Ukraine war live updates: U.S. and Russia make another prisoner swap; Moscow says no 'Christmas ceasefire'
This is CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine. See below for the latest updates.
Ukraine's capital Kyiv woke to blasts and air raid sirens on Wednesday, according to reports from local officials who said the city had been attacked by Iranian-made "Shahed" drones.
Oleksii Kuleba, the head of the Kyiv regional military administration, warned residents that the air alert remained in place and that civilians should take shelter. "The air alert continues. The danger remains. Stay in shelters," he said.
It's unknown what structures the drone attacks were targeting but Kuleba said "Russia continues the energy terror of the country."
In other news, snap Belarusian military drills that began on Tuesday sparked concerns about an escalation of the war in Ukraine, although Ukraine's armed forces said they have not yet seen signs of the "formation of enemy offensive groups" along the Belarus-Ukraine border.
Ukrainian and Polish military officials discussed the "security situation on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border" after the check on the combat-readiness of troops in Belarus, according to NBC News, and agreed to coordinate joint action in the days ahead.
Belarus borders Ukraine to the north and Poland to the east. While Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly said his country will not join the war, Belarus is Russia's ally and has allowed it to launch attacks on Ukraine from its territory.
'Russia is destroying city after city,' Zelenskyy says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces are destroying "everything in front of them."
"There is no calm on the front line. There is nothing easy and simple. Every day and every meter is fought for extremely hard," Zelenskyy said in a nightly address on his Telegram channel.
"Russia is destroying city after city in Donbas - like Mariupol, like Volnovakha, like Bakhmut," he added..
Zelenskyy also thanked Ukrainian forces for "repelling another attack by Iranian drones this morning."
— Amanda Macias
Donors gather in Paris to get Ukraine though winter, bombing
Dozens of countries and international organizations threw their weight and more than 1 billion dollars in aid pledges behind an urgent new push to keep Ukrainians powered, fed, warmed and moving as winter approaches.
An international donor conference in Paris quickly racked up substantial promises of financial and in-kind support, a defiant response to sustained Russian aerial bombardment of critical infrastructure that has plunged millions of Ukrainian civilians into deepening cold and dark.
More military aid is also on the way. U.S. officials said the Pentagon is poised to approve sending a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, agreeing to an urgent request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who is desperate for more robust weapons to shoot down incoming Russian weapons.
The approval is likely to come later this week and could be announced as early as Thursday, said three officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision is not final and has not been made public. Providing Patriot surface-to-air missiles could mark an escalation in the conflict.
— Associated Press
WNBA star Griner 'seems to be well and in good health,' White House says following prisoner exchange
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that WNBA star Brittney Griner is "in good spirits and good health" since arriving back to the United States last week.
"By all accounts, she seems to be well and in good health," Kirby said.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist was serving a nine-year sentence in a Russian penal colony after she was convicted on drug charges in August.
Griner was handed over to U.S. officials in exchange for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.
Earlier in the week, the White House said that President Joe Biden had not yet spoken to Griner since she was released from Russia. Biden spoke to Griner from the Oval Office as she was headed to the United States.
— Amanda Macias
White House confirms U.S. citizen released in latest prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia
The White House confirmed that a U.S. citizen was released from Russian detention following another prisoner swap between Moscow and Kyiv.
"I can confirm that a U.S. national has been transferred as part of the transfer between prisoners between Russia and Ukraine today," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on a conference call according to NBC News.
"We certainly welcome that news. But for privacy reasons, I really can't go into any more detail about this individual," he added.
Earlier in the day, Andriy Yermak, the head of the President's Office of Ukraine said on Telegram the exchange consisted of 64 Ukrainian soldiers who were captured in Donetsk and Luhansk and an American named Suedi Murekezi.
— Amanda Macias
Backlog of 82 ships waiting to transport crops from Ukraine
The organization overseeing the export of Ukrainian crops said that there is a backlog of 82 vessels waiting to be loaded with cargo.
The U.N.-led Joint Coordination Center also said that 62 loaded vessels are waiting for inspection in Turkish territorial waters.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the United Nations, eased Russia's naval blockade and saw the reopening of three key Ukrainian ports.
Since the deal was signed, more than 545 ships carrying 13.8 million metric tons of grain and other food products have left for destinations around the world.
