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December 5, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news
By Jack Guy, Eliza Mackintosh and Tara Subramaniam, CNN
Explosions at two Russian air bases Monday have focused attention on Ukraine's efforts to develop longer-range combat drones.
The Russian Defense Ministry says the attacks were carried out by Ukrainian drones, which it claims were brought down by Russian air defenses.
Imagery — both satellite and photographs — indicates some damage was done to Russian military planes at one base in Ryazan region.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has offered no official comment on the explosions, and the Ukrainian government has not acknowledged adding long-range attack drones to its arsenal.
However, the state-owned weapons manufacturer Ukroboronprom has indicated several times in recent weeks that it is close to finishing work on a new long-range drone.
In October, it posted on Facebook — along with an image of what appeared to be part of the drone's structure: "Range is 1000 km, weight of the combat unit is 75 kg. Putting the final touches on this one."
On Nov. 24, Ukroboronprom published another post: "The next stage of UAV testing - On behalf of the Chief of the General Staff, we are getting ready for flight tests under the action of electronic warfare."
"Weather, on the one hand, becomes a problem, and on the other hand, it’s an additional test for the complex. A kind of crash test."
A photo showed the words "az vozdam" inscribed on what was purported to be the drone — meaning "I will repay."
And on Saturday, company spokeswoman Natalia Sad was reported by news agency Ukrinform to have told Ukrainian television:
"As of today, a number of stages of successful tests have been completed. In accordance with the instructions of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, we are moving to the stage of tests involving an e-warfare jamming environment."
However, there is no public indication that the drone in question has been readied for deployment or was involved in the explosions inside Russia.
The two bases hit, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, are hundreds of miles inside Russian territory and beyond the reach of Ukraine's declared arsenal of drones. No footage or images of the remnants of drones have been published.
Dolyna, Ukraine — A soldier in a Ukrainian uniform morosely contemplates the ruins of an Orthodox monastery in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.
“This is a result of Putin’s war,” he says, angrily, as he paces through the wreck. “As a Christian, this is very offensive to me.”
The soldier, whose name CNN agreed not to reveal to protect his identity, goes by the call-sign “Caesar.” He is one of hundreds, if not thousands, fighting to keep the town of Bakhmut, the current epicenter of the war, in Ukrainian hands.
But there’s one thing that sets him apart from most of those who share the same goal: he’s Russian.
“From the first day of the war, my heart, the heart of a real Russian man, a real Christian, told me that I had to be here to defend the people of Ukraine,” Caesar explains. “We are now fighting in the Bakhmut direction, this is the hottest part of the front.”
Few, if any, buildings of the eastern Ukrainian town have been spared by the unending artillery barrages fired from side to side. Many of the structures have been completely destroyed, others left uninhabitable with collapsed sections, in apocalyptic scenes reminiscent of the battered city of Mariupol, captured by Russia earlier in the war.
“After the (Russian) mobilization (in September), Putin threw all his forces (at Bakhmut) in order to achieve a breaking point in the war, but we are putting up a fierce defensive fight,” Caesar says.
Much of Ukraine’s resisting force have had to hunker down in muddy trenches, fighting tooth and nail to deny Russian forces a victory they desperately crave.
“The fighting is very brutal now,” Caesar explains.
A Russian oligarch has warned the United States against designating his Wagner Group as a "terrorist" organization.
Wagner — a private military contractor — has been active in the conflict in Ukraine, and in countries across Africa and the Middle East.
Asked about the US government not following through with reported plans to designate the Wagner group as a foreign terrorist organization, Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the group, said in a statement on the company's social media page:
"When you are put on the list of terrorist organizations, then, as they say, you do what is necessary to achieve your goals. They've already put one organization on the list of terrorist organizations once, and they got a response that made them tremble."
His response came via the Telegram channel of his holding company, Concord.
He added: "As the saying goes, let sleeping dogs lie. Do not wake Wagner PMC, Americans, while it's still sleeping."
