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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Dec. 30


People get on a boat before crossing the Siverskyi-Donets river in front of a destroyed bridge in Staryi-Saltiv, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Dec. 29, 2022.

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

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

10:25 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden, France's Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will not be receiving New Year's greetings from Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Friday, Agence France-Presse reported.

As the world gears up to ring in the new year this weekend, Putin sent congratulatory messages to the leaders of Kremlin-friendly countries including Turkey, Syria, Venezuela and China.

But Putin will not wish a happy New Year to the leaders of the United States, France and Germany, countries that have piled unprecedented sanctions on Moscow over Putin's assault on Ukraine.

"We currently have no contact with them," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

9:12 p.m.: Bulgaria's sole nuclear power plant signed a nuclear fuel supply deal with a French firm on Friday in efforts to replace shipments from Russia in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.

The state-owned Kozloduy plant on the Danube river currently relies on Russian fuel for its two Soviet-built 1,000-megawatt reactors.

Under a 10-year agreement signed Friday, Framatome, a subsidiary of French energy giant EDF, will supply nuclear fuel to Kozloduy's unit 5 reactor from early 2025.

Last week, Kozloduy signed a similar contract with Westinghouse Electric Sweden to deliver nuclear fuel for its other operational reactor, unit 6, from 2024.

With the two agreements in place "we have achieved full diversification of nuclear fuel deliveries" for Bulgaria's only nuclear power plant, interim energy minister Rosen Hristov said at the signing ceremony.

8 p.m.: A third batch of Starlink terminals has arrived in Ukraine from Poland and will support the medical and energy sectors of the country, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Smyhal said.

Some of the terminals will go to Points of Invincibility across Ukraine, according to Shmyhal. The Points of Invincibility are the shelters organized by the government of Ukraine to support Ukrainians during power outages caused by regular Russian attacks on the energy system. In these shelters, people can get access to the Internet, electricity, heating, and running water.

Starlink is a satellite Internet constellation operated by SpaceX that has been used extensively during the Russian invasion of Ukraine to provide satellite Internet access coverage to the areas hit by war all over Ukraine.

7:11 p.m.:

6:17 p.m.: The sporting sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine must remain firmly in place in 2023, the head of the International Olympic Committee insisted Friday, according Agence France-Presse.

IOC president Thomas Bach said Ukrainian athletes had the Olympic Movement's full solidarity and the IOC wanted to see a strong Ukrainian team at the Paris 2024 Games.

From its own territory and that of Belarus, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, three days after the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, in violation of the Olympic truce and charter.

The IOC sanctioned Moscow and Minsk, with no international sports events being organized or supported in Russia or Belarus, and no national symbols of these countries being displayed at any sports event.

5:20 p.m.: Foreign investors from what Russia deems unfriendly countries that are selling stakes in Russian assets may have to do so at half-price or less, the finance ministry said on Friday, with the Russian budget potentially taking a 10% cut of any transaction, Reuters reported.

Since Moscow sent its army into Ukraine in February, many Western companies, from energy producers to food and clothing chains, have left Russia.

Minutes from a meeting of a government commission monitoring foreign investment listed a set of measures that could apply to "foreign persons associated with foreign states that commit unfriendly acts against Russian legal entities and individuals" when selling assets.

The term "unfriendly" describes countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its military intervention, including members of the European Union, the United States, Japan, Canada, Britain and Australia.

It was not immediately clear how the government would choose to implement the measures and whether they would apply to every deal.

4:12 p.m.:

3:05 p.m.: Russia's federal statistics agency on Friday revised up its estimate for economic growth in 2021 from 4.7% to 5.6% as it said the country bounced back from the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than first believed, Reuters reported.

The Rosstat statistics office said the new figures were based on a more complete set of information on business performance, balance of payments data and government accounts.

That is likely to be the strongest annual performance for some time, as the fallout from Russia's military campaign in Ukraine and the imposition of sweeping Western sanctions has pushed the Russian economy into recession.

Independent analysts expect the country's economy to struggle for years because of the loss of crucial energy exports to Europe and access to Western technology and finance.

2:10 p.m.:

1:45 p.m.: Sweden takes over the European Union's rotating presidency from January 1, AFP reports.

