Day 295 of the Invasion of Ukraine: The Kremlin rules out Christmas Truce and warns the US over "Patriot" Missiles

World » UKRAINE | December 15, 2022, Thursday // 11:24
Bulgaria: Day 295 of the Invasion of Ukraine: The Kremlin rules out Christmas Truce and warns the US over "Patriot" Missiles @Wikimedia Commons

Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:

Kremlin rules out truce for Christmas and warns US over "Patriot"

There will be no "Christmas truce" between Russia and Ukraine after nearly 10 months of war.

This was stated by the press secretary of the Russian presidency, Dmitry Peskov when asked by journalists on Wednesday after comments by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who this week called for the convening of the so-called a global peace meeting and the start of Russia's troop withdrawal before Christmas.

"No, no such proposals have been received from anyone. The topic is not on the agenda," said Peskov. According to him, there can be a truce only if Zelensky accepts the "realities" on the ground, i.e. the fact that Russia controls parts of four Ukrainian regions.

A fight for every meter

Zelensky later stated that despite the already bad weather, it is not calm at the front and the battle for every meter is extremely tough. Military analysts expect - despite the heavy fighting - the ongoing winter cold will sharply slow down the fighting. In his words, "the whole tactic of the occupiers boils down to destroying everything in front of them with artillery - so that only bare ruins and craters remain."

Russia continues its efforts to capture the Donbas city of Bakhmut, whose population has shrunk from 72,000 to 12,000 since Moscow's crackdown and which was initially seen as a strategically important gateway to two other key Kyiv-held cities in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine, for its part, continues to attempt an offensive at various points in the Donbas. Donetsk Mayor Alexey Kulemzin said Thursday that the city was hit by its heaviest strike since 2014 with 40 Grad rockets. For the moment, according to him, the information about casualties and damages is being "specified".

White House spokesman John Kirby said that given the current violence, there was no hope of a lull. "Given what has been seen in the air and on the ground in Ukraine, it is difficult to conclude that the war can stop by the end of the year," Kirby said. Ukraine went further and conceded this week that Russia could attempt another large-scale offensive in early 2023, given the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russians and the observed transfer of military equipment.


Peskov also stated that the delivery of Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems to Ukraine would make them legitimate targets for Russian strikes. It came a day after Reuters and CNN reported - and most major US media reported - on plans by the United States to hand over such air defense systems to Ukraine, despite holding off on such a move for months.

The White House is expected to comment on the matter later today.

The Russian Embassy in Washington has warned that the proposed supply of such systems is a provocation and could have unpredictable consequences. "Even without providing the Patriot, the US is getting deeper and deeper into the conflict in the post-Soviet republic," the embassy noted on its Telegram channel. "The United States is responsible for prolonging and escalating the Ukrainian conflict," added the mission.

The Pentagon believes that one of the goals of the recent increase in Russian missile strikes in Ukraine is to deplete Kyiv's stockpile of air defenses so that Russia can dominate the skies above the country. For this reason, the US and its allies are supplying Kyiv with more such funds. According to the US, this also includes NASAMS air defense systems, which the Pentagon claims they have without an error intercepted Russian missiles in Ukraine, writes BTA.

Since the beginning of the conflict, Washington has provided Ukraine with military aid for 19.3 billion dollars.

Ukraine, energy, Schengen: EU leaders meet for the last time this year

The European Council will meet today for the last time for this year, and the agenda of the meeting in Brussels includes the topics of Ukraine, energy prices, defense and relations with the Western Balkans, BTA reported. Bulgaria is represented at the meeting by President Rumen Radev.

Participants in the meeting are expected to discuss possible support for Ukrainians left without water, electricity and heating due to Russian airstrikes. They will also discuss the need for additional military and financial assistance to Kyiv.

The European Council will exchange views on the security of energy supplies for the EU, on controlling the prices of energy carriers, as well as on breaking the dependence on the import of Russian energy sources. The question of changing the electricity price market, still tied to gas prices, is expected to be touched upon.

The EU heads of state and government will also discuss strengthening European defense and establishing a common understanding of threats and challenges in the short and medium term.

The European Council will discuss cooperation with the Western Balkans, including in the field of migration.

It is expected that the issue of Schengen expansion will be raised again at the meeting, following the EU Council's decision earlier this month not to allow Bulgaria and Romania into the European space without border checks for the time being.

The Russian opposition was under surveillance in Belgrade

Russian lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov told N1 that he was monitored while attending a meeting of the Russian opposition in Belgrade.

The Russian opposition organized the gathering to discuss issues related to local governance in Belgrade. It has emerged that then Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin passed recordings and transcripts of the meeting to senior Russian security official Nikolai Patrushev. Vulin denies these reports.

"It was like a spy movie. We haven't encountered anything like this in Russia," Zakhvatov said, speaking from Lithuania.

"We decided to hold the seminar in Serbia because there is no visa regime for Russians there. I had a lecture in Belgrade and noticed that I was being followed," he said.

Zakhvatov added that he and his associates took pictures of the men who followed them. They kept the photos for six months until reports emerged in Serbian media that Vulin had met with Patrushev and given him the transcripts earlier this year.

He said they were in a Belgrade restaurant when he noticed two men following his associates.

"We finished and went out and I noticed these men were following us with a young woman. The next day we were sightseeing and boating when I saw one of the men. I'm 100 percent sure we saw one of the men the next day as well", he said.

He stated that he approached them. "We were visiting and some men were chasing us. They could be criminals or from the special services... I told him to come and sit because we have no secrets, no conspiracy against Russia or Serbia," he said.

The lawyer first spoke in English, but the man responded in Serbian.

"I switched to Serbian, his phone rang and he left. The second man came to ask why I had addressed him and then they stopped following us," Zakhvatov said.

He added that a friend of his who had attended the seminar in Belgrade was arrested at the Moscow airport when they returned.

Zelensky: Complete isolation for Russia from the Olympic Games

Russian athletes should be subjected to "complete isolation" and not be welcomed back to the 2024 Olympics, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, quoted by AFP.

Zelensky spoke to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and was adamant that he opposes the actions of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Currently, athletes from Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete at the 2024 Paris Games, provided they do not compete under their countries' colors or flags.

US officials said Monday there was "unanimous interest" among delegates at the IOC summit to find a path to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to return to competition.

Russia and Belarus have been cut off from international sports since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine in February.

However, Zelensky criticized the American actions and stated that "since February, 184 Ukrainian athletes have died as a result of Russia's actions."

Zelensky told Bach that he was disappointed with the presence of the president of the Russian Olympic Committee at the IOC summit on November 9.

"One cannot try to be neutral when the foundations of peaceful life are being destroyed and universal human values are being disregarded," he said in a statement.

Zelensky added that the only answer is "the complete isolation of the terrorist state on the international stage. In particular, this applies to international sports events."

At this year's Beijing Winter Olympics, Russian athletes were only allowed to compete under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee because of previous doping violations.

However, many athletes from Russia competed in the colors of the Russian flag.

Explosion in an oil refinery in Russia, there are victims and injured

Two people died and three others were injured after an explosion at an oil refinery in Russia. Two of the tanks in the city of Angarsk burst into flames last night. The mayor of the city, Igor Kobzev, announced the incident on his Telegram profile, stating that the flames covered an area of 2,500 square meters.

Local media reported that the refinery continued to produce motor fuel at full capacity and supplies would be met as planned.

In the last month, this is the second such incident at the Angarsk oil refinery.

Ukraine confiscated the property of a former president

Ukraine's highest anti-corruption court has confiscated the property of ousted in 2014 and fled the country President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainian media reported.

Olesya Chemeris, the press secretary of the court, said that the decision refers to the properties of Yanukovych and his entourage, including 13 objects of movable and immovable property and 537 "historical and cultural objects" with a total value of 18.7 million euros.

The confiscated properties include a hotel-restaurant complex, an apartment, parking spaces, 100 percent of the capital of two companies and bank deposits of 31 million hryvnias and 89.4 thousand dollars.

Among the confiscated items are a sculpture and a panel with an image of Yanukovych himself, as well as a clock with a bust of Marie Antoinette.

As a reason for the confiscation, the Ukrainian authorities point out that the fugitive president helped Russia to conduct "subversive and terrorist activities and an aggressive war against Ukraine".

Yanukovych, 72, lives in Russia, where he sought asylum after the Ukrainian parliament ousted him in 2014 under pressure from a popular uprising after he backed out of negotiating a 10-year association and free trade agreement with The European Union.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called it a "coup d'état" and used it as a pretext to annex Crimea and support the 2014 rebellion of Russian-speaking separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Polish parliament recognized Russia as a supporter of terrorism

The lower house of the Polish National Assembly has declared Russia a state that supports terrorism, according to a document on the Sejm's website. According to it, "Russia systematically violates human rights, international law and the UN Charter and a number of other obligations."

Russia also "invades the territories of other countries, commits armed attacks, war crimes and genocide" and "engages in hostile economic activity", particularly in the energy sector.

"The forms of terrorism that Russia uses against Ukrainian citizens are crimes against humanity and genocide," the document continues, and condemns the blockade of Ukraine's ports as "sea piracy".

The Senate already voted on such a resolution in late October, adding Polish lawmakers to a slowly growing list of European countries that have taken such measures, from the Baltic states to the Netherlands. The European Parliament also declared Russia a state sponsor of terrorism at the end of the month.

A vote on the resolution in the lower house was also expected earlier, but was postponed after the ruling Law and Justice decided to add an amendment on Russia's responsibility for the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014 and the crash of the deceased's plane President Lech Kaczynski in 2010 near Smolensk.

The last topic is politically sensitive, as the rulers have been seeking responsibility from the opposition (along with Moscow) for the tragedy for years.

Ukraine increases bonuses at Zaporizhzhia NPP if its employees remain loyal

Ukraine's atomic energy agency Energoatom announced on Wednesday that it will offer higher bonuses to employees at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant who remain loyal to Kyiv.

The headquarters in southern Ukraine, Europe's largest, was occupied shortly after Russia's February 24 invasion, but is still run by Ukrainian personnel. Energoatom said Russian forces are telling Ukrainian workers at the plant they will not be paid after Jan. 1 if they do not sign contracts with the Russian nuclear power company Rosatom.

"These claims are yet another shameless lie," Energoatom said in a statement. "Energoatom continues to guarantee the payment of salaries and all compensations provided for in the collective agreement of ZAEP (Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant) employees," the announcement said. „Furthermore, as of January 1, Energoatom is increasing from 20% to 50% the bonus for the staff of the ZAPP who remain loyal to Ukraine.”

Russia did not immediately comment on the statement. Reuters was unable to independently verify Energoatom's claims.

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree in October transferring the plant in Zaporizhzhia from Energoatom to a subsidiary of Rosatom, which Kyiv said amounted to theft. The plant is located in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region, one of four regions that Putin claims to have incorporated into Russia, a move condemned by Kyiv as an illegal land grab.

Before the Russian invasion, the plant produced about a fifth of Ukraine's electricity and almost half of the energy generated by the country's nuclear power facilities.

Each side accused the other of shelling the massive Zaporizhzhia site, sparking fears of a nuclear disaster and prompting calls for a safety zone around the plant nearly four decades after the Chernobyl nuclear accident. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear regulator, hopes to establish such a safety zone by the end of this year.

The Parliament of Ukraine adopted all reform laws recommended by the EU

The Ukrainian parliament has adopted all the legislative acts that the European Union wanted Kyiv to adopt before starting negotiations on joining the 27-member bloc, the speaker of the parliament said, quoted by Reuters and BTA.

The European Commission granted Ukraine candidate status in June despite the Russian invasion, on the condition that Kyiv take a number of recommended legislative and policy steps.

These include adopting legislation on the selection process for Constitutional Court judges, strengthening the fight against corruption, harmonizing media regulation with EU standards and protecting national minorities.

"We can say with confidence that the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) has completed its part of the work and has adopted all the necessary systemic bills to implement the recommendations of the European Commission," Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk said in a statement.

The European Commission said it would monitor Ukraine's progress in implementing the recommended steps and report on them by the end of 2022.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to Kyiv in September that she was impressed by the speed with which Ukraine was progressing in its bid to become a member state.

But the road to membership is expected to be long and perhaps a decade long. EU leaders said in June that Ukraine and Moldova, which gained candidate status the same day, would have to do a lot of "homework".

This week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the dissolution of a Kyiv court deemed corrupt as evidence that Ukraine can fight both corruption and Russian invasion.

But some experts in Ukraine said the laws approved by parliament were only a starting point. Some of the laws will need to be revised and additional legislation will be needed, they believe.

"Kyiv has indeed demonstrated progress in satisfying all the recommendations of the European Commission. But none of them have been fully implemented," said three experts from an organization that unites non-governmental organizations and experts in the field of reforms, in an article for the online publication "Ukrainska Pravda ".

They pointed out that the recommendation for the appointment of several senior anti-corruption officers remains outstanding.

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