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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Dec. 26

Ukrainian soldiers fire a French-made CAESAR self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions near Avdiivka, Donetsk region, Dec. 26, 2022.
Ukrainian soldiers fire a French-made CAESAR self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions near Avdiivka, Donetsk region, Dec. 26, 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.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday that the situation at the front in the Donbas region was "difficult and painful" and required all of the country's "strength and concentration," Reuters reported.

"First of all, matters at the front. Bakhmut, Kreminna and other areas in Donbas, which require a maximum of strength and concentration." Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

"The situation there is difficult and painful. The occupiers are deploying all resources available to them — and these are considerable resources — to make some sort of advance."

10:10 p.m.: As Christmas Day approached, the team of one popular restaurant in the heart of Kyiv was running against the clock to bake a large batch of Christmas cakes. The cakes weren’t for sale, though, The Kyiv Independent reports:

9:32 p.m.: Just weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his country's unprovoked full invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has proven a master of messaging, bluntly told the Kremlin it would have to "learn the words 'reparations' and 'contributions,'" Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

More than nine months after the start of the invasion and with no hint that Putin is ready to end his country's aggression, talk is slowly turning not only to rebuilding Ukraine once the conflict does end, but to how and who will finance what Zelenskiy has declared will be "the largest economic project in Europe of our time," likely to cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

For Ukraine, the answer is clear: Russia must ultimately pay for justice to be served. "There is no alternative to Russia paying," explained Markiyan Kliuchkovskiy, a lawyer and member of a Ukrainian government working group on reparations. "If Russia does not want to honor its obligation to pay reparations for the damage and suffering it has caused, we, together with the civilized world, need to find a way for Russia to pay," Kliuchkovskiy told RFE/RL.

8:57 p.m.:

8:21 p.m.: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says his government is aiming to have a peace summit by the end of February with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as the mediator, The Associated Press reported.

“The United Nations could be the best venue for holding this summit because this is not about making a favor to a certain country," Kuleba told the Associated Press in an interview. “This is really about bringing everyone on board.”

Russia could only be invited to such a summit if the country faced a war crimes tribunal first, said Kuleba, who a day earlier said Ukraine would call for Russia to be removed as a permanent member of the UN Security Council due to its continued strikes against civilian infrastructure in its war against Ukraine.

7:27 p.m.: Moscow's proposals for "demilitarization" and "denazification" of Ukraine are well known to Kyiv and it is up to Ukrainian authorities to fulfill them, otherwise the Russian army will decide the issue, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, according to Reuters.

"Our proposals for the demilitarization and denazification of the territories controlled by the regime, the elimination of threats to Russia's security emanating from there, including our new lands, are well known to the enemy," Russian state news agency cited Lavrov as saying. "The point is simple: Fulfil them for your own good. Otherwise, the issue will be decided by the Russian army."

6:41 p.m.: Shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s military into Ukraine in late February, Vladimir Rumyantsev began posting and even broadcasting news from independent media about the invasion from his apartment, highlighting many of the atrocities Russian troops were alleged to have committed.

Rumyantsev, who lives in Vologda some 500 kilometers north of Moscow, says he is no admirer of Putin or his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

He said he began his posts and broadcasts because Russians needed independent information -- much of which contradicts the official narrative -- “to evaluate the actions of the authorities.”

The authorities didn’t agree. Like others before him, Rumyantsev has been targeted for his anti-war views. A court found him guilty of spreading “false information” about the Russian Army and sentenced him to three years in a penal colony.

Rumyantsev denies any wrongdoing and vows to appeal the court decision.

6:05 p.m.:

5:30 p.m.: Today Russia is more repressive than it has ever been in the post-Soviet era, the Human Rights Watch says.

5:15 p.m.: Ukraine is striking more boldly at targets deep in Russian territory because Kyiv has assessed that Moscow’s military is fighting at the limits of its conventional capabilities, former military officials and analysts say according to The Washington Post.

So far, the Ukrainian long-range attacks that hit airfields in the heart of Russia, along the Volga River, have not caused extensive damage. The latest, on Monday, killed three servicemen, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, after air defenses shot down a Ukrainian drone approaching Engels air base, near the city of Saratov.

But the attacks, which remain sensitive enough that the Ukrainian government has not publicly acknowledged them, have forced Russia to move planes, potentially complicating Moscow’s campaign of aiming cruise missile strikes at Ukraine’s energy grid.

Since some cruise missiles are launched from bombers that fly from the airfields hit in the attacks, the strikes could potentially destroy the missiles on the ground at the Russian airfields before they can be deployed.

