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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2:40 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Russian units appear to make some progress near Bakhmut in Donetsk, but suffer heavy casualties

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv and Vasco Cotovio in Kramatorsk

Damage and debris is seen in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on November 29.
Damage and debris is seen in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on November 29. (Yevhan Titov/AFP/Getty Images)

Social media videos indicate that Russian troops in the areas around Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region are taking heavy casualties, even as they take some territory, especially south of the city. 

Some videos from Ukrainian military drones show Russian troops in foxholes and trenches being targeted by explosive charges dropped from the drones. Other videos at ground level show the bodies of Russian soldiers littering the countryside. 

One video shot by the Ukrainian military and published on Telegram shows different weapons systems being used in a coordinated attack on Russian positions, including 155 mm Howitzers and mortars. It appears from some videos that Russian positions have little protection and are exposed in open countryside.

Russian forces have been attacking the area around Bakhmut for months — and more recently have sent newly mobilized but less experienced units forward. 

Some Russian units —including those affiliated with the Wagner group — appear to have made incremental progress, taking a string of small villages to the south of the city. On Thursday the Russian Ministry of Defense said that, “as a result of the offensive actions of the Russian troops, the settlement of Kurdiumivka of the Donetsk People's Republic was completely liberated from the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine."

The Defense Ministry had previously announced the capture of three other settlements —but all are small villages.

Ukrainian military fire rockets at Russian positions near Bakhmut, Ukraine, on November 24.
Ukrainian military fire rockets at Russian positions near Bakhmut, Ukraine, on November 24. (LIBKOS/AP)

What Ukraine is saying: Ukrainians say fighting continues in the area, and that during combat missions near Kurdiumivka, Ukrainian forces destroyed three ammunition depots, one mortar crew "and manpower of the enemy."

Analysts say the Ukrainians are also clearly taking casualties as they are targeted by Russian artillery and tanks. The Ukrainian military has said that fighting continues in many areas close to Bakhmut but has not acknowledged losing any ground. 

The Ukrainian National Guard said that over the past week, units had repelled enemy attacks in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka sectors of Donetsk region and "destroyed ammunition depots, equipment and personnel of the enemy."

Its spokesman said that in strikes near the north-eastern outskirts of Bakhmut, "the enemy's losses amounted to 79 servicemen, of which 46 were irrecoverable.

A CNN team in nearby Kramatorsk reported hearing heavy artillery exchanges for much of Thursday.

In its latest analysis, the Institute for the Study of War says that the Russian campaign around Bakhmut indicates "that Russian forces have fundamentally failed to learn from previous high-casualty campaigns concentrated on objectives of limited operational or strategic significance."

2:36 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Biden calls Putin's actions in Ukraine "sick" and says he's "prepared to speak" to him if he wants to end war

US President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, December 1.
US President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, December 1. (Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden described Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine as "sick" and said that there's only one rational way to end the war in Ukraine — for Putin to "pull out" of the country.

"But it appears he's not going to do that. He's paying a very heavy price for failing to do it, but he's inflicting incredible, incredible carnage on the civilian population of Ukraine. Bombing nurseries, hospitals, children's homes. It's sick what he's doing," Biden said during a news conference alongside French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House.

Biden added that he had no immediate plans to contact Putin, but is "prepared to speak" with the Russian leader "if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he's looking for a way to end the war — he hasn't done that yet."

He continued, "If that's the case, in consultation with my French and my NATO friends, I'll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he wants, has in mind. He hasn't done that yet. In the meantime, I think it's absolutely critical what Emmanuel [Macron] said. We must support the Ukrainian people."

2:38 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Macron says it's up to Ukrainians to decide conditions for possible end of war and "sustainable peace"

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference at the White House on Thursday.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference at the White House on Thursday. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron said he does not believe allies should push Ukrainians into a compromise with Russia that would "not be acceptable for them."

"We will never urge the Ukrainians to make a compromise which will not be acceptable for them," the French president said in response to a question about a possible end to the war.

"They are so brave and they defend precisely their lives, their nation, and our principles. ... If we want a sustainable peace, we have to respect the Ukrainians to decide the moment and the conditions in which they will negotiate about their territory and their future," Macron added.

In the meantime, Macron said, "We increased our military support. We increased our economic support. We are increasing our humanitarian support."

Additionally, US support — both financially and in providing military weapons to Ukraine — is not just important for the country under attack but also for wider Europe, Macron said.

"For the stability of our world today — because if we consider that we can abandon the country and abandon the full respect of these principles, it means that there is no possible stability in this world," Macron said.

"I think it's extremely important to have you so much committed," he said, referring to the money and assistance the US has provided in aid to Ukraine so far.

2:24 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Kremlin says it will not engage with US on prisoner swap talks before end of year

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova 

From left, Viktor Bout, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
From left, Viktor Bout, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. (AP, Getty Images)

The Kremlin said on Thursday that any details of prisoner swap discussions with the United States will not be publicly disclosed and that Moscow is not planning to engage with US President Joe Biden's administration before the end of the year, according to Russian state media.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin considers it unnecessary to publicly disclose the details of prisoner swap negotiations between Russia and the US, state news agency TASS reported. 

“We do not talk about this and we urge everyone to be silent on this subject. Such matters can only be discussed in silence,” Peskov told TASS.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov speaks at a press conference in Moscow in 2021.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov speaks at a press conference in Moscow in 2021. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

The US has previously called on Russia to release American citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. The Biden administration has offered a potential prisoner swap involving Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year US prison sentence.

The potential swap is being negotiated through the special services of Russia and the US, according to Russian state media.

WNBA star Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in August after being arrested in February with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Whelan, a former US Marine, is serving 16 years in prison on espionage charges.

1:55 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Biden: Macron and I will continue to work together to hold Putin accountable for his actions

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House on Thursday, December 1.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House on Thursday, December 1. (Susan Walsh/AP)

US President Joe Biden noted that he and French President Emmanuel Macron are determined to hold Russia and President Vladimir Putin accountable for his "war on the rest of the world."

"Putin thinks he can crush the will of all those [who] oppose his imperial ambitions, but attacking civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, choking off energy to Europe to drive up prices, exacerbating the food crisis, that's hurting very vulnerable people, not just in Ukraine but around the world. And he's not going to succeed," Biden said during a bilateral news conference at the White House.

"President Macron and I have resolved that we're going to continue working together to hold Russia accountable for their actions and to mitigate the global impacts of Putin's war on the rest of the world," Biden said.
1:57 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Biden reaffirms US and French "stand as strong as ever" against Russia's "brutal war" in Ukraine

US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, December 1.
US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, December 1. (Susan Walsh/AP)

US President Joe Biden reaffirmed both the US and France's support for Ukraine, along with other European allies.

"Today we affirm that France and the United States together with all our allies ... stand as strong as ever against Russia's brutal war against Ukraine. We talked a lot about that in our bilateral meeting," Biden said at a joint news conference following his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday.

"We'll continue the strong support for the people of Ukraine as they defend their home and their families and their sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression which has been incredibly brutal," Biden said. "I knew Russia was, but didn't anticipate it to be as brutal as it."

Biden also thanked Macron for taking in Ukrainian refugees during the course of the war so far.

Macron reiterated the US president's pledges of support, saying in translated remarks that "we support both the Ukrainian army that is resisting" as well as Ukrainian civilians who are facing the attacks as well.

He thanked the US for its investments aimed at trying to mitigate the effects of the war on Europe, adding during their bilateral meeting, the two leaders also agreed to continue to invest in helping Ukraine.

"We also agreed to continue to work together to support the Ukrainian people … to help them resist because we can very well see today that the Russian war effort is very much targeting the civilian infrastructure,” Macron said via a translator, adding that "more violence" is making it harder for Ukrainians to survive winter with damaged energy systems.

1:57 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

NOW: Biden and Macron hold White House news conference 

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

French President Emmanuel Macron and President Joe Biden speak at a joint press conference in the East Room of The White House on Thursday.
French President Emmanuel Macron and President Joe Biden speak at a joint press conference in the East Room of The White House on Thursday. (Pete Marovich/Sipa/AP)

US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron are holding a news conference now at the White House as part of the French leader's state visit.

Russia's war in Ukraine and NATO's support for Kyiv are expected to be key topics.

During a welcome ceremony earlier Thursday, Biden referred to the Macrons as “close friends,” remarking that it is 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.”

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

Macron referenced common values of the US and France, referring to the nations as “sisters in the fight for freedom” and calling for their countries “to become brothers in arms once more” in the midst of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Macrons return for another state visit also follows a dramatic bounce-back in US-French relations compared to just a year ago, when Macron took the extraordinary step of recalling his ambassador to Washington over a US-Australia submarine deal that blindsided the French and cost them a multi-billion dollar defense contract.

The riff appears to largely be behind them, and Biden and Macron have deepened their ties even more over the last year in their united efforts to combat the war on Ukraine.

2:40 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

After Oval Office meeting, Biden and Macron release joint statement that condemns Russia's war

From CNN's DJ Judd

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden meet in the Oval Office of the White House on December 1.
French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden meet in the Oval Office of the White House on December 1. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron released a joint statement following their bilateral meeting at the White House Thursday, which denounced Russia's war in Ukraine.

The two leaders wrote that they “strongly condemn Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine and stress that intentionally targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure constitutes war crimes whose perpetrators must be held accountable.” 

“The United States and France deplore Russia’s deliberate escalatory steps, notably its irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and its disinformation regarding alleged chemical attacks, and biological and nuclear weapons programs. They reaffirm their nations’ continued support for Ukraine’s defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the provision of political, security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine for as long as it takes,” the statement continued.

The two leaders also wrote that they “outlined a shared vision to strengthen security and increase prosperity worldwide, combat climate change, build greater resilience to its effects, and advance democratic values.”  

“This vision is built on a shared conviction that the United States and its European allies and partners can better face our greatest challenges and capitalize on our most promising opportunities together,” according to the statement. “This includes addressing global issues such as climate change and energy transition, investing in technologies and building resilient value chains in strategic sectors such as health, semiconductors, and critical minerals, as well as strengthening our security and defense cooperation.” 

2:42 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

NATO chief says it's "too early" to decide on Poland’s request to move Patriot system into Ukraine

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu

NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg attends a press conference in Berlin, Germany, on December 1.
NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg attends a press conference in Berlin, Germany, on December 1. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday it is still “too early” to make a conclusion on Poland’s call to move Patriot air defense systems, which were offered by Germany, to Ukraine. 

“It’s important to separate the discussion about those three Patriot which Germany has offered to help protect Polish airspace from the issue of more air defense to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

“We all agree on the urgent need to help Ukraine, including with air defense systems,” he said, adding that ensuring the good operation of already-delivered systems is equally important as giving out new ones. 

“There is a need for ammunition to existing systems, there is a need for spare parts and maintenance,” Stoltenberg said. 

More context: On Wednesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged Germany to provide Patriot air-defense systems to Ukraine “as soon as” it can. Kuleba’s comments come after Poland's Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak last week said Berlin should send Patriot missile air-defense systems directly to Ukraine rather than Poland.