Belarus announced the formation of a joint regional force with Moscow with several thousand Russian servicemen arriving in the ex-Soviet country as fighting enters its 298th day.

Firefighters work at a site of a critical power infrastructure object, which was hit during Russia's drone attacks in Kiev, Ukraine.
Firefighters work at a site of a critical power infrastructure object, which was hit during Russia's drone attacks in Kiev, Ukraine. (Reuters)

Monday, December 19, 2022

UN chief Antonio Guterres believes Ukraine-Russia war will go on

UN chief Antonio Guterres has said he was pessimistic that Russia's war in Ukraine would end soon but he hoped it would be over by the end of next year.

"I am not optimistic about the possibility of effective peace talks in the immediate future," he told reporters during his annual end-of-year press conference in New York. It is ten months since Russia attacked its neighbour in late February.

"I do believe that the military confrontation will go on," the United Nations secretary-general said at the world body's headquarters.

Leaders of JEF member states are set to discuss conflict

The leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) member states are set to meet in Riga, the capital of Latvia, to discuss Russia’s war on Ukraine and “consequent changes in the security climate in the North Atlantic, Baltic Sea and the High North regions," a Latvian government statement said.

Operating since 2018, the JEF coalition that complements NATO consisted of like-minded nations Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the UK, Sweden and Norway to respond rapidly to crises in the High North and Northern Europe.

The meeting will be addressed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Ukrainian official criticises Kissinger for pushing ceasefire with Russia

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has faced fierce criticism for recommending a ceasefire line between Ukraine and Russia based on the borders before Feb 24, when Moscow started the current war.

"Unfortunately, even after 10 months of the war, Mr Kissinger did not understand anything ... Neither the nature of this war, nor its impact on the world order," Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said on Telegram.

Greece supplying Ukraine with S-300 is a 'hostile' action: Russian official

Russia sees Greece supplying Ukraine with S-300 air defence systems as a “hostile” action towards Moscow, a government official said.

“We consider provocative plans to supply the Kiev regime with S-300 and other air defence systems of the Russian (or) Soviet type as being openly hostile to Russia,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a written statement.

She pointed out that Athens has been declaring its readiness to send S-300s from Crete to Ukraine. Zakharova claimed that Greece is not concerned about the risks of being “a direct accomplice” of Ukraine in the war with Russia.

Ukrainian army continues to keep control of Bakhmut: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president said that the country’s armed forces continue to have control of Bakhmut despite Russian forces’ attacks.

"We keep the city, although the occupiers are doing everything so that not a single undamaged wall remains there," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address on Sunday.

Zelenskyy said that "the Bakhmut direction is key," adding that Ukrainian military officials and he had a meeting to examine the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in great detail. On the southern front of the war, Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian army is "gradually reducing the potential" of Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

British PM Sunak wants to degrade Russian capacity to regroup

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the West should work to degrade "Russia’s capability to regroup" as it continues its war of aggression in Ukraine, citing the drones that Iran has been providing to Moscow.

Sunak spoke at a summit of the Joint Expeditionary Force in the Latvian capital Riga. The UK-led force is a group of 10 northern European nations designed to react more quickly in the event of threats like those now posed by Russia.

Zelenskyy also spoke by video link of the Iranian Shahed drones that Russia has been using to attack Ukraine, saying 34 were used in the latest nighttime attacks.

Kiev accused Russia of sending a "kamikaze" drone over Ukraine nuclear plant

The Ukrainian atomic energy agency accused Russia of flouting nuclear safety by sending a "kamikaze" drone over part of the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant in the Mykolaiv region just after midnight.

"This is an absolutely unacceptable violation of nuclear and radiation safety," Energoatom wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russian forces currently occupy another Ukrainian nuclear power plant, the Zaporizhzhia complex, Europe's largest, near the frontlines in Ukraine's southeast. Talks are ongoing to establish a safety zone around the plant.

