The eastern city is the scene of “fierce battles" between Ukraine's defenders and Russia's forces, the president's office in Kiev said, as fighting enters its 299th day.

Overall turnover at the Danube ports had risen by 294 percent to 14.5 million tonnes so far this year, the authority said.
Overall turnover at the Danube ports had risen by 294 percent to 14.5 million tonnes so far this year, the authority said. (AP Archive)

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Grain shipments from Ukraine's Danube ports hit record high in 2022

Ukraine's Danube river ports have boosted grains transshipments by 42 times to an all-time high of 6.1 million tonnes so far in 2022, Ukraine's seaport authority said.

Three small ports - Izmail, Reni and Ust-Dunaisk - offered the only maritime routes for cargo exports for almost six months after Russia attacked Ukraine in late February.

Overall turnover at the Danube ports had risen by 294 percent to 14.5 million tonnes so far this year, the authority said.

Ukraine preparing for official steps to oust Russia from UN Security Council

Ukraine is preparing to take official steps to prove that Russia's presence on UN Security Council is "illegal" and have it removed from the body, Kiev announced.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of "poisoning" the UN and all other international organisations it is a part of "for many years.".

Kuleba said Moscow holds permanent membership on the Security Council "without proper legal grounds for this and as a result of, frankly speaking, a fraudulent scheme, which took place 31 years ago."

"International law, not intrigues and machinations for the sake of Russia -- this is what Ukraine will stand on," Kuleba added.

Putin: Russia facing challenge to its sovereignty

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country has repeatedly faced tests but defended its sovereignty and it currently facing similar challenges.

Putin said soldiers, officers, militia and volunteers "at the forefront of the special military operation" in Ukraine are defending the country's future.

"People of different generations, different fields of activity, different spheres are in this hall now. These are mothers who raise a lot of children and who put us on our feet. These are teachers, scientists who create the basis for development. These are educators and artists who shape our consciousness throughout our lives,” he said at a ceremony to present the highest state decorations at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

And all this is Russia! This is the power and reliability of our country. The more effectively all our citizens work – those, who set the pace for moving forward, and that's you, – the stronger is this power.

Vladimir Putin, Russian President

Ukraine receives $367M from Canada under loan deal

The Ukrainian government has announced that it received $367 million from Canada under a loan agreement between the two countries.

“These are the funds of the five-year Ukraine Sovereignty Bond, which the Government of Canada launched to support Ukraine this difficult winter. The loan is provided on concessional terms through the Administrated Account of the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” said a statement on the Ukrainian government’s online portal.

Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhii Marchenko said that Canada “once again demonstrated its leadership in supporting Ukraine.”

Russia wants Ukraine to spend festive period in darkness, Kiev says

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukraine should prepare for new Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure because Moscow wanted Ukrainians to spend Christmas and New Year in darkness.

He made his remarks after a series of Russian missile and drone strikes which Ukrainian officials say have left electricity supplies in the Kiev region at a critically low level, with less than half the capital's power needs being met.

"Repairs continue but the situation remains really difficult," Shmyhal told a government meeting.

One in four Ukrainians at risk of mental disorder due to conflict: WHO

A World Health Organization official said that 10 million people, or about a quarter of Ukraine's population, may suffer from a mental health disorder in relation to the conflict there.

"WHO estimates that up to 10 million people are at risk of some form of a mental disorder, varying from anxiety and stress to more severe conditions," Jarno Habicht, WHO's representative in Ukraine told a Geneva press briefing via video link.

More severe conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by distressing events.

Cases are rising after 10 months of conflict, prompting a separate UN agency to launch online support services.

WHO reports over 700 attacks on Ukraine health infrastructure

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it has confirmed more than 700 attacks on health infrastructure in Ukraine since Russia launched its military offensive 10 months ago, and warned the winter war increases the risk of diseases and threatens the mental health of millions.

"Since the 24th of February, WHO has verified more than 700 attacks on health care, impacting facilities, supplies, transport, and other means and injuring and killing health care workers and patients," Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO representative in Ukraine, told UN journalists in Geneva.

"This marks a clear violation of international law. Health should never be a target,” Habicht said.

This winter will also increase the risk of diseases and health needs as people struggle to heat their homes and battle with freezing temperatures.

Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO representative in Ukraine

Ukraine defence chief hopes Belarus won't join any Russian offensive

Ukraine's defence minister said that Russia could prepare an attack force in Belarus to launch a new offensive on Ukraine, but that he hoped Minsk's troops would not take part.

Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and other Ukrainian officials have suggested Moscow could attempt a winter offensive after mobilising more troops.

Reznikov told Ukrainian television there was no evidence that Russia had already begun assembling an offensive-ready combat force in Belarus, which borders both Russia and Ukraine, or that Minsk would be dragged into the war.

Britain: Russia to give Iran advanced military components in exchange for drones

Britain accused Russia of planning to give Iran advanced military components in exchange for hundreds of drones, British defence minister Ben Wallace said, calling on the West to do more to expose the trade.

"Iran has become one of Russia's top military backers," Wallace told parliament as part of a statement on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"In return for having supplied more than 300 kamikaze drones, Russia now intends to provide Iran with advanced military components, undermining both Middle East and international security."

US sees 'conflicting' views in Russia on fresh Ukraine offensive

There are conflicting views in Russia on whether or not to launch a counteroffensive in Ukraine, a senior State Department official said, but reiterated that Washington would continue its support of Kiev regardless of which scenario plays out.

