Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 653

As the war enters its 653rd day, these are the main developments.

Rescuers work at the scene of a building hit by a Russian attack in eastern Ukraine. The building has been reduced to a large pile of rubble.
The UN has called on Russia to stop attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure [Ihor Moroz, Head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration via AP Photo]

Here is the situation on Friday, December 8, 2023.

Fighting

  • Russia launched a swarm of Iranian-designed attack drones, damaging port infrastructure in Ukraine’s southern Odesa region and killing one civilian. The Ukrainian air force said it destroyed 15 of the 18 Shahed drones. The attack was the first on the Danube ports since November 21.
  • Ukraine urged residents to save electricity after Russia shelled a thermal power plant near the front line causing serious damage as temperatures plunge below freezing. The energy ministry, which did not name the plant, said two of its power units stopped working, leading to a “temporary shortage of electricity” in the grid.
  • United Nations officials told the Security Council in New York that intensifying Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities were worsening humanitarian conditions across the country. Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenca said Russia must stop its attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure that are “prohibited under international humanitarian law” while Ramesh Rajasingham, the UN humanitarian coordinator, said “the deaths, injuries and level of destruction of vital civilian infrastructure is staggering”.
  • Russia began using smaller attack groups with the backing of armoured vehicles and air cover in its long-running effort to capture Ukraine’s eastern town of Avdiivka, Ukrainian officials said. In its Thursday evening update, Ukraine’s General Staff said its forces had rebuffed 15 attacks in Avdiivka and nearby villages, after reporting 34 attacks in its morning bulletin.
  • Russia’s FSB security service said it had arrested a Belarusian man it accused of blowing up two trains in Siberia last month allegedly as part of a sabotage campaign conducted by the Ukrainian intelligence services.

Politics and diplomacy

  • An aid tracker from the Kiel Institute showed Ukraine’s allies have drastically scaled back their pledges of new aid to the country, which have fallen to their lowest level since the start of the war. The Germany-based institute said new military, financial and humanitarian aid promised to Ukraine between August and October 2023 fell almost 90 percent from the same period in 2022.
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia hoped US lawmakers would continue to block White House requests for billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine as Republicans demand immigration concessions be included in the assistance package. Peskov accused US President Joe Biden of “demonising” Russia in his attempts to get Congress’s approval for the spending.
  • Visiting Beijing, top European Union officials urged China to do more to press Russia to end its war in Ukraine. European Council President Charles Michel said the EU would like China, which has not condemned Moscow’s full-scale invasion, to “be more assertive” and “be very clear they support the UN Charter and condemn this war caused by Russia against Ukraine”.
  • Speaking to journalists following the summit, a Chinese foreign ministry official insisted that, despite the bloc’s calls, Beijing would not be able to sway Moscow. Russia “is a very independent sovereign nation”, Wang Lutong, director general of the Chinese foreign ministry’s European department, told a press briefing. “President Putin is making his decision based on his own national interest and security,” he said.
  • Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida promised $4.5bn to Ukraine, including funding for generators and other power supplies, as well as measures to clear Russian mines.
  • British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, on a visit to the US, said there was a strong argument for seizing frozen Russian assets and using them to help rebuild war-ravaged Ukraine.
  • Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said he wanted to arrange a meeting between Zelenskyy and Hungarian leader Viktor Orban amid Budapest’s opposition to a proposal to start talks on EU membership for Kyiv. An EU summit is due to take place next week, and Orban has said leaders could fail to achieve a consensus on Ukraine’s membership.

Weapons

  • Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s minister for strategic industries, said Kyiv will work with two firms from the US to jointly manufacture 155mm artillery shells in Ukraine. The shells are vital for the war, but Kamyshin said production was unlikely to start for at least two years because Ukraine had never produced such shells before.
  • Kyiv said it signed an agreement with the US to help develop weapons production in Ukraine. “The document will facilitate the building of production facilities in our country to provide the armed forces with the necessary weapons, in particular in the areas of air defence, production of critical munitions, and repair and sustainment,” the Ukrainian presidency said in a statement.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies