Zelensky Speaks: Historical Commentary by Dan Rather

Editor's Note: The following guest column was written by Dan Rather, right, following Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky's address to a Joint Meeting to the U.S. Congress on dan rather steady logoWednesday, Dec. 21, 2022.

dan rather 2017Rather first published the column in his near-daily column "Steady," which he so named to urge readers to stay balanced during our troubled times. This editor is a subscriber to the columns, which are published in collaboration with Elliot Kirschner and benefit from Rather's experience and blunt, colorful style. Rather, whose 91st birthday was Oct. 31, is currently based in his native Texas. The iconic author and journalist worked for many years as the CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor.

-- Andrew Kreig, Justice Integrity Project editor

 

 Ukraine President Volodymyer Zelensky addresses a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress on Dec. 21, 2022 (Photo by Win McNamee via Getty Images).

Ukraine President Volodymyer Zelensky addresses a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress on Dec. 21, 2022 (Photo by Win McNamee via Getty Images).

 

A historic address to Congress and the nation

By Dan Rather

In the history of momentous occasions at the United States Congress, there has not been anything quite like what we witnessed.

A man. A moment. A nation under siege. Freedom on one side. A ruthless autocracy on the other.

By now, we all know the general story of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — a former comedian who as his nation's leader has had the mantle of greatness thrust upon him. Through steadfast leadership and uncommon courage, against seemingly all odds, he has stared down a murderous tyrant, Russian President Vladimir Putin, on a bloody battlefield. It is not hyperbole to say that the future of freedom in Europe and beyond stands in the balance.

dan rather steady logoIn his speech tonight, Zelensky appealed to America, in the best of our own courageous traditions. He invoked the Battle of Saratoga, in which a plucky band of revolutionaries stood down the mighty British in our war for independence. And he spoke of the Battle of the Bulge, when U.S. forces countering the Nazis in World War II held the line during a brutal Christmas and New Year from 1944 to 1945. Zelensky's message was not subtle, but it was effective. The Ukrainians, like the Americans, are fighting for freedom against a mighty foe and at great sacrifice.

In making the case for Ukrainian resolve, Zelensky quoted from President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech on December 8, 1941, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the United States suddenly entered World War II. Roosevelt said that “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” Zelensky said the Ukrainians would do the same. The allusion to “absolute victory” was certainly not a coincidence when some are calling for the Ukrainians to accede to Russian demands.

Make no mistake, behind the fierce and often lofty rhetoric was a careful deployment of strategy. Zelensky wants the United States and other allies to not only maintain their support for the Ukrainian military, but in fact increase it. He said that Ukrainians could drive American tanks and fly American planes, although this country is not likely to provide that level of backing for fear of escalating to a larger regional conflict.

Zelensky needed to show his deep appreciation for the support he has received — and also suggest that this could and should be expanded. He spoke of urgent desperation with untold human suffering. Zelensky painted a compelling picture of Christmases by candlelight due to Russian attacks on Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure. And he spoke of millions of his fellow citizens living without heat or running water in the dark, cold days of winter. It was very effective at showing the depravity of Russian battle plans in their targeting of civilians.

It was heartening to see the rousing support Zelensky received by members of Congress, although there were some notable exceptions on the Republican side of the aisle. By and large, there has been bipartisan backing for Ukraine, but in a nation where everything is ultimately passed through the meat grinder of partisan politics, this cannot be assured.

 

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Related News Coverage

February 2023

Feb. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, In unusual wartime summit, E.U. and Ukraine prepare path forward, Emily Rauhala, Feb. 2, 2023. Though the 27-member bloc is broadly supportive of Ukraine, it remains split on the idea of fast-track E.U. membership.

Ukrainian officials have a long list of requests for their European allies this week: fighter jets and other heavy weaponry to fend off a looming ukraine flagRussian offensive, European Union membership within a few years, legal mechanisms to hold Russians to account, and a plan to use seized Russian assets for reconstruction.

But a delegation of senior E.U. officials that arrived Thursday in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, is unlikely to offer concrete promises on any of these. Instead, an unusual wartime summit in Kyiv is expected to yield just a statement lauding Ukraine’s efforts and urging the country to continue reforms, as well progress on issues such as roaming-free mobile access. That, and photo ops.

E.U. officials cast the meeting on Friday itself as an act of solidarity that signals European commitment and sends a message to Moscow. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said showing up in wartime Kyiv shows that the E.U. understands “the price Ukraine pays.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukraine live briefing: Ukraine widens corruption crackdown; France to give Kyiv air defense radar, Kelsey Ables, Victoria Bisset, Robyn Dixon, Dan Lamothe and Claire Parker, Feb. 1, 2023. Ukrainian authorities widened an anti-corruption drive Wednesday, raiding and searching multiple locations, including construction companies in Kyiv and the home of oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.

Local media, including Ukrainska Pravda, reported that the raid against Kolomoisky — who made his fortune through energy companies, banking, airlines and media — was related to an investigation into embezzlement. The construction companies are also accused by Ukraine’s security service of laundering money to benefit former lawmakers allied with Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the searches in a nightly address and said the head of Ukraine’s customs service was also dismissed. “We will not allow anyone to weaken our state,” he said. “Change as much as necessary to ensure that people do not abuse power.” The moves come as Ukraine prepares to host a summit with the European Union in Kyiv.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • The former head of procurement at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry was charged with embezzlement for allegedly buying nearly 3,000 bulletproof vests of inadequate quality for more than $2.7 million, Ukraine’s Security Service said in a statement. “The purity of processes within the Ministry of Defense, and the defense forces in general, is especially important,” Zelensky said. Any internal supply, any procurement — everything must be absolutely as clean and honest as the external supply for our defense."
  • The fresh investigations came ahead of the E.U. summit on Friday, a meeting Kyiv hopes will help its bid to become a full member of the bloc. An E.U. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to brief the press on Wednesday, called the earlier dismissals “a signal of their determination and of the functioning of what they have now put in place.”
  • Russia is preparing to hold elections on Sept. 10 in the Ukrainian territories it occupies, Russian Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko told reporters Wednesday. Residents of those regions — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — are “full-fledged citizens of Russia, and we can’t deprive them of the right to elect and the right to be elected,” Matviyenko said.

2. Battleground updates

  • At least two people were killed Wednesday night in Kramatorsk in a missile strike on a residential building, the governor of the Donetsk region said on Facebook. The building was “completely destroyed” by a Russian missile, the governor, Pavlo Kyrilenko, said, adding that rescue workers were searching for survivors in the rubble.
  • France is supplying Ukraine with air defense radar systems to track incoming missiles and drones in the area around Kyiv. “This radar will be the cherry on the cake,” the Associated Press quoted Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov as saying at the handover ceremony in northern France, where the equipment is produced. He described the Ground Master 200 system as “very effective,” saying it would mean “Ukrainian lives are saved."
  • U.S. drone maker offers Ukraine two aircraft for $1. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the maker of armed drones, said it offered two of its training aircraft for sale for the symbolic price of $1. The sale would need approval from the Biden administration. The Wall Street Journal reported it would cost Ukraine $10 to ship it and $8 million a year to sustain it. The U.S. has provided small drones, but the kind offered are larger and can be armed with missiles.
  • Ukraine’s Defense Ministry responded to a report accusing it of firing rockets carrying banned antipersonnel mines into Russian-controlled territory. In a statement on Telegram, the ministry said Ukraine is exercising its right to self-defense, according to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. It also urged Human Rights Watch, which released the report, to pressure Russia to end its “criminal war.”

3. Global impact

  • Ukraine “really” deserves to join NATO, Czech President-elect Petr Pavel said. Speaking to the BBC, the retired general said Ukraine nato logo flags namewould be “morally and practically ready” to join once the war with Russia ends. “If we leave Ukraine without assistance, they would most probably lose this war," he said. “And if they lose — we all lose.”
  • South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup did not rule out sending weapons to Ukraine when asked about it at a news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Lee said that he was aware of the “need for the international effort” and that the South Korean government is paying “close attention.” Such an act would require changes to Seoul’s policy that says defense goods can be exported only “for peaceful purposes.”
  • The International Olympic Committee said sanctions against Russian and Belarusian athletes are “not negotiable.” The sanctions prohibit international sporting events in either country, as well as the display of their flags. Zelensky has called on the IOC to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing, but international sporting officials say that would constitute discrimination. The IOC has yet to make an official decision, Nenad Lalovic, a member of the executive board and president of the Serbian Wrestling Federation, said in an interview.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: U.S. cautions Ukraine on aid as public support slips, Olivier Knox with research by Caroline Anders, Feb. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Top officials from the Departments of Defense and State as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development just wrapped up a visit to Ukraine, delivering a warning of sorts about American aid at a time when Republicans are driving a drop in public support for Kyiv.

During their trip last week, leaders from the offices of inspector general from all three entities delivered a message that might be translated as: Be prepared to account for everything we give you. And keep fighting corruption.

Tracking American military and economic assistance and helping Ukraine expunge rot from its government aren’t new initiatives. Both have gone on for at least a decade. But let’s just say the Republican takeover of the House hasn’t exactly diminished the urgency of knowing what went where.

ny times logoNew York Times, Alcohol and Bad Finances: How a U.S. Veterans Group Imploded in Ukraine, Jeffrey Gettleman, Feb. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The Mozart Group trained Ukrainian soldiers and evacuated residents until money ran out. Its collapse sheds light on the stresses faced by such groups.

Andrew Milburn, a former American Marine colonel and leader of the Mozart Group, stood in a chilly meeting room on the second floor of an apartment building in Kyiv about to deliver some bad news. In front of him sat half a dozen men who had traveled to Ukraine on their own dime to work for him.

“Guys, I’m gutted,” he said. “The Mozart Group is dead.”

The men stared back at him with blank faces.

One asked as he walked toward the door, “What should I do with my helmet?”

The Mozart Group, one of the most prominent, private American military organizations in Ukraine, has collapsed under a cloud of accusations ranging from financial improprieties to alcohol-addled misjudgments. Its struggles provide a revealing window into the world of foreign volunteer groups that have flocked to Ukraine with noble intentions only to be tripped up by the stresses of managing a complicated enterprise in a war zone.

“I’ve seen this happen many times,” said one of Mozart’s veteran trainers, who, like many others, spoke only anonymously out of concerns that the Russians might target him. “You got to run these groups like a business. We didn’t do that.”
Hundreds if not thousands of foreign veterans and volunteers have passed through Ukraine. Many of them, like Mr. Milburn and his group, are hard-living men who have spent their adult lives steeped in violence, solo fliers trying to work together in a very dangerous environment without a lot of structure or rules.

The Mozart Group thrived at first, training Ukrainian troops, rescuing civilians from the front lines and raising more than a million dollars in donations to finance it all. But then the money began to run out.

After months struggling to hold itself together, Mozart was plagued by defections, infighting, a break-in at its office headquarters and a lawsuit filed by the company’s chief financial officer, Andrew Bain, seeking the ouster of Mr. Milburn.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says no to F-16 jets for Kyiv; Russia likely eyeing Donetsk advance, U.K. says, Erin Cunningham, Bryan Pietsch and Leo Sands, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden said the United States will not send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, rejecting renewed calls by Kyiv officials for these advanced weapons to turn the tide of the conflict and boost Ukraine’s command of its own airspace. Buoyed by long-sought commitments last week from the United States and Germany to send tanks, a Ukrainian official described fighter jets as Kyiv’s “next big hurdle.”

Department of Defense SealBritish intelligence officials warned that Moscow is probably preparing to open up a fresh offensive front in Ukraine’s east, with small-scale gains a realistic possibility. “Russian commanders are likely aiming to develop a new axis of advance into Ukrainian-held Donetsk Oblask,” British officials said in an update. The escalation would also serve to divert Ukrainian forces from defending the heavily contested Bakhmut sector, the Defense Ministry update added.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • President Biden simply responded “no” when he was asked by a reporter if the United States would send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Speaking on CNN afterward, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby pointed to last week’s commitment to send tanks and said “there is a lot of capability that is being sent and will be sent.” Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told Reuters last week that fighter jets are “the next big hurdle” on Kyiv’s list of desired weapons.
  • France has not ruled out sending fighter jets to Ukraine but would do so only under certain criteria, President Emmanuel Macron said Monday, including a condition that would bar Kyiv from using the aircraft to attack Russian territory. He made the remarks at a joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “There are no taboos” in discussing fighter jet deliveries to Ukraine, Rutte said, “but it would be a very big next step,” the Associated Press reported. Ukraine has not yet formally requested the aircraft.
  • The Pentagon announced Monday the first shipment of Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine. More than 60 Bradleys departed from North Charleston, S.C., last week, the U.S. Transportation Command said in a statement. The M2 Bradley is an American-made infantry fighting vehicle — meaning it is intended to move and support foot soldiers. The first version was introduced to the U.S. Army in the 1980s.
  • France and Australia will jointly supply Ukraine with thousands of 155-millimeter artillery shells, the two nations’ defense ministers said Monday, calling the ammunition an “urgent need” as Ukrainian forces battle Russian troops in the east. The first shells, produced by a French manufacturer in cooperation with Australian companies, will be sent in the coming weeks.
  • Ukrainian forces may have fired banned antipersonnel mines into Russian-controlled territory, according to a report Tuesday by Human Rights Watch. Its authors urged the Ukrainian government — which is a signatory to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty prohibiting the weapon — to investigate. Russian forces were previously accused of using seven types of antipersonnel mines in the invasion last year.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russian strikes hit the cities of Kherson and Ochakiv in southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said in an update early Tuesday local time. Civilians were among the victims, the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said, warning that “the threat of … missile strikes throughout Ukraine remains high.”
  • Other Russian strikes on settlements near the Russian border in the Kharkiv region have killed civilians and destroyed buildings, the Ukrainian military said. Oleh Synyehubov, the regional governor, said Monday on Telegram that a Russian missile strike badly damaged a residential building in Kharkiv, adding that at least one person died and three others were injured in the attack. He later said that a 62-year-old man was killed in another shelling attack in the city’s Chuhuiv district.

