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U.S. Blames Human Error For Mistaken Syria Air Strikes

The U.S. military has blamed human error for a September air strike in Syria that reportedly killed dozens of Syrian soldiers, but said there was no violation of the international laws of war.

The conclusions about the attack were contained in a report issued November 29 by the U.S. Defense Department.

The September 7 attack prompted outrage from Syria and its main military backer, Russia, which accused Washington of deliberately targeting Syrian forces.

But the U.S. military investigators concluded that soldiers believed they were directing attacks on Islamic State fighters. Because this was an honest mistake, the report found, the strikes did not violate the international law of armed conflict.

Ultimately, the strikes were halted when a Russian military officer called a special telephone hotline to alert the Americans that the strikes near Deir el-Zour were hitting Syrian government forces.

Military investigators suggested that the Russian officer chose to wait 27 minutes to relay his message until he could speak to a familiar U.S. counterpart on the line.

If the message had not been delayed 27 minutes, nearly half of the 30-plus strikes might not have been conducted, the report concluded.

There was no immediate reaction to the U.S. report from Moscow.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

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Russia's Kudrin Accepts Role As Adviser To Tech Giant Yandex

Aleksei Kudrin, who resigned as head of Russia's Audit Chamber last week, said on December 5 he had accepted an offer from technology giant Yandex to become an adviser on corporate development. (file photo)

Aleksei Kudrin, who resigned as head of Russia's Audit Chamber last week, said on December 5 he had accepted an offer from technology giant Yandex to become an adviser on corporate development. Yandex last month announced a review of a possible sweeping governance overhaul that would leave its major business units in Russia under new ownership. The announcement comes after months of internal turmoil, with executives departing, the sale of two of the company’s best-known products, and company shares hitting basement prices prior to being frozen on international stock exchanges. To read the original story from Reuters, click here. To read a previous RFE/RL story on the Yandex shakeup, click here.

Updated

Prominent Chechen Blogger, Kadyrov Critic, Killed In Sweden

Tumso Abdurakhmanov, a popular YouTube blogger who has been harshly critical of Kadyrov and his government in Chechnya, left Russia in 2015. He has been granted political asylum in Sweden.

A prominent critic of Chechen strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been killed in Sweden.

Colleagues of Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov told RFE/RL’s Russian Service that he had been shot dead on the night of December 1-2, confirming earlier reports of his killing.

Swedish authorities have not issued a statement on the matter.

The Chechen opposition Telegram feed 1ADAT on December 5 also confirmed that Abdurakhmanov had been killed and that his brother, Mukhammad Abdurakhmanov, was under the protection of Swedish security forces.

Reports that Abdurakhmanov, 36, had been killed emerged on social media on December 1 but could not be confirmed. RFE/RL's Caucasus.Realities and Chechen opposition groups reported they were unable to contact the blogger and that his representatives said they had not been in contact with him or his brother.

Swedish officials told RFE/RL on December 2 that they had no information about Abdurakhmanov’s whereabouts.

In January 2021, two Russian citizens from Chechnya were given long prison sentences in Sweden after being convicted of attempting to kill Abdurakhmanov in February 2020.

One of the men, Ruslan Mamayev, testified that he had been acting on the behest of Chechen authorities who promised to pay him 50,000 euros ($50,000).

Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007 with a cult of personality around him, is frequently accused by Russian and international human rights groups of overseeing grave human rights abuses including abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and targeting the LGBT community.

Abdurakhmanov, a popular YouTube blogger who has been harshly critical of Kadyrov and his government in Chechnya, left Russia in 2015. He has been granted political asylum in Sweden.

He has not posted on his Telegram channel since the evening of November 30. "Normally, Tumso warns when his Telegram channel won't be active, but yesterday he did not," one commentator wrote below the post.

Abdurakhmanov’s last YouTube video was posted several weeks ago.

Blinken Says Putin Shows No Sign He's Interested In Diplomacy

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left to right), U.S. President Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland, in June 2021.

Washington sees no signs that Moscow is interested in talks on ending the war in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

"There's always value in diplomacy if the parties in question and in this case Russia, are actually interested in meaningful diplomacy. And what we've seen, at least recently, is exactly the contrary," Blinken told CBS News on December 4, adding that Putin had switched tactics after suffering setbacks on the battlefield.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's ongoing invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensive, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war, click here.

"He's been unable to win on the battlefield, so he's taking, he's basically turning his ire and his fire on Ukrainian civilians, going after the energy infrastructure, trying to turn off the lights, turn off the heat, turn off the electricity. That's what's going on.

"So,unless and until Putin demonstrates that he's actually interested in meaningful diplomacy, it's unlikely to go anywhere," Blinken said on Face The Nation.

In recent weeks, Russia's military focus has been on striking Ukrainian infrastructure nationwide, pressing an offensive in the Donetsk region city of Bakhmut, and shelling sites in the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces liberated last month after an eight-month Russian occupation.

On December 1, President Joe Biden indicated he would be willing to talk with Putin if the Russian leader demonstrated that he seriously wanted to end the invasion.

"I'm prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding that he's looking for a way to end the war," Biden said. "He hasn't done that yet."

The head of U.S. intelligence said fighting in Russia's war in Ukraine was running at a "reduced tempo" and suggested Ukrainian forces could have brighter prospects in coming months.

Avril Haines alluded to past allegations by some that Putin's advisers could be shielding him from bad news -- for Russia -- about war developments, and said he "is becoming more informed of the challenges that the military faces in Russia."

"But it's still not clear to us that he has a full picture of at this stage of just how challenged they are," Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, said on December 3.

The British Ministry of Defense, in its latest intelligence estimate on December 4, pointed to new signs from an independent Russian media outlet that public support in Russia for the military campaign was "falling significantly."

Meduza said it obtained a recent confidential opinion survey conducted by the Federal Protection Service, which is in charge of guarding the Kremlin and providing security to top government officials.

The survey, commissioned by the Kremlin, found that 55 percent of respondents backed peace talks with Ukraine while 25 percent wanted the war to go on. The report didn’t mention the margin of error.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

Ukrainian Presidential Aide Criticizes Musk For 'Magical Simple Solutions'

Mykhaylo Podolyak (file photo)

A top Ukrainian presidential aide has chided Twitter owner Elon Musk for the billionaire's "magical simple solutions," citing ideas put forward by Musk on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Twitter content moderation. Mykhaylo Podolyak listed "exchang(ing) foreign territories for an illusory peace" and "open(ing) all private accounts because freedom of speech has to be total," as examples of such suggestions in comments on Twitter on December 4.

Russia Will Not Export Oil Subject To Western Price Cap, Deputy Prime Minister Says

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak (file photo)

Russia will not export oil that is subject a Western-imposed price cap even if Moscow has to accept a drop in oil production, President Vladimir Putin's point man on energy said on December 4. "We are working on mechanisms to prohibit the use of a price-cap instrument, regardless of what level is set, because such interference could further destabilize the market," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak said. On December 4, Group of Seven countries and Australia agreed a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil in a move to deprive President Vladimir Putin of revenue while keeping Russian oil flowing to global markets. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Rebuilding Ukraine After Russian Invasion Will Cost $500-600 Billion, Says World Bank VP

A woman stands among the debris of a destroyed building after a Russian air strike in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, in late November.

The postwar reconstruction of Ukraine will cost about 500-600 billion euros ($525 billion-$630 billion), World Bank Vice President Anna Bjerde said in an interview with the Austrian newspaper Die Presse. "Previously, we published the figure, which was calculated jointly with the European Commission and the Ukrainian government. How much money is needed to rebuild Ukraine and bring it up to European standards, for example in terms of energy efficiency? At of the beginning of June, it was about 350 billion euros," Bjerde said. But since then, she said the figure had risen significantly to the new estimate. To read the original report by Die Press, click here.

1,700 Dead Seals Found on Russia's Caspian Coast

The authorities in the Russian region of Daghestan said that it's still unclear what caused the animals' deaths, but they likely died of natural causes.

About 1,700 seals have been found dead on the Caspian Sea coast in southern Russia, officials said on December 4. The authorities in the Russian region of Daghestan said that it's still unclear what caused the animals' deaths, but they likely died of natural causes. Regional officials initially said on December 3 that 700 dead seals were found on the coast, but a day later Zaur Gapizov, head of the Caspian Environmental Protection Center, said according to the state RIA Novosti news agency that after a broader inspection of the coast the number of dead animals was 1,700. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

U.S. Focus On Iran Is Thwarting Weapons Aid To Russia, Not Nuclear Talks

Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran (file photo)

Washington will focus on preventing the supply of Iranian weapons to Russia and supporting Iranian protests instead of continuing deadlocked negotiations with Iran on restoring the nuclear deal, said Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, in an interview with Bloomberg. "Iran is not interested in a deal and we're focused on other things," Malley said on December 3. To read the original story by Bloomberg, click here.

Kyiv Claims Russia Used Banned Chemical Weapon

Ukrainian troops used chemical defenses "to protect themselves from the strong irritant effect" of the prohibited substance, the navy said. (illustrative photo)

The Ukrainian Navy has accused Russia of using a banned chemical weapon against Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine. In a post on Facebook on December 4, the navy asserted Russia had dropped chloropicrin grenades from drones, but that Ukrainian troops had used chemical defenses "to protect themselves from the strong irritant effect" of the prohibited substance. The chemical -- which was developed as a poison gas during World War I -- was reportedly dispersed using K-51 aerosol grenades. The reports could not be verified, and there was no immediate reaction from Moscow. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

Russian Fined For Displaying Slogan 'I Love My Father'

A man and woman kiss at a farewell ceremony at a mobilization center in Kazan in October.

A court in Kazan, the capital of the Russian region of Tatarstan, has fined local resident Svetlana Poteryakhina 30,000 rubles ($480) for purportedly “discrediting” the Russian armed forces by publicly carrying a sign with the slogan, “I love my father.” Earlier, she had been fined 10,000 rubles ($160) for violating the law on demonstrations for the same incident. Poteryakhina said the demonstration occurred on September 24, shortly after President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization to raise troops for the war in Ukraine. She said that after she was detained, police threatened her with beating, rape, and criminal charges of terrorism. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, click here.

Iran Reportedly Shuts Down 'Morality Police' Amid Protests

A female officer of Iran's morality police looks out of the back of a police vehicle during a crackdown to enforce the Islamic dress code in Tehran in 2007.

Iran has cancelled its dreaded "morality police" in the wake of continuing protests following the September death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, the country's chief prosecutor has said.

Iran’s state IRNA news agency on December 4 quoted Mohammad Jafar Montazeri as saying, "the morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary."

Montazeri was responding to the question of "why the morality police were being shut down."

The controversial morality police patrols were established in 2006 under hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to enforce the country's Islamic dress codes, particularly the requirement to wear the hijab, or female head covering.

The squads of men in green uniforms and women in black chadors initially issued warnings, but soon began arresting women for alleged violations.

Montazeri was quoted the previous day as saying parliament and the judiciary were "working" on whether the law requiring women to wear the hijab in public should be changed. He added that "the results will be seen in a week or two."

On December 3, the Iranian government said more than 200 people had been killed in the protests sparked by Amini's death in September.

The United Nations and Iranian rights groups put the figure at more than 300, as the national protests have evolved into one of the most serious challenges to the theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

In a December 4 interview with Iran's state broadcaster, Deputy Security Minister Majid Mirahmadi said the "main cause" of the protests was not economic.

"This is an issue, but not the main cause," Mirahmadi said. "It is a protest against injustice."

President Ebrahim Raisi said on December 3 that Iran's Islamic foundations were enshrined in the constitution.

"But there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible," he said.

Ukraine Briefs U.S. On Russian Missile Strikes, Presses For Air-Defense Systems

Valeriy Zaluzhniy, commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Ukraine (file photo)

Ukrainian Army commander Valeriy Zaluzhniy has spoken with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, by phone and pressed Kyiv's requests for additional weaponry and equipment. In a post on Facebook late on December 3, Zaluzhniy said he briefed Milley on the latest Russian missile strikes against civilian infrastructure and asked for additional anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems. On November 30, the United States announced a $1.2 billion contract with defense contractor Raytheon to produce sophisticated NASAMS air-defense systems for Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

U.S. Intelligence Chief Says Ukraine Fighting Tempo To Decline In Coming Months

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies before a Senate committee hearing in Washington in May.

The director of U.S. national intelligence says fighting in Ukraine will continue at a reduced tempo for the coming months. Avril Haines also said on December 3 that she saw no evidence of a reduced will to resist on the part of Ukrainian forces. And she said U.S. intelligence saw no indication that the level of Russian dissent or opposition to the war in Ukraine might lead to a change in the government of President Vladimir Putin. Haines made the remarks at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in California.

Iran Executes Four Accused Of Working For Israel

Nooses prepared for a public hanging. (illustrative photo)

Iran executed four people accused of working for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency on December 4, Iran's state IRNA news agency reported. The executed prisoners were identified as Hossein Ordukhanzadeh, Shahin Imani Mahmudabadi, Milad Ashrafi, and Manuchehr Shahbandi. They were accused of receiving weapons and funds in the form of cryptocurrency from Mossad. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps claimed to have arrested several people supposedly linked to Mossad, accusing them of destroying property and kidnapping Iranian citizens. To read the original story by AP, click here.

NASA Says Russia Took $1 Billion In Wheat From Occupied Ukraine

A wheat field burns after Russian shelling a few kilometers from the Russian border in Ukraine's Kharkiv region in July.

Russia has harvested some $1 billion worth of wheat in the parts of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces, the U.S. space agency NASA has said. NASA Harvest, the agency's food-security program, said on December 4 that satellite imagery showed some 5.8 million tons of wheat were harvested from occupied land in Ukraine. It is not known what became of the Ukrainian wheat taken by Russia, but Russian ships have been exporting grain that may have been taken from occupied Ukraine to Libya, Iran, and other countries. To read the original story by Bloomberg, click here.

U.S. Defense Secretary Accuses Russia Of 'Deliberate Cruelty' In Ukraine

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (file photo)

The U.S. defense secretary has accused Russia of "deliberate cruelty" in its war in Ukraine, saying Moscow was intentionally targeting civilians. Lloyd Austin made the accusation on December 3 during a speech at the Ronald Reagan National Defense Forum in California. "With deliberate cruelty, Russia is putting civilians and civilian targets in its gunsights," Austin said. "Russian attacks have left children dead, schools shattered, and hospitals smashed." Still, Austin said, the Pentagon is also concerned about escalating the Ukraine conflict into a U.S. war with Moscow: "We will not be dragged into Putin's war." To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Popular Iranian Actress Mitra Hajjar Arrested

Mitra Hajjar (file photo)

Popular Iranian film and television actress Mitra Hajjar has been arrested, the IRNA news agency reported on December 3. Mehdi Kohian, a member of a group that monitors artists' arrests, has confirmed Hajjar's detention. The reason for the arrest of Hajjar, who is also an environmental activist, was not immediately clear. Last month, Hajjar was one of the artists summoned by prosecutors and questioned about "provocative" content posted online amid a wave of popular protests caused by the death in September of a young woman in the custody of Iran's notorious morality police. To read the original story from RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.

Updated

Russian Businessman Mikhail Fridman Reportedly Detained In London On Money-Laundering Suspicions

Mikhail Fridman attends a conference in Moscow in 2019.

British police say a "wealthy Russian businessman" has been arrested at his multimillion-dollar London home on potential money-laundering suspicions, and later released on bail.

The National Crime Agency did not identify the man in its December 3 statement.

But Russian state news agency TASS identified the man as Mikhail Fridman, a Russian-Ukrainian billionaire and one of the principals behind the Alfa Group conglomerate.

In its statement, the crime agency said a 58-year-old man was among three men who was arrested by officers from the Combating Kleptocracy Cell on December 1 at a "multimillion-pound residence" in London.

It was unclear why the agency released its statement two days after the arrest.

The man was detained on suspicion of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Home Office, and conspiracy to commit perjury, the agency said.

The agency also said a 35-year-old man was arrested at the premises after he was seen leaving with a bag containing a large amount of cash.

A former boyfriend, 39, of the businessman's partner was also arrested at the property, police said.

All three were released on bail.

The press service for Alfa Group issued a statement on December 3 stating Fridman was not under arrest. But the statement did not address whether Fridman had been released on bail.

TASS, citing what it described as a source close to Fridman, said Fridman had been detained, but then released on bail.

The Russian Embassy in London, meanwhile, issued a statement on December 3 demanding more information about the detentions.

Fridman, 58, was the founder of Alfa Bank, and grew to be one of Russia's wealthiest businessmen. He's been put under sanctions by the European Union as part of broader punishment against Russia for its war against Ukraine.

The EU described him as as "a top Russian financier and enabler of [President Vladimir] Putin's inner circle."

In 2013, Fridman and one of his main Alfa partners, Pyotr Aven, reorganized their holdings following the $14 billion sale of their stake in the Russian oil company TNK-BP, and created a new London-based investment group called LetterOne.

Both Fridman and Aven stepped down from LetterOne after the EU imposed sanctions in March.

In a statement to RFE/RL, LetterOne said it had no comment on the reports of Fridman's arrest.

Iranian Reportedly Begins Construction On Nuclear Plant

An Iranian flag flies at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, its first, during an official ceremony to kick-start work on a second reactor at the facility in 2019.

Iran has begun construction on a new nuclear power plant in the country's southwest, Iranian state TV announced, amid tensions with the United States over sweeping sanctions imposed after Washington pulled out of the Islamic republic's nuclear deal with world powers. The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around $2 billion, the country’s state television and radio agency reported on December 3. The plant will be located in the oil-rich Khuzestan Province, near its western border with Iraq, it said. To read the original story from AP, click here.

Iran's Security Council Says 200 People Died In Recent Protests

Iranian demonstrate in the western city of Sanandaj.

Two hundred people have lost their lives in Iran during nationwide protests that started in mid-September, an Iranian state security body said on December 3, a considerably smaller toll than that advanced by rights groups. "Two hundred people lost their lives in the recent riots," the Interior Ministry's Security Council said. An Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander recently put the number of dead at 300. The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.

Sofia Angry At Dutch Refusal To Let Bulgaria Into Schengen

Radev and Demerdzhiev have said that Bulgarian border authorities are making "extraordinary efforts to ensure the security" of European Union borders.

The Bulgarian government has criticized the Netherlands' decision to block the southeastern EU member's accession into Europe's passport-free Schengen zone, calling it an act of "cynicism."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government on December 2 announced that it will agree with Romania and Croatia's joining the Schengen zone, but will block Bulgaria's admission.

It said its veto was prompted by Bulgaria's failure to achieve satisfactory results in the fight against corruption and organized crime.

The EU justice ministers will decide on accepting Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania in Schengen at a meeting on December 8 and 9.

The acceptance of new members in Schengen requires unanimity.

"Instead of European solidarity, Bulgaria receives cynicism," Bulgarian President Rumen Radev wrote on Facebook.

"Our efforts do not deserve neglect! Our efforts do not deserve insults," Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev said.

"The Netherlands has no right not to want us in Schengen. The way they did it is absolutely unacceptable, unfounded politically and legally," Justice Minister Krum Zarkov told Bulgarian TV .

Radev and Demerdzhiev have said that Bulgarian border authorities are making "extraordinary efforts to ensure the security" of European Union borders.

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on December 2 that it was "too early" to change the Netherlands' position regarding Bulgaria.

Hoekstra said the Netherlands can reconsider the issue only when it becomes clear that Bulgaria has an effective rule-of-law mechanism capable of dealing with corruption and organized crime.

Austria also expressed reservations about Bulgaria's Schengen membership. Chancellor Karl Nehammer said that his country supported the membership of Croatia, but was against the accession of Bulgaria and Romania.

The European Commission has said several times that Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia fulfill the criteria and are ready for membership in the Schengen area. The European Parliament called for the countries to be accepted into the zone without further delay.

The Schengen area allows people to move freely, without identity checks, across the internal borders of 26 member states, four of which are not part of the EU.

Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Ireland, and Cyprus are the only EU countries that are not part of the Schengen area, while non-EU countries Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are members.

Updated

Price Cap On Russian Oil Should Be Lowered To $30 Per Barrel, Ukraine Says

Storage tanks at Chernomortransneft's oil terminal Sheskharis near the southern city of Novorossiisk, Russia

Ukraine has welcomed a $60 price cap on Russian oil agreed by the European Union, the Group of Seven (G7) group of advanced economies, and Australia, but said it should be lowered to $30 per barrel to hit Russia's economy harder.

"We always achieve our goal and Russia's economy will be destroyed, and it will pay and be responsible for all its crimes," the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram.

"But it would be necessary to lower [the cap] to $30 to destroy the enemy's economy quicker," Yermak added.

In reaction to the move, the Kremlin said on December 3 that it would "not accept" a price limit.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media that the Kremlin was "analyzing" the move, adding, "We will not accept this price cap."

EU ambassadors reached the deal for the $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian seaborne oil on December 2 after breaking a deadlock over the price, with Poland saying it was not low enough.

The G7 and Australia later on December 2 joined the EU in adopting the $60 price cap.

The move is meant to help achieve the goal of restricting Russia's primary source of funding for the war in Ukraine while preventing a spike in global prices.

The cap will keep global markets well supplied while "institutionalizing" discounts created by the threat of such a limit, a senior U.S. Treasury official said on December 2.

Poland had refused to back the price-cap measure over concerns the ceiling was too high, before its ambassador to the EU confirmed Warsaw's agreement on December 2 in the evening.

Europe needed to set the cap by December 5, when an EU embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea and a ban on insurance for those supplies take effect.

The embargo will prevent shipments of Russian crude by tanker vessel to the EU, which account for two-thirds of imports, potentially depriving Russia's war chest of billions of dollars.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement that the price cap "will help us achieve our goal of restricting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's primary source of revenue for his illegal war in Ukraine while simultaneously preserving the stability of global energy supplies."

The price cap "will immediately cut into Putin's most important source of revenue," Yellen said.

The announcement is the culmination of months of effort by a coalition of countries, and Yellen commended the "hard work of our partners in achieving this outcome."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa

Ukraine Grain Exports Down 30 Percent So Far In 2022/23

A cargo vessel carrying Ukrainian grain transits the Bosphorus, in Istanbul, Turkey, last month.

Ukraine has exported almost 18.1 million tons of grain so far in the 2022/23 season, down 29.6 percent from the 25.8 million tons exported by the same stage of the previous season, Agriculture Ministry data showed on December 2. After an almost six-month blockade caused by the Russian invasion, three Ukrainian Black Sea ports were unblocked at the end of July under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Putin Could Use Peace Talks To Restock His Army, U.K. Warns

U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (file photo)

Peace talks could be used by Russian President Vladimir Putin to restock his army in Ukraine before launching another attack, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in an interview with The Telegraph. Cleverly said Putin could pretend to engage in negotiations while training more troops and sending more ammunition, the newspaper said on December 2. There is a risk that a cease-fire would be used by Putin to "refit his damaged armed forces and to rearm his armed forces," The Telegraph quoted Cleverly as saying. To read the original story from The Telegraph, click here.

Russian Shelling Again Cuts Power In Kherson As Ukrainian Officials Warn Of Tough Months Ahead

A man stands near burning garbage in front of an apartment building during a scheduled power cut in Kyiv.

Russian troops have resumed the shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, cutting the electricity supply to the recently liberated city, as fierce fighting continues in the east and officials cautioned that Ukraine faces a tough winter because of the Russian missile attacks on its infrastructure.

"Russian invaders shelled Kherson -- damaged power grids. The city was left without electricity again," Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said on Telegram, adding that technicians were already at work trying to repair the damage and restore power to the recently liberated city located on the right bank of the Dnieper River.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's ongoing invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensive, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war, click here.

Kherson was returned to Ukrainian control on November 11, as the Russian military retreated to the left bank of the Dnieper. Russian artillery took new positions across the river and has been regularly pounding the city with artillery and rockets.

Three people were killed the previous day in the city by Russian shelling, Yanushevych said.

Millions of Ukrainians are struggling without electricity and heating at the onset of winter following waves of Russian strikes across the country, and Russian President Vladimir Putin said on December 2 that further attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure were "inevitable."

Ukrainian officials have responded with defiance, vowing to do everything to contain the damage.

Maksym Tymchenko, chief executive officer of DTEK, a major power company, said on December 2 that all six of DTEK's power stations had been attacked, some of them several times. The company has managed to bring them all back to the grid, he said.

Tymchenko voiced confidence that there was no chance "for the Russians to plunge Ukraine into darkness."

Yet, there was a power-generation deficit and issues with electricity transmission, Tymchenko told the Kyiv Security Forum.

He said that in Kyiv, the company was trying to introduce "rolling controlled blackouts: three-four hours of electricity supply, followed by four hours break. This situation will continue, we hope, until next week only, if there are no further attacks. But we are prepared for further attacks."

Additionally, he said, "We managed to accumulate enough coal stock for the country, not just for our company. We have enough gas storage to use gas for power generation. So we have enough capacity for the whole country."

"Transformers, substations, high-voltage transformers: these are what we've been in deficit of, and what we appeal to our international partners for. Some of the equipment is already on the way to Ukraine," he said.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko told the forum that last week Kyiv had faced an almost total blackout. "There was no heat and water supply. And about 4,000 employees of utility companies worked day and night to restore them."

Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told the forum that the months ahead would be difficult.

"The enemy still has significant resources, but there are more and more signs that he needs a pause at any cost," he said.

As fierce fighting continues in the east, where Kyiv's forces fought off waves of attacks in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the military reported on December 3 that over the previous day it shot down an enemy helicopter and six drones.

The General Staff said in its regular update that Russian forces launched five missile strikes, 27 air strikes, and 44 rocket attacks at civilian infrastructure and Ukrainian Army positions along the contact line.

Meanwhile, Britain's Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update that Russia is likely planning to encircle Bakhmut in the Donetsk region with tactical advances to the north and south.

Although the capture of Bakhmut would have limited operational value, it could allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, the ministry said on December 3. "There is a realistic possibility that Bakhmut's capture has become primarily a symbolic, political objective for Russia," it said on Twitter.

The battlefield reports could not be independently verified.

With reporting by Reuters and CNN

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