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Fighting rages in east Ukraine, G7 considers more air defence for Kyiv

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2022-12-12T18:47:25Z

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, as millions remained without power in subzero cold after further Russian strikes on key infrastructure.

The Group of Seven (G7) economic powers said they would keep working together to bolster Ukraine’s military capabilities, with an immediate focus on air defence systems, according to a leaders’ statement released by Britain.

Addressing the virtual G7 gathering, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged it to supply Kyiv with modern tanks, artillery units, shells and long-range weapons, and to help his government obtain an extra 2 billion cubic metres of natural gas in light of Ukraine’s energy shortages.

Separately, 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. More top-ups may be possible at a later stage.

There are no peace talks and no end in sight to the conflict, the biggest in Europe since World War Two, and which Moscow describes as a “special military operation” against security threats posed by its neighbour. Ukraine and its Western allies call it an unprovoked, imperialist land grab.

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 that 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.

British defence minister Ben Wallace said on Monday he would be “open minded” about supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles to target launch sites for Russian drones that have hit infrastructure if Russia carried on targeting civilian areas.

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.

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, which was liberated by Ukrainian forces last month.

Reuters could not independently verify the latest battlefield accounts.

The war overall has not gone well for Russia. Its forces were beaten back from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv early on, and have suffered major battlefield reverses in the east and south of Ukraine since the summer.

Against that backdrop, the Kremlin said on Monday President Vladimir Putin would not hold his annual, marathon televised year-end news conference this month, an event he has used to showcase his command of issues and stamina.

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.

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.

“Unliveable conditions” are likely to send another wave of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees into Europe over the winter, Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told Reuters after returning from a trip to Ukraine.

Egeland said he feared the crisis in Europe would deepen and overshadow crises in other parts of the world.

Around 18 million people or 40% of Ukraine’s population is dependent on aid, the United Nations says. Another 7.8 million have left the country for other parts of Europe.

The EU foreign ministers also discussed though did not reach agreement on a ninth package of sanctions on Russia over the invasion, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters, though he hoped a deal would be done later this week.

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.

Related Galleries:

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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