Here is the situation on Friday, December 15, 2023.
- Ukraine’s Air Force said Russia launched 42 drones and six missiles, mostly targeting the southern Odesa region. Air defence systems destroyed most of the Iranian-made Shahed drones but 11 people were injured by falling debris, which also damaged buildings and warehouses.
- The air force said Ukraine was also attacked by Russian fighter jets dropping Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. One missile was shot down over the Kyiv region, but another two hit the west of the capital where there is an air base. Kyiv regional governor Ruslan Kravchenko said no casualties were reported, or damage to critical and civilian infrastructure.
- Speaking at his annual press conference in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his forces were “improving their position on almost the entire line of contact” in Ukraine and that there would be no peace until Russia had achieved its goals.
- Russia said it shot down nine Ukrainian drones heading towards Moscow. There were no reports of damage.
- Romania summoned Russia’s ambassador over a “new violation” of its airspace after a drone crashed on its territory leaving a crater 1.5 metres deep near the town of Grindu, which faces the Ukrainian port of Reni on the other side of the River Danube.
- Russia added Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence (GUR), to its list of people “wanted” for criminal offences. Moscow, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, accuses Budanov of organising a 2022 attack that partially destroyed the bridge it built linking the peninsula to Russia.
Politics and diplomacy
- European Union leaders agreed to formally open accession talks with Ukraine, in a decision Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed as a “victory” for Ukraine and Europe. The United States, meanwhile, welcomed the move as “historic”.
- EU leaders also agreed to impose a 12th round of sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The latest sanctions will target diamond exports and improve enforcement of an oil price cap designed to reduce the amount of money Russia makes by selling crude to non-EU countries.
- A Russian court overturned its decision to fine Oleg Orlov, the co-chair of Nobel Prize-winning human rights group Memorial, after finding him guilty of “discrediting Russian forces” after he said Russian soldiers were committing “murder” in Ukraine. The move means Orlov could now be jailed.
- A Russian court upheld a decision to keep Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in detention ahead of his trial on alleged charges of espionage that he denies. Asked about the journalist’s prolonged detention during his annual press conference, Putin said he hoped for a solution with the US. “There are contacts on this issue and dialogue is ongoing, but it’s not straightforward,” he said. Gershkovich was arrested in March.
- Igor Girkin, a 52-year-old hardline nationalist who is better known by his alias Igor Strelkov, went on trial in Moscow on charges of extremism after criticising the Kremlin’s military strategy in Ukraine. Girkin, a 52-year-old hardline nationalist who is better known by his alias Igor Strelkov, was a top commander in the Russian-backed armed groups in eastern Ukraine that began fighting Kyiv in 2014. He was arrested in July.
- Zelenskyy made an unannounced visit to Germany that media reports said would focus on securing armaments for the war. The Ukrainian president visited the US military base in Wiesbaden, where he said he was “once again convinced of the excellent quality of US military aid to Ukraine”. Ukraine is trying to convince right-wing Republicans in the US to back billions of dollars in additional aid that they have been blocking in Congress.
- Ukrainian media said the country had taken delivery of an additional Patriot air defence system as Russia steps up aerial attacks on the country.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies