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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Dec. 25

A priest of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine speaks with Ukrainian servicemen after a Christmas service in the Church of St. John the Theologian in Kharkiv, Dec. 25, 2022.
A priest of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine speaks with Ukrainian servicemen after a Christmas service in the Church of St. John the Theologian in Kharkiv, Dec. 25, 2022.

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

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

11:08 p.m.:

10:36 p.m.: The very day Russia launched its attack on her country, Svitlana Taranova enlisted in the Ukrainian army in the southern city of Mykolaiv, her birthplace, Agence France-Presse reported.

"At 11 am on February 24 my contract with the territorial defence was signed," said the former construction firm manager who is in her 50s.

As Taranova was battling Russians in combat, other women contributed to the war effort in different ways, an AFP team found.

"We're fighting here, too," said Svitlana Nitchouk, 41, a bakery employee. "We feed the soldiers."

Despite their increased vulnerability, many women in Mykolaiv refuse to see themselves as victims, said psychoanalyst Irina Viktorovna.

9:13 p.m.: Leonid Onyshchenko, a gruff-voiced 63-year-old Ukrainian soldier with a thick mustache, has spent many a Christmas away from his family, but hearing his little grandson Petro's voice over the phone from far away is as hard as ever, Reuters reported.

Onyshchchenko joined the territorial defense force after Moscow's February invasion, and has volunteered supporting Ukraine's army in the fight against Russian-backed separatists in the country's east since 2014.

While he is stationed in the Donetsk region which has seen some of the heaviest battles, his daughter Maryna and her husband Vitalii were celebrating Christmas at home in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second biggest city, frequently under Russian attack.

8:05 p.m.: Russian Expats In Serbia Protest Ukraine War: Hundreds marched in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on December 24 to mark 10 months since Russia invaded Ukraine. The event was organized by the Russian Democratic Society, established by Russian expatriates in Serbia who stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his attack on Ukraine. The police prohibited the protesters from coming near the Russian Embassy in Belgrade. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

7:15 p.m.: Protecting The Skies: How Does Ukraine Defend Against Russian Missiles? Over the past several months, Russia has launched multiple waves of missiles and drone attacks across Ukraine. The heaviest attack so far came on November 15, when more than 100 missiles targeted a dozen cities and districts, as well as the country’s critical energy infrastructure. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

6:20 p.m.:

5:30 p.m.: Moscow is ready to resume gas supplies to Europe through the Yamal-Europe pipeline, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told state TASS news agency, Sunday.

According to Reuters, Novak also said that Moscow expects it will have shipped 21 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe in 2022.

5:05 p.m.: Ukraine’s military said its forces have inflicted “heavy losses” on pro-Moscow troops in continued fierce fighting around the strategic eastern town of Bakhmut, with an official saying that dozens of Russian soldiers had been killed over the past 24 hours.

Serhiy Chervatko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Army Group East, said on December 25 that at least 50 Russian soldiers have been killed and another 80 wounded over the past day as Russian forces are continuing their long-standing efforts to capture the town of Bakhmut. The spokesman did not comment on the number of Ukrainian casualties.

According to RFE/RL, Russia has been besieging Bakhmut for months at extraordinary costs to its own armed forces, and the city reportedly has been nearly destroyed by incessant Russian shelling.

Battlefield reports on either side have not been confirmed.

According to the latest report by the Institute for the Study of War, the Russian forces’ rate of advance in the Bakhmut area has likely slowed in recent days, although it is too early to assess whether the Russian offensive to capture Bakhmut has culminated. Russian military bloggers acknowledged that Ukrainian forces in the Bakhmut area have managed to slightly slow the pace of the Russian advance around Bakhmut and its surrounding settlements, with one claiming that Ukrainian forces pushed back elements of the Wagner Group to positions they held days ago.

4:05 p.m.: In his nightly video address Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered his best wishes to all Christians who celebrate Christmas today.

Zelenskyy thanked everyone who has “done everything so that we can live - live our life and in our country.”

The Ukrainian president thanked all military personnel, who are holding the front and trying to push it further. He thanked repairmen, utility workers, volunteers, nurses and all medical personnel, educators, IT specialists and everyone who is helping Ukraine’s resilience.

Zelenskyy thanked journalists who spread the truth.

Finally, he thanked all the leaders and peoples of the world who support Ukraine. But also urged caution.

“There are only a few days left this year. We must be aware that our enemy will try to make this time dark and difficult for us. Russia lost everything it could this year. But it is trying to compensate for its losses with the gloating of its propagandists after the missile strikes at our country, at our energy sector,” he said.

