The essentials in brief:
- Electricity is still scarce in large parts of Ukraine
- The government estimates that reconstruction will be more expensive
- Seven dead in renewed shelling of Cherson
- Zelenskyy maintains the liberation of Crimea as a war goal
- Putin makes fun of Scholz
After the Russian attacks on infrastructure in Ukraine, parts of the capital Kyiv and other regions of the country initially remained without access to electricity and running water. In Kyiv, 70 percent of households are still without electricity, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko. According to the city administration, the water supply was restored on Thursday.
Recently, the Ukrainian government had again reported violent Russian rocket attacks on important infrastructure in Kyiv. A total of eight power plants were hit, said Attorney General Andriy Kostin. Ten people were killed and 50 others injured.
Minister promotes more reconstruction aid
According to Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko, Ukraine will need more financial support to rebuild the country. “Unfortunately, the number is growing every day and, in the worst case, will increase significantly,” Marchenko wrote in an email, according to the Reuters news agency. The current budget provides little for reconstruction and needs to be increased if possible.
“The support of our international partners is of crucial importance for us,” added the minister, referring to the 18 billion euros already pledged by the EU. In August, the World Bank estimated the cost of repairing Ukraine’s infrastructure at $105 billion.
Further attacks on Kherson
According to regional authorities, Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Cherson killed seven people and injured around 20. The city, which was only recently liberated by Ukrainian troops, had been shelled with artillery and multiple rocket launchers, said regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych.
A high-rise caught fire as a result of the shelling. A bullet hit a children’s playground. “Today is another terrible page in the history of our hero city,” the governor wrote on Telegram.
Under pressure from Ukrainian attacks, Russian troops evacuated Cherson and their bridgehead on the north-west bank of the Dnipro in mid-November. The Russians, however, hold positions on the other bank of the river and use their artillery from there.
Zelenskyj: “We have to continue like this”
Nine months after the start of the Russian war of aggression, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj invoked his country’s spirit of resistance. “We survived a full-scale war for nine months, and Russia didn’t find a way to break us. And it won’t find one,” Zelenskyy said in his evening video address. “We must carry on as we are right now, in unity and mutual aid.”
Zelenskyy continues to adhere to the liberation of the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, as a war goal. He told the British newspaper “Financial Times”. “If someone shows us a way to end the occupation of Crimea through non-military means, then I will be very grateful,” he was quoted as saying. But if a proposal meant that Crimea would be occupied and remain part of Russia, “no one should waste their time on that.”
Lithuania calls for “adjustment of sanctions”
Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda has called on the EU Commission to adjust its sanctions course and put more pressure on Russia. The sanctions policy sometimes has a bigger impact on EU countries’ economies, while the consequences for Russia are quite controversial, he said after meeting his Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis in Vilnius.
Nauseda pointed to the example of Gazprom’s financial results, which are anything but bad. The Russian energy giant has sold much less gas, but has benefited from the sharp rise in gas prices, said the head of state of the Baltic EU and NATO country. The EU Commission should therefore assess the effects of the sanctions policy and correct its course in the required direction.
Lithuania has always advocated the most severe sanctions, Nauseda said, urging the EU to adopt a ninth sanctions package as soon as possible. “It should be the decisive step forward,” emphasized the Lithuanian President. It should contain further restrictions for the military industry, Russian banks and the nuclear agency Rosatom.
Hungary delays NATO expansion
Hungary intends to wait until next year to ratify Sweden’s and Finland’s accession to NATO. After the Russian attack on Ukraine, the two states broke with their decades-long tradition of military alliance neutrality and applied for NATO membership in May.
“As we have already informed Sweden and Finland, Hungary supports the NATO membership of these two countries,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told journalists. Ratification will be on the agenda for next year’s first session of Parliament, he said. This should start in February.
All members of the military alliance must agree to the admission of the two Nordic countries to NATO. Except for Hungary and Turkey, all have already done so.
Putin is amused by fake Scholz speech
Russian President Vladimir Putin had the possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI) demonstrated using a fake speech by Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The state news agency Ria published a short video in which the head of the Kremlin in Moscow watches the alleged appearance of the SPD politician.
In this so-called deepfake, the Russian programmers first put words critical of America from the popular Russian action film “Bruder 2” into Scholz’s mouth. Then they have him say: “We wanted to give up Russian gas. But to put it in the words of a Russian classic: We wanted the best, but it turned out as always.” This dictum comes from the former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin (1938-2010). “He says the right things,” Putin commented on the fake Scholz video. The speech was rich in content and profound.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Germany has been trying to free itself from its dependence on Russian natural gas. In addition, Moscow throttled gas deliveries because of allegedly necessary repairs to the Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 1. Later there were explosions on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which tore several leaks in the pipelines. Both Western governments and Russia spoke of sabotage.
gri/wa (afp, rtr, dpa)
This article will be continuously updated on the day of its publication. Reports from the combat zones cannot be independently verified.