Ukraine-Russia war – live: Putin ‘threatens Nato’ as paramilitaries ‘destroy’ squadron in cross-border raid

By Isaac M December 18, 2023

Kyiv suffers ‘largest ever’ drone attack by Russia leaving ‘five wounded’

Vladimir Putin has threatened Finland and the wider Nato alliance, according to a US war think tank, while Russian paramilitaries based in Ukraine have claimed responsibility for a cross-border attack.

The Russian President’s interview with his country’s state TV on Sunday is indicative of the Kremlin’s “hostile intent” towards the alliance, which poses a “credible and costly threat to Western security”, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

Meanwhile, the Freedom of Russia Legion – which says it was formed in spring 2022 to fight Putin’s forces from within the Armed Forces of Ukraine – claimed to have carried out a cross-border raid a few miles into Russia’s Belgorod region on Sunday.

The group, designated as terrorist in Russia, alleged it had destroyed a platoon stronghold of Russian troops near Trebreno village, without specifying whether it had destroyed infrastructure or killed soldiers, and said it had left mines behind.

It comes after Ukraine and Russia launched a swarm of drones at each other’s territories on Sunday as both sides step up attacks, with the Russian assault reportedly killing one person in Odesa and the Ukrainian strike targeting a Russian military airfield.

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Denmark sets aside 1.8bn crowns for Ukraine

Denmark has set aside 1.8 billion Danish crowns (£211 million) to help finance armoured combat vehicles in Ukraine.

The Danish ministry of defence said on Monday that they will be supporting a Swedish initiative to donate CV90 armoured combat vehicles to the occupied country.

Sweden has already donated 50 CV90s to the country in its war with Russia. The Danish donation would help finance production of more such vehicles, spare parts, ammunition and a multi-year maintenance agreement, the ministry said.

Athena Stavrou18 December 2023 22:00

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Thousands of German troops to be on Russian border by 2027

Around 4,800 combat-ready German soldiers are expected to be stationed on the Russian border in Lithuania by 2027, German and Lithuanian defence ministers said on Monday.

The agreement marks the first permanent foreign deployment of German soldiers since World War Two.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius compared what he called a “historic” agreement to the stationing of allied forces in West Germany during the Cold War, deployed to defend Western Europe in case of a Soviet attack.

“The eastern flank has now moved to the east, and it’s the duty of Germany to protect it,” Pistorius told a joint press joint conference with his counterpart in Lithuania, which borders both Russia and its close ally Belarus.

Most of the units will be arriving in 2025-2026, and they and their families will get “attractive conditions”, including German-language schools, kindergartens, housing and flight connections, said Pistorius.

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Athena Stavrou18 December 2023 21:00

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Ukraine’s top general criticizes Zelensky

Ukraine‘s top general has criticised President Volodymyr Zelensky’s previous decision to fire military recruitment chiefs on Monday.

Zelensky fired all of Ukraine‘s regional military recruitment heads in August in a corruption crackdown.

He said at the time a state investigation into centres across Ukraine had exposed abuses by officials ranging from illegal enrichment to transporting draft-eligible men across the border despite a wartime ban on them leaving the country.

When asked by reporters about whether the decision affected mobilisation levels, Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi criticised the recruitment chiefs’ sacking.

“These were professionals, they knew how to do this, and they are gone,” Interfax Ukraine cited him as saying.

Asked by reporters to comment on the Defence Ministry’s recent plan to boost military recruitment, Zaluzhnyi said the old system should be brought back.

He told Interfax Ukraine: “It is still a little early to evaluate recruiting. As for mobilization issues, it is not necessary to strengthen it, but to return it to those boundaries (and) to those frameworks that worked before.”

Ukraine, which initially saw tens of thousands of eager volunteers queue up to fight off Russia’s invasion, is now trying to conscript more men to replace those currently at the front.

Angry social media posts have abounded in recent weeks purporting to show army recruiters turning up at gyms and resorts to hand out draft notices.

Athena Stavrou18 December 2023 20:00

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Putin officially registers as an independent candidate in Russia’s 2024 election

Russian President Vladimir Putin has presented documents to Russia’s Central Election Commission to register as a candidate in the 2024 presidential election.

