Ukraine: Bridge in Melitopol shows signs of damage
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Vladimir Putin’s forces have left the city of Mykhailivka, on the way to Crimea. According to the Ukrainian Army the Russian troops “retreated” from the area to reinforce units up north. The city from which Moscow’s soldiers have been forced to retreat is on the opposite bank river of the city of Kherson, which was recently liberated by Ukrainian soldiers. It comes as fighting that caused casualties and damage raged in the eastern city of Kupiansk, northeastern Ukraine’s Sumy region, towns neighbouring the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and the Kherson region in southern Ukraine. The governor of the Luhansk region, north of Donetsk, said the Ukrainian army was edging closer to a key Russian defence line between the towns of Kreminna and Svatove.
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BREAKING: Explosions heard in Kyiv
It has been reported that a number of emergency services have been dispatched as explosions have been heard in Kyiv.
Isobel Koshiw, the Guardian’s correspondent for Ukraine, has reported that air sirens first began just before 6am local time, and said the first explosion was reported to a Ukranian Telegram channel at 6:08am.
Two witnesses have told Reuters that the city had been under air raid sirens for about 20 minutes before the blasts were heard.
This also collaborates with Emergency service maps of Kyiv, which showed air raid sirens had been alerted in the capital and the surrounding areas before explosions were heard.
Kyiv’s military administration has said a drone fragment has hit two administrative buildings in the city centre.
The number of calamities, if there are any, is currently unknown.
Royal Marines deployed in ‘high-risk’ missions in Ukraine, says British general
Royal Marine are involved in “high-risk”, covert missions in Ukraine, a senior British general has acknowledged.
The frank admission, by Lieutenant General Robert Magowan, underlines the UK’s support for Ukraine almost 10 months after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his doomed invasion on February 24.
Writing in the Royal Marines’ official magazine, the Globe and Laurel, former commandant general Mr Magowan said 350 marines were sent to escort diplomats from the British embassy at the start of 2022 as invasion fears mounted.
He explained: “In January this year, 45 Commando Group deployed at short notice – from the depths of a dark, north Norwegian winter, to evacuate the British embassy in Kyiv to Poland.
“The go-to 999 international emergency force, if you will.”
Putin braces for financial plight as war drains Russia budget to boost military effort
Vladimir Putin is poised to face yet another obstacle on his imperial ambition to conquer Ukraine, as Russia’s war budget is plummeting.
A report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suggests that finances dedicated to supporting Putin’s “maximalist goals in Ukraine” could force Russia to “defund” other domestic and international programmes for the sake of the Kremlin’s war chest.
Putin’s reluctance to make any short-term “sacrifice” and the drain on resources accelerated by the war could reportedly “undermine” his “geopolitical campaigns worldwide.”
Boris: UK to supply longer-range missiles and help end the war
Britain should supply Ukraine with long-range missiles to “bring the war to an end”, Boris Johnson said.
The former prime minister suggested that as well as anti-aircraft systems that take out drones and missiles, the West must also take out their launch sites. He called for the supply of longer-range missile systems such as ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System).
Mr Johnson said: “That is the way truly to protect our Ukrainian friends and to bring the war to an end as soon as possible.”
Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner calls Putin’s war on Ukraine ‘insane and criminal’
The winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine shared their visions of a fairer world and denounced Putin’s war in Ukraine during the award ceremony in the Norwegian capital.
Under the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee since 1901.
Saturday’s award ceremonies took place at the Oslo City Hall in the presence of King Olav V and Queen Sonja, while the other Nobel prizes were formally presented during ceremonies in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, later the same day.
Russia militia boss warns defeat in Ukraine leaves Putin ‘only one option’
Donetsk militia commander Alexander Khodakovsky has openly suggested that Russia lacks the conventional means to win the war in Ukraine.
During a television appearance on Russian state media, Khodakovsky suggested the Kremlin should use the country’s massive nuclear weapon arsenal in the event a defeat becomes unavoidable.
Khodakovsky told Russia1: “We are aware of our capabilities. “We have a number of unit which are being rotated so they can recover at bases in Russia, there are now battalions which have been formed and will be formed.
Ukraine boost for fight against Putin as US set to send Patriot missiles to Zelensky
The US is expected to send Patriot missiles to Ukraine in order to help short down long-range Russian missiles.
