December 21, 2022 Russia-Ukraine and Zelensky news

By Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales, Aditi Sangal, Rhea Mogul, Hannah Strange, Sophie Tanno, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 11:14 a.m. ET, December 22, 2022
54 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
5:09 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Biden announces additional aid for Ukraine, including Patriot missile defense system

(Andrew Harnik/AP)
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

US President Joe Biden officially announced the United States will send an additional $1.8 billion package of assistance to Ukraine, which will include the Patriot missile defense system.

“Its going to take some time to complete the necessary training” to operate the system, but said the Patriot missiles will be a “critical asset” to Ukraine’s defense, Biden said Wednesday alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Biden said the United States in committed to ensuring Ukraine can “defend their country against Russia’s aggressions as long as it takes.”

The president thanked members of Congress for bipartisan support for Ukraine so far — including the newest, additional $45 billion package.

4:58 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Biden: USAID is committing more than $374 million in urgent humanitarian assistance for Ukraine

US President Joe Biden said that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will be sending more than $374 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine on Wednesday.

"Today, USAID is committing more than $374 million in urgently needed humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.This provides food and cash assistance for more than 1.5 million Ukrainian people, as well as access to health care, safe drinking water, and help stay warm in the winter for more than 2.5 million Ukrainians," Biden said during bilateral remarks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from the White House.

5:31 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Biden says Zelensky's leadership and the strength of Ukrainians have inspired the world

(Andrew Harnik/AP)
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

US President Joe Biden said it is important for Americans and the rest of the world to continue to hear directly from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as the war stretches to its 300th day — saying the people of Ukraine and Zelensky's leadership has been an inspiration.

The remarks came at a joint news conference following a bilateral meeting between the two leaders Wednesday.

"As we head into the new year, it's important for the America people and the world to hear directly from you, Mr. President, to hear about Ukraine's fight and the need to stand together through 2023," Biden said.

Biden applauded Ukrainians for their “unbreakable determination” and their “strong stand against aggression."

The US president said it was "meaningful to talk to one another in person, look each other in the eye, because leadership through this terrible crisis has inspired the Ukrainian people as you have done, Mr. President, and the American people and the entire world," Biden said.

He said Zelensky has “shown your strong stand against aggression in the face of the imperial appetites of autocrats,” and added the US was standing alongside Ukraine in maintaining “core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

"Ukraine's fight is part of something much bigger,” Biden said. "Stand up to bullies. Stand up for freedom. That's who we are as Americans.”

“You will never stand alone," he added.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed reporting to this post.

4:46 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

NOW: Biden and Zelensky hold joint news conference


US President Joe Biden is hosting a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House.

It comes after the two leaders held a bilateral meeting shortly after Zelensky arrived in Washington, DC. The visit marks Zelensky's first foreign trip since the war began.

Later today, the Ukrainian president will address members of Congress on Capitol Hill as he works to thank Americans for their support, as well as convince the US to continue providing financial and military aid. Earlier Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $1.85 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including the first transfer of the Patriot missile defense system.

4:55 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Zelensky says next year "may become extremely important for Ukraine" as he meets with Biden

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Victoria Butenko

Ukrainian President Zelensky looks on during a meeting with US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Wednesday.
Ukrainian President Zelensky looks on during a meeting with US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Wednesday. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

As he meets with US President Joe Biden at the White House, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday that next year "may become extremely important for Ukraine."

"Joseph Biden, thank you for supporting our people! This visit is taking place on the eve of the new year, which may become extremely important for Ukraine. I am sure that together we can achieve significant results," Zelensky said in a Telegram post accompanied by pictures showing Zelensky, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Zelensky's chief of staff Andriy Yermak sitting in the Oval Office. 

"Historical meeting of the leaders of Ukraine and the United States - Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Joe Biden. A great victory is ahead," said Yermak in a separate Telegram post. 

3:45 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Ukrainian military reports substantial strikes on Russian weapons and ammunition depots 

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

As President Volodymyr Zelensky began his visit to Washington, DC, the Ukrainian military reported inflicting heavy damage on Russian weapons and ammunition facilities.

The Ukrainian military's General Staff confirmed fire damage at enemy ammunition depots near Kadiivka in Luhansk region, which were targeted late last week. It said that detonations at the warehouses lasted more than 20 hours.

It also reported a strike on a Russian base in the southern region of Kherson, part of which is still occupied by Russian forces. It said that on Tuesday "the occupiers, who had amassed at the airfield near Kakhovka, Kherson region, were struck."

Frontline fighting: Elsewhere, the General Staff reported sustained Russian shelling along a wide area of the front lines in Luhansk and Donetsk, including Bakhmut, where President Zelensky visited troops on Tuesday.

The General Staff alleged that a Russian air strike on a town in the Zaporizhzhia region had hit a hospital. There was also Russian fire across the river Dnipro in Kherson, causing civilian casualties in recently liberated settlements.

3:43 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

US official: It will take "several months" for Ukraine's forces to be trained to use Patriot air defense

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman and Oren Liebermann

It will take “several months” for Ukrainian forces to be properly trained to operate the Patriot battery system, a senior US defense official told reporters Wednesday after President Joe Biden announced the US would send a battery to Ukraine.  

“Patriot does require training and we expect it will take several months to ensure Ukrainian forces have the training they need to employ it successfully,” the official said.

The Patriot air defense battery and munitions the US is sending to Ukraine — as a part of the latest Presidential Drawdown Package of security assistance — “will give Ukraine a critical long-range capability” to defend against “cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and aircraft,” the official added. 

Ukraine has been asking the US and NATO allied countries for more air defense as Russia continues its assault on Ukraine. The Patriot system is one part of the air defense the US and other allies are providing, the official said.  

“For air defense, there is no silver bullet. Our goal is to help Ukraine strengthen a layered integrated approach to air defense,” the official said. “Patriot will complement a range of medium and short-range capabilities that we’ve provided and that allies have provided in prior donation packages.” 

3:38 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Expert predicts Kyiv will at best have 10 hours of electricity a day in early January 

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Cars drive along a road in Kyiv during a blackout last week.
Cars drive along a road in Kyiv during a blackout last week. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Even in the best scenario, Kyiv is unlikely to have more than 10 hours of power a day in early January, an expert on Ukraine's electricity crisis said.

The last wave of Russian drone attacks "was focused specifically on Kyiv’s electrical grid and led to significant damage to the whole system," Oleksandr Kharchenko, director of Energy Industry Research Center, said on Ukrainian television. "Given the nature of the damage, I think that the people of Kyiv city should prepare for the fact that for the next two-three weeks, the availability of electricity for four-six hours in the house [per day] would be good news."

"Within a week and a half at the most, rather, maybe in a week, we will return to scheduled outages, in Kyiv city and the region," Kharchenko added.

Even so, he said, "at best, we will have electricity 10 hours a day, and 14 hours with no electricity" early in the new year.

While the good news was that "a large amount of equipment is coming," including mobile generation, the constant disturbance to electricity supplies has damaged small substations, he said.

"Repair crews cannot be everywhere at the same time. When deciding whether to repair something providing 30 houses versus a substation providing three houses, the choice is often made in favor of the one where more people can be connected. So there are isolated situations where people really suffer," Kharchenko explained, adding that engineers were learning how to mitigate the effects of Russian missile and drone strikes.

It is likely that some Ukrainians "will be forced to celebrate the New Year in extremely difficult conditions," he said, recommending that people link up with friends who have generators. "I think it will be more fun to be together."

3:02 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Biden tells Zelensky that the US will ship Patriot air defense missile system to Ukraine

From CNN's DJ Judd

Patriot missile launchers are seen at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Poland.
Patriot missile launchers are seen at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Poland. (Reuters)

US President Joe Biden welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to the White House for a bilateral meeting Wednesday, pledging the United States would “continue to strengthen Ukraine's ability to defend itself — particularly air defense.”

Biden told Zelensky that Americans of both political parties stand with Ukrainians and, along with allies “in Europe, Japan and other places to make sure you have the financial humanitarian and security assistance that you needed,” including a newly announced shipment of Patriot air defense missile systems

Earlier Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $1.85 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including the first transfer of the Patriot missile defense system.