Kyiv has previously blamed Moscow for holding up inspections and delaying vessel movements.
— Amanda Macias
Russia says no 'Christmas ceasefire,' as Ukraine downs drones
Moscow said no "Christmas ceasefire" was on the cards after nearly 10 months of war in Ukraine, where the first major drone attack on the capital Kyiv in weeks damaged two buildings but was largely repelled by air defenses.
The two sides are not currently engaged in talks to end the conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions more and turned cities to rubble since Russia invaded its neighbour on Feb. 24.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week Russia should start withdrawing from his country by Christmas as a step to end Europe's biggest conflict since World War Two. Moscow rejected the proposal outright, saying Ukraine must accept the loss of territory to Russia before any progress can be made.
More than 6,700 people have died in Ukraine, United Nations says
More than 6,750 civilians have died and 10,600 have been injured in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher than that because armed conflict can delay fatality reports.
Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes, according to the organization.
— Amanda Macias
UNICEF donates more than $20 million in winter supplies for Ukraine
The United Nations Children's Fund said that it has donated more than $20 million in winter supplies for Ukraine since Russia's war broke out in late February.
"As areas previously affected by heavy fighting become accessible, UNICEF started distributing winter clothing kits, water heaters, and generators in the frontline and newly accessible areas of Kharkiv, Kherson and Donetsk oblasts," wrote UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell in a statement.
The donations have provided safe drinking water to more than 4.2 million people as well as critical water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to more than 1 million people.
— Amanda Macias
Nearly 7 million children at risk as Russian attacks on energy infrastructure cause widespread blackouts
The U.N. warned that nearly 7 million children in Ukraine are don't have regular access to electricity, heat or water, raising their risks as temperatures drop.
"Millions of children are facing a bleak winter huddled in the cold and the dark, with little idea of how or when respite may arrive," UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell said in a statement.
In addition to the freezing temperatures, the lack of adequate electricity interrupts their education with schools damaged or destroyed and so many children relying on remote learning, UNICEF said.
"Beyond the immediate threats the freezing conditions bring, children are also deprived of the ability to learn or stay connected with friends and family, putting both their physical and their mental health at desperate risk," she added.
In October, Russian forces intensified attacks on energy infrastructure and were successful in destroying nearly half of Ukraine's power production.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine's security service carries out "counter-intelligence" measures in churches and monasteries
Ukraine's SBU security service said it carried out "counter-intelligence" measures in churches and monasteries across the country in its most recent descent on religious sites of the Russia-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
— Reuters | Getty Images
People of Ukraine handed EU’s top human rights prize
The people of Ukraine and their representatives were handed the European Union's top human rights prize Wednesday for their resistance to Russia's invasion and defiance during the ongoing war.
The 27-nation bloc awarded the "brave people of Ukraine" the prize in October. Yulia Pajevska, founder of the medical evacuation unit Angels of Taira, human rights activist Oleksandra Matviichuk and Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol, were on hand to receive it during a solemn ceremony in Strasbourg, France.
"We have witnessed the inspiring resistance of ordinary citizens making the ultimate sacrifice to delay a column of tanks, senior citizens standing up to face down Russian troops with nothing but pride as their weapons. Brave women forced to give birth in underground metro stations," said European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
"To these people, the message from Europe has been clear. We stand with Ukraine. We will not look away," she said.
The EU award, named for Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, was created in 1988 to honor individuals or groups who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. Sakharov, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died in 1989
— Associated Press
Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have become refugees from Russia’s war, U.N. estimates
Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have become refugees and moved to neighboring countries since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates.
More than 4.8 million of those people have applied for temporary resident status in neighboring Western European countries, according to data collected by the agency.
"The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance," the U.N. Refugee Agency wrote.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine considers moves to ensure border security, president's office says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and top military officials discussed moves to ensure border security at a meeting of the supreme command on Wednesday, the president's office said.
The office placed particular emphasis on the moves to secure the border in a statement issued after the meeting, without saying which part of the border was focused on.
The statement followed a flurry of military activity in neighbouring Belarus, an ally of Moscow. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, it used Belarus as a launch pad.
"The recent activities of the enemy and the way to confront it were ... analysed. Particular attention was given to ensuring the security of Ukraine's state border," it said.