It comes months after Kyiv requested the defence system to help in the ongoing war with Russia.
According to US officials, a formal announcement is expected in the coming days, possibly as early as Thursday.
However, the plan still needs final approval from US President Joe Biden along with US Defence secretary Lloyd Austin.
‘Ukraine being punished by the EU’ rages Poland chief amid row over refugee aid funding
A senior Polish politician has slammed the lack of EU support for Warsaw’s effort to help Ukrainian refugees.
Polish finance chief Tadeusz Koscinski has blasted Brussels over the lack of EU support for Poland’s refugee effort.
Coming amid a time of high tensions between Poland and the EU, Mr Koscinski told Express.co.uk the bloc was offering his country only “virtual medals” when what really is needed is funds to help the millions of Ukrainian refugees who have moved to Poland since Russia invaded in February.
US to send Patriot missile battery to Ukraine
The US is poised to approve sending a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, finally agreeing to an urgent request from Ukrainian leaders desperate for more robust weapons to shoot down incoming Russian attacks, according to US officials.
The approval is likely to come later this week and could be announced as early as Thursday, said three officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision is not final and has not been made public. Two of the officials said the Patriot will come from Pentagon stocks and moved from another country overseas.
White House and Pentagon leaders have said consistently that providing Ukraine with additional air defences is a priority, and Patriot missiles have been under consideration for some time. One of the officials said that as the winter closed in that consideration took on increased priority.
Zelensky urges Putin to embrace ‘peace’ and withdraw troops from Ukraine at Christmas
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s President, has urged Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to show he is “capable of giving up aggression” by calling a Christmas truce – telling the G7 group of world leaders including UK PM Rishi Sunak the festive season is a time when “normal people think about peace”. Mr Zelensky, recently crowned Time magazine’s person of the year, said: “Ahead are holidays celebrated by billions of people. Christmas – according to the Gregorian calendar, New Year, Christmas – according to the Julian calendar.
“This is a time when normal people think about peace, not about aggression.
“I suggest that Russia at least try to prove that it is capable of giving up aggression. And I see no reason why Russia should not do it now, at Christmas.”
He added: “The answer from Moscow will show what they really want. Whether it is a further confrontation with the world. Or finally an end to aggression.”
IAEA to establish presence of nuclear safety experts at all Ukrainian nuclear power plants
Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal have agreed that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will establish a continuous presence of nuclear safety and security experts at all of the country’s nuclear power plants as part of stepped-up efforts to help prevent a nuclear accident during the current armed conflict.
During a two-hour meeting in Paris that ended early on Tuesday morning, Director General Grossi said he and Prime Minister Shmyhal also made progress in ongoing discussions about setting up a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), where the IAEA deployed a permanent expert mission more than three months ago. Ukraine’s Energy Minister, Herman Haluschenko, also participated in the meeting.
“While we are not yet there and more work is required, I’m increasingly optimistic that such a zone – which is of paramount importance – will be agreed and implemented in the near future,” Director General Grossi said after the talks. “I will continue my high-level consultations in the coming days – both with Ukraine and Russia – with the clear aim to get this done as soon as possible. We can’t afford to lose more time.”
Macron hosts international conference to help Ukraine
Dozens of countries and international organisations threw their weight and more than 1 billion euros in aid pledges behind an urgent new push Tuesday to keep Ukraine powered, fed, warm and moving amid the onset of winter.
An international donor conference in Paris quickly racked up substantial promises of financial and in-kind support, a defiant response to sustained Russian aerial bombardments that have plunged millions of Ukrainian civilians into the deepening cold and dark by targeting critical infrastructure.
Ukraine’s president made an impassioned argument that such aid could pressure Russia into pursuing peace, and conference donors strongly condemned the Kremlin’s savaging of power stations, water facilities and other essential services in Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron, the conference host, denounced Moscow’s bombardments of civilian targets as war crimes. He said the Kremlin is pounding civilian infrastructure because its troops suffered setbacks on the battlefields and their “military weaknesses have been exposed to all.”
Russia “has chosen a cynical strategy, aiming to destroy civilian infrastructure in order to put Ukraine on its knees,” Macron said. “The objective is clear: Respond to military defeats by spreading terror among civilians, try to break the back as it can’t maintain the front.”
