December 31, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 4:35 p.m. ET, December 31, 2022
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1:58 p.m. ET, December 31, 2022

Air defenses shot down 12 of more than 20 missiles launched at Ukraine Saturday, military says

From Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv and CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukrainian air defense systems shot down 12 cruise missiles after Russian forces launched more than 20 from land and sea Saturday, according to Ukraine's military.

Moscow's forces attacked using Tu-95MS bomber planes over the Caspian Sea, and with Iskander-M missile systems from the ground, the Ukrainian Air Force Command wrote on Telegram

“According to preliminary data, about 20 missiles were launched in total. Several of them did not reach Ukraine and fell on the territory of Russia (information is being clarified),” the statement said.

Air defenses shot down missiles over several Ukrainian regions, according to Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine's military.

“The forces and means of our air defense destroyed 12 cruise missiles: 6 within Kyiv, 5 in Zhytomyr and 1 in Khmelnytskyi regions,” Zaluzhnyi said in a message on Telegram.

Ukrainian defenses also shot down an enemy drone, "which was conducting aerial reconnaissance during a missile attack and trying to identify the positions of our air defense,” the Air Force Command said.

1:07 p.m. ET, December 31, 2022

As 2022 ends, Ukrainians in Kyiv hope for peace in the new year

From Denis Lapin in Kyiv

Residents and visitors in Kyiv on New Year's Eve expressed a resolve to celebrate the new year, and also hope that 2023 could bring peace, as Russia's invasion grinds on.

Anastasia Grimaylo and Daria Zhabinska.
Anastasia Grimaylo and Daria Zhabinska. (Denis Lapin for CNN)

Daria Zhabinska, a 19-year-old student who works for Visit Ukraine, said her wish for 2023 is for Ukraine's 1991 borders as an independent state to be restored.

"For us to return to the borders of 1991 is the only dream. And I want all my loved ones to be healthy," she told CNN. 

"We do not have a New Year's mood like in previous years; in previous years, we had everything decorated and prepared for a month, and we still do not even have a Christmas tree. We are going to look for one now and if we find one, we will have one this year and if not, that's OK," she said. 

"All this adrenaline, all this stress, when you read the news or talk to someone, you just want to celebrate this new year," she added.

Twenty-year-old student Anastasia Grimaylo said she has stocked up on candles as Russian strikes cause repeated power outages across Ukraine.

"We're ready for anything," she told CNN.

Yurii Nagotnuk and Dariya Chesnokova.
Yurii Nagotnuk and Dariya Chesnokova. (Denis Lapin for CNN)

Dariya Chesnokova is a schoolteacher, and Yurii Nagotnuk works in the information technology sector. Both are 25 years old and are from the southern city of Kryvyi Rih.

"We came to Kyiv to visit friends, to get a sense of the New Year's mood. We are also taking presents to our friends," she said.

Chesnokova said her wish for 2023 is for Ukraine to win the war, "and then we will rebuild everything."

Natalia Vaganova.
Natalia Vaganova. (Denis Lapin for CNN)

Natalia Vaganova, 27, an employee of a consulting company who lives in Brovary in the Kyiv region, said she will celebrate at home with family.

"We expect victory and peaceful skies from 2023," she said.  

Olexander Oleksiyenko.
Olexander Oleksiyenko. (Denis Lapin for CNN)

Olexander Oleksiyenko, a 26-year-old who works in IT and lives in Kyiv, said he will not celebrate this New Year's because his girlfriend is abroad, adding that he plans to "just drink some wine and eat something delicious."

"In 2023, of course, I don't expect the war to end, but I would like it very much. I am a realist, and I think the war could last another 2 years. But I would like minimum stability and some peace," he said.

Alyona Bogulska.
Alyona Bogulska. (Denis Lapin for CNN)

Alyona Bogulska, a 29-year-old financier from Kyiv, said she plans to celebrate the new year with "a glass of champagne and ... a sandwich with red caviar."

"From 2023 I really want to win, and also to have more bright impressions and new emotions. I miss it very much. I also want to travel and open borders. And I also think about personal and professional growth, because one should not stand still. I have to develop and work for the benefit of the country," she said.  

Tatiana Tkachuk.
Tatiana Tkachuk. (Denis Lapin for CNN)

Tatiana Tkachuk, a 43-year-old pharmacy employee in Kyiv, said her Christmas tree this year symbolizes survival and victory.

"This year we had a family question whether to prepare for (the) new year and whether to put up a Christmas tree. We made up our minds — a Christmas tree should be at home. This year, it's a symbol, not that it's a small victory, but a symbol that we survived the year. There were a lot of scary things, but there were some good things, too. ... Children are born, it is a good sign," she said.

"And from the new year we expect only victory. And I know for sure there will be one. It is the desire of all Ukrainians, and if everyone wants something, it will happen," she said. 

"I want to thank everyone who helps Ukraine. We've made a lot of friends. And in order to understand that we have a lot of good things, unfortunately, we had to go through terrible things. But so many people are doing real miracles for Ukraine. In other circumstances, we would never have known that we were capable of it," she added.

12:40 p.m. ET, December 31, 2022

Zelensky directly addresses the Russian people in last nightly address of 2022: Putin "hides behind you"

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky switched from speaking Ukrainian to Russian in his nightly address Saturday, issuing a message to Russia and its citizens.

Zelensky said that Russia, which carried out another wave of missile attacks Saturday, is “following the devil,” and the country is waging a war to ensure that Russian President Vladimir Putin remains in power "until the end of his life.” 

“All this war that you are waging, you — Russia — it is not the war with NATO, as your propagandists lie,” Zelensky said. “It is not for something historical. It's for one person to remain in power until the end of his life.” 
“And what will be with all of you, citizens of Russia, does not concern him,” he added.

Zelensky said that Putin "is hiding behind the troops, behind missiles, behind the walls of his residences and palaces” and his citizens.

“He hides behind you and burns your country and your future. No one will ever forgive you for terror,” Zelensky said. 

Zelensky added that most Russian missiles fired at Ukraine have been intercepted by air defense forces.  

“If it were not for air defense, the number of casualties would have been different. Much bigger,” he said. “And this is yet another proof for the world that support for Ukraine must be increased.” 


1:48 p.m. ET, December 31, 2022

UNICEF shares stories of Kyiv families sheltering from attacks on New Year's Eve

From Victoria Butenko and Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv and CNN's Allegra Goodwin in London

Families shelter in a metro station in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 31.
Families shelter in a metro station in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 31. (UNICEF Ukraine)

Thousands of Ukrainian families hid in the Kyiv metro station as Russian missiles hit the city on New Year's Eve, according to UNICEF, the United Nations children's agency.

“Mothers with babies in their arms, children with pets, parents bringing home Christmas trees. All of them spent long hours underground today instead of preparing for the holiday,” UNICEF said in a statement.

Among those sheltering in the subway was Liudmila, who the charity said had saved her 3-year-old son Mykhailo from missile attacks “instead of giving him New Year’s gifts.”

“We were going home to celebrate the New Year. I prepared gifts for my son and was going to wrap them. We missed the bus, I heard an explosion and saw smoke, my son got scared and we ran to the subway. We have never had such a New Year before,” Liudmila was quoted by UNICEF as saying.

The charity said that Liudmila and Mykhailo had moved to Kyiv at the beginning of Russia’s invasion, when her home in the Zhytomyr region was destroyed by shelling.

Families shelter in a metro station in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 31.
Families shelter in a metro station in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 31. (UNICEF Ukraine)
12:09 p.m. ET, December 31, 2022

Ukraine and Russia hold prisoner of war exchange, according to officials from both countries

From Julia Kesaieva and Darya Tarasova

Both Ukraine and Russia reported an exchange of prisoners of war on Saturday. 

Andriy Yermak, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said 140 prisoners of war had been released — including those from Mariupol and Snake Island.

“On the New Year Eve we not only repel enemy missile attacks, but also return our people home. This is another big exchange that we managed to carry out — 140 people are returning home. Among them are the wounded, as well as the defenders of Mariupol, Zmiinyi (Snake) Island, volunteers of territorial defense from Slavutych, fathers and sons who were in captivity together, as well as ours from Bakhmut direction,” Yermak said in a post on Telegram

This is the 35th such exchange of the war, according to the Ukrainian Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

The agency said 1,596 people — including both military personnel and civilians — have been released from Russian captivity through negotiations. That includes 187 women freed since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, according to the officials.

In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said 82 servicemen had been returned.

“The liberated personnel will be delivered to Moscow by military transport airplanes for further treatment and rehabilitation at healthcare facilities of Russian Defence Ministry,” the statement said. 