12:45 p.m.: Ukraine's biggest private energy company DTEK said on December 30 that only scheduled power cuts will resume in Kyiv, the Kyiv Independent reports.

"Energy workers have managed to carry out technical work, allowing the stabilization of the (energy) situation in Kyiv," DTEK said, noting that scheduled blackouts are possible, provided there are no additional attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

Earlier the same day, Ukraine's state grid operator Ukrenergo said that "the consequences of the damage on December 29, had a much smaller impact on the operation of the power system than the enemy expected."

However, the operator said the situation in southern and eastern Ukraine is reportedly "difficult" following Russia's attack on energy infrastructure in the region.

11:45 a.m.: Ukraine is investigating more than 58,000 potential Russian war crimes — killings, kidnappings, indiscriminate bombings and sexual assaults. The Associated press and Frontline have gathered, verified and documented more than 600 incidents that appear to violate the laws of war. Some of those attacks were massacres that killed dozens or hundreds of civilians and as a totality it could account for thousands of individual war crimes.

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, told the AP, “Ukraine is a crime scene.”

10:45 a.m.: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on NATO member states to supply more weapons to Ukraine, according to an interview published on Friday.

"I call on allies to do more. It is in all our security interests to make sure Ukraine prevails and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin does not win," Stoltenberg told German news agency DPA.

Stoltenberg said the need for ammunition and spare parts was "enormous." He told DPA that military support for Ukraine was the fastest way to peace, Reuters reports.

"We know that most wars end at the negotiating table - probably this war too - but we know that what Ukraine can achieve in these negotiations depends inextricably on the military situation," he said.

9:45 a.m.: Ukrainian farmers refuse to leave their animals in the middle of Russian missile attacks. Reuters reports, farmers like Yevhennia and her husband Ivan, who have spent their whole lives in frontline villages of eastern Ukraine, say they cannot abandon their farm animals, unwitting victims of Russia’s invasion on Ukraine.

“This is what we do, and we can't live without our chickens, our rabbits. So, we try to do as much as we can physically manage."

Nearby in the village, a blasted stable strewn with animal bones is a monument to the dark fate of animals in a war zone, Reuters reports.

9:15 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed Friday to strengthen their bilateral cooperation, AP reports. Putin and Xi made no direct mention of Ukraine in their opening remarks by videoconference, which were broadcast publicly, before going into private talks. They hailed strengthening ties between Moscow and Beijing amid what they called “geopolitical tensions” and a “difficult international situation,” with Putin expressing his wish to extend military collaboration.

“In the face of increasing geopolitical tensions, the significance of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is growing as a stabilizing factor,” said Putin.

He added he expected Xi to visit Moscow in the spring. Such a trip “will demonstrate to the whole world the strength of the Russian-Chinese ties on key issues, will become the main political event of the year in bilateral relations,” he said.

Putin said military cooperation has a “special place” in the relationship between their countries. He said the Kremlin aimed to “strengthen the cooperation between the armed forces of Russia and China.”

Xi, said through a translator that “in the face of a difficult and far from straightforward international situation,” Beijing was ready “to increase strategic cooperation with Russia, provide each other with development opportunities, be global partners for the benefit of the peoples of our countries and in the interests of stability around the world.”

In its report on the meeting, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV described the events in Ukraine as a “crisis.” The term marked a departure from China’s usual references to the “Ukraine situation,” and the change may reflect growing Chinese concern about the direction of the conflict.

8:45 a.m.: Russia attacked Ukraine with 16 Iranian-made Shahed drones overnight, Ukrainian officials said on Friday, a day after Moscow fired dozens of missiles on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

A Reuters witness 20 km (12 miles) south of Kyiv heard several explosions and the sound of anti-aircraft fire. By dawn, the attack appeared to be over and residents crept outside under peaceful skies after a relentless day and night of bombardment.

The Ukrainian military said all the drones had been destroyed. Seven had targeted Kyiv, where an administrative building was damaged, the capital's mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

Russia launched a total of 85 missile strikes, 35 air strikes, and 63 strikes from multiple rocket launch systems in the past 24 hours, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in its daily briefing on the war.

8:15 a.m.: An Italian theater on Friday canceled a show by prominent Russian dancer Sergei Polunin, who has three tattoos of President Vladimir Putin on his chest and shoulders after online protests over the artist's scheduled appearance.

Polunin was due to star in the "Rasputin - Dance Drama" ballet, originally scheduled for 2019 and repeatedly postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Milan's Arcimboldi theater said the cancellation was an act of "political and moral responsibility," given "a climate of tensions and threats." A spokeswoman said the theater had been subjected to an email campaign as well as many negative messages online.

The Arcimboldi said it was firmly against the war in Ukraine, noting it had staged shows by the Russian dissidents' group Pussy Riot and Ukrainian artists.

7:45 a.m.: The secretary of Belarus' Security Council on Friday said it was "unlikely" that a Ukrainian air defense missile downed on Thursday entered Belarusian airspace by accident, and that most likely there had been some "intention" behind its launch, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported, citing an interview he gave to Russian state outlet Sputnik Belarus.

Belarus' defense ministry said on Thursday its air defense forces had downed a Ukrainian S-300 surface-to-air missile near the village of Harbacha in the Brest region, some 15 km (9 miles) from the Belarus-Ukraine border, Reuters reports.

The Kremlin said on Friday it was extremely concerned about a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile that was shot down after flying into the air space of its close ally Belarus on Thursday.

"This is an incident that causes extreme concern, not only for us, but for our Belarusian partners," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday in Moscow's first public comment on the incident, which occurred around 10 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Thursday.

Belarus allowed Moscow to use its territory in February as a staging ground for Russian troops and equipment against Ukraine.

5:14 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said Lieutenant General Yevgeniy Nikiforov is likely in the process of taking over command of Russia’s Western Group of Forces in Ukraine.

He would be at least the fourth commander of the formation since the invasion, the update said. He replaces Colonel General Sergei Kuzovlev, who was appointed three months ago.

4:11 a.m.: Residents of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv were urged to head to air raid shelters early Friday as sirens wailed across the city, a day after Russia carried out the biggest aerial assault since it started the war in February, Reuters reported.

Shortly after 2 a.m. local time Kyiv's city government issued an alert on its Telegram messaging app channel about the air raid sirens and called on residents to proceed to shelters.

Olekskiy Kuleba, governor of Kyiv region, said on Telegram that an "attack by drones" was under way.

A Reuters witness 20 kilometers south of Kyiv heard several explosions and the sound of anti-aircraft fire.

3:15 a.m.: Britain said Friday it has given Ukraine more than 1,000 metal detectors and 100 kits to deactivate bombs to help clear minefields in the latest instance of military support for the country in the conflict with Russia, Reuters reported.

"Russia's use of landmines and targeting of civilian infrastructure underline the shocking cruelty of Putin's invasion," British defense minister Ben Wallace said in a statement.

The metal detectors, made by German firm Vallon, can help troops clear safe routes on roads and paths by helping to remove explosive hazards, the defense ministry said, while the kits can dearm the fuse from unexploded bombs.

2:05 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Ukrainian strikes on Russian military targets show that Russia's air defenses are inadequate against drones.

Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Avdiivka area as well as around Bakhmut, the assessment said, where the potential culmination of the Russian offensive is likely being expedited. Russian forces also continued to conduct defensive operations in Kherson Oblast.

1:07 a.m.:

12:02 a.m.: Kiara, a 6-month-old black panther born in war-torn Ukraine and a victim of exotic animal trafficking, has found a new home at a wildlife refuge in France, Agence France-Presse reported.

The panther with striking green eyes and shining black fur "escaped a tragic path in life," veterinarian Jean-Christophe Gerard told AFP.

She was just a few weeks old when the "private individual" who illegally owned her fled under bombing and abandoned the panther cub, Gerard said.

Soon after, the Wild Animal Rescue Center in Kyiv took custody of Kiara and contacted the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which helped her get out of Ukraine and into a zoo in western Poland.

Kiara stayed at the zoo for a few weeks, receiving care and recovering from her long journey.

The panther later arrived at Tonga Terre d'Accueil, a shelter for rescued or abandoned wild animals within the Saint-Martin-la-Plaine zoo in France.

Since the war began in February, IFAW says it has helped "countless wild animals in Ukraine" by providing emergency aid, food and working with partners to facilitate rescues when possible.

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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