With the sense widespread in Kyiv among officials and civilians that, short of nuclear intensification, Russia cannot do much more to Ukraine that it is not already doing, the allure of curtailing Moscow’s missile capabilities at home outweighs any escalatory concern.

“If somebody attacks you, you fight back,” Andriy Zagorodnyuk, a former Ukrainian defense minister who now advises President Volodomyr Zelensky, said in an interview earlier this month, after the first Ukrainian long-range strike on Russian military targets hit Engels and another airfield in central Russia.

5:00 p.m.: In Kyiv's National Botanical Garden, staff are struggling to save a decades-old collection of tropical plants after months of Russian attacks on Ukraine's power grid led to power outages, threatening the garden's heating supply, Reuters reports.

"These collections cannot be restored. This is not a greenhouse with cucumbers and tomatoes... The loss of this collection would be a great national loss for Ukraine," said Lyudmyla Buiun, responsible for tropical and subtropical plants.

"Plants cannot be told... 'please endure, because today it is -15 degrees (Celsius).' It is impossible," she said, pointing out signs of cold damage on some plants.

The plants would face a dire threat if the temperature in the greenhouse dropped below 15 degrees Celsius, she added.

Finding ways to maintain a tropical climate in a freezing Kyiv hit by frequent power outages is very difficult. Garden workers are heating the greenhouses by burning firewood, although smoke poses a risk to plants.

The garden's administration has now connected to Kyiv's central heating system to have a backup, but fears further missile strikes on the power grid.

4:45 p.m.: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Monday that his nation wants a summit to end the war, but he doesn’t anticipate Russia taking part, a statement foretelling a lengthy and difficult end to the war.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press that his government wants a “peace” summit within two months at the United Nations with Secretary-General António Guterres as mediator.

Kuleba said that Russia must face a war-crimes tribunal before his country engages in direct talks with Moscow. He said, however, that other nations should feel free to engage with Russians, as happened before a grain agreement between Turkey and Russia.

Kuleba also said he was “absolutely satisfied” with the results of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to the U.S. last week, and he revealed that the U.S. government had made a special plan to get the Patriot missile battery ready to be operational in the country in less than six months. Usually, the training takes up to a year.

Kuleba said during the interview at the Foreign Ministry that Ukraine will do whatever it can to win the war in 2023.

“Every war ends in a diplomatic way," he said. “Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table,” he added.

4:30 p.m.: Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram Monday that over 60% of the infrastructure in the city of Bakhmut, which has been the site of intense fighting, is partially or fully destroyed, AP reports.

“Russia is constantly shelling Bakhmut’s infrastructure. The enemy is keeping on scorched-earth tactics,” he said.

On the same day, Eastern Military Command spokesman Serhiy Cherevaty said that the Bakhmut and Avdiivka areas in Donetsk Oblast remain the sites where the heaviest hostilities are taking place currently. He reported that there were 28 episodes of fighting and 225 shellings from Russian artillery and tanks in the Bakhmut area on Monday alone.

4:15 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged the difficult situation on the frontline of Bakhmut, Kremnina and other areas in the Donbas region, which as he said, “require maximum strength and concentration.”

Zelenskyy said the Russians are using all the resources available to them “to squeeze out at least some advance.”

The Ukrainian president thanked Ukrainian forces for holding “their positions firmly, stand strong, and who nevertheless find opportunities not only not to those anything, but also to drive the occupiers out, to 'subtract' them.”

Zelenskyy also thanked all the workers of the energy companies and all the repair crews for making it possible for people getting more energy on Christmas eve and Christmas Day.

3:20 p.m.: Ukraine's Infrastructure Ministry accused the Russian delegation, Monday, of deliberately stalling the inspection process of some of the ships that had set sail from Ukraine under the grain initiative and have been stuck in Turkish waters for over a month, The Kyiv Independent reports.

Ninety-nine vessels are currently waiting for inspection in the Bosphorus Strait, with 72 of them headed west to be loaded at ports and 27 already carrying Ukrainian agricultural products.

"This is the result of purposeful actions of the Russian delegation in the Joint Coordination Center aimed at slowing down the process of ship inspections," said the Infrastructure Ministry.

The ships were sent under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a U.N.-backed deal signed in July by Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey, which aimed to unblock Ukrainian grain exports amid Russia's invasion of the country. The Joint Coordination Center was established to coordinate the implementation of the deal, and each party to the agreement has representatives within it.

Earlier Monday, Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said that over 15 million tons of products have left Ukraine through the agreement since August. Some 44% of all products exported were delivered to Europe, 29% were sent to Asia, 15% to Turkey, and 12% to African countries.

