December 3, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 5:02 PM ET, Sat December 3, 2022
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4:22 p.m. ET, December 3, 2022

Zelensky criticizes the EU's Russian oil price cap as a "weak position"

From CNN's Mariya Knight 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the European Union's Russian oil cap decision a “weak position" and still too “comfortable for the budget of a terrorist state” in his nightly address Saturday. 

The EU reached a consensus Friday on the price at which to cap Russian oil, just days before its ban on most imports comes into force. The bloc’s 27 member states agreed to set the cap at $60 a barrel.

The move is aimed at reducing inflows to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war chest without adding to stress on the global economy by further reducing the supply of energy.

But Ukraine's president said it didn't go far enough, saying the situation had called for "big decisions." 

“You wouldn't call it a big decision to set such a limit for Russian prices, which is quite comfortable for the budget of a terrorist state,” Zelensky said. He added that Russia has already “caused huge losses to all countries of the world by deliberately destabilizing the energy market.” 

“The logic is obvious: If the price limit for Russian oil is $60 instead of, for example, $30 — which Poland and the Baltic countries talked about — then the Russian budget will receive about a hundred billion dollars a year,” Zelensky said.

The money will flow into the war effort and "to Russia's further sponsoring of other terrorist regimes and organizations," the president added.

2:18 p.m. ET, December 3, 2022

Top Russian and Belarusian government officials meet to discuss defense issues, state media reports

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Radina Gigova

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a meeting in Armenia on November 23.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a meeting in Armenia on November 23. (Contributor/Getty Images)

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu traveled to Minsk on Saturday to meet with his Belarusian counterpart and President Alexander Lukashenko, according to Russian and Belarusian state media.

Shoigu discussed military training and regional security during his meeting with Lukashenko, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

During an earlier meeting with Belarus Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin, the two signed an agreement on defense cooperation and regional security, according to the Belarus Department of International Military Cooperation.

"The Republic of Belarus was and remains our reliable partner. This is especially important today, in the conditions of unprecedented pressure from the collective West and the undeclared war against our countries," Shoigu said, as quoted by another Russian state news agency, RIA Novosti.

Shoigu also praised "the determination of Belarus to withstand the hostile rate of the United States and their allies," according to RIA Novosti. 

Some background: Neighboring Belarus is among Moscow's most stalwart allies, and the two nations have held joint military exercises in the time since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Belarus has served as a staging ground for Russian forces near Ukraine's northern border. It was the launching point for the Kremlin's ultimately unsuccessful march toward Kyiv at the start of the invasion.

2:14 p.m. ET, December 3, 2022

Officers detain group trying to steal Banksy mural, Kyiv police say

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Yulia Kesaieva 

A group of people tried to steal a Banksy mural in Ukraine.
A group of people tried to steal a Banksy mural in Ukraine. (Andrey Nebitov/Telegram)

Authorities in Kyiv region said they have detained a group of people who tried to steal a mural by renowned graffiti artist Banksy from the wall of a building that was damaged by Russian shelling. 

The mural, which shows a woman wearing a gas mask and carrying a fire extinguisher, was "ruthlessly cut off by attackers" in the town of Hostomel, northwest of the capital Kyiv on Friday, the head of the Kyiv Police Department, Andrey Nebitov, said Saturday in a statement on Telegram. 

"A group of people dismantled the painting of the world-famous artist, tried to transport it using wooden boards and polyethylene, but was exposed by police and security forces," Nebitov said.

As part of the investigation, "an art expert examination" will be conducted on the mural and authorities will make a decision what charges to file against the group, Nebitov said.

On Friday, the head of the Kyiv region military administration, Oleksii Kuleba, said the group was "detained on the spot" and that the mural is undamaged. 

"I want to emphasize that Banksy's works in the Kyiv region are under protection from the police," Kuleba said on his Telegram channel

"After all, these images are a symbol of our struggle against the enemy. These are the stories about the support and solidarity of the entire civilized world with Ukraine. Let's do everything to preserve the works of street art as a symbol of our future Victory," he said. 

Kyiv regional authorities, the local community and representatives from Ukraine's Ministry of Culture and Information Policy are conducting "consultations regarding the storage and future fate of the mural," Kuleba said. 

The mural in Hostomel is one of several works created by the anonymous artist in different cities in Ukraine following Russia's invasion. 

2:12 p.m. ET, December 3, 2022

Putin will visit parts of Ukraine that he proclaimed as annexed "in due course," spokesperson says

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a Congress plenary session on November, 29, in Moscow, Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a Congress plenary session on November, 29, in Moscow, Russia. (Contributor/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit the Donbas region "in due course," a Kremlin spokesperson said Saturday, referring to Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine.   

"It will certainly happen in due course because it is part of the Russian Federation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Russian state news agency TASS.  

Some background: On Oct. 5, Putin signed measures annexing four Ukrainian regions in defiance of international law. The territories claimed by Moscow are Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

The annexation process, which is illegal under international law, came after so-called referendums in the regions that were universally dismissed as “shams” by Ukraine and Western nations.

