December 7, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Amy Woodyatt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 3:11 a.m. ET, December 8, 2022
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11:04 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Sentencing hearing for Kremlin critic Ilya Yashin postponed

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova 

Russian opposition figure and former Moscow city councillor Ilya Yashin is escorted inside the Basmanny district court prior to a hearing on his detention in Moscow, Russia, on July 13.
Russian opposition figure and former Moscow city councillor Ilya Yashin is escorted inside the Basmanny district court prior to a hearing on his detention in Moscow, Russia, on July 13. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

A Moscow court has postponed a sentencing hearing for the jailed Kremlin critic Ilya Yashin, who is accused of spreading fake news about the Russian army, until Friday, according to a post on Yashin’s official Telegram account.

“The announcement of the verdict was postponed to Friday, December 9, at 12:00 PM Moscow time in the Meshchansky court,” the post said.

Yashin, a prominent opposition leader and former municipal deputy, has been accused of spreading fake information about the Russian army and faces up to nine years in prison. 

Russian investigators say his statements about the killings of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha by Russian forces are a criminal offense under recently introduced Russian legislation, which considers discrediting the Russian armed forces as illegal. 

In a closing statement on Monday, also posted on his Telegram account, Yashin made a statement addressing the judge, President Vladimir Putin and the Russian public:

“As if they will sew my mouth shut and I would be forbidden to speak forever. Everyone understands that this is the point. I am isolated from society because they want me to be silent. I promise as long as I'm alive I'll never will be. My mission is to tell the truth. I will not give up the truth even behind bars. After all, quoting the classic: 'Lie is the religion of slaves.'” 

Yashin, also a close ally of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, came to prominence during the protests between 2011 and 2012, which he helped organize against Putin's re-election for the third term and unfair elections.

Yashin remained a fierce Putin critic for years and served as a municipal deputy in small Moscow municipality before being barred from running for a public office again.

10:47 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Putin discussed shelling of Donbas with Donetsk region's Russian-installed authorities

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at market stalls hit by shelling in Donetsk, in Russian-controlled Ukraine, on December 6.
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at market stalls hit by shelling in Donetsk, in Russian-controlled Ukraine, on December 6. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that he had discussed Ukrainian shelling of settlements in the eastern Donbas region with the Russian-appointed head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin.

"Denis Pushilin called me. Indeed, the strikes are directly hitting the residential areas, no one can be unaware of this, but everyone is silent. As if nothing is happening," said Putin at a meeting with members of the Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.

Putin also said that not all students chose to demobilize after authorities announced the demobilization of students in the region, which encompasses the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.

"The republics became part of Russia, so Russian legal regulation should fully apply to them," Putin said.

"But I must say that not all students of Donbas took advantage of this right to demobilization," he added.

In late September, Moscow declared it was annexing the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as Russian territory — which is illegal under international law — after holding so-called referendums in the regions that were universally dismissed as “shams” by Ukraine and Western nations.

Local authorities in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region have reported frequent shelling of the city this week, in which several people have been killed and injured.

10:29 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

NATO chief: Russia looking to "freeze" conflict in Ukraine to "regroup for bigger offensive"

From CNN's Allegra Goodwin

Russia is looking to temporarily “freeze” the conflict in Ukraine in order to “regroup and then launch a bigger offensive,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Financial Times, Stoltenberg said it was Russia’s intention “to try to have a kind of short break or a short freeze of the conflict so Russia can recover their troops, regroup and then launch a bigger offensive later on, because now Ukraine has the momentum.” 

Stoltenberg said last week that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “failing in Ukraine,” pointing to Ukraine’s success in pushing Russian forces out of territories around Kyiv and Kharkiv, as well as the liberation of Kherson city, which he said was a sign of Russia’s “weakness.”

10:18 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

See the first moments for Ukrainian POWs after they are freed

In an undisclosed location near the Russian border, many newly released Ukrainian prisoners of war were able to speak with their families for the first time in months.

Most of the group is from Mariupol, the southern port city that Ukrainian and Russian troops fiercely fought over — and the soldiers bear both physical and emotional scars, CNN's Will Ripley reported.

One of two rescued women, a radio intelligence operator, became emotional when she told Ripley that she was subjected to lies from the Russians and forced to pledge loyalty to Russia. Another woman's 6-year-old child and husband are still in occupied Mariupol, and she has no way of contacting them, she said.

Watch his report here:

10:18 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Russia will fight with "all means available" as half of mobilized men are now in Ukraine, Putin says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London


Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia will continue the "fight for its national interests" by "all means available" if necessary.

"We will proceed from what we have. There can be only one answer from our side — a consistent fight for our national interests. We will continue to do so and let no one count on anything else ... First of all, of course, we will focus on peaceful means. But if nothing else remains, then we will defend ourselves with all available means at our disposal," he said at the Kremlin.

Out of the 300,000 men called up for the partial mobilization, 150,000 are currently in Ukraine, he told a meeting of Russia's Human Rights Council. "Among them only 77,000 are in combat units, while the rest are in the territorial defense forces or receive additional training," Putin said.

An additional mobilization does "not make sense" currently, he added, saying there is no need for it from the state of the defense ministry.

Putin also promised to resolve the issue of the equipment shortages for Russian troops in Ukraine.

According to Putin, the so-called "special military operation" in Ukraine is a "long process," but he described the emergence of new territories and the Sea of Azov as part of the Russian Federation as a "significant result."

10:08 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

US has neither "encouraged" nor "enabled" Ukrainian strikes on Russia, White House says

From CNN's Betsy Klein and MJ Lee

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House, November 28, in Washington D.C.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House, November 28, in Washington D.C. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The White House sought to distance the US Wednesday from recent reported Ukrainian attacks on Russia, saying that the US will “respect” Ukraine’s decisions on the battlefield but has not encouraged escalation.

