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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Dec. 3

FILE - An elderly man reacts as he sits in a basement used as a bomb shelter in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Dec. 2, 2022.
FILE - An elderly man reacts as he sits in a basement used as a bomb shelter in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Dec. 2, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EST.

9:30 p.m.: Ukrainians are evacuating along the front lines of the war in Ukraine, including Chasiv Yar, near Bakhmut.

8:50 p.m.: Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu announced an energy deal on Saturday he said would reduce the risk of large-scale electricity outages in the former Soviet republic, Reuters reported.

Spinu said state utilities firm Energocom would purchase enough electricity from the country's largest power station to cover all of Moldova's needs for December when combined with existing imports from Romania.

Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has suffered from widespread power outages amid a reduced flow of natural gas from Russia and Kremlin air strikes on energy infrastructure in neighboring Ukraine.

8 p.m.: Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Saturday it had arrested a "wealthy Russian businessman" on suspicion of money laundering and other offenses as part of a crackdown on corrupt oligarchs, Reuters reported.

The NCA said the 58-year-old was among three men arrested by officers from the Combatting Kleptocracy Cell (CKC) on Thursday at a "multimillion pound residence" in London.

The Russian embassy in London has demanded information from Britain's Foreign Office on the reasons and circumstances of the detention of the unidentified businessman and the conditions in which he was being held, Russian news agencies said.

The man was detained on suspicion of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Home Office (interior ministry) and conspiracy to commit perjury, the NCA said.

A 35-year-old man was arrested at the premises after he was seen leaving with a bag which contained thousands of pounds in cash. A former boyfriend, 39, of the businessman's partner was also arrested at the property, police said. All three have been released on police bail.

7:09 p.m.: Ukraine has detained eight people over the theft from a wall in the Kyiv suburbs of a mural painted by elusive British street artist Banksy, the authorities said, according to Agence France-Presse.

The stencil image of a person in a nightgown and gas mask holding a fire extinguisher next to the charred remains of a window in the town of Gostomel went missing on Friday, they said.

"A group of people tried to steal a Banksy mural. They cut out the work from the wall of a house destroyed by the Russians," Kyiv governor Oleksiy Kuleba said in a post on Telegram late Friday.

He attached the image of a gaping hole in the wall where the image once stood.

"Several people were detained on the spot," he said. "The image is in good condition and in the hands of the authorities."

Other works in the area thought also to be the work of Banksy are under police protection, he said.

6:20 p.m.: U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, brother of U.S. Senator Mark Kelly, who was also an astronaut, visited Ukraine Saturday.

5:37 p.m.: Spanish police said six letter bombs that were sent to high profile targets in recent days had been posted from the northern city of Valladolid, El Mundo newspaper reported on Saturday, according to Reuters.

The devices were sent to targets including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid, government offices, a European Union satellite company and the U.S. Embassy between November 24 and December 2.

Most were defused, although an employee at the Ukrainian embassy was slightly injured when one of the devices ignited.

The Spanish Interior Ministry said it was unable to comment on the report.

4:52 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit the Donbas region "in due course," a Kremlin spokesperson said Saturday, according to CNN, referring to Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine.

"It will certainly happen in due course because it is part of the Russian Federation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Russian state news agency TASS.

On October 5, Putin signed measures annexing four Ukrainian regions in defiance of international law. The territories claimed by Moscow are Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

The annexation process, which is illegal under international law, came after so-called referendums in the regions that were universally dismissed as “shams” by Ukraine and Western nations.

While Kremlin officials claim those regions now belong to Russia, Moscow's troops do not control the entirety of those territories.

4 p.m.: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday accused Russia of "deliberate cruelty" in its war in Ukraine, saying Moscow was intentionally targeting civilians, Reuters reports.

"With deliberate cruelty, Russia is putting civilians and civilian targets in its gunsights," Austin told the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

"Russian attacks have left children dead, schools shattered, and hospitals smashed," he said.

3:35 p.m.: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held talks with his Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin, the state-run Belta news agency said on Saturday.

The two sides discussed bilateral military cooperation and amended an agreement on the "joint provision of regional security," it said, without providing further detail.

Russia and Belarus are formally part of a "union state" and are closely allied economically and militarily with Moscow using Belarus as a staging post for its February 24 invasion of Ukraine

Belarus has said it will not enter the war in Ukraine, but President Alexander Lukashenko has in the past ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, citing threats to Belarus from Kyiv, Ukraine, and the West.

3:15 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin is not sincere about peace talks with Ukraine at this time, a top U.S. diplomat said on Saturday after meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other senior Ukrainian officials in Kyiv.

During her visit, U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said Putin is not ready for negotiations. "Whether it's the energy attacks, whether it's the rhetoric out of the Kremlin and the general attitude, that Putin is not sincere or ready for that."

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday he would speak with the Russian president if Putin was interested in withdrawing from Ukraine. But the idea died quickly when the Kremlin said the West must recognize Moscow's declared annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Reuters reports.

This reaction from Russia, Nuland said, showed "how not serious they are."

Nuland also met Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelenskyy's office, who expressed thanks for the billions of dollars' worth of aid Washington has committed to Ukraine.

"Ukraine's victory, which we are sure of, will be our joint victory," Zelenskyy's office quoted him as telling Nuland.

2:45 p.m.: The $60 price cap on seaborne Russian oil agreed by Group of Seven nations and Australia is not serious and will do little to deter Russia from waging war in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday.

“If the price limit for Russian oil is $60 instead of, for example, $30, which Poland and the Baltic countries talked about, then the Russian budget will receive about a hundred billion dollars a year,” Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian president said this money will fuel Russia's war machine, further sponsoring of other terrorist regimes and organizations.

“This money will also be used to further destabilize precisely those countries that are now trying to avoid big decisions,” Zelenskyy said.

12:45 p.m.: Research using satellite imagery from NASA’s food security and agriculture program showed that Russia collected almost 6 million tons of wheat from occupied territories, Bloomberg reported.

Russia stole or destroyed 4.04 million tons of grain and oilseeds valued at about $1.9 billion from the last season’s harvest as of Oct 17,according to researcher Roman Neyter quoted by Bloomberg.

Swiss Prosecutor General Stefan Blaettler said in July that selling looted raw materials could constitute a war crime.

11:45 a.m.: A Ukrainian marine biologist estimates that at least 50,000 Black Sea dolphins have been killed as a result of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Ivan Rusev says he's shocked by the number of dolphin carcasses that have washed up on the shores of his nature reserve in Ukraine's Odesa region. Mines, underwater explosions, and power sonar from Russian submarines have caused an environmental catastrophe for marine wildlife.

10:45 a.m.: The West should consider how to address Russia's need for security guarantees if President Vladimir Putin agrees to negotiations about ending the war in Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with French TV station TF1 on Saturday.

"This means that one of the essential points we must address — as President Putin has always said — is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia," Macron said.

According to Reuters, the French president said the West has to prepare “how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table."

Russia and the United States both said this week they are open to talks in principle, though U.S. President Joe Biden said he would talk to Putin only if the Russian president showed interest in ending the war.

Ukraine says negotiations are possible only if Russia stops attacking and pulls out its troops.

9:45 a.m.: After a brief joyful interlude in liberated Kherson, its dwindled population has returned to the harsh realities of constant Russian shelling from the other side of the Dnipro River where Russian forces remain entrenched. The relentless barrage of the country’s power grid has left the city without power and electricity in the dead of winter.

In the cold, people line up for food and water rations. Some draw water from the Dnipro River, a dangerous venture while Russians are shelling from the other side of the river.

FILE - Residents queue to fill containers with drinking water in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Nov. 20, 2022.
FILE - Residents queue to fill containers with drinking water in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Nov. 20, 2022.

Many mourn their dead, covering the bodies of new shelling victims lying in pools of blood.

9:30 a.m.: Officials in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson announced on Saturday they would help citizens evacuate from parts of Russian-occupied territory on the east bank of the Dnipro River amid concerns of intensified fighting, Reuters reports.

"Evacuation is necessary due to the possible intensification of hostilities in this area," he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Yaroslav Yanushevych, the regional governor, said officials were temporarily lifting a ban on crossings to allow Ukrainians living in villages across the river to cross the Dnipro during daylight hours and to a designated point.

Ukrainian troops liberated the city of Kherson, on the west bank of the Dnipro on November 11 but Russian forces still control the rest of the region on the east bank.

Ukrainian officials say Russia continues shelling Kherson and surrounding areas from there, killing civilians.

Yanushevych said the ban on river crossings would be lifted through Monday.

9:25 a.m.: Ukraine welcomed a US $60 per barrel price cap on Russian oil agreed by the EU, G7 and Australia, Friday, saying it could curb Russia's ability to finance its war on Ukraine, The Associated Press reports.

