A senior foreign ministry official in Moscow demands the departure of NATO instructors from Kiev and a freeze of weapons supply from the West as the Russia-Ukraine conflict rolls into its 302nd day.

Russia's President Putin says the main task of the Russian military-industrial complex is to provide our units and frontline forces with everything they need.
Russia's President Putin says the main task of the Russian military-industrial complex is to provide our units and frontline forces with everything they need. (Reuters Archive)

Friday, December 23, 2022

Putin orders Russian defence industry to up its game for Ukraine war

President Vladimir Putin told Russia's defence industry chiefs to up their game to ensure that the Russian army quickly got all the weapons, equipment and military hardware it needed to fight in Ukraine.

"The most important key task of our military-industrial complex is to provide our units and frontline forces with everything they need: weapons, equipment, ammunition, and gear in the necessary quantities and of the right quality in the shortest possible timeframes," Putin said during a visit to Tula, a centre for arms manufacturing.

"It's also important to perfect and significantly improve the technical characteristics of weapons and equipment for our fighters based on the combat experience we have gained" he added.

Russia made significant progress towards ‘demilitarising’ Ukraine: Kremlin

The Kremlin said on Friday that Russia had made significant progress towards "demilitarising" Ukraine, one of the goals President Vladimir Putin declared when the war began 10 months ago.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov offered the assessment of Russia's military progress when asked during a briefing about comments by Putin, who on Thursday said that Ukraine's defence potential was close to zero.

"It can be stated that there is significant progress towards demilitarisation," Peskov replied. Ukraine's own defence potential - its military-industrial complex - has been badly disrupted by Russian missile strikes.

Shelling of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has almost stopped: official

The top Moscow-backed official in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region said that shelling of the Russian-controlled nuclear power plant there had "almost stopped".

Speaking on Russian state television, Russian-supported regional governor Yevgeny Balitsky said that Russian troops would not leave the nuclear power station and that it would never return to Ukrainian control.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe's largest, was captured by Russian forces in March, soon after the conflict in Ukraine began in February. The plant remains near the frontlines and has repeatedly come under fire in recent months, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.

Netherlands to provide Ukraine with up to 2.7B in aid

The Netherlands pledged $2.7 billion to help war-torn Ukraine in 2023, with most of the money earmarked for military aid.

"Nearly two billion is intended for military support", Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a press conference in The Hague. The rest will go towards humanitarian aid, rebuilding infrastructure as well as ensuring accountability, he said.

"The exact use of the contribution depends on the needs of Ukrainians and therefore on the course of the war," the government said. The Dutch government said support for reconstruction was designed to help rebuild hospitals, housing, energy and agricultural infrastructure, as well as demining work.

Ukraine eyeing bigger diplomatic footprint in Africa: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy said that Kiev would boost its footprint in Africa next year by opening 10 new embassies and strengthening trade ties with the continent.

Ukraine has been trying to rally African countries to its cause as it fights off Russia's assault, in part by promoting a humanitarian grain initiative to help alleviate hunger in highly vulnerable countries.

"We are overhauling relations with dozens of African countries," Zelenskiy told a gathering of diplomats in Kiev. "Next year we need to strengthen this."

Talks premature until 'financing' for Ukraine stops: Russian diplomat

A senior Russian diplomat has said that talks on security guarantees for Russia cannot take place while NATO instructors and "mercenaries" remain in Ukraine, and while Western arms supplies to the country continue.

In an interview with Russian state-owned news agency TASS, Alexander Darchiev, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's North America department, said talks would be premature "until the flood of weapons and financing for the (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy regime stops, American and NATO servicemen / mercenaries / instructors are withdrawn".

Russia typically refers to foreign volunteers fighting with the Ukrainian army as "mercenaries", and has convicted captured foreign fighters of acting as such.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy defiant as he returns to Kiev 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sounded another defiant note on his return to his nation’s capital following his wartime visit to the United States, saying his forces are “working toward victory” even as Russia warned that there would be no end to the war until it achieved its military aims. 

Zelenskyy posted on his Telegram account that he is in his Kiev office following his US trip that secured a new $1.8 billion military aid package, and pledged that "we'll overcome everything". 

The Ukrainian president also thanked the Netherlands for pledging up to 2.5 billion euros ($2.65 billion) for 2023, to help pay for military equipment and rebuild critical infrastructure. 

Zelenksyy's return comes amid relentless Russian artillery, rocket and mortar fire as well as airstrikes on the eastern and southern fronts and elsewhere in Ukraine.

Ukrainians get training in howitzer repairs in Lithuania

A group of Ukrainian military mechanics have left NATO member Lithuania after receiving training in how to repair German artillery howitzers being supplied to Kiev to defend against Russia's "special military operation".

The 16 mechanics spent the last two weeks in the central town of Rukla, several of them after receiving an introductory course in Germany.

"They acquired theoretical knowledge elsewhere, but... we taught them things from real life, what are the frequent failures which are not described in the textbooks," Zilvinas Cerskus, a major in the Lithuanian military, said.

Lithuania has had the howitzers since 2016.

North Korea denies supplying Russia with munitions

North Korea's Foreign Ministry has denied a media report it supplied munitions to Russia, calling it "groundless," and denounced the United States for providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, the North's official KCNA news agency reported.

Japan's Tokyo Shimbun reported earlier that North Korea had shipped munitions, including artillery shells, to Russia via train through their border last month and that additional shipments were expected in the coming weeks.

"The Japanese media's false report that the DPRK offered munitions to Russia is the most absurd red herring, which is not worth any comment or interpretation," a ministry spokesperson said in a statement carried by the KCNA.

US alleges North Korea of sending arms shipment to Russia's Wagner Group

The White House said the private Russian military company, the Wagner Group, took delivery of an arms shipment from North Korea to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine, a sign of the group's expanding role in that conflict.

John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said Wagner was searching worldwide for arms suppliers to support its military operations in Ukraine.

"We can confirm that North Korea has completed an initial arms delivery to Wagner, which paid for that equipment. Last month, North Korea delivered infantry rockets and missiles into Russia for use by Wagner," he told reporters.

Wagner owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, denied the assertion as "gossip and speculation."

"Everyone knows that North Korea has not been supplying any weapons to Russia for a long time. And no such efforts have even been made," he said in a statement.

US Congress advances bills targeting war criminals, Russian oligarchs

A pair of bills granting the US Justice Department additional tools to go after Russian oligarchs and alleged war criminals appeared poised to become law after a last-minute push by a bipartisan group of lawmakers this week.

One bill, which broadens the Justice Department's jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes, passed in the US House of Representatives after winning Senate approval on Wednesday.

It now heads to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.

Another bill, which will allow the Justice Department to transfer oligarchs' forfeited assets in some situations to Ukraine, passed in the Senate as an amendment to Congress' annual funding bill. Those assets will be first transferred to the State Department, which would disperse the funds as foreign aid, according to the bill's text.

'Armed with English': Ukraine soldiers take language lessons

Ukrainian soldiers scramble to learn English –- military terms especially –- so they can use most of the combat aid from Washington and elsewhere against Russian forces.

Donated supplies like HIMARS rocket systems have already been a battlefront game-changer, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's lightning visit to Washington this week yielded further pledges –- including, for the first time, the Patriot missile defence system.

Soldiers have found, however, that training materials for this equipment are available mainly in English, which is often also necessary to communicate with foreign volunteer fighters they encounter in the field. 

To help topple the language barrier, 35-year-old English teacher Olena Chekryzhova has traded in her quiet life of classroom conjugation to give crash courses to the armed forces.

For live updates from Thursday (December 22), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies