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Live blog: Zelenskyy visits Donbass near 'difficult' Ukraine front

  • 6 Dec 2022

The unprecedented Ukrainian drone attack in Russia threatens a major escalation of conflict — which enters its 286th day — because it hit airfield housing bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Ukraine's presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak hailed the returning Ukrainians as heroes and said they included dozens who had held out in the city of Mariupol. ( Ukraine Presidents Office )

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Zelenskyy meets troops near frontlines in east Ukraine

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has visited the frontline region of Donetsk in east Ukraine, describing fighting in the area as "difficult" with Russian forces pushing to capture the industrial city of Bakhmut.

Zelenskyy appeared in a video wearing a heavy winter coat, standing next to a large sign in Ukraine's blue and yellow colours bearing the city name Sloviansk and calling for a moment of silence to commemorate killed Ukrainian soldiers.

"The east of Ukraine today is the most difficult front. And I am honoured to be here now with our defending troops in Donbass. I believe that next time we will meet in our Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk and in Crimea as well," Zelenskyy said.

'Not encouraging' Ukraine strikes into Russia: US

The United States said it was "not encouraging" Ukraine to strike into Russia after drone attacks on bases widely seen as carried out by Kiev. He stopped short of attributing the drone attacks to Ukraine, which has not claimed responsibility. 

"We are not enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders; we are not encouraging Ukraine to strike beyond its borders," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

"Everything we are doing — everything the world is doing to support Ukraine — is in support of Ukraine's independence," he said.

At UN, US, Russia accuse each other of no interest in Ukraine talks

The United States and Russia accused each other of not being interested in Ukraine peace talks as calls grow at the United Nations for a ceasefire and diplomacy to end the war started by Moscow nine months ago.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told a UN Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine that Moscow had noted: "interest from a significant majority" of UN member states in a diplomatic settlement.

"We are reacting to this very seriously. We confirm our willingness to conduct negotiations," he said, but added that the aim would be to "eradicate the root causes that forced us to start our special military operation (SMO)." Nebenzia accused Western countries of not being interested in a diplomatic settlement in Ukraine because they were instead expanding deliveries of weapons to Kiev.

EU, Western Balkans agree to strengthen strategic partnerships

The EU and Western Balkan countries agreed to strengthen partnerships to cope with the effects of the Ukraine war.

EU Council President Charles Michel said the region has significantly aligned recently with the EU's visa policy.

"Many of us have decided to accelerate the accession process of the Western Balkans. The war in Ukraine has amply demonstrated this," Michel said.

Russia must remove all its troops from Ukraine: US diplomat

The fastest way to peace in Ukraine is for Russia to withdraw the troops deployed after the start of the war, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said.

"Russia must remove all its troops from Ukraine - period," Sherman said in Rome at an event hosted by LUISS university.

She added Western states were succeeding in helping Ukraine resist Moscow's "unprovoked" assault and they must "stay the course." 

Russia strikes Ukrainian command system

Russia's defence ministry said that it carried out a massive high-precision strike on Ukraine's military command system on Monday, Russia's RIA news agency reported.

It was not possible to independently verify battlefield reports.

Russia has enough precision missiles for a few more big strikes - Ukraine spy chief

Ukraine's military intelligence chief said that Russia had enough high-precision missiles to conduct several more big air strikes on Ukraine before it runs out of stock.

Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Defence Intelligence agency, said Russia's stocks were coming to an end. He made the comments on national television.

Top Ukrainian diplomat lists conditions to start peace dialogue with Russia

 The Ukrainian foreign minister listed two conditions as a starting point for a “comprehensive peace dialogue” with Russia: “the opinion in the Kremlin has to be changed … Second, Russia must withdraw its forces from the entire territory of Ukraine. 

These are the starting points of a comprehensive peace dialogue, but in the meantime, there are many issues that need to be addressed,” Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview with NDTV, an Indian broadcaster.

Kuleba indicated that food security, nuclear security, the exchange of prisoners, and protecting the environment in times of war are among the issues that need to be addressed, saying that the G20 countries can play a role in resolving these matters. He further reiterated Zelenskyy’s 10 conditions, which he outlined in a video speech at the G-20 summit in Indonesia in mid-November, as a formula for peace, the last step of which is “signing the peace accord.”

