December 11, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Matt Meyer, Maureen Chowdhury and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 1:39 a.m. ET, December 12, 2022
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11:31 a.m. ET, December 11, 2022

Situation in Odesa is "controlled, although not easy" amid power outage, mayor says

From CNN's Mia Alberti

A power outage is seen in Odesa on Saturday.
A power outage is seen in Odesa on Saturday. (Gian Marco Benedetto/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Power and water supplies are gradually being restored around the key port of Odesa after the region was hit by drone strikes, Odesa Mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said in a statement on Telegram.

The number of people without power in the region decreased from 1.5 million on Saturday to 300,000 on Sunday.

"The situation is quite controlled, although not easy," he said.

Trukhanov said his administration is re-launching pumping stations and delivering water by truck to zones where shortages continue. Regarding power supply and heating, the official said 43 out of 140 boiler houses are still not working. 

"Power engineers are working to ensure that the electricity returns to the homes of Odesa residents as soon as possible," the mayor said.

The head of Odesa regional state administration, Maksym Marchenko, said in a statement that "power is gradually returning to Odesa".

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday that the damage was done by Iranian-made drones, which Russia launched overnight Friday into Saturday.

Why Odesa's stability is so important: The port of Odesa is Ukraine's key to exporting vital food products, including through its "Grain from Ukraine" initiative, which is aimed at addressing the global hunger crisis.

10:52 a.m. ET, December 11, 2022

Macron and Zelensky speak ahead of international aid conferences 

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron said he spoke with his counterpart in Kyiv Sunday to prepare two conferences in support of Ukraine this week in Paris. 

“With President Zelensky, we have prepared the conferences that France is hosting on Tuesday: the first, international, to meet Ukraine's needs to get through the winter, and a second with French companies that are involved in the reconstruction of the country,” Macron tweeted Sunday. 

This is the 43rd meeting or call between the two men since Dec. 2021, according to the Elysee Presidential Palace. 

Nearly 70 state and international NGO actors are expected to attend the morning conference on support for Ukraine in the winter, with some 500 French companies due to attend the afternoon conference on reconstruction, per the Elysee Palace.

Several agreements on critical infrastructure are also expected to be signed.

Ukraine’s prime minister and first lady are expected to attend the conferences in Paris Tuesday, with President Volodymyr Zelensky to give a virtual address. 

10:26 a.m. ET, December 11, 2022

Eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut is "holding on" as fighting rages all around it, military says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian service members rest in their shelter in Bakhmut on Friday.
Ukrainian service members rest in their shelter in Bakhmut on Friday. Yevhan Titoy/Reuters

Ukraine's forces are clinging to the eastern town of Bakhmut as fighting rages all around it, the military said. 

“Bakhmut is Ukraine. Bakhmut is standing, Bakhmut is holding on,” a spokesperson for the Armed Forces of Ukraine wrote on Telegram. 

Speaking about Russian troops, the Ukrainian military said: “You have not entered anywhere, you will not enter anywhere. You will never take Bakhmut.” 

The military added: “No matter what they say, no matter what they write, Bakhmut was, is and will be Ukraine.” 

Some context: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this week that the situation is very difficult for his troops along the frontline in the country's Donbas region.

Bakhmut is located in Donetsk, which is part of the Donbas and was among the four territories of Ukraine annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in violation of international law.

10:21 a.m. ET, December 11, 2022

Multiple explosions reported around Crimea Saturday evening

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva and Tim Lister

Several blasts shook the Crimean city of Simferopol around 9 p.m. local time Saturday, according to social media video and local reports.

There were also reports of explosions in Sevastopol, the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea fleet; at a Russian military barracks in Sovietske; and in the settlements of Hvardiiske, Dzhankoi and Nyzhniohirskyi.

The blasts come after Moscow ramped up its missile assaults on Ukraine last week, and around the same time, Ukraine launched attacks on occupied Melitopol and Donetsk, which is controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

The exact circumstances surrounding the explosions are unclear:

Sergey Aksenov, the Russian-appointed head of Crimea, indicated the region had activated its air defenses but didn't specifically outline details of a potential attack.

