December 17, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Matt Meyer, Adrienne Vogt and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 5:40 p.m. ET, December 17, 2022
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5:19 p.m. ET, December 17, 2022

France rejects accusation it was behind Wagner Group associate's assassination attempt

From CNN's Joseph Ataman and Gaby Gretener

France has denied responsibility for an assassination attempt on a Russian citizen closely linked to the Wagner group — a controversial mercenary firm that's trained and fought with local armed forces in the Central African Republic.

Dmitry Syty, who runs the “Russian House” in the CAR's capital of Bangui, was left injured this week after receiving a package that exploded in his hands, according to Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Prigozhin, who's also known as Putin's "chef," accused the French of being behind the attack. But French minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna rejected the accusations.

“This information is false, here I tell you very simply, and it is even a good example of Russian propaganda and the fanciful imagination that sometimes characterizes this propaganda,” Colonna told CNN in a statement. "I will not comment on Wagner's position in general, you know that this militia engages in regrettable exactions on the civilian populations. I would have a lot to say about them but now is not the time,” she added.

Prigozhin claimed Syty’s last words before falling unconscious and being taken to the hospital were: “I saw a note: ‘This is for you from all the French, the Russians will get out of Africa.'”

Prigozhin also claimed that on Nov. 11, Syty received a package from Togo containing a photograph of his son, who lives in France, accompanied by a note saying he would receive his son's head if "the Russians do not get out of the African continent and open the doors for the French." 

"I have already applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation so that it initiates the procedure for declaring France a state sponsor of terrorism, as well as conducting a thorough investigation of the terrorist methods of France and its Western allies — the United States and others," Prigozhin said.

CNN is unable to confirm Prigozhin's allegations.

More context: The Wagner Group is often described as President Vladimir Putin’s off-the-books troops. It has expanded its footprint globally since its creation in 2014 and has been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.

2:33 p.m. ET, December 17, 2022

Heat supply restored to 75% of Kyiv residents, according to mayor

From CNN's Mariya Knight

People walk in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 17.
People walk in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 17. (Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Heating has been restored to 75% of Kyiv residents as officials continue to work on fully bringing back supply to the Ukrainian capital, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a post on Telegram on Saturday. 

Earlier today, CNN reported water supply and metro services have been restored in Kyiv, and electricity had been returned to two-thirds of its residents, just one day after heavy Russian shelling

1:02 p.m. ET, December 17, 2022

145,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat shipped to Asia, infrastructure ministry says

From CNN's Mariya Knight 

Four vessels containing a combined total of 145,000 tonnes (about 160,000 US tons) of Ukrainian wheat have set out to Asia under the "Grain from Ukraine" initiative, the Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry reported Saturday. 

There are 23 vessels currently being processed, the ministry said, with 734,000 tonnes (about 809,000 US tons) of Ukrainian agricultural products on them.

The ministry noted that a bulk carrier containing 71,000 tonnes (about 78,000 US tons) of wheat is among the four vessels and is bound for Indonesia.

“3 ships are moving along the grain corridor loaded with 166 thousand tonnes (about 183,000 US tons) of agricultural products,” it said.  

The statement also added that “92 vessels are awaiting inspection by the JCC (the Joint Coordination Centre) in Bosphorus,” but claimed that the queue continues to grow because of “Russia’s artificial restriction on registration for the inspection.” 

“For example, out of 65 vessels declared by the aggressor, only 3 were registered for the current day,” the ministry said. “This situation restricts the work of Ukrainian ports and causes a slowdown in the export of products of at least 3 million tonnes per month.” 

Nonetheless, the ministry said that since August, millions of tons of Ukrainian agricultural supplies has departed the key ports of Odesa.

“558 ships left the ports of Greater Odesa, exporting 14 million tonnes of Ukrainian food to the countries of Asia, Europe and Africa since the beginning of August, “ the statement concluded. 

Some background: According to the United Nations, Ukraine normally supplies the world with around 45 million tons of grain annually. This year, more than 20 million metric tons of Ukrainian wheat and corn remained trapped in Odesa as a Russian blockade fueled soaring grain commodity prices and fears of famine.

In late October, Russia said it was suspending its participation in an agreement that guarantees safe passage for ships carrying vital grain exports from Ukraine, only to reverse course and rejoin a few days later.

2:26 p.m. ET, December 17, 2022

Germany opens first floating LNG terminal as it aims to reduce dependency on Russian gas

From CNN's Gabby Gretener

The FSRU Hoegh Esperanza docks in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, on Saturday, December 17.
The FSRU Hoegh Esperanza docks in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, on Saturday, December 17. (Liesa Johannssen/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Germany opened its first floating terminal of liquified natural gas (LNG), one month after completing construction in the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven on Saturday. 

Built to reduce the country's dependency on Russian gas, the terminal in Lower Saxony was completed in a short period of time. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was on board for the opening, said he hopes the speedy process can be replicated across the country. Three more terminals are planned for Lubmin, Brunsbüttel and Stade.

The FSRU Hoegh Esperanza, an LNG storage ship, will service the terminal, returning the LNG to a gaseous state and delivering it directly into the gas network. Scholz called it "an important contribution to our security."

More context: Germany was heavily reliant on Russian gas before the war in Ukraine, with 55% of all gas consumed in Germany coming from Russia. 

The country is no longer receiving Russian gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline after Russia halted supplies, leaving Germany scrambling for alternatives.

2:28 p.m. ET, December 17, 2022

40-foot Christmas tree in Kyiv is being decorated with "energy-saving garlands"

From CNN's Gabby Gretner

Workers set up a Christmas tree in Sophia Square on December 16, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Workers set up a Christmas tree in Sophia Square on December 16, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In Kyiv's Sofia Square, a Christmas tree that is 12 meters (nearly 40 feet) tall will be decorated with "energy-saving garlands" that will be powered by a generator at specific times, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

Klitschko posted a progress report of the artificial tree's installation to his Telegram account, as the city continues to experience power outages due to Friday's Russian missile strikes

Roughly 1,000 blue and yellow balls and white doves will decorate the tree, with a trident placed on top, the mayor said. Flags of countries that are supporting Ukraine will be placed at the bottom of the tree.

There will be no Christmas markets, mass entertainment events or rides in Sophia Square this year.

Last month, Klitschko told Ukrainian news outlet RBC-Ukraine the city's Christmas trees will still be installed amid the war “to remind our children of the New Year mood.”

“No one is going to cancel the New Year and Christmas, and there should be an atmosphere of the New Year,” Klitschko told the network. “We cannot let Putin steal our Christmas.”

2:31 p.m. ET, December 17, 2022

Moscow uses propaganda videos to appeal for army recruits to fight in Ukraine

From Uliana Pavlova

Volunteers train at a “Russian University of Special Forces" center in Chechnya, Russia, on December 14.
Volunteers train at a “Russian University of Special Forces" center in Chechnya, Russia, on December 14. (AFP/Getty Images)

Moscow has begun a new campaign to encourage Russians to enlist in the armed forces and fight in Ukraine, despite the Kremlin having previously denied needing more recruits

In an attempt to attract more volunteers to the front, Russian propaganda videos posted on social networks over the last few days seek to appeal to Russian men through the narratives of patriotism, morality and upward social mobility.

Many clips portray the war as an escape for men from the bleak reality of their daily lives — which consists of drinking vodka, poverty and helplessness, according to the videos.

One of the pieces, posted on Dec. 14, features a young man who is choosing to fight instead of partying with his friends and then surprises everyone by buying himself a car with the money he made from fighting on a military contract. 

In a video posted on Dec. 15, the former girlfriend of a soldier is newly impressed with his courage and begs him to get back together. In another video, a middle-aged man leaves the factory job that doesn’t pay him enough to sign a military contract and go to the front. 

Another of the videos shows posh-looking Russian men in their 30s loading a car. An elderly woman asks where are they going, to which one of the men says, “To Georgia. Forever.” 

When another woman spills a bag of groceries, instead of helping, the posh men just get into the car and leave, while a group of younger Russian men rush to pick up the groceries. “The boys have left, the men stayed,” one of the elderly women says. 

Meanwhile, reports and complaints of shortages of provisions and equipment in the Russian military continue to emerge, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to resolve.

During a meeting with mothers of the mobilized in November, Putin insinuated that it is better to be killed fighting for the country than to drink oneself to death on vodka.

More background: In late September, Putin announced a “partial mobilization," which saw over 300,000 people across Russia mobilized as its war in Ukraine failed to make progress. The mobilization ended on Nov. 1, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. The exact number of dead Russian soldiers in Ukraine remains unknown. 

Thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid enlisting, and fears of a second mobilization in the new year are mounting. 

Putin has attempted to reassure the public that there were no plans right now for additional mobilization.

8:45 a.m. ET, December 17, 2022

Ukrainian state energy provider ends “emergency mode” it activated after Russian attacks

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Ukraine’s state energy provider Ukrenergo has ended the “emergency mode” it activated on Friday, following the wave of Russian attacks against the country’s infrastructure, the company posted on Facebook Saturday.

The company said in a statement that Ukraine’s power system continues to recover after Friday’s attack on the country, and power deficit is “still significant,” with all regional power companies warned of consumption limits. 

“Thermal power plants are gradually resuming their work, hydroelectric power plants continue to operate according to the schedule,” the company said. “Emergency repair works are being carried out at the power facilities damaged by shelling.”

On Friday, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said nine power generation facilities were damaged in Friday’s attacks, without specifying which locations. 

8:31 a.m. ET, December 17, 2022

4 killed, 13 injured as body of missing child is recovered from rubble in Kryvyi Rih after attacks

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Rescuers pulled the body of a one-and-a-half year-old boy from the rubble of a house in Kryvyi Rih, which was destroyed by a Russian missile Friday, according to a local official.

Valentyn Reznichenko, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said on Telegram Saturday that four people had been killed, including a 64-year-old woman.

Reznickehnko also said that 13 people, including four children, were wounded.

The city was among the hardest hit in the latest wave of Russian missile attacks, officials said.

2:35 p.m. ET, December 17, 2022

Water supply and metro services restored in Kyiv as many remain without heat and power after missile attacks

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Water supply and metro services have been restored in Kyiv, while officials continue to work to bring back heating in the Ukrainian capital, one day after a barrage of Russian missiles targeted the city.

“Water supply has been restored to all residents of the capital. Half of Kyiv residents already have heating and we are working to restore it to all residents of the city,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a post on Telegram on Saturday. 

Klitschko also said that electricity had been returned to two-thirds of Kyiv residents. 

“But the schedules of emergency power outages are still applied," Klitschko added. "Because the shortage of electricity is significant. Power engineers ask to continue to save electricity."