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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Dec. 18

Ukrainian servicemen ride a tank in Bakhmut, Ukraine, Dec. 18, 2022.
Ukrainian servicemen ride a tank in Bakhmut, Ukraine, Dec. 18, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EST.

11:10 p.m.: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Sunday said Russia's invasion of Ukraine had "opened the gates of hell" unleashing "every evil" force worldwide from murder and rape in occupied territory to famine and debt in Africa and Europe, Agence France-Presse reported.

Welby, the highest-ranking cleric in the worldwide Anglican communion, travelled to Ukraine late last month to meet church leaders and local Christians as well as those displaced by the conflict.

He said he had been struck by the "size of the mass graves in Bucha, the photos of what had been done to the people there, the rape, the massacres, the torture by the occupying Russian forces".

And he said the repercussions of the invasion were also being felt far beyond Ukraine's borders.

10:30 p.m.: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday the world still had heard his call for peace despite soccer governing body FIFA's decision to decline to allow a video message to be broadcast ahead of the soccer World Cup final in Qatar, Reuters reported.

Zelenskyy had asked for the video to be broadcast, including his call to hold a global peace conference to help resolve the war triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian soccer players and other officials had publicized the message, he said.

"Even though FIFA blocked this message from being aired at the stadium before the final game in Qatar, the world still heard our appeal," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to Ukrainians.

FIFA rejects any political messages in organizing World Cup matches.

9:40 p.m.:

8:59 p.m.: 'We Have A Common Enemy': Georgian Soldier Says Ukraine's Fight Against Russia Is His Country's, Too: Georgian Vadim Chkhetiani lies in a hospital bed in Ukraine, recovering from a serious wound suffered there in September while fighting with his countrymen, other foreigners, and Ukrainians against invading Russian forces, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Georgian service reported.

"There is this village called Yampil…. We were attacked by the occupiers. A shell exploded and shrapnel hit my head. I was taken to the hospital and my wound was stitched up and I returned to the front line," Chkhetiani recently told RFE/RL's Georgian Service, referring to a village in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine.

8:09 p.m.: When about 100 Russian troops rolled into Kherson's Lilac Park on the morning of March 1, Oleh Shornik was one of about 20 lightly armed Ukrainian volunteers who didn't stand a chance against them, The Associated Press reported.

Ukraine's military was nowhere to be seen, and Russian troops in armored vehicles had easily entered the Shumensky neighborhood, opening fire and sending shrapnel flying everywhere, witnesses said. Civilians walking to work were hit in the short, fierce battle. The volunteers, hiding among the trees in the park, were cut down so rapidly that they weren't even able to throw the Molotov cocktails they had prepared.

“They did not have time to do anything,” said Anatolii Hudzenko, who was inside his home next to the park during the attack, in an interview with The Associated Press.

Left seemingly on their own, the civilian volunteers fell quickly. A day later, so did Kherson.

Now that Russia has retreated from Kherson following Ukraine's counteroffensive in the south, residents want to know why Moscow's forces were able to overrun the city so easily.

“There are more questions than answers to this story,” said Svetlana Shornik, standing at her ex-husband’s grave for the first time because the Russians had blocked access to the cemetery while they had occupied the city.

7:02 p.m.: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will on Monday announce a major new artillery package for Ukraine during a meeting of Nordic, Baltic and Dutch counterparts in Riga, Agence France-Presse.

Sunak will arrive in Latvia on Monday for the meeting to discuss ongoing efforts to counter Russian aggression in the Nordic and Baltic region with fellow members of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).

Sunak will call on the leaders to maintain or exceed 2022 levels of support for Ukraine in 2023, a statement issued by the prime minister's office said.

He will also announce that the UK will supply "hundreds of thousands of rounds of artillery ammunition next year under a $304 million contract that will ensure a constant flow of critical artillery ammunition to Ukraine throughout 2023," the statement said.