Putin visits Belarus for talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Belarus along with his defence and foreign ministers, fanning fears in Kiev that he intends to pressure his ex-Soviet ally to join a fresh ground offensive that would open a new front against Ukraine.

Putin, whose troops have been driven back in Ukraine's north, northeast and south since attacking in February, is taking a more public role in the war.

UK will maintain military aid to Ukraine in 2023: PM Sunak

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed the UK would next year "match or exceed" £2.3B ($2.8B) in military aid to Ukraine, during a meeting of Nordic, Baltic and Dutch counterparts.

The British leader, who only took power in late October, urged other members of the regional Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) grouping to follow suit "to continue the strong support" for Kiev.

"The first is ensuring that we deliver more military aid and that military aid evolves to meet the situation that we are now facing," Sunak told the other leaders gathered in the Latvian capital, Riga.

Russian troops to hold drills in Ukraine's neighbour Belarus

Russian troops will conduct military exercises in Belarus, which neighbours Ukraine, the Interfax news agency said, citing the defence ministry in Moscow.

In October, Belarus announced the formation of a joint regional force with Moscow with several thousand Russian servicemen arriving in the ex-Soviet country. 

"The final assessment of the combat capability and combat readiness of the units will be given... after the battalion tactical exercises have been conducted," Interfax quoted the ministry as saying.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy asks Western leaders for wide range of weapons systems

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked Western leaders meeting in Latvia, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to supply a wide range of weapons systems.

"I ask you to increase the possibility of supplying air defence systems to our country, and to help speed up the relevant decisions to be taken by our partners," Zelenskyy asked Sunak during his speech on a video link, addressing a meeting in Riga of leaders of countries in the Joint Expeditionary Force.

The British-led grouping, configured to respond rapidly to crises in the Northern Europe, is made up of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.

Power cuts in Kiev, 10 Ukraine regions after Russian attack: operator

Ukrainian energy operator Ukrenergo has said that emergency shutdowns would be applied in the capital Kiev and 10 other regions following a barrage of drone strikes from Russia.

"Enemy UAVs targeted energy facilities across the country overnight... Schedules for emergency shutdowns have been initiated in the Sumy, Kharkiv, Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kirovograd, Zhytomyr, Chernigiv, Cherkasy and Kiev regions and in the city of Kiev," Ukrenergo said in a statement.

Nine drones shot down in Kiev's airspace early Monday - military administration

Nine Iranian-made Shahed drones were shot down in Kiev's airspace, the capital's military administration said on the Telegram messaging app.

"Air alert continues in Kiev," the administration said. "The enemy is attacking the capital with 'Shahed' barrage ammunition. Air defence is being at work."

Blasts heard in Kiev city and region early morning 

Several loud blasts were heard early morning in Kiev and the region that surrounds the Ukrainian capital, Reuters witnesses reported.

Earlier, Oleksiy Kuleba, governor of the Kiev region, said that the region was under a drone attack.

It was not immediately clear whether the blasts were air defence systems destroying the drones or hitting targets.

Russian troops stationed in Belarus to begin military exercises

Russian troops that were moved to Belarus in October to become part of a regional formation will conduct battalion tactical exercises, the Russian Interfax news agency reported, citing the Russian defence ministry.

"The final assessment of the combat capability and combat readiness of the units will be given by the command at the final stage of coordination - after the battalion tactical exercises have been conducted," Interfax cited the ministry's statement.

It was not immediately clear when and where in Belarus the exercises will be conducted.

Belarus defence ministry said in October that 9,000 Russian troops were moving to the country as part of a "regional grouping" of forces to protect its borders. 

Ukraine’s capital struggles with power outages after Russian attacks

Power outages continued in Ukraine’s capital after Russian missile attacks damaged energy infrastructure.

Problems with water supply and heating which Kiev suffered for two days following the latest wave of attacks have been largely resolved.

Residents of Kiev, where temperatures were below freezing throughout the weekend, flocked to aid centres known as "invincibility points" that operate in many parts of the city during the hours of power cuts at their homes.

For live updates from Sunday (December 18), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies