Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said the situation in four areas of eastern Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – that Moscow illegally annexed in September was “extremely difficult”. Russia’s illegal annexation of the four territories, which together make up 15% of Ukraine, marked the largest forcible takeover of territory in Europe since the second world war and was condemned by Kyiv and its western allies as illegal. Russia has suffered acute setbacks in the areas, halting its ambitions.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday condemned Iran’s support for Russia in its war in Ukraine and the ongoing repression of opposition in the country, but said the EU would continue to work with Iran on restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. “Necessary meeting with Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in Jordan amid deteriorating Iran-EU relations,” Borrell tweeted ahead of a regional conference being hosted by Jordan.
Ukraine is accelerating efforts to erase the vestiges of Soviet and Russian influence from its public spaces by pulling down monuments and renaming hundreds of streets to honor its own artists, poets, soldiers, independence leaders and others – including heroes of this year’s war. Following Moscow’s invasion that has killed or injured untold numbers of civilians and soldiers and pummelled buildings and infrastructure, Ukraine’s leaders have shifted a campaign that once focused on dismantling its Communist past into one of “de-Russification”.
China says Chinese-Russian naval drills beginning on Wednesday aim to “further deepen” cooperation between the sides whose unofficial anti-western alliance has gained strength since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, AP reports. The drills will be held off the coast of Zhejiang province south of Shanghai until next Tuesday, according to a brief notice posted Monday by China’s eastern theater command under the ruling Communist party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army.
Putin was in Belarus on Monday, where he and the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, hardly mentioned the war raging in nearby Ukraine, conducted a late-night joint news conference, Reuters reports. Russian forces used Belarus as a launchpad for their abortive attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in February, and there has been Russian and Belarusian military activity there for months.
Asked about Putin’s comment dismissing the prospect of Russia “absorbing” Belarus, US state department spokesperson Ned Price said it should be treated as the “height of irony”, given it was “coming from a leader who is seeking at the present moment, right now, to violently absorb his other peaceful next door neighbor”. He added that Washington would continue to watch very closely whether or not Belarus would provide additional support to Putin and would respond “appropriately” if it does.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, held talks with his Belarusian counterpart, Sergei Aleinik, in Minsk ahead of Putin’s visit. The foreign ministers discussed “specific topical issues, the efforts to counter the illegal sanctions of the West, as well as interaction on international platforms”, Belarusian state media cited Belarus’s foreign ministry as saying, as well as having “touched upon trade and economic cooperation matters and the implementation of joint projects”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Georgia on Monday to allow its jailed former president to go abroad for treatment to safeguard his health.
Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia from 2004 to 2013, was initially credited with implementing reforms. He was later sentenced to six years in prison on abuse of power charges his supporters say are politically motivated.
Belarus’s defense ministry said it had completed a series of inspections of its armed forces’ military preparedness, hours ahead of Putin’s visit to Minsk. Weeks of military maneuvers and inspections have raised fears in Kyiv that Belarus, which acted as a staging post for Russia to launch its invasion of Ukraine in February, could be preparing to take a more active role in the conflict once again.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine was ready for “all possible defense scenarios” against Moscow and its allies. “Protecting our border, both with Russia and Belarus, is our constant priority,” Zelenskiy said on Sunday after a meeting with Ukraine’s top military command. “We are preparing for all possible defense scenarios.”
The exiled Belarus opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has warned that the chances of Minsk sending soldiers into Ukraine “may increase in coming weeks”. Kyiv was “right to prepare” for Minsk to join Moscow’s new offensive because the probability “might increase in coming weeks”, Tsikhanouskaya said in an interview with Kyiv Post.
The head of Moldova’s security service, Alexandru Musteata, has warned of a “very high” risk of a new Russian offensive towards his country’s east. Russia still aims to secure a land corridor through Ukraine to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, Musteata said, adding that his agency believed Moscow was looking at several scenarios to reach Moldova and that it was possible an offensive would be launched in January-February or later in March-April.
A Russian drone attack caused “fairly serious” damage in the Kyiv region on Monday and three areas have been left without power supply, governor Oleksiy Kuleba said. Russia unleashed 35 “kamikaze” drones on Ukraine in the early hours of Monday as many people slept, hitting critical infrastructure in and around Kyiv in Moscow’s third air attack on the Ukrainian capital in six days.
Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 30 out of 35 of the Russian-launched Shahed drones overnight. The Iranian-made Shahed-136/131 kamikaze drones were reportedly launched from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov, the force added.
Russia’s defense ministry said its forces had shot down four US-made HARM anti-radiation missiles over the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, in the space of 24 hours, the state-run TASS news agency reported. One person died and several were injured by Ukrainian shelling in the region on Sunday morning, the region’s governor said.
The UN’s secretary general, António Guterres, said he believes Russia’s war in Ukraine “will go on” and does not see a prospect for “serious” peace talks in the immediate future. Speaking to reporters during his annual end-of-year conference in New York, Guterres said he “strongly hoped that peace could be reached in 2023, citing the “consequences” for Ukraine’s people, Russian society and the global economy if a deal is not found
Rishi Sunak said that the west should reject unilateral calls by the Kremlin for a ceasefire in Ukraine and focus on “degrading Russia’s ability to regroup and to resupply” at a meeting of European leaders in Latvia. The UK prime minister was speaking at a summit of the 10-country Joint Expeditionary Force in the Latvian capital at a time of heightened concern as to whether Britain will continue the robust support for Ukraine that began under Boris Johnson.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, asked western leaders meeting in Latvia to ramp up the supply of a wide range of weapons systems to his country. He called on leaders “to do everything to accelerate the defeat” of Russia, and said supplying air defense systems to Kyiv would be “one of the most successful steps against Russian aggression and this step is required right now”.
EU ministers have agreed a plan to cap the price of gas, ending months of argument over how to handle the cost of soaring energy prices after Russia cut gas supplies to Europe. A gas price cap will kick in if prices on the main European gas exchange, the Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF), exceed €180 (£157) a megawatt-hour for three consecutive working days, far lower than the European Commission’s original proposal of €275 a MWh, which had been derided by cap-supporting countries as a joke.
The Canadian government has announced plans to seize $26m in sanctioned assets from the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, with the proceeds from the forfeiture to go towards reconstruction in Ukraine and compensation of victims of the Russian invasion. The move marked the first case of the Canadian government using new powers to pursue the seizure of assets belonging to sanctioned individuals, it said in a statement.