6:08 p.m.:

5:30 p.m.: Jews in Ukraine lit a giant menorah to start the eight-day Hanukkah holiday. Dozens gathered in Independence Square in the capital, Kyiv, at sundown Sunday to light the first candle of what local Jewish leaders say is Europe's largest menorah - a nine-branch candelabrum used to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko joined ambassadors from Israel, the United States, Japan, Poland, Canada and France in a ceremony organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s state-owned power grid operator said Sunday that electricity restoration work from Russian missile damage was continuing, The Associated Press reported.

5:15 p.m.: Veteran U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger said the time is approaching for a negotiated peace in Ukraine to reduce the risk of another devastating world war. Kissinger made the comments in an opinion article he wrote in The Spectator magazine.

Ukraine's government dismissed his comments as "appeasing the aggressor" and said there could be no deal involving ceding territory.

"Mr. Kissinger still has not understood anything ... neither the nature of this war, nor its impact on the world order," Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said on Telegram.

"The prescription that the ex-Secretary of State calls for, but is afraid to say out loud, is simple: appease the aggressor by sacrificing parts of Ukraine with guarantees of non- aggression against the other states of Eastern Europe."

He added, "All supporters of simple solutions should remember the obvious: any agreement with the devil - a bad peace at the expense of Ukrainian territories - will be a victory for Putin and a recipe for success for autocrats around the world."

Kremlin officials were not available for comment late on Sunday, Reuters reported.

5:00 p.m.: Power has been restored to 3 million more Ukrainians after the latest Russian attacks on Ukraine's power grid, bringing the total to 9 million with power, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday in his nightly video address.

“That means after the terrorist strikes on Friday, we have results already for 9 million of our people," he said.

4:30 p.m.: Russian troops are reportedly setting up triangular concrete blocks known as 'dragon's teeth' on the streets of Melitopol in anticipation of street battles, The Telegraph reports.

According to Ukraine's Ukrinform news agency, job posts have appeared on recruitment sites for people to build fortifications and dig trenches in Russian-held areas of Zaporizhzhia and Luhansk regions in Ukraine, and Belgorod in Russia.

"Russians are placing concrete cones in the very center of Melitopol, which is still occupied, for the second day already," said Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov.

4:05 p.m.: Leaders of Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) countries, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, are heading to Riga, Latvia, for a military summit, Monday, Reuters reports.

The JEF comprises high readiness forces configured to respond rapidly to crises in the High North and Northern Europe; Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom are members.

"At the Rīga meeting, the JEF heads of state and government intend to discuss the aggressive war of Russia in Ukraine and consequent changes in the security climate in the North Atlantic, Baltic Sea and the High North regions, with the emphasis on cooperation between JEF members in providing further assistance for Ukraine in its fight with the aggressor, and on measures to improve regional security," said an announcement about the meeting from the Latvian government.

3:30 p.m.: As the World Cup concluded in Qatar, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recorded a message intended for football fans all over the world. Ukrainians, he said in the video address distributed on Twitter by Ukraine's Defense Ministry, also love football. But now we are focusing all our efforts on the fight for our freedom.

3 p.m.: In a meeting with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the commanders of the operational directions reported on the situation at the front, according to Ukraine's presidential website.

The members of the Staff focused on the situation in Belarus. The commanders noted the readiness of the defense forces to respond to any developments.

They also discussed ways to deal with the extensive damage of the power grid from the massive Russian missile attack on December 16 and listened to the reports on connecting consumers to electricity and heat supply.

2:35 p.m.: Russian forces on Dec. 18 shelled a hospital in Kivsharivka, Kharkiv oblast, injuring a 31-year-old paramedic, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.

The Kyiv Independent reports, a Russian landmine also killed two people in Dovhenke, a village near Izium, Kharkiv oblast, according to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

2:05 p.m.: The CEO of Uniper, Germany’s gas supplier, has asked shareholders to approve a planned bailout by Berlin that will cost more than 50 billion euros ($52.91 billion), warning that the German gas trader will otherwise have to consider filing for insolvency.

