Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

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Russia launches fifth air attack on Kyiv this month, Ukrainian officials say

Russia on Tuesday launched its fifth air attack on Kyiv this month, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukraine’s air force reported that its air defense systems intercepted 18 out of 19 drones that attacked Kyiv as well as the southern port city of Odesa, the southern region of Kherson and other areas.

“According to preliminary information, there were no casualties or destruction in the capital,” the head of Kyiv’s military administration, Serhiy Popko, wrote in a post on Telegram.

Officials said nine people in Kherson were injured in an overnight attack by Russian drones, and that four of them were children. Additionally, two Russian surface-to-air missiles were launched at the eastern Kharkiv region, but there were no casualties from that strike, Ukrainian authorities said. 

— Natasha Turak

Foreign aid approval to Kyiv appears uncertain as EU and U.S. see increasing opposition

The U.S. and EU both failed to approve their latest military aid packages to Kyiv, sparking concern among many supporters of Ukraine and prompting Zelenskyy to travel to Washington to lobby lawmakers himself.

Several Republican lawmakers are refusing to back any funding package that does not also include what they deem as sufficient funding for U.S. border security.

Senate leaders said a deal was not likely to happen soon. Senator Dick Durbin, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, said any progress may have to wait till January.

“I hope that they’re going to prepare the text and sit down and roll up their sleeves and finish up as soon as we get back in January,” Durbin told press.

“I am certain, U.S. and European financial support will continue,” Zelenskyy said during a wide-ranging press conference Tuesday. “I’m confident the United States won’t betray us.”

— Natasha Turak

Ukrainian military is asking for up to 500,000 more people to be mobilized, Zelenskyy says

Ukraine’s military is asking for between 450,000 and 500,000 more people to be mobilized, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during a news conference, but he added that a final decision has not been made.

Senior military and government officials still needed to discuss “this very sensitive issue of mobilization,” and then the country’s parliament would have to vote on it, Zelenskyy said.

The development comes as the president once again asks Western allies for more aid funding, and as troops continue heavy fighting in Ukraine’s east amid a bitterly cold winter.

— Natasha Turak

Zelenskyy ‘confident’ US and EU funding will come through

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president, during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. Zelenskiy said he’s confident the US won’t “betray” the war-battered country as $61 billion is held up by a political standoff in Washington. Photographer: Andrew Kravchenko/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr said he was confident the United States and European Union would agree to provide funding packages that are currently stuck in limbo due to political opposition.

Zelenskyy gave a wide-ranging press conference Tuesday afternoon in which he took a host of questions from reporters for more than an hour.

“I am confident the United States will not let us down and what we have agreed will be agreed in full,” he said, according to a live BBC translation. “As for the European Union, the stakes were very high, we have acquired one victory as to the EU, as for the 50 billion [euro financing package] I am confident we can achieve all of that.”

Zelenskyy separately said military leaders had asked for an additional 450,000 to 500,000 people to be mobilized into the army, but stressed that he required more arguments and a “comprehensive” plan before approving the costly move.

In response to a question about the difficulties faced by Ukraine this year, he stressed that Russia had failed to achieve its aims.

He said Ukraine had seen a “big victory on the Black Sea” where it was able to trade again and Russian vessels had been withdrawn.

Asked whether Ukraine was beginning to lose the war, he replied: “No.”

However, he did discuss the shortage of items including artillery shells, ammunition for air defense and anti-tank grenades.

— Jenni Reid

UK’s Cameron pledges Ukraine support for ‘as long as it takes’

British Foreign Minister David Cameron speaks during a joint press conference with French Foreign and European Affairs Minister in Paris on December 19, 2023. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Miguel Medina | Afp | Getty Images

The United Kingdom will continue supporting Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” Foreign Secretary David Cameron said during a press conference with his Italian counterpart Antonio Tajani on Tuesday.

Cameron said the conflict had so far seen three “acts” — the first, Russia’s full-scale invasion and failure to take Kyiv; and the second, the efforts of Ukrainians to take back half the land Russia had captured.

“I accept that act three has been more of a stalemate on land, but it has been a huge success on the Black Sea where Russia has been pushed back. Act four is still to be written, and it’s up to us to write it,” he said.

Ukraine’s land-based counteroffensive operation, launched in June along a long frontline across the east and to the south, made much slower than expected progress ahead of the harsh winter.

The U.K. has been the second largest provider of military assistance to Ukraine during the war, pledging around £4.6 billion ($5.85 billion), government-provided figures show. The United States has provided some $46.3 billion, according to the Council of Foreign Relations.

Cameron added that Ukraine’s allies, including the U.K., Italy, Germany, France and the U.S., outranked Russia 25 to one. “We just need to make that economic strength pay and we can make sure Putin loses, and it’s essential that he does,” he said.

Italy’s cabinet on Tuesday passed a decree allowing the continued supply of “means, materials and equipment” to Ukraine in its war effort, Reuters reported. The decision now goes to parliament.

While U.S. aid now hangs in the balance, Ukraine also received a blow last week when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban blocked the approval of a 50 billion-euro ($54 billion) EU package in financial aid for the country.

— Jenni Reid

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