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Putin’s war ‘failing’ as Russian forces lose ‘several commanders’

‘I want peace’: Nine-year-old Ukrainian refugee in England shares her Christmas wish

The UK’s defence secretary claims Russia has “failed to achieve its strategic objectives”, highlighting the high casualty numbers as well as all the commanders leaving the army and general public dissatisfaction.

Ben Wallace said in a Commons statement on Tuesday: “Not one single operational commander then in place on February 24 is in charge now. Russia has lost significant numbers of generals and commanding officers.

“More than 100,000 Russians are dead, injured or have deserted, and Russian capability has been severely hampered by the destruction of more than 4,500 armoured and protected vehicles, as well as more than 140 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.”

It comes as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has made an unannounced visit to the besieged city of Bakhmut, meeting with troops and handing out awards.

Bakhmut has faced months of bombardment and has suffered a lot of damage as a key target for Russia in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. So far Ukrainian forces have held back Russia’s advance.

On the war front lines, a Russian artillery offensive struck 25 towns and villages around Bakhmut, along with Avdiivka and another northeastern town, Kupiansk.


Two military aircraft stranded in Ukraine for 10 months return to Turkey

Two Turkish military transport aircraft that had been stranded in Ukraine since the beginning of the war 10 months ago have safely returned to Turkey, its defence ministry has said.

The two Airbus A400M military transport planes of the Turkish Air Force had flown to Kyiv-Boryspil Airport shortly after midnight on 24 February, just as Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

The defence ministry said the two aircraft had gone to Kyiv to deliver humanitarian supplies and evacuate Turkish citizens, but became stuck at Kyiv’s airport when Ukrainian air space was closed due to the outbreak of hostilities.

The two aircraft left Ukraine on Tuesday afternoon and arrived at the airport in the central Turkish city of Kayseri in the evening, a defence ministry statement said.

Reuters20 December 2022 22:09


Two major Kyiv subway stations reopen for first time

Two of Kyiv’s main subway stations have reopened for the first time since the war began. The key hubs of Maidan Nezalezhnosti and Khreschatyk, like the capital’s other underground stations, have served as air raid shelters during Vladimir Putin’s war.

“It’s the feeling that despite everything, we are returning to a routine that we were used to,” 24-year-old passenger Denys Kapustin told the Associated Press. “This is very important.”

Andy Gregory20 December 2022 21:31


Wagner founder appears to offer to meet Zelensky in Bakhmut

Unverified footage on a popular Russian social media platform purports to show the Wagner Group founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, standing near an artillery piece and saying he was ready to meet Volodymyr Zelensky in Bakhmut.

In a statement accompanying the videos, Mr Prigozhin’s spokespeople relayed a message to the Ukrainian president, who made a surprise visit to the front line on Tuesday, saying: “If you haven’t left Bakhmut yet, I’m ready to meet you. Prigozhin.”

It wasn’t clear from the videos where they were shot or when.

Andy Gregory20 December 2022 20:47


World Bank approves £500m package for Ukraine

The World Bank has approved an additional financing package worth £500m to address urgent relief and recovery needs in Ukraine.

The package includes an additional loan of £410m from the institution’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is supported by a guarantee from Britain, and a new project to restore and improve access to health care and address war-related needs for health services, the bank said.

Andy Gregory20 December 2022 20:11


Brazilian president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Tuesday that Russian president Vladimir Putin had congratulated him on his recent election win and talked of stronger relations between the two countries.

Mr Putin said earlier this year he had “good relations” with both Mr Lula and far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, who made an official trip to Moscow in February, just days before the start of the war in Ukraine.

Mr Lula, who plans to visit the United States and China early in his term, has tried to highlight that Brazil is “back” on the world stage since he won an election in October.

“Putin congratulated me on my election victory and wished me a good administration and the strengthening of relations between our countries,” the leftist leader tweeted.

“Brazil is back, seeking dialogue with everyone and committed to the search for a world without hunger and with peace,” Mr Lula added.

Brazil and Russia are both members of the BRICS group of emerging economies that also includes China, India and South Africa.

In a separate statement, the Kremlin said both men had expressed confidence that the countries’ “strategic partnership…will develop successfully, including within the BRICS framework”.

Thomas Kingsley20 December 2022 19:39


The defence secretary, Ben Wallace also told the House of Commons that he believes “it is unlikely in the short term Belarus will join” the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Officials in Kyiv have said they believe Russia is preparing another ground offensive and are concerned that Vladmir Putin, who travelled to Belarus on Monday for talks with leader Alexander Lukashenko, will seek to force Belarusian involvement.

Responding to the Conservative chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Alicia Kearns, Wallace said: “I haven’t engaged directly with Belarus and maybe I should try and I will … I think what we can say for sure is that the generals around Putin are not in agreement about the success or failure rate of the special operation and that indeed is causing significant frictions.

“President Putin is still in charge of Russia and as long as he is determined to drive the special operation, the longer we in Europe must stand and resist.”

Chris Stevenson20 December 2022 19:16


The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has told the House of Commons that Russia has “failed to achieve its strategic objectives” in Ukraine, as he set out the casualties its army is facing.

Wallace said: “Not one single operational commander then in place on February 24 is in charge now. Russia has lost significant numbers of generals and commanding officers.

“High fatality rates and increasing public dissatisfaction is growing.

“More than 100,000 Russians are dead, injured or have deserted, and Russian capability has been severely hampered by the destruction of more than 4,500 armoured and protected vehicles, as well as more than 140 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

Chris Stevenson20 December 2022 18:46


At a Kremlin ceremony earlier today, President Vladimir Putin presented awards to the Moscow-appointed heads of the four illegally annexed regions of Ukraine.

“Our country has often faced challenges and defended its sovereignty,” Putin said. “Now Russia is again facing such challenge. Soldiers, officers and volunteers are showing outstanding examples of courage and self-denial on the front line.”

Chris Stevenson20 December 2022 18:18


Kremlin trying to close Russia’s oldest human rights group

Russia’s government is trying to shut the Moscow Helsinki Group, one of the country’s oldest human rights organisations, according to a notice on a Moscow court website seen on Tuesday.

The group, which traces its roots to the Soviet era, produces an annual report on Russia’s human rights situation.

Valery Borshov, co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said authorities had put forward a “nonsense” allegation that the group’s own charters barred it from defending human rights outside the capital – something it has always openly done.

Since invading Ukraine in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accelerated a drive to suppress dissenting views, whether from independent media, non-governmental rights groups or political opponents.

This month, opposition politician Ilya Yashin was handed eight-and-a-half years in prison for spreading “false information” about the army by highlighting reports of atrocities by Russian soldiers in Bucha near Kyiv – which Russia says are fabricated by the West

Thomas Kingsley20 December 2022 18:00


Sunak says UK must ‘evolve’ support for Ukraine

He said: “Of course, we will continue to support Ukraine, I think what all of us would want to see is Ukraine successfully repel Russian aggression.

“And it’s important that we maintain support, but also evolve the support for the conditions that we’re seeing on the ground at the battlefield. And that’s what I’m keen to do.”

Taking the opening question from Foreign Affairs Committee chair and Tory MP Alicia Kearns, the Prime Minister offered vocal support for Ukraine and appeared to partially rebuff reporting of the “Goldman Sachs-style” review.

“I wouldn’t necessarily read too much into the press reports. Look at my actions,” he told MPs.

Lucy Skoulding20 December 2022 17:00

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