Russia warned the U.S. that if it sends Patriot missile systems to Ukraine it will consider the move a provocation that could lead to "unpredictable consequences."
The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send a Patriot missile system to Ukraine, three defense officials told NBC News earlier this week. The surface-to-air defense system would help Ukraine repel Russian aerial attacks.
The Russian embassy in Washington said in a statement on Telegram Wednesday that sending the Patriot missile system would be considered "provocative."
In his nightly address Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces were destroying "everything in front of them." He added that "city after city" in Donbas in eastern Ukraine was being destroyed.
"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.
U.S. to expand combat training for Ukrainian troops
The Pentagon will expand military combat training for Ukrainian forces, using the slower winter months to instruct larger units in more complex battle skills, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. has already trained about 3,100 Ukrainian troops on how to use and maintain certain weapons and other equipment, including howitzers, armored vehicles and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS. But senior military leaders for months have discussed expanding that training, touting the need to improve the ability of Ukraine's company- and battalion-sized units to move and coordinate attacks across the battlefield.
A battalion can include as many as 800 troops; a company is much smaller, with a couple hundred forces.
According to officials, the training will take place at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. And the aim is to use the winter months to hone the skills of the Ukrainian forces so they will be better prepared to counter any spike in Russian attacks or efforts to expand Russia's territorial gains.
— Associated Press
EU approves new sanctions against Russia, diplomats say
The European Union said it approved a new package of sanctions aimed at ramping up pressure on Russia for its war in Ukraine.
The package, whose details have not been revealed, was approved after days of deliberations during a meeting of the 27-nation bloc's ambassadors.
The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, said the package will be confirmed by written procedure on Friday. Details will then be published in the bloc's legal records.
The European Commission, the EU's executive branch, last week proposed travel bans and asset freezes on almost 200 more Russian officials and military officers as part of the new round of measures.
The targets of the latest recommended sanctions included government ministers, lawmakers, regional governors and political parties.
— Associated Press
Four vessels depart Ukraine’s ports under Black Sea Grain Initiative
Four ships carrying wheat and vegetable oil have left ports in Ukraine, the organization managing agricultural exports from the country said.
The ships are destined for India and Turkey.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, saw three key Ukrainian ports reopen after a Russian naval blockade stopped exports for months. More than 13.9 million tons of grain and other products have left Ukraine since the agreement took effect.
The deal among the signatories is set to expire in about three months.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine grain deal unlikely to be expanded in near future, U.N. aid chief says
United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths said it was unlikely the Black Sea grain deal would be expanded in the near term to include more Ukrainian ports or reduce inspection times.
Kyiv has called for an expansion of the deal with Moscow which was mediated by the United Nations and Turkey and allows Ukraine, a major global grain exporter, to ship food products from three of its Black Sea ports despite Russia's invasion.
"I don't see that happening in the next, near term," the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator told Reuters in an interview in the Ukrainian capital.
"I think it would be great if it could be expanded, the more grain that gets out into the world, the better clearly from our point of view, from the world's point of view. But I don't think that's immediately likely."
Ukrainians take shelter on the front lines of Bakhmut
Ukrainians take shelter from Russian attacks in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
— Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
U.S. Treasury sanctions 18 entities tied to Russia's financial sector
The U.S. Treasury Department announced it has sanctioned a bank owned by a Russian billionaire, along with 17 subsidiaries of Russia's second-largest bank VTB.
The department made the move in tandem with designations the State Department issued against a prominent Russian oligarch, his associates and over 40 others linked to the Russian government. The efforts aim to limit Russian President Vladimir Putin's ability to fund Moscow's war with Ukraine.
Access to all properties and interests on U.S. soil owned by any of the sanctioned has been blocked.
— Chelsey Cox
Kyiv hit by renewed drone attacks from Russia
Ukrainian military experts show downed drones that Russia allegedly uses for striking critical infrastructure and other targets in Ukraine during a press conference in Kyiv.
