December 15, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sana Noor Haq and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 1:47 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022
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9:59 a.m. ET, December 15, 2022

Russian Embassy warns of "unpredictable consequences" if US sends Patriot missiles to Ukraine

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London 

A US soldier stands near a Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep on February 5, 2013.
A US soldier stands near a Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep on February 5, 2013. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

Any shipment of US Patriot missiles to Ukraine could "lead to unpredictable consequences" and threaten global security, the Russian Embassy in Washington said in a statement Wednesday. 

The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send the advanced long-range air defense system to Ukraine to help counter Moscow's attacks, according to US officials cited in a CNN report Tuesday.

"If this is confirmed, we will witness yet another provocative step by the [Biden] administration, which can lead to unpredictable consequences," the Russian Embassy statement said.

It added that continued arms deliveries to Ukraine "will only strengthen the Zelensky regime’s sense of impunity and push it to new crimes against civilians" in four Ukrainian regions that Russia claims to have annexed.

The statement also criticized US support for Ukraine, saying: "Washington’s strategy causes enormous damage not only to the Russian-American relations, but also creates additional risks for global security."

Speaking earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that any Patriot missiles sent to Ukraine would be legitimate targets for Russian forces, but added that the US plan had not been confirmed.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Thursday that Washington’s potential delivery would increase the risk of the US military’s direct involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, according to state news agency TASS. 

"On December 13, the US announced its intention to supply Ukraine with a Patriot air defense missile battery. Earlier, many experts, including those overseas, questioned the rationality of such a step which would lead to an escalation of the conflict and increase the risk of directly dragging the US army into combat," Zakharova said at a briefing in Moscow. 

"We would like to reiterate that all arms supplied to Ukraine by the West are legitimate military targets for Russia’s Armed Forces and will be either eliminated or captured as our country has repeatedly stated," she said. 

"Washington continues to strong-arm other NATO countries demanding from them a more substantial contribution to the militarization of Ukraine," Zakharova said. 

12:59 a.m. ET, December 15, 2022

Russia publicizes installation of intercontinental missile ahead of "Strategic Forces Day"

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

This video still shows a "Yars" ballistic missile loaded into a silo launcher in the Kaluga region.
This video still shows a "Yars" ballistic missile loaded into a silo launcher in the Kaluga region. (Russian Defense Ministry)

In a further sign of the importance it attaches to its strategic nuclear deterrent, the Russian military has loaded a "Yars" ballistic missile into a silo launcher in the Kaluga region.

The Ministry of Defense released video to mark the event, just ahead of Russia's "Day of Strategic Missile Forces."

It said that an "intercontinental ballistic missile of the Yars complex was loaded into a silo launcher at the Kozelsky missile formation in the Kaluga region."

"The importance of this operation lies in the fact that the missile will be on combat duty as planned. The Motherland will receive another sample of nuclear missile weapons, which will allow us to solve any tasks at the strategic level," said Alexei Sokolov, commander of the Kozelsky missile formation, in a video shared by the ministry together with the statement.
Russia's Defense Ministry released the video ahead of the country's "Day of Strategic Missile Forces."
Russia's Defense Ministry released the video ahead of the country's "Day of Strategic Missile Forces." (Russian Defense Ministry)

Patriot defense system: The announcement of Russia's intercontinental missile installation comes after reports that the Biden administration is finalizing plans to send an advanced long-range air defense system to Ukraine to help counter Moscow's attacks.

8:18 p.m. ET, December 14, 2022

Boy, 8, killed in Russian shelling of Kherson

From CNN's Denis Lapin in Kyiv

An 8-year old boy was among two people killed by Russian shelling of the city of Kherson on Wednesday, according to Ukrainian officials.

Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson regional military administration, said Russian shells had hit residential buildings in the Dniprovskyi district of the city, which was liberated by Ukrainian forces last month.

"A child died as a result of Russian shelling. Doctors tried to resuscitate the boy for an hour," he said, adding that a woman "was caught by Russian shelling on her way home. She died on the spot from her wounds."

Two others were wounded, he said.

Kherson attacks: Russian strikes also hit the regional administration building in Kherson on Wednesday morning, amid a wave of fatal shelling on the southern Ukrainian region.

On Tuesday, Kherson was shelled 42 times, according to Yanushevych. The targets included a yacht club, a college, a school and residential buildings. One person was killed and one was injured.

8:11 p.m. ET, December 14, 2022

Ukraine raids more Orthodox Church premises suspected of being pro-Moscow

From CNN's Katharina Krebs and Tim Lister

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said Wednesday it had carried out searches of premises belonging to a branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in nine regions — finding Russian passports, propagandist literature and "passes of the occupiers."

Part of the church in Ukraine — which split earlier this year — remains loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). 

"The Security Service completed counter-intelligence (security) measures at UOC (MP) facilities in Zakarpattia, Chernivtsi, Rivne, Volyn, Mykolaiv, Sumy, Lviv, Zhytomyr and Kherson regions," the SBU said. 

It said it found Russian passports, St. George's ribbons — which are popular among pro-Russian separatists — symbols of the banned pro-Russian party "Opposition Platform For Life" and "manuals for spreading enemy propaganda through the faithful" on the territory of the dioceses.

In addition, intelligence officers found books by Ivan Ilyin, who is often called "Putin's philosopher," it said.

In the village of Chornobaivka in Kherson region, the SBU said it had discovered passes of the pro-Russian occupiers during the inspection of the church premises.

It said photographs of Russian documents "on ensuring cooperation with the military commissariats of the Russian Federation" were found in the diocese of the Lviv region.

The SBU also said it had found a monk with a Russian passport and contacts in the Russian Federation on the territory of one of the monasteries of the Rivne region in western Ukraine.