“He submitted them,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state media.

Supporters of Mr Putin on Saturday formally nominated him to run in the 2024 presidential election as an independent candidate.

The nomination by a group of at least 500 supporters, under Russian election law, is mandatory for those running not on a party ticket.

Independent candidates also need to gather at least 300,000 signatures of support from 40 regions or more.

The group that nominated Mr Putin included top officials from the ruling United Russia party, prominent Russian actors and singers, athletes and other public figures.

Athena Stavrou18 December 2023 19:00

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US planning another aid package for Ukraine

The United States is planning one more aid package for Ukraine later in December, the White House said on Monday.

“When that one’s done … we will have no more replenishment authority available to us and we’re going to need Congress to act without delay,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Athena Stavrou18 December 2023 17:53

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Macron and Cameron to discuss Ukraine tomorrow

French President Emmanuel Macron and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron are set to discuss topics including Ukraine on Tuesday, a statement from Macron’s Elysee office said.

Macron’s office also said the pair are expected to discuss how to tackle illegal immigration and he situation in the Middle East.

Athena Stavrou18 December 2023 16:38

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EU adopts 12th package of sanctions against Russia

The European Union Council has adopted a 12th package of sanctions against Russia, the European Commission said in a statement on Monday.

This package focuses on imposing additional import and export bans on Russia and closing loopholes, it said. The 12th package prohibits the direct and indirect import, purchase or transfer of diamonds from Russia.

It also introduces a new import ban on liquefied petroleum gas which would impact annual imports worth of 1 billion euros, the EU added in the statement.

Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell Fontelles wrote on X: “With the 12th package, we are putting forward a robust set of new listings & economic measures which will further weaken Russia’s war machine.

“Our message is clear: we remain steadfast in our commitment to Ukraine & will continue to support its fight for freedom and sovereignty.”

Athena Stavrou18 December 2023 15:33

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EU to hold February summit to discuss Ukraine funding

The European Union is set to hold a summit in February to discuss its multi-annual budget, including funding for Ukraine.

EU leaders agreed last week to open membership talks with Ukraine, but they could not agree on a 50 billion euro package of financial aid for Kyiv due to opposition from Hungary.

On Monday, European Council President Charles Michel said: “We understood on Thursday and Friday that a bit more time is needed with Hungary in order to make a decision by unanimity, which is needed for an agreement on the MFF (Multi-annual Financial Framework) review.”

He said that, besides funding for Ukraine, the 27-nation EU also had proposals to provide more financial support to address migration, to cover natural disasters and for security and defence.

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Athena Stavrou18 December 2023 15:06

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Polish truckers resume blockade

Polish truckers resumed their blockade of the main crossing at the Ukrainian border on Monday, Ukraine’s border service said.

The strike action has resumed just one week after it was lifted.

“Today, after 15:00 (1300 GMT), Polish carriers began a protest action on the access roads to the Dorohusk – Yahodyn checkpoint,” the service said on Telegram messenger, citing information from the Polish border guard.

Pickup trucks and lorries bound for Ukraine have been stuck in a miles-long queue at the border with Poland for weeks.

The Polish protesters have said their livelihoods are at stake after the European Union relaxed some transport rules and say Ukrainian truckers are undercutting their business.

Ukrainian transport officials were not immediately available for comment.

(Anadolu via Getty Images)

Athena Stavrou18 December 2023 14:13

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Ukrainian military chief claims office was bugged

Ukraine’s military chief says a covert listening device has been found in one of the offices where he works – and has hinted bugs have also been detected elsewhere.

Army Commander Valeriy Zaluzhnyi told local media that the device, which was not working, was found by Ukraine’s Security Service during a routine sweep.

“I have several offices where I work. This happened in one of them,” Mr Zaluzhnyi said. “We checked (the room) and found (the device).”

He added that listening devices were not only found in the office where he worked but he did not provide further details, leaving it unclear whether more than one device was found in the Ukraine General Staff premises.

Athena Stavrou18 December 2023 13:25

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