Progress made on Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant safe zone: Russian diplomat

Several rounds of talks with the UN's nuclear energy watchdog have "moved forward" to create a safe zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, a senior Russian diplomat said.

"I think there's a positive dynamic on this issue. We work with a certain perspective," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said at a press briefing in Moscow, adding that nuclear power company Rosatom, along with other Russian bodies, remain in contact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ryabkov said that an agreement with the IAEA should include provisions to limit the Ukrainian military's ability to shell the station, which he said: "has been happening for months." On a potential visit to Russia by IAEA head Rafael Grossi, he said this could happen if Moscow is convinced that a "reasonable scheme" for a safe zone can be implemented with measures to monitor and verify that the Ukrainian army "is not able to conduct such attacks."

UN sounds alarm on humanitarian impact of Ukraine infrastructure destruction

Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure have sparked "a new level of need" in the war-torn country, the UN aid chief said, warning that millions of people are without heat as temperatures drop.

Nearly half of Ukraine's energy system has been damaged after months of systematic Russian strikes on power infrastructure, with fresh attacks carried out on Monday.

The destruction requires more support from the international community to Ukraine, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said, underscoring that loss of energy infrastructure has "left millions of people without access to heat, electricity and water," with temperatures expected to plunge to below -20 degrees Celsius.

Bakhmut city becomes centre of 'hottest' clashes in Ukraine

The city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine has become the focal point of the "hottest" conflicts going on in Ukraine, a Ukrainian official responsible for operations at Bakhmut Hospital said.

"This health centre has a very important strategic location because after it, the nearest hospital is at least 40 minutes away. Bakhmut is now the place where the hottest conflicts take place on the war map in Ukraine," said Yevgeni, who asked that his last name be withheld for security reasons.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Yevgeni said that despite the attacks on the city, staff were working ceaselessly to treat the wounded arriving at the hospital.

Russian court orders arrest in absentia of Ukrainian ministers

A Moscow court ordered the arrest in absentia of two Ukrainian ministers, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk and Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova, after they were accused of violating Russia's territorial integrity.

The decision came following a request by the FSB security service. "The request has been granted," Anastasia Romanova, spokeswoman for Moscow's Lefortovsky district court, told AFP.

Russia said in September it had annexed four Ukrainian regions its forces only partially controlled after holding so-called referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.

Baltic states throw support behind special Ukraine tribunal for Russian officials

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania threw their support behind a EU proposal to establish an UN-backed special international tribunal to hold Russian leadership accountable for war crimes in Ukraine.

Speaking on behalf of the Baltic states, Latvia's UN envoy Andrejs Pildegovics said that currently there is no international court or tribunal that could bring Russia’s top political and military leadership to account for crimes against Ukraine.

International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Kareem Khan opposed the proposal, which was made by the EU last week, saying his court was capable of prosecuting war crimes.

Russia considers setting oil price floor in response to G7 - report

Russia is considering setting a price floor for its international oil sales as a response to a cap imposed by G7 nations, Bloomberg News has reported.

Moscow is considering either imposing a fixed price for the nation's barrels or stipulating maximum discounts to international benchmarks at which they can be sold, the report added, citing two officials familiar with the plan.

The G7 price cap on Russian seaborne oil came into force on Monday as the West tries to limit Moscow's ability to finance its war in Ukraine, but Russia has said it will not abide by the measure even if it has to cut production.

European Commission weighs sanctions on Russia's mining industry - report

The European Commission is considering a ban on new investments in Russia's mining sector as part of a fresh set of sanctions aimed at eroding the Kremlin's ability to fund its war against Ukraine, the Financial Times has reported. Officials hope to have the ban, which will exempt some specific products, agreed by the end of next week, it said.

The ban would be part of a ninth EU sanctions package that officials are planning to discuss with member states in the coming days, the newspaper reported, citing people with knowledge of the discussions.

The FT said the new sanctions package could also include export controls on civilian technologies that Brussels believes Russia is using to support its arms factories, a ban on transactions with three more Russian banks, and targeted sanctions against another 180 individuals.

Attacks on Russian air bases will have psychological impact: Western officials

Attacks on airfields deep inside Russia will have struck a powerful psychological blow, senior Western officials said, saying it meant Moscow would have to think much more carefully about how to keep its long-range bombers safe.

The senior Western officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the strikes were the deepest inside Russia the start of the war. "If it were them (the Ukrainians)... it does show that they can operate in Russia at will, and that will deeply worry the Russians," one official said. "Psychologically I think it strikes a blow."

The Engels air base, near the city of Saratov and at least 600 km (372 miles) from the nearest Ukrainian territory, and two other airfields have been hit in the last two days by drone attacks. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attacks but has celebrated them, and Russia retaliated with a "massive strike on Ukraine's military control system".

Ukraine slams India for buying Russian oil

Ukraine's foreign minister condemned India's ramping up of Russian oil purchases following Moscow's assault as "morally inappropriate" in an interview broadcast.

A day earlier India's top diplomat had defended the purchases of discounted Russian crude, saying Europe's imports still dwarfed those of his country despite the continent's efforts to reduce its dependence. New Delhi says that with millions of poor Indians hit hard by the global rise in commodity prices in the wake of the war, it has no choice but to buy the cheapest oil possible.

But Ukraine's Dmytro Kuleba told Indian broadcaster NDTV it was "completely wrong" to justify buying oil from Russia "by arguing that Europeans were doing the same".

Ukraine's foreign reserves hit $27.95B

The National Bank of Ukraine has announced that the country had $27.95 billion in foreign reserves as of December 1.

That figure topped the $27.42 billion in state coffers on the morning of Russia's February 24 attack oo Ukraine, the bank said in a statement.

It also said its reserves had grown 10.7 percent in November. 

Russia and Ukraine swap 60 POWs each in latest exchange

Russia and Ukraine said they had exchanged 60 prisoners of war on each side in the latest of a series of such swaps.

Russia's defence ministry said the 60 freed Russian soldiers would be flown to Moscow to receive medical care and psychological support.

Ukraine's presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak hailed the returning Ukrainians as heroes and said they included dozens who had held out in the city of Mariupol - including the besieged Azovstal steelworks - until Russia forced its surrender in May.

Russian oil price cap 'not a tragedy': Moscow 

Russia expressed confidence it would find new buyers for its oil, saying the imposition of a price cap on its exports by the West over Ukraine was "not a tragedy".

The price ceiling that came into force seeks to restrict Russia's revenue as punishment for its assault on Ukraine, while making sure Moscow keeps supplying the global market.

"I have no doubt that there will be buyers for our product," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters, adding that the Russian authorities had prepared for the introduction of the price cap.

Ukraine shot down more than 60 Russian missiles: Zelenskyy 

Ukraine’s air defences shot down more than 60 of the 70 missiles fired by Russia, President Zelenskyy said. 

In a video message posted on Telegram, Zelenskyy said that Russian forces carried out missile attacks against his country again.

“A report on the day. The main result - 70 Russian missiles were launched, most of them were shot down. Kalibr, Kh-101, etc,” he said.

Ukraine races to restore power grid after Russia strikes

Ukraine worked to restore power after Russia's latest wave of missile strikes caused power disruptions across the country, right as winter frost builds and temperatures plunge.

Out of the 70 missiles launched by Moscow, "most" were shot down, President Zelenskyy said, but the barrage still hit Ukraine's already battered infrastructure. 

Fresh power cuts were announced in all regions "due to the consequences of shelling," national electricity provider Ukrenergo said on Telegram. The head of Ukrenergo said he had "no doubt that Russian military consulted with Russian power engineers during this attack", judging by where the missiles landed.

Russia's Shoigu says Ukraine committing 'nuclear terrorism' over Zaporizhzhia 

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Ukraine was continuing to shell the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, deliberately creating the threat of a possible nuclear catastrophe.

Shoigu said Russian forces were taking "all measures" to ensure the safety of the power plant, Europe's largest, in the face of what he called "nuclear terrorism" from Kiev.

"Our units are taking all measures to ensure the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," Shoigu told his military chiefs in a conference call, an abridged transcript of which was published by the defence ministry.

Latvia revokes licence for exiled Russian TV channel

Latvia has announced it was revoking the licence for exiled Russian independent channel Dozhd (Rain) for multiple violations that included showing the Crimea peninsula annexed from Ukraine as part of Russia.

The channel, which moved to Latvia after Russian authorities blocked its broadcasts for critical coverage of the war in Ukraine, dismissed the accusations as "unfair and absurd", saying that it would remain on YouTube.

"TV Rain will stop broadcasting on December 8," Ivars Abolins, head of the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council said on Twitter.

'Just, long-term peace' should be outcome of war in Ukraine: Kremlin

"A just, long-term peace" should be the outcome of the war in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Commenting on recent remarks by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Peskov, in a press briefing in Moscow, agreed that the situation in Ukraine will most probably be settled through negotiations.

"The fact that the outcome of what is happening should be a just, long-term peace, we can agree with this. But as for the prospects of any negotiations, we do not see them at the moment," he said.

Drone strikes hit Russian airfield bordering Ukraine

A drone has attacked an airfield in Russia's Kursk region bordering Ukraine, the local governor said, a day after Moscow blamed Ukraine for drone strikes at two other Russian airfields.

"As a result of a drone attack in the area of the Kursk airfield, an oil storage tank caught fire. There were no casualties," governor Roman Starovoyt said on social media, adding that they were trying to contain the fire. 

Starovoyt did not specify where the drone originated.

Russia hits Ukraine grid in latest fatal barrage

Ukraine was targeted by a new wave of fatal Russian missiles, the latest attack to cause massive power disruptions across the country and pile pressure on its embattled critical infrastructure as temperatures plunge.

The attacks came just after Russia shrugged off a Western-imposed price cap on its oil exports, warning the move would not disrupt its military campaign in Ukraine.

While the drone attacks on Russia's Saratov and Ryazan regions were intercepted, the defence ministry said falling debris had caused the explosions. 

Half of Kiev's region to remain without power for days - governor

About half the region surrounding the Ukrainian capital will remain without electricity for the coming days after Russian missile strikes on power facilities, the Kiev regional governor said.

The strikes on Monday, which plunged parts of Ukraine back into freezing darkness, were the latest in weeks of attacks hitting critical infrastructure and cutting off heat and water to many.

"In the coming days, about half of the region will be without electricity," Oleksiy Kuleba, the region's governor, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Moscow denies its intent is to hurt civilians but said their suffering would not end unless Ukraine yielded to Russia's demands.

Millions of Ukrainians at risk amid Russian attacks on critical infrastructure: UN

The United Nations warned that Russia's latest missile strikes on critical infrastructure in Ukraine are “putting millions of civilians at risk'' from freezing temperatures.

''Another wave of missile strikes today has left millions without electricity and water in some regions in the north, center and south, as wel l as in the capital Kiev,'' Stephanie Tremblay, an associate UN spokesperson, told reporters.

She said water supply has been compromised due to the lack of electricity to run the pumps in Odessa, and the heating system in Dnipro and Odessa have also been impacted.

US modified HIMARS missile systems to prevent Ukraine from striking Russia: Report

The US secretly modified long-range missile systems it sent to Ukraine to prevent them from being fired into Russia, according to a report published.

The decision on the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) was taken to “reduce the risk of wider war with Moscow,” the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous US officials.

Washington has sent 20 HIMARS to Kiev since June, it said. The systems were widely credited for helping Ukraine make unexpected gains in fighting off Russian forces.

The Pentagon has yet to make any statement regarding the reports. 

Kiev hits Russian air bases, Kremlin confirms

Ukrainian drones struck two air bases deep inside Russian territory, the Kremlin said, shortly before Russian forces unleashed a massive missile barrage in Ukraine that struck homes and buildings and killed civilians.

President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use all available means to defend his land, a remark many have interpreted to include nuclear weapons.

Missiles knocked out basic services in several Ukrainian regions in Moscow's strategy to inflict more pain just as winter approaches. Ukraine's Zelenskyy said four people were killed in Monday's barrage. 

For live updates from Monday (December 5), click here

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