December 1, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Heather Chen, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 3:01 a.m. ET, December 2, 2022
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2:45 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Power is being restored in Kherson after Russian strike

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva and Olga Voitovych

Electrical workers fix a power line in Kherson, Ukraine, on December 1.
Electrical workers fix a power line in Kherson, Ukraine, on December 1. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Electricity supplies are being restored in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson after it was left without power by Russian shelling early Thursday, a local official said.

Crews "have been relentlessly repairing the power lines in Kherson after the morning enemy shelling, [and] 65% of the city electricity is restored," said Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of Kherson region military administration.

Earlier Thursday, Yanushevych had said Kherson was without power in the wake of heavy Russian shelling.

“The voltage in the power grids has disappeared,” the local official wrote on Telegram, adding that energy company Khersonoblenergo was “already working to fix the problem.”

11:51 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Lion cubs rescued from war in Ukraine taken to US wildlife sanctuary

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Four lion cubs were rescued from Ukraine and brought to a sanctuary in Minnesota. 
Four lion cubs were rescued from Ukraine and brought to a sanctuary in Minnesota.  (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Four lion cubs rescued from Ukraine were flown from Poland to a sanctuary in Minnesota, on Tuesday, according to a release from International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a global nonprofit animal rescue organization.

The four cubs — one male and three females — were born during the war in Ukraine at breeding facilities and orphaned at a few weeks old, according to the IFAW.

“These cubs have endured more in their short lives than any animal should,” said Meredith Whitney, wildlife rescue program manager at IFAW.

According to the release, the cubs survived sporadic bombings and drone attacks in Ukraine.

Four lion cubs were rescued from Ukraine and brought to a sanctuary in Minnesota. 
Four lion cubs were rescued from Ukraine and brought to a sanctuary in Minnesota.  (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

After a nine-hour flight, the cubs landed at Chicago O'Hare International Airport around noon local time on Tuesday. Once they cleared customs, the cubs were met by care staff from The Wildcat Sanctuary to transport them from the airport to the sanctuary in Sandstone, Minnesota, the release said.

According to the release, the cubs will now live together as a pride at the sanctuary, which has a specially designed habitat for lions.

“From the moment IFAW reached out to request our partnership, we knew these cubs had found their forever home at our sanctuary,” said Tammy Thies, founder and executive director of The Wildcat Sanctuary. “They have a custom, open space to explore and soft grass or hay to rest their tired bodies on.”

11:35 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Macron says he and Biden will discuss ways "to fix the direct and indirect consequences" of Russia's war

From CNN's Sam Fossum

During a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron said that Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine will be one of the two leaders' main topics of discussion and that "sustainable peace" is about respecting sovereign nations. 

"We want to build peace and a sustainable peace means full respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine but at the same time a new architecture to make sure we have a sustainable peace in the long run," Macron said at the White House.

Macron also said that they will discuss energy, economy and space and emphasized the importance of "synchronization" and "close coordination." 

"I think this is extremely important precisely to have close coordination between us on these different issues because we want to fix the direct and indirect consequences of the war on our economies and our people. But at the same time we want to prepare for future generations," he said.  

"When we look at our common history, this friendship has always prevailed — with quite good results by the way," Macron later added.

Biden said that the two nations have stood together since the time of the US Revolutionary War.

“We are at a real inflection point. Things are changing rapidly, really rapidly. And it’s really important we stay in close communication — doesn’t mean that every single solitary thing we agree on. That does mean we agree on almost everything,” Biden said, adding that they would work toward strengthening “security and prosperity.”

11:00 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Switzerland has frozen more than $7 billion in Russian financial assets

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Switzerland has frozen over $7 billion in Russian financial assets, according to the Swiss State Secretary of Economy (SECO).

The total amount of seized financial assets since the start of the Ukraine war now amounts to US $7.89 billion as of Nov. 25, the SECO said in a news release on Thursday. Additionally, 15 properties attributed to sanctioned Russians in Switzerland have been seized.

A total of $48.5 billion belonging to Russian nationals have been reported to SECO for investigation. 

Some context: In response to Russia's military aggression in Ukraine, the Swiss Federal Council broke with its tradition of neutrality and adopted European Union sanctions against Russia.

Switzerland has also said it would seek closer ties to NATO and the European Union to strengthen its “defense capabilities” in the wake of Russia’s war.

10:17 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

100 soldiers exchanged in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

From CNN's Sebastian Shukla

One hundred soldiers have been exchanged in Ukraine on Thursday, according to Ukrainian and pro-Russian senior figures.

Andrii Yermak — the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine — and Denis Pushilin — head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic — confirmed that 50 soldiers on each side have been exchanged Thursday. 

Yermak said fighters from Mariupol's Azovstal steel facility and prisoners from Olenivka in the Donetsk region were returned to Ukraine.

“We will work until the last Ukrainian is released,” Yermak said.  

Pushilin also confirmed that a mixture of Russian and pro-Russian fighters were returned. He said on Telegram that 12 fighters from the DPR and eight from the [self-declared Luhansk People's Rebuplic] were among the 50 prisoners. 

There was no mention of the location or time of the swap. 

10:24 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Russia's war in Ukraine means "we need to become brothers in arms" once more, Macron says at White House

From CNN's Betsy Klein

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks alongside US President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday, December 1.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks alongside US President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday, December 1. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

US President Joe Biden welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron to the White House Thursday, kicking off an official state visit aimed at shoring up the US-France alliance as Macron has emerged as a critical ally amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

“Our hearts are warm to welcome such close friends to the White House,” Biden said at a formal arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn on the cold December morning. 