However, Andriy Yerman, Zelenskyy’s Chief of Staff Saturday, called for a lower cap to $30 per barrel to hit Russia's economy harder,

"It would be necessary to lower it to $30 to destroy the enemy's economy quicker," Andriy Yermak, wrote on Telegram referencing an international working group on sanctions.

According to RFE/RL, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had suggested a lower cap of Russian seaborn oil last November to squeeze the Russian economy further.

8:45 a.m.: Russia "will not accept" a price cap imposed by the Group of Seven and its allies on Russian oil, state news agencies quoted the Kremlin as saying on Saturday.

TASS quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying Moscow had prepared for the price cap and was analyzing it, Reuters reports.

"We will not accept this ceiling," it quoted him as saying.

A coalition of Western countries led by the G7 group of nations agreed on Friday to cap the price of Russian seaborne oil at $60 a barrel, aiming to limit Moscow's revenues and dent its finances that fuel its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has repeatedly said it will not supply oil to countries that implement the cap — a stance reaffirmed by Mikhail Ulyanov, its ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, in posts on social media.

Russia also said Saturday, it will continue to find buyers for its oil despite what is called “dangerous” attempts by the West to introduce a price cap on its oil exports.

"Steps like these will inevitably result in increasing uncertainty and imposing higher costs for raw materials' consumers," it said.

5:16 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Ukrainian forces made localized breakthroughs southwest and northwest of Kreminna.

Russian forces, the assessment said, continued to make minimal advances in the Bakhmut area and conduct offensive operations in the Avdiivka–Donetsk City area. Meanwhile, poor logistics, unruly mobilized personnel, and domestic protests continue to prevent the Kremlin from achieving the goals of partial mobilization.

4:17 a.m.: Hungary's prime minister said Friday that he will continue to oppose a European Union plan to provide an 18 billion-euro ($19 billion) aid package to Ukraine in 2023, a position that promises sustained tensions as the bloc and the nationalist Hungarian government wrangle over democratic standards, The Associated Press reported.

In an interview on state radio, Prime Minister Viktor Orban acknowledged that Ukraine needs help to pay for the functioning of essential services but emphasized that he would block the EU's plan of joint borrowing to fund the package.

“The question is how to help Ukraine,” Orban said. “One proposal says that we should use the budgets of the EU member states to take out new loans together and use that money to give to Ukraine. We are not in favor of this because we do not want the European Union to become a community of indebted states instead of a community of cooperating member states.”

Orban proposed that each of the EU's 27 member states draw from its own budget to provide assistance to Ukraine through bilateral agreements.

“We will not accept the other plan, we will not consent to it, without us it will not come into being,” he said.

3:32 a.m.:

2:18 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said Russian forces continue to invest a large element of their overall military effort and firepower along an approximately 15-kilometer-long sector of entrenched front line around the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut. Russia has prioritized Bakhmut as its main offensive effort since early August 2022, the update said. The capture of the town would have limited operational value although it would potentially allow Russia to threaten the larger urban areas of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

1:06 a.m.: Despite the missile strikes and power cuts that have become a regular occurrence in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv's 190,000 remaining schoolchildren are still expected to attend classes, whether online or in person, Reuters reported.

"If there is no light, it's sometimes hard to see when you are writing," said Yulia, 13, sitting in the front row of an English lesson with around a dozen classmates in a western suburb of the city.

Though her school, like most buildings in Ukraine's embattled capital, experiences regular electricity cuts caused by Russian missile barrages on the power grid since October, city officials insist pupils will at least be able to finish the current semester, which ends on December 23.

"We really need to hold on for these three weeks," Oleksiy Kurpas, an adviser to the deputy head of Kyiv's city administration, told Reuters in one of the airy yet warm corridors of the Soviet-era school.

12:02 a.m.: Latvia's state security service said on Friday it had begun probing statements made by independent Russian TV station Dozhd because of suspicions it was helping pro-Moscow troops taking part in the Ukraine war, Reuters reported.

Dozhd, or TV Rain, is broadcasting from Latvia and elsewhere after Russian authorities forced the closure of its Moscow studio on the grounds it had deliberately spread false information about the actions of Russia's troops in Ukraine.

The state security service said that on Thursday a moderator on a Dozhd news broadcast had expressed hope the station had already helped provide many Russian soldiers with basic equipment and amenities.

"The statements ... raise suspicion about the TV channel providing assistance to the soldiers of Russia's occupying forces," it said in a news release.

Some information in this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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