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Putin makes rare public comment about who's to blame for attacks
01:49 - Source: CNN

What we covered here

  • WNBA star Brittney Griner is back on US soil after being released from a Russian jail in a prisoner swap for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.
  • Russia refused to release another detained American, Paul Whelan, unless a former colonel currently in German custody was also released, US officials told CNN.
  • President Vladimir Putin said Russia may abandon its doctrine of “no first use” of nuclear weapons. It’s the second time this week Putin has floated the possibility.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the situation remains very difficult along the frontline in the country’s Donbas region.
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Our live coverage for the day has ended. Follow the latest Ukraine news here or read through the updates below. 

White House expresses concern about growing Iran-Russia defense partnership

The White House is continuing to sound the alarm at the flourishing military partnership between Iran and Russia, saying Friday the US would work to “expose and disrupt” the exchange of weapons and know-how between the two countries.

“This is a fullscale defense partnership that is harmful to Ukraine, to Iran’s neighbors and quite frankly to the international community,” said John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator at the National Security Council.

Kirby said the US was imposing new sanctions on three Russian entities involved in acquiring and using Russian drones. The US also authorized an additional $275 million in military aid for Ukraine on Friday.

He said the several hundred drones Iran is providing to Russia are being used to kill innocent Ukrainians and destroy civilian infrastructure. He said Iran was providing Russia with an “unprecedented level” of military and technical support, including the potential sale of ballistic missiles and a new joint production line.

In return, Russia is seeking to collaborate with Iran on weapons development and advanced military components, Kirby said, and could be providing Tehran with helicopters and air defense systems along with training pilots in Russia.

He called the Tehran-Moscow pipeline a “full-fledged defense partnership” that the US expects to grow in the coming months.

He said the US has warned other Middle East nations the alliance could pose a threat to their region, and said the US would “bring together like-minded countries” to discuss Iran-Russia cooperation.

Paul Whelan’s brother hopeful US “will be creative” about possible prisoner swap

David Whelan

The brother of Paul Whelan said he doesn’t believe the US has run out of options when it comes to a possible prisoner swap involving his imprisoned sibling.

“Russia likes parity,” David Whelan told CNN on Friday. “They like getting equal things and it’s both when you hit them they want to hit you back and when you give them something, they want to give you the same thing only. So it’s a very careful and parsimonious view of the world.”

He said Moscow has labeled Paul a spy and speculated that the country could be “waiting for a Russian spy to be arrested somewhere else in the world, and then use Paul for that purpose.”

“But I think that the US government has shown that it can be creative and will be creative going forward,” he said.

Whelan said the previous days have been “pretty devastating” for his brother, and that his detainment has also been “very difficult” on their family.

“It’s hard to keep your own morale up,” he said. “You want to support Paul and keep his morale up, but you know that really each day is the clock ticking away.”

Some background: Russia refused to release Whelan — a former Marine convicted of espionage charges — alongside WNBA star Brittney Griner unless a former colonel from Russia’s domestic spy imprisoned in Germany was also released, a U.S. official told CNN. 

The US was unable to deliver on the request for the ex-colonel, Vadim Krasikov, because he is serving out a life sentence for murder in Germany.

Brittney Griner was able to call her dad on the plane back to the US, lawmaker says

Brittney Griner, the American basketball released by Russia in a prisoner exchange, was able to call her dad from the plane while flying home, according to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

“I have spoken with a parent, and he was eagerly waiting for a call which was arranged, and so she was able to in midair call her dad. And I can assure you that made him more than ecstatic,” Jackson Lee, who represents Texas’ 18th Congressional District, told CNN.

“He is a veteran, which is what we kept saying as we pushed for the negotiations, that here is a veteran whose daughter has been taken by one the worst leaders in the world. So, he is happy obviously. They all want to see her and might even want to see her back here at home, but I know that was a happy phone reunion to hear his daughter’s voice,” she said.

Infrastructure and military among priorities amid energy crunch in Ukraine, prime minister says

As Ukraine grapples with an energy crisis, the country will have to set priorities for electricity supply, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.

“The first priority is critical infrastructure, in particular water and heat supply facilities and hospitals,” Shmyhal told a government meeting. “The second priority is the military-industrial complex — facilities that work for the defense of the state. The principle, ‘Everything for the front,’ remains absolutely unchanged.”

He said the third priority is businesses that produce essential products — for example, bakeries and dairies. And the residential sector was fourth.

Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, CEO of state electricity generator Ukrenergo, said that repairs were continuing after the last wave of Russian missile attacks on Monday.

Kudrytskyi said substations in southern Ukraine and power plants were damaged.

“Several power plants were forced to stop generating electricity after the damage. Now we are gradually trying to restore generation at thermal power plants, to bring them to the levels that existed on the eve of the last attack.”

Kudrytskyi said that since Oct. 10, more than 1,000 heavy missiles and drones have been fired at energy infrastructure facilities. The major difficulties with electricity supply were currently in the Odesa region, Kherson region, and Kharkiv region.

Nuclear generation has provided a little more than half of Ukraine’s needs in the recent past but Kudrytskyi said said the country needed other types of energy generation.

“There is not a single thermal power plant in Ukraine that was not damaged by the attacks,” he said. “Similarly, almost all hydroelectric power plants have suffered some damage and have a limited ability to generate electricity.”

He said as repairs continued, he hoped the country could transition to planned outages in the next few days. Much of Ukraine has also suffered emergency power cuts in recent weeks.

Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said more Russian targeting of infrastructure could be expected, and the energy supply might also be affected by heavy frosts.

“Ukraine has already received power equipment worth millions of euros. Our task today is not only to use the equipment for rapid restoration works but also to form a stock of equipment that may be urgently needed after the next shelling,” he said.