Key developments on Dec. 22:
- Zelensky meets Polish foreign minister, hopes for new page in bilateral relations
- Netherlands to prepare 18 F-16s for delivery to Ukraine
- Russian attacks Kyiv, hits high-rise
- Air Force: Ukraine downs 3 Russian Su-34 supersonic aircraft
- Biden administration strengthens sanctions on Russia, targets financial backers of war effort
The Netherlands will start preparing the initial 18 F-16 jets for their delivery to Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Dec. 22, following a call with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The Netherlands and Denmark led the way in the summer of 2023 in forming an international coalition that would train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets. In November, the Dutch Defense Ministry said it would send up to 18 F-16s to Romania for training purposes only.
Rutte confirmed the decision on preparation in a post on X, adding that a number of criteria must be met before the delivery, including obtaining an export permit and satisfying requirements for personnel and infrastructure.
"This decision confirms the Netherlands’ undiminished commitment to providing Ukraine with the support it needs to respond to the ongoing Russian aggression," Rutte said.
Zelensky meets Polish foreign minister, hopes to relaunch bilateral relations
President Volodymyr Zelensky told Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski that there was hope for "a new page in our relations" during their meeting in Kyiv on Dec. 22.
Tensions between Poland and Ukraine have risen in recent months, as Polish truckers and farmers continue a blockade of some of the busiest border checkpoints with Ukraine. Some 3,900 trucks were waiting in line to enter Ukraine from Poland on Dec.22, according to Ukraine's Border Guard Service.
"We both agree that our bilateral relations need a boost, and that all concerns ought to be resolved in a mutually respectful manner," Zelensky said. "We are very strong neighbors with a common history."
Polish Deputy Infrastructure Minister Pawel Gancarz joined Sikorski in Kyiv for talks on the border protests, according to reports in Polish media. He said Poland and Ukraine are finalizing the details of an agreement that could unblock the border, hoping "the problem will be solved before Christmas," Polish media outlet Wiadomosci reported.
Russian drone strike attacks across Ukraine kill 1, injure at least 4
Russian attacks across Ukraine, including a drone attack on Kyiv, killed one person and injured at least four overnight on Dec. 21, regional authorities reported.
Russia launched a drone attack on Kyiv overnight, wounding two people, one of whom was hospitalized, Kyiv City Military Administration Head Serhii Popko reported.
A drone damaged a high-rise apartment in the capital's Solomianskyi district, causing a fire on the building's upper floors. Debris from intercepted drones reportedly fell on a home in Kyiv's Darnytskyi district, causing another fire but no casualties.
According to the Air Force, Russia launched its attack with 28 Shahed drones. Ukraine reportedly shot down 24 of them over Kyiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Zhytomyr, Rivne, and Khmelnytskyi oblasts.
Russian attacks in Kherson Oblast killed one person and injured two, said Governor Oleksandr Prokudin.
Biden administration strengthens sanctions on Russia, targets financial backers of war
U.S. President Joe Biden signed a new executive order on Dec. 22 that will strengthen the U.S.' sanctions against Russia while also targeting financial institutions that help support Russia's war effort, the White House said in a press release.
The executive order expands sanctions authority over any financial institutions "determined to have conducted or facilitated any significant transactions...or provided any services" for already sanctioned individuals or companies involved in Russia's military-industrial complex.
"Today we are taking steps to level new and powerful tools against Russia’s war machine," said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Dec. 22. "And we will not hesitate to use the new tools provided by this authority to take decisive and surgical action against financial institutions that facilitate the supply of Russia’s war machine.”
The order will also ban the export of any diamonds originating in or manufactured in Russia. The move follows EU's 12th round of sanctions against Russia, which also included a ban on Russian diamonds, a crackdown on Russia's acquisition of military-use goods, tighter controls over the $60-per-barrel oil price cap, and further steps targeting Moscow's revenue.
The news on expanded sanctions comes amid media reports of booming trade between Russia and China. Chinese-Russian bilateral trade hit $218 billion in 11 months of 2023, surpassing the $200 billion goal the two countries set in 2019, according to the reports.