Key developments on Dec. 9-10:
- Russian troops continue offensive operations along the eastern front line
- Fewer Russian assault operations reported in the southeast
- US senator accuses Republicans of 'holding aid to Ukraine hostage'
- Scholz says Germany should be prepared to do more for Ukraine 'when others are faltering'
- First lady says Ukraine in 'mortal danger' without financial aid
- UK Defense Ministry: Russia's Dec. 7 strike likely starts winter campaign against energy infrastructure
- Zelensky attends Argentine leader Milei's inauguration in first-ever trip to South America
The situation in Ukraine's east remains difficult as Russian troops continue conducting offensive operations along the entire front line, Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi reported on Dec. 10.
In a vague statement shared on Telegram, Syrskyi said he and other commanders holding the defense on the eastern front "thoroughly analyzed the situation and considered options for further actions."
"Collectively, we made necessary decisions and took measures to ensure the stability of our defense, preserve the lives of our soldiers, and use ammunition rationally," he said.
Syrskyi's announcement comes after General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi — head of the Tavria group of Ukrainian forces fighting on the front line between Avdiivka and Zaporizhzhia — said Russian forces are conducting fewer assault operations in the southeast but intensifying their air attacks once again.
Tarnavskyi said on Dec. 10 that Ukrainian forces were holding on to Avdiivka despite Russia's endless attempts to encircle the embattled city.
The general's report comes as the weather worsens due to winter and ground maneuvering becomes more complicated. Now that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has run out of steam without achieving its objectives, a lengthy war of attrition is likely ahead.
Tarnavskyi also said that Ukraine had repelled two Russian assault operations near the liberated village of Staromaiorske on the Velyka Novosilka axis.
According to the latest report by the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces, Russia has lost 338,820 troops in Ukraine since the beginning of its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.
This figure includes 700 casualties Russian forces reportedly suffered just over the past day. These numbers are an estimation shared by the General Staff and can't be independently verified.
Aid for Ukraine
On Dec. 10, Senator Chris Murphy, a democrat, told NBC News that he wished Republicans weren't holding further aid to Ukraine hostage to immigration reform as military assistance to both Kyiv and Israel continues to get held up in Congress.
Murphy's statement comes after on Dec. 6, Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a supplemental funding bill that included $61 billion in aid for Ukraine, insisting that any further military aid for Ukraine or Israel must include major significant domestic border changes.
"(Russian President) Vladimir Putin is delighting right now in Republicans' insistence that we get a deal on immigration reform, and if we don't, then they're gonna allow Vladimir Putin to march into Ukraine and perhaps into Europe," he said.
The White House is planning to intensify its push with U.S. lawmakers to strike a bipartisan deal that includes aid for both Ukraine and Israel as well as security measures at the U.S. southern border, Murphy said.
"The White House is going to get more engaged this week."
However, the Guardian reported on Dec. 10 that Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban's allies are reportedly set to meet with U.S. Republicans in Washington for a closed-door meeting to lobby for the end of military aid to Ukraine.
Members of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs and staff from the Hungarian embassy in Washington will attend a two-day event hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation thinktank on Dec. 11, the Guardian wrote.
The Guardian reported, citing a republican source, that some of the attendees, including Republican members of Congress, have been invited to join closed-door meetings after the first day of the event.
"Orban is confident that the Ukraine aid will not pass in Congress," a diplomatic source told the Guardian. "That is why he is trying to block assistance from the EU as well."
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Dec. 9 that his country should be prepared to increase its support for Ukraine "when others are faltering," apparently referring to the uncertainty over further aid to Ukraine in the U.S.
Speaking at a conference of his Social Democratic Party, Scholz pledged that decisions will be made to ensure Germany's continued military and financial aid to Ukraine, according to Deutsche Welle.
Russia's war against Ukraine "will probably not finish anytime soon," he said, which makes it important that Germany continues to be in a position "to keep supporting Ukraine in its fight to defend itself."
On the same day, First Lady Olena Zelenska told the BBC that Ukraine is in "mortal danger" if it does not continue receiving financial aid from Western countries.
"We really need the help. In simple words, we cannot get tired of this situation... And if the world gets tired, they will simply let us die," she said.
Russian attacks against Ukraine's energy infrastructure
The coordinated Russian missile strike against Kyiv and central Ukraine on Dec. 7 was likely "the start of a more concerted campaign" aimed at degrading energy infrastructure, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in its Dec. 10 report.
Russian forces had likely used Tu-95 planes to fire Kh-101 air-launched cruise missiles on Dec. 7 – the first time they were used since Sept. 21, the UK Defense Ministry said.
"Russia has almost certainly been stockpiling these missiles for use in the winter campaign," the report said.
The intelligence report comes as Ukraine braces itself for yet another tough winter, in which Russia is expected to conduct an intense missile and drone campaign against critical infrastructure across the country. Last year's campaign killed dozens of civilians and led to emergency power outages.
As of Dec. 10, however, power outages due to Russian attacks and bad weather have been 455 settlements across nine Ukrainian oblasts, according to the Energy Ministry.
Zelensky in Argentina
President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Argentina to attend the inauguration of the country's president-elect, Javier Milei, on Dec. 10.
It marks Zelensky's first-ever official visit to Latin America.
"This is a new beginning for Argentina, and I wish President Milei and all the Argentine people to surprise the world with their success," Zelensky said in a statement.
Despite his reputation for eccentric, far-right political views and a personal character that has drawn comparisons to former U.S. President Donald Trump, Milei has expressed his firm support for Ukrainian sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression.
Before the ceremony, Zelensky held consecutive bilateral meetings with the leaders of Paraguay, Uruguay, and Ecuador.
From Argentina, Zelensky is heading to the U.S. On Dec. 12, he is set to meet President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., the President's Office announced.