Day 292 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv hit “Wagner” HQ
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
ISW: Moscow's pressure on Belarus to participate in the war in Ukraine is backfiring
Moscow's pressure on Belarus to join the war in Ukraine has backfired and Minsk's direct involvement is unlikely, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) concluded in a report today.
Russian authorities have been conducting "information operations" hinting at the possibility of Belarusian troops taking part in the invasion, with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko sometimes involved in these campaigns. The purpose of these "operations" is described by the ISW as an effort to force Ukraine to keep part of its troops in the Belarusian direction and to prevent it from strengthening its positions in other parts of the theater of operations.
At the same time, it is unlikely that Belarus will invade Ukraine in the foreseeable future, regardless of the course of these "information operations", ISW experts believe. They call the Kremlin's moves to force Minsk to support the Russian invasion part of a long-term effort to consolidate control over Belarus.
According to experts, Russia is seeking to establish a permanent military base in Belarus and exercise direct control over the Belarusian armed forces. In early December, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with Lukashenko - possibly not only to strengthen bilateral security ties, but also to increase pressure on Belarus to continue supporting the invasion of Ukraine, ISW believes.
In February, Lukashenko offered his country territories to prepare for the invasion of Ukraine, as well as critical land routes and airspace. At the same time, however, this support reduces the ability of the Belarusian armed forces to conduct their own military operations.
The institute refers to the Belarusian project Gajun, which claims that Minsk transferred about 100 T-72A tanks to the Russian army - possibly under the pretext of sending them to Russia for modernization. The same source states that 60 BMP-2s have been handed over. It is not clear whether the tanks sent to Russia were in service or in storage, the authors of the report point out, but in any case, this could limit in the long term the material possibilities of Minsk for possible participation in the invasion.
Belarus is also likely to reduce its stockpile of artillery ammunition by transferring it to the Russian army, experts added, citing Ukrainian military intelligence. The Belarusian armed forces may also be limited in their ability to train personnel due to their support role in the invasion - after all, the Belarusian military is involved in training Russian conscripts.
Lukashenko's support for the war and Russia's pressure on Belarus are likely to cause friction within the Belarusian armed forces. The Belarusian military is certainly aware of the significant losses suffered by Russian troops in Ukraine and does not wish to suffer losses themselves. Some military commanders are likely to express reluctance or even outright refusal if Lukashenko decides to invade Ukraine, the report's authors believe.
In this situation, according to them, Lukashenko is trying to counter Russian pressure by claiming that NATO is preparing to attack Belarus. Belarus is no longer likely to invade Ukraine due to internal dynamics in the country, ISW concludes. Lukashenko is aware that such an action would undermine his credibility as a leader of a sovereign state, as it would make it clear that Russia's efforts to secure full control over Belarus were successful.
The port of Odesa has stopped working, there is no electricity
The largest Ukrainian port - Odesa, did not work for a third day due to a lack of electricity after Saturday's rocket attack on the city. This was reported by "Reuters" with reference to Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture Mykola Solsky.
Odesa is one of three Ukrainian ports that are part of the grain corridor across the Black Sea, and the handling of the ships will be taken over by the other two - Chernomorsk and Pivdeni. Solsky said the port of Odesa was not operating because the generators had not yet been turned on.
On Sunday, four ships with Ukrainian grain left for Greece and Spain, the Netherlands, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the coordination center of the UN initiative said.
Due to the scale of the damage caused by Saturday's drone attack, all consumers in Odesa except for critical infrastructure are without electricity, announced Odesa Mayor Gennady Trukhanov.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke by phone Sunday with the presidents of the United States, France and Turkey, saying he expects some "important results" in the new week from a series of international events dedicated to the situation in Ukraine.
Zelensky: The restoration work on the electricity supply in the southern part of the country continues
At a meeting of the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander in Ukraine, the situation on the front, the restoration of the energy infrastructure, intelligence data on Russia's plans, as well as internal problems were discussed. This was announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Yesterday he held a series of telephone conversations with the presidents of the USA, France and Turkey.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said restoration work was continuing in the south of the country, with authorities trying to restore power to Odesa Oblast, where it was severely disrupted after the previous night's kamikaze drone attacks:
"To this one, we have managed to partially restore the supply in Odesa and other cities and regions in the region. We are doing everything to achieve the maximum possible after the Russian strikes. However, the Odesa region is still among those with the most power outages. We are constantly working with our partners to ease the situation and give our people more options, more electricity."
The situation remains very difficult in a number of other regions, Zelensky also said.
