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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4:37 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Putin says threat of nuclear war is increasing

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a conference in Moscow, Russia, on November, 24.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a conference in Moscow, Russia, on November, 24. (Contributor/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the threat of nuclear war is increasing.

In a meeting at the Kremlin with Russia's Human Rights Council, Putin said "In terms of the threat of nuclear war, you are right, such threat is increasing. As for the idea that Russia wouldn't use such weapons first under any circumstances, then it means we wouldn't be able to be the second to use them either — because the possibility to do so in case of an attack on our territory would be very limited,"

Putin added, "Nevertheless, we have a strategy... namely, as a defense, we consider weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons — it is all based around the so-called retaliatory strike — that is, when we are struck, we strike in response."

The Russian leader said that US nuclear weapons were located in large numbers on the European continent, while Russia had not transferred its nuclear weapons to other territories and is not planning to do so, but "will protect its allies with all the means at its disposal, if necessary."

Putin says he still views nuclear weapons as a deterrent measure. "We have not gone crazy. We are aware of what nuclear weapons are. We have these means, they are in a more advanced and modern form than those of any other nuclear country, this is obvious," he said.

"But we are not going to brandish these weapons like a razor, running around the world. Of course, we proceed from the fact that it exists. This is a deterrent factor that does not provoke the expansion of conflicts, but a deterrent, and I hope everyone understands this," Putin explained.
2:16 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

EU implements 9th package of sanctions against Russia

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin and James Frater in London

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on November 9.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on November 9. (Valeria Mongelli/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union is "stepping up the pressure on Russia" with another package of sanctions, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Wednesday.

The package — the EU's ninth — adds another nearly 200 individuals and entities to its sanctions list. It includes armed forces, members of the Russian parliament and defense industrial companies.

"This list covers key figures in Russia's brutal, deliberate missile strikes against civilians," she said in a video posted on Twitter.

The EU will also sanction three more Russian banks, including a full transaction ban on the country’s regional development bank, "to further dry out Putin's war chest," she added.

The measures will also cut Russia’s access to drones, both directly and via third-country suppliers such as Iran, she said.

The bloc will also impose new controls on exports, with a focus on dual-use goods such as chemicals, nerve agents, electronics and IT components, which “could be used by the Russian war machine,” she added.

EU Commission Vice President Josep Borrell said the latest measures are a direct consequence of the weaponization of winter by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He wants to disrupt electricity, heating, and water supplies for millions of civilians across Ukraine. We are responding with the 9th package of sanctions against those who are instrumental in this brutal war,” he said on Twitter.

 

1:00 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

8 civilians reported killed in Russian attack on Donetsk town in eastern Ukraine 

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Artillery and mortar fire has picked up on both sides of the front lines in the eastern Donetsk region, according to accounts from both the Ukrainian military and authorities in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.

On the Ukrainian side, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president's office, said that at least eight people were killed and five injured in an attack on the town of Kurakhove.

 "The enemy shelled the settlement with multiple rocket launchers. The market, bus station, gas stations, residential buildings came under fire," Tymoshenko said.

Kurakhove is west of the city of Donetsk; the shelling may have been in retaliation for Ukrainian fire on the city, which is held by the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, over the last three days.

To the north, in the town of Yampil, according to Tymoshenko, "the occupiers used cluster munitions. The central square of the city and the administrative building came under fire."

Yampil was liberated in September as Ukrainian forces pushed Russian units back into Luhansk. 

Other impacted areas: The Ukrainian military says that Russian artillery has fired at several settlements in Luhansk and Kharkiv — as Russia consolidates new defensive lines in the east.  

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War says that Ukrainian forces have "likely made recent gains in north-eastern Kharkiv," and have probably retaken the settlement of Kyslivka, some 25 kilometers (more than 15 miles) northwest of the strategic hub of Svatove where Russian forces are concentrated. 

The Ukrainian General Staff said Russia was focusing its efforts on assaults toward the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka in Donetsk, both of which have been under fire for months but remain in Ukrainian hands.

It said Russians continued to bombard Ukrainian settlements in recently liberated parts of Kherson along the west bank of the river Dnipro.

After a lull in the Russians' use of Iranian-made attack drones, the General Staff said one was shot down Wednesday.

11:53 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

More suspicious packages sent to Ukrainian diplomatic missions, says Ukraine foreign minister 

From CNN’s Eve Brennan and Olga Voitovych 

Suspicious packages continue to be sent to Ukrainian diplomatic missions abroad, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. 

“Over the past two days, suspicious packages have been received at the embassies in Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Denmark, as well as the consulate in Gdansk,” said Kuleba. 

According to Kuleba, this brings the total number of threats to 31 cases across 15 countries: Austria (1), Croatia (1), Czech Republic (2), Denmark (1), France (1), Hungary (2), Italy (4), Kazakhstan (1), Netherlands (1), Poland (6), Portugal (2), Romania (2), Spain (5), Vatican (1), and the United States (1).

Some of the packages have included the eyes of animals and others crude explosive charges, he noted.

Kuleba went on to say that all the suspicious packages display the same alleged “sender’s address,” which is a “car dealership in the German town of Sindelfingen.” There is no evidence that the address had anything to do with the packages.

The packages were usually sent from post offices that weren’t equipped with video surveillance systems, and the “attackers” had also avoided leaving traces of DNA, according to Kuleba’s Facebook post.

“This, in particular, indicates the professional level of this action,” he said. “For a week now, Ukrainian embassies and consulates have been operating in the mode of enhanced security measures, police cordons… and forensic experts.”

“The ongoing campaign of terror against Ukrainian diplomats is unprecedented in its scale not only in the context of Ukraine but also at the global level,” said Kuleba. “I do not recall cases in history when so many embassies and consulates of one country were subjected to such massive attacks in such a short period of time. But no matter how hard the enemies try to intimidate the Ukrainian diplomacy, they will fail. We continue to work for victory.”

11:25 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Belarus moves troops and military equipment as tensions increase along Ukrainian border, state media reports

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Tim Lister

Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, announced that it is moving troops and military equipment, citing "counter-terrorism threats," according to state news agency BelTA. 

The announcement comes amid heightened tension along Ukraine's northern border with Belarus, which was used as a platform by Russian troops during the invasion in February. 

“During this period, it is planned to move military equipment and personnel of the national security forces, temporarily restrict the movement of citizens (transport) along certain public roads and areas of the terrain, and use imitation weapons for training purposes,” BelTA reported, citing Belarus’ Security Council. 

Belarus has also announced the beginning of military drills in line with "the autumn conscription campaign for new recruits to receive basic military training."

Over the weekend, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Belarus and met with President Alexander Lukashenko — which Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the Office of President of Ukraine, said "will be added to the indictment's materials as a distribution of criminal roles."

Belarusian troops have not taken part in the conflict, a position reiterated by Lukashenko in October.

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: