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New Russian missile attack rocks country, hits power grid

Ukraine’s air defense shot down 60 missiles in the past 24 hours, Zelenskyy reports

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with U.S. President Joe Biden via phone, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine December 11, 2022. 

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenlskyy said his country’s air defense had successfully shot down 60 missiles in the last 24 hours.

More than 40 of these were destroyed in the skies above Kyiv and surrounding areas, Zelenskyy said his latest Telegram post.

“All their targets today are civilian, and these are mainly energy and heat supply facilities,” he added.

The latest barrage of deadly rocket attacks on Ukraine came as officials in Washington refused to confirm or deny reports that the Pentagon is preparing to supply Kyiv with sophisticated Patriot missile systems.

President Joe Biden replied to a question about the Patriot systems by telling reporters, “You’ll hear in a few minutes.”

The Patriot systems would greatly enhance Ukraine’s ability to shoot down Russian missiles. They would also send a message to the Kremlin.

“The political message to the Russians is that they can’t continue destroying Ukraine’s infrastructure with impunity, which is what Putin does every day,” Jonathan Eyal, an associate director at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London, told NBC News.

“They can’t do that without the West delivering better and more sophisticated weapons to the Ukrainian military,” Eyal said.

— Christina Wilkie

Brittney Griner released from the hospital, says she will play in the WNBA this season

This photo provided by the U.S. Army shows WNBA star Brittney Griner arriving at Kelly Field in San Antonio following her release in a prisoner swap with Russia, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022.

Miquel A. Negron | U.S. Army | AP

WNBA star player Brittney Griner has been discharged from the Texas military medical center where she had been receiving care since her Dec. 9 release from Russia.

“It feels so good to be home! The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn,” Griner wrote in an Instagram post. “I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.”

The two-time Olympic gold-medalist also confirmed that she plans to play professional basketball again.

“I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon,” she wrote.

Griner thanked more than dozen people who had worked for her release, but especially U.S. President Joe Biden.

“President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too. I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you,” wrote Griner.

Griner was released as part of a prisoner exchange, for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

The Biden administration had initially sought to exchange Bout for both Griner and Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison in 2020 on espionage charges. That plan fell through, however, and Whelan remains in Russian custody.

— Christina Wilkie

Russia central bank holds rates, says inflationary factors prevail for now

National flag flies over the Russian Central Bank headquarters in Moscow, Russia May 27, 2022.

Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

(This content was produced in Russia where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.)

Russia’s central bank held its key interest rate at 7.5% at its final meeting of the year but slightly shifted its rhetoric to acknowledge growing inflation risks, saying a recent military mobilization was adding to labor shortages.

“We gave a neutral signal. This means the next decision, the trajectory of the rate, will depend on the incoming data, on which factors – pro-inflationary or disinflationary – will prevail,” Gov. Elvira Nabiullina told a news conference.

“In our opinion, pro-inflationary factors prevail now, not only over the medium-term, but also over a short-term horizon. Therefore, rate changes will depend on incoming data. It is possible to hold the rate, increase it or decrease it – if disinflationary factors are realised, which we believe are weaker right now.”

The Bank of Russia has kept policy on hold since September, after six rate cuts that gradually reversed February’s emergency rate hike to 20%. That action came after Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, prompting Western countries to impose wide-ranging sanctions.

It again warned that the partial military mobilization ordered by President Vladimir Putin in September could stoke inflation due to a shrinking labor force.

— Reuters

Top U.S. Treasury official says Ukraine war forced U.S. to overhaul its sanctions policy

Economist Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo answers questions during his Senate Finance Committee nomination hearing to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, in Washington, D.C., February 23, 2021.

Greg Nash | Pool | Reuters

The Russia-Ukraine war required the United States to overhaul its approach to international sanctions, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo wrote in a new essay in Foreign Affairs.

This overhaul started in early 2021, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen commissioned a review of U.S. sanctions policy. That review found that sanctions worked best when they were coordinated with America’s allies, closely linked to foreign policy goals and rooted in detailed economic analyses.

“Past sanctions were not always well calibrated,” wrote Adeyemo. “In total, the number of U.S. sanctions designations grew over 900 percent from 2000 to 2021—some more carefully designed than others.”

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. sanctions on Russia have been guided by three goals, Adeyemo wrote. “Deny Moscow’s access to the revenue it needs to pay for its war, cut Russia off from resources to prop up its failing economy, and degrade its military capabilities.”

Read the whole essay at Foreign Affairs.

— Christina Wilkie

Ukrainian energy infrastructure hit in south, east of country, energy minister says

Russian shelling has impaired energy infrastructure in southern and eastern Ukraine, energy minister German Galushchenko said on Facebook, according to a Google translation. He warned of potential declines in the volume of power generation or emergency outages.

Ihor Terekhov, mayor of the city of Kharkiv, earlier today confirmed damage to local energy infrastructure in the latest of Russian bombardment against Ukraine. Moscow has already fired more than 60 missiles as part of the attack, Ukraine’s state news agency Ukrinform cited Yuriy Ihnat, spokesperson for the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as saying.

Infrastructure damage in Kharkiv

The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Ihor Terekhov, has said that important infrastructure has been knocked out following Russia’s latest missile attack.

A rescuer walks amid rubbles of a destroyed building following Russian strikes in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine on December 16, 2022.

Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

“There is colossal infrastructural destruction, first of all, the energy system,” he said, according to a Google translation of his Telegram posts.

“I ask you to be patient with what is happening now. I know that there is no light in your houses, no heating, no water supply … We will do our best to quickly restore what the Russian aggressor has done.

