Ukraine appears to expose Russian air defence gaps with long-range strikes as fighting enters its 286th day and attention turns to use of drones in the conflict between the European neighbours.

A local resident leaves his home after Russian shelling destroyed an apartment house in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine.
A local resident leaves his home after Russian shelling destroyed an apartment house in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine. (AP Photo/LIBKOS)

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Russia trying to 'freeze' war before spring assault : NATO chief

Russia was looking to stall the fighting in Ukraine over the winter in order to build up its forces for a renewed assault next year, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said.

"What we see now is that Russia is actually attempting to try to have some kind of freeze of this war, at least for a short period of time, so they can regroup, repair, recover and then try to launch a bigger offensive next spring," Stoltenberg told a public event hosted by the Financial Times.

Stoltenberg said NATO members were continuing their "unprecedented" supply of arms and support to Ukraine despite concerns that the conflict is draining Western stockpiles.

Kiev mayor says 'apocalypse' scenario possible this winter, but urges no panic
Kiev's mayor has warned of an "apocalypse" scenario for the Ukrainian capital this winter if Russian air strikes on infrastructure continue but said there was no need for residents to evacuate now, though they should be ready to do so.

"Kiev might lose power, water, and heat supply. The apocalypse might happen, like in Hollywood films, when it's not possible to live in homes considering the low temperature," Mayor Vitali Klitschko told Reuters in an interview.

The former boxer said that they were doing "everything to make sure this does not happen", but the picture is bleak: the capital lacks enough heated shelters to take in all 3.6 million residents in the event of complete outages and people should be ready to evacuate if the situation worsens, Klitschko said.

Russia strengthens defence lines near Ukraine border

The governors of two Russian regions bordering Ukraine have said they inspected the construction of defence lines days after Ukrainian drone struck key military airfields.

The governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoyt, shared photos of pyramid-shaped concrete blocks that appear to be anti-tank fortifications.

His counterpart in the neighbouring Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, on Tuesday reported inspecting local fortifications "to ensure the safety of all residents who live in the Belgorod region", adding that the region would be forming self-defence units.

Zelenskyy accuses Russia of 'ecocide' over damage to wildlife

Zelenskyy accused Russia of "ecocide" for the devastation he said its assault has wrought on Ukraine's wildlife, citing thousands of dead marine mammals that had washed up on the shore of the Black Sea.

The research director at the Tuzly Estuaries National Nature Park, a national park in the Black Sea region of Odessa, Ivan Rusev, said that at least "50,000 dolphins have died as a result of the war", which would amount to 20 percent of the overall Black Sea dolphin population.

Many scientists, including Rusev, have blamed military sonar used by Russian warships for the disaster.

BP should help fund rebuilding of Ukraine: UK lawmaker

BP should channel its Russian funds into rebuilding Ukraine, an opposition UK lawmaker, as the British energy giant said it was struggling to divest its stake in Rosneft.

Labour's Margaret Hodge echoed a remark by an aide to Ukraine's Zelenskyy that any dividends BP received from its 19.75-percent stake in the Russia's state-backed Rosneft amounted to "blood money".

The campaign group Global Witness says BP is in line to earn an estimated $709 million from Rosneft dividends so far this year. BP, however, reiterated that a Kremlin law passed in reprisal for Western sanctions bars companies from "unfriendly states" such as Britain from repatriating their Russian earnings.

Putin says Ukraine assault 'lengthy process'

Putin said that his army could be fighting in Ukraine for a long time, but he saw "no sense" in mobilising additional soldiers at this point.

"As for the duration of the special military operation, well, of course, this can be a long process," Putin said, using his preferred term for Russia's assault.

In a televised meeting of his Human Rights Council that was dominated by the war, Putin said Russians would "defend ourselves with all the means at our disposal", asserting that Russia was seen in the West as "a second-class country that has no right to exist at all".

He said the risk of nuclear war was growing - the latest in a series of such warnings - but that Russia saw its arsenal as a means to retaliate, not to strike first. He also said there was no reason for a second mobilisation at this point, after a call-up of at least 300,000 reservists in September and October.

UN rights chief says he hid in bomb shelter in Ukraine as Russia hit targets

The UN human rights chief recalled how he took cover in an underground shelter as at least 70 missiles were launched from Russia targeting essential infrastructure in Ukraine.

Volker Turk said he had to take shelter underground on Monday as Russian missiles hit civilian targets in Ukraine.

On his visit, he witnessed the scale of civilian casualties and the damage caused to civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools and said he fears "that there is one long, bleak winter ahead for Ukraine."