11:29 a.m. ET, December 31, 2022

30% of Kyiv is without power on New Year's Eve, mayor says 

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Yulia Keseiva

Thirty percent of Kyiv is without power due to emergency shutdowns, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko. 

“The municipal 'life support system' of the capital is operating normally. Currently, 30% of consumers are without electricity. Due to emergency shutdowns,” Klitschko said in a Telegram post Saturday. 

Kyiv residents have water and heat, he added. 

Klitschko also said there are restrictions on the open section of a metro line in the city to check “for the presence of remnants of missile debris.” 

"Specialists are on the way to that area,” he said. “We will inform you further about the resumption of traffic on the red line.” 

Another series of Russian strikes dealt a blow to Ukraine's fragile energy infrastructure this weekend. Crews worked for days ahead of New Year's Eve to repair systems and fortify the grid, but Ukrainian officials said Saturday that Moscow's attacks aim to plunge cities into darkness on the holiday.

11:13 a.m. ET, December 31, 2022

Putin records New Year's message during visit with Russian troops

From CNN’s Darya Tarasova and Sugam Pokharel

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the headquarters of his country's southern military district and recorded a New Year’s video message Saturday.

In the nine-minute recording – the longest New Year’s address of his rule – Putin said that “moral, historical righteousness is on our side.” 

“It was a year of truly pivotal, fateful events. These events have become this frontier, which lay the foundation for our common future, our true independence,” he said, in a veiled reference to Moscow’s war in Ukraine. 

“It was a year of difficult necessary decisions, the most important steps towards gaining the full sovereignty of Russia and the powerful consolidation of our society,” he added.

Putin recorded the address at a military base in the city of Rostov-on-Don.

During his visit Saturday, the Russian leader spoke with army commanders and handed over battle flags to new military formations. He also presented state awards to servicemen who showed “courage and heroism” in Russia’s so-called "special military operation," which is how Moscow describes its invasion of Ukraine.

“2022 is coming to an end. It was a year that put a lot in its place, clearly separated courage and heroism from betrayal and cowardice, showed that there is no power higher than love for one's family and relatives, loyalty to friends and comrades, devotion to one's motherland,” Putin said in his message to the nation. 

Although Russia has been hit by western sanctions for years, Putin said “a real sanctions war has been declared against us this year.”

“Those who started it expected the complete destruction of our industry, finances and transport. This did not happen, because together we have created a reliable margin of safety, what we have done and are doing in this area is all aimed at strengthening our sovereignty in the most important area, the economy,” he continued. 

More context: Thousands of people have been killed, entire villages wiped out and billions of dollars of infrastructure destroyed since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24.

That day, Putin used the term “special military operation” to describe his attack. He has framed the ongoing brutality as a campaign of “denazification” – a description dismissed by historians and political observers – and has increasingly described Russia’s unprovoked invasion as a patriotic and almost existential cause.

CNN's Radina Gigova and Rhea Mogul contributed to this report.

9:33 a.m. ET, December 31, 2022

Kyiv explosions killed at least 1 person and wounded 20 others, mayor says

From Yulia Kesaieva and Gul Tuysuz in Kyiv 

Explosions left at least one person dead and 20 more wounded in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Saturday, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a statement on his official Telegram channel. 

Out of the 20 injured, 14 were hospitalized, while six others were given medical care on the spot, he said. 

Several school buildings in the capital suffered severe damage from the explosions, the mayor added.

Air raid sirens, which were activated earlier following the attacks, are now off in Kyiv. 

9:21 a.m. ET, December 31, 2022

Russia wants to "leave us in the dark for the new year," Ukrainian prime minister says

From Olga Voitovych

As 2022 comes to a close in Ukraine, Russia wants to cause darkness and inflict damage on the country with continued attacks, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.

Moscow intends to “intimidate, leave us in the dark for the new year, cause as much damage to civilian infrastructure as possible,” Shmyhal said in a post on Telegram

“There are attacks on civilian infrastructure in different regions of our country. Residential buildings, hotel, (a) shop, place for festivals were damaged. There are dead and injured," he wrote. "Russians want to intimidate, leave us in the dark for the New Year, cause as much damage to civilian infrastructure as possible."

Despite the attacks, the power system remains stable, he said. 

“Air Defense Forces are heroes and a real shield of our sky. We thank them!” the prime minister added.