Russian drone attack takes out power supplies in Kyiv; Ruble tumbles

Putin says situation extremely difficult in Russian-annexed Ukrainian regions

President Vladimir Putin said the situation in four areas of Ukraine that Moscow has declared are part of Russia was “extremely difficult” and ordered security services to step up surveillance to secure its borders and combat new threats.

Putin’s comments made on Security Services Day, widely celebrated in Russia, came as Kyiv renewed calls for more weapons after Russian drones hit energy targets and as fears grow that Moscow’s ally Belarus could open a new invasion front against Ukraine.

Putin ordered the Federal Security Services (FSB) to step up surveillance of Russian society and the country’s borders to combat the “emergence of new threats” from abroad and traitors at home.

In a rare admission of the invasion of Ukraine not going smoothly, Putin cautioned about the difficult situation in Ukraine’s regions that Moscow moved to annex in September and ordered the FSB to ensure the “safety” of people living there.

“The situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions is extremely difficult,” Putin said late on Monday in comments translated by Reuters.


IMF has approved program for Ukraine to help promote donor financing

The International Monetary Fund said on Monday it has approved a four-month program for Ukraine that is aimed at maintaining economic stability following Russia’s invasion of the country, and helping promote donor financing.

It said the four-month “Program Monitoring with Board involvement (PMB)” was approved by the IMF’s management on Dec. 9 and discussed by its board on Monday, adding that it will help Ukraine implement prudent policies and “catalyze” external financing.

“Large and predictable external financial support will be critical for the success of the authorities’ strategy, and frontloaded disbursements would help address strains in early 2023,” IMF First Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath said in a statement.

Gavin Gray, the IMF’s mission chief for Ukraine, told reporters that the IMF estimates the country will need between $40 billion and $57 billion in external financing in 2023.


U.S. Treasury official says U.S.-Poland relations are hindering Russia’s war effort

Soldiers from the Ukrainian armed forces’ 10th brigade move a T-72 tank forward as they attempt to repair a track, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine on December 19, 2022.

Sameer Al-doumy | AFP | Getty Images

U.S.-Poland relations are affecting the Russian government’s ability to carry out its unprovoked war in Ukraine, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said.

During a meeting with Anna Moskwa, Polish minister of climate and environment, in Brussels on Monday, Adeyemo praised the nations’ combined support for Ukraine and condemnation of Russia through sanctions, export controls and the $60 price cap on Russian seaborne oil devised by the G-7 countries, according to a readout.

The measures have effectively shut down Russian tank factories and weakened its finances and economic outlook, the officials said. Adeyemo also lauded Poland’s commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and highlighted each nation’s pledge to provide further aid to Ukraine.

— Chelsey Cox

Russia’s war in Ukraine, Iran protests limited U.S. election meddling, official says

In this image provided by U.S. Cyber Command, Army Maj. Gen. William Hartman, who leads the U.S. Cyber National Mission Force, speaks during a ceremony at U.S. Cyber Command headquarters at Fort George E. Meade, Md., Monday, Dec. 19, 2022.

U.S. Cyber Command | AP

Russia’s war in Ukraine and anti-regime protests in Iran limited both Moscow and Tehran’s ability to try to influence or interfere in the recent U.S. midterm elections, a senior American military official said.

U.S. agencies were on high alert before November’s vote for potential cyberattacks or foreign influence operations, particularly after adversaries were judged by intelligence agencies to have meddled in the last two presidential elections. But there was little sign of disruption in the midterms.

“I was surprised by the lack of activity we saw from the Russians, the Iranians, or the Chinese,” said Army Maj. Gen. William Hartman, who leads the U.S. Cyber National Mission Force, which partners with the National Security Agency in detecting and stopping election intrusions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been mired in a prolonged war with tens of thousands of casualties since he ordered an invasion of Ukraine in February. And Iran’s leaders are waging a bloody crackdown against street protests sparked by the September death of a 22-year-old woman, in one of the largest sustained challenges to their power since the 1979 revolution.

— Associated Press

Deputy U.S. Treasury secretary meets with German officials on countermeasures against Russia

Economist Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo reacts as he testifies before the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearing to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, in Washington, D.C., February 23, 2021.

Jim Lo Scalzo | Reuters

Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo and top officials in Germany renewed their nations’ commitment to deprive Russian President Vladimir Putin of a funding source for his war in Ukraine through sanctions and the strategic price cap on Russian oil, according to a readout of the meetings.