Ukraine, ‘free world’ should not trade goals, values for compromises: Zelenskyy

Ukraine and the “free world” should not trade in its goals and values for compromises, Zelenskyy told an awards ceremony in Washington, DC.

“Ukraine and the free world should definitely not change their goals and exchange their values for some compromises … We must fully protect freedom and guarantee the security of our democracy,” the Ukrainian president said during a video speech at the Madeleine K Albright Democracy Awards, named for the late US secretary of state.

Zelenskyy also stressed that Ukraine and the world must receive guarantees of peace, stability and security from Russia, which must “bear responsibility" and underlined that any other option apart from Ukraine’s victory is a mistake.

Zelenskyy and 'spirit of Ukraine' named Time person of year

Time Magazine named Zelenskyy its person of the year, awarding him the accolade “for proving that courage can be as contagious as fear.”

Editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said the choice of Zelenskyy — alongside “the spirit of Ukraine” — was “the most clear-cut in memory.”

“Whether the battle for Ukraine fills one with hope or with fear, the world marched to Volodymyr Zelensky’s beat in 2022,” he said.

Total of 31 'suspicious packages' sent to Ukrainian diplomatic missions in 15 countries: Minister

A series of suspicious packages sent to Ukrainian embassies all bore the address of a Tesla car dealership in Germany and were usually sent from post offices without video surveillance, Ukraine's foreign minister said.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Facebook that 31 Ukrainian missions in 15 countries had received such packages in what he called a "campaign of terror against Ukrainian diplomats".

"All the envelopes have the same sender address: the Tesla car dealership in the German town of Sindelfingen. Usually, the shipment was made from post offices that were not equipped with video surveillance systems," Kuleba wrote, adding that the "criminals also took measures not to leave traces of their DNA on the packages."

Lawsuit against Russia's Wagner group seeks Ukraine reparations: lawyer

A lawsuit in Britain against Russian private military contractor Wagner could help Ukrainians seek reparations for alleged crimes committed during Russia's offensive, a lawyer whose firm filed the suit said.

Jason McCue, of McCue Jury and Partners, said the lawsuit initiated in Britain's High Court last month on behalf of alleged Wagner victims would target what Kiev says are the group's global assets, and aim to tie Moscow up in courts.

"Together we can shake and peel this Russian doll until its hidden layers reveal that its treasure is for us to claim and to give to Ukrainians for justice," he told reporters in Kiev.

Other suits would follow, with the intention of damaging Putin's "war machine", he said.

Olympics-Russia, Belarus athletes' participation at Paris Games still unclear

The participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the 2024 Paris summer Olympics is still unclear and no date has been set for a final decision on the matter, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said.

It is still unclear if and how athletes from Russia and Belarus will be able to compete both in the qualification process and the Games themselves. "This requires further consultations," Bach said.

He added that while IOC sanctions against the two countries, including the ban on any of their anthems, flags or national symbols, remain in place, the "protective measures" of not letting their athletes compete in international competitions to protect the events' integrity were another matter.

Russian economy has overcome short-term slump caused by mobilisation: central bank

Russia's economy has overcome the short-term slump caused by Putin's partial mobilisation order, but the disinflationary impact it had in reducing consumer demand has practically disappeared, the central bank said.

Inflationary risks are set to prevail in the medium term, the bank said in an analytical report on macroeconomic and market trends, pointing to increases in budget spending and private lending.

US blacklists companies for aiding Russian military

The Biden administration added 24 companies and other entities to an export control list for supporting Russia’s military or defence industrial base, Pakistan's nuclear activities or for supplying an Iranian electronics company.

The entities, based in Latvia, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore and Switzerland, were added over US national security and foreign policy concerns, the Commerce Department said.

The Russian companies included AO Kraftway Corporation PSC, which calls itself one of the biggest Russian IT companies, AO Scientific Research Center for Electronic Computing, LLC Fibersense, and Scientific Production Company Optolin, AO PKK Milandr; Milandr EK OOO; Milandr ICC JSC; Milur IS, OOO; (OOO) Microelectronic Production Complex (MPK) Milandr; and Ruselectronics JSC and Swiss-based Milur SA.

UK places anti-tank weapons order to replenish supplies after Ukraine

Britain said it has ordered thousands of new anti-tank weapons in a 229 million pound deal with Swedish manufacturer Saab, aiming to restock after it sent thousands of the units to Ukraine.

