Here is the situation as it stands on Friday, December 23.
Zelenskyy returns to Ukraine
- President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has returned from the United States, his first trip abroad since Russia’s invasion on February 24.
- The administration of US President Joe Biden announced another $1.85bn in military aid for Ukraine, including a Patriot missile system, as Zelenskyy began his visit.
- “We are coming back from Washington with good results. With something that will really help,” Zelenskyy said on Telegram.
Weapons and defence systems
- Russia said Ukraine acquiring Patriot missiles from the US would not help settle the conflict or prevent Moscow from achieving its goals.
- Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his goal was “not to spin the flywheel of military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war”.
- He added: “We will strive for an end to this, and the sooner the better, of course.”
- “All armed conflicts end one way or another with some kind of negotiations on the diplomatic track,” Putin said.
- These comments drew quick US scepticism, with White House spokesman John Kirby saying Putin had “shown absolutely zero indication that he’s willing to negotiate” an end to the war.
- The White House said a private Russian military company, the Wagner Group, took delivery last month of infantry rockets and missiles from North Korea to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine.
- However, Wagner’s head Yevgeny Prigozhin dismissed the talk as “gossip and speculation”.
- North Korea’s foreign ministry denied the report, calling it “groundless”, the official KCNA news agency reported, and blamed the US for “bringing bloodshed and destruction to Ukraine by providing it with various kinds of lethal weapons”.
- South Korea’s foreign ministry condemned North Korea’s alleged arms shipment, adding it supported the US’s push to raise the issue at the United Nations Security Council.
- On the battlefront, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Facebook on Thursday that fighting in the eastern Donetsk region remained focused on Bakhmut and nearby Avdiivka.
- Near Bakhmut, Russian forces shelled about 10 towns, while close to Avdiivka, they pounded the towns of Kostiantyivka and Marinka as well as Vodiane and Nevelske, the Ukrainian military said. It was not possible to independently verify the accounts.
- Russia may cut oil output by 5-7 percent in early 2023 as it responds to price caps on its crude and oil products by halting sales to the countries that support them, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told state television.
- Detailing for the first time the Russian response to the $60 per barrel price caps introduced by Western countries, Novak said the cuts could amount to 500,000-700,000 barrels per day.