Adeyemo congratulated Wolfgang Schmidt, German head of the federal chancellery; Susanne Baumann, state secretary of the federal foreign office; and Udo Philipp, state secretary of the federal ministry for economic affairs and climate action, on Sunday for reaching an agreement with the European Union to provide Ukraine an additional 18 billion euros in assistance and for imposing further sanctions on Russia.

The U.S. Treasury’s deputy chief also encouraged joint efforts to hold Russia accountable and to help the Ukrainian government in a time of crisis.

—Chelsey Cox

Moldova fears a Russian offensive in the country’s east next year, spy chief says

Flags of Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestria and Russia flutter in central Tiraspol, in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestria May 5, 2022. 

Vladislav Bachev | Reuters

Moldova’s spy chief warned of a “very high” risk of a new Russian offensive towards his country’s east next year and said Moscow still aimed to secure a land corridor through Ukraine to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniestria.

The comments by Alexandru Musteata, head of the Information and Security Service, echo recent messages out of Ukraine where top army generals have warned in recent days of the threat of a major new Russian offensive early next year.

“The question is not whether the Russian Federation will undertake a new advance towards Moldova’s territory, but when it will do so,” Musteata told the TVR-Moldova television channel.

He said his agency believed Russia was looking at several scenarios to reach Moldova and that it was possible an offensive would be launched in January-February or later in March-April.

— Reuters

Kremlin slams EU price cap measure on natural gas as “unacceptable”

A worker walks past gas pipes that connect a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit ship with the main land in Wilhelmshaven, northern Germany on December 17, 2022. EU energy ministers are wrangling over a proposed price cap on gas.

Michael Sohn | Afp | Getty Images

Moscow lashed out in response to the European Union’s natural gas price capping measure, an agreement which the bloc reached after months of negotiations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the measure was an attack on market pricing and “unacceptable,” Reuters reported, citing Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a subsequent rush by the EU to end its heavy reliance on Russian gas has contributed to an energy crunch that has sent prices sharply higher and led to market volatility.

— Natasha Turak

EU approves price cap measure for natural gas in effort to combat energy crisis

European Union energy ministers agreed to a “dynamic” cap on natural gas prices Monday after two months of intense negotiations.

Introducing a limit on gas prices has been controversial for European officials. While many EU member states have argued that the measure is essential to bring down sky-high energy costs for consumers, others have worried about the potential market implications of the policy.

“We did our job, we have the deal. Another mission impossible accomplished,” Jozef Sikela, industry minister of the Czech Republic, which holds the presidency of the Council of the EU, said in a press conference.

Energy ministers overcame their differences and agreed to what they’re calling a market correction mechanism. It will be automatically activated under two conditions: If front-month gas contracts exceed 180 euros ($191) per megawatt hour on the Dutch Title Transfer Facility — Europe’s main benchmark for natural gas prices — for three working days in a row; and the price is 35 euros higher than a reference price for liquid natural gas on global markets for the same period.

The measure will apply from Feb. 15. When applied, it will set a “dynamic bidding limit” on natural gas futures transactions for 20 working days.

Read the full story here.

—Jenni Reid

Shareholders of energy company Uniper clear way for German nationalization

Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy and climate minister, left, Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor and Christian Lindner, Germany’s finance minister, on the Jetty during the inauguration of the Hoegh Esperanza LNG floating storage regasification unit (FSRU) at the Wilhelmshaven LNG Terminal, operated by sniper SE, in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. Germany opened its first state-chartered liquefied natural gas vessel as Europes largest economy races to replace Russian gas amid an energy crunch and freezing temperatures. Photographer: Liesa Johannssen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Liesa Johansson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shareholders of German energy company Uniper approved a rescue package for the gas supplier, clearing the way for its nationalization.

The government announced its plan to nationalize Uniper in September, expanding state intervention in the power sector to prevent an energy shortage resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine. The deal built on an initial rescue package agreed to in July and features a capital increase of 8 billion euros ($8.5 billion) that Germany will finance.

As part of the agreement, the government will gain a nearly 99% stake in the energy supplier, which before now was controlled by Finland-based Fortum. The Finnish government has the largest stake in Fortum.

Uniper said its shareholders “approved the proposed capital measures by a large majority” at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday.

The European Commission’s approval under state aid law “is expected in the near future,” it said.

— Associated Press

Putin arrives in Belarus for talks with Lukashenko

MINSK, BELARUS – DECEMBER 19: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko (R) seen during the welcoming ceremony at the Palace of Independence on December 19, 2022, in Minsk, Belarus.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Minsk for talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian state media reported Monday afternoon.

The meeting, Putin’s first to the Belarusian capital since 2019, comes amid increasing fears that Moscow may be pushing its ally to increase its military involvement in the war.

Speaking to Russian news agencies earlier Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called Belarus Russia’s “number one ally,” but said that suggestions that Moscow wanted to pressure Minsk into joining the conflict were “stupid and unfounded fabrications.”

—Karen Gilchrist

UK’s Rishi Sunak in Latvia for meeting with allies to discuss Ukraine

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in the Latvian capital of Riga to meet with other members of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a U.K.-led alliance of European militaries that share tactical knowledge and conduct joint training exercises to increase interoperability.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (L) attends a bilateral meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (R) at the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) countries leaders’ meeting in Riga, Latvia December 19, 2022.

Henry Nicholls | AFP | Getty Images

He is set to announce a new artillery package for Ukraine and urge other member nations to continue their support for Ukraine. He will meet British troops in neighboring Estonia later in the day.

Ahead of the visit, Sunak said in a statement: “From the Arctic Circle to the Isle of Wight, the U.K. and our European allies have been in lockstep in our response to the invasion of Ukraine, and we remain steadfast in our ambition for peace in Europe once again … I know this Joint Expeditionary Force summit will only underline our close friendships and unwavering support for Ukraine.”

The JEF includes the U.K., Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.

— Natasha Turak

Kremlin dismisses reports that Belarus is to join conflict

The Kremlin on Monday rejected suggestions that President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Belarus signals a ramping up of Minsk’s involvement in the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, December 14, 2022. 

Sputnik | Reuters

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the reports were “groundless” and “stupid,” hours before Putin was due to arrive in the Belarusian capital.

Putin’s visit Monday afternoon marks his first to the ex-Soviet ally in more than three years, and comes as Belarus’ defense ministry said it had finalized a series of inspections of its armed forces’ military preparedness.

—Karen Gilchrist

Zelenskyy asks West for weapons systems

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday called on Western leaders meeting in Latvia to provide a wide range of weapons systems in Kyiv’s ongoing war with Russia, Reuters reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is displayed on a screen as he speaks via video link during a Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) plenary session in Riga, Latvia December 19, 2022.

Henry Nicholls | Afp | Getty Images

“I ask you to increase the possibility of supplying air defense systems to our country, and to help speed up the relevant decisions to be taken by our partners,” Zelenskyy asked during his speech via video link to the leaders meeting in Riga.

Western allies, including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, are meeting in the Baltic nation for the British-led grouping Monday.

—Karen Gilchrist

Belarus says military checks completed ahead of Putin visit

Belarus’ defense ministry said Monday it had finalized a series of inspections of its armed forces’ military preparedness, signaling a potential shift to a more active role in the conflict, Reuters reported.

Russian ally Belarus, which acted as a staging post for Moscow to launch its invasion of Ukraine in February, has been undertaking a string of military maneuvers over recent weeks.

It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin heads for Minsk Monday, heightening fears that he may pressure his ex-Soviet ally to join a new offensive on Ukraine.

—Karen Gilchrist

Russian ruble dips to six-month low

The Russian ruble plunged to a more than six-month low against the dollar Monday, as low oil prices and mounting sanctions fears threatened to hit the country’s export revenues.

The rouble was 2.4% weaker against the dollar, trading at 66.22 as of around 9:00 GMT Monday. The dip marks the rouble’s lowest level since May 30.

—Karen Gilchrist

‘Fairly serious’ damage caused by Russian drone attack

This photograph shows an object of a critical power infrastructure as it burns after a drone attack to Kyiv, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

A Russian drone attack caused “fairly serious” damage in the Kyiv region Monday, Governor Oleksiy Kubela said, according to Reuters.

Three areas in the region were left without power supply, the governor said, after Russia unleashed 35 “kamikaze” drones on Ukraine in the early hours of Monday morning.

The assault, which took out critical infrastructure, marks Moscow’s third air attack on Ukraine’s capital in six days, Reuters reported.

—Karen Gilchrist

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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