National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby deferred to Ukraine for confirmation of who was responsible for recent reported strikes on Russia, but said the US has neither “encouraged” nor “enabled” any such attacks.

“We have not certainly not encouraged, nor have we enabled Ukraine to strike into Russia. Our focus has been — and remains on — making sure that they have the capabilities they need, the resources they need to defend themselves," Kirby said. "Everything that we're providing is really designed with that in mind.”

“We are providing them information to help them defend themselves. We certainly are providing them resources and material weapons to defend themselves. But they make their own decisions. And the whole idea, the whole principle behind this war is one of sovereignty and unlike the Russians, we respect Ukrainian sovereignty. When we give them a weapons system, it belongs to them, where they use it, how they use it, how much ammunition they use, to use in that system, those are, those are Ukrainian decisions and we respect that,” he added.

But any escalation outside of Ukraine’s borders, he said, is “not good” for US national security interests.

"We have clearly had conversations with [Ukraine] about accountability on weapons systems. We certainly have made it very clear our concerns about escalation. But in the end, these are Ukrainian decisions that they have to make and that they have to speak to one way or the other,” he told CNN.

9:35 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Orthodox priest sentenced to 12 years in Ukraine for passing information to Russians

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Tim Lister

A priest accused of leaking information about the positions of Ukrainian troops to Russia has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, according to the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU).

The SBU said the rector of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the city of Lysychansk "passed to the occupiers information about the combat positions of Ukrainian troops in the city, as well as in the area of Severodonetsk" in the Luhansk region. 

The SBU said the priest had also "informed" the Russians about locals who could potentially resist the occupation.

The priest was detained in April, two months before Lysychansk fell to Russian forces.

The SBU said the priest had been recruited by Russia during a visit there in 2014 and had since been in constant contact with a leader of the separatist self-declared Luhansk People's Republic.

The SBU also said it had collected evidence against two other Russian informants in the same region, including a second priest in Luhansk.

It alleged that two Ukrainians had been kidnapped after he provided the Russians with information. The SBU said the priest was currently in occupied territory.

Some background: The Ukrainian government has begun taking action against some Orthodox Church premises and priests and proposed a new law that would ban the operation of religious organizations "affiliated with centers of influence" in Russia.

"Unfortunately, even Russian terror and full-scale war did not convince some figures that it is worth overcoming the temptation of evil. Well, we have to create conditions where no actors dependent on the aggressor state will have an opportunity to manipulate Ukrainians and weaken Ukraine from within," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week.

The SBU raided a historic Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, on Nov.r 22 as part of an effort to counter suspected “subversive activities" of Russia's special services.

"All bodies responsible for ensuring national security must intensify measures to identify and counter the subversive activities of Russian special services in the religious environment of Ukraine. And apply personal sanctions — the surnames will be made public soon," Zelensky said.

In May, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church officially broke allegiance with the Russian Orthodox Church and its leader Patriarch Kirill over the war.

9:28 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Fire at Russia's Kursk airfield extinguished

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London 

Smoke rises from the area of Kursk airport outside Kursk, Russia, on December 6.
Smoke rises from the area of Kursk airport outside Kursk, Russia, on December 6. (Administration of the Kursk region of Russia/AP)

The fire at an airport in Russia's Kursk region alleged by Russian officials to have been caused by a Ukrainian drone strike on Tuesday has been extinguished, a senior local official said on Wednesday. 

Over 200 people from several departments battled for more than a day to put out the fire, the governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoyt, said in a statement published on his Telegram.

On Tuesday, the governor alleged a drone attack hit an oil tanker near Kursk airfield. 

Kursk is located about 90 kilometers (nearly 56 miles) from the Ukrainian border. On Monday, Russia blamed Ukrainian forces for two attacks on airfield across Russia. 

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has offered no comment on the explosions. Officially, the targets are well beyond the reach of the country’s declared drones. However, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted a cryptic message on Tuesday, hinting at the possibility that Kyiv was indeed behind the attacks.

8:43 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

UN documents 441 killings of northern Ukrainian civilians, some while "cutting firewood or buying groceries"

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Seb Shukla

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights published a report on Wednesday that looks at 441 killings of civilians in the northern Ukrainian regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said the report details the murder of civilians for “cutting firewood and buying groceries” in the regions previously occupied by Russian forces following the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

The Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions were taken back following a Russian withdrawal in late March. 

Türk just concluded a four-day visit to the Ukrainian capital.

“We are working to corroborate allegations of additional killings in these regions, and in parts of Kharkiv and Kherson regions that were recently retaken by Ukrainian forces,” he said in a statement, indicating that the number could rise further.

“There are strong indications that the summary executions documented in the report constitute the war crime of [willful] killing,” he added.

In his statement, Türk listed the levels of assistance needed for the Ukrainian people, including 17.7 million people requiring humanitarian assistance and 9.3 million in need of food and livelihood assistance. 

One-third of the population have been forced to leave their homes, according to his statement, while 7.89 million have fled the country and 6.5 million have been internally displaced. 

Türk also said in the statement that he spent some of his visit in a bomb shelter on Monday as Russia launched another wave of missile attacks. He also visited the towns of Bucha and Izium.

Türk also noted the impact that Russia’s attacks on critical infrastructure will leave on the Ukrainian people.

“I fear that there is one long, bleak winter ahead for Ukraine. The consequences of the war on the enjoyment of human rights for people in the country have already been devastating, and the prognosis is very worrying,” he said.