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Fighting rages in east Ukraine, Europe agrees extra military aid to Ukraine

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2022-12-12T14:56:44Z

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and with the leaders of Turkey and France on Sunday, stepping up diplomatic activity around a war started by Russia nearly 10 months ago. Flora Bradley-Watson reports.

Russian forces pounded targets in eastern and southern Ukraine with missiles, drones and artillery, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Monday, while millions remained without power in subzero temperatures after further strikes on key infrastructure.

European Union foreign ministers agreed to put another 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) into a fund that has been used to pay for military support for Ukraine, after it was largely depleted during almost 10 months of the war.

The EU ministers were also due to to discuss a ninth package of sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, while Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was set to address an online gathering of Group of Seven (G7) leaders about the war.

There are no peace talks and no end in sight to the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two, which Moscow describes as a “special military operation” and Ukraine and its allies call an unprovoked act of aggression.

Russia does not yet see a “constructive” approach from the United States on the Ukraine conflict, RIA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin as saying on Monday.

U.S. President Joe Biden told Zelenskiy on Sunday Washington was prioritising efforts to boost Ukraine’s air defences, the White House said. Zelenskiy said he had thanked Biden in the call for the “unprecedented defence and financial” help the United States has provided.

Asked about security guarantees that Moscow is seeking from NATO, Polish President Andrzej Duda said the alliance could guarantee that it would not treat Russia in the same way Russia is treating Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa on Monday resumed operations suspended after Russia used Iranian-made drones on Saturday to hit two energy facilities. Power is slowly being restored to some 1.5 million people, but the situation remains difficult, national grid operator Ukrenergo said on Monday.

Zelenskiy said other areas experiencing “very difficult” conditions with power supplies included the capital Kyiv and Kyiv region and four regions in western Ukraine and Dnipropetrovsk region in the centre of the country.

The Kyiv region administration said 14 settlements there still had no power and 37 more were partially without power.

There were no reports of fresh strikes or blackouts overnight into Monday.

United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths arrived in Ukraine on Monday to see “the impact of the humanitarian response and new challenges that have arisen as infrastructure damage mounts amid freezing winter temperatures”, his office said.

In its daily update on the military situation, Ukraine’s General Staff said its forces had repelled Russian assaults on four settlements in the eastern Donetsk region and on eight settlements in the adjacent Luhansk region.

The regions are two of four in eastern and southern Ukraine that Moscow claims to have annexed after “referendums” branded illegal by Kyiv.

Ukraine has said Russian forces are suffering huge losses on the eastern front in brutal fighting that is also taking its toll on its own troops.

“There are days when there are many heavily wounded: four or five amputations at once,” Oleksii, a 35-year-old army doctor who declined to give his full name, told Reuters at a military hospital in eastern Ukraine.

At least two people were killed and five wounded in Kherson on Monday after what regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said was “massive shelling” by Russian forces of the southern city liberated by Ukrainian forces last month.

Many members of Russia’s private Wagner military group were killed when Ukraine targeted a hotel in the town of Kadiivka in Luhansk where they were based, the exiled governor of the Russian-occupied region, Serhiy Gaidai, said on Sunday.

Ukrainian forces had also hit a recreational centre used by Russian troops in Melitopol in the southeast, the city’s exiled mayor, Ivan Fedorov, said.

Reuters could not independently verify the latest battlefield accounts.

On the diplomatic front, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz was set to give a news conference at 1630 GMT after Zelenskiy had addressed G7 leaders about the situation in Ukraine.

“We are constantly working with partners,” Zelenskiy said on Sunday after talking to Biden, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan, adding that he expects some “important results” from the upcoming international discussions on Ukraine.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CBS’s “60 Minutes” Washington’s support for Ukraine’s military and economy – more than $50 billion – would continue “for as long as it takes” and reiterated that ending the war was the single best thing the United States could do for the global economy.

Poland’s Duda said Poland and Germany should press the EU for more financial aid to help with an expected increase in Ukrainian refugees this winter. Poland has hosted millions of Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war.

Earlier, Zelenskiy said his talks on Sunday with Turkey’s Erdogan had focused on safeguarding Ukraine’s grain exports.

Turkey, which acted as a mediator in peace talks in the early months of the war, also worked alongside the United Nations on a grain deal, which opened up Ukrainian ports for exports in July after a six-month de facto Russian blockade.

Erdogan’s office said the Turkish leader had also spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday and had called for a quick end to the conflict.

Putin said last week that Moscow’s near-total loss of trust in the West would make an eventual settlement over Ukraine much harder to reach and warned of a protracted war.

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An emergencies ministry member walks at a local market hit by shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, December 12, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Firefighters work at a local market hit by shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, December 12, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Firefighters work at a local market hit by shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, December 12, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Firefighters work at a local market hit by shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, December 12, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

A man wearing a protective face mask rides a bike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, past a soldier on an American MaxxPro military vehicle in the formerly Russian occupied city of Lyman, Donetsk region of Ukraine, December 11, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends an International Human Rights forum, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine December 9, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

A man walks down by a damaged building, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, inside the war-torn formerly Russian occupied city of Lyman, Donetsk region of Ukraine, December 11, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The remains of a cathedral on a war-torn church stand, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in the formerly Russian occupied city of Lyman, Donetsk region of Ukraine, December 11, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
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