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Ukraine war latest: Russia advances up to 2 kilometers near Avdiivka in 2 months; 4 children injured in Kherson

by Daria Shulzhenko and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 20, 2023 11:52 PM 6 min read
Police officers patrol around the residential buildings after shellings in the frontline city of Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast as the Russia war continues in Ukraine, on Oct. 17, 2023. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu via Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Key developments on Dec. 20:

  • Russian attacks injure nine people, including 4 children, in Kherson
  • Military reports Russia moves up to 2 kilometers near Avdiivka in 2 months, loses 20,000 soldiers
  • General Staff reports Russia using low-quality, defective North Korean shells
  • Poll shows majority of Ukrainians would disapprove of Zaluzhnyi's resignation
  • Minister says Ukraine has already produced 50,000 FPV drones in December

Russian troops launched a mass attack against Kherson overnight on Dec. 20, hitting the southern city with drones and multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), Governor Oleksandr Prokudin reported.

The attack injured nine, including four children, Prokudin said.

Although local air defense forces downed all the drones targeting the regional capital, the debris fell on residential neighborhoods, damaging three multi-story buildings, a kindergarten, a medical facility, a post office, and a transportation company parking lot, the governor added.

"Medical assistance was provided on the spot to five Kherson residents, while others are currently in the hospital," Prokudin wrote on Telegram in the morning on Dec. 20.

Among those injured were children aged two, four, nine, and 13, Prokudin said in a separate post.

"A 13-year-old girl sustained explosive injuries and shrapnel wounds to her leg. Medical assistance was provided on the spot, and her parents opted against hospitalization."

"Three other children, aged two, four, and nine, along with their mothers, are currently in the hospital."

The children did not sustain serious injuries but were "very frightened," Prokudin said, adding that psychologists were working with them following the attack.

"During the enemy strikes, the children were at home with their parents, watching cartoons and planning how to celebrate the New Year. Their homes were destroyed by Russian forces."

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

Prokudin earlier reported that Russian attacks across Kherson Oblast had injured 16 people over the past day.

Russia attacked the oblast 82 times, using artillery, mortars, drones, aircraft, tanks, and multiple-launch rocket systems. The city of Kherson was shelled 36 times, Prokudin said.

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

Russian assault on Avdiivka

Russian troops advanced between one and half–two kilometers in some areas of Donetsk Oblast's Avdiivka sector at the cost of around 20,000 killed and wounded, according to Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesman for the Tavria group of forces.

Russia intensified its attacks against Avdiivka in early October, reportedly suffering heavy losses in an attempt to encircle the front-line town at the doorstep of occupied Donetsk.

"If we count from Oct. 10, when the enemy became more active, in some places they advanced by one and a half to two kilometers," Shtupun said on television on Dec. 20.

"But it cost them dearly. In a little more than two months... the enemy lost almost 25,000 men dead and wounded, about 200 tanks, and over 400 armored vehicles in the Tavria group's area of responsibility in Donetsk Oblast."

Around 80% of these figures concern the Avdiivka direction, the spokesperson said.

The head of Avdiivka's military administration, Vitalii Barabash, said earlier that Russia changed its tactics in the sector, focusing its attacks in specific directions rather than across the entire line.

According to the U.K. Defense Ministry's earlier reports, Russia’s assaults against Avdiivka have resulted in a 90% increase in Russian casualties.

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Russia using 'low-quality' North Korean shells

Russian troops are using low-quality shells sourced from North Korea that are often defective, at times causing damage to the barrels of cannons and mortars and even injuring soldiers, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported.

In particular, the General Staff said that this appeared to be happening with Russian troops in the Dnipro Group under the command of Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky operating in southern Ukraine.

The U.S. confirmed increased weapons and ammunition transfers from North Korea to Russia following a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in September.

Washington said it's "deeply concerned" that North Korea may receive nuclear- or ballistic missile-related technology in exchange.

South Korean intelligence reports earlier claimed that North Korea had delivered more than a million shells to Russia.

Russia, China and North Korea have new dynamics. And it’s bad for Ukraine
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New poll

A poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) released on Dec. 20 found that an overwhelming majority (72%) of Ukrainians would disapprove of the resignation of Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

The poll was released amid reports in Western and Ukrainian media about supposed disagreements between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Zaluzhnyi.

According to the poll, only 8% believe that there are serious disagreements between Zaluzhnyi and Zelensky.

When asked about the supposed disagreement between the two, 35% said it was not that serious, and 39% believed there was little to no disagreement.

KIIS also found that Zaluzhnyi is the most trusted military leader at 92%, followed by the head of Ukraine's military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, at 60%.

A previous survey released by KIIS on Dec. 19, revealed that Zelensky remains the most trusted Ukrainian political figure.

Are Zelensky and his top general really in discord?
Editor’s Note: This story initially mistakenly said that President Volodymyr Zelensky and Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi haven’t been seen together in public in two months. It was corrected since the two were seen together in public more recently. After successfully taking Ukraine through the…

50,000 FPV drones produced in Ukraine

In December, Ukraine produced over 50,000 first-person-view (FPV) drones, Strategic Industries Minister Oleksandr Kamyshin said on Dec. 20.  

FPV drones are cheap to manufacture and can be precisely flown into targets. They have the capability of destroying much more expensive military equipment.

Apart from the FPV drones, Kamyshin said that Ukraine has the capability to produce 10,000 mid-range drones and 1,000 long-range drones, which can fly more than 1,000 kilometers, in 2024.

The full-scale invasion has fueled a significant increase in the production of drones, as well as their technical innovation.

Earlier in October, Kamyshin said Ukraine aimed to massively scale up its production of drones to tens of thousands per month.

During his press conference on Dec. 19, Zelensky said Ukraine would produce 1 million drones in 2024

"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, and I know that it will be so."

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