Ukraine live briefing: Putin warns of ‘long process’ in Ukraine; says Russia has ‘not gone crazy’ over nuclear threats

Ukrainian troops fire at Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (Libkos/AP)

The war in Ukraine, which Russian President Vladimir Putin calls a “special military operation,” will “be a long process,” he said during a televised meeting on Wednesday.

After months of veiled nuclear threats, Putin defended Russia’s nuclear policies. While the threat of nuclear war has risen, “we have not gone crazy, we are aware of what nuclear weapons are,” Putin said, adding that Russia’s nuclear strategy is centered on “retaliatory strikes.”

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • Russian forces killed extrajudicially at least 441 civilians outside of Kyiv, in what likely amounted to war crimes, in the first weeks of the invasion of Ukraine, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report released Thursday. The actual number of civilians summarily killed is likely to be “considerably higher,” the report found.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was on Wednesday named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2022.
  • Ukraine’s allies are walking a fine line after drone strikes targeting Russian military airfields this week, seeking to acknowledge Ukraine’s right to defend itself by hitting military targets, while also balancing concerns about escalating the conflict. Kyiv has not publicly claimed responsibility for the attacks, which are the most brazen and far-reaching inside Russia since its invasion in February. But a senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that all three attacks were carried out by Ukrainian drones.
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called a U.S. plan to deliver a further $800 million to Ukraine “extremely confrontational” on Wednesday. The measure was adopted by lawmakers Tuesday as part of a larger defense spending bill. The United States has pledged more than $19 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including Stinger missiles, air defense systems, combat drones and artillery equipment.
  • The Biden administration is set to convene a meeting with oil and gas executives on Thursday to discuss U.S. support for Ukrainian energy infrastructure ahead of winter. The meeting is part of a broader effort to explore areas of collaboration with and support for allies abroad, according to a statement from the Department of Energy.

Battleground updates

  • Russia is working to extend defensive positions along its international border with Ukraine and inside its Belgorod region, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday, noting that Russia was installing “more elaborate” defense systems.
  • The Russian military said Ukraine used a “Soviet-era made” drone in at least one of the attacks this week. Alexander Kots, a prominent military correspondent with the Kremlin-friendly newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, said the Engels air base was hit on Monday by a Soviet Tu-141 Strizh unmanned aerial vehicle, which uses technology from the 1970s.
  • Russia and Ukraine carried out a prisoner swap Tuesday, exchanging 60 prisoners each, officials said. The nurses treating the returned Ukraniants at a hospital in the country’s northeast Ukraine were instructed to give each soldier no more than 300 milliliters of chicken soup, or about 20 tablespoons, The Washington Post reported. Many were so malnourished during Russian captivity that they would be unable to digest more that, the hospital director said.

Global impact

  • The European Commission is set to propose a new sanctions package targeting Russia, E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter Wednesday. Nearly 200 people or entities would be included. The measures would include new export controls, E.U. chief Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.
  • The conditions for a peaceful resolution to the war in Ukraine are “not there now,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. He blamed Russia for failing to participate in negotiations that respect “the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
  • Suspicious packages sent to Ukrainian embassies were mailed from Germany, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday. The packages were sent using a Tesla dealership in the town of Sindelfingen as the sender’s address. The mailings came from post offices without security camera systems and did not have traces of any sender’s DNA on them, Kuleba said on Facebook, calling it a “campaign of terror against Ukrainian diplomats.” A total of 31 packages, at least some of which were bloody and contained animal eyes, have been sent to embassies in 15 countries, mainly in Europe, with the most recent arriving in the last two days.
  • Hungary vetoed an 18 billion euro ($19 billion) financial aid package to Kyiv, deepening the rift between the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other European Union member states. David Pressman, the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, said Tuesday that he was traveling to Brussels “to consult with Hungarian officials and senior European Union and NATO counterparts on a range of pressing issues of shared concern,” the Associated Press reported.

From our correspondents

On eastern front with Ukrainian troops: Constant shelling, no heat or coffee. In their cramped, hastily dug mud outpost, less than a mile from enemy Russian positions, Ukraine’s troops apologize that they only have tea — no room for coffee — to offer The Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan.

A commander manning one of Ukraine’s forward-most positions zoomed in on his tablet to show how Kyiv’s forces in the area have advanced within five miles of Kreminna — an occupied stronghold for the Russian military and a potential gateway for Ukrainian forces as they press into the eastern Luhansk region.

“We’ve pushed them back, and now we just need to take their logistical routes,” said the deputy battalion commander in the Ukrainian National Guard’s 5th Slobozhanska Brigade, whom The Post is identifying only by his call sign, Tor, because of security risks.

“As soon as they lose that, they’ll have to abandon their positions,” Tor said. “They won’t be able to bring in reinforcements or more ammunition.”

Natalia Abbakumova, Mary Ilyushina, Kostiantyn Khudov, Andrea Salcedo, Jeff Stein and David Stern contributed to this report.