2:45 p.m.: Lithuania has awarded this year's Freedom Prize to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as his country is fighting Russia's invasion.

"Today, Ukraine is a European democracy forced to fight for the survival of its territory, culture and people, as well as for the freedom of all of us. That is why the Freedom Prize Commission has proposed awarding this year's Freedom Prize to the president of Ukraine for his and the entire Ukrainian nation's merits in their struggle for independence, freedom and democracy in the face of Russia's military aggression," Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen announced.

"As Ukraine's president, he has been at the forefront of this fight for freedom, inspiring millions of people in Ukraine through his personal leadership and example to resist and not to surrender and having also united the entire global community against the criminal Putin regime," she said.

One hundred and thirteen Lithuanian lawmakers voted in favor of the decision on Tuesday, with no votes against or abstentions, The Baltic Times reports.

The Freedom Prize was established by the Lithuanian parliament in 2011 to honor "individuals and organizations for their achievements in and contribution to the defense of human rights, development of democracy, and promotion of international cooperation for the cause of self-determination and sovereignty of the nations in Eastern and Central Europe."

The prize, which comes with a 5,000 euros award, is presented every year on January 13, when Lithuania marks the Day of the Defenders of Freedom.

2:05 p.m.:

1:45 p.m.: The Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, said Monday, it had uncovered a scheme aiding men of draft age to illegally cross the Ukrainian border into the European Union.

According to the SBU, the suspects, two businessmen, allegedly charged men from $5,000 for registering them as volunteers through the state database. The volunteer status made men of draft age exempt from the ban to leave the country under martial law, The Kyiv Independent reported.

During searches of the suspects' homes and workplaces, law enforcement officers discovered cash, fake stamps, and two Kalashnikov rifles.

Since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 deemed fit for military service are banned from leaving the country except under certain exceptions.

According to the State Border Guard Service, over 8,000 men have tried to leave the country as of mid-September illegally.

12:55 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, will speak before the end of the year, Russian state news agency TASS said on Monday, without giving details of the timing or format.

It quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the two sides would release details in due course, Reuters reported.

Putin and Xi proclaimed a "no limits" partnership between the two countries when the Russian leader visited Beijing in February, three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.

As Western countries condemn the war and imposed sanctions on Russia's economy, Russia’s partnership with China has taken on even greater significance for Putin, though he publicly acknowledged in September that Beijing had expressed "questions and concern" over Ukraine.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Putin's Security Council, met Xi on a visit to Beijing last week.

During the meeting, Xi expressed hopes that all parties in the Ukraine crisis maintain restraint and resolve security concerns through political means, China's state news agency Xinhua reported.

12:15 p.m.: A large fire has broken out in warehouses in the Russian city of Novosibirsk; the fire covered an estimated 1,800 square meters, and witnesses reported explosions, The Kyiv Independent reported. Russian local media and Telegram channels reported the fire Monday, citing eyewitnesses.

Over the past month, the number of large-scale fires has increased in Russia.

The recent fires reportedly occurred at oil facilities in Siberia, Bryansk Oblast, and Kursk; large shopping centers in Moscow and Moscow Oblast, a thermal power plant in Perm, and warehouses in Vladivostok, Moscow, and Volgograd.

11:45 a.m.: Russia's FSB security service said on Monday that a four-person Ukrainian "sabotage group" had been "liquidated" while trying to enter Russia's Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine, on Sunday, Russian news agencies reported.

"As a result of a clash on December 25, 2022, four saboteurs who attempted to penetrate the territory of the Bryansk region from Ukraine were destroyed," state-owned RIA news agency quoted an FSB statement as saying.

According to Reuters, the FSB said the alleged saboteurs were armed with foreign-made guns and four improvised explosive devices.

There was no immediate comment on the incident from Ukraine.

11:15 a.m.: In a tweet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Zelenskyy asked for Modi’s support on implementing Ukraine’s 10-point peace formula and on ending the war. Zelenskyy had presented the peace formula to the Group of 20 major economies, the G-20, last month.

Zelenskyy’s 10-point formula covered the areas of nuclear safety, food security, energy security, release of all prisoners and deportees from Russia, implementation of the U.N. Charter and restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the world order, withdrawal of Russian troops and end of hostilities, justice, immediate protection of the environment from attack on Ukraine’s ecology, prevention of escalation, and confirmation of the end of the war.

10:45 a.m.: Outside the gates of Moscow's Gorky Park, the three Latin letters Z, V and O - frontline military symbols now promoting the conflict in Ukraine - loom on plinths.

According to Reuters, the "special military operation," which the Kremlin paints as an existential conflict with the West, has come to predominate over typical holiday decorations in the Russian capital. New Year's Day is Russia's main seasonal holiday, while Orthodox believers also celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7.

Inside the park, there's a pavilion that contains a studio where people can record New Year and Christmas video messages for troops.

"I am from Moscow. We want our soldiers to come back as soon as possible," said a girl, whose family did not give her name, in a video message.

Just off Moscow's busy Tverskaya thoroughfare, children supervised by adults were decorating cardboard boxes with glitter, baubles and images of Christmas trees to send messages and letters to troops.

On Red Square, a pavilion was set up for people to donate gifts and humanitarian aid to troops. Upbeat Soviet-era music played outside, while an elderly lady inside wrote a message of support.

10:05 a.m.: Russia's Interior Ministry has placed Bulgarian investigative journalist Christo Grozev on its wanted list. Mediazona, a Russian media outlet, cited the ministry’s database, Monday.

Grozev is the lead Russia investigator at Bellingcat, a Netherlands-based investigative site.

A recent Bellingcat investigation led by Grozev uncovered the names of dozens of high-ranking Russian military engineers responsible for missile strikes against Ukraine.

Grozev also took part in uncovering the Kremlin poison squad that tried to assassinate Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in 2020. The squad was sent by Russia's Federal Security Service, according to Bellingcat.

Bellingcat played a key role in identifying the Russian officers and their Ukrainian proxies responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Donetsk Oblast in 2014. The Hague District Court convicted the defendants in the MH17 case in November 2022.

It is unclear under which Criminal Code article Grozev is wanted, according to the publication. In a tweet Grozev said Kremlin’s move against him is an indication that Russia is afraid of Bellingat’s work.

Responding to Grozev’s tweet, Bellingcat founder, Elliot Higgins congratulated Grozev “for receiving Russia’s greatest journalism prize.”

9 a.m.: Ukraine on Monday called for Russia’s removal from the United Nations. As a U.N. member, Russia can veto any resolution as a permanent member of the Security Council, Agence France-Presse reported. Ukraine asked for Russia’s total exclusion from the international organization.

In a tweet, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba called Russia’s presence at the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. as a whole, “illegitimate.”

8:05 a.m.: Russia said on Monday it had shot down a Ukrainian drone close to one of its air bases for long-range bombers deep inside its own territory and that three Russian air force personnel had been killed in the incident, Reuters reported.

Reuters reports the drone was allegedly flying near Russia's Engels air base where long-range strategic bombers that may have been used to target Ukrainian cities and infrastructure are based. No planes were damaged in the incident, the defense ministry said in a statement to Russian news agencies.

Unverified Russian and Ukrainian social media accounts reported that a number of planes had been destroyed. Reuters was not able to independently verify those reports.

The air base, one of two strategic bomber bases housing Russia's air-delivered nuclear capability, is located near the city of Saratov, about 730 km (450 miles) southeast of Moscow and hundreds of kilometers from the frontlines in Ukraine.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine, which has never publicly claimed responsibility for attacks inside Russia but calls them "karma" for Russia's Feb. 24 invasion.

The same base was attacked earlier this month by Ukrainian drones, Russia said at the time.

"A Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) was shot down at low altitude while approaching the Engels military airfield in the Saratov region," the defense ministry statement, published on Monday, said.

Russia has 60 to 70 strategic bomber planes of two types - the Tu-95MS Bear and the Tu-160 Blackjack. Both are capable of carrying nuclear bombs and nuclear-armed cruise missiles as well as conventional munitions.

5:55 a.m.:

5:28 a.m.:

5 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will speak before the end of the year, Russian state news agency TASS said on Monday, without giving details of the timing or format, Reuters reported.

It quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the two sides would release details in due course.

Putin and Xi proclaimed a "no limits" partnership between the two countries when the Russian leader visited Beijing in February, three weeks before his invasion of Ukraine.

With Western countries condemning the war and slamming Russia's economy with sanctions, the partnership with China has taken on even greater importance for Putin, though he publicly acknowledged in September that Beijing had expressed "questions and concern" over Ukraine.

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Putin's Security Council, met Xi on a visit to Beijing last week.

Xi told Medvedev that China hopes all parties in the Ukraine crisis maintain restraint and resolve security concerns through political means, China's state news agency Xinhua reported.

4:30 a.m.: Ukraine was set Monday to demand Russia's exclusion from the UN Security Council as Moscow claimed to have foiled the deepest drone attack by Kyiv in its territory, reported Agence France-Presse.

Kyiv will make the demand 10 months into Moscow's offensive and as Russia's defiant leader Vladimir Putin accused the West of trying to "tear apart" his country.

On Sunday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv will call for Russia to be stripped of its permanent membership of the UN Security Council, which it sits on with the US, the UK, France and China.

"Tomorrow we will officially express our position. We have a very simple question: Does Russia have the right to remain a permanent member of the UN Security Council and to be in the United Nations at all?" Kuleba said.

"We have a convincing and reasoned answer — no, it does not."

The five permanent members of the powerful 15-seat Security Council have veto power that can block any resolution.

3:50 a.m.:

3:15 a.m.: Reuters reported that Russia's Gazprom said it would ship 42.4 million cubic meters of gas to Europe via Ukraine on Monday, a volume in line with recent days.

2:50 a.m.:

2:25 a.m.: Russia's long-range air forces are to be refitted with new wing-borne hypersonic missiles, the Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing the force's commanding officer, according to Reuters.

"In the interests of long-range aviation, the development and supply of the entire range of aviation weapons, including new cruise hypersonic missiles, is being carried out," Interfax cited the commander, Sergei Kobylash, as saying in an interview with the Russian defense ministry's newspaper.

Russia's fleet of long-range bombers are part of its nuclear triad and are capable of launching both nuclear and conventional missiles.

1:55 a.m.: Reuters reported that Russians troops are working "round-the-clock" at new anti-aircraft missile system positions to defend against missile and air strikes by Ukraine, according to the Russian Interfax late on Sunday, citing the defense ministry.

Crews of the S-300V systems were "mastering new position areas" of the Russian long range surface-to-air missile systems, the news agency reported, citing a ministry statement.

"The air defense units of the Western Military District continue to serve in the new position areas on combat duty around the clock," the agency cited the ministry as saying.

The Western Military District, one of Russia's five military districts, incorporates regions bordering Ukraine, including the Belgorod and Bryansk regions. It also covers the Kaliningrad exclave.

Citing a military commander, Interfax reported that the S-300V battery is capable of tracking a target at a distance of up to 204 km (127 miles) and at an altitude of up to 30 km (18.6 miles).

1:15 a.m.: The Iskander tactical missile systems and the S-400 air defense systems that Russia has deployed to Belarus are fully prepared to perform their intended tasks, a senior Belarusian defense ministry official said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

"Our servicemen, crews have fully completed their training in the joint combat training centers of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus," Leonid Kasinsky, head of the Main Directorate of Ideology at the ministry, said in a video posted on the Telegram messaging app.

"These types of weapons (Iskander and S-400 systems) are on combat duty today and they are fully prepared to perform tasks for their intended purpose."

It is not clear how many of the Iskander systems - which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons - have been deployed to Belarus after Russian President Vladimir Putin said in June that Moscow would supply Minsk with them and the air defense systems.

12:30 a.m.: According to Reuters, three military personnel were killed as a result of wreckage from a Ukrainian drone falling on a military base in Russia's Saratov region, Russian agencies reported citing the country's defense ministry.

"On December 26, at about 01:35 Moscow time, a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down at low altitude while approaching the Engels military airfield in the Saratov region," the Russian Defense Ministry said.

"As a result of the fall of the wreckage of the drone, three Russian servicemen of the technical staff who were at the airfield were fatally wounded."

The ministry added that aviation equipment was not damaged.

12:05 a.m.: An incident at the Engels air base in Russia's Saratov region was being investigated but there was no damage to civilian infrastructure, a local governor said, after media reports of blasts at the base earlier on Monday, according to Reuters.

Ukrainian and Russian media outlets reported that blasts were heard after midnight at the Engels air base, hundreds of kilometers (miles) from the frontlines in Ukraine.

"There were no emergencies in residential areas of the (Engels) city," Roman Busargin, the governor of the region, said on the Telegram messaging app.

"There is absolutely no threat to residents ... Civil infrastructure facilities were not damaged. Information about the incident at a military facility is being checked by law enforcement agencies.

The RBC-Ukraine news agency reported that two explosions took place. The Russian news outlet Baza reported, citing local residents, that air raid sirens were wailing and an explosion was heard.

The air base, near the city of Saratov, about 730 km (450 miles) southeast of Moscow, was hit on December 5 in what Russia said was Ukrainian drone attacks on two Russian air bases that day.

The twin strikes dealt Moscow a major reputational blow and raised questions about why its defenses failed, analysts said, as attention turned to the use of drones in the war between neighbors.

Ukraine has never publicly claimed responsibility for attacks inside Russia, but has said, however, that such incidents are "karma" for Russia's invasion.

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

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