Ukraine’s military said Tuesday that Russian forces carried out aerial attacks overnight, including firing a missile that struck the Zaporizhzhia region.
Zaporizhzhia’s regional military administration said on Telegram that according to preliminary reports, the missile damaged a shop and injured one person.
The Ukrainian military also said Tuesday its air defenses destroyed a Russian attack drone.
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday there has been intense fighting along the frontlines in Ukraine, along with waves of Russian drone attacks against Ukrainian cities.
Stoltenberg said that while the front lines in Ukraine have not moved much during the past year, Ukrainian forces have inflicted heavy losses on Russia’s military.
Speaking ahead of a two-day meeting with NATO foreign ministers, Stoltenberg called for NATO allies to continue providing support for Ukraine.
He said the stronger Ukraine is on the battlefield, the stronger its position will be at the negotiating table with Russia.
A senior State Department official said during the first day of the NATO foreign ministers’ meetings that there was “unanimous support for maintaining commitment to help Ukraine win.”
He said many NATO allies talked about increasing their support, continuing to work with Ukraine and helping Ukraine “move closer to its NATO future.”
“We have suggested to Ukraine a set of governance reforms we think are important, especially, you know, bolstering the anti-corruption agencies and authorities. And we've seen real progress on that in the last couple of weeks, including some notable cases of changes in the way the state intervenes in the economy. All of those kinds of reforms are important, both for Ukraine’s engagement with NATO, but also for its political integration into the EU,” the official said.
Russian defense spending
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a national budget for the next three years that increases spending by around 25% and reportedly devotes a robust amount to defense as Russia’s war in Ukraine drags on.
The budget foresees spending in 2024 of $415 billion with an expected deficit of $9.5 billion.
After the budget was passed by the lower house of the parliament, Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said it was developed specifically to fund the military and to mitigate the impact of international sanctions imposed on Russia after its Ukraine invasion in February 2022.
Record low unemployment, higher wages and targeted social spending should help the Kremlin use most of its budget to fund the military, but could present a problem in the long term, analysts say.
Part of the Russian budget is secret as the Kremlin tries to conceal its military plans and sidestep scrutiny of its military operation in Ukraine. However, it is estimated that around 39% of all federal spending will go to the military and law enforcement according to independent business journalists Farida Rustamova and Maksim Tovkaylo.
While on a visit to Kyiv on Monday, EU Commission Vice President Vera Jourova praised Ukraine’s fight against corruption, but said additional efforts were needed if Ukraine aspires to become a member of the European Union.
In November, the commission recommended that the 27-member EU formally start accession talks once Ukraine meets several remaining conditions, including strengthening anti-corruption efforts.
Jourova said she was impressed with Ukraine’s improvement since 2017. However, she added there are still things that need to be done.
She also stressed that the EU needed "to think about our absorption capacity" when it comes to new members' accession and adapt the system.
Membership talks take years as candidates must meet extensive legal and economic criteria before joining. The EU is also unwilling to take in a country that is at war.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.