Ahead of Monday's extraordinary shareholder meeting in Duesseldorf, Chief Executive Klaus-Dieter Maubach said the mess caused by the loss of supplies from Russia could lead to shareholders walking away with nothing if they did not accept to place Uniper under German public ownership.

Gazprom was once its biggest supplier, but a big drop in deliveries after the Russia's invasion of Ukraine forced Uniper to buy gas elsewhere at much higher prices to meet existing contracts.

The loss of Russian gas, Moscow's retaliation for Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, triggered a 40-billion-euro net loss for the importer, which provides around a third of Germany's gas, the largest loss in German corporate history, Reuters reports.

1:35 p.m.: Ukraine has chosen pop duo Tvorchi as its act for next year's Eurovision Song Contest in a live broadcast from a Kyiv bomb shelter, the BBC reported.

Tvorchi's entry Heart of Steel is the first song to be confirmed for the 2023 competition in Liverpool.

Shocked band member Andrew Hutsuliak said: "We will try to do everything to present Ukraine with dignity."

Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra won this year's contest, but the UK will host in 2023 because of the war.

1:05 p.m.: Fragile morale continues to be a significant vulnerability across much of the Russia force, the UK Ministry of Defense has said in its latest intelligence update on Ukraine.

11:45 a.m.: The war in Ukraine and fears of longer terms threats from Russia and China are driving bipartisan support to increase Pentagon’s spending. In the coming week, Congress is expected to approve $858 billion for the U.S. national military budget. This is $45 billion more than President Biden had requested.

The spending increase will spur new boom for arms makers The New York Times reported.

If approved at this level, the Pentagon budget will have grown at 4.3 percent per year over the last two years — even after inflation — compared with an average of less than 1 percent a year in real dollars between 2015 and 2021, according to an analysis by Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments for The New York Times.

Spending on procurement would rise sharply next year, including a 55 percent jump in army funding to buy new missiles and a 47 percent jump for the Navy’s weapons purchases.

11:15 a.m.: The toll from the Russian invasion on Ukraine has been devastating on both sides. According to the Washington Post, around 100,000 service members have been killed or wounded. Many Ukrainian soldiers have lost limbs. Their country does not have the funds or the expertise to equip its growing number of amputees with prosthetics, so they are turning to Western countries for help.

Charitable donations have been pouring in allowing Ukrainian soldiers access to state-of-the-art prosthetics equipment. The Washington Post accompanied three Ukrainian soldiers in a U.S. rehabilitation center near Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

The support Ukrainian personnel have received reflects significant advancements in combat medicine made by the United States and NATO allies over 20 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

FILE - Healthcare workers treat a wounded Ukrainian soldier in a military hospital in Donetsk region, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Aug. 9, 2022.
FILE - Healthcare workers treat a wounded Ukrainian soldier in a military hospital in Donetsk region, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Aug. 9, 2022.

10:15 a.m.: Ukraine’s presidential office is criticizing FIFA for refusing to air a message from President Volodymyr Zelensky in Qatar’s Lusail Stadium ahead of the World Cup final on Sunday.

The video, which was recorded in English, is meant to be an “appeal for peace,” Ukraine’s presidential office said in a written statement to CNN on Saturday.

“Qatar supported the President’s initiative, but FIFA blocked the initiative and will not allow the video address of the president to be shown before the final game,” the statement said.

CNN reached out to FIFA but has not received a comment. The world football governing body has gone to extreme lengths to keep political messaging out of its showcase tournament in Qatar, the first Middle Eastern nation to ever stage the event.

Qatar has not publicly commented on the request from Ukraine.

9:45 a.m.: Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu inspected the country's troops involved in Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine, the Russian defense ministry said on Sunday.

"The head of the Russian military flew around the areas of deployment of troops and checked the advanced positions of Russian units in the zone of the special military operation," the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.

Moscow calls its invasion in Ukraine a "special military operation" to "demilitarize" and "denazify" its neighbor. Kyiv and its allies call it an unprovoked act of conquest.

According to Reuters, the ministry said in the statement that Shoigu spoke with troops "on the frontline" and at a "command post." However, it was not immediately clear when the visit took place or if Shoigu had visited Ukraine itself.