CNN reported Nov. 30, citing a US official, that the Biden administration was considering designating the Wagner Group a foreign terrorist organization amid efforts to impose costs on Russia for the Ukraine war.
No final decision has been made, the official said, and it's unclear "how far out the administration is from potentially making this designation given the laborious legal process in making this determination."
Wagner is already sanctioned by the US, but the Biden administration has its sights on labeling it a terrorist organization amid pressure — both from the Ukrainians and from Congress — to declare Russia as a state sponsor of terror due to the invasion of Ukraine and the constant attacks on the civilian population.
In his Telegram post, Progizhin said: "We have never overstepped the bounds of what is allowed, we have never oppressed civilians, we have always saved the oppressed from violence, we have never fallen into any category of terrorist organization, we have never crossed and are not going to cross the laws of morality."
CNN reporting, over the past four years, has uncovered extensive human rights abuses by Wagner in Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic. Human rights groups also allege its contractors have carried out atrocities in Mali.
The Russian Foreign Ministry appears to have dealt a blow to proposals by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to create a demilitarized and protected zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova responded to a question from a Russian news agency about the status of the plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since early March.
The news agency asked: "The head of the IAEA R[afael]. Grossi said that experts are close to an acceptable agreement between Ukraine and Russia on the creation of a security zone around the Zaporizhzhya NPP (ZNPP). How would you comment on this statement? Is it possible to transfer control over ZNPP to a third party? Is the visit of the head of the IAEA R. Grossi to Russia expected?"
Zakharova responded: "There can be no talk of any withdrawal of the Zaporizhzhya NPP from Russian control or transfer of control over it to some 'third party.' The station is located on Russian territory and is fully controlled by Russia. We presume that only we are able to ensure the physical and nuclear safety of ZNPP."
There has been no response from the IAEA to the latest word from Moscow.
Last week, Director General of the IAEA Rafael Grossi said he hoped to reach an agreement with Russia and Ukraine on protecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant by year's end.
"My commitment is to reach a solution as soon as possible. I hope by the end of the year. I know that President Putin is following the process and I do not rule out another meeting with him soon, as well as with Ukrainian President Zelensky," Grossi said in an interview published Friday with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
He told La Repubblica: "There is a concrete proposal on securing Zaporizhzhia and important progress has been made....The two sides now agree on some basic principles. The first is that of protection: it means accepting that you don't shoot 'on' the plant and 'from' the plant. The second is the recognition that the IAEA is the only possible way forward: that was the heart of my meeting with President Putin in St. Petersburg on October 11."
"Russia is not against an agreement and the principle of protecting the plant," he added.
As for the Ukrainian side, Grossi said: "The withdrawal of armaments from the plant is what, understandably from their point of view, the Ukrainians are demanding. And it would still be part of the overall agreement."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says that "maximum efforts" are continuing throughout Ukraine to stabilize the power grid in the wake of another wave of Russian missile attacks Monday.
Zelensky said, in his daily message, that repair work continues "in the central regions of Ukraine, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv."
"In order to stabilize the power grid, it was necessary to switch to emergency shutdowns in many regions. From Zakarpattia to Kyiv region, from Kirovohrad to Sumy and Kharkiv regions," he said.
Zelensky said several regions, including Kyiv and Odesa had extensive power outages.
Referring to the number of Russian missiles intercepted Monday, Zelensky said he was grateful to our partners for the air defense systems we are using now.
"Unfortunately, there are victims," he said. "As of this time, the list of those killed by Russian strikes today is four."
Dmytro Sakharuk, CEO of DTEK — a major energy distributor — said the overall situation was difficult but under control. "Almost all regions of Ukraine are subject to emergency blackouts. Power engineers have started to repair the damage, the work will continue overnight. We will try to return to the scheduled outages as soon as possible to stop emergency outages."
