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Ukraine war latest: Military proposes to mobilize 450,000-500,000 new soldiers, Zelensky says

by The Kyiv Independent news desk December 20, 2023 12:27 AM 5 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers an end-of-year press conference in Kyiv on Dec. 19, 2023. (Photo by Sergei Supinsky/ AFP)
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Key developments on Dec. 19:

  • Zelensky: Military proposes to mobilize 450,000-500,000 new soldiers
  • Zelensky: Ukraine to produce 1 million drones next year
  • Moscow mayor claims air defense prevented drone attack
  • Russian attacks against Kherson, Sumy oblasts injure 6
  • White House: Russia, China, North Korea seek to strengthen ties

Ukraine's military leadership proposed to mobilize 450,000-500,000 additional conscripts, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, adding that the plan has yet to address several key issues before he can support it.

Zelensky gathered journalists on Dec. 19 for a two-hour-long year-end press conference in Kyiv, where he spoke about mobilization, drone production, Western support and more.

Zelensky said in November that he had instructed Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Defense Minister Rustem Umerov were to present a new mobilization plan.

"This is a serious number. I said I need more arguments to support this direction," Zelensky said during a press conference.

"I need concrete information on what will (then) happen with the 1-million military of Ukraine."

Zelensky added that the military also has to address the issue of rotation and demobilization.

These processes must be just for Ukrainian soldiers on the front line, and the Armed Forces leadership must take into account the troops' morale, Zelensky added.

Speaking on the financial costs, Zelensky said the mobilization in such a format will cost Hr 500 billion ($13.4 billion).

Asked whether he would sign a law on the mobilization of men younger than 27 and women, Zelensky said he would not support calling up women.

"(The mobilization of) women – no, I will not sign it."

"As for (the mobilization of) 25-year-old men, (yes) if all the arguments are presented. As of today, I see that it is necessary, so I agree with it."

Ukrainian soldiers storming eastern bank of Dnipro fear their mission is hopeless
Editor’s note: Full names and the deployment locations of the soldiers interviewed for this story are not disclosed since they weren’t authorized to speak to the press. KHERSON OBLAST – Mortars are the first things that greet the Ukrainian soldiers who are lucky enough to make it across the Dnipro

Zelensky: Ukraine to produce 1 million drones next year

Ukraine will produce 1 million drones in 2024, Zelensky said on Dec. 19, as the country aims to ramp up arms production for another year of the war.

"I am positive about increasing our drone production and about the formation of specialized units," Zelensky said, adding there is also a need for an appropriate infrastructure for drone management.

"As for production, we are making one million drones next year. We will make a million. We will do everything to make it so."

The president noted he held a meeting with the top military commanders, during which he stressed the importance of proper logistics for drone delivery.

"I don't like that logistically we are still mired in bureaucratic Soviet processes when 26,000 drones lie in warehouses and fail to reach the front," Zelensky commented.

He nevertheless voiced confidence that the matter of logistics would be resolved.

Strategic Industries Minister Oleksandr Kamyshin revealed in October that Ukraine is already producing thousands of drones per month, with the aim to build tens of thousands per month.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that more than 200 Ukrainian companies have begun developing drones, fueling a massive increase in production as well as technical innovation.

Also at the press conference, Zelensky said that Ukraine will receive several new Patriot air defense systems this winter without revealing their number.

Zelensky on alleged conflict with top commander: ‘I have working relationship with Zaluzhnyi’
President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Dec. 19 that he has a “working relationship” with Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, responding to a question about their alleged dispute. Adding that “he and the General Staff are responsible for the situation on the battlefield.”

Moscow mayor claims air defense prevented drone attack

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Dec. 19 that air defenses near the Russian capital had shot down a drone as it approached the city.

He claimed that there were no casualties or damage as a result.

Earlier in the day, Russian media reported that three drones had been shot down over Kaluga Oblast and another in the skies above Bryansk Oblast.

Three airports that serve Moscow – Domodedovo, Vnukovo, and Zhukovsky – were temporarily closed for security reasons.

Russia's Defense Ministry said that the drones were Ukrainian.

Kyiv has repeatedly targeted military infrastructure in Russia and Russian-occupied territories. It does not typically comment on claims of drone strikes within Russia immediately.

Zaluzhnyi on Ukrainian strikes inside Russia: ‘It is up to us to decide how to kill this enemy’
In an interview with the Washington Post, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, defended his army’s right to strike Russian soil, adding that such attacks are carried out only with Ukraine-made weapons.

White House: Russia, China, North Korea seek to strengthen ties

Russia, China, and, to some extent, North Korea seek to strengthen mutual ties as they grow dissatisfied with the rules-based world order, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told the press on Dec. 19.

While Moscow and Beijing have long maintained a strategic partnership, Russia and North Korea began growing closer in recent months as the Kremlin seeks North Korean military supplies to feed its war against Ukraine.

According to Kirby, the three countries are unhappy with the rules-based order the U.S. and its allies helped to establish after the Cold War.

Russian attacks against Kherson, Sumy oblasts injure 6

Russian attacks against the Sumy and Kherson oblasts on Dec. 19 injured six residents, including three children, local officials reported.

A 28-year-old woman and her three daughters, aged two, four, and nine, were injured in a Russian drone attack against Kherson, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin reported.

In Sumy Oblast, a resident of the Esman village was wounded and hospitalized following Russian artillery and rocket strikes against the area, the regional military said.

Another civilian was reportedly hospitalized following Russian shelling of the Krasnopillia village at 8:25 p.m.

Sumy Oblast in Ukraine's northeast is a common target of Russian cross-border strikes, as well as incursions by Russian sabotage groups.

Southern Kherson Oblast is also regularly targeted, as the region's part east of the Dnipro River remains under Russian occupation.

Under deadly attacks, Kherson fights to keep life going 1 year after liberation
Sitting in a pitch-dark kitchen with just the flashlight on, 70-year-old Viacheslav Bezprozvanyi warned of an incoming shelling as soon as he heard a swish over him. Split seconds later, a thick thud of shelling hit the ground a few hundred meters away. The house shook, knocking off a


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