Good afternoon from Naples. I am Alessandra Scotto di Santolo and I will be taking over from my colleague Tom to bring you all the latest on the Ukraine war.
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Zelensky calls for £680million for vital energy generators
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West to allocate $843 million (£679 million) to support Ukraine’s critical infrastructure in winter, saying that generators are “as important as armour” in the fight against Russia.
Speaking to an international conference in Paris, attended by more than 40 countries and 30 multilateral bodies, and focused on setting up an international coordination mechanism to ensure support for Ukraine for the next four months, Mr Zelensky acknowledged that it was a “significant” request, but added: “But [it is] significantly less than what a blackout in Ukraine could cost us all”.
He said that an additional €1.5bn (£1.3 billion) was needed to restore the long-term damage to the energy grid.
Ukraine is currently in need of generators, transformers, equipment for the restoration of high voltage networks and gas turbines.
Mr Zelensky vowed that “we will do everything to counter the blackout and the energy terror. Most of our power plants are damaged or destroyed by the bombings”.
He said: “Every day our engineers have to disconnect millions of Ukrainians for these repairs. Currently there are 12 million. And every day we expect new Russian strikes. That’s why the generators have become as important as armour to protect the population.”
Putin cancels press conference over ‘hijacking’ fears
Fear of anti-war feeling is the “likely” reason Vladimir Putin cancelled his end of year press conference for the first time in a decade, the British Ministry of Defence has said.
In its daily briefing, the MoD said the cancellation was “likely due to increasing concerns about the prevalence of anti-war feeling in Russia” and fears that the event could be “hijacked” by dissenters looking to embarrass the Russian leader.
After noting that, in addition to the press conference, the “usual public phone-in also did not take place, the briefing said: “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.
“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’.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the cancellation on Monday but said Putin would still talk to reports during foreign visits.
The scale of Russian opposition to the war in Ukraine is difficult to measure owing to strict state control on public expression, but the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of civilians after Putin’s mobilisation announcement in September alludes to the hesitance of many.
Italy to stop sending weapons to Ukraine when peace talks start
Weapons shipments to Ukraine will cease the minute peace talks to end the Russian invasion begin, an Italian politician has told parliament.
Italian defence minister Guido Crosetto, addressing the upper-house Senate, said that military aid from Italy would “have to end sooner or later” and suggested the beginning of peace talks would be an opportune time to do this.
He said: “I am aware that military aid will have to end sooner or later, and will end when we will have the peace talks that we are all hoping for.”
The comments appear to be somewhat of a u-turn on an earlier move by the Italian government in December after they adopted a decree allowing them to keep supplying Ukraine with weapons for the whole of next year without the need to seek formal approval from parliament for each new shipment.
UK pledges to ‘expose’ Russia and Iran alliance
The UK foreign office has pledged to “expose the sordid deal” between Putin and Iran that is quickly developing into the clerical state becoming “one of Russia’s top military backers”.
In a statement released on social media, the foreign office promise to “hold both countries to account” as further evidence corroborated reports of Iranian kamikaze drones causing devastation in Ukraine.
The statement read: “Evidence from the US shows Iran becoming one of Russia’s top military backers.
“Russia intends to provide Iran with advanced military components, increasing the risk to Middle East and international security. We will expose this sordid deal and hold both countries to account.”
Last week, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby cited US intelligence assessments to report that Russia was offering Iran “an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defence partnership”.
Iran’s involvement with Russia comes as the theocratic regime under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has orchestrated the killings of hundreds of protesters within the country for dissent.
Mr Kirby said Russia and Iran were considering setting up a drone assembly line in Russia for the Ukraine conflict, while Russia was training Iranian pilots on the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter, with Iran potentially receiving deliveries of the plane within the year.
“These fighter planes will significantly strengthen Iran’s air force relative to its regional neighbours,” he said.
Ukraine energy back to full power after repairs
All nine power units of nuclear plants supplying the Ukrainian population with vital energy during a freezing winter are up and running for the first time since November 23, a Ukrainian official has said.
After eight waves of Russian missile attacks that began on October 10, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said the power supply was operating at almost full throttle.