“It’s a genuine honor to host you for the first state visit of my administration and to celebrate the current strength and vitality between France and the United States of America," he continued.  

"As war returns to the European soil, following Russia's aggression to Ukraine and in light of the multiple crises our nations and our societies face, we need to become brothers in arms once more," Macron said via a translator after Biden delivered remarks.

Following last year’s low point in French-American relations following the US-Australia submarine deal, the two presidents have forged a close relationship, as Biden highlighted in his opening remarks Thursday.

France, Biden said, is the United States’ “oldest ally” and an “unwavering partner,” referencing the history of the relationship from the Revolutionary War's Marquis de Lafayette to the beaches of Normandy during World War II. 

“The alliance between our two nations remains essential to our mutual defense,” he added. 

Biden said both countries are united amid Russia’s “brutal war” in Ukraine and said that the two countries are working to ensure “democracies deliver” on numerous key issues.

He said the alliance will “grow stronger for decades to come” as he welcomed Macron and his delegation to Washington.

Following the Macrons’ arrival, the two leaders greeted dignitaries, observed a 21-gun salute, and inspected the troops on the South Lawn, keeping with the tradition of a formal arrival ceremony.  

10:30 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Russia says its open to a "new start" in talks with the West but it won't be "business as usual"

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Anna Chernova 

Russia would be ready to restart conversations with the United States and NATO on security guarantees, but so far Moscow hasn't seen willingness on their part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed Thursday.

"If our Western interlocutors realize their mistakes and express their readiness to return to the discussion of the documents that we proposed in December, I think that this will be a positive move," Lavrov said during his annual news conference in Moscow, when asked whether it is possible to reach an agreement on the security guarantees proposed by Russia.

"I doubt that they will find the energy and mind to do it," he said. "However, if this suddenly happens, we will be ready to return to the conversation with them."

"But, since they rejected our proposals, they have already taken a number of steps that completely contradict the prospects for resuming the dialogue," he added.

While answering another question at the news conference, Lavrov reiterated that Russia is open to dialogue with Western partners as the security situation in Europe has deteriorated, but said it won't be "business as usual." 

"If our Western partners develop an interest in somehow restoring our joint work on European security," Lavrov said, "it won't be business as usual." 

"If the West understands that it is better to develop neighborly relations based on mutually agreed foundations, we will listen to what the West would propose," he said. "But it is clear that it needs to be a completely new start. Whether there is a chance of this new start in the near future, I don't know. It is up to the West," he added. 

On a possible meeting with US President Joe Biden: Moscow "never avoids contacts," Lavrov claimed, but there haven't been "substantial ideas" when it comes to a possible meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We have said a few times, Putin himself has said that, as well as myself, that we never avoid contacts,” Lavrov said during his annual news conference in Moscow. 

“But so far, we are not hearing any substantial ideas,” he added.

Prior to the G20 summit in Indonesia, Biden said he didn’t see a good reason for a sit-down.

“It would depend on specifically what he wanted to talk about,” Biden told CNN in late October, adding if Putin wanted to discuss the jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner, then he would be open to talking.

“But look, he’s acted brutally, he’s acted brutally,” Biden said. “I think he’s committed war crimes. And so I don’t, I don’t see any rationale to meet with him now.”

9:59 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

"Fortification" work being undertaken by Russia on left bank of Dnipro River, Russian-appointed official says

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

The Russian-appointed head of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said a “large number of fortifications works” are being conducted on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in Russian-occupied territory. 

Saldo added the fortifications are being built quickly, and “significant financial resources have been allocated for these purposes and a large number of construction companies have been engaged.”

Speaking on his Telegram channel, Saldo finished by saying there were problems with phone communications, but that the internet is “fairly stable.”

10:03 a.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Ukraine accuses new Russian-appointed head of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant of treason

From CNN's Sebastian Shukla

The new director-general of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has been denounced as a collaborator following his appointment to the position by Russia’s occupying forces.

In a statement, Ukrainian energy company Energoatom — which ran the plant before the war — accused Yuiry Chernichyuk of “collaboration and treasonous activities” and said it had fired him from the company.

On Wednesday, the Russian agency running the plant since its capture by Russian forces in March claimed Chernichuyk had been promoted from chief engineer to director-general. CNN has been unable to verify whether Chernichuyk was under any form of duress when he allegedly assumed his new position.

The president of Energoatom, Petro Kotin, condemned Chernichuyk, saying he had “betrayed Ukraine and gone over to the enemy.” 

“Instead of making every effort to liberate the plant as soon as possible, he decided to help the Russian occupiers legalize its criminal seizure and now incites other nuclear employees to do the same,” Kotin said.

Since falling under Russian control, none of the nuclear facility’s engineers have been allowed to leave the plant, and Energoatom said all those who had reportedly signed new employment contracts with the Russian agency, Rosenergoatom, had been forced to do so.

“Allegedly thousands of Ukrainian nuclear workers happily joined [Rosenergoatom] and are proud of it, because new and bright prospects have opened up for them. This is a cynical lie,” according to a statement from the Ukrainian company.

The statement also contained a warning to former employees about the situation they were facing, saying the "structure will make you direct accomplices of the aggressor, and therefore enemies of your own compatriots."

"[This is] because the Russian invaders use ZNPP not as a nuclear power plant, but primarily as a military base and a means of nuclear blackmail of the entire world. Therefore, the personnel they recruit to work under the flag of the Russian Federation will be obliged to support military aggression against Ukraine," the statement added.