HERE IS THE SITUATION ON MONDAY DECEMBER 19, 2023. (665 DAY)
Ukraine’s military reported the fifth air attack by Russia on the capital this month, with air defense systems successfully intercepting and destroying all incoming weapons headed towards Kyiv. Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, conveyed on the Telegram messaging app that, according to preliminary information, there were no casualties or damage in the capital.
Russia’s Defence Ministry countered, stating that it had downed a Ukrainian drone near the capital, leading to flight restrictions at Moscow’s main airports. Fortunately, no casualties were reported in this incident.
Despite being outgunned by Russian forces attempting to seize control of Kupiansk in the eastern Kharkiv region, Ukraine asserted that its military was holding the line. Oleksandr Syrsky, the head of Ukraine’s ground forces, acknowledged the complexity of the situation, emphasizing the need to combat the enemy’s superior weaponry and personnel numbers. Meanwhile, Russia’s Defence Ministry claimed to have successfully repelled eight Ukrainian attacks around Kupiansk using artillery.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced that the military has requested the mobilization of an additional 500,000 individuals to aid in the effort to expel Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. Zelenskyy urged the United States and other Western allies of Kyiv to continue supporting his country. He expressed hope for the prompt resumption of prisoner swaps, citing delays attributed to unspecified “reasons” on the Russian side. The last exchange occurred in early August.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, addressing defense and military leaders, asserted that Moscow had the upper hand in the war in Ukraine and was strategically positioned to achieve its objectives. Putin claimed that attempts to thwart Russia had been unsuccessful and emphasized the ongoing enhancement of Moscow’s nuclear arsenal, maintaining the military at its highest level of readiness.
Italy’s cabinet passed a decree enabling the supply of “means, materials, and equipment” to Ukraine until the end of 2024. The aid, extending beyond weaponry to include power generators and all necessary support for military operations in defense of civilians, was confirmed by a statement from the Defense Ministry.
Volker Turk, the United Nations’ human rights chief, reported indications of war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. These include 142 instances of “summary executions” of civilians, as well as enforced disappearances, torture, and ill-treatment such as sexual violence against detainees.
In Poland, a court convicted 14 individuals from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine for their involvement in a spy ring orchestrating acts of sabotage on behalf of Moscow. The convicted individuals received jail terms ranging from 13 months to six years.
A former Russian soldier has sought asylum in the Netherlands, expressing his intention to testify at the International Criminal Court (ICC) about war crimes he witnessed during his service in Ukraine. According to a Dutch legal source cited by Reuters, the individual had been a member of Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and also served as an instructor for the Wagner mercenary group.
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the upper house aims to pass an agreement providing additional aid to Ukraine and enhancing US border security when it reconvenes in Washington, DC, in January following the Christmas and New Year holidays.
In terms of weaponry, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu revealed that since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has significantly increased production, with tanks up by 5.6 times, drones by 16.8 times, and artillery shells by 17.5 times. Shoigu also reported that Russian forces have laid extensive minefields covering 7,000 square kilometers in Ukraine, along with 1.5 million anti-tank barriers and 2,000 kilometers of anti-tank ditches.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy disclosed plans for Ukraine to manufacture one million drones next year for battlefield use, emphasizing the strategic role of drones in reconnaissance, targeted strikes, and attacks.
In a separate development, the US charged an Iranian, Hossein Hatefi Ardakani, and a Chinese national, Gary Lam, for allegedly supplying dual-use US-manufactured microelectronics to Iran’s drone program. The components in question have reportedly been identified in use by Iran’s allies in conflicts, including in Ukraine. Both individuals are currently at large. Simultaneously, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions on a network of 10 Ardakani-linked entities and four individuals based in Iran, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Indonesia for circumventing export bans to procure US components for Iranian-made attack drones.