Viktor Bout claims he and Brittney Griner shook hands at prisoner swap
Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer freed after 14 years in U.S. custody in exchange for U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, attends a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), in Moscow, Russia December 12, 2022.
Liberal Democratic Party Of Russia | Reuters
Convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout said he shook hands with U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner when they were exchanged as part of a high profile U.S.-Russia prisoner swap last week.
Speaking to Russian media, Bout said they exchanged pleasantries and shook hands on the airport tarmac in Abu Dhabi where the exchange procedure took place.
“When we were passing by, I wished her good luck; she wished me good luck in turn and then extended her hand. I shook hands with her. This looked decent,” Bout said in an interview with the KP-Petersburg news outlet.
Video footage released of the swap shows several men accompanying Griner, who had been imprisoned in Russia earlier this year on drug charges, as she walks toward Bout, who was also accompanied by a man, on the tarmac of Abu Dhabi airport.
Bout embraces one of the men and shakes the hand of an other but there’s a jump cut in the video as Griner and Bout — once nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” by a British official who was commenting on Bout’s arms dealing operations — approach each other.
— Holly Ellyatt
Putin press conference likely canceled because of concerns over growing anti-war sentiment: UK
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual press conference appearance was canceled on Monday, and Britain’s Ministry of Defense said that’s likely because of the Kremlin’s concerns over rising anti-war sentiment in Russia.
“The press conference has become a significant fixture in Putin’s calendar of public engagement and has frequently been used as an opportunity to demonstrate the supposed integrity of Putin,” the ministry said on Twitter.
“Although questions are almost certainly usually vetted in advance, the cancellation is likely due to increasing concerns about the prevalence of anti-war feeling in Russia.”
“Kremlin officials are almost certainly extremely sensitive about the possibility that any event attended by Putin could be hijacked by unsanctioned discussion about the ‘special military operation’,” the ministry added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during his annual press conference, on Dec. 17, 2020, in Moscow, Russia.
Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The Kremlin confirmed on Monday that Putin will not hold his traditional end-of-year press conference without citing a reason for the cancellation. Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said the press conference wouldn’t be held before the New Year but that the president would try to find an opportunity to speak to the media.
It’s the first time in 10 years that Putin will not hold the press conference. The annual public phone-in, in which Putin answers a wide range of (likely vetted) questions from the public, did not take place this year either.
Russian forces have experienced a series of setbacks in the war in Ukraine, with grumblings of discontent growing in Russia, particularly following the mass mobilization of reservists.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian forces should withdraw from Ukraine this Christmas, Zelenskyy says
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a working session of G-7 leaders via video link, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv,on June 27, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Russian forces to withdraw from Ukraine this Christmas as he addressed leaders of the Group of Seven on Monday.
“Very soon we’ll have holidays celebrated by billions of people. Christmas – according to the Gregorian calendar or the New Year and Christmas – according to the Julian calendar. This is the time for normal people to think about peace, not aggression. I suggest Russia to at least try to prove that it is capable of abandoning the aggression,” Zelenskyy said in his address to G-7 leaders who met virtually Monday.
“The occupier must leave. It will certainly happen. I see no reason why Russia should not do it now – at Christmas. The answer from Moscow will show what they really want – further confrontation with the world or finally [a] cessation of the aggression. The one who brought the war upon us has to take it away,” Zelenskyy said.
Zelenskyy suggested a “Global Peace Formula” summit should be convened at which Ukraine’s proposals could be discussed.
“It would be right to start the withdrawal of Russian troops from the internationally recognized territory of Ukraine this Christmas. If Russia withdraws its troops from Ukraine, it will ensure a lasting cessation of hostilities,” he added.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russia has started to use a new batch of Iranian drones, official says
Russian forces have begun to launch a new batch of Iranian drones, according to the Ukrainian Air Force’s spokesperson, who said the launch point has shifted to the eastern side of the Sea of Azov.
“It is difficult to speak about the volumes. But what is known for sure is that they have already started using them. They began to launch them from the eastern part of the Sea of Azov,” Yuriy Ihnat, the spokesperson for the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said during a nationwide telethon reported by news agency Ukrinform late Monday.
Ihnat said drones had already been downed in the southern regions of Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odesa. Russia has been accused of using Iranian-made “Shahed” drones to attack multiple targets in Ukraine, particularly energy infrastructure, for months.
Although it has not officially admitted using them, Iran has admitted to supplying Russia with drones and there have been reports that Russia was awaiting a new batch of the unmanned aerial vehicles.
Local residents look at parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle, what Ukrainian authorities consider to be an Iranian-made drone Shahed-136, after a Russian drone strike in Kyiv on Oct. 17, 2022.
Vladyslav Musiienko | Reuters
Ihnat explained that the shift in the launch point of the drones was related to a shift in the position of the front line in Ukraine.
“The battle line has shifted. Therefore, the enemy can slightly pull back the launch point. For Shahed [drones], distance is not such a problem. After all, they simply moved those launch sites, fearing that our defense forces could get them,” Ihnat said, adding that the possibility of new missile attacks remains.
Noting that Russia had moved strategic bomber aircraft further inland following several explosions at Russian airfields last week, for which Ukraine did not claim responsibility, Ihnat said such movement “does not mean that they are not preparing some kind of attack. Therefore, we all need to be ready for this.”
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine PM requests air defenses to counter Russia attacks
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, accompanied by Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov, speaks during a news briefing, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine November 7, 2022.
Murad Sezer | Reuters
Ukraine’s prime minister has appealed for Patriot missile batteries and other high-tech air defense systems to counter Russian attacks that knocked out electricity and water supplies for millions of Ukrainians, putting Europe on alert to brace for more refugees.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told French broadcaster LCI that in addition to making Ukrainians suffer, Russia wants to swamp Europe with a new wave of Ukrainian refugees by continuing to strike power stations and other infrastructure.
Poland’s president said his nation already has seen an increased demand to shelter refugees due to the combination of such attacks coupled with the freezing weather in Ukraine.
“The number of refugees in Poland has risen (recently) to some 3 million. That will probably also mean an increase in their numbers in Germany,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said following talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin.
— Associated Press
Putin will not hold annual press conference, Kremlin says
The European Commission has repeatedly condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine, accusing President Vladimir Putin of using energy as a weapon to drive up commodity prices and sow uncertainty across the 27-nation bloc.
Mikhail Metzel | Afp | Getty Images
The Kremlin said that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold his annual press conference this year.
The news conference, which typically last multiple hours, is one of the few opportunities for journalists outside of the Kremlin press pool to ask Putin questions.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed reports by Russian-state owned media that Putin will not hold a press conference this year. Peskov declined to give a reason for the cancellation.
— Amanda Macias
G-7 nations meet with Zelenskyy and reaffirm support for Ukraine against Russia
Group of Seven allies convened with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and reiterated their commitment to helping the country combat Russian aggression.
In a statement released after the meeting, G-7 leaders promised to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” calling Russia’s actions an “illegal, unjustifiable and unprovoked war of aggression.” The group further condemned actors facilitating the war.
“There can be no impunity for war crimes and other atrocities,” the statement read. “We will hold President Putin and those responsible to account in accordance with international law. We reiterate that Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric is unacceptable and that any use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons would be met with severe consequences.”
G-7 leaders vowed to have their finance ministers meet “shortly” to discuss how to support Ukraine financially into 2023. The leaders said the International Monetary Fund should be a central player.
The allies also reiterated they would continue to move away from purchasing Russian oil and would go ahead as planned with the plan to set a price cap on Russian oil in early February.
“Russia’s war of aggression must end,” the statement read. “To date, we have not seen evidence that Russia is committed to sustainable peace efforts. Russia can end this war immediately by ceasing its attacks against Ukraine and completely and unconditionally withdrawing its forces from the territory of Ukraine.”
— Emma Kinery
Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have become refugees from Russia’s war, U.N. estimates
Refugee children fleeing Ukraine are given blankets by Slovakian rescue workers to keep warm at the Velke Slemence border crossing on March 09, 2022 in Velke Slemence, Slovakia.
Christopher Furlong | Getty Images
Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have become refugees and moved to neighboring countries since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates.
More than 4.8 million of those people have applied for temporary resident status in neighboring Western European countries, according to data collected by the agency.
“The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance,” the U.N. Refugee Agency wrote.
— Amanda Macias
Kherson ‘under massive fire’ from Russian forces, official says
Kherson city, in the partially-liberated southern region of Kherson, is coming under “massive fire,” according to the head of the regional military administration there.
“Kherson is under massive fire from the Russian occupiers,” Yaroslav Yanushevych said on Telegram Monday, saying Russians had attacked two neighborhoods in the city. Five people were known to have been wounded in the attacks and two people to have died, he said.
“Emergency medical aid teams, together with the Red Cross, are heading to the Ostriv district. The number of victims [there] is currently unknown,” he said. CNBC was unable to verify the details within Yanushevych’s post.
Yanushevych called on civilians to stay within sheltered areas if they hear the sounds of explosions.
A destroyed school in Posad-Pokrovske in the Kherson region of Ukraine on Dec. 11, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Ukraine called on residents within Kherson to evacuate last month following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the city and the wider Kherson region to the west bank of the Dnieper river, given that Russian forces have tended to heavily bombard the settlements from which they have retreated.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian mercenaries suffered ‘very significant’ losses in Luhansk, official says
A mural praises the Russian Wagner group and its mercenaries fighting in Ukraine on March 30, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia.
Pierre Crom | Getty Images
Russian mercenaries fighting in eastern Ukraine suffered heavy losses after the hotel they were using as their headquarters was hit by Ukrainian forces this weekend, according to an official.
There were “very significant” losses after the guest house in Kadiivka in Luhansk was hit, the head of the Luhansk Military Administration Serhiy Haidai said on his Telegram account on Sunday.
Haidai claimed the hotel was being used as the headquarters of the private military force, the “Wagner Group,” a state-sanctioned group founded by an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Wagner soldiers, widely seen as mercenaries, are fighting alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine, particularly in the east of the country, where fighting is intense as Russian forces try to occupy more of the region and Ukrainian forces try to reclaim more territory.
Haidai said Russian forces are looking to mobilize all the men in the region and that age or health is no barrier to being forcibly mobilized. CNBC was unable to immediately verify Haidai’s claims.