"His possible involvement in intelligence and subversive activities for the benefit of the Russian special services is currently being investigated," it said.

The Lviv diocese said in a statement on Facebook that the SBU had inspected premises and that "no anti-Ukrainian items and literature were found."

The SBU has stepped up a campaign of raids against parts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in recent weeks.

8:10 p.m. ET, December 14, 2022

Kremlin says any US Patriot missiles possibly sent to Ukraine would "certainly" be targets for Russian forces

From CNN's Tim Lister and Anna Chernova

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that if US Patriot missiles are sent to Ukraine, they would be legitimate targets for Russian forces.

But he added that the US plan had not been confirmed.

Peskov was asked by CNN if he held the same view as former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who has said that the missiles "would immediately become a legitimate target of our armed forces."

"Certainly," Peskov responded, in remarks later picked up by official Russian news agency TASS. But he added, "I would refrain from comment for now, though, because these are just media reports."

CNN reported exclusively Tuesday that the Biden administration is finalizing plans to send the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, with a decision possibly announced as soon as this week, according to two US officials and a senior administration official.

The Pentagon's plan still needs to be approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin before it is sent to President Joe Biden for his signature. The three officials told CNN that approval is expected.

It is not clear how many missile launchers will be sent, but a typical Patriot battery includes a radar set that detects and tracks targets, computers, power generating equipment, an engagement control station and up to eight launchers, each holding four ready-to-fire missiles. 

Once the plans are finalized, the Patriots are expected to ship quickly in the coming days and Ukrainians will be trained to use them at a US Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, officials told CNN.

Russian officials have repeatedly said that all Western systems sent to Ukraine — including the HIMARS anti-air defenses — will be targeted.

Ukrainian authorities have been seeking Patriot batteries for months but have not confirmed that the US has agreed to dispatch them. On Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said only that a meeting of the military's General Staff had talked about the "protection of the sky."

"We are constantly strengthening our air and anti-drone defense. And we are doing everything to get more modern and more powerful systems for Ukraine," he said.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed reporting to this post.

10:38 p.m. ET, December 14, 2022

Wagner boss claims "US intelligence services" behind murder of Russian defector

From CNN's Tim Lister and Katharina Krebs 

Russian oligarch Evgeny Prigozhin has made a series of claims about the brutal murder of a former member of his Wagner company who had defected to Ukraine — alleging without evidence that US intelligence services killed the man. 

Prigozhin, a long-time associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and founder of the private military contractor Wagner, said he would ask Russian authorities "to establish the facts and circumstances of the murder of Yevgeny Anatolyevich Nuzhin."

In November a video emerged of Nuzhin, who had crossed to the Ukrainian side, being brutally murdered with a sledgehammer after claiming that he had been abducted in Kyiv. 

In a statement carried by his holding company Concord Wednesday, Prigozhin asked Russia's prosecutor general to "request the US intelligence services provide information on how and under what circumstances Yevgeny Nuzhin ended up on the territory of Ukraine and to report whether CIA or other intelligence agencies of NATO countries took part in his abduction, interrogation and execution."

It's a puzzling about-turn for the oligarch: In November, he applauded the murder of Nuzhin, saying he had "betrayed his people, betrayed his comrades, betrayed them consciously. He was not taken prisoner, nor did he surrender. Rather, he planned his escape. Nuzhin is a traitor.”

Before his alleged abduction, Nuzhin told Ukrainian interviewers that he had planned his escape from Russian-held territory and was ready to fight on the Ukrainian side.

Prigozhin now contends that Wagner fighters could not possibly have abducted Nuzhin and brought him back across the front line without being caught but claims that US intelligence services “abduct people throughout the entire world.”

Ukrainian officials say Nuzhin was returned to Russia of his own volition. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said last month that Nuzhin had chosen to return to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange and had gone through "an official prisoner-of-war exchange procedure."

8:08 p.m. ET, December 14, 2022

No energy infrastructure facilities damaged in Kyiv following drone attacks, says state energy supplier

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Ukraine's state energy supplier said none of its power infrastructure in Kyiv was damaged on Wednesday morning, following a wave of drone attacks across the city.

“Thanks to the brilliant work of air defense forces, energy infrastructure facilities were not damaged — all 13 UAVs were shot down," Ukrenergo said in a statement.

The company also gave a brief update on the energy supply situation nationwide.

In the east of the country repairs are slow and getting more dangerous to undertake “due to almost daily shelling," it said.

"Energy facilities are constantly damaged. Repair works are slowing down due to the danger to the lives of repairmen."

Russia has unleashed a barrage of strikes targeting critical infrastructure in Ukraine in recent months, leaving millions of residents without access to heat and electricity amid a harsh winter season.

7:51 p.m. ET, December 14, 2022

Ukrainians push for US to support special tribunal to prosecute Russian leadership for crime of aggression

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Ukrainian officials traveled to the United States last week to push for support for the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute top-level Russian officials for the crime of aggression.

Although there are a number of different bodies working towards accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Ukrainian Ambassador at Large Anton Korynevych argued that these existing mechanisms do not do enough to ensure that the decision-makers in Moscow face punishment for their war against Ukraine.

“We have a loophole, a gap in accountability, when we talk about accountability for the crime of aggression against Ukraine,” Korynevych told CNN in Washington, DC, last week. “Legally, currently, there is no international mechanism, which can investigate and prosecute the crime of aggression against Ukraine.”

The idea of such a tribunal has been backed by a number of European countries and the European Union. It has faced pushback from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is carrying out its own investigation into reported war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out in Ukraine. Korynevych said that the ICC does not have the jurisdiction to prosecute the crime of aggression against Ukraine.

Read more here.