December 16, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Leinz Vales, CNN

Updated 9:18 p.m. ET, December 16, 2022
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3:17 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022

Russian rockets targeting infrastructure, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Sebastian Skukla

Russian rocket attacks targeted critical infrastructure across Ukraine on Friday morning, according to regional officials.

In Kyiv, Mayor Vitaly Klitschko reported explosions in the capital's Desniansky district.

CNN teams in Kyiv earlier reported hearing explosions, as well as seeing and hearing missiles. They also heard the air defense systems working in the Ukrainian capital. 

In northeastern Kharkiv, Oleh Syniehubv, head of the regional military administration, said “critical infrastructure facilities” were hit in Chuhuiv district.

And in the central city of Kryvyi Rih, the head of the city military administration, Olkesandr Vilkul, reported “there are rocket hits.”

Russia has waged a series strikes against Ukraine since October that have damaged the energy system and civilian infrastructure, causing power outages in the freezing winter.

4:10 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022

Missile attacks reported across Ukraine

From CNN staff in Kyiv

Missile attacks have been reported across Ukraine on Friday, including in Kyiv, Odesa, Poltava, Zhytomyr, Kharkiv and Sumy.

CNN teams in Kyiv have reported hearing explosions, as well as seeing and hearing missiles. They also heard the air defense systems working in the Ukrainian capital. 

Earlier Friday, the deputy head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office urged people to stay in shelters as air raid sirens sounded across the country.

3:17 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022

Air raid sirens sound across Ukraine

From CNN’s Sophie Jeong

Kyrylo Tymoshenko meets the press in Borodianka, northern Ukraine on April 16.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko meets the press in Borodianka, northern Ukraine on April 16. (Hennadii Minchenko/Ukrinform/NurPhoto/AP)

Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine on Friday, according to the deputy head of the Presidential Office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

“Do not ignore the air raid alarm, stay in shelters,” Tymoshenko wrote on Telegram.

Russia has waged a series strikes against Ukraine since October that have damaged the energy system and civilian infrastructure, causing power outages in the freezing winter.

11:13 p.m. ET, December 15, 2022

Analysis: US Patriots could protect Ukraine's power grid

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid are targeting the entire population, casting people into darkness and cold, and pushing the US closer to sending the Patriot missile defense system long sought by Ukraine’s government.

But news, first reported by CNN, that the US is finalizing plans to send the system to Ukraine triggered a cryptic warning from Russia’s US embassy Wednesday of “unpredictable consequences.”

Sending the Patriot missiles would be seen as an escalation by the US, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova added Thursday.

“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.

The Patriot system is expensive and complicated and requires intensive training for the multiple people it takes to operate it, but could help the country guard against Russian attacks that have left millions without power.

Asked Thursday about Russian warnings that the Patriot system would be “provocative,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said those comments would not influence US aid to Ukraine.

“I find it ironic and very telling that officials from a country that brutally attacked its neighbor in an illegal and unprovoked invasion … that they would choose to use words like provocative to describe defensive systems that are meant to save lives and protect civilians,” Ryder told reporters.

“Despite Russia’s propaganda to portray themselves as victims, it’s important to remember that Russia is the aggressor here,” he said.

However, he added, “The US is not at war with Russia, and we do not seek conflict. Our focus is on providing Ukraine with the security assistance it needs to defend itself.”

Ryder also said the US would amp up its training of Ukrainian armed forces with exercises in Europe.

Read the full analysis here.

9:32 p.m. ET, December 15, 2022

US Senate passes defense bill that includes $800 million in support for Ukraine

From CNN's Tami Luhby

Congress has passed a bipartisan $858 billion defense bill that would authorize $858 billion in national defense funding, which includes $800 million in support for Ukraine.

The Senate voted Thursday to pass the massive National Defense Authorization Act, known as the NDAA, with bipartisan support. It follows the House's bipartisan approval of the legislation last week.

The legislation now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The NDAA extends and modifies the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, as well as authorizes $800 million in funding in fiscal year 2023, which is $500 million more than was contained in last year’s defense bill.

The program provides funding for the federal government to pay industry to produce weapons and security assistance to send to Ukraine, rather than drawing directly from current US stockpiles of weapons.

The funding authorization is intended to supplement additional money for the initiative expected in a future federal spending package, according to Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who wrote the program into law in 2015. 

Also, the defense bill would expedite the delivery of munitions to Ukraine and the replenishment of associated US stockpiles by streamlining acquisition requirements and authorizing multiyear procurement for certain munitions, according to the House Armed Services Committee.

One of the key concerns throughout the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has been whether the industrial bases of the US and other allied nations can meet the demand required to support Ukraine.

This measure is focused on reducing bureaucratic red tape to help industry produce those weapons for Ukraine faster.

Read more about the bill here.

1:28 a.m. ET, December 16, 2022

Exploding gift sends Polish police chief to hospital after Ukraine visit

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood, Josh Pennington and Dennis Lapin

Jaroslaw Szymczyk in Rzeszow, Poland on July 27.
Jaroslaw Szymczyk in Rzeszow, Poland on July 27. (Artur Widak/NurPhoto/AP)

Poland’s police chief Jaroslaw Szymczyk was hospitalized with minor injuries on Wednesday after a gift that he had received in Ukraine suddenly exploded, according to a government statement

“Yesterday at 7:50 a.m., an explosion occurred in a room adjacent to the office of the Police Chief,” Poland’s Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
“During the Police Chief’s working visit to Ukraine on December 11-12 this year, where he met with the heads of the Ukrainian Police and Emergency Situations Service, he received some gifts, one of which exploded.”

The statement alleged the gift came from one of the heads of Ukrainian services.

Poland has asked Ukraine to clarify what happened and a case was “immediately opened” with the prosecutor’s office and corresponding services, it said.

CNN has reached out to Kyiv regional police and national police for comment but have not yet received a response.

Szymczyk has been hospitalized for observation. A member of staff from the Police Headquarters also suffered minor injuries, but did not need hospitalization, according to the statement.

The incident follows a slew of suspicious mail sent to Ukrainian embassies in Europe, pushing Kyiv to put all of its overseas diplomatic stations under heightened security.

Ukraine's embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Italy, Austria, as well as the consulates general in Naples and Krakow, have received suspicious packages, according to Oleh Nikolenko, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

7:52 p.m. ET, December 15, 2022

Russia shelled Kherson more than 16 times Thursday, Zelensky says

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia shelled Kherson more than 16 times, Thursday, and hit a Red Cross aid station.

"During another Russian shelling of Kherson today, a shell hit the Red Cross aid station. A woman — a paramedic, a volunteer — was killed. My condolences to the family... Only since the beginning of this day Russia has already shelled Kherson more than 16 times," Zelensky said during his nightly address.

The southern city was liberated by Ukrainian troops last month after eight months of occupation by Russian forces. The retreat across the Dnipro River was a major blow to Moscow as Kherson was the only regional capital Russian forces had captured since February’s invasion.

Zelensky also noted the ongoing battles in the eastern Donbas region.

"The occupants are throwing everyone and everything they have at the offensive. They cannot overcome our army, so they physically destroy every town and village so that there are no buildings, not even walls, that can be used for any defense," Zelensky said.

7:50 p.m. ET, December 15, 2022

US announces expansion of training for Ukrainian armed forces

From CNN's Michael Conte

The US announced an expansion of training for Ukrainian armed forces in Europe “to include joint maneuver and combined arms operations training,” according to the Defense Department.  

CNN first reported that the US was considering expanding both the type of training provided to the Ukrainian military as well as the number of forces trained.

“Combined arms maneuver training is a logical next step in our ongoing training efforts which began in 2014 to build the Ukrainian armed forces capacity,” said Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder at a news briefing.

Ryder said the program will train approximately 500 Ukrainians per month starting in January and will be conducted in Germany by US Army Europe and Africa Command’s 7th Army Training Command.

“As we move forward, we will stay flexible and adaptable based on our Ukrainian partners and the evolving situation in Ukraine,” he said.

Ryder said he was “not aware” that the training would require additional US forces to be deployed.

“We have forces in place that have been conducting training, so to my knowledge, no significant increase in support,” he said.

The US had been providing this kind of training to the Ukrainian military prior to the Russian invasion, starting in 2014, according to Ryder.

“When Russia invaded, we withdrew our trainers from Ukraine, and so this is a continuation now of the training that we had previously provided,” Ryder said.

Ryder added that the training will include “live-fire exercises, followed by squad, platoon and company-level training that will then culminate in battalion-level maneuver training.”

7:49 p.m. ET, December 15, 2022

Zelensky and Ukrainian generals warn of new Russian offensive in the new year

From CNN's Tim Lister

In a series of interviews with The Economist, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his top commanders say they expect a new offensive by Russia early in the new year — but are in no mood to compromise on their ultimate goals. 

Zelensky repeated that Ukraine’s aim was to retrieve the land it held when it became independent in 1991 — including Crimea. 

Days after the Kremlin said Ukraine must recognize new realities, including Russia's recent annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Zelensky repeated that Ukraine would make no concessions. “If he [Putin] now withdraws to the 1991 borders then the possible path of diplomats will begin. That is who can really turn the war from a military path to a diplomatic one. Only he can do it.” 

Zelensky said some 95% of Ukrainian people do not want to compromise on territory. “The issue is deeper than land. No one wants to have a dialogue with these people who unleashed [the war].”  

Zelensky said it was “a little scary” to visit recently liberated towns and witness how the occupation had changed people. 

“I must admit that this propaganda model of the Kremlin — it works.” It had changed Ukrainians in occupied territories. They were like “astronauts who cannot take off heavy helmets — limiting what they can see to unrelenting disinformation.” 

The overall military commander in Ukraine, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, said he expected a new Russian offensive in the new year. 

“They [Russian forces] are 100% being prepared,” he said. 

A major Russian attack could come “in February, at best in March and at worst at the end of January”, he said. And it could come anywhere: in Donbas, where Putin is eager to capture the remainder of Donetsk province; in the south, towards the city of Dnipro; even towards Kyiv.