In a call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, US President Joe Biden reiterated Washington’s strong support for the war-torn country and highlighted his administration’s efforts to boost Ukraine’s air defense, the White House said.
Biden mentioned the December 9 announcement of $275 million (€261 million) in additional ammunition and equipment that included systems to counter the Russian use of unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as the November 29 announcement of $53 million to support Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
He also welcomed Zelenskyy’s “stated openness to a just peace based on fundamental principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.” On the call, Biden emphasized the “ongoing US support for Ukraine’s defense as Russia continues its assaults on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.”
Weapons supplied by the Western countries, including from the US, have played a crucial role in Ukraine’s efforts to drive Russian troops back.
Thanking Biden for the recent security package in a “fruitful conversation,” Zelenskyy said that they “discussed further defense cooperation, protection and maintenance of our energy sector.”
Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to continue providing Ukraine with security, economic and humanitarian assistance, holding Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities, and imposing costs on Russia for its aggression.
Here are the other top stories related to the war in Ukraine on Monday, December 12:
EU foreign ministers discuss Ukraine war in Brussels
The European Union’s top diplomats are holding talks in Brussels on Monday, with Russia’s war in Ukraine and protests in Iran topping the list of the talks.
Foreign ministers from the bloc’s 27-member states are expected to hash out new sanctions against Moscow over the invasion.
The ministers will also discuss the EU’s wider policies in Ukraine, including military training for Ukrainian armed forces, as well as whether to expand a funding mechanism that has provided Kyiv with €3.1 billion ($3.2 billion) in military aid.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is expected to join for part of the talks via video link.
Kremlin cancels Putin’s end-of-year press conference
The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold his annual end-of-year press conference this year.
“There will not be [a press conference] before the New Year,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Peskov gave no reason for the break with tradition at the end of a 12 months dominated by Russia’s war in Ukraine and sanctions imposed in response by the West.
Putin, who has been in power since 2000 — apart from a four-year spell as prime minister rather than president — has held a press conference in December most years of his rule. Peskov said that Putin “regularly speaks to the press, including on foreign visits.”
During the media gathering — a major political event in Russia — Putin takes questions from the press and members of the public in a marathon that usually lasts several hours. Last year, he spoke for more than four hours.
Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24 announcing an unpopular mobilization effort — largely seen as botched — to bolster Moscow’s forces there on September 21.
Russia’s advance likely stalled for ‘the next several months,’ says UK
The Kremlin is still seeking to advance in eastern and southeastern Ukraine, but its military push will not likely make any progress during the winter, the British Defense Ministry said.
In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said “Russia is likely still aiming to extend control over all Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson Oblasts” and that there is a particular emphasis on “advancing deeper into Donetsk Oblast.”
Despite these goals, British defense officials said “it is highly unlikely” the Russian military will be able to generate enough of a striking force in these areas.
“Russian ground forces are unlikely to make operationally significant advances within the next several months,” the Defense Ministry said in its statement.
Ukraine reports attack on ‘Wagner HQ’
Ukraine on Sunday claimed that it launched a series of missile attacks on command points and warehouses in Russian-occupied territory.
The statement which came from the country’s military did not specify their target locations but noted the targets included dormitories and were carried out using artillery and missiles.
The military’s statement also added that it is anticipating a retaliatory attack from Russia.
“There is still the danger that the enemy will launch attacks with rockets and drones targeting our energy infrastructure and the entire area of Ukraine,” Ukraine’s military’s statement read.
Meanwhile, Serhiy Haidai, the exiled governor of the Russian-occupied Luhansk region, told Ukrainian television that local forces had struck a hotel in the town of Kadiivka where members of Russia’s private Wagner military group were based.
He said the mercenary force had suffered “significant losses.”
DW was not able to immediately verify the claims.
Nick Connolly, a DW correspondent reporting from Kyiv, said a lack of independent journalists on the ground in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine makes it difficult to confirm information.
“We have seen some images on social media of some obvious fresh destruction on some buildings,” Connolly said.
“Now the local Russian-occupation authorities claim that there were actually civilians staying there, something that’s been disputed by the Ukrainian side,” he added. “But it seems to kind of fit the broader picture of Ukraine attacking places where these Russian soldiers or Russian mercenaries are staying behind the frontlines.”
More DW content on the war in Ukraine
Moscow is downplaying the consequences of Ukrainian airstrikes on its military airfields. But even if they are only small stings, DW explains how they send important signals about the course of the war going forward.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban maintains close relations with Russia and seems to be turning a blind eye to the presence of Russian agents in Hungary. Is Hungary becoming Russia’s spy hub within the EU?
rs, mf/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)