U.S. citizen among those in latest prisoner exchange
Ukraine and Russia have conducted another prisoner swap with a U.S. citizen among the latest group of prisoners to be exchanged, according to Andriy Yermak, the head of the President's Office of Ukraine.
"Another exchange of prisoners. We continue to return our people. 64 soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who fought in the Donetsk and Luhansk directions, in particular, participated in the defense of the city of Bakhmut, are going home. These are officers, privates and sergeants, our heroes," Yermak said on Telegram Wednesday, according to a Google translation.
He added that "it was also possible to free a U.S. citizen who helped our people" before naming Suedi Murekezi.
Murekezi was reportedly arrested in June in Kherson, where he had been living for several years, according to friends and family cited in a report by the Guardian newspaper. He was then held by pro-Russian separatist forces in the city of Donetsk in the self-proclaimed "People's Republic of Donetsk," the report noted.
— Holly Ellyatt
Kherson comes under more heavy shelling
The city of Kherson and the wider Kherson region in southern Ukraine — which was partially liberated in November after a Russian withdrawal from the city — has come under heavy shelling over the past 48 hours and again on Wednesday morning.
The Kherson region was shelled 42 times on Tuesday, according to Yaroslav Yanushevych, the head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration who said Russian forces had struck residential neighborhoods within the city of Kherson as well as a yacht club, school, sports facility and apartment blocks. One person was killed in the shelling and another injured.
Yanushevych had reported on Tuesday that the region of Kherson had been shelled 57 times on Monday.
The shelling continued into Wednesday morning, according to a senior official. Deputy Head of President's Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko wrote on Telegram that Russian forces had fired at the building housing Kherson's regional administration this morning. He posted images of the damaged building.
"At around 11:00 a.m. [local time], rockets from multiple rocket launchers hit the center of Kherson. Shells hit the building of the Kherson regional administration - two floors were damaged. According to preliminary information, there are no victims."
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian oil exports pick up in November, IEA says
Russian oil exports added 270,000 barrels per day from October to a seven-month high of 8.1 million barrels per day in November, the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) said today in its latest Oil Market Report.
Crude oil loadings were unchanged on the month, the agency found, estimating Russian export revenues shed $0.7 billions to $15.8 billions "on lower prices and wider discounts for Russian-origin products."
November was the last month before the implementation of a Dec. 5 EU ban on seaborne Russian crude oil exports.
— Ruxandra Iordache
13 Iranian-made drones shot down in Kyiv, no casualties reported
Ukrainian officials issued an update on drone attacks that struck the capital Wednesday morning, saying the number of Iranian-made "Shahed" drones shot down has risen from 10 to 13.
"Kyiv suffered two waves of attack by enemy drones," Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv City Military Administration, said on Telegram Wednesday.
"Thanks to the effective work of the air defense and EW (electronic warfare) units, 13 enemy drones were destroyed." He said the unmanned aerial vehicles had hit one administrative building (an earlier report suggested two administrative buildings had been damaged) and four residential buildings had suffered minor damage in the Shevchenkivsky district of the capital.
"People were not injured," he said.
— Holly Ellyatt
Debate in Russia over the conduct of the war likely to be fraught, UK says
Britain's Ministry of Defense said Wednesday that the debate over the conduct of the war in Russia is likely to be fraught, citing recent criticism from a well-known Russian nationalist as symptomatic of general misgivings about the conflict.
"On 06 December 2022, Igor Girkin, and former military intelligence officer, claimed he had spent two months embedded with a Donetsk People's Republic battalion on the front line. He said his recent experiences had revealed a 'crisis of strategic planning' in Russia's Ukraine operation," the ministry noted in its daily intelligence update on Twitter.
"Since his deployment, Girkin has also derided the Russian military's current emphasis upon constructing extensive, positional defensive works, questioning their utility in modern warfare."
Girkin's comments "highlight the fraught debate about the conduct of the war which continues within Russia's security community," the U.K. noted.
It added that rumors circulating on social media within the last 48 hours suggesting that Russian Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov could have been fired cannot be verified, but they suggest that "factional tensions likely extend to the top of Russia's military hierarchy."
— Holly Ellyatt
Two administrative buildings, one house damaged in Kyiv drone strikes
Two administrative buildings in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv were damaged in drone attacks Wednesday morning, with a house damaged in nearby Vyshneve just south of the city, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Office of the President.
"The danger is not over yet! Stay in shelters!" Tymoshenko said on Telegram.
