December 6, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 2:01 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022
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8:07 a.m. ET, December 6, 2022

120 soldiers exchanged in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Russian and Ukrainian authorities have confirmed the exchange of 120 people in a prisoner swap.

According to the Russian defense ministry, 60 Russian servicemen have been returned from "Kyiv-controlled territory."

Returned soldiers will be treated and rehabilitated at the defense ministry's facilities, it said.

Ukraine will receive 60 prisoners in return, said Andrii Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, on Telegram.

"This is the best news on the holiday," said Yermak. Of the total, there are 58 men and two women, with 14 prisoners captured during the siege of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.

Details surrounding the timing of the swap and location have not been released.

Last week, 50 Russian and 50 Ukrainian soldiers were exchanged.

6:57 a.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Russian defense minister accuses Ukraine of "nuclear terrorism" at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant outside the city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, on November 24.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant outside the city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, on November 24. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Alleged Ukrainian attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) constitute "nuclear terrorism," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed on Tuesday.

"In the last two weeks alone, 33 large-caliber projectiles have been fired at the [nuclear power] station by the Armed Forces of Ukraine," Shoigu said, according to a readout of a meeting with the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

Russian air defense forces are intercepting most Ukrainian weapons, Shoigu added, but some have still managed to hit objects that affect the safety of the nuclear power plant.

"We classify these attacks by Ukrainian troops as nuclear terrorism," he said.

Shoigu said Russia’s army will continue to protect critical facilities in the captured territories.

Some context: Since falling under Russian control, frequent shelling in and around the plant has raised fears about a nuclear accident. Both sides have accused the other of nuclear terrorism, with Ukraine alleging that the Kremlin is using the nuclear plant as a cover to protect troops and launch attacks.

Last week, Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he hoped to reach an agreement with Russia and Ukraine on protecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica published on Friday, Grossi said his commitment was to reach a solution "as soon as possible," hopefully by the end of the year, he added.

But Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that there can be "no talk of any withdrawal of ZNPP from Russia or transfer control over it to a third party."

"The station is located on Russian territory and is fully controlled by Russia," said Zakharova on Monday. "We presume that only we are able to ensure the physical and nuclear safety of ZNPP."

8:01 a.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Zelensky says he's visited troops in Donbas, eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Steph Halasz, Victoria Butenko and Seb Shukla

A Ukrainian soldier takes a selfie with President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, during his visit to Sloviansk in the Donbas region, Ukraine, on December 6.
A Ukrainian soldier takes a selfie with President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, during his visit to Sloviansk in the Donbas region, Ukraine, on December 6. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has visited troops in Donbas in eastern Ukraine, according to a post on his Instagram page.

Zelensky’s office shared images and videos of him recording a message in front of a blue and yellow sign, indicating he was in Sloviansk.

The city is around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Bakhmut, which has been under siege from Russia for months.

In the message, recorded to mark Ukrainian Armed Forces Day, Zelensky said his country's "path to independence lies through a free Donetsk, Luhansk and of course, Crimea."

Zelensky added that he hoped to celebrate the next Armed Forces day "under a peaceful sky" on Independence Square in the center of Kyiv.

Some context: The Donbas comprises the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which together cover much of eastern Ukraine.

It is a historically and culturally significant place whose proximity to Russia has dictated much of its turbulent existence, which has been the front line of the country’s conflict with Moscow since 2014.

6:05 a.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Montenegro to donate 11% of military budget to Ukraine

From CNN’s Eve Brennan

Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazovic attends a joint press conference during Norway-Western Balkans Business Conference in Belgrade, Serbia, on November 17.
Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazovic attends a joint press conference during Norway-Western Balkans Business Conference in Belgrade, Serbia, on November 17. (Filip Stevanovic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Montenegro will donate 11% of its military budget to Ukraine, the prime minister's office said Monday. 

The donation, along with "receiving thousands of refugees," shows the Montenegrin government’s "clear determination to support the defence of Ukrainians," the statement from the Office of the Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazović said.

The terms were agreed by Abazović and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who signed a joint declaration on Monday, according to Zelensky’s Telegram channel. 