Britain's defence ministry said that it had provided large volumes of the Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW) systems to Ukraine this year to help support their pushback against Russian forces.

Defence minister Ben Wallace said in a statement that the weapons have already played "a decisive role" in supporting Ukraine's army.

Russian shelling kills at least six in east Ukraine - president

Russian shelling killed at least six people and set buildings ablaze in the town of Kurakhove in eastern Ukraine, Zelenskyy said.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Zelenskyy's office, put the death toll higher. He said eight people had been killed and five wounded in the attack, in which a market, bus station, petrol stations and residential buildings came under fire.

"Terrorists attacked the peaceful town of Kurakhove", Zelenskyy wrote on the Telegram messaging app under video footage of buildings in flames.

Ukraine jails priest accused of assisting Russian troops

A Ukrainian priest from a church affiliated with Russia has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after being found guilty of assisting Russian, the Prosecutor General's Office.

Ukraine's government has been tasked with drawing up a law on banning churches affiliated with Russia under moves portrayed by Zelenskyy as necessary to prevent Moscow being able to "weaken Ukraine from within."

The priest, from the eastern Luhansk region, was not named and could not be reached for comment. He had been collecting information on equipment and weapons held by the Ukrainian military since mid-April, the state prosecutors said.

Russia's Rosneft reports $889 mn loss from assets 'transfer' in Germany

Russia's oil giant Rosneft said its profit over the past nine months had been badly hit by the seizure of its German-based refineries by Berlin.

"In 3Q 2022, the most significant negative impact on income came from the transfer of the company's assets in Germany... which resulted in the recognition of an additional loss of 56 billion rubles (around $889 million)," Rosneft said in a statement.

Between July and September, the company "continued to be negatively affected by external factors and illegal restrictions", including the transfer of assets in Germany, Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin said in the statement.

US defence budget "confrontational" towards Russia: Kremlin

The Kremlin has said that a US military aid spending bill providing $800 million to Ukraine approved by US lawmakers on Tuesday was "confrontational" towards Russia.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "The document that has been adopted is of an extremely confrontational nature in relation to our country."

The Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, authorises the additional spending for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, an increase of $500 million over US President Joe Biden's request earlier this year. It is expected to pass the Senate and House of Representatives this month, and be sent to the White House for Biden to sign into law.

Belarus moves military gear amid fears of attack on Ukraine

Belarus plans to move military equipment and forces in what it said was a counter-terrorism exercise, amid fears that Russia may mount a new attack on Ukraine from the territory of its Belarusian ally.

"During this period, it is planned to move military equipment and personnel of the national security forces," the state BelTA news agency cited the country's Security Council as saying.

"The movement of citizens (transport) along certain public roads and areas would be restricted and the use of imitation weapons for training purposes is planned."

Russia's Gazprom to ship 42.4 mln cubic metres of gas to Europe via Ukraine

Russia's Gazprom said that it will ship 42.4 million cubic metres of gas to Europe via Ukraine today, a volume in line with recent days.

Kremlin: Russia considering options to respond to oil price caps –RIA 

Russia has been assessing different options regarding how to respond to caps on its oil price, RIA news agency reported, citing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

A $60-per-barrel price cap set by the G7 nations, the European Union and Australia came into force on Monday as they try to limit Russia's ability to finance its military operation in Ukraine.

16 dead, including soldiers, in Donetsk road accident: Russian-backed official

More than a dozen people have died in a road accident in the eastern Ukraine region of Donetsk, which is mostly controlled by Russian forces, the Moscow-backed region's head said.

"A tragedy on the T-0517 highway claimed the lives of 16 people, among them were some of our defenders," the Russia-appointed head of Donetsk Denis Pushilin said on Telegram.

Four other passengers were injured in the accident that took place between Torez and Shakhtarsk, according to Pushilin.

US distances itself from Ukraine's strike inside Russia

The United States has said it hadn't "enabled" Ukraine to carry out strikes inside Russia, after a spate of drone attacks on military-linked facilities deep within Russian territory.

Kiev did not directly claim responsibility but neither did it criticise the action, which killed three people and damaged long range bombers and a fuel depot, according to reports from Russia.

"We have neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia," Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters.

Washington has held back from supplying Ukraine forces with long-range ATACMS missiles that could strike inside Russia out of fears it could lead to a direct confrontation between Russian forces and those of the US and NATO. But experts believe Ukraine was able to modify old long-distance Soviet-era reconnaissance drones on its own to target them at the bases in the Kursk, Ryazan and Saratov.

For live updates from Tuesday (December 6), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies