1. Russian forces bolster defenses against Ukraine’s counteroffensives in the east
Russian forces are continuing to gather in eastern Ukraine to bolster defenses against ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensives near the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast region.
According to the think tank, the Institute of the Study of War, the move is also designed to support limited offensive efforts in the Donetsk region.
Russian forces have also conducted limited counterattacks near Svatove in order to regain positions, lost in earlier stages of the war.
Russian war bloggers claimed that the Kreminna front, especially along the Makiivka-Kreminna line, is an exceptionally challenging front with the exception of Bakhmut.
Russian forces are continuing ground attacks around Bakhmut, to the east of the Donetsk Oblast.
The ISW says that an unnamed US military official stated that the Wagner Group and Russian forces are engaged in intense battles to capture Bakhmut and are committing significant resources to maintain the peace but noted that Ukrainian forces “continue to hold the line.”
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov stated that Ukraine intends to continue counteroffensives in the winter months.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces continue to target Russian military assets and logistical hubs along critical ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces have reportedly damaged a key bridge outside the southern city of Melitopol, which is seen as a key objective for Kyiv.
The bridge is essential to resupply Russian forces in Southern Ukraine, as part of a highway, which runs from Russia along Ukraine’s southern coastline via Mariupol, Berdiansk and Melitopol.
The increase in Ukrainian pressure on Russian forces in Melitopol appears to be following a similar pattern that was used in Kherson before its liberation, with the targeting of both Russian troops and supply lines, including logistics links to Crimea.
2. Kyiv’s allies pledge €1 billion to support war-torn country
Around 70 countries and institutions meeting in Paris pledged just over €1 billion to help Ukrainians survive frigid winter conditions, as well as to help maintain the country’s water, food, energy, health and transport, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said.
France hosted the global meeting to discuss what could be offered to Ukraine between now and March.
Zelenskyy himself had said his country needed at least €800 million. “It’s a lot, but the price is less than the cost of blackout,” the Ukrainian President told the meeting via video link.
“This is a powerful signal to show the civilized world is supporting Ukraine,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told reporters in Paris. “We are grateful to the countries that remain by our side when we are suffering the aggression by Russia on our territory and our civilian infrastructure.”
The conference was also an opportunity for French President Emmanuel Macron to openly display solidarity with Ukraine, after he had been criticized by certain Western allies for his comments on needing to maintain dialogue with Vladimir Putin and to avoid “humiliat[ing]” the Russian leader.
3. Belarus announces snap military inspection
Russia’s close ally Belarus announced a snap military inspection on Tuesday including increased combat readiness in the south of the country, the latest in a flurry of military exercises that have been unsettling neighboring Ukraine.
This burst of Belarusian military activity, including a counter-terrorism exercise last week, has raised concerns in Kyiv that it might join Russia’s war. Russia and Belarus have close economic and military links, and are formally part of a “union state”.
In a video statement published by the Belarus Defense Ministry, Alexander Volfovich, state secretary of the Security Council, said the checks would encompass practically all Belarus’s operational commands, but initially units that would be the first to respond to any escalation “either on the Belarus border or within the country”.
As part of this, one military unit had been given a mission to secure “a target on the southern border”, he said, adding that the tasks stemmed from analysis of what Russia terms its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Belarus has said it will not enter the war in Ukraine, and Western military analysts consider the country’s army as being too weak to make any significant impact. Nevertheless, President Alexander Lukashenko allowed Russia to invade northern Ukraine from Belarusian territory on February 24, and in October ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border.
Moreover, the risk that the country might intervene from the north is an unwelcome distraction for Ukraine as it focuses on battling Russian forces in the south and east.
4. Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to hold talks in late December
Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will hold talks to discuss the events of 2022 later this month, the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti reported on Tuesday.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, told the paper that the meeting’s date and the agenda are already known, but an official announcement will come later.
In a daily briefing with reporters later on Tuesday, Peskov said Xi and Putin were “in constant communication.”
The newspaper, citing an unidentified source close to the Russian presidential administration said it was unlikely that the meeting would be face-to-face.
“Details are being worked out,” the source informed Vedomosti.
Russia has attempted to bolster links with China since February’s invasion as Moscow seeks to enhance its ties with non-Western states.
5. Russian businessman asks London court to pause €800 million lawsuit over sanctions
A prominent Russian businessman on Tuesday asked a London court to pause an €800 million fraud lawsuit brought by two Russian banks because of UK sanctions, arguing that any money recovered could be used to “indirectly fund the war in Ukraine.”
Boris Mints and his sons Dmitry, Alexander and Igor are being sued by National Bank Trust, which is 99% owned by the Central Bank of Russia, on behalf of Bank Otkritie, formerly Russia’s largest private lender before its collapse in 2017.
Lawyers representing the Mints family – who deny the banks’ fraud allegations – say the lawsuit should be indefinitely put on hold because, if the banks win at trial, any damages could not be paid as Bank Otkritie is under British sanctions.
Laurence Rabinowitz, representing Dmitry and Alexander Mints, said in court documents that any money recovered by National Bank Trust would go to the Russian central bank, which must transfer 75% of its profits to Russia’s federal budget, and thus — in his words – – fill “the coffers of the Russian state, coffers which the Russian state is using to finance its war in Ukraine.”
But the banks say their application is “opportunistic,” describing it as “a transparent attempt” to exploit the fact that Bank Otkritie has been placed under sanctions.
The application represents one of the first legal tests of Britain’s sanctions against Russia.