Here is the situation as of Friday, December 23rd.
Zelenskyy has returned to Ukraine
- President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has returned from the US, his first trip abroad since the February 24 invasion of Russia.
- US President Joe Biden’s administration announced another $1.85 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including the Patriot missile system, as Zelenskyy began his visit.
- “We are returning from Washington with good results. With something that will really help,” Zelenskyy said on Telegram.
Weapons and defense systems
- Russia said Ukraine’s acquisition of Patriot missiles from the US would not help resolve the conflict or prevent Moscow from achieving its goals.
- On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his goal “is not to turn the wheel of the military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war.”
- He added: “We will try to finish it, and the sooner the better, of course.”
- “All armed conflicts end in one way or another with negotiations through diplomatic channels,” Putin said.
- The comments prompted swift skepticism in the US, with White House spokesman John Kirby saying Putin had “shown no signs of being willing to negotiate” an end to the war.
The Wagner group
- The White House said a private Russian military company, the Wagner Group, delivered anti-personnel rockets and missiles from North Korea last month to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine.
- However, Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin dismissed the speech as “gossip and speculation”.
- North Korea’s foreign ministry denied the report, saying it was “baseless”, the official KCNA news agency said, and accused the US of “bringing bloodshed and destruction to Ukraine by supplying it with various deadly weapons”.
- South Korea’s foreign ministry condemned North Korea’s alleged arms shipment, adding that it supports the US push to raise the issue at the United Nations Security Council.
- On the battle front, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Facebook on Thursday that fighting in the eastern Donetsk region continued to focus on Bakhmut and nearby Avdiivka.
- Near Bakhmut, Russian forces shelled about 10 villages, while near Avdiivka they hit the villages of Kostiantyivka and Marinka and the villages of Vodiane and Nevelske, the Ukrainian military said. The accounts could not be independently verified.
- Russia may cut oil production by 5-7 percent in early 2023, responding to cuts in the prices of its crude and oil products by halting sales to countries that support them, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told state television.
- Outlining for the first time Russia’s response to the $60-a-barrel price caps introduced by Western countries, Novak said the cuts could amount to 500,000-700,000 barrels a day.