Day 316 of the Invasion of Ukraine: France sends Bastion Light Tanks, Biden considers sending Bradley Vehicles (UPDATED)
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
Russia announced a Christmas truce in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a Christmas truce across the entire front in Ukraine from noon tomorrow until midnight on January 7.
Moscow called on the Ukrainian side to also cease fire to allow people to attend the Orthodox Christmas Eve and Nativity. Kyiv described as unacceptable any peace agreement that recognizes "Russia's right to conquer foreign territories".
The reaction is on the occasion of a telephone conversation between the presidents of Russia and Turkey. In it, the Russian leader linked the dialogue to the recognition by Kyiv of new realities and the loss of territories.
According to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, peace efforts in Ukraine should be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a "vision of a just solution".
In a separate phone conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky, the Turkish leader offered mediation to Ankara to achieve peace with Russia and regulate the situation around the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.
Russian military expert: A fool or an enemy agent - this is the chief of the general staff of our army
"The Chief of Staff of the Russian Army is a fool."
This was announced by the most popular Russian military blogger Igor Girkin in relation to General Valery Gerasimov.
"My working version is that he's a fool. Someone else might assume he's an enemy agent. It doesn't matter to me - he needs to be replaced. He needs to be removed and tried for planning the 'special military operation'. He needs to be tried by a military tribunal. A special military commission of inquiry must explain: how this 'special military operation' was planned, because they defeated us already in the first month of the operation".
In the published video, behind the back of the specialist, the flag of the short-lived and unrecognized by the international community state "Novorussia" (24.05.2014 - 18.05.2015) can be seen, which includes the territories occupied by the separatists of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Girkin wants to find out how "in the 10th month of the war, we, such a great military state, not only failed to defeat the enemy, but we continue to retreat".
"This commission of inquiry must determine whether he is just a fool or an enemy. If he is a fool, the commission must find out who is pulling his strings - maybe it is the enemy."
Terrorist Girkin-Strelkov called Gerasimov, Russian military Chief of Staff, a cretin. He added that Gerasimov should be put on trial for all his failures in planning "the special military operation". pic.twitter.com/AUpLzCA8ep— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) January 5, 2023
Former Russian prisoners who fought in Ukraine were realesed
The first group of Russian prisoners who were offered amnesty in exchange for taking part in the fighting in Ukraine have been released, the head of a mercenary group that hired them said, AFP reported.
Video shows Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group, talking to a group of men with blurred faces, some of them injured.
"You fulfilled your contract. You worked honorably, with dignity," Prigozhin said in the video published today by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
He said the men "must be treated with deep respect by society" after completing the six-month contracts they were offered to gain freedom.
"Don't drink a lot, don't use drugs, don't rape women, don't do bad things," says Prigozhin, who is an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
"Wagner" fighters are at the forefront of Moscow's offensive in Ukraine, AFP notes.
The group's presence has been reported in conflict zones including Syria, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.
In September, a video emerged of a bald man strongly resembling Prigozhin in a prison yard offering contracts to prisoners to fight in Ukraine.
"If you arrive in Ukraine and decide it's not for you, we'll take that as desertion and shoot you. Any questions, guys?" the man said.
"No one surrenders," he said, adding that recruits must carry grenades in case of capture. "If you die, your body will be sent to the location you wrote down on the form."
AFP notes that it has not been possible to verify whether the man in the video is Prigozhin, but his company Concord has not denied that it is him.
"Of course, if I were a prisoner, I would dream of joining this friendly team, so that I could not only pay my debt to the Motherland, but also pay it with interest," Concord quoted him as saying.
Macron gives Ukraine light tanks and Bastion APCs, Biden sends Bradleys
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky thanked his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron for the decision to hand over Bastion light tanks and armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.
The head of state in Kyiv announced this on his Telegram channel, noting that he had a long and detailed conversation with Macron about the current situation.
"Thank you for the decision to transfer Bastion light tanks and APCs to Ukraine, as well as for intensifying work with partners in the same direction. We agreed on further cooperation to significantly strengthen air defense and other defense capabilities. We also agreed so let's work on the implementation of the peace formula," said Zelensky.
He thanked Macron and added that his leadership "accelerates our victory".
Bastion is a French multipurpose armored personnel carrier manufactured by ACMAT.
This type of APC is supplied to countries in Africa, the Middle East and North America.
In October 2022, it became known that France will transfer 20 Bastion wheeled armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, United States President Joe Biden has said that consideration is being given to providing Ukraine with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles to help the Ukrainians fight a full-scale invasion by the Russian Federation.
According to Reuters, Biden answered in the affirmative when asked if the US was considering such a possibility.
It is noted that the Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which have powerful guns, have been used by the US Army to transport troops in the war zone since the mid-1980s. The US military has thousands of such armored vehicles, which could provide Ukrainian defenders with more firepower on the battlefield.
It is not yet clear how many Bradleys will be handed over to Ukraine. It is noted that the United States is preparing another package of military aid for the country, which may be announced in the next few days.
Putin sends frigate with hypersonic missiles into Atlantic
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent the frigate "Admiral Gorshkov", armed with hypersonic cruise missiles "Zircon", to the Atlantic Ocean, world agencies reported. The send-off ceremony was via video conference.
During it, Putin, from his residence in Novo Ogaryovo, spoke with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and with Igor Krokhmal, commander of the frigate. The President stated:
"This time the ship is equipped with the latest hypersonic missile system – ‘Zircon’ - which has no analogues" and explained that it is a sea-based hypersonic system.
The Russian president wished the frigate's crew all the best and ordered them to begin their tasks.
Shoigu stated that "Admiral Gorshkov" will sail in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and in the Mediterranean Sea.
The frigate has been part of the Russian Navy since 2018 and underwent scheduled maintenance in 2022. Its main armament is the Kalibr-NK missile complex. "Admiral Gorshkov" actively participated in the tests of the "Zircon" missiles.
Russia has stopped the attack on Bakhmut, according to an American newspaper, over 60% of the city has been destroyed
Over 60% of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine has been destroyed in the fighting with Russia, which is trying to take control of the city.
This was announced to Ukrainian television by the head of the Donetsk regional administration, Pavlo Kirilenko, quoted by the Russian edition of the BBC.
Kirilenko's assessment came as the founder of Wagner, the private military company responsible for the offensive, admitted there had been little to no progress in the city and when, according to the Wall Street Journal, the Russian army had called off its offensive.
The newspaper quoted Ukrainian military officials as saying that Russia's armed forces had diverted resources to nearby Soledar - also Ukrainian-controlled.
And according to British military intelligence, Russia's armed forces have stopped striking Bakhmut with the force of previous months - the battle has been going on since the summer, despite assurances from Western and some Russian experts that the town is of little strategic importance. At the same time, artillery and armored vehicles were moved to Soledar.
"The easing of clashes in one area does not mean that the Russians have completely given up on taking Bakhmut, but rather that Ukrainian resistance has forced them to rethink their views," the newspaper continued.
Yesterday, Ukraine's border service reported that in one of the areas of fighting near the city, Kyiv's forces made progress and pushed the Russians another 300 meters from the city, strengthening new positions.
Bakhmut became the site of the fiercest clashes in the fall. Both sides have amassed troops and equipment there in recent months, and the city has lost more than 80 percent of its pre-war population of 72,000.
Along with Soledar, the two cities are part of a single front, and fighting periodically waxes and wanes around them as the war progresses. However, Russia has focused more attention on the city since its last major victories in the Donbas over the summer, and in the weeks since its army retreated from Kherson, Bakhmut has become known as the most dangerous place on the front.
Putin's gamble is not paying off: Gas is already below 700 dollars per 1000 cubic meters
Russian President Vladimir Putin's gas racket against Western European countries has suffered yet another failure. The blue fuel is now significantly cheaper than when the Russian army invaded Ukraine and before the Kremlin began cutting off supplies.
Today, the price of natural gas in Europe fell below 0 per 1,000 cubic meters in early trading for the first time since September 2021, according to data from London's ICE exchange.
The total drop in prices since the beginning of the day is more than 2.8 percent. The February futures price at the TTF hub in the Netherlands fell to 6.3 per 1,000 cubic meters, or €63.5 per MWh (based on the current euro/dollar exchange rate, ICE prices are presented in euros per MWh).
Natural gas prices fall amid warm weather in Europe. The temperature in most countries of the European Union remained above the forecasts for a cold winter, which led not only to a decrease in the withdrawal of gas from storage facilities, but also to a record increase in their filling.
In addition, the share of wind energy in electricity production in the European Union continues to be stable around the 20 percent or higher limit. And on January 1, it even reached a record for all observation time – 34.7 percent.
Underground gas storages in Europe are already 83.33 percent full (13.46 percentage points more than the average for this date for the last five years) and they contain 90.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
Patriarch Kirill asked for a "Christmas truce" in Ukraine
Russian Patriarch Kirill has called for a "Christmas truce" in the war zone in Ukraine.
This is according to the website of the Russian Orthodox Church as Russia prepares to welcome Christmas on January 6-7 (according to the Julian calendar).
The proposal is for "all parties involved in the conflict" to cease fire from 12:00 on January 6 until midnight on January 7 to allow the faithful to attend the holiday services.
The Kremlin and Kyiv are yet to comment, but the idea is being announced after both sides ruled it out at the end of 2022.
Ukraine has increasingly welcomed December 25 amid estrangement from Russia, deepened by its decision to invade on February 24 last year.
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