While Kremlin officials claim those regions now belong to Russia, Moscow's troops do not control the entirety of those territories.

2:07 p.m. ET, December 3, 2022

Russia, Wagner Group deny sending bloody and explosive packages to Ukrainian embassies

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Matthew Chance

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group, denied involvement in sending packages to Ukrainian embassies.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group, denied involvement in sending packages to Ukrainian embassies. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

A top Russian government official and the leader of the Moscow-aligned mercenary group Wagner denied sending alarming packages to Ukrainian embassies across Europe this week.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of being behind the more than a dozen letters, which contained explosives or animal parts and were sent to a series of Ukrainian diplomats.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova sent CNN a single word comment in response to that allegation: “psycho.”

And Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch and head of the Wagner mercenary group, said he had nothing to do with the packages.

In response to CNN’s request for comment, Prigozhin said the Wagner Group would “never engage in boorish stupid antics.”

“Think about the madness when some hooligans send bomb letters or other offensive things, what does this have to do with Wagner PMC,” Prigozhin said in a written response.

More background: There have been 17 cases of embassies receiving either letter bombs, false bomb letters or letters containing animals parts, like the eyes of cows and pigs, according to Kuleba.

“This campaign is aimed at sowing fear,” Kuleba told CNN in an exclusive interview in Kyiv on Friday.

When asked who he thought was behind the letters, Kuleba told CNN, “I feel tempted to say, to name Russia straight away, because first of all you have to answer the question, 'who benefits?'"

“Maybe this terror response is the Russian answer to the diplomatic horror that we created for Russia on the international arena, and this is how they try to fight back while they are losing the real diplomatic battles one after another,” he added.

9:07 a.m. ET, December 3, 2022

European Union approves Russian oil price cap at $60 a barrel, according to EU official

From CNN’s Chris Liakos in London

The Romashkinskoye oil field operated by Tatneft in Tatarstan, Russia.
The Romashkinskoye oil field operated by Tatneft in Tatarstan, Russia. (Gleb Schelkunov/Kommersant/Sipa USA/AP)

The European Union approves a price cap on Russian oil at $60 a barrel, an EU official with knowledge of the situation told CNN on Friday. 

The plan, which stops all EU countries from setting more than $60 a barrel, needs the agreement of all EU states. 

President of the European Commission Ursula von Der Leyen said on Friday the bloc and other G7 partners will have a “full import ban” on Russian seaborne oil starting Dec. 5.

In a video statement posted on Twitter, von der Leyen said the price cap has three objectives.

“First, it strengthens the effect of our sanction,” she said. “Second, it will further diminish Russia's revenues.”
“And thirdly, at the same time, it will stabilize global energy markets, because it allows some Russian seaborne oil to be traded broker transported by EU operators to third countries as long as it is sold below the cap.”

Von der Leyen said the price cap will directly benefit developing and emerging economies and will be adjustable over time so that “we can react to market developments.”

“Together with our partners, we stand united and firm in our opposition to Russia's atrocious war,” von der Leyen concluded.

9:07 a.m. ET, December 3, 2022

Ukrainian officials warn of tough months ahead but say country can avoid a national blackout 

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva

A view of dark streets as Kyiv faces power outages after Russia launched massive rocket attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure on November 24, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A view of dark streets as Kyiv faces power outages after Russia launched massive rocket attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure on November 24, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Andre Luis Alves/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Several Ukrainian officials have warned that the country faces a tough winter but can prevail in the face of Russian missile attacks on its infrastructure.

Maksym Tymchenko, Chief Executive Officer of DTEK, a major power company, said that he was confident that there was no chance "for the Russians to plunge Ukraine into darkness."

Yet, there was a power generation deficit and issues with electricity transmission, he told the Kyiv Security Forum on Friday.

In the capital, he said, the company was trying to introduce "rolling controlled blackouts: 3-4 hours of electricity supply, followed by 4 hours break. This situation will continue, we hope, until next week only, if there are no further attacks. But we are prepared for further attacks."

He said all six of DTEK's power stations had been attacked, some of them several times. As of Friday, he said, the company has managed to bring them all back to the grid.

Additionally, he said, "We managed to accumulate enough coal stock for the country, not just for our company. We have enough gas storage to use gas for power generation. So we have enough capacity for the whole country."

The problem, though, was with connections and transmission, Tymchenko said.

"Transformers, sub-stations, high-voltage transformers: these are what we've been in deficit of, and what we appeal to our international partners for. Some of the equipment is already on the way to Ukraine," he said.

Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said that last week that Kyiv faced an almost total blackout. "There was no heat and water supply. And about 4,000 employees of utility companies worked day and night to restore them."

Ukraine's Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, told the forum that the months ahead would be difficult.

He added: "The enemy still has significant resources, but there are more and more signs that he needs a pause at any cost."