A short video posted with the statement showed Shoigu in a military helicopter and a couple of aerial shots of empty swaths of land.

The announcement comes a day after Russia's President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with the country's top military leaders, including Shoigu, seeking proposals on how they think Russia's military campaign in Ukraine should proceed.

The conflict, Europe's deadliest since World War II, has killed thousands, displaced millions, and turned cities to rubble.

9:15 a.m.: The time is coming for a negotiated peace in Ukraine to reduce the risk of another devastating world war, but dreams of breaking up Russia could unleash nuclear chaos, veteran U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger said.

"A peace process should link Ukraine to NATO, however expressed. The alternative of neutrality is no longer meaningful," Kissinger wrote in the Spectator magazine in an article entitled "How to avoid another world war."

The Kremlin says Kyiv must acknowledge Moscow's annexation of southern and eastern regions. Ukraine says every Russian soldier must leave its territory, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Kyiv applied to join NATO after Moscow announced the annexations in September.

CIA director Bill Burns said in an interview with PBS published on Saturday, while most conflicts end in negotiation, the CIA's assessment was Russia was not serious yet about a real negotiation to end the war.

Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an imperial-style war of occupation.

8:40 a.m.: Russian military forces have shelled the center of Kherson. The city was liberated after Russian soldiers withdrew last month in one of Moscow’s biggest battlefield setbacks in Ukraine. Three people were wounded in the attacks, said presidential deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko. The southern city and its surrounding region have come under frequent attack since the Russian pullback.

Regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said Sunday that Russia carried out 54 attacks with rocket, mortar and tank fire over the previous day, killing three people and wounding six, The Associated Press reported.

7:45 a.m.: One person was killed and at least four people were wounded by Ukrainian shelling in the southern Russian region of Belgorod near the border with Ukraine on Sunday, the governor of the region said, Reuters reported.

"Our air defense system was activated over Belgorod and the Belgorod region," Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

"Four people are known to have been injured. Medical teams are taking them to hospital," he said.

A poultry plant has been damaged and windows in several residential buildings and cars have been hit, he added.

Three witnesses told Reuters that loud blasts were heard in the city on Sunday.

Belgorod is one of several southern Russian regions where targets such as fuel and ammunition stores have been rocked by explosions since the start of what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine on Feb. 24.

5:20 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that a New York Times investigation of Russian military documents from early in the war supports ISW’s longstanding assessments about how flawed Russian planning assumptions and campaign design decisions plagued Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from its onset.

Ukrainian forces conducted counterattacks near Svatove and Kreminna and continue to strike Russian rear areas, the assessment said, while Russian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and Avdiivka-Donetsk City. Ukrainian officials warned that Russian forces may be attempting to draw Ukrainian forces into a trap on the east bank of the Dnipro River.

4:11 a.m.: The Kyiv Independent reported that Austria has adopted a resolution callling the Holodomor, a Soviet-created famine in the 1930s, a "terrible crime." The resolution also notes the "use of hunger as a weapon in the current Russian war against Ukraine."

3:06 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said Russia is attempting to shore up its troops' morale with music and entertainment for troops. "However," the update noted, "soldiers’ concerns primarily focus on very high casualty rates, poor leadership, pay problems, lack of equipment and ammunition, and lack of clarity about the war’s objectives. The creative brigades’ efforts are unlikely to substantively alleviate these concerns."

2:07 a.m.: Moscow is trying to seize more territory in Ukraine's Donetsk region, currently one of the war's hottest areas. Russian forces are said to be sending small reconnaissance units to probe for weaknesses in Ukraine's defenses. Despite being outgunned, Ukrainian troops are pushing back against enemy attacks. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

12:02 a.m.: The Kyiv Independent tweets: CIA Director: China has been paying close attention' to Russia's poor military performance. CIA Director Bill Burns told PBS that no other foreign leader "has paid more careful attention to that war and Russia's poor military performance than Xi Jinping has."

Some information came from Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press and Reuters.

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