G7 says air defense ‘immediate focus’ – DW – 12/12/2022

The Group of Seven (G7) economic powers pledged on Monday to continue helping Ukraine defend itself against an invasion by Russia. G7 leaders were joined by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky via video link during Monday’s meeting.

In a joint statement issued by the UK government, the G7 leaders criticized Moscow’s “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric” and said that if Russia ever used chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, it “will be met with severe consequences”.

G7 leaders stressed the importance of strengthening Ukraine’s air defenses.

“We will continue to coordinate efforts to meet Ukraine’s urgent requirements for military and defense equipment with an immediate focus on providing Ukraine with air defense systems and capabilities,” the G7 leaders said.

Zelensky, during his video addresses, urged G7 leaders to send more weapons, including tanks, rocket artillery and more long-range missiles.

“Unfortunately, Russia still has an advantage in artillery and missiles. This is a fact. It is these capabilities of the occupation army that fuel the Kremlin’s arrogance,” Zelensky said.

Ukraine is urging its Western partners to help boost its air defense system’s capabilities with advanced weapon systems amid Russian missile attacks on critical and civilian infrastructure.

In October, Kiev received the first Iris-T air defense system from Germany, while the NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) and Apside air defense systems arrived in the country in November.

Here are the other top stories related to the war in Ukraine from Monday, December 12:

EU foreign ministers agreed on more names for sanctions against Russia

Top European Union diplomats have agreed in principle to add about 200 Russian individuals and groups to a sanctions list, although there is no approval yet for the ninth package of sanctions, according to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

“This is approved, it will hit the Russian defense sector and the Russian army hard. It will also hit the political masters of the Russian government, in the Duma, in the Federation Council and in the judiciary,” Borel said at a media briefing.

“We are targeting those who are responsible for looting Ukrainian grain and deporting Ukrainian people and children in particular,” Borel said.

Foreign ministers from the bloc’s 27 member states are considering new sanctions against Moscow over the invasion, but have been unable to reach consensus on a full package of new sanctions.

Borrell said there were disagreements on some issues, without elaborating.

Biden assures Zelensky of defense support

In conversation with his Ukrainian colleague Volodymyr Zelensky, President of the USA Joe Biden reiterated Washington’s strong support for a war-torn country and emphasized his administration’s efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses, the White House said.

Biden mentioned the December 9 announcement of $275 million (€261 million) in additional munitions and equipment, which includes systems to counter Russian use of drones, as well as the November 29 announcement of $53 million to support the energy infrastructure of Ukraine.

He also welcomed “Zelensky’s stated openness to a just peace based on fundamental principles enshrined in the UN Charter.” During the call, Biden emphasized “continued US support for the defense of Ukraine as Russia continues its attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.”

Weapons supplied by Western countries, including the US, have played a crucial role in Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russian troops.

Thanking Biden for the recent security package in a “fruitful conversation,” Zelensky said they “discussed further cooperation in defense, protection and support of our energy sector.”

Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to continue providing Ukraine with security, economic and humanitarian aid, holding Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities, and imposing costs on Russia for its aggression.

The Kremlin canceled Putin’s year-end press conference

The Kremlin has announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold his annual year-end press conference this year.

“There won’t be [a press conference] before the New Year,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Peskov gave no reason for the break with tradition at the end of 12 months dominated by Russia’s war in Ukraine and sanctions imposed in response by the West.

Putin, who has been in power since 2000 – except for a four-year stint as prime minister rather than president – has held a press conference in December for most of his years in office. Peskov said Putin “regularly speaks to the press, including during foreign visits.”

During the media gathering – a major political event in Russia – Putin answers questions from the press and members of the public in a marathon that usually lasts several hours. Last year he spoke for more than four hours.

Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, announcing an unpopular mobilization effort – largely seen as a failure – to bolster Moscow’s forces there on September 21.

Russia’s progress likely to stall for ‘next few months’, UK says

The Kremlin is still seeking to advance in eastern and southeastern Ukraine, but its military push is unlikely to make any headway this winter, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said that “Russia is likely still seeking to extend control over all of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson Oblasts” and that it has a particular focus on “advancing deeper into Donetsk Oblast”.

Despite these targets, British defense officials said it was “highly unlikely” that the Russian military would be able to generate sufficient strike force in these areas.

“It is unlikely that Russian ground forces will make significant operational progress in the next few months,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine reported an attack on the headquarters of “Wagner”

Ukraine on Sunday said it had begun a series of missile attacks of command posts and warehouses in Russian-occupied territory.

The country’s military statement did not specify their target locations, but noted that the targets included dormitories and were struck with artillery and rockets.

The military statement also added that a retaliatory attack from Russia was expected.

“There is still a danger that the enemy will launch missile and drone attacks targeting our energy infrastructure and the entire territory of Ukraine,” the Ukrainian military said in a statement.

Kremlin sends reinforcements to Ukraine’s eastern front

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Meanwhile, Sergei Haidai, the exiled governor of the Russian-occupied Luhansk region, told Ukrainian television that local forces had struck a hotel in the town of Kadiivka, where members of Russia’s Wagner private military group were based.

He said the mercenaries suffered “significant losses”.

DW was unable to immediately verify the claims.

Nick Connolly, DW’s Kiev correspondent, said the lack of independent journalists on the ground in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine made it difficult to confirm the information.

“We’ve seen some images on social media of some apparent new destruction to some buildings,” Connolly said.

“Now the local Russian-occupation authorities claim that there were actually civilians there, something that is disputed by the Ukrainian side,” he added. “But it seems to fit somewhat into the larger picture of Ukraine attacking places where these Russian soldiers or Russian mercenaries are behind the front lines.”

More DW content on the war in Ukraine

Moscow plays down the consequences of Ukrainian airstrikes on its military airfields. But even if they’re just small stings, DW explains how they send important signals about the course of the war going forward.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán maintains close relations with Russia and appears to turn a blind eye to the presence of Russian agents in Hungary. Is Hungary turning into a spy center for Russia in the EU?

kb, rs, mf/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Quiet horror – Kherson is Ukraine

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