Other reports say that the entire city of Kharkiv is currently without power, and emergency shutdowns have been implemented across the country.

-Matt Clinch

Four killed, nine injured in Kherson shelling on Dec. 15, official says

View of the former hotel hit by a missile attack in Kherson, Ukraine, on December 15, 2022.

Artur Widak | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian forces bombarded the Kherson region 30 times on Dec. 15, killing four people and injuring another nine, according to Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration. His comments were reported by Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform.

Russian shelling struck residences, transport routes, health care facilities and humanitarian aid points, Yanushevych noted.

MSC continuing to ship goods through the Black Sea

The world’s largest shipping company, MSC, said Thursday that it is continuing to ship goods through the Black Sea, while avoiding Ukrainian ports that are deemed too dangerous, such as Odessa.

MSC Caitlin is pictured in the Chornomorsk Fishing Port, Chornomorsk, Odesa Region, southern Ukraine.

Nina Liashonok| Future Publishing | Getty Images

CEO Soren Toft told CNBC that while it is “of course abiding by the sanctions,” it is also continuing to transport food, humanitarian aid and medical supplies to Russia.

“I don’t think it’s my job to act politically,” he said. “There’s 150 million Russians, and I don’t think I want to deprive them of basic stuff.”

— ‌‍Karen Gilchrist‎

Russia to launch new offensive, Ukraine says

Russia could launch a new offensive in Ukraine as soon as January, according to top Ukrainian officials.

The head of Ukraine’s armed forces, General Valery Zaluzhny, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and General Oleksandr Syrsky have all spoken to The Economist magazine, published Thursday, which detailed their predictions for next year.

“The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops,” Zaluzhny told the publication.

Read more here.

-Matt Clinch

At least 3 cities under attack

Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to extinguish a fire at the building which was destroyed by a Russian attack in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.

Evgeniy Maloletka | AP

The Associated Press are now reporting, citing Ukrainian authorities, that there are said to be explosions in at least three cities in Ukraine on Friday morning – Kyiv, Kryvyi Rih in the south and the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

“Explosions in Kharkiv for the second day in a row. An infrastructure facility was previously under missile attack. There may be electrical problems … Be careful and stay in cover,” Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said via Telegram, according to a Google translate.

-Matt Clinch

Explosions in Kyiv, mayor says

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Friday morning explosions had hit the capital after air raid sirens had been been heard across the country.

“Explosions in Desnyan district of the capital. All services go to the place … Stay in shelters!” Klitschko said, according to a Google translation of his Telegram post.

“Another explosion in Kyiv, in the Dnipro district.”

Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko stands in front of a damaged building following Russian strikes in Kyiv on April 29, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Genya Savilov | AFP | Getty Images

Air raid sirens sound across Ukraine

Civilians sit on an escalator while take shelter inside a metro station during an air raid alert in the centre of Kyiv on December 16, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

A volley of fresh Russian attacks were expected early Friday as Reuters reported that air raid sirens were sounding in places like capital Kyiv.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the president’s office, said via the Telegram messaging app: “Do not ignore air raid alerts, remain in shelters.”

—Matt Clinch

U.S. to expand combat training for Ukrainian troops

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, US Defence Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, Lloyd Austin and Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on October 12, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium. The North Atlantic Council (NAC) at the level of Defence Ministers convene at the NATO headquarters in Brussels for a two-day summit as the war in Ukraine continues into a seventh month.

Omar Havana | Getty Images

The Pentagon will expand military combat training for Ukrainian forces, using the slower winter months to instruct larger units in more complex battle skills, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. has already trained about 3,100 Ukrainian troops on how to use and maintain certain weapons and other equipment, including howitzers, armored vehicles and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS. But senior military leaders for months have discussed expanding that training, touting the need to improve the ability of Ukraine’s company- and battalion-sized units to move and coordinate attacks across the battlefield.

A battalion can include as many as 800 troops; a company is much smaller, with a couple hundred forces.

According to officials, the training will take place at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. And the aim is to use the winter months to hone the skills of the Ukrainian forces so they will be better prepared to counter any spike in Russian attacks or efforts to expand Russia’s territorial gains.

— Associated Press

EU approves new sanctions against Russia, diplomats say

European Council President Charles Michel and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal attend a news briefing, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Odesa, Ukraine May 9, 2022.

Ukrainian Governmental Press Service | Reuters

The European Union said it approved a new package of sanctions aimed at ramping up pressure on Russia for its war in Ukraine.

The package, whose details have not been revealed, was approved after days of deliberations during a meeting of the 27-nation bloc’s ambassadors.

The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, said the package will be confirmed by written procedure on Friday. Details will then be published in the bloc’s legal records.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, last week proposed travel bans and asset freezes on almost 200 more Russian officials and military officers as part of the new round of measures.

The targets of the latest recommended sanctions included government ministers, lawmakers, regional governors and political parties.

— Associated Press

Four vessels depart Ukraine’s ports under Black Sea Grain Initiative

The Malta flagged bulk carrier Zante en-route to Belgium transits the Bosphorus carrying 47,270 metric tons of rapeseed from Ukraine after being held at the entrance of the Bosphorus due to Russia pulling out of the Black Sea Grain agreement on November 02, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images

Four ships carrying wheat and vegetable oil have left ports in Ukraine, the organization managing agricultural exports from the country said.

The ships are destined for India and Turkey.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, saw three key Ukrainian ports reopen after a Russian naval blockade stopped exports for months. More than 13.9 million tons of grain and other products have left Ukraine since the agreement took effect.

The deal among the signatories is set to expire in about three months.

— Amanda Macias




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