"Today, we signed the Joint Declaration, which defines the priority areas of cooperation between Ukraine and Montenegro within the strategic course of our country to acquire full membership in NATO," Zelensky said in the Telegram post. 

"I am grateful to Montenegro for the strong political support and important practical help to Ukraine," he added. 

Abazović said on Twitter that Montenegro "wants peace."

"That is why we express our unequivocal support for Ukraine and its people with a view to safeguarding their integrity, sovereignty and right to a free life," added Abazović.

5:57 a.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Three fire trains sent to fight blaze at Russian airfield allegedly hit by drone strike

From CNN's Seb Shukla

Russian media shows aftermath of alleged drone strike on oil tank at Kursk airfield on December 6.
Russian media shows aftermath of alleged drone strike on oil tank at Kursk airfield on December 6. (MIC IZVESTIA/IZ.RU/Reuters)

Moscow Railways has sent three fire trains to help put the "fire out at the airport" in Kursk, western Russia, according to regional officials. 

Earlier on Tuesday, regional governor Roman Starovoit alleged that a drone attack hit an oil tanker near Kursk airfield. Kursk is located about 90 kilometers (60 miles) from the Ukrainian border.

It comes one day after Moscow claimed Ukraine used drones to attack two military air bases deep within Russian territory. Kyiv has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the attacks.

Starovoit said he had held a meeting of the "anti-terrorist commission" and decided to "extend the yellow level of terrorist danger" for 15 days.

In addition, two schools in Khalino and the village of Marshal Zukov had classes cancelled on Tuesday.

2:30 a.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Russian strikes hit southern and central Ukraine

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Russian shelling was reported overnight in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia and central Dnipropetrovsk regions, officials said on Telegram on Tuesday morning.

Critical infrastructure and residential buildings were damaged by the strikes in the suburbs of Zaporizhzhia city, said Oleksandr Starukh, head of the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration. No one was injured, according to preliminary information.

In the nearby Dnipropetrovsk region, shelling continued overnight, said Valentyn Reznichenko, its regional military administration head.

Gas pipelines, power lines and more than 10 homes were damaged in the district of Nikopol, Reznichenko said. 

More than 9,000 families were also left without water near the community of Chervonohryhorivka after the power line supplying the pumping station of the local water utility was cut, he said. Engineers are working on restoring supplies, he added. 

Homes and a gas pipeline were also damaged near the community of Marhanets, he said. No casualties were reported..

The attacks follows Russian strikes Monday on Zaporizhzhia and Nikopol.

1:02 a.m. ET, December 6, 2022

"Drone attack" at Russian airfield near Ukraine, governor says

From CNN's Josh Pennington 

A drone strike took place Tuesday at an airfield in Russia's Kursk region, which borders northeastern Ukraine, according to the regional governor.

"As a result of a drone attack, an oil tanker caught fire near Kursk airfield," Kursk Gov. Roman Starovoit said on Telegram.  "There were no casualties. The fire is being localized. Emergency services are working at the site."

The alleged strike comes one day after Russia blamed Ukraine for drone attacks on two Russian military airbases. Ukraine has not confirmed the strikes.

3:12 a.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Attacks on Russian air bases put spotlight on new Ukrainian drone program

From CNN's Tim Lister, Josh Pennington and Maria Kostenko

A satellite image shows an overview of Engels Air Base, in Saratov, Russia, on December 4.
A satellite image shows an overview of Engels Air Base, in Saratov, Russia, on December 4. (Maxar Technologies/Reuters)

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 the last few weeks that it is close to finishing work on a new long-range drone.

Read more here.

9:01 p.m. ET, December 5, 2022

Russia says there will be no withdrawal from Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

From CNN's Tim Lister and Darya Tarasova

The Russian Foreign Ministry appears to have dealt a blow to proposals by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to create a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since March.

"There can be no talk of any withdrawal of the Zaporizhzhia NPP from Russian control or transfer of control over it to some 'third party,'" Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said when asked by a Russian news agency about the status of the plant. "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 UN nuclear watchdog to the latest word from Moscow.

Last week, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said he hoped to reach an agreement with Russia and Ukraine on protecting the plant by the end of the year.