“The air defense system worked over Simferopol," he wrote on Telegram. "All services are working as usual."

The unofficial Crimean media portal Krymskyi Veter said the explosion at a Russian military barracks in Sovietske had set the building on fire, killing some people and leaving others wounded.

A pro-Russian Crimean channel claimed the fire at the barracks had been caused by “careless handling of fire.”

“Two people died. Now all the servicemen, about two hundred people, are accommodated in another premises,” it said.

And Mikhail Razvozhaev, governor of Sevastopol, said the explosions in his area were due to firing exercises.

Ukrainian officials have made no comment about the reported Crimea explosions. CNN is unable to verify what caused the blasts, nor the extent of damage and casualties.

11:13 a.m. ET, December 11, 2022

Zelensky: 1.5M without power after Russian drones strike key port city of Odesa

From CNN's Mariya Knight

More than 1.5 million people in the region surrounding Odesa, a key Ukrainian port city, are without power following a strike by Russian drones early Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“In total, Russian terrorists used 15 (Iranian-made) Shahed drones against Odesa,” Zelensky said during his daily address that evening. "Only critical infrastructure is connected, and to the extent where it is possible to supply electricity."

"This is the true attitude of Russia towards Odesa, towards Odesa residents – deliberate bullying, deliberate attempt to bring disaster to the city," he continued. 

Zelensky added that “Ukrainian sky defenders managed to shoot down 10 drones out of 15.” 

The Ukrainian president called the drone hits “critical” and suggested it will take a few days to restore the electricity supply in the region.

“In general, both emergency and stabilization power outages continue in various regions,” Zelensky said. “The power system is now, to put it mildly, very far from a normal state.”

Why Odesa's stability is so important: The port of Odesa is Ukraine's key to exporting vital food products, including through its "Grain from Ukraine" initiative, which is aimed at addressing the global hunger crisis.

A long winter sets in: With strikes on energy infrastructure, Russia is repeatedly casting Ukrainian cities into the dark and cold as a long winter sets in.

The result is a grinding battle of attrition: Barrages of Russian missiles fly across Ukraine, and Ukrainian power engineers work for days in freezing temperatures to restore power.

9:20 a.m. ET, December 11, 2022

Ukraine launches attacks on self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic: Russia state media

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Ukraine launched a missile attack on the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) early Sunday morning, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

Ukraine launched 20 Grad missiles around 5:54 a.m. local time Sunday, said Alexei Kulemzin, head of the Russian-backed city administration. The strikes were made in the direction of the Voroshilovsky and Kalininsky districts. 

Shells hit several apartment buildings and landed near the opera, ballet theater and the Kalinin Hospital, RIA reported, adding that one strike left an apartment building ablaze.

Kulemzin said Ukraine also shelled the city's Kyivskyi district late Saturday night, around 11 p.m. local time. 

The Ukrainian military has not yet confirmed or commented on the attack, and CNN cannot independently verify the reports.

Some background: Donetsk is a region in eastern Ukraine that has been held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

During that time, the region has been operated under the name Donetsk People's Republic. Russia recognizes the DPR as a sovereign state, and Donetsk was among the four Ukrainian regions annexed by Russia in violation of international law.

Russia is the only country that considers the DPR independent. The international community does not recognize the region and its institutions, and considers the territory to be part of Ukraine. Independent watchdog groups have long accused the separatists of a dismal human rights track record and ill treatment of prisoners.

8:58 a.m. ET, December 11, 2022

Ukraine launches missile attack on Russian-occupied Melitopol, local officials say

From CNN’s Josh Pennington

Ukraine launched a missile attack on the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol Saturday, according to officials on both sides.

Melitopol’s Moscow-installed administrators said four missiles struck the city, killing two people and wounding 10.

