Key developments on Dec. 14:
Russia attacks Kyiv with 13 Iranian-made drones; all shot down, no casualties
European Parliament approves 18 billion euro aid package for Ukraine after deal with Hungary
64 Ukrainian soldiers, US citizen return from Russian captivity
Kremlin: Patriot air defense system would ‘definitely’ be target for Russia
Russia launched a morning drone attack on Kyiv on Dec. 14 and later massed deadly rocket fire on Kherson.
The attack on Kyiv and the surrounding region was prevented by Ukraine’s air defense, which shot down all 13 Iranian Shahed-136 drones, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Later in the day, a Russian rocket attack on Freedom Square in the liberated city of Kherson killed at least three civilians, including an eight-year-old boy, according to Dmytro Pletenchuk, head of the press service of the Kherson Defense Forces.
Just a month ago, Kherson residents celebrated the liberation of their city at the square. Since then, the square served as the main place for residents to receive humanitarian aid and seek evacuation help from local authorities.
The rockets severely damaged two floors of the regional administrative building, Deputy Head of the President’s Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko said. The building, closed since the liberation, is still littered with mines left behind by withdrawing Russian troops.
Just hours before the rocket attack, a warehouse with an area of 6,000 square meters in Kherson caught a “large-scale” fire due to Russian shelling, Kherson Oblast Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said. He added that it was finally extinguished at 3:30 p.m. local time, reporting no casualties.
Meanwhile, in the eastern Donetsk Oblast, Russian troops attacked towns and villages in the central and northern part of the region using S-300 missile systems and artillery overnight, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported. He said in the morning that two civilians were killed in the embattled region over the past day.
The Kremlin said on Dec. 14 that Russian troops would “definitely” target the Patriot air defense system if the U.S. sends the long-sought equipment to Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s comment came a day after Western media reports revealed Washington’s plan to supply Ukraine with a U.S.-made Patriot system. Kyiv’s months-long plea for the system had been rejected by NATO allies who feared becoming too involved in the war.
Multiple media reports citing unnamed U.S. officials said the highly-anticipated decision could be announced as early as this week.
Without naming specific equipment, Zelensky said that Ukraine had made “important progress” this week to strengthen its air defense capabilities.
“We are preparing agreements that will strengthen our defense capabilities and give Ukraine more operational capabilities,” he said in a video address. “We are doing everything to get more modern and powerful systems for Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, the EU stepped up its support for Kyiv on Dec. 14 by announcing an 18 billion euro macro-financial aid package to Ukraine. The decision reached by EU leaders after striking a deal with Hungary to drop its veto aims to help Ukraine pay for essential public services and restore damaged critical infrastructure to keep the economy running despite Russia’s brutal war.
‘Destroy city after city’
Zelensky said the heavy Russian artillery fire and the grinding battle is “destroying city after city in the Donbas” region, where the epicenter of the battle is taking place near the city of Bakhmut.
“Every day and every meter is extremely difficult,” Zelensky said, adding that invading Russian troops’ tactics are “destroying everything in front of them with artillery so that only bare ruins and craters in the ground remain.”
While conducting offensive operations in Bakhmut and Avdiivka areas, Russian troops are also trying to improve their tactical positions in the direction of Lyman in the northern part of Donetsk Oblast and Kupiansk in neighboring Kharkiv Oblast, according to Ukraine’s General Staff report.
Despite months-long battlefield setbacks, Russia could try to launch “big” offensive operations “somewhere in late January-February,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a briefing on Dec. 13.
“I'm not saying that this (offensive) will definitely happen,” he said. “I strongly believe that they will not succeed.”