HERE IS THE SITUATION ON SATURDAY DECEMBER 16, 2023. (661 DAY)
Ukraine remains optimistic about receiving a €50 billion aid package from the EU, despite Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, vetoing the funding during a crucial summit in Brussels. The foreign ministry in Kyiv, in a statement, dismissed Orbán’s blocking tactics, expressing confidence that all necessary legal procedures would be completed at an EU summit in January, with the aid delivered “as soon as possible.”
French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Orbán, stating that he must not be allowed to take the EU “hostage” by blocking the aid package. Macron accused Orbán of being dishonest about his reasons for vetoing the financial package and predicted that he would ultimately come around. Meanwhile, Russia congratulated Hungary for blocking the aid to Ukraine, applauding Hungary’s firm defense of its interests.
Despite the setback, the European Commission announced the release of an additional 1.5 billion euros for Ukraine under existing arrangements. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen mentioned this during a news conference at the end of the EU summit, with European Council President Charles Michel adding that a new summit to discuss further financial support for Ukraine is planned for the early new year.
Orbán, in a surprising turn of events, stated that Hungary would have ample future opportunities to interrupt Ukraine’s process of joining the EU. He dropped his veto after EU leaders assured him that Hungary could block Ukraine’s accession in the future, as the final decision rests with national parliaments, including the Hungarian one.
In a tragic incident, a council member in the western Ukrainian village of Keretsky detonated three hand grenades during a meeting, critically injuring himself and at least 25 others. The motive of the man, identified as Serhii Batryn, a council member of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, remains unclear.
Ukraine’s largest mobile operator, Kyivstar, which suffered a mass cyber-attack, reported on Friday that it had restored mobile internet throughout Ukraine and international roaming. The company is actively working on restoring SMS text messaging, with the network operating on all standards, including 4G.
Amidst the ongoing conflict, Russia’s central bank raised its key interest rate to 16 percent, marking the fifth hike since summer, aimed at combating accelerating inflation caused by the offensive in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry placed the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, on a wanted list, accusing him of abetting the conflict. However, this measure is symbolic as Kirill is in Russia and faces no threat of arrest.
Japan expanded sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, revealing newly sanctioned firms and organizations, including export bans against some entities outside Russia and its ally Belarus.
Russian anti-aircraft units claimed to have destroyed 26 Ukrainian drones over the Crimean peninsula on Friday. Additionally, reports from the Russia-installed governor of the southern Kherson region stated that Russian forces had downed at least 15 aerial targets near Henichesk, and the defense ministry confirmed the downing of six Ukrainian drones in the border region of Kursk.
To reduce dependence on military supplies from the West and boost domestic output, Ukraine announced dozens of contracts for joint production or technology exchanges with Western partners.
In other developments, Polish hauliers expect to resume a month-long blockade at the largest freight crossing point with Ukraine, while their Slovak counterparts have announced the end of their protest. Both groups are demanding the reintroduction of permits for Ukrainian competitors to enter the EU, which were waived after Russia invaded Ukraine.
SOURCE The Guardian