3:05 p.m.: Support from partners to Ukraine’s energy sector amounts to $1.5 billion, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on December 25.

He added that 200 trucks with equipment to repair damaged infrastructure have already arrived in Ukraine.

Shmyhal added that Ukraine has managed to mobilize over $30 billion in support from its allies and that G-7 countries will mobilize up to $32 billion in financial assistance next year.

Russia has caused $6.8 billion in damage to Ukraine's energy infrastructure, The Kyiv Independent reports.

Over the past two months, due to constant attacks, the Russian military has either damaged or destroyed about 40% of the Ukrainian energy system.

In a Christmas tweet, the Ukrainian prime minister said “The war separated many of us. May Christmas bring comfort and spiritual balance to every Ukrainian, wherever you are.”

2:05 p.m.: Utility-related disasters in Russian towns raise suspicions of sabotage linked to the war in Ukraine. But poorly maintained infrastructure is a long-standing and persistent problem in Russia — the result of old Soviet-era systems in need of repair and costly maintenance, decades of endemic corruption, and the government’s prioritization of defense and security budgets, as well as the development of major cities over regional towns, The Washington Post reported.

A huge gas pipeline explosion outside St. Petersburg last month, major fires in two separate Moscow shopping malls allegedly caused by dodgy welding, and faulty power grids that have left tens of thousands without heat and electricity are just some of the incidents reported since Russia’s efforts to obliterate Ukraine’s infrastructure that began in October.

In late October, two sewer pipes burst in the southern city of Volgograd, flooding several streets with feces and wastewater, and leaving 200,000 of the 1 million residents without water or heating for several days.

Ilya Kravchenko, a local lawmaker who collected testimony from more than 1,000 victims of the incident and filed a lawsuit against the corporation that owns the sewer system, said the sight was “not pretty.”

“This is the worst year on record. The city has never had so many problems,” Kravchenko said.

1:05 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed to “bring back freedom” to the people of Ukraine as he addressed the nation on Christmas Eve, just hours after a fresh round of Russian attacks killed at least 10 people and wounded more than 60 others, RFE/RL reported.

12 p.m.: In his traditional Christmas address from St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Sunday December 25, Pope Francis appealed to end Russia’s all-out war in Ukraine, calling the war “senseless.” AFP reported.

"May the Lord inspire us to offer concrete gestures of solidarity to assist all those who are suffering, and may he enlighten the minds of those who have the power to silence the thunder of weapons and put an immediate end to this senseless war,” he said.

The 86-year-old Pope also said that the war is creating more food shortages around the world, urging an end to the use of “food as a weapon.”

11:15 a.m.: Russian troops fired three missiles at an industrial zone in the city of Kramatorsk in Donetsk Oblast on Dec. 25, but there are no casualties so far, Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko said on Facebook.

Honcharenko urged residents to stay in shelters, saying that “the danger has not gone away,” The Kyiv Independent reports.

10:45 a.m.: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has defended what he says is his country’s position of impartiality on the war in Ukraine and indicated that China would strengthen ties with Russia in the coming year. Speaking by video to a conference in the Chinese capital Sunday, Wang also blamed America for the deterioration in relations between the world’s two largest economies, saying that China has “firmly rejected the United States’ erroneous China policy.”

China's refusal to condemn the invasion of Ukraine and join others in imposing sanctions on Russia has further frayed ties and fueled an emerging divide with much of Europe. Wang said that China would “deepen strategic mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation” with Russia. Warships from the two countries held joint naval drills in the East China Sea last week, AP reported.

10 a.m.: Many Christian Orthodox Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, as do the Russians. But this year, after to the Russian invasion on the country, many Orthodox Ukrainians have decided to observe Christmas on Dec. 25, like other Christian denominations around the world.

The idea of commemorating the birth of Jesus in December was considered radical in Ukraine until Russia attacked Ukraine.

In October, the leadership of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is not aligned with the Russian church and one of two branches of Orthodox Christianity in the country, agreed to allow faithful to celebrate on Dec. 25, AP reported.

For some Ukrainians, changing dates represents a separation from Russia, its culture, and religion.

9:30 a.m.: Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Duma, said the Russian lower house of parliament was preparing a law to introduce higher taxation for people who have left the country since the war in Ukraine began in February.

"It is right to cancel preferences for those who have left the Russian Federation and to introduce an increased tax rate for them," Volodin wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

"We are working on appropriate changes to the legislation."

It is not clear how many Russians have left the country since February 2022, Reuters reported.

A group of Russians walk after crossing the border at Verkhny Lars between Georgia and Russia in Georgia, Sept. 27, 2022. After President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization to bolster his troops in Ukraine, many Russians are leaving their homes.
A group of Russians walk after crossing the border at Verkhny Lars between Georgia and Russia in Georgia, Sept. 27, 2022. After President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization to bolster his troops in Ukraine, many Russians are leaving their homes.

By early October, some local media had reported that as many as 700,000 had fled following the September announcement of a mobilization drive to call up as many as 300,000 to fight. The government rejected that figure at the time.

Russia's 13% personal income tax is deducted automatically by domestic employers. Russians working abroad who are Russian tax residents must pay the tax independently, according to the Federal Tax Service of Russia.

"Those who realized that they had made a mistake have already returned,” Volodin said. “The rest should understand: the vast majority of society does not support their act and believes that they betrayed their country, relatives and friends."

9 a.m.: Three Ukrainian emergency services workers were killed on Saturday when a landmine exploded while they were demining parts of the Kherson region, said the emergency service of another region, in which they served, Reuters reported.

"All three selflessly served in the emergency and rescue squad of the Special Purpose Unit of the State Department of Ukraine in Zhytomyr region and performed the task of demining territories liberated from the enemy in the Kherson region," the Zhytomyr emergency service said on its Facebook page.

The Zhytomyr region is west of Kyiv, in northern Ukraine.

The U.S. State Department estimated in early December that some 160,000 square kilometers (62,000 square miles) of Ukrainian land needed to be checked for explosives hazards. That is nearly half the size of Germany's land area.

"We expect this to be one of the largest landmine and unexploded ordinance challenges since World War Two," the State Department said in a briefing posted on its website.

8 a.m.: Russia is ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the war in Ukraine but Kyiv and its Western backers have refused to engage in talks, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview aired on Sunday.

"We are ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions, but that is up to them - we are not the ones refusing to negotiate, they are," Putin told Rossiya 1 state television in the interview.

Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on twitter that Putin needed to return to reality and acknowledge that it was Russia which did not want any negotiations.

The Kremlin says it will fight until all its aims are achieved while Kyiv says it will not rest until every Russian soldier is ejected from all of its territory, including Crimea which Russia annexed in 2014.

7:45 a.m.: Air raid sirens blared in Kyiv and across all Ukrainian regions on Sunday morning, but no new Russian attacks were reported, officials said. The all-clear was later given.

Unconfirmed Ukrainian social media reports suggested the sirens may have been triggered after Russian jets took to the skies in Belarus and that the all-clear was sounded after the planes returned to their bases.

Reuters was unable to verify those reports.

Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesperson for Ukraine's air forces, told national television earlier on Sunday that Russian military jets were flying virtually around the clock. Ihnat said Ukrainian authorities have increased readiness.

"Everything that takes off must be under our control," he said.

5:18 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Ukrainian intelligence continues to suggest that the Russian military is not following proper command structures or procedures.

Russian forces continued to conduct limited counterattacks to regain lost positions along the Kreminna-Svatove line, the assessment said, and also continued to conduct offensive operations around Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

4:14 a.m.:

2:19 a.m.: Three emergency workers from Zhytomyr Oblast were killed while demining in Kherson Oblast on Saturday, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said in a Facebook post, The Kyiv Independent reported.

The workers had gone to Kherson Oblast to assist with the demining process after parts of the oblast were liberated by Ukrainian forces.

They were killed by Russian mines that exploded during the demining process, according to the post.

Serhii Kruk, who heads Ukraine's State Emergency Service, said about 30% of Ukrainian territory is mined.

On Nov. 14, Kherson Oblast Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said that Russian troops had mined "nearly everything" in the recently liberated Kherson and asked people to avoid gathering in the central part of the city as sappers needed to demine it first.

Ukrainian forces liberated parts of Ukraine's southern Kherson Oblast, including the regional capital Kherson, on Nov. 11.

1:10 a.m.: Starting Jan. 1, Ukrainians will be able to exchange up to 5 incandescent lightbulbs for the LED variety, Euromaidan Press reported.

The program envisions swapping 50 million bulbs through Ukraine’s state postal operator Ukrposhta and digital platform Diia.

According to Economy Minister Yulia Svyridenko, replacing 50 million such bulbs can save Ukraine up to 1.5 gigawatts of electricity during peak hours.

The purchase of 30 million such bulbs will be financed by the European Commission.

This measure is being undertaken in response to a deficit in Ukraine’s power grid caused by Russian missile strikes on electricity infrastructure which are estimated to affect roughly 50% of all energy facilities.

12:02 a.m.:

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

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