In his evening video address, the Ukrainian president announced that he spoke with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, with whom they discussed topics such as energy, economy and diplomacy. The two have coordinated their steps in preparation for the implementation of the Ukrainian formula for achieving peace, supported by Macron, Zelensky also said.
In a conversation with US President Joe Biden, Zelensky thanked for the "unprecedented defense and financial" assistance that the US has provided to Ukraine. The two leaders also talked about effective anti-aircraft systems to protect the population. Volodymyr Zelensky also had a "very specific" conversation with Turkish President Erdogan about securing Ukrainian grain exports.
Yesterday, a Ukrainian representative in eastern Ukraine announced that Ukrainian forces had struck a hotel where fighters of the Russian private army "Wagner" were stationed and killed a large number of them. Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk region, did not release the death toll, but said survivors did not have adequate medical care. So far, there is no comment from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Ukrainian forces have struck the headquarters of the Russian group "Wagner"
Ukrainian forces have struck the headquarters of the Russian private military group "Wagner", the exiled governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, announced, the BBC reported.
The Wagner HQ in Svatove got HIMARSed a few hours ago.— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) December 12, 2022
Judging by videos, there were many fatalities.
One of the videos circulating is very graphic, showing a wounded soldier holding on to a person who is no longer alive. pic.twitter.com/taDVxl1Ga2
He stated that the dormitory where the meeting of the group was held in the city of Kadiivka in Luhansk region was hit by HIMARS and "Wagner" suffered heavy losses. Haidai says Russia has suffered "significant losses" and expects “at least 50%" of the surviving forces to die due to lack of medical care.”
Fighting also broke out in southern Ukraine on Saturday and Sunday, with Russia attacking Odesa and Ukraine bombing a target in the occupied city of Melitopol.
Wagner are state-sponsored mercenaries who act in the interests of the Kremlin, Western experts believe. The private military company created by "Putin's chef" Yevgeny Prigozhin has been repeatedly accused of war crimes and human rights violations.
Previously, Wagner units were deployed in Crimea, Syria, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.
More sanctions against Russia and granting another 2 billion euros for arms to Ukraine to be discussed by EU foreign ministers
The foreign ministers of the European Union member states will meet today to try to reach an agreement on further sanctions against Russia and Iran and on the allocation of another 2 billion euros for arms supplies to Ukraine, Reuters reported.
It remains unclear, however, whether Hungary will block some of the decisions, resorting to what diplomats described as "blackmail diplomacy" over a row over blocked European funds for Budapest.
"There is agreement in principle, but there is also the big elephant in the room. This is the kind of blackmail diplomacy that we would prefer not to see, but it is what it is," a senior European diplomat said of the possibility of Budapest using the right vetoed, reported Reuters.
Foreign ministers will discuss the ninth package of sanctions against Russia, according to which almost 200 more people and organizations should be included in the list of persons sanctioned by the EU.
Ministers are also expected to consider new sanctions against Iranian individuals and organizations over human rights abuses in Tehran's crackdown on protesters and over the supply of drones to Russia.
In addition, EU foreign ministers intend to allocate an additional 2 billion euros to the fund, which member states use to finance arms supplies to Kiev, but which has been largely depleted after almost 10 months of war.
Ministers are expected to agree on sending a civilian mission to Moldova, which could ask for help in cyber security, the fight against corruption or strengthening the rule of law.
The EC will appoint an envoy responsible for sanctions against Russia and their compliance by third countries
The European Commission is to appoint a new sanctions envoy to push for tougher penalties on countries including Turkey in a bid to tackle circumvention of measures against Russia within the bloc, the Financial Times reports.
David O'Sullivan, a former EU ambassador to the US, has been asked to take up the newly created post from January 2023, according to people familiar with the process cited by the financial publication, whose mission will be to lead the European Commission's efforts to ensure of full compliance with sanctions worldwide.
The appointment is expected to be decided by the Commission on Tuesday, a senior European official said. It comes as the EU, US and other allies focus on "closing loopholes" in sanctions imposed on Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Among the countries in the EU's spotlight is Turkey, which has refused to comply with EU sanctions imposed on the Kremlin.
In particular, the US and the EU are demanding that Ankara crack down on the supply of banned goods by traders seeking to circumvent strict controls on industrial and defense exports imposed on Russia.
EU Financial Services Commissioner Mairead McGuinness visited Turkey in October in a bid to push the country to do more to bring the private sector into compliance with the bloc's sanctions. Other countries in the spotlight include Serbia and the United Arab Emirates, the EU's top official said.
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