HERE IS THE SITUATION ON MONDAY DECEMBER 18, 2023. (663 DAY)
Ukraine’s Air Force reported the destruction of 20 Russian drones and a missile, with nine of them targeted in the southern Odesa region. Tragically, falling debris ignited a residential fire, claiming one life. A second missile failed to reach its target. Additionally, on Saturday, Ukraine’s air defense systems successfully neutralized 30 Russia-launched drones across 11 regions.
Russia’s Defense Ministry asserted that its air defense systems thwarted 35 Ukraine-launched drones over Lipetsk, Volgograd, and Rostov regions. The exact targets and potential damage remain undisclosed. Ukrainska Pravda later revealed that the attack, allegedly a joint operation by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and Ukraine’s Armed Forces, focused on the Morozovsk airfield in the Rostov region. Several Russian military bloggers noted minor damage to a bomber at the base.
The Freedom of Russia Legion, a Ukrainian-based paramilitary group opposing President Putin, claimed responsibility for a cross-border attack in Russia’s Belgorod region. The group asserted the destruction of a Russian platoon stronghold near Trebreno village, coupled with mine placement. Conflicting reports from Belgorod’s regional governor indicated Ukrainian Armed Forces firing on Trebreno village, resulting in a “shooting battle” and damage to three houses and a power line.
Drone footage from The Associated Press depicted the scale of Russian casualties in the fierce battles for control of Avdiivka, Eastern Ukraine. Approximately 150 soldiers, mostly in Russian uniforms, were shown lying on the ground outside Stepove, a village north of Avdiivka, now reduced to rubble. The drone unit noted the possibility that some of the deceased could be Ukrainians.
Amidst these developments, a protest unfolded in Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Square, demanding the urgent exchange of prisoners of war (POWs) with Russia to secure the release of Ukrainians held captive following the fall of Mariupol.
Family and friends of Ukrainian soldiers, part of the Azov battalion and held captive by Russia since the fall of Mariupol, organized a rally in Kyiv. Their demand for the urgent exchange of these soldiers with Russian prisoners of war resonated in a poignant display of concern.
Ukraine’s security service initiated a criminal investigation after discovering a “technical device” in an office, suggesting potential misuse by Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhnyi. Initially described as a bug by local media, the device is deemed non-operational, with no evidence of data storage or remote transmission of audio recordings.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine, in collaboration with the European Commission, would soon evaluate Kyiv’s legislative alignment with the European Union. Anticipating a framework for negotiations on Ukraine’s EU accession in the coming months, Zelenskyy highlighted the country’s commitment to closer ties with the EU.
Putin dismissed President Biden’s remarks that a successful Russian invasion of Ukraine might embolden an attack on a NATO country as “complete nonsense.” Putin asserted Russia’s lack of interest in engaging with the NATO military alliance, countering Biden’s concerns.
In the U.S., a senior congressional negotiator expressed optimism about crafting a bipartisan deal for aid to Ukraine and Israel. Negotiations involve linking this aid to new measures at the U.S. southern border. Democrat Joe Manchin conveyed encouragement and optimism about positive progress during discussions over the weekend.
Police in Finland are pursuing a court order to imprison a Russian man, Yan Petrovsky, accused of committing war crimes against wounded or surrendered soldiers in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and 2015. Petrovsky, residing in Finland under the name Voislav Torden, is already in custody, with authorities seeking formal imprisonment during the investigation into the alleged crimes.