Sakharuk said on Telegram: "The most complicated situation is in Kyiv region, Kyiv city, Odesa city and northern regions of the country. This is due to both the damage and the number of consumers."
Fighting in eastern Ukraine continues to be concentrated in the Bakhmut area of Donetsk, according to Ukrainian officials.
Serhiy Hayday, head of Luhansk region military administration, said on Ukrainian television that the "Donetsk sector is the most difficult as Russians are trying to capture Bakhmut — and all settlements from Lysychansk to Bakhmut are important for them."
Lysychansk is in neighboring Luhansk region and was captured by Russian forces in June.
Hayday said that the Ukrainian military had destroyed a "huge number of occupiers' personnel and their equipment" in the village of Bilohorivka.
"Now they are trying to break through the defense line, as they plan to make an additional bridgehead to expand the offensive. Attacks are taking place there around the clock, this territory is being constantly shelled. Six people remain in the village; those are elderly people who do not want to leave. It is difficult to take out people who do not want to leave," the official said.
Amid difficult weather conditions, Hayday said that the "liberation of Luhansk region is very difficult. However, there is a positive thing. Our troops are not far from Kreminna," a town north of Lysychansk that has been occupied since the spring,
Meanwhile, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk region military administration, said that after Russian missile strikes on parts of Donetsk Monday, "emergency power outages continue. Power engineers are feeding the system with backup sources. In general, the situation is stable. After emergency shutdowns, generators are switched on."
He said the situation around Bakhmut "is extremely tense. Claims of the enemy that Bakhmut is taken and they are on the outskirts of the city are not true."
"Most of the people have evacuated from Bakhmut. There are now about 12,000 residents in Bakhmut out of 81,000 before the invasion. The enemy is trying to destroy the civilian population."
The Ukrainian military said that the center of Bakhmut was hit — and an administrative building, a dormitory, and a residential building were damaged.
Kyrylenko said the Russians also shelled the town of Vuhledar, as well as Kurakhove and Hostre — a kindergarten, four high-rise buildings and seven private houses were damaged.
Four people have been killed by Ukrainian shelling of the center of the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to the head of the Russian-backed Donetsk administration.
"As a result of the shelling of central areas of Donetsk tonight, four people were killed. Four civilians were injured to varying degrees of severity," Alexei Kulemzin said on Telegram.
Russian state news agency RIA/Novosti reported that "Ukrainian troops shelled the center of Donetsk, the fire was aimed on residential buildings."
The shelling targeted int Voroshilovsky district according to Kulemzin. The shelling allegedly struck the Church of Nativity of Christ, where the building has “partially collapsed," he said.
Earlier the Russian Investigative Committee released a statement saying they will “establish all the circumstances of the incident and the persons involved in the commission of crimes.”
It's the second consecutive night that Donetsk has come under fire.
Earlier Monday, RIA Novosti reported that two buildings caught fire in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic after strikes by Ukrainian forces.
The Ukrainian military has not yet confirmed or commented on the attack. Donetsk has been held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
CNN's Josh Pennington and Alex Stambaugh contributed reporting to this post.
The Israeli satellite imagery company ImageSat International has published images showing what appears to be the aftermath of an explosion at the Dyagilevo air base in Russia.
"On an image from 05.12.2022, burn marks and objects are seen near a Tu-22M aircraft that was probably damaged," it said. ISI made the images available to CNN.
Some background: The base is one of two which the Russian Defense Ministry says were attacked by Ukrainian drones on Monday.
In a statement carried on the official Russian news agency RIA Novosti, the Ministry said the attacks were "in the Saratov and Ryazan regions" but the "Ukrainian drones flying at low altitude" were intercepted by air defenses.
Ukraine has not confirmed that it attacked either airfield. Recent satellite imagery shows a substantial number of Russian strategic bombers at the Engels airbase in Saratov.
CNN's Tim Lister and Darya Tarasova contributed reporting to this post.