"Certainly there are some (within Russia) who I think would want to pursue offensives in Ukraine. There are others who have real questions about the capacity for Russia to actually do that," a senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters.

Ukraine's top general, Valery Zaluzhniy, told The Economist last week that Russia was preparing 200,000 fresh troops for a major offensive that could come from the east, south or even from Belarus as early as January, but more likely in spring.

Türkiye’s planes stranded in Ukraine airport depart for home base

Two Turkish planes, which were stranded in Ukraine due to the closure of airspace there, have departed for Türkiye.

“Two A400M aircraft of Türkiye, which landed in Ukraine to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate our citizens, and stranded at Borispol airport due to the closure of the airspace, departed for their home base, Kayseri,” the Turkish National Defence Ministry said on Twitter.

Putin to set 2023 military aims in defence meeting on Wednesday

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet senior defence officials on Wednesday in order to set military objectives for next year and assess the conflict in Ukraine, the Kremlin announced.

"On December 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold an expanded meeting of the Collegium of the Russian Defence Ministry... the work of Russia's Armed Forces in 2022 will be summed up and tasks for next year will be set," the Kremlin said.

Poland says no to contract extension for Russian oil

Poland's PKN Orlen will not extend a contract for Russian oil which expires in Jan 2023, and a second long-term contract will cease to be implemented when sanctions are introduced, the refiner said on Tuesday, confirming a report by Polish agency PAP.

"PKN Orlen will not extend the long-term contract, which expires in January 2023," the company said in an emailed statement. "The only binding contract for the supply of Russian oil in 2023 will cease to be implemented when the sanctions are introduced, for which we are prepared."

Germany calls on China to use its influence on Russia to end war in Ukraine

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to use his influence on Russia to help end the war in Ukraine.

“The president underlined the common interest of Europe and China in an end to the war [in Ukraine], as well as respect for Ukrainian sovereignty and withdrawal of Russian troops, which are required for this,” the statement from Bellevue Palace said.

Steinmeier also asked Xi to use his influence on Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war, the statement said.

Ukraine's president visits front-line city in country's east

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has visited the embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the recent focus of some of the most intense fighting of Russia's war, his office said.

The eastern city is the scene of “fierce battles" between Ukraine's defenders and Russia's forces, the president's office in Kiev said. 

The office said that Zelenskyy met and chatted with military personnel.

Greenland suspends fishing agreement with Russia 

Greenland has suspended its fishing agreement with Russia for next year, according to the ministry of fisheries.

The ministry of the autonomous Danish territory told AFP news agency that it had informed Russian authorities that "due to the decline of stock for several species, there is no possibility of exchanging quotas for 2023".

Since 1992 the agreement has mainly allowed Greenland to fish for Russian cod in the Barents Sea, while Russian fishermen have been able to access halibut in Greenlandic waters.

Russia to gift land to veteran soldiers of Ukraine war

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree stating that free land plots in the suburbs of Moscow, Crimea and Sevastopol will be given to veteran soldiers who participated in the war in Ukraine and received outstanding merit awards.

The decree on additional measures to support the army was published on the official website of the Russian State Law Information System.

In addition, social support is expected for the relatives of soldiers who died in the “special military operation” area during the conflict or due to illness.

Ukraine has right to defend its territory, decide its future - US

The US State Department stressed that Ukraine has a right to defend its territory and decide its future.

Asked about comments by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recommending a ceasefire line between Ukraine and Russia based on the borders before February 24, spokesperson Ned Price said “Mr. Kissinger was speaking as a private citizen.”

"We firmly believe that Ukraine, and only Ukraine, has the right to decide its future,” he told reporters.

Situation extremely difficult in several Ukrainian areas - Putin

President Vladimir Putin said the situation in four areas of Ukraine that Moscow has declared are part of Russia was "extremely difficult" as Kiev renewed calls for more weapons after Russian drones hit energy targets.

To Russian security agencies operating in Ukraine, he said late on Monday in comments translated by Reuters: "Yes, it is difficult for you now. The situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions is extremely difficult."

Putin's move to annex the areas was condemned by Kiev and its Western allies as illegal.

Russia won't 'steal' Christmas: Kiev mayor unveils festive tree

Kiev officials illuminated a Christmas tree in the city centre, refusing to let Russia "steal" the festive season from Ukrainian children.

The day, which started with swarms of attacks on critical infrastructure in the Ukrainian capital, ended with the unveiling of the 12-metre (40-feet) high artificial tree decorated with white peace doves.

A few dozen residents braved the sub-zero temperatures to admire the tree located next to the Saint Sophia Cathedral and its emblematic golden domes -- and take selfies.

Among them, tour operator Natalya rejoiced, telling AFP that the tree "brings a festive mood in such a difficult time."

Putin insists no plan to absorb Belarus

President Vladimir Putin denied plans to absorb Belarus as he paid a rare visit to the country whose President Alexander Lukashenko assisted his offensive on neighbouring Ukraine.

Putin flew into Minsk with his defence and foreign ministers in tow, hours after Russian forces launched a swarm of attack drones at critical infrastructure in Kiev, which provoked emergency blackouts in a dozen regions.

Putin said that Russia and Belarus -- slapped with new Western sanctions since President Lukashenko was declared the winner of a sixth term in 2020 elections widely criticised as fraudulent -- were "united by a common history and spiritual values". 

For live updates from Monday (December 19), click HERE

Source: Reuters