Ukraine said on Wednesday it had shot down more than a dozen drones in Moscow's latest assault on Kyiv.
— Getty Images
U.S. ambassador thanks counterparts for brokering release of U.S. citizen in latest Ukraine prisoner exchange with Russia
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink cheered the release of a U.S. citizen from Russian detention following another prisoner swap between Moscow and Kyiv.
"Great to see a U.S. citizen freed from Russia-controlled territory," Brink wrote on Twitter.
"Thanks to Andriy Yermak and our Ukrainian partners for their continued efforts to secure the freedom of U.S. citizens held by Russia's forces," she continued.
Sixty-four Ukrainian soldiers, who were captured in the Russian-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the U.S. citizen Suedi Murekezi were included in the exchange, Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president's office, said on Telegram on Wednesday.
— Amanda Macias
Russia preparing for long war, Ukrainian military says
Russia is digging in for a long war in Ukraine and still wants to conquer the entire country, a senior Ukrainian military official said.
Brigadier General Oleksiy Gromov told a military briefing that although he did not expect Moscow to launch an attack from Belarus, Russian was training new troops on its neighbor's soil and had moved military aircraft there.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar, at the same briefing, warned against allowing complacency to set in after recent Russian military setbacks.
Ukrainian officials have portrayed the Kremlin as desperate to reverse recent military setbacks - which included a retreat from the southern city of Kherson after months of occupation - and secure victories to justify the war to the Russian public.
The Kremlin has never fully defined the goals of its Feb. 24 invasion, which it said was partly intended to protect Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.
Backlog of 92 ships waiting to transport crops from Ukraine
The organization in charge of exporting Ukrainian crops said 92 ships are waiting to be loaded with cargo.
Sixty-eight loaded vessels are also awaiting inspection in Turkish territorial waters, the U.N.-led Joint Coordination Center said.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the United Nations, led to the reopening of three key Ukrainian ports after a Russian naval blockade stopped exports for months.
Since the agreement went into effect, more than 550 ships carrying 13.9 million metric tons of grain and other agricultural products have departed for destinations around the globe.
Kyiv has contended Moscow has held up inspections and delayed ship departures.
— Amanda Macias
UN hopeful for Russian fertilizer exports breakthrough
A senior U.N. official voiced optimism that there would be a breakthrough in negotiations to ease exports of Russian fertilizers to avoid food shortages next year.
Russia has complained its concerns about fertilizer exports had not been addressed when a deal for extending a Black Sea grain export agreement was agreed in November.
Low Russian fertilizer exports remained a "major concern" to avoid food shortages next year, said the Secretary-General of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, Rebeca Grynspan, a key U.N. negotiator.
"I am cautiously optimistic that we can have important progress soon," she told reporters in Geneva. "We will spare no effort in trying to make this happen as we really think it is essential for avoiding a food security crisis in the world."
She declined to give further details.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has indicated that he would only back the reopening of Russian ammonia exports, used to make fertilizer, in exchange for a prisoner swap and negotiations have since focused on this.
Ukrainian first lady thanks France for support after trip to Paris
Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska thanked France for its "solidarity" with the Ukrainian people as Russia's war enters its eleventh month.
Zelenska went to France on Sunday. She led a Ukrainian delegation that included Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
During her visit, Zelenska met with Ukrainian families who have taken temporary resident status in France.
— Amanda Macias
Doctors from occupied city open hospital in Kyiv
Doctors shed their scrubs for street clothes. And one by one, the staff of the largest hospital in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine slipped away as Russian forces seized control of the city's center.
Months later, around 30 staff members from Mariupol's Hospital No. 2 have reassembled in Kyiv. Along with 30 specialists from a cardiac hospital in Kramatorsk, a Donetsk city that remains under Ukraine's control, they are opening a pared-down version of a public hospital to help displaced Ukrainians in need of care.
