Day 279 of the Invasion of Ukraine: USA stated there is “No Need to declare Russia a Terrorist State”
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
The US will announce aid for Ukraine's energy sector, Russia is shelling the right bank of the Dnieper
The United States is preparing to announce new aid to Ukraine in the coming hours to help Ukraine restore electricity at a time when winter is pushing the war into a new phase and the cold will be a severe test for millions of residents.
The front line is half of what it has been since late summer following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kherson region, while the cold continues and Moscow's army is increasingly shelling the right (west) bank of the Dnieper. In his latest video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that 30 places in the Kherson region were shelled a total of 258 times in a week. According to him, Russia is taking revenge for the fact that Ukraine "will never accept the order of the ‘comrades’ from Moscow".
Overnight, more rocket strikes were reported along the right bank (which includes the city of Kherson along with the northern part of the district abandoned by the Russians this month), including Dnipro, the center of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. According to the head of the regional military administration, Valentin Reznichenko, a private plant was hit. The Ukrainian army reported more attacks in eastern Ukraine.
In recent days, Russian forces have also spoken of steps to encircle the Ukrainian army in Bakhmut, a key city in Moscow's war and controlled by Kyiv. According to the latest briefing by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), however, available information does not suggest that this is inevitable.
The halving of the front line compared to the end of the summer makes it difficult to find weakly defended sections of the Ukrainians.
Energy and water infrastructure have been heavily targeted by Russian strikes since October 10, and Zelensky said on Monday he expected more, putting millions more Ukrainians at risk of being left without electricity, water and heating.
In preparation for winter
The new aid to Kyiv is expected to be announced by United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the second day of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest, according to a Reuters source at the State Department. According to him, for the reconstruction of the infrastructure of Ukraine, Washington is working with American companies for utility services and equipment and with European countries.
Snow fell in Kyiv and temperatures hovered around freezing as millions in and around the capital struggled to heat their homes. Although there will be no Christmas lights, there will be a tree in the capital because, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko: "We cannot allow (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to steal Christmas from us."
Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz has asked the US Agency for International Development to help with additional quantities of natural gas for the heating season, the company's CEO announced. DTEK, Ukraine's largest private power producer, said it would cut electricity supplies by 60% to its customers in Kyiv.
The network operator "Ukrenergo" has meanwhile renewed the electricity regime throughout the country. The Reuters agency tells about a family - a man aged 68 and a woman aged 61 - who have been living underground since the power cut back in April and are hoping to put a wood stove there. There is neither heating nor electricity in Kherson, but according to regional governor Yaroslav Janushevich, 24% of customers already have electricity.
Russia postponed nuclear talks with the US without explanation
Russia has postponed nuclear weapons talks with the United States that were due to begin on Tuesday in Cairo.
The announcement of the meeting, which was to last until December 6 and which was expected in diplomatic circles because of the possibility of dialogue between Moscow and Washington at a delicate moment due to the war in Ukraine, came from the US State Department.
The subject of the talks was supposed to be the resumption of inspections under the nuclear arms reduction treaty known as "New START". Inspections have stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the American institution, Russia has postponed the negotiations unilaterally, but with the assurance that it will propose new dates. Washington assures that it is ready to renew the schedule so that the negotiations take place on another, as soon as possible, date in the name of "stability".
New START was signed in 2010 by then-presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev and aims to limit the number of strategic nuclear warheads by both countries to 1,550 - two-thirds less than the original START 1 treaty signed in 1991 Last year, Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin agreed to extend it for five years until 2026, amid other key agreements abandoned under previous President Donald Trump.
At the same time, the Russian side had warned that too high expectations should not be created for the upcoming dialogue.
USA: For now, there is no need to declare Russia a terrorist state
For now, the US does not intend to declare Russia a terrorist state, said the country's ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith.
She gave a telephone briefing for journalists in Brussels. Smith was speaking from Bucharest, where a two-day meeting of foreign ministers from the pact's member countries begins today.
"The feeling in Washington is that it's really not necessary right now and that it could actually be counterproductive in the sense that it could prevent or reduce our ability to either send humanitarian aid to Ukraine or get some of the grain out of Ukraine ", she said in response to a journalist's question.
For this reason, according to Smith, the focus of the US in working with partners and allies around the world is to resort to sanctions and to find ways of additional punitive measures. Thus, additional pressure will be exerted on Russian President Putin and a larger circle of state representatives of his regime in Moscow. However, ways must also be sought to put real pressure on the Russian economy and how to prevent the Russian military from building new capabilities after the start of the war in Ukraine.
The focus is a combination of sanctions, export controls, etc. Julianne Smith does not see any indication in the US to designate Russia as a terrorist state.
It was declared as such by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Last week, the European Parliament called on EU member states in a resolution to declare Russia a sponsor of terrorism.
NATO is looking for ways to strengthen cooperation and partnership with Moldova, the ambassador said. The foreign minister of the country together with his colleagues from Ukraine and Georgia will participate in the meeting in Bucharest. All three countries are alliance partners.
A small country like Moldova could seriously suffer from Russian strikes on Ukrainian key infrastructure. The electricity grid, which is connected to that of Ukraine, is particularly vulnerable.
ISW: Russian troops are degrading. They claim to have surrounded Bakhmut but have only captured a village
The Russians claim that they surrounded Bakhmut, but in fact they captured a village 15 kilometers from the city - Ozaryanovka. The Kremlin is falsely reporting that the villages of Kurdyumovka, Kleschiivka, Andreevka, Zelenopole, Podgorodne and Sspornoe have been captured, according to the latest report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
"Russian sources have been actively spreading false claims of success around Bakhmut as part of an ongoing disinformation operation since October, and recent unsubstantiated territorial claims may be part of this ongoing disinformation operation," ISW noted.
Even if the Russians managed to capture the villages, it would still not threaten the important Bakhmut-Siversk and Bakhmut-Konstantinovka routes, which are important for the Ukrainian armed forces, the report said.
"In their current degraded state, Russian troops will probably not be able to cope with this task quickly. The financier of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin himself, noted in October that the Wagner forces operating in the Bakhmut region were advancing only 100 -200 meters per day," notes ISW.
The institute believes that the deployment of Russian forces to Belarus this month is likely part of Russia's efforts to increase their training capacity and conduct an "information operation".
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces continue to strike Russian military facilities and critical logistics points in southern Ukraine.
"Russian forces continue to face problems related to adequate training and equipment, as well as challenges related to morale and discipline, as the failures of the Russian military forces have significant domestic social consequences," the research institute's report added.
The EU failed to agree on a price cap for Russian oil
European Union governments failed to agree on Monday a price cap for Russian crude transported by sea, as Poland insisted the cap should be lower than the G7 proposal to limit the ability of Moscow to finance its invasion of Ukraine, diplomats quoted by Reuters said.
"There is no deal. The legal texts have already been agreed, but Poland still cannot agree on the price," a diplomat said. No new date has yet been set for talks, diplomats said, although the price ceiling mechanism is due to come into effect on December 5.
If there is no agreement on the G7 price cap idea by next Monday, the EU will implement tougher measures agreed at the end of May - a ban on all imports of Russian crude from December 5 and petroleum products from February 5. Polish diplomats said.
Hungary and two other landlocked central European countries have secured exemptions from that ban for the pipeline imports they rely on.
The G7 countries proposed a softer version of the EU ban to keep oil supplies stable for the global economy, as Russia supplies 10% of the world's oil.
The group proposed that the EU and other global customers continue to buy Russian crude, but only if the price is at or below the G7-agreed level. This would reduce the Kremlin's income.
The G7 has proposed a ceiling of -70 a barrel, but Poland and some others say that won't hurt Moscow as Russian crude already trades below that range at .50.
Moscow is very profitable from its oil exports, and Poland, Lithuania and Estonia are pushing for a price ceiling of a barrel.
"The Poles are completely uncompromising on price without offering an acceptable alternative," the EU diplomat said. "There seems to be growing irritation with the Polish position."
Malta, Cyprus and Greece were concerned that the G7 ceiling proposal was too low, affecting their major shipping industries, but diplomats said they had won some concessions in the legal texts and were no longer an obstacle to the deal.
The idea behind imposing the G-7 cap is to bar shipping, insurance and reinsurance companies from handling cargoes of Russian crude worldwide unless it is sold at a price lower than that set by the G- 7 and their allies.
Since key firms in these sectors around the world are based in the G7 countries, a price cap would make it very difficult for Moscow to sell its oil at a higher price.
Russia and the US have used the "deconfliction line" only once in the war in Ukraine
A communication line established between the United States and Russia's militaries at the start of Moscow's war against Ukraine has only been used once so far, a US official told Reuters.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States had initiated a call to the "deconfliction" line to communicate concerns about Russian military operations near critical infrastructure in Ukraine.
Reuters first reported the use of the deconfliction line beyond regular testing. Few details are known about the specific incident that led to the call on the line that connects U.S. Army European Command and Russia's National Defense Command Center.
The official declined to elaborate, but said it was not used when a missile mistakenly landed in Poland on Nov. 15, killing two people. The explosion was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile, but Russia was ultimately responsible because it started the war in late February, NATO said.
While the U.S. official declined to specify which Russian activity caused the U.S. concern, there have been publicly acknowledged incidents involving Russian fighting around critical Ukrainian infrastructure. These include Russian operations around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is under Russian control.
Ukraine has also raised concerns that Russia could blow up the Nova Kakhovka dam, a huge reservoir in southern Ukraine. A rupture of the dam wall would send a wall of water to downstream settlements, including flooding to the strategic regional capital of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces retook on November 11.
Communications between the US and Russia have been in the spotlight since the start of Russia's invasion of its neighbor, given the grave risk that a misjudgment by either side could spark a direct conflict between the nuclear-armed nations.
Several ways to communicate
The deconfliction line is just one of several ways the US and Russian militaries still have to communicate.
The other military channels are the rare high-level talks between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The top American and Russian generals, US Army General Mark Milley and Russian General Valery Gerasimov, have also spoken twice since the war began.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and CIA Director William Burns have also had contact with Russian officials.
Still, US-Russian relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War, and the US State Department said on Monday that Moscow had postponed talks in Cairo aimed at resuming nuclear weapons inspections. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that the talks had been postponed. Neither side gave a reason.
Asked for comment on the deconfliction hotline, the Pentagon said only that it had maintained several channels to "discuss critical security issues with the Russians during contingencies or emergencies to prevent miscalculations, military incidents and escalation."
"We are encouraged by the recent talks by senior Ministry of Defense officials with Russian counterparts and believe that continued dialogue is critical," a Defense Ministry spokesman said.
Neither the Russian embassy in Washington nor the defense ministry in Moscow responded to requests for comment.
Not a complaint line
When it was announced in March, the Pentagon said the deconfliction line was created to avoid unintended collisions in NATO airspace or on the ground. "(The line) is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all complaint line where we can just pick up the phone and express concerns about what Russia is doing in Ukraine," a senior U.S. defense official said at the time.
During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union maintained such hotlines at various levels.
Alexander Vershbow, a former US ambassador to Moscow and former senior Pentagon and NATO official, said the latest deconfliction line was designed to focus on day-to-day operations - as opposed to more strategic talks between senior officials such as Milley and Gerasimov. Vershbow drew a comparison to the much more active deconfliction line for Syria, where US and Russian military forces sometimes operate in the same airspace or terrain.
"We've seen that in Syria, where having a direct operational channel can at least clarify intentions during a fast-moving situation when Washington might be asleep," Vershbow told Reuters.
The deconfliction line is tested twice a day with conversations in Russian, the US official told Reuters. A Russian speaker from the US European Command initiated those calls from Wiesbaden, Germany, the official said.
Wiesbaden is also the location of the Pentagon's new Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, or SAG-U, which remotely supports the defense of the government in Kyiv against Russian troops.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier that early in the conflict organizers believed the deconfliction line could be useful if the United States needed to evacuate Americans from Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine.
When the war began, the United States believed that Russia could quickly seize Ukrainian territory, trapping American citizens before they had a chance to leave. An official suggested it could also be used if a Russian fighter jet pursued a Ukrainian plane in Polish airspace or if a Russian missile crossed NATO airspace.
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