1. Belarus moves military equipment near Ukraine, sparking fears
Belarus announced plans to transfer military equipment and troops on Wednesday and Thursday in what it said were “counter-terrorism exercises”.
“During this period, it is planned to transfer military equipment and personnel of the national security forces,” Belta news agency reported, state the country’s Security Council.
“Citizens’ movement will be restricted along some public roads and areas and imitation weapons will be planned for training purposes.”
The move raised fears that Russia might launch a new attack on Ukraine from the territory of its Belarusian ally.
Belarus has said it will not enter the war in neighboring Ukraine, but President Alexander Lukashenko has allowed Russian forces to deploy to the country’s southern border as a staging post for its invasion in February.
In October, Lukashenko announced a new Russian deployment of 9,000 troops to the country as part of a new joint military grouping between the two countries.
Ukraine has been warning for months of its fears that Belarus and Russia could be planning a new incursion.
“Enemy units are being trained at the training grounds of the Republic of Belarus,” the Ukrainian General Staff wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.
Last week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu He held talks with his Belarusian counterpartVictor Khrenin, to discuss military cooperation.
2. Poland accepts the German Patriot defense system after round trip
In a twist, the Polish Minister of Defense confirmed that the country would deploy the German Patriot air defense system on its territory.
Berlin offered weapons to Warsaw last month after a stray missile – believed to be Ukrainian – It crashed and killed two people in eastern Poland.
Then the Polish government asked Germany to send the units to Ukraine instead.
Germany refused, saying that the Patriot system is part of NATO’s integrated air defense and can only be deployed on NATO territory.
“After speaking to the German Ministry of Defense, I was disappointed to accept the decision to refuse to support Ukraine,” Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
“That is why we are continuing to work on arrangements for placing bombers in Poland and linking them to our command system,” he added.
“Placing Patriot missiles in western Ukraine will increase the security of Poles and Ukrainians.”
Poland’s initial move to reject Germany’s offer threatened to create tensions between the neighboring NATO allies.
Poland’s ruling conservative party has faced heavy criticism from politicians and commentators for potentially risking the country’s security amid the Ukraine war and seeking to stir up anti-German sentiment ahead of next year’s elections.
Paul Kowal, an opposition MP, said the government’s back-and-forth did not appear serious.
How can Poland be treated seriously with such a government? he wrote on Twitter after Blaszczak’s announcement. “But the pressure makes sense. So do the polls on German patriots. Poland will be safer with them.”
On Tuesday, the United States also approved the sale of advanced Abrams battle tanks, other combat vehicles and various weapons to Poland worth about $4 billion (3.8 billion euros).
The US State Department said the equipment “will improve Poland’s ability to confront current and future threats by providing a reliable force capable of deterring adversaries and participating in NATO operations.”
NATO countries have already supplied Ukraine with billions of euros worth of weapons, including modern air defense systems, but have avoided sending the long-range Patriot system.
3. Ukrainians are suffering “terrible” torment, says UN aid official
The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator has decried the “tremendous” suffering Ukraine is suffering from a “senseless war”.
Martin Griffiths said that the “spread death, displacement and suffering” in Ukraine following the invasion has been exacerbated by recent strikes on the country’s energy infrastructure.
He said more than 14 million people have now been forcibly displaced from their homes, including 7.8 million who live across Europe and 6.5 million who remain within the country.
At least 17,023 civilians have also been killed, including 419 children, according to the UN Human Rights Office.
Griffiths added that millions of people are still in the country without heat, electricity and water in near-freezing temperatures this winter.
This year , UN humanitarian appeal for 2023 is a record $51.5 billion (€49.6 billion)up 25% from 2022.
The United States and its Western allies echoed his words at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, but Russia strongly objected.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzia, insisted that the country would continue to launch “precision strikes” and claimed that civilian infrastructure would not be damaged if Ukraine did not place air defense systems in residential areas.
Nebenzya told the UN Security Council that “we affirm our desire for negotiations” and that “the aim will be to eliminate the root causes that compelled us to start our own military operation in Ukraine”.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergey Kislitsya responded, “Ukraine needs peace and Ukraine wants peace more than any other country. Our lands have been invaded.”
“Please bear this in mind every time Moscow … tries to convince us that it is not the aggressor, but the victim who is resisting peace efforts.”
Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations Lisa Carty told the 15-member Security Council that “President [Vladimir] Putin’s escalating attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure are evidence that he has no real interest in negotiation or meaningful diplomacy.”
4 – A number of deaths in a road accident involving a Russian military truck
At least 16 people have died after a Russian army vehicle collided with a minibus in eastern Ukraine, local authorities said.
Denis Pushlin, Russia-appointed head of the Donetsk region, said the accident occurred near the towns of Torez and Shakhtyorsk.
“This tragedy has cost the lives of 16 people, including some of our defenders,” Pushlin wrote on Telegram.
It was not clear whether the number of dead soldiers or civilians on board the minibus. Four other people were injured in the collision.
Donetsk is one of four regions in southeastern Ukraine that Moscow annexed in September, a move criticized by Kyiv and its Western allies.
5. The United States “discourages” Ukrainian strikes on Russian air bases
The United States said on Tuesday that it discourages Ukraine from launching strikes deep inside Russia, after several drone strikes, believed to have been launched by Ukrainian forces, hit Russian air bases.
“We neither encourage nor assist Ukraine in conducting strikes in Russia,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters.
“But what you have to understand is that Ukrainians live every day with constant Russian aggression,” he said, accusing Moscow of “weaponising winter” by bombing civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.
“What we are determined to do is make sure that they – along with many other partners in the world – have the equipment they need to defend themselves, their lands and their freedom,” Blinken added.
At least three strikes were carried out on Russian bases on Monday and Tuesday: on Engels Air Base, which hosts Russia’s fleet of giant strategic bombers; in Ryazan, where three servicemen were killed; And in the southern city of Kursk.
Experts believe that Ukraine may have used Soviet-era drones instead of modern drones.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the attacks on Russian bases – which are more than 500 km from the border – are likely to be viewed by Russia as “some of the most significant strategic failures of force protection since its invasion of Ukraine”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian authorities would “take the necessary measures” to strengthen the protection of key facilities.
Pro-Moscow political analysts say the recent strikes by Ukraine “raised questions about the security of Russia’s military air bases.”
Asked earlier about the operations, US State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to attribute the recent drone strikes to Kyiv, which did not claim responsibility.
“We provide Ukraine with what it needs to use on its sovereign territory — on Ukrainian soil — to confront the Russian aggressor,” Price said.
The State Department also declined to comment on media reports that the United States had modified the HIMARS — highly powerful and advanced artillery systems intended for Ukraine — to prevent it from being used to attack Russia.
US President Joe Biden has said publicly that he discourages Ukraine from acquiring long-range missiles, fearing an escalation that could prompt the US to take a more direct role against Russia.
The head of the Pentagon, Lloyd Austin, speaking alongside Blinken after talks with their Australian counterparts, stressed that the US was not stopping Ukraine from developing its own long-range missiles.
“The answer is no. We certainly don’t,” he said. “We are not doing anything to prevent Ukraine from developing its own capabilities.”
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