Ecuador has officially abandoned its plans to send Soviet-style weapons to the United States, which were intended for transfer to Ukraine, citing its stance on international armed conflicts
Day 656 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky Seeks EU Aid while Russia Strikes the Capital
Day 656 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- Presidential elections in Russia next year will also be held in the occupied Ukrainian territories
- Navalny was taken out of his colony, but it is unknown where
- UK sends two minehunter ships to boost Ukraine's Black Sea forces
- At least 4 victims of Russian attack on Kyiv
- Biden invited Zelensky to a meeting in Washington tomorrow
- Ukraine will join the EU, the question is whether someone is able to slow down this process, said Kuleba
- Borrell: It is not time to reduce military aid to Ukraine
- Hungarian-American meeting discusses ending US military aid to Ukraine
- Slovak carriers renew the blockade of the border with Ukraine
- Russia expels German ambassador for anti-war speech in Moscow cathedral
- Russia's Federal Security Service says it has prevented 14 "terrorist attacks" in the annexed Crimean peninsula this year
Presidential elections in Russia next year will also be held in the occupied Ukrainian territories
Presidential elections in Russia next year will also be held in the occupied Ukrainian territories that Moscow annexed, Russian news agencies reported.
The Central Electoral Commission of Moscow announced that elections for the President of Russia will be held in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. Earlier today, the Commission held consultations with the Ministry of Defense of Russia and the Federal Security Service, and they approved the proposal to hold presidential elections in the above-mentioned territories.
Moscow held referendums in September 2022 and announced that it was annexing the regions to its territory, although it only has military control over some of them and the international community does not recognize the annexation.
In the March 2024 vote, President Vladimir Putin, who only days ago announced his candidacy, is expected to be re-elected with a large majority.
The presidential race will take place in Russia over three days, starting on March 17 next year.
Navalny was taken out of his colony, but it is unknown where
The most famous critic of the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny, has been taken out of the penal colony 250 km from Moscow, where he has been serving several sentences since March 2021.
This was reported by his press secretary Kira Yarmysh, according to whom Navalny's lawyer learned the information from officials of Correctional Colony 6 in Melehovo, Vladimir region.
"Where they moved him, they refuse to talk," Yarmysh continues. Two days ago, Navalny's lawyer said he could not be reached and that access to his client had been denied. A special regime colony where he may have been transferred, IK-7, was contacted asking if Navalny was there, but its officials denied it.
On the latest conviction for "extremism" alone, Navalny was sentenced to 19 years in prison in August 2023, in a "special regime" colony.
"On Friday and all day, neither IK-6 nor IK-7 responded (to the lawyers). Apparently, now they have given (them) an order. It is not known where Alexei is," says Yarmysh, who on 8 December reported that Navalny recently felt unwell in the colony and was placed on IV therapy.
There has been no information about Navalny's condition and whereabouts for almost a week. On Thursday, his team released a message urging Russians to vote for anyone but Russian President Vladimir Putin in the upcoming March 17 election.
UK sends two minehunter ships to boost Ukraine's Black Sea forces
Amid the Ukraine war against Russia, the United Kingdom has transferred two minehunter ships to Ukraine to strengthen the country's presence in the Black Sea, Al Jazeera reported on Monday.
It reported quoting the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) which announced Ukraine's procurement of the two Royal Navy vessels on Monday.
The deal is part of a new Maritime Capability Coalition, led by Britain and Norway, aimed at providing long-term military support to bolster security in the Black Sea.
Al Jazeera reported that the focus on maritime operations has increased after nearly two years of war. Ukraine has targeted Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which is based in the annexed Crimea peninsula, as it has sought to use ships to export grain.
"As an island nation with a proud maritime history, the UK and Royal Navy are particularly well-placed to support this endeavor, which will form part of a series of new coalitions formed between allies to ensure an enduring military commitment in support of Ukraine," UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said, explaining how the warships are an important first step.
"These minehunters will deliver vital capability to Ukraine, which will help save lives at sea and open up vital export routes, which have been severely limited since [Russian President Vladimir] Putin launched his illegal full-scale invasion," Shapps said.
"This capability boost marks the beginning of a new dedicated effort by the UK, Norway and our allies to strengthen Ukraine's maritime capabilities over the long term, enhancing their ability to operate in defending their sovereign waters and bolstering security in the Black Sea."
The coalition will also work with the Ukrainian navy to expand its forces in the Black Sea, develop a Ukrainian Marine Corps and enhance the use of river patrol craft to defend inland and coastal waterways, the ministry said.
As per Al Jazeera report the UK and Ukraine made the deal for the two minehunters in June 2021, before Russia's full-scale invasion. Ukrainian soldiers have been training on the ships since last year. London has also provided military training courses to around 20,000 Ukrainians over the past year.
The UK is the second-largest provider of military aid to Ukraine, after the US.
The two Sandown-class mine countermeasures vessels were procured by Ukraine through UK Export Finance, Al Jazeera reported.
At least 4 victims of Russian attack on Kyiv
At least four people were injured overnight in a Russian airstrike on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Reuters reported, citing local authorities.
Mayor Vitaly Klitschko wrote on "Telegram" that according to the latest information, four people were injured in the Darnitsky district in the southeastern part of the city. A 21-year-old man was wounded by shrapnel in the legs, and three women suffered severe stress.
Initially, Klitschko reported two casualties in the Darnitsky district.
Ukraine's armed forces said they shot down all eight ballistic missiles fired by Russia at Kyiv last night, Ukrinform reported.
They have also destroyed the 18 Shahed drones aimed at southern Ukraine. Most of the unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down over the Mykolaiv region, BTA notes.
Biden invited Zelensky to a meeting in Washington tomorrow
A series of explosions in Kyiv. According to local media, air defense systems neutralized missiles and debris fell in several areas of the Ukrainian capital.
Media claim that a child was also injured. Several buildings were affected. Windows were broken, walls were blown away.
Moscow claims that Russian forces thwarted a rotation of Ukrainian military personnel in the Donetsk region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attended the inauguration ceremony of the President of Argentina - Javier Milei.
The White House has confirmed that President Joe Biden has invited his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to a meeting tomorrow. The main topic will be the "vital" new aid from Washington to Kyiv, the "urgent needs" of Ukraine will also be discussed, according to the information of the White House.
"Tomorrow and the day after I will be in Washington with my team. Meetings and talks are planned - with President Biden, with Congress, important talks. We use every day and hour to give more to Ukraine, to our people - more opportunities, more protection, more power! Thank you to everyone who helps, thank you to everyone who fights and works for the interests of our country and society, for our freedom and victory!" said President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Ukraine will join the EU, the question is whether someone is able to slow down this process, said Kuleba
Ukraine will join the EU, the question is whether someone is able to slow down this process, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said today upon his arrival to participate in the meeting of his European colleagues in Brussels.
He reported that Kyiv fulfills the set conditions and three of the four key legislative changes related to the fight against corruption and minority rights have already been adopted. According to him, the European Council this week should adopt historic decisions related to the enlargement of the EU and warned that otherwise the consequences will be severe.
“I cannot imagine the devastating consequences if the European Council fails to adopt these decisions - not only for Ukraine, but also more broadly for EU enlargement”, Kuleba said. According to him, it would be very demotivating for the Ukrainians if the EU could not fulfill the promises made.
According to Kuleba, the fulfillment of the conditions set by Kyiv should lead to the disappearance of the reasons for Hungary to refrain from supporting the start of accession negotiations with his country. He noted that today he has the first meeting with the Hungarian foreign minister since the beginning of the war initiated by Russia.
“In a spirit of cooperation and mutual interest, we expect the EU to take a decision that takes into account the efforts made by our country and to start accession negotiations. I came to clearly express Ukraine's readiness to fulfill the goals for the start of accession negotiations”, Kuleba said.
He pointed out that the issues regarding the negotiations for Ukraine's accession to the EU, the provision of European financial and military aid to Kyiv, and the imposition of more sanctions against Moscow are awaiting a decision. “We need F-16 fighters, drones and constant supplies of ammunition, more air defense systems”, Kuleba summarized.
Borrell: It is not time to reduce military aid to Ukraine
“I hope that European unity for Ukraine will not be affected, it is not time to weaken, but to increase aid to Kyiv”, said the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Josep Borrell to journalists before the start of today's meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels. BTA reported.
According to him, so far the EU countries have provided Ukraine with military aid for about 26 billion euros. He supported the view that the EU should deploy military production capabilities to meet the needs of the Ukrainian side and to replenish the stockpile from which it has so far provided ammunition and equipment to Kyiv. According to him, it is necessary to coordinate the aid provided on a bilateral basis.
Borrell announced that the foreign ministers will discuss proposals to increase aid to Ukraine. He noted that Russia is increasing its strikes on Ukrainian targets, as well as that the number of Russian casualties in the war is growing. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is expected to attend today's meeting.
Hungarian-American meeting discusses ending US military aid to Ukraine
Allies of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will hold a closed-door meeting with Republicans in Washington to press for an end to US military aid to Ukraine, the British newspaper "The Guardian" reports, citing its own sources.
Today, members of the Hungarian Institute of International Relations and employees of the Hungarian Embassy in Washington will begin a two-day conference hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation, BTA reports.
The first day of the meeting included speeches on panels devoted to the war in Ukraine, as well as topics such as the "transatlantic culture wars". According to a source in the US Republican Party, some of the participants, including Republican members of Congress, were invited to take part in closed-door talks the next day.
The meeting was organized amid intense debates in Washington about the future of Ukraine. On Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked emergency funding for the war in Ukraine. The White House has warned that without action from Congress, funds for the supply of weapons to Kyiv will run out by the end of the year.
A diplomatic source close to the Hungarian embassy in the US said: "Orban is confident that aid to Ukraine will not pass through Congress. Therefore, he is trying to block support from the European Union as well."
Perceived as Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest ally in the EU, he was photographed smiling and shaking hands with him in Beijing two months ago.
The Heritage Foundation is leading Project 2025, a coalition preparing for the next conservative US presidential administration. The organization is also a prominent opponent of American aid to Ukraine.
Some conservative Republicans in the US have spoken out in favor of implementing the "Hungarian model" on American soil, especially with regard to immigration and family policy.
Slovak carriers renew the blockade of the border with Ukraine
Truck drivers in Slovakia will today resume a partial blockade of the country's main border crossing with Ukraine. Incoming heavy goods traffic will be blocked from 16:00 p.m. Bulgarian time, the Union of Transporters in Slovakia reported.
Slovak and Polish carriers insist on limiting the access of Ukrainian transport companies to the European Union. Restrictions on companies from Ukraine were lifted after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
"Entry into Slovakia will be blocked for truck traffic. Private cars will not be restricted in any way," the Transporters' Union in Slovakia also stated, specifying that the blockade will be at the Visne Nemecké/ Uzhhorod checkpoint.
In Poland, truck drivers have been blocking the border with Ukraine for heavy goods traffic since November 6. Hungarian truck drivers also planned to start a protest today at a border crossing with Ukraine.
The protesters want to end the access of Ukrainian truck drivers to the EU without the relevant permits. In this way, Ukrainian drivers undercut their prices, they claim.
According to Kyiv authorities, the volume of wartime traffic makes the truck permit system unfeasible.
Charities and non-governmental organizations providing military aid to Ukraine are facing weeks of delays in critical supplies of drones, electronics and vehicles because of border blockades, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Russia expels German ambassador for anti-war speech in Moscow cathedral
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized Germany's ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Lambsdorff, for speaking about victims of military conflicts and calling for peace during a Christmas concert, DPA reported. Lambsdorff spoke yesterday to several hundred people at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Cathedral in Moscow. The German ambassador said "war is not inevitable" and paid tribute to those killed in Ukraine and the Middle East.
The diplomat's words provoked a rebuke from the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova.
"It is very unfortunate that the German ambassador forgot to thank his government for the regular supplies of weapons to the territory of the Ukrainian conflict," Zakharova wrote on Telegram last night.
"He should be praying at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, not committing blasphemy," the spokeswoman added.
In February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine, claiming thousands of lives, many of them civilians.
Moscow accuses the West of fueling the conflict. According to Russian propaganda, the main reason for the bloodshed is not the invasion of the Kremlin, but Western arms supplies to Kyiv, DPA notes.
Lambsdorff said yesterday that the festive period was an occasion to remember the victims of wars, including in the Middle East and Ukraine, regardless of their nationality and religion.
"We know that war is not inevitable. People, nations and countries can achieve a solution to difficult issues peacefully if there is a will to do so," said the German ambassador in Moscow. "We can and must find a peaceful solution together, regardless of all differences in interests and beliefs," concluded Alexander Lambsdorff.
Russia's Federal Security Service says it has prevented 14 "terrorist attacks" in the annexed Crimean peninsula this year
Russia's Federal Security Service said today that it had prevented 14 "sabotage-terrorist attacks" this year and dismantled a network of Ukrainian agents in the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, Reuters reported.
The service said it had foiled attacks, including those against Moscow-appointed head of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov and former pro-Russian Verkhovna Rada member Oleg Tsarev.
Tsarev survived despite being shot twice in an attack in October in Crimea. A source from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) told Reuters at the time that the attack was part of a Ukrainian intelligence operation.
The Russians said the Ukrainian spy network had also organized attacks on the peninsula's rail and energy infrastructure. The service added that it had discovered 15 caches of weapons and explosives and detained 18 "agents and helpers of the Ukrainian special services" on charges of preparing sabotage.
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