As the war enters its 659th day, these are the main developments.
Here is the situation on Thursday, December 14, 2023.
- At least 53 people, including six children, were injured after Russia launched a missile attack on Kyiv, the second in a week. The city’s air defences shot down the missiles – Iskander-M and S-400s – but the falling debris blew out windows of apartment blocks as well as a children’s hospital and destroyed parked cars. Of the injured, 18 were taken to hospital.
- A group of hackers called Solntsepyok claimed responsibility for the cyberattack on Kyivstar, Ukraine’s biggest mobile phone network, after millions of people were left without phone access or air raid alerts. Kyiv believes the group is affiliated with Russian military intelligence. Kyivstar began restoring voice services to some people on Wednesday.
Politics and diplomacy
- With European Union leaders due to meet on Thursday to decide whether to formally open Ukraine membership talks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was on a visit to Norway after returning to Europe from the United States, said that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had no reason to block Kyiv’s membership of the 27-member grouping. Zelenskyy said he had been “very direct” when he had a brief chat with Orban in Argentina on Sunday.
- Orban, a conservative nationalist who is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the EU and is blocking 50 billion euros in financial aid for Kyiv, appeared unmoved. “Our stance is clear. We do not support Ukraine’s quick EU entry,” Orban wrote in a post on Facebook, claiming Ukrainian membership would not serve the interests of Hungary or the EU.
- Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, meanwhile, promised Zelenskyy they would “stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes”. The five countries have provided Ukraine with aid worth some 11 billion euros since Russia began its full-scale invasion in February 2022 and said they were ready to continue giving extensive military, economic and humanitarian support. “Russia must end its aggression and withdraw its forces immediately and unconditionally from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders,” they said in a joint statement.
- Other EU leaders, including EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, reiterated their support for Ukraine, with Scholz suggesting the EU take enlargement decisions by majority vote rather than unanimity. Newly-elected Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he would try to persuade Orban to change course. “Apathy on Ukraine is unacceptable,” Tusk said, adding that he will try to convince “some member states”.
- A German court heard that Russia paid Carsten Linke, a former soldier working for Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND), at least 450,000 euros in return for information about weaponry with which the West was arming Ukraine. Linke and his accomplice, a Russian-born German diamond trader named Arthur Eller, are charged with high treason.
- Germany’s Scholz stressed that the aim of the West’s continuing military support for Ukraine was to strengthen Kyiv’s defence to such an extent that Russia would “never again dare to attack”.