3. Global impact

  • The war in Ukraine could “accelerate” the global energy transition as countries turn to domestically produced sources, including renewables, the oil and gas giant BP said in its 2023 Energy Outlook on Monday. The shortages caused by the war underscored three elements associated with the energy transition: secure, affordable and lower carbon, BP said.
  • Poland plans to increase its defense spending to 4 percent of its GDP, a boost that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called “unprecedented” on Monday in remarks to reporters, Deutsche Welle reported. The nation currently spends about 2.2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, according to the International Trade Administration.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin invited his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to visit Moscow in the spring, Tass news agency reported. It is not clear whether Xi has accepted the invitation, which was extended as Russian diplomats increase their efforts to strengthen ties with Beijing. The Kremlin reportedly praised China for “playing an increasingly important role as a friendly nation in the current circumstances” and pointed to the two nations’ shared interest in challenging U.S. global influence.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: U.S. cautions Ukraine on aid as public support slips, Olivier Knox with research by Caroline Anders, Feb. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Top officials from the Departments of Defense and State as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development just wrapped up a visit to Ukraine, delivering a warning of sorts about American aid at a time when Republicans are driving a drop in public support for Kyiv.

During their trip last week, leaders from the offices of inspector general from all three entities delivered a message that might be translated as: Be prepared to account for everything we give you. And keep fighting corruption.

Tracking American military and economic assistance and helping Ukraine expunge rot from its government aren’t new initiatives. Both have gone on for at least a decade. But let’s just say the Republican takeover of the House hasn’t exactly diminished the urgency of knowing what went where.

ny times logoNew York Times, Alcohol and Bad Finances: How a U.S. Veterans Group Imploded in Ukraine, Jeffrey Gettleman, Feb. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The Mozart Group trained Ukrainian soldiers and evacuated residents until money ran out. Its collapse sheds light on the stresses faced by such groups.

Andrew Milburn, a former American Marine colonel and leader of the Mozart Group, stood in a chilly meeting room on the second floor of an apartment building in Kyiv about to deliver some bad news. In front of him sat half a dozen men who had traveled to Ukraine on their own dime to work for him.

“Guys, I’m gutted,” he said. “The Mozart Group is dead.”

The men stared back at him with blank faces.

One asked as he walked toward the door, “What should I do with my helmet?”

The Mozart Group, one of the most prominent, private American military organizations in Ukraine, has collapsed under a cloud of accusations ranging from financial improprieties to alcohol-addled misjudgments. Its struggles provide a revealing window into the world of foreign volunteer groups that have flocked to Ukraine with noble intentions only to be tripped up by the stresses of managing a complicated enterprise in a war zone.

“I’ve seen this happen many times,” said one of Mozart’s veteran trainers, who, like many others, spoke only anonymously out of concerns that the Russians might target him. “You got to run these groups like a business. We didn’t do that.”
Hundreds if not thousands of foreign veterans and volunteers have passed through Ukraine. Many of them, like Mr. Milburn and his group, are hard-living men who have spent their adult lives steeped in violence, solo fliers trying to work together in a very dangerous environment without a lot of structure or rules.

The Mozart Group thrived at first, training Ukrainian troops, rescuing civilians from the front lines and raising more than a million dollars in donations to finance it all. But then the money began to run out.

After months struggling to hold itself together, Mozart was plagued by defections, infighting, a break-in at its office headquarters and a lawsuit filed by the company’s chief financial officer, Andrew Bain, seeking the ouster of Mr. Milburn.

Feb. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says no to F-16 jets for Kyiv; Russia likely eyeing Donetsk advance, U.K. says, Erin Cunningham, Bryan Pietsch and Leo Sands, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden said the United States will not send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, rejecting renewed calls by Kyiv officials for these advanced weapons to turn the tide of the conflict and boost Ukraine’s command of its own airspace. Buoyed by long-sought commitments last week from the United States and Germany to send tanks, a Ukrainian official described fighter jets as Kyiv’s “next big hurdle.”

Department of Defense SealBritish intelligence officials warned that Moscow is probably preparing to open up a fresh offensive front in Ukraine’s east, with small-scale gains a realistic possibility. “Russian commanders are likely aiming to develop a new axis of advance into Ukrainian-held Donetsk Oblask,” British officials said in an update. The escalation would also serve to divert Ukrainian forces from defending the heavily contested Bakhmut sector, the Defense Ministry update added.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • President Biden simply responded “no” when he was asked by a reporter if the United States would send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Speaking on CNN afterward, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby pointed to last week’s commitment to send tanks and said “there is a lot of capability that is being sent and will be sent.” Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told Reuters last week that fighter jets are “the next big hurdle” on Kyiv’s list of desired weapons.
  • France has not ruled out sending fighter jets to Ukraine but would do so only under certain criteria, President Emmanuel Macron said Monday, including a condition that would bar Kyiv from using the aircraft to attack Russian territory. He made the remarks at a joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “There are no taboos” in discussing fighter jet deliveries to Ukraine, Rutte said, “but it would be a very big next step,” the Associated Press reported. Ukraine has not yet formally requested the aircraft.
  • The Pentagon announced Monday the first shipment of Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine. More than 60 Bradleys departed from North Charleston, S.C., last week, the U.S. Transportation Command said in a statement. The M2 Bradley is an American-made infantry fighting vehicle — meaning it is intended to move and support foot soldiers. The first version was introduced to the U.S. Army in the 1980s.
  • France and Australia will jointly supply Ukraine with thousands of 155-millimeter artillery shells, the two nations’ defense ministers said Monday, calling the ammunition an “urgent need” as Ukrainian forces battle Russian troops in the east. The first shells, produced by a French manufacturer in cooperation with Australian companies, will be sent in the coming weeks.
  • Ukrainian forces may have fired banned antipersonnel mines into Russian-controlled territory, according to a report Tuesday by Human Rights Watch. Its authors urged the Ukrainian government — which is a signatory to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty prohibiting the weapon — to investigate. Russian forces were previously accused of using seven types of antipersonnel mines in the invasion last year.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russian strikes hit the cities of Kherson and Ochakiv in southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said in an update early Tuesday local time. Civilians were among the victims, the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said, warning that “the threat of … missile strikes throughout Ukraine remains high.”
  • Other Russian strikes on settlements near the Russian border in the Kharkiv region have killed civilians and destroyed buildings, the Ukrainian military said. Oleh Synyehubov, the regional governor, said Monday on Telegram that a Russian missile strike badly damaged a residential building in Kharkiv, adding that at least one person died and three others were injured in the attack. He later said that a 62-year-old man was killed in another shelling attack in the city’s Chuhuiv district.

3. Global impact

  • The war in Ukraine could “accelerate” the global energy transition as countries turn to domestically produced sources, including renewables, the oil and gas giant BP said in its 2023 Energy Outlook on Monday. The shortages caused by the war underscored three elements associated with the energy transition: secure, affordable and lower carbon, BP said.
  • Poland plans to increase its defense spending to 4 percent of its GDP, a boost that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called “unprecedented” on Monday in remarks to reporters, Deutsche Welle reported. The nation currently spends about 2.2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, according to the International Trade Administration.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin invited his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to visit Moscow in the spring, Tass news agency reported. It is not clear whether Xi has accepted the invitation, which was extended as Russian diplomats increase their efforts to strengthen ties with Beijing. The Kremlin reportedly praised China for “playing an increasingly important role as a friendly nation in the current circumstances” and pointed to the two nations’ shared interest in challenging U.S. global influence.

washington post logoWashington Post, War in Ukraine: Along front-line river, this deadly road shows toll of Russia’s war, Siobhán O'Grady and Anastacia Galouchka, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). After a Russian retreat, the Dnieper River is the new front line, and destroyed towns on a road running along the water through three Ukrainian regions are still under fire.

Only the water keeps them apart.

Russian soldiers — pushed into retreat by a counteroffensive late last year — control the east bank of the mighty Dnieper River. Ukrainians control the west.

As Ukraine awaits new tanks from the United States and Europe, and fighting rages over strategic towns in the east, a war of attrition is underway in this southern battleground. The river limits territorial advances, permitting — for now at least — only destruction from a distance.

On the route traveling east and north from villages on the Gulf of the Dnieper to the battered but never-occupied city of Nikopol, the width of the river ranges from several miles to fewer than 1,000 feet, putting the Russians close enough to strike with mortars and shells or sniper fire. They hit some villages dozens of times a day. Ukrainian forces are firing back.

washington post logoWashington Post, War in Ukraine: Along front-line river, this deadly road shows toll of Russia’s war, Siobhán O'Grady and Anastacia Galouchka, Feb. 1, 2023 (print ed.). After a Russian retreat, the Dnieper River is the new front line, and destroyed towns on a road running along the water through three Ukrainian regions are still under fire.

Only the water keeps them apart.

Russian soldiers — pushed into retreat by a counteroffensive late last year — control the east bank of the mighty Dnieper River. Ukrainians control the west.

As Ukraine awaits new tanks from the United States and Europe, and fighting rages over strategic towns in the east, a war of attrition is underway in this southern battleground. The river limits territorial advances, permitting — for now at least — only destruction from a distance.

On the route traveling east and north from villages on the Gulf of the Dnieper to the battered but never-occupied city of Nikopol, the width of the river ranges from several miles to fewer than 1,000 feet, putting the Russians close enough to strike with mortars and shells or sniper fire. They hit some villages dozens of times a day. Ukrainian forces are firing back.

  •  
  • January
  • Jan. 24
  •  
  • Charles McGonigal, left, former FBI counterintelligence chief in New York, and his alleged ally, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, are shown in a collage.
  • Charles McGonigal, left, former FBI counterintelligence chief in New York, and his alleged ally, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, are shown in a photo collage.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Former senior FBI official accused of working for Russian he investigated, Shayna Jacobs, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Jan. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Charles McGonigal, a former counterintelligence chief, is charged with money laundering and other counts connected to oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
  • FBI logoThe former head of FBI counterintelligence in New York has been charged in two separate indictments that accuse him of taking secret cash payments of more than $225,000 while overseeing highly sensitive cases, and allegedly breaking the law by trying to get Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, left, removed from a U.S. sanctions list, officials said Monday.
  • Charles McGonigal, 54, who retired from the FBI in September 2018, was indicted in federal court in Manhattan on money laundering, violating U.S. sanctions and other charges in connection to his alleged ties to Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his role at the FBI, McGonigal had been tasked with investigating Deripaska, whose own indictment on sanctions-violation charges was unsealed in September.
  • Separately, McGonigal was accused in a nine-count indictment in federal court in Washington of hiding his receipt of $225,000 from a former Albanian intelligence agent living in New Jersey. McGonigal was also accused of hiding foreign travel and contacts with senior leaders in countries including Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia where the former Albanian agent had business interests.
  • McGonigal’s alleged involvement with Deripaska may impact a significant push by the Justice Department to hit wealthy Russians with economic sanctions for conducting business in the United States, an effort that accelerated last year with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • The twin indictments are also a black eye for the FBI, alleging that one of its most senior and trusted intelligence officials was taking secret cash payments and undermining the bureau’s overall intelligence-gathering mission.
  • Through his lawyer, McGonigal pleaded not guilty at a brief court appearance Monday. The lawyer, Seth DuCharme, told journalists that his client "served the United States for decades in positions of public trust and leadership, so this is a distressing day for him, but we’re going to litigate the case in the courtroom.”
  • Prosecutors alleged that from at least August 2017 and beyond his retirement from the FBI, McGonigal failed to disclose to the FBI his relationship with the former Albanian security official, described as “Person A” in charging papers. He also allegedly failed to disclose that he had an “ongoing relationship with the Prime Minister of Albania,” the indictment said. Since 2013, Edi Rama has served as the prime minister of that country.
  • In late 2017, authorities charge, McGonigal received packages of cash totaling $225,000 from Person A — the first time, in a parked car outside a New York City restaurant, the next two times at the person’s New Jersey home. According to the indictment, McGonigal “indicated to Person A that the money would be paid back.”
  • Months later, at McGonigal’s urging, the FBI opened an investigation into an American lobbyist for an Albanian political party that is a rival of Prime Minister Rama, an investigation that used Person A as a source of information, authorities said.
  • Current and former U.S. officials who know and have worked with McGonigal said they were shocked by the indictments. As a senior FBI counterintelligence official, McGonigal had access to an extraordinary amount of sensitive information, potentially including investigations of foreign spies or U.S. citizens suspected of working on behalf of foreign governments, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the work McGonigal did. One former official said that McGonigal had worked with the CIA on counterintelligence matters.
  • Jan. 21
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: NATO Is Holding Strong on Ukraine, but Fractures Are Emerging, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, Jan. 21, 2023 (print ed.). The allies differ on strategy for the coming year and the more immediate question of what Ukraine needs before major offensives in the spring.
  • The billions of dollars in new arms for Ukraine announced this month — including British tanks, American fighting vehicles and howitzers from Denmark and Sweden — are testament to President Vladimir V. Putin’s failure to split the NATO allies after nearly a year of war. But small yet significant fractures are getting too big to hide.
  • The differences are over strategy for the coming year and the more immediate question of what Ukraine needs in the next few months, as both sides in the war prepare for major offensives in the spring. And while most of those debates take place behind closed doors, Britain’s impatience with the current pace of aid and Germany’s refusal to provide Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine broke out into public view this week.
  • When the new British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, visited Washington this week, he gathered reporters for lunch and made the case that it is possible for Ukraine to score a “victory” in the war this year if the allies move fast to exploit Russia’s weaknesses. Officials in Poland, the Baltic States and Finland have largely agreed with the British assessment.
  • American officials pushed back, saying it is critical to pace the aid, and not flood Ukraine with equipment its troops cannot yet operate. And they argue that in a world of limited resources, it would be wise to keep something in reserve for what the Pentagon believes will likely be a drawn-out conflict, in which Russia will try to wear Ukraine down with relentless barrages and tactics reminiscent of World War I and II.
  •  
  • Jan. 10
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Ukraine sees ‘year of victory,’ but Russia has other plans, Liz Sly, Jan.10, 2023 (print ed.). If 2023 continues as it began, there is a good chance Ukraine will be able to fulfill President Volodymyr Zelensky’s New Year’s pledge to retake all of the nation by the end of the year.
  • With upgraded weaponry on the way, Western resolve holding firm, and the Ukrainian army continuing to outmaneuver and outwit Russia’s flailing military, Ukraine’s promised “year of victory” is off to a good start.
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  • If 2023 continues as it began, there is a good chance Ukraine will be able to fulfill President Volodymyr Zelensky’s New Year’s pledge to retake all of Ukraine by the end of the year — or at least enough territory to definitively end Russia’s threat, Western officials and analysts say.
  • But while Zelensky was rallying Ukrainians to expect victory this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin used his New Year’s speeches to prepare Russians for a drawn-out fight. Russian troops are digging into fortified defensive positions reinforced by at least 100,000 newly mobilized soldiers, and though it seems unlikely that Russia can seize more territory anytime soon, it will also be tougher for Ukraine to make advances in 2023 than it was last year, despite momentum from recent victories, military experts say.
  • Jan. 6
  • washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. to send Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine, Karen DeYoung, Dan Lamothe and Loveday Morris, Jan. 6, 2023 (print ed). Germany also will send combat vehicles and a second Patriot missile air defense battery.
  • The United States and Germany will supply Ukraine with armored combat vehicles, President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a joint statement Thursday, marking a significant policy shift after months of resisting Kyiv’s pleas for tanks to face increasingly dug-in Russian forces along the lengthy southern and eastern fronts.
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  • The statement, which followed a telephone call between the two leaders, confirmed that U.S.-produced Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Germany’s Marder infantry fighting vehicles would be transferred. “Both countries plan to train Ukrainian forces on the respective systems,” the statement said.
  • Scholz has been under increasing pressure from within his own ruling coalition to overcome his reluctance to have Germany be the first NATO country to supply advanced Western-made fighting vehicles. That logjam was broken Wednesday, when France announced it would provide Ukraine with an unspecified number of light tanks, and Biden acknowledged to reporters that Bradleys were on the table.
  • U.S. officials said the Bradleys could be included in a new package of weapons to be announced as soon as this week.
  • The first supply of Western mobile armor is another major milestone in the escalating provision of advanced weaponry to Ukrainian forces, including heavy artillery and long-range precision rocket launchers. It comes just weeks after the Biden administration announced that it would supply Kyiv with a Patriot missile battery, the most sophisticated air defense weapon in the U.S. arsenal, to defend against waves of Russian missile and drone attacks on energy and civilian infrastructure far from the front line.
  • In Thursday’s statement, Biden and Scholz also said Germany will supply an additional Patriot battery to Ukraine.
