December 4, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Matt Meyer, Maureen Chowdhury and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 2:07 a.m. ET, December 5, 2022
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10:07 a.m. ET, December 4, 2022

First "Grain from Ukraine" ship delivers 25,000 tons of wheat for Ethiopia, Zelensky's office says

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam and Mariya Knight

The first vessel from the humanitarian program "Grain from Ukraine" delivered 25,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat bound for Ethiopia on Saturday, according to a statement from President Volodymyr Zelensky's office.

The statement said that, as part of the initiative, Ukraine plans to send over 60 more ships to Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Kenya and Yemen.

The first ship arrived at the port of Doraleh in Djibouti on Saturday, en route for landlocked Ethiopia.

A second vessel, which crews have finished loading in the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk, will head toward Ethiopia next week with 30,000 tons of wheat on board.

Some background: Experts warned over the summer that millions of people had been pushed into hunger as a Russian blockade fueled soaring grain commodity prices.

Those prices reached record highs this year as more than 20 million metric tons of Ukrainian wheat and corn remained trapped in Odesa.

Grain shipments can now leave Ukraine under an uneasy agreement brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, but the belated shipments are no quick fix.

The global food shortage has been accelerated by years of pandemic-related disruptions, the climate crisis, conflict, food export restrictions and spiraling costs, and the effects will take significant time to address.

8:55 a.m. ET, December 4, 2022

Russian strikes hit civilian areas in southern Ukraine overnight, local officials say

From CNN's Josh Pennington, Olga Voitovych and Alex Stambaugh 

Ukrainian officials reported Russian strikes in two southern regions late Saturday and early Sunday morning.

The attacks damaged buildings but no one was reportedly killed or wounded.

In Zaporizhzhia:

Oleksandr Starukh, head of the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration, said several strikes were reported in a village there. 

While the strikes caused no casualties, they did break windows and damage roofs on homes, and power lines were damaged, according to Starukh.

In Dnipropetrovsk:

In the nearby Dnipropetrovsk region, officials reported shelling near the town of Nikopol, said Valentyn Reznichenko, the head of the region's military administration.

"Russians shelled peaceful towns and villages 10 times with 'Grad' and heavy artillery," he said, adding that no one was injured.

In one community, homes, garages and power lines were damaged, he said. The scenes of shelling in other areas are being inspected and the details of the attacks are being clarified, he added. 

8:37 a.m. ET, December 4, 2022

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

From CNN's Mariya Knight 

Oil field in Almetyevsk, Russia.
Oil field in Almetyevsk, Russia. (Gleb Schelkunov/Kommersant/Sipa/AP)

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.

8:35 a.m. ET, December 4, 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.