HERE IS THE SITUATION ON THUSDAY DECEMBER 21, 2023. (667 DAY)
In a rare breach of the Ukrainian capital’s air defenses, a residential building in Kyiv fell victim to a Russian drone attack on Thursday. Authorities report that the incident resulted in one person being injured. Mayor Vitali Klitschko, sharing updates on Telegram, revealed flames on the upper floors in the Solomianskyi district, with the affected individual later admitted to the hospital.
In a nightly video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy mentioned that Ukraine had detected signs of a slowdown in Russia’s military planning and activity. Referring to a report from the military intelligence directorate (HUR), he stated, “The enemy’s plans, the work of the Russian defense [industry]. There are signals indicating a slowdown. We will continue to support their slowdown.” However, it wasn’t immediately clear whether Zelenskiy was specifically referring to the Russian defense industry or to Russian tactics and objectives more broadly.
During its 22-month-old invasion, Russia launched approximately 7,400 missiles and 3,700 Shahed attack drones at targets in Ukraine, as reported by Kyiv. Ukrainian air defenses successfully intercepted 1,600 missiles and 2,900 drones, according to air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal announced that Ukraine has received the final €1.5 billion euro ($1.65 billion) tranche from the €18 billion package from the European Union for 2023. Expressing hope for continued support, Shmyhal emphasized the importance of the EU’s unwavering assistance.
Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, last week, blocked a €50 billion EU aid package for Ukraine. Orbán insisted on labeling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “military operation,” aligning with language used by the Kremlin. During his annual press conference, Orbán clarified, “It is a military operation… as long as there is no declaration of war between the two countries. When the Russians declare war on Ukraine, then it will be war.”
Orbán also acknowledged accepting an invitation from Zelenskiy for a potential bilateral meeting, marking a potential first between the two leaders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Orbán recounted agreeing to Zelenskiy’s proposal during a brief conversation on the sidelines of Argentina’s new president’s swearing-in ceremony earlier in the month. Orbán stated, “[Zelenskiy] said, ‘We should negotiate,’ and I told him I’d be at his disposal. We just have to clarify one question: about what?”
An arrest warrant has been issued for Maria Pevchikh, a longtime ally of imprisoned opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who has been missing for over two weeks. The Kremlin’s crackdown on Russia’s already-weakened civil society has intensified since the deployment of troops into Ukraine early last year.
In response to the mental health challenges posed by the conflict with Russia, Ukraine’s parliament voted this week to legalize medical marijuana. The new law, which will take effect in six months, received 248 votes in the 401-seat parliament in Kyiv. It not only permits the use of cannabis for medical purposes but also for scientific and industrial applications.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov announced that exports of goods from Russia to China are projected to reach a record of over $110 billion in 2023. This move comes as Moscow strengthens its ties with China to counterbalance western sanctions imposed over what Russia terms its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Ukraine and a group of its western creditors have signed an agreement to extend a debt payment suspension, initially established in September 2022, through March 2027, according to the Ukrainian finance ministry. Minister of Finance Sergii Marchenko expressed gratitude to G7 partners for understanding Ukraine’s needs during the ongoing conflict.
In the war-torn eastern Donetsk region, Russian shelling at coal mining facilities in Toretsk resulted in three fatalities and several injuries. This region has borne the brunt of Russia’s nearly two-year invasion, with the Kremlin claiming annexation along with three other eastern and southern territories last year.
Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov reported a meeting with his newly appointed Polish counterpart to address a cargo blockade on their shared border by Polish truckers. The truckers, protesting for over a month, seek the reinstatement of restrictions on Ukrainian competitors entering the European Union.
Source: The guardian