  • The front line, where the Ukrainian military is engaged in a grueling fight for incremental gains against Russian ground forces, is spread for hundreds of miles along a north-south front in the eastern part of the country. U.S. officials have said the Ukrainians need the ability to conduct combined arms maneuvers, with armored vehicles allowing them to engage the enemy and move forward while under fire.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live briefing: Russia’s Orthodox Christmas cease-fire order questioned by Ukraine, U.S., Germany, Erin Cunningham, Niha Masih, Adela Suliman and Mary Ilyushina, Jan. 6, 2023.  All eyes are on the unilateral cease-fire ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin for Orthodox Christmas, which got underway on Friday, a temporary truce that was dismissed by Ukraine, the United States and Germany as a possible ploy for Russia to regroup and move more troops and equipment to the battlefield. Putin this week ordered his forces to observe a 36-hour truce for the holiday, the Kremlin said.
  • In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a real cease-fire would come only when Russian troops withdraw from the country. “Now they want to use Christmas as a cover to … stop the advance of our guys in Donbas and bring equipment, ammunition and mobilized men closer to our positions,” he said, referring to a region in eastern Ukraine. “What will this bring? Just another increase in the death toll.”
  • Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.
  • Key developments
  • Putin’s cease-fire was scheduled to begin at noon Friday and run through Saturday. The Kremlin said the president was responding to an appeal from the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Kirill is a fierce supporter of Putin and his bloody invasion of Ukraine. The truce applies to the entire front. Just a few hours into the unilateral cease-fire, Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of shelling settlements and positions of Russian troops, a claim The Washington Post could not independently verify.
  • President Biden said he thinks Putin is “trying to find some oxygen” after 10 months of war and tens of thousands of casualties on the Russian side. He made the remark in a White House briefing. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a tweet that the “so-called” cease-fire would not bring freedom or security to Ukrainians.
  • The United States and Germany will supply Ukraine with armored combat vehicles, including Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday in a joint statement, marking a significant policy shift after months of resisting Kyiv’s pleas for tanks. A French official also confirmed that France would send AMX-10 RC armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine. More details are due Friday, U.S. officials said. Russia’s ambassador to the United States accused the Biden administration of “prolonging” the conflict and inhibiting any political settlement.
  • Russia and Belarus are building up a regional military force with plans to hold joint drills and combat aircraft exercises, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said Thursday. “Personnel, weapons, military and special hardware of Russia’s Armed Forces continue arriving in Belarus,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official news agency, BelTA.
  • Battleground updates
  • Russia has “overtly committed” to supporting militias from the Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics, a British intelligence update said Friday. The militias were “formally integrated into the Russian armed forces on 31 December 2022. President Putin presented the formations with their battle colors during a visit to Rostov-on-Don.” However, it added that the militias “remain divisive” within the Russian system and are widely viewed as a “significant drain on Russian finances.”
  • There is currently no need for mass mobilization in Ukraine to fight the war, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a television interview. “But everything will depend on the situation at the front,” he said. “We do not have such a great need for people, as in Russia,” he added. “We need weapons … and equipment.”
    The United Nations is disbanding a fact-finding mission it had formed to investigate a deadly attack on a prison in eastern Ukraine. In July, an explosion at Olenivka killed scores of Ukrainian prisoners of war — an attack that Moscow and Kyiv blamed on each other. United Nations spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in a briefing Thursday that the team could not deploy without clear safety and access guarantees. “We didn’t feel we had received them,” he said.
  • New satellite imagery of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine shows “extensive damage to buildings, homes, infrastructure and the fields in and near” the city, Maxar Technologies said in a statement. Bakhmut and the surrounding area in Ukraine’s Donetsk region have been the site of intense battles between Russian and Ukrainian forces in recent months, Maxar said, adding that the imagery was collected on Jan. 4.
  • Jan. 5
  • ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Fear Still Remains’: Ukraine Finds Sexual Crimes Where Russian Troops Ruled, Carlotta Gall, Photographs by Laura Boushnak, Jan. 5, 2023 (print ed.). Investigators have uncovered evidence of abuse, including rape and forced nudity. Kremlin officials have denied accusations of rights violations.
  • On her eighth or ninth day in Russian detention, Olha, a 26-year-old Ukrainian, was tied to a table, naked to the waist. For 15 minutes, her interrogator leveled obscenities at her, then threw a jacket over her and let seven other men into the room.
  • “It was to frighten,” she remembered. “I did not know what would come next.”
  • Sitting in Olha’s cramped kitchen weeks later in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, Anna Sosonska, an investigator with the prosecutor general’s office, listened to her recount the ordeal — an account of forced nudity that, prosecutors say, added to an accumulation of evidence that Russian forces had used sexual crimes as a weapon of war in the places they once ruled.
  • “We are finding this problem of sexual violence in every place that Russia occupied,” said Ms. Sosonska, 33. “Every place: Kyiv region, Chernihiv region, Kharkiv region, Donetsk region and also here in Kherson region.”
  • ny times logoNew York Times, France has pledged to send Ukraine armored combat vehicles, Aurelien Breeden, Jan. 5, 2023 (print ed.). France has promised to send Ukraine armored combat vehicles and President Biden said the United States is weighing supplying Bradley Fighting Vehicles, signs that Ukraine’s allies are expanding support for Kyiv’s war effort against Russia.
  • President Emmanuel Macron pledged to provide AMX-10 RC armored vehicles in a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, the French presidency said.
  • Mr. Macron’s office did not specify how many of the vehicles would be delivered or when. The vehicles, which have a cannon like a tank but move on tires instead of tracks, are usually used for armed reconnaissance.
  • Also on Wednesday, Mr. Biden confirmed, in response to a reporter’s question, that the United States was considering sending Bradley vehicles, which would broaden the array of weapons being provided to Ukraine. Last month, he agreed to supply Kyiv with the U.S.’s most advanced ground-based air defense system, the Patriot.
  • The Ukrainians have asked allies for more advanced weapons they say will be critical for their fight against Russia, some of which the United States or Europe have been reluctant to provide for fear of escalation. Even so, the types of weapons allies have been willing to send Ukraine has expanded as the war has stretched on and Russian aggression has intensified.
  • Mr. Zelensky reiterated his request for more advanced arms in his nightly address Wednesday.
  • “We must put an end to the Russian aggression this year exactly and not postpone any of the defensive capabilities that can speed up the defeat of the terrorist state,” he said. “Modern Western armored vehicles, Western-type tanks are just one of these key capabilities.”
  • Mr. Zelensky thanked Mr. Macron on Twitter for the pledge, and he said the two leaders had also agreed “on further cooperation to significantly strengthen Ukrainian air defense and other defense capabilities.”
  • “Thank you friend!” Mr. Zelensky said in a Twitter post after the call. “Your leadership brings our victory closer.”
  • France has already delivered armored personnel carriers to Ukraine, as well as rocket launchers, air defense missile systems, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and at least 18 Caesar howitzers.
  • Several of Ukraine’s allies have pledged or delivered armored personnel carriers or armored vehicles with offensive capabilities, including German and British antiaircraft vehicles and Soviet-designed tanks from Eastern European countries like Poland.
  • But Ukraine is also seeking heavier fighting vehicles that its allies have hesitated to provide. Germany, for instance, remains locked in debate about whether to send Leopard 2 battle tanks.
  • Still, the AMX-10 RC — which the French presidency said was the first “Western-designed” armored vehicle pledged to Ukraine — could provide new capabilities to Ukrainian forces battling the Russian Army.
  • The AMX-10 RC is manned by four people and is a “powerfully armed armored reconnaissance vehicle with very good road and cross-country mobility” that is also “protected against light infantry weapons,” according to the French Army’s website.
  • Manufactured by Nexter, a French company, the AMX-10 RC weighs 20 tons, moves around with six wheels — not tracks — and is equipped with a 105-millimeter cannon and two 7.62-millimeter machine guns. The French Army has been using the vehicles since the 1980s, but started replacing them with a newer model in 2020.
  • Mr. Macron has in the past come under fire from some allies, especially in Eastern Europe, for comments on Russia’s inclusion in a new “stability order” in Europe, and for his insistence on not antagonizing Russia and keeping diplomatic channels open with President Vladimir V. Putin. But Mr. Macron has also expressed unequivocal support for a Ukrainian victory in the war.
  • Jan. 4
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Struggles to Replenish Missile Stocks, Ukraine Says, Victoria Kim, Jan. 4, 2023. Moscow has enough missiles for “two to three” more large strikes and is rushing newly produced munitions into service, a Ukrainian official said.
