy daily, which is persistently attacking the positions of our troops under the cover of artillery fire.

"In order to concentrate artillery fire around Bakhmut, the enemy has deliberately reduced the number of attacks on the positions of our troops in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia directions in recent weeks, with ammunition being delivered to the Bakhmut and Lyman directions."

Lyman is another settlement in Donetsk liberated by Ukrainian forces at the end of September.

"More than 40% of the enemy's artillery attacks along the contact line from Kupyansk to Mariinka are in the Bakhmut direction," Hromov said.

Other advancements: Hromov said Ukrainian forces had made gradual progress towards the city of Kreminna in the eastern Luhansk region. The city fell to the Russians in the spring.

Ukrainian units had advanced up to 2.5 kilometers (more than 1 mile) in the direction of Kreminna this week, Hromov said. The area has been heavily mined by the Russians, according to Ukrainian officials.

Hromov also claimed that Russia was beginning to prepare defensive lines around the city of Luhansk "in case the Ukrainian Defense Forces break through the defensive borders of the Russian occupation troops on the Svatove-Kreminna line and, accordingly, move the hostilities closer" to the area.

Hromov said that following Russia's partial mobilization, trained units continued to be moved to occupied territories of Ukraine. He said that in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, units of the Russian territorial reserve had been deployed.

"We are tracking the movement of enemy units. Currently, there is no significant threat of offensive grouping in the Zaporizhzhia sector."

7:59 p.m. ET, December 29, 2022

Belarus claims to have shot down missile launched from Ukraine

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Radina Gigova

The Belarusian Ministry of Defense said Thursday that fragments from a Ukrainian S-300 anti-aircraft guided missile landed on its territory in an area close to the border with Ukraine.  

“Today, at around 10 o’clock, an air target was hit by the forces of the air defense," the ministry said in a statement. "Its fragments were found in an agricultural field near the village of Gorbakha, Ivanovo district, Brest region.

"During the verification activities, it was preliminarily established that the wreckage belonged to an S-300 anti-aircraft guided missile fired from the territory of Ukraine."

CNN has not been able to independently verify the ministry's report and has reached out to the Ukrainian military for comment.

What Ukraine is saying: Kyiv said Thursday that it would investigate the Belarusian missile report, adding that it had not ruled out a Russian false flag operation aimed at placing blame on Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said in a statement that it was "aware of the Kremlin's desperate and persistent efforts to drag Belarus into its aggressive war against Ukraine."

"In this regard, the Ukrainian side does not rule out a deliberate provocation on the part of the terrorist state of Russia, which laid such a route for its cruise missiles to provoke their interception in the airspace over the territory of Belarus," the update said. 

Ukraine said it would conduct an investigation and was also prepared to invite "reputable experts" from states not affiliated with Russia to participate.