Ukraine's Air Force put out a statement reiterating earlier comments by Ukrainian officials stating that Iranian-made, explosive-laden drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) had attacked the capital earlier Wednesday morning.
"Attacking UAVs are flying from the direction of the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov," the Air Force noted, saying 10 "Shahed 136/131" drones had been destroyed "by anti-aircraft missile units and other fire means of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine."
It said "combat work is still ongoing."
— Holly Ellyatt
'Danger remains' in Kyiv after explosions heard; 'Shahed' drones shot down
Ukraine's capital woke to the sounds of explosions and an attack by Russian drones on Wednesday morning, with officials telling residents to remain in shelters while air alerts continue.
"The morning in the capital and the Kyiv region began with an attack by Russian drones," Oleksii Kuleba, the head of the Kyiv regional military administration, said on Telegram.
"Most of the drones were shot down by air defense forces in the region. The air alert continues. The danger remains. Stay in shelters," he said. It's unknown what structures the drone attacks were targeting but Kuleba said "Russia continues the energy terror of the country."
The Kyiv City Military Administration posted on Telegram in the early hours of the morning that the city's air alerts were active and called for people to shelter.
The administration then said that 10 "Shahed" Iranian-made drones had been shot down by air defense forces in the city and that information on any casualties was being clarified.
Explosions were also heard in the city in the early hours, according to two Reuters witnesses, although the cause of the blasts remains uncertain.
Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on his Telegram account that 10 drones had been shot down. He said there had been explosions in the Shevchenkivsky district of the capital, with emergency services at the scene and more details to follow.
— Holly Ellyatt
Zelenskyy thanks allies for 'new strength' to get Ukraine through the winter
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked his country's allies for new aid that he said would help sustain his country through Russian assaults in the coming months.
"Every day we gain new strength for Ukraine to get through this winter, and I thank everyone who works for this and who helps our state," he said, according to a translation of a nightly address.
He pointed to conferences in France designed to support critical Ukrainian infrastructure and help the country rebuild after the war. Zelenskyy said one event yielded $1 billion, primarily to support the country's energy sector.
He added that multiple other European countries, including the Czech Republic, Spain, Switzerland and Italy, have either approved or are preparing assistance packages for Ukraine.
— Jacob Pramuk
U.S. set to send Patriot missile system to Ukraine, officials tell NBC
The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send a Patriot missile system to Ukraine, three Defense officials told NBC News.
The Pentagon could announce the decision as soon as this week.
The surface-to-air system would help Ukraine repel Russian aerial attacks. The Ukrainian government has pleaded for the capabilities after weeks of missile assaults wreaked havoc on cities.
— Jacob Pramuk
IAEA to establish continuous monitoring programs at Ukraine's four nuclear plants
The International Atomic Energy Agency announced that it will post a dedicated team of nuclear safety and security experts to each of Ukraine's four nuclear power plants as part of a new, continuous monitoring program.
The joint venture was the result of IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi's meeting in Paris with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
The organization's mission at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant "has shown the vital importance of the IAEA being there to monitor the situation and give technical advice," Grossi said.
The new, continuous monitoring teams will "expand and strengthen the IAEA's nuclear safety and security role in the country," he said. "This is especially important at a time when Ukraine's energy infrastructure is facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the war and in the middle of the winter."
Russian shelling has destroyed vast portions of Ukraine's electric power grid in recent months, and Russian occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has raised worldwide fears of a nuclear disaster.
— Christina Wilkie
Ukrainian, Polish officials discuss snap military drills in Belarus
Ukrainian and Polish military officials spoke about the snap Belarusian military drills that have sparked concerns about potential escalation of Russia's war in Ukraine.
In their conversation, Ukrainian Armed Forces Joint Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Serhiy Nayev and Polish Commander of the Operational Command of the Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Tomasz Piotrowski "discussed the security situation on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border" after the check on the combat readiness of troops in Belarus, according to NBC News.
The officials expressed their concerns about the movement of troops and equipment, and agreed to coordinate joint action in the days ahead.
Piotrowski expressed Poland's support for Ukraine during the conversation.
Belarus borders Ukraine to the north and Poland to the east. While Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his country will not join the war, he did allow passage of Russian troops through the country when Russia invaded Ukraine.
— Jacob Pramuk