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Ukraine war latest: Russia prepares new mass missile strikes, says Zelensky
Key developments on Dec. 12:
- Ukraine’s embassy in Greece receives ‘bloody package’ in latest act of intimidation
- Russian attack on Hirnyk in Donetsk Oblast kills 2, injures 10
- Ukraine needs $1 billion to restore energy sector, says PM.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address that Russia is preparing a new wave of mass missile strikes to further damage Ukraine's energy infrastructure.
"Russia still hopes (to impose) blackouts. This is terrorists' last hope," said Zelensky on Dec. 12.
The same day, G7 leaders issued a statement saying they "will hold Russian President (Vladimir) Putin and those responsible to account in accordance with international law."
"We are determined to help Ukraine repair, restore and defend its critical energy and water infrastructure," the statement said.
The European Council on Dec. 12 also agreed to increase its European Peace Facility defense fund used to purchase weapons for Ukraine by 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion).
The council explained that stepping up the financing for the 2023 fund has "the possibility of a further increase at a later stage" and rounded up its total budget until 2027 to 5.5 billion euros.
"Today's decision will ensure that we have the funding to continue delivering concrete military support to our partners' armed forces," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
Using the fund, the bloc has thus far provided Ukraine with its critically needed military equipment to defend itself from Russia's invasion.
According to the statement, the defense fund's annual budget varies from €420 million in 2021 to €1.132 billion in 2027.
However, despite Kyiv's months-long plea, Ukraine has not received all the equipment on its wish list, including the high-tech Patriot air defense system.
The transfer of such weapons requires a green light from NATO allies.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently said that the decision to provide the Patriot air defense system depends on "specific nations."
Germany had rejected Poland's proposal to send Patriot units to Ukraine, with Germany Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht saying that such equipment is "intended to be deployed on NATO territory."
The 2 billion euros increase for the European Peace Facility defense fund was approved despite concerns about it being blocked by Hungary after Budapest didn't support the 18 billion euros financial aid package for Ukraine last week.
The 18 billion euros package proposed by the European Commission on Nov. 9 aimed to assist Ukraine with paying for essential public services, maintaining macroeconomic stability, and restoring critical infrastructure destroyed by Russian attacks.
Hungary didn't support the aid at an EU ambassadors' meeting on the same day, according to three officials cited by Politico media outlet. The EU can only allocate the money with the backing of all 27 union countries, as the budget rules require unanimity.
However, the EU Council reached an agreement on a "legislative package that will enable the EU to help Ukraine financially throughout 2023 with 18 billion euros" on Dec. 10. The proposal will be submitted to the European Parliament "for possible adoption" next week.
Ukraine needs $1 billion to restore energy infrastructure
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Dec. 12 that the country needs as much as $1 billion to restore critical infrastructure quickly in order to get through the winter.
"The estimated cost of supporting the power industry stands at $500 million, and the same amount is needed for the heating sector," he specified.
Shmyhal also said that Russia is trying to "flood" the European Union with a new wave of refugees by attacking Ukraine's energy infrastructure.
Launched by Moscow, missile and artillery strikes on critical infrastructure led to electricity and water supply outages that affected millions of Ukrainians amid freezing weather, he noted.
In early December, Miguel Berger, Germany's Ambassador to the U.K., said the country expects a new wave of Ukrainian refugees in the coming weeks. Earlier, Reuters reported that Eastern European countries are getting ready to reopen reception centers and are restocking food supplies in anticipation of a possible new Ukrainian refugee wave.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as of late November, over 4,751,065 refugees from Ukraine have registered for temporary protection status or equivalent.
Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic are in the lead. In total, around 7.8 million Ukrainian refugees have been recorded across Europe since February.
Ukrainian diplomatic missions abroad keep getting threats
The Ukrainian embassy in Greece received a "bloody package" early on Dec. 12.
This is the 28 such package, according to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko.
The sender's address was the same as the previous envelopes – "a Tesla car dealership in the German town of Sindelfingen," Nikolenko said.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had reported earlier that the packages were sent from post offices without video surveillance and that no DNA traces were found.
Greek police have already begun an investigation into the incident, while Kyiv expects German law enforcement to accelerate its work, Nikoenko said.
So far, Kyiv's diplomatic missions in 17 countries have faced "33 cases of threats," Nikolenko said, elaborating that they include "one attempted terrorist attack, two reports of mine-laying, one case of vandalism, one written threat, and 28 bloody packages."
Previous blood-stained packages contained animal parts, such as cow and pig eyes, according to Kuleba.
"This campaign is aimed at sowing fear and intimidating Ukrainian diplomats," Kuleba told CNN in early December, mentioning that Moscow could be behind the incidents.
Attacks and casualties
Two people were killed and ten were injured in the Russian morning attack on Hirnyk in the eastern Donetsk Oblast on Dec. 12, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported.
Hirnyk, located some 50 kilometers west of the occupied Donetsk, was attacked with Uragan multiple rocket launchers, according to the governor.
Moscow "is continuously terrorizing peaceful Ukrainians," Kyrylenko added.
Kyrylenko once again urged remaining residents to flee Donetsk Oblast, now the epicenter of fierce fighting, where a government-introduced mandatory evacuation was launched in August.
Kyrylenko said that Russian troops continue to attack the city of Bakhmut in the oblast.
Zelensky earlier said that the city was "practically destroyed" due to months of shelling by the Russian troops trying to capture it.
"There is no place left in these areas undamaged by shells and fire. The occupiers have effectively destroyed Bakhmut, another Donbas city that the Russian army turned into burnt ruins," Zelensky said on Dec. 9.
Bakhmut, the salt-mining city with a pre-war population of 70,000 people, became a key warzone in August.
Over the past day, one civilian was killed and three wounded in Donetsk Oblast, Kyrylenko said.
Two of the three civilians were wounded in the city of Bakhmut.
Over Dec. 11-12, Russia shelled eight Ukrainian regions, governors said in their daily updates.
At least one civilian was reported killed and at least 13 wounded over the past day.
In the southern Kherson Oblast, Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych reported that Russia shelled the region 57 times.
The Prosecutor General's Office later informed that Russian shelling of Kherson killed one and injured four civilians on Dec. 12.
The artillery and rocket fire came from Russian-occupied areas on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, targeting Kherson and nearby settlements, according to the prosecutors' report.
The attack hit a residential neighborhood in Kherson with high-rise apartment buildings catching fire, the report said.