Much of Ukraine's medical infrastructure is going to have to be rebuilt from scratch. The World Health Organization has documented 715 attacks on health care in Ukraine during the war.
A study released last week by the Ukrainian Health Care Center found nearly 80% of the medical facilities in Mariupol alone were damaged or destroyed, or 82 out of the 106 locations the center analyzed with a combination of satellite imagery and witness testimony.
— Associated Press
Russia says no decision so far taken on Nord Stream repairs
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said a decision has yet to be taken on repairs to the Nord Stream gas pipelines, which sustained damage in September.
"It has not yet come down to repairs, no decisions have been made on this matter," he said, according to Russian state news agency Tass.
The twin undersea Nord Stream pipelines transport critical natural gas resources from Russia to Germany. Russian state gas company Gazprom intermittently suspended the gas flows to Germany from late August, citing maintenance issues, though the move was widely believed to be in response to EU sanctions on Russia.
After explosions hit the pipelines in late September — a clandestine act for which no one has taken responsibility — Gazprom said it was closing Nord Stream indefinitely. Gas prices in Europe, which were already multiples higher than at the same time one year prior, soared further as a result.
Moscow previously accused the British navy of blowing up the infrastructure in September, which London has rejected. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg labeled damage to the pipelines as sabotage.
— Ruxandra Iordache
UN Human Rights commissioner warns of 'serious deterioration' and 'more displacement' in Ukraine
The United Nations high commissioner for human rights warned of dramatically worse conditions to come in Ukraine if Russia continues attacking the country's infrastructure.
"Additional strikes could lead to a further serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation and spark more displacement," Volker Turk, the high commissioner, said to the organization's human rights council after a visit to Ukraine. Russia's attacks on key energy facilities and other vital civilian infrastructure were putting millions of people through "extreme hardship," he said.
Huge swathes of Ukraine are facing regular and often prolonged blackouts as authorities race to repair them after each attack. Geopolitical analysts say the aim of the Russian strikes is to make large parts of the country unlivable as the cold winter sets in, threatening starvation and death.
Rights groups say that deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure is a war crime. The Kremlin has argued that its strikes are in response to Ukrainian attacks on Russian facilities like its Crimean bridge, which was damaged in an explosion on Oct. 8. Russia has been attacking Ukraine since Feb. 24.
— Natasha Turak
Ukrainian soldiers enjoy some down time in makeshift sauna in a bunker in Donetsk region
Members of the Ukrainian military relax in a makeshift sauna built by members of the brigade in an underground bunker while on a day off from being stationed in Bakhmut at a position on the outskirts of Donetsk, Ukraine.
— Chris McGrath | Getty Images
Ukrainian general says ceasefire only possible when invaders fully withdraw
The deputy chief of Ukraine's General Staff of the Armed Forces has ruled out the possibility of a ceasefire while Russian invaders remain on Ukrainian soil.
Moscow on Dec. 14 similarly said that a potential suspension of hostilities for Christmas was not on the cards, after 10 months of war in Ukraine.
"I believe that there will be a complete ceasefire from our side only when not a single occupier remains on our land," Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform quoted Brigadier General Oleksiy Gromov as saying today, according to a Google translation. His comment came in response to a question over a prospective suspension of hostilities for New Year celebrations.
— Ruxandra Iordache
Two killed in Kherson by Russian shelling, official says
Russian shelling in Ukraine's south-eastern city of Kherson killed two people, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the president's office, wrote on Telegram.
The individuals were killed in the city's center, about 100 meters away from the regional administration building, Tymoshenko said. Kherson was recaptured by Ukrainian forces and liberated from its Russian occupiers in early November, but since then has faced near-constant shelling by Russia forces, many of whom remain on the other side of the Dnipro River.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in late September declared Kherson and three other Ukrainian regions as annexed by Russia, a move that is illegal under international law, and has vowed to keep them as Russian territory.
— Natasha Turak