Yevgeny Balitsky, Russia’s acting governor of Zaporizhzhia, said two more missiles were shot down.

A “recreation center, where people, civilians, and (military) base personnel were having dinner on Saturday night, was completely destroyed,” Balitsky said.

The strikes were also acknowledged by Ivan Fedorov, Ukraine’s former administrator of Melitopol city, who said Russian military bases were hit.

Fedorov said the explosions hit the building of the Melitopol Christian Church, "which the occupiers seized several months ago and turned into their hideout."

Last month, the Ukrainian official said the Russian military has turned Melitopol into “one giant military base.”

“The Russian military is settling in local houses they seized, schools and kindergartens. Military equipment is stationed in residential areas,” he said at the time.

Fedorov, who is not in Melitopol, also reported dead and wounded among the Russian forces in the city. He did not provide a specific number.

Melitopol, in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region, has been under Russian occupation since early March.

8:01 a.m. ET, December 11, 2022

Viktor Bout says he "wholeheartedly" supports Ukraine war and would volunteer to fight for Russia

From CNN's Darya Tarasova and Sharon Braithwaite in London 

(Apichart Weerawong/AP/FILE)
(Apichart Weerawong/AP/FILE)

Recently freed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout said Saturday he "wholeheartedly" supports Russia's war in Ukraine and that he'd volunteer to fight for Russia.

He said if he had the opportunity and the necessary skills, he would "certainly go as a volunteer" in what Russia calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.  

Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” by his accusers, was released on Thursday from US detention in a prisoner swap for US basketball star Brittney Griner.  

Bout made these remarks in a video interview with Kremlin-controlled TV network RT. He was interviewed by Maria Butina, a Russian gun rights enthusiast-turned TV personality who now works for the network. Butina, who was convicted of conspiring to act as an agent for a foreign state in the United States, was deported to Russia in October 2019 after serving more than 15 months behind bars in Florida.

When asked if he had a portrait of President Vladimir Putin in his prison cell, Bout said: "Yes, always. Why not? I’m proud that I’m Russian and that our president is Putin."

Some background on Bout: The former Soviet military officer was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization. Bout has maintained he is innocent. 

8:01 a.m. ET, December 11, 2022

Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureate blasts Putin's "insane and criminal" invasion of Ukraine

From CNN’s Sugam Pokharel and Allegra Goodwin

Natalia Pinchuk — on behalf of her husband Nobel Peace Prize 2022 winner and jailed Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski — delivers a speech during the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Friday.
Natalia Pinchuk — on behalf of her husband Nobel Peace Prize 2022 winner and jailed Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski — delivers a speech during the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Friday. (Rodrigo Freitas/NTB/AFP/Getty Images)

Human rights groups from Russia and Ukraine – Memorial and the Center for Civil Liberties – have officially been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022, along with the jailed Belarusian advocate Ales Bialiatski, at a ceremony in Oslo on Saturday.  

Bialiatski's wife received his award on his behalf. The three winners will share the prize money of 10,000,000 Swedish krona ($900,000). 

The new laureates were honored for “an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power” in their respective countries.

“They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement in October when the winners were announced.  

Russian laureate blasts Moscow's war: Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Yan Rachinsky blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “insane and criminal” war on Ukraine in his acceptance speech.

Rachinsky, from Russia's human rights organization Memorial, claimed resistance to Russia is known as “fascism” under Putin, adding this has become “the ideological justification for the insane and criminal war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Memorial, one of Russia’s most well-known and respected human rights groups, worked to expose the abuses and atrocities of the Stalinist era for more than three decades before it was ordered to close by the country’s Supreme Court late last year. 

Ukrainian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk on Saturday called for an international tribunal to bring Putin and Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko to justice over “war crimes.”

The Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine's Matviichuk said this would be a way to “ensure justice for those affected by the war.” 

In her acceptance speech, Matviichuk warned war criminals should not only be convicted after the fall of authoritarian regimes, adding that “justice cannot wait.”