Russia-Ukraine war live: US state department calls on Congress to ‘act swiftly’ to resume flow of aid to Kyiv | Russia

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US Congress urged to ‘act swiftly’ on aid to Ukraine

The US Congress should “act swiftly” to renew the flow of aid to Ukraine, the state department has said, after the White House announced what it said was the last remaining package of weapons available under the existing authorisation.

“It is imperative that Congress act swiftly, as soon as possible, to advance our national security interests by helping Ukraine defend itself and secure its future,” the state department said in a statement, adding that the year’s final package included air-defence and artillery munitions.

The US president, Joe Biden, has made backing Ukraine a priority and US weapons and financial assistance have been crucial in helping the pro-western country battle against a far larger attacking Russian force.

However, rightwing Republicans have led a push to halt the effort, refusing to authorise new budget outlays if the Democrats don’t first agree to sweeping, tough new measures against illegal migration over the US southern border.

Democrats in the Senate, where they hold a narrow majority, tried to push Republicans in December for a last-minute deal, but with little progress the two parties left for the end-of-year holidays.

Congress reconvenes on 8 January.

Key events

Ukraine’s economy minister says GDP grew by almost 5% this year, Reuters has reported.

Here are some further comments from the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, coming to us via Reuters.

In an interview with RIA state news agency and the Rossiya 24 TV channel, Lavrov said some in the west were suggesting Moscow should discuss peace in Ukraine because the United States and its allies had failed to defeat Russian forces in Ukraine.

He added he believed there were signs the west was changing its tactics and strategy on Ukraine.

Lavrov said:

The west is really changing its tactics – maybe even thinking about clarifying the strategy. Because if the ‘strategic defeat of Russia’ is a strategy, forgive the tautology, then this strategy failed miserably.

There are some approaches, some whispers: why don’t you [Russia] meet with someone in Europe who would be ready to talk, talk about Ukraine without Ukraine itself.”

Two Russian men sentenced to prison terms for reciting poetry criticising Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Russian poets Artyom Kamardin (left) and Yegor Shtovba (right) pictured during their verdict announcement at a court in Moscow on 28 December 2023.
Russian poets Artyom Kamardin (left) and Yegor Shtovba (right) pictured during their verdict announcement at a court in Moscow on 28 December 2023. Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Two Russian men have been sentenced to long prison terms for reading poems criticising Russia’s military assault on Ukraine.

Artyom Kamardin was sentenced to seven years and Yegor Shtovba to five years and six months to cries of “Shame!” from their supporters in the courtroom, according to Agence France-Presse.

Kamardin, 33, said his detention in September 2022 was violent, claiming officers raped him and forced him to film an apology video while threatening his then girlfriend Alexandra Popova, now his wife.

On the eve of his arrest he had recited his poem “Kill me, militia man!” on a Moscow square where dissidents have been gathering since the Soviet era. Kamardin also shouted slogans against the imperial “New Russia” project aiming to annex the south of Ukraine.

Both men were convicted of “inciting hatred” and “calling for activities threatening state security”.

Kamardin told the court he did not know his actions broke the law and asked for mercy.

“I am not a hero, and going to prison for my beliefs was never in my plans,” he said in a statement, posted on his supporters’ Telegram channel.

Shtovba, 23, also said he did not break the law.

In his last statement in court, published by independent site Mediazona, he asked the judge: “What have I done that’s illegal? Read poetry?”

Nikolai Dayneko, who was arrested at the same time, was sentenced to four years in prison last May after entering a pre-trial agreement, according to OVD-info.

This is the latest in a string of heavy sentences against Russians who have protested against the invasion of Ukraine, in trials critics have denounced as absurd.

Footage has been posted that appears to show the Kherson railway station after Russian forces’ shelling on 26 December in which one policeman was killed and four people were injured.

A train was set to evacuate residents when the shelling took place. Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said after the incident that about 140 civilians had been at the station in the early evening and quick action by police to direct them away saved many lives.

The Guardian has not been able to independently verify the footage.

A view shows the Panama-flagged bulk carrier.
A view of the Panama-flagged bulk carrier. Photograph: State Border Guard Service Of Ukraine/Reuters

More on the Panama-flagged bulk carrier incident (see 09.25am)

The carrier, which was heading to a River Danube port to load grain hit a Russian mine in the Black Sea on Wednesday, injuring two crew members, Ukrainian officials said on Thursday.

It was the latest incident of a civilian vessel hitting an explosive in the Black Sea in what Kyiv says is a further example of stepped-up Russian attacks on shipping and port infrastructure, Reuters has reported.

Ukraine’s southern military command said on Telegram:

A Panama-flagged civilian vessel was blown up on an enemy sea mine in the Black Sea…The vessel lost its course and control, and a fire broke out on the upper deck.

A captain and a sailor, an Egyptian citizen, were injured, with the latter hospitalised in the city of Izmail, the head of the Odesa regional prosecutor’s office said at a briefing. He added that the incident happened early on Wednesday at a river mouth.

Moscow has increased attacks on Ukraine’s port infrastructure since mid-July, when it quit a UN-brokered deal that allowed safe passage of Ukrainian grain shipments via the Black Sea.

Kyiv since has established an alternative route, which hugs the western shores of the Black Sea. It said Russian forces have been repeatedly dropping explosive devices in its vicinity.

The UK defence secretary, Grant Shapps, has said Russia “misled” when it claimed the Novocherkassk was “damaged”.

Reposting the Ministry of Defence’s latest update on Ukraine, Shapps added on Twitter, formerly X: “It has been completely destroyed!”

He continued:

It’s crucial that in 2024 the civilised world continues to back Ukraine in this epoch defining battle currently playing out in Europe.

Russia misled when it claimed Putin’s warship Novocherkassk was merely ‘damaged’ – it has clearly been completely destroyed!

It’s crucial that in 2024 the civilised world continues to back Ukraine in this epoch defining battle currently playing out in Europe.

Read the latest UK… https://t.co/cRSWNVQZsy

— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 28, 2023

The Russian navy’s Ropucha-class landing ship tank (LST) Novocherkassk was completely destroyed on 25 December 2023 following a Ukrainian strike while alongside at the port of Feodosia, on the south coast of Russian-occupied Crimea, the latest summary from the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

The MoD said open source evidence suggests the vessel was “highly likely” to have been carrying explosive cargo when it was hit “causing a large secondary explosion”.

This latest incident takes the number of LSTs Russia has lost since the invasion to three, the MoD said, adding that two additional LSTs “have likely been damaged”.

The MoD continued:

Russia likely planned to use its LST force to launch significant amphibious assaults during the invasion and it doubled the number of these vessels in the Black Sea during the build-up to the war.

As the war has dragged on, the ships have been more commonly employed in providing logistical support. This is a significant role because it augments the vital and relatively fragile road and rail connection of the Crimea Bridge, which links Crimea to Russia.

The Ukraine ministry of defence has said it is grateful to the United States for the fresh military aid package to Ukraine, worth up to $250m.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, it wrote:

We are grateful to the American government and people for their unwavering support. Ukrainian people appreciate your leadership.

The capabilities in the new package include:

  • Additional munitions for NASAMS

  • Stinger anti-aircraft missiles

  • Air defense system components

  • Additional ammunition for HIMARS

  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds

  • TOW missiles

  • Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems

  • 15+ million rounds of small arms ammunition

  • Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing

  • Spare parts, medical equipment, maintenance, and other ancillary equipment.

Together, we are stronger!

🇺🇦🇺🇸 @DeptofDefense announced additional security assistance package for Ukraine valued at up to $250 million.

We are grateful to the American government and people for their unwavering support. Ukrainian people appreciate your leadership.

The capabilities in the new package…

— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) December 28, 2023

Russia’s space state agency, Roscosmos, said has said that a cross-flight programme with Nasa to the International Space Station (ISS) had been extended until 2025, Interfax news agency reported.

The cross-flights were extended “in order to maintain the reliability of the ISS operation” and will be carried out on Russian and United States spacecraft, Roscosmos said.

Reuters, citing Interfax, said that the cross-flights involve sending one American astronaut to the ISS as part of the crew of a Russian spacecraft, and vice versa – one Russian cosmonaut as part of an American crew.

Ukraine military has said a Panama-flagged civilian vessel has hit a mine in the Black Sea leaving two people injured, Reuters reported.

Sergei Lavrov says west’s strategy to ‘inflict a strategic defeat on Russia’ has failed

Russia is resolved to achieve its goals in its military operations in Ukraine, its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said, adding that what he called the west’s strategy to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia had “completely failed”.

The G7 countries intend to discuss a “peace formula” proposed by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which they agreed on at a “secret summit” held about 10 days ago, Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state media.

Sergei Lavrov
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said that the west’s dominance is ‘slipping away’. Photograph: Reuters

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has warned that no one worldwide could be certain of escaping unscathed from western machinations in 2024, Reuters has reported.

In a year-end interview released by the official Tass news agency, Lavrov said:

Storms continue in the world and one of the reasons is that the ruling circles in the west provoke crises thousands of kilometres from their borders in order to resolve their own issues at the expense of other peoples.

In extracts released ahead of full publication, Lavrov added:

It can be said that given conditions in which the west is clinging to the domination slipping away from it, no one can be protected against its geopolitical intrigues. There is a growing understanding of this.

Russia has lost 356,670 personnel since the beginning of the war until 28 December, according to the Ukrainian Army’s General Staff.

Other losses include 5,940 tanks, 11,015 APVs, 8,391 artillery systems and 6,503 drones.

Ukraine’s air defence systems shot down seven out of eight Russia-launched Shahed drones overnight, the country’s air force said on Thursday.

Drones were downed in three central and southern regions, the air force said on the Telegram messenger, according to a report by Reuters. It was not clear whether the drone that was not shot down reached its target.

The Russian defence ministry also said it thwarted a Ukrainian drone attack over Moscow-occupied Crimea overnight.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

Finland will be the first country to suffer in the event of an escalation of tensions between Russia and Nato due to its proximity to the former, the RIA news agency cited a senior Russian diplomat as saying on Thursday.

Mikhail Ulyanov, permanent representative of Russia to international organisations in Vienna, told RIA:

They had lived calmly and in peace and suddenly ended up between Russia and Nato as a member of that alliance, but since they are our neighbours, if, God forbid there is some escalation, they will be the first to suffer.

US Congress urged to ‘act swiftly’ on aid to Ukraine

The US Congress should “act swiftly” to renew the flow of aid to Ukraine, the state department has said, after the White House announced what it said was the last remaining package of weapons available under the existing authorisation.

“It is imperative that Congress act swiftly, as soon as possible, to advance our national security interests by helping Ukraine defend itself and secure its future,” the state department said in a statement, adding that the year’s final package included air-defence and artillery munitions.

The US president, Joe Biden, has made backing Ukraine a priority and US weapons and financial assistance have been crucial in helping the pro-western country battle against a far larger attacking Russian force.

However, rightwing Republicans have led a push to halt the effort, refusing to authorise new budget outlays if the Democrats don’t first agree to sweeping, tough new measures against illegal migration over the US southern border.

Democrats in the Senate, where they hold a narrow majority, tried to push Republicans in December for a last-minute deal, but with little progress the two parties left for the end-of-year holidays.

Congress reconvenes on 8 January.

Welcome and summary

Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

The US has announced a fresh package of arms to Ukraine, worth up to $250m. The package comes amid growing Republican opposition to continued financial support for Kyiv.

With many Republicans demanding concessions on US border security as a condition for renewing a larger $61bn of aid for Ukraine, the US state department has urged Congress to act to pass a bill that will allow more equipment to flow unimpeded.

More on that shortly – first, here’s some of the day’s other main headlines.

  • The war in 2024 “must be different from 2023”, the head of Ukraine’s armed forces has said. “Otherwise we will face what I wrote about in the article [the Economist]”, said Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi. “Unfortunately, I must state that the enemy is not far behind us. In recent days, we have had a powerful confrontation applying modern technologies. But we do not spare efforts. My main mistake was that I thought that the amount of losses we inflicted on the enemy would stop anyone. But not the Russian Federation.”

  • Zaluzhnyi, giving a press conference, said Ukrainian troops remained on a defensive line in the northern part of Maryinka. “But I can say that this settlement no longer exists. The [Russian] method is the same as it was in Bakhmut. Street by street, block by block are destroyed. The fact that we have now moved to the outskirts of Maryinka, and in some places equipped positions beyond Maryinka, seems to me to be nothing that can cause a public outcry.”

  • “As for the conduct of hostilities around Avdiivka,” he continued, “there is no need to dwell on it and make a show of it. The conduct of hostilities is subject to the laws of war, and they are not subject to what politicians or journalists want. The enemy now has the opportunity to concentrate forces; they can do to the city in two or three months what they have done to Bakhmut.”

  • Two people were killed in Russian drone attacks on Odesa, according to figures from the Odesa oblast governor, Oleh Kiper. A 17-year-old was among the wounded and remained in hospital.

  • The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, held talks in Moscow with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and said progress had been made on plans for Russia and India to jointly produce military equipment. Jaishankar added that he expected Vladimir Putin and the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to meet next year.

  • The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, must be stopped in his war against Ukraine or all of Europe will pay a much higher price, Moldova’s pro-European president, Maia Sandu, said in an interview published on Wednesday.





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