Day 293 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv asked the West for Patriot Missiles to Stem the Flow of Refugees
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
Global peace meeting: Zelensky offered Biden and the G7 a plan to end the war
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on G7 leaders to support his idea of convening a special peace summit this winter, shortly after discussing the idea with his American counterpart Joe Biden.
Kyi's 10-point peace plan should be at the center of discussions at a time when Moscow accuses the Ukrainian side of being unwilling to negotiate.
"I propose to convene a special summit - the global peace formula summit - to decide how and when we can implement the points of the Ukrainian peace formula," Zelensky told G7 leaders, according to a transcript provided by his office.
The goal, according to Zelensky's video address after his fifth appearance at the G7 this year, is also to "propose to Russia to take a concrete meaningful step towards diplomatic regulation, which Moscow talks about so often."
Hours before the Group of Seven meeting, Zelensky also discussed the idea with Biden, but no details are known.
What exactly does Ukraine offer?
The peace plan was proposed at the G20 meeting in Bali last month and, according to the presidential administration, its implementation will "enable an end to the war".
Ukrainian points include:
- radiation and nuclear security (Russia to refrain from threatening nuclear weapons);
- food security (grain deal to cover other ports);
- energy security - sending UN experts to assess the destruction of Ukraine's critical infrastructure;
- release of captives and deportees (Ukraine estimates that hundreds of thousands were forcibly removed from the occupied territories) and prisoner exchanges with Russia;
- acceptance by Russia of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine;
- withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine and end of hostilities;
- a special tribunal for Russia's crimes in Ukraine;
- a platform for assessing the environmental consequences of war;
- holding an international conference on Ukraine's post-war security and guarantees for its future;
- reaching an agreement to end the war (the beginning of which Russia has never announced).
Some of Ukraine's terms will inevitably be seen as radical by Russia: for example, the withdrawal of all Russian troops and the refusal of territorial concessions.
What does the G7 think?
The G7 did not comment on the idea, but spoke in the closing statement of a "viable post-war peace agreement" as well as the need to work toward "agreements together with Ukraine" to achieve sustainable security and deter "future Russian aggression."
One of Zelensky's arguments for such a meeting is the need to demonstrate unity. "No matter what the aggressor intends to do, when the world is truly united, then the world, not the aggressor, determines how events will unfold," Zelensky said in his evening video address.
In Belarus, the army began a surprise check of combat readiness
In Belarus, a sudden check of the combat readiness of the army began, without explanation, the press service of the Ministry of Defense reported.
The inspection, ordered by 2020 re-elected president Alexander Lukashenko, includes a rapid transfer of troops, construction of bridging facilities across rivers.
We are talking about the rivers Byarezina (known in Bulgarian by the Russian name Berezina) and Neman; the first is a tributary of the Dnieper, which flows into it north of the Ukrainian border.
Ukraine was not mentioned in the inspection announcement, but in the West and in Kyiv, the actions of Russia's ally, whose territory has been used since the start of the war on February 24, are being watched with concern. Last week, a "terrorist threat" prompted Minsk to announce the transfer of equipment to the country.
At the moment, the Ukrainian army sees no signs of offensive actions by Belarusian forces towards the border, although there are periodic reports of the deployment of equipment by the Russian military near it.
On December 11, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote that Russia was working to establish a permanent base on the territory of Belarus and was conducting an "information campaign" in an attempt to force Minsk to join the war with an active offensive. However, this is unlikely due to the internal political dynamics in the country, ISW believes.
Zelensky: Ukraine needs additional gas and weapons
Ukraine needs "about two billion cubic meters" of gas to survive the winter, President Volodymyr Zelensky told the G7 countries.
During a video conference, he also called on the G7 to send more weapons to Ukraine, including "advanced tanks" as well as "rocket artillery and more long-range missiles."
"Unfortunately, Russia still has an advantage in artillery and missiles. This is a fact. These capabilities of the occupying army feed the Kremlin's arrogance," Zelensky said.
"The terror against our power plants forced us to use more gas than expected. That's why we need additional support this winter," he stressed.
Zelensky proposed holding a special summit, which he called the Global Peace Formula Summit, "to determine how and when we can implement the points of the Ukrainian Peace Formula" that would guarantee Ukraine's security and territorial integrity.
He called on the industrialized G7 countries, "as well as other conscientious countries", to "show their leadership".
The Ukrainian leader also called on Russia "to take a concrete and significant step towards a diplomatic settlement".
Zelensky called on "occupier" Moscow to leave Ukrainian territory by Christmas.
"He who brought us the war must take it back."
France to host International conference "Standing with the Ukrainian People" in Paris
France will host an International conference "Standing with the Ukrainian People" in Paris with an aim to coordinate international support for civilian resilience in Ukraine and address the Ukrainian people's urgent humanitarian needs, the French embassy said in a statement.
The conference is organized at the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron and is co-organized with Ukraine. During the conference, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky will address virtually.
"The Ukrainian people are facing dire difficulties in all sectors essential to life: electricity supply, food security, water supply, and access to medical care. This situation is aggravated by the onset of winter and by the increased Russian bombardments against civilian infrastructures in Ukraine, particularly energy infrastructure, resulting in severe blackouts," the statement reads.
"The goal of the conference is therefore to muster international humanitarian aid to bolster the Ukrainian people's resilience through the harsh winter, and establish a coordination mechanism to ensure effective and needs-based delivery of aid," the statement added.
This international conference will gather representatives from 47 countries as well as 22 international organizations and financial institutions. It will be attended by several heads of State or government and will feature a virtual address by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres.
Russian forces launched military operations in Ukraine on February 24, three days after Moscow recognized Ukraine's breakaway regions, Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics followed by the announcement of a "special military operation" to "demilitarize" and "denazify" Ukraine.
Ukraine has asked the West for Patriot missiles to stem the flow of refugees
Ukraine's president and prime minister used two international events to call for more anti-aircraft systems to protect an energy system hit hard by Russian strikes.
In the case of Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, this was also done with the specific request for "Patriot" missiles, effective enough in his opinion to limit future damage to Ukrainian energy infrastructure, and with that - the upcoming new wave of refugees to Europe.
Hours earlier, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians were expected to make their way to Europe as plunging winter temperatures put the continent to the test.
No specific solution
Ahead of a humanitarian conference in Paris scheduled for Tuesday, Shmyhal said such missile systems are important at a time when Russia wants to "trigger another wave of migration to Europe." However, the West is so far reluctant to provide the Patriot or other similar systems; President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the topic with his American counterpart Joe Biden last night, and weeks ago Germany rejected Poland's idea of deploying Patriot missiles in Ukraine itself (and not on Polish territory as Berlin proposed).
For now, Washington is sticking to supplies like new missiles for the HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems (new ones were approved on Friday), but the Patriot, of first Gulf War fame in the 1990s, remains a red line.
G7 leaders said after talks on Monday that their "focus" would be to strengthen Ukraine's air defenses. The joint statement after the meeting spoke of a commitment to "meet the urgent needs" of the country. However, according to Germany (chairman of the G-7), no specific steps have been discussed.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace also made it clear that if Russian attacks on civilians continued, his country would not rule out the delivery of longer-range missiles. The topic has once again acquired a domestic political dimension in the United Kingdom, after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Downing Street for Kiev to obtain the long-desired ATACMS surface-to-surface missiles.
Zelensky, for his part, explained at the G-7 virtual meeting on Monday that, in addition to long-range missiles, his country needs more tanks and "2 billion cubic meters of gas". In his words, Russia "still has an advantage in artillery and missiles".
Reuters quoted a high-ranking representative of the United States, according to whom the most important element in his country's strategy is to "help Ukraine defend itself against these deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure, because it could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe." Meanwhile, the US also sent its first batch of energy equipment to help the country. Interlocutors of the agency estimate its value at nearly 13 million dollars.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees
The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said he expects a new wave of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine to Europe this winter after millions were left without heat, water and electricity due to Russian attacks on the country's energy infrastructure.
"Nobody knows how many, but there will be hundreds of thousands more (leaving Ukraine) as the horrific and illegal bombing of civilian infrastructure makes living conditions unlivable in too many places," Jan Egeland told Reuters by telephone after returned from a trip to Ukraine earlier this month. "That is why I fear that the crisis in Europe will deepen and also that it will overshadow many crises elsewhere in the world," he said. According to him, there are also cases of Ukrainians who returned to their homeland in the summer, but gave up and went to Western Europe again.
About 18 million people (40 percent of Ukraine's population) depend on aid, according to UN estimates. Another 7.8 million have left the country and headed for other parts of Europe.
A spokesman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in an email to Reuters that the data "does not yet show a significant increase in border crossings" in recent weeks, but some neighboring countries such as Romania and Poland have reported some increases.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said there are already 3 million refugees in his country and that Warsaw and Berlin should ask for more help to deal with the situation.
EU countries have officially expressed concern over Macron's comments about Russia
The Baltic countries and other European countries, which were upset by French President Emmanuel Macron's comments on security guarantees for Russia, yesterday officially expressed their disapproval and explained their position to France, diplomats said, quoted by Reuters and BTA.
In an interview with the French TV channel TEF1, broadcast on December 3, Macron said that Europe must prepare its future security architecture and think about "how to give Russia guarantees for its own security on the day when it will back to the negotiating table".
The words of the French head of state were immediately condemned by Ukraine and the Baltic countries. The French presidency and foreign ministry tried to downplay them, but it seems that in some quarters the anger has not yet dissipated.
The Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, helped organize support for a formal diplomatic statement known as a "demarche".
According to Reuters diplomatic sources, the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Poland and Slovakia, have advocated for the demarche. The agency notes that it was unable to determine how many countries supported the move in total, nor whether the Czech Republic was among them.
According to the diplomats, last week the Czech Republic circulated a project for a demarche among the member states of the European Union. The document says that Russia's previous attempts at European security architecture were intended to divide and weaken Europe.
The unofficial document lists aspects of cooperation and dialogue with Russia, starting with the 1997 NATO-Russia agreement and ending with proposals from December last year, which include guarantees demanded by Moscow, the diplomats said.
The Czechs, together with several other representatives of EU countries, have submitted the final version of the demarche to the head of the Continental Europe Directorate to the French Foreign Ministry.
A representative of the French presidency said on Friday that there was nothing new in Macron's words, adding that they were in line with the position expressed by Ukraine that there would be negotiations at the end of the war.
Putin canceled the annual multi-hour press conference with journalistic questions
Vladimir Putin canceled his traditional big press conference at the end of the year. This is usually a multi-hour event where the President of Russia answers journalistic questions.
The Kremlin confirmed that there will be no press conference. This is happening for the first time in 10 years.
In June, Putin also canceled another multi-hour media event. Traditionally, he participates in a telethon in which he answers questions from ordinary citizens. In the summer, the Kremlin said the telethon was being rescheduled, but it never took place.
According to the constitution, the President of Russia must give a speech on the state of the Russian Federation at the end of the year. It is not yet known if there will be one.
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