Following an explosion on the Crimea Bridge on October 8, Vladimir Putin signed off on a series of missile strikes across Ukraine by way of retaliation.
Intended to target the energy infrastructure of the nation, in effect weaponising migrants by plunging Ukrainian civilians hundreds of miles behind the front lines into the dark and freezing and forcing them to flee into Europe, the strikes had had a devastating effect on the population.
All thermal and hydroelectric power stations were damaged in the strikes while 40 percent of the high-voltage network facilities were damaged, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
But reports yesterday from Energoatom, which is the Ukrainian state energy provider, said the repair of power units across the country were nearing completion.
Except for the temporarily captured Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, all energy facilities are now operating at maximum capacity to meet the population’s needs and the country’s economy, the press service of Energoatom added.
Bakhmut in flames as two Ukrianian civilians killed
Russian shelling killed at least two people in the Donetsk region during the day and into Monday night, injuring a further 12 people and destroying scores of Ukrainian buildings, a Ukrainian official has said.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, Governor of Donetsk Oblast, said on Telegram that the Kurakhiv community to the west of the administrative city was “the most affected” by Russian attacks.
He reported that two people had been killed and 12 injured in the small city of Hirnyk, while nine high-rise buildings and a farm had been damaged.
In Bakhmut, which is at the epicentre of the fighting and is rumoured to be the territory Putin is most interested in capturing, a Youth centre and an apartment building were hit as Russian forces continued their vicious assault.
Aerial footage of Bakhmut taken by a drone showed parts of the city in ruins. It’s only source of light during the prolonged blackout is the flames caused by explosions.
Ukraine waiting until ‘ground is firmer’ to counter attack
Ukraine will resume its counter offensives of the summer when the “ground is firmer”, according to officials.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said his nation’s forces intend to stage counter attacks throughout the winter once the autumn rainy season has passed and the ground begins to freeze over.
Temperatures in the winter in southern Ukraine more often than not drop well below freezing and on December 3, US Director for National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines suggested such extremity would force Ukraine into having to wait until spring to stage further counter offensives.
But in a joint press conference with the Swedish minister of defence Paul Jonson, Reznikov intimated the Ukrainian forces had no plans to wait that long.
Voice of America National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin reported that an unnamed senior US military official also stated on December 12 that: “We know the Ukrainians can fight and fight well under these [winter] conditions.”
Russian transport bridge attacked
A highway bridge that transported military equipment from the east to Russian forces further north has been damaged.
In a late night explosion on Monday, a bridge that connected the city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhia Oblast to the village of Kostyantynivka was “tired”, according to the Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov.
Fedorov said it as one of the “strategically importance objects” of the war and the attack was carried out in the same light as the “fatigue” of the Crimea Bridge on October 8.
Officials have called the incident a “sabotage attack,” while a senior regional official, Vladimir Rogov, blamed the incident on Ukraine “terrorists”.
The blast in the region bordering Ukraine took place around 10pm local time, a statement by Zaporizhia’s administration said, adding that “several pillars of the bridge were damaged.” Traffic across the bridge was also halted following the incident.
In videos published online by Rogov, the bridge appears to be sagging down in the middle. In another video, a loud bang can be heard apparently showing the moment of the blast.
The bridge is part of a road linking Melitopol to the port city of Berdyansk located on the Azov Sea.
Zaporizhia Oblast was annexed by Russia alongside Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson on September 30.
Russia has “already lost” the war in Ukraine
Russia has “already lost” the war in Ukraine, a top Ukrainian official has said, as the British Ministry of Defence appeared to corroborate the claims.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak wrote on Twitter that Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation on September 21 had “only delayed defeat” in Ukraine and that the nation has “already lost”.
Russian military bloggers accused Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov of conceding some form of defeat after altering the objectives of the “special military operation” by saying its aims were to recapture and hold onto that territory.
Nonetheless, the British MoD suggested Russian forces would be unable to fulfil those new objectives due to a “lack” of manpower.
The MoD said: “Russia’s strategy is currently unlikely to achieve its objectives: it is highly unlikely that the Russian military is currently able to generate an effective striking force capable of retaking these areas.”
“Russian ground forces are unlikely to make operationally significant advances within the next several month,” it added.
Good morning from London. I’m Tom Watling, I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.
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