  • Russia is struggling to replenish its stockpiles of missiles but still has enough for more large-scale strikes and is rushing new munitions from the production line into use in the war, a senior Ukrainian intelligence official said in an interview published on Wednesday.
  • The official, Gen. Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy intelligence chief, also said that Russia was compensating for its lack of missiles by increasing its use of drones, including those made by Iran, to strike Ukrainian infrastructure, according to comments published by the news outlet RBC-Ukraine.
  • Russia’s strikes over the weekend could signal a new tactic of using a smaller number of high-precision missiles, especially in frontline areas, followed hours later by volleys of exploding drones, General Skibitsky said. “They will combine means to maintain the pace of strikes on our civilian infrastructure facilities,” he added.
  • General Skibitsky said that Russia was straining to produce enough long-range missiles to launch precision strikes, an account that generally matches public statements from American and British military officials, as well as from independent military analysts. The strikes that Moscow launched on Dec. 31 included 20 cruise missiles, General Skibitsky said, compared with the 70 or more missiles it used in mass strikes beginning in October.
  • Moscow is able to produce about 30 X-101 cruise missiles and about 15 to 20 sea-based Kalibr cruise missiles per month, the general noted. Given its current stockpiles, he said, Russia has enough missiles for “two to three” major barrages of 80 missiles or more. His estimates could not be independently confirmed, though they roughly match those that he gave to The New York Times in an interview last month.
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Putin Prepares Russians for a Long Fight Ahead, Anton Troianovski and Anatoly Kurmanaev, Jan. 4, 2023 (print ed.). As the anniversary of Russia’s invasion looms next month, President Vladimir Putin has dropped the pretense that life goes on as normal despite the war.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Russian commanders blamed for heavy losses in New Year’s Day strike, Mary Ilyushina, Jan. 4, 2023 (print ed.). They were under pressure to explain why ammo was stored in a building used as a barracks.
  • The deaths of scores of Russian troops in a devastating strike on New Year’s Day has set off a blame game among Russian officials now facing criticism for allegedly packing hundreds of soldiers into a barracks and storing ammunition in the same building — all within Ukrainian firing range.
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  • In a rare admission of heavy losses, the Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that 89 soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel, died after Ukrainian forces hit their garrison in a missile strike.
  • In a statement, the ministry blamed the attack in part on the “massive use ... by personnel of mobile phones.” The signals alerted the Ukrainians to the garrison’s location, the statement said, adding that a commission is working to investigate the incident.
  • But war commentators and ordinary Russians cast the casualty estimate as a gross undercount, and some said the true death toll numbered in the hundreds. Even if understated, the public acknowledgment of the precision Ukrainian attack set off the most public outpouring of grief over fallen soldiers in the more than 10 months since the start of Russia’s invasion.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Moscow blames Russian soldiers’ cellphone use for deadly Donetsk strike, Kelsey Ables and Leo Sands, Jan. 4, 2023. The fallout from a deadly attack in the occupied city of Makiivka region has led to finger-pointing by Russian officials.
  • The fallout from an attack in the occupied city of Makiivka in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, which killed dozens of Russian service members, has led to finger-pointing by Moscow’s officials. The Russian Defense Ministry said the strike was a result of illicit cellphone use among its soldiers, in what some observers see as an attempt to shift culpability from Moscow.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told Turkish news agency NTV. Afterward, Erdogan will speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Kalin said.
  • Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.
  • 1. Key developments
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry blamed on-site cellphone communication in a Makiivka building for the deadly strike, as it allowed Ukrainian forces to locate the target. “It is already obvious that the main reason, despite the restriction, was turning on and massive use of mobile phones by the personnel within the range area of enemy firepower,” Kremlin officials said in an explanation of the attack posted to Telegram.
    The ministry also raised the Russian death toll to 89 in its early Wednesday statement, a rare acknowledgment of a significant loss. Ukraine did not directly confirm its involvement in the attack but claimed that at least 400 Russian soldiers were killed in the strike. The Washington Post could not independently verify the figures.
  • Since the attack, Russian military leaders have faced scrutiny for squeezing soldiers into high-density barracks in the same buildings used to store ammunition. Igor Girkin, a former Russian paramilitary commander in Ukraine, wrote on Telegram that he “was warned that this could happen again at any moment since this is not the only such extremely dense deployment of personnel and equipment within HIMARS range,” The Post reported. Russia says Ukraine targeted the building with rockets using U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, though neither Ukrainian nor U.S. officials have confirmed it.
  • Turkey will “continue to maintain this intense diplomacy with both sides” in the Russia-Ukraine war, Kalin said in announcing Erdogan’s plan to speak with Putin and Zelensky on Wednesday. The NATO country has walked a fine line during the war, attempting to maintain its close relationship with Ukraine while still relying on Russian natural gas and imports. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Putin’s call with Erdogan.
  • 2. Battleground updates
  • Careless Russian military practices may have contributed to the high death toll following the Makiivka strike, Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Twitter. “There is a realistic possibility that ammunition was being stored near to troop accommodation, which detonated during the strike creating secondary explosions,” the ministry’s intelligence analysts said. “The Russian military has a record of unsafe ammunition storage from well before the current war,” they added.
  • Military strikes will reach “deeper and deeper” within Russia, Ukraine’s head of military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, told ABC News. But he refused to say whether Ukraine was behind any of the attacks, until the war is over.
  • Zelensky warned of an impending Russian offensive without specifying locations and said Moscow was “on the eve of new mobilization processes.” In his nightly address, the president said Russian forces were throwing everything they have left at Ukraine to turn the tide of the war. In a separate Facebook post, Ukraine’s armed forces warned that the town of Bakhmut, in eastern Donetsk, is a top target for Russian forces.
  • Russian forces targeted an ice hockey arena in a rocket attack in Donetsk, the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine said on Telegram. “People played sports there, celebrated and just enjoyed life,” Zelensky said in his nightly speech, referencing the strike. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, called on Russian athletes to be excluded from global sports competitions — and invited anyone who disagreed with him to visit the arena.
  • 3. Global impact
  • The United States has had direct conversations with Russian officials about Paul Whelan, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a news briefing Tuesday. He was responding to a question about efforts to free Whelan since the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner. Whelan, who the U.S. government has determined was “wrongfully detained,” has been held in Russia for four years on charges of espionage.
  • Zelensky had calls with several international leaders on Tuesday, including the prime ministers of the Netherlands, Britain, Norway and Canada. “Every day, I will continue such diplomatic activity — both formal and informal, both public and nonpublic,” he said in his nightly address, thanking the leaders for their commitment to supporting Ukraine.
  • Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s military chief, spoke on the phone Tuesday with Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. They discussed the tensions in border regions and the intense fighting in Bakhmut, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine wrote on Facebook. Zaluzhny also outlined Ukraine’s defense needs as it continues its fight against Russia in the new year.
  • Jan. 3
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Anger in Russia over Donetsk strike; Zelensky says Russia planning drone campaign, Andrew Jeong and Annabelle Timsit, Jan. 3, 2023. Russian outrage is growing after officials said a Ukrainian strike in Donetsk killed 63 service members. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Moscow is seeking to exhaust Ukraine.
  • A Ukrainian strike in its eastern Donetsk region that killed at least dozens of Russian service members has sparked a wave of criticism of Russia’s military leadership. Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the attack in the occupied city of Makiivka, though it said a building housing Russian troops was destroyed. Russian officials acknowledged the attack, but the two sides disagreed on the number of casualties.
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  • Russia is preparing a prolonged air campaign using Iranian-made drones in an effort to exhaust the Ukrainian people, President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Monday. “We will do everything” for this campaign to fail, he said.
  • Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.
  • 1. Key developments
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry said 63 service members were killed in the strike in Donetsk shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day. Ukraine’s armed forces said at least 400 Russian soldiers were killed and hundreds more injured. In addition, “military equipment of various types” was destroyed or damaged, Ukraine said. Russian officials said Ukrainian troops carried out the attack with U.S.-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). The Washington Post could not independently verify the accounts.
  • Moscow’s acknowledgment of the attack has “generated criticism towards the Russian military command,” the Institute for the Study of War think tank reported. Russian military bloggers have questioned why a large group of service members was apparently stationed in one location. They also criticized claims from Kremlin-backed officials that some soldiers inside the building were using their cellphones, which allowed Ukrainian forces to locate them more easily. Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of Russia’s Vostok Battalion, said that while “what happened cannot be changed,” if it were to happen again, “those whose inaction leads to such consequences” should be punished.
  • The relatively warm and sunny winter weather in Ukraine has led to reduced daytime demand on the country’s beleaguered electricity grid, the national energy company said Tuesday. But Ukrenergo said it expected demand to rise again overnight and would introduce some consumption limits to prevent the grid from becoming overwhelmed.
  • Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office said at least 452 children have been killed and 876 injured during the war. The number is in line with figures previously released by international institutions but is probably an underestimate because reliable casualty figures are difficult to obtain in conflict zones. Ukrainian prosecutors said more than 3,000 educational institutions have been damaged in the fighting, over 300 of which were destroyed.
  • 2. Battleground updates
  • Pro-Russian forces have probably increased the pace of infantry assaults against Ukrainian positions near Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city at the center of the heaviest fighting in recent weeks, the British Defense Ministry said.
  • ukraine flagThe governor of Kherson said Russian forces attacked the region dozens of times on Monday. Yaroslav Yanushevych said on Telegram that multiple locations were struck in the region, which Moscow illegally claimed to annex in September. Two people were killed and nine injured in the strikes, he said. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said its forces attacked Russian military positions in Kherson over the weekend, causing casualties among service members and damage to equipment. Russia’s Defense Ministry did not acknowledge the strikes. The Post could not independently verify the claims.
  • More than 80 Iranian-made drones have been shot down in Ukraine so far in 2023, Zelensky said in his nightly address Monday. Ukraine and the West have repeatedly accused Iran of supplying unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia for use in the war. Tehran has denied those claims.
  • More than 20,000 Ukrainian troops participated in trainings in partner countries in 2022, according to figures released by Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the most senior uniformed official in the Ukrainian military. Ukrainian personnel are being trained in 17 European countries, he said.
  • 3. Global impact
  • Some NATO member states want to strengthen the alliance’s defense spending amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Germany’s DPA news agency, according to Reuters. Stoltenberg said that “some allies are strongly in favour of turning the current 2% target into a minimum” and that he hoped to reach an internal agreement by July, when NATO members will meet in Lithuania for a summit, DPA reported.
  • Zelensky’s office said he urged the European Union to provide 3 billion euros, or $3.2 billion, to Ukraine this month during his Monday conversation with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. That financial aid would be the first tranche of a package worth $19 billion, according to Zelensky’s office. Zelensky and von der Leyen will convene for a summit next month in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
  •  
  • December
  • Dec. 29
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Inside the Ukrainian counteroffensive that shocked Putin and reshaped the war, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Paul Sonne, Serhiy Morgunov and Kamila Hrabchuk, Dec. 29, 2022. First, a lightning sweep across Kharkiv. Then, a slower grind into Kherson. In two months of stunning gains, Ukraine’s military redrew the battlefield map and proved it can fight to win.
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Missile Barrage Staggers Ukraine’s Air Defenses, Andrew E. Kramer, Dec. 29, 2022. Cruise missiles and exploding drones provided to Russia by Iran swept across the skies of Ukraine, wreaking havoc and once again knocking out power.
  • A swarm of drones and a volley of cruise missiles rocked towns and cities across Ukraine on Thursday, the biggest assault in weeks and the latest in a wave of ever more sophisticated aerial duels pitting Russia’s evolving tactics against Ukraine’s growing arsenal of air defense weapons.
  • At dawn in Kyiv, the capital, puffy contrails from missiles or air defense weapons lingered in the sky and fragments from successful intercepts rained down on a playground and on private homes.
  • Russia, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in a statement, had been “saving one of the most massive missile attacks since the beginning of the full-scale invasion for the last days of the year.” Ukraine’s air defenses were at times overwhelmed.
  • Iranian-made exploding drones, which Russia began acquiring last summer, were launched in a first wave, apparently to bog down air defenses before the cruise missile strikes, the Ukrainian air force said. It said its defense forces had shot down 54 of 69 cruise missiles and had also knocked out drones.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Massive missile attack’ as strikes reported in Kyiv, across country, David L. Stern, Ellen Francis, Kelsey Ables and Isabelle Khurshudy, Dec. 29, 2022. Explosions rocked cities across Ukraine early Thursday morning, as Russia continued its unrelenting pummeling of the country’s energy infrastructure, launching dozens of missiles and hospitalizing at least three people in the capital, Ukrainian officials said.
  • Air raid sirens sounded out across Ukraine at 6 a.m. Washington Post journalists heard the first of several explosions in Kyiv a little over an hour later. Local officials in Odessa in the south, Kharkiv in the east, Lviv in the west and other regions reported missile attacks on social media. It was not immediately clear whether the sounds of blasts were from strikes or air defenses.
  • “The enemy attacks Ukraine from various directions with air and sea-based cruise missiles from strategic aircraft and ships,” Ukraine’s Air Force said in a statement on Telegram, calling it a “massive missile attack.”
  • Moscow has pounded Ukraine’s infrastructure since early October, in an effort to leave the country without light, heat and water during the freezing winter months and weaken the Ukrainians’ resolve to continue the war effort — a strategy that so far seems to have failed considerably.
  • It was the first major missile attack in about two weeks — and just days before the New Year’s holidays. Russian forces also launched an assault of self-destructing drones on Ukrainian energy facilities last week.
  • Ukraine’s military said that some 69 missiles had been fired, of which 54 were intercepted by the country’s air defense systems. The Washington Post could not independently verify any of the figures cited by Ukrainian officials.
  • vitali klitschko aris messinis afp via gettyKyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, shown at right in an AFP file photo via Getty Images, said on his Telegram channel that Ukrainian air defense forces had shot down 16 Russian missiles in the capital, while Odessa Gov. Maksym Marchenko said 21 missiles had been destroyed in his region.
  • But the missiles also caused extensive damage and injuries. Klitschko said that missile fragments struck a residential home, and three people, including a 14-year-old girl, had been injured in the capital. After the attack, 40 percent of Kyiv residents were without power, Klitschko said, though heat and water were continuing “as usual.”
  • Dec. 26
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s foreign minister proposed a peace summit by the end of February, Carly Olson, Dec. 26, 2022. Ukraine’s foreign minister said on Monday that his government hopes to have a peace summit by the end of February, about one year after Russia invaded Ukraine.
  • In an interview with The Associated Press, the minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said that the United Nations could host the summit, with Secretary General António Guterres acting as the possible mediator.
  • “Every war ends in a diplomatic way,” Mr. Kuleba said in the interview. “Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”
  • Mr. Kuleba said that Russia would need to face prosecution for war crimes at an international court to attend the summit.
  • Mr. Kuleba added that he was “absolutely satisfied” with President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the United States last week and that the Patriot missile battery would be operational in Ukraine within six months.
  • Although Ukrainian officials have proposed a peace deal for months, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Monday that he was willing to negotiate, American and European officials have said that it is difficult to envision terms of a settlement that both Ukraine and Russia would accept.
  • Earlier this month, Mr. Zelensky discussed his vision for a global peace summit in a call with President Biden. And in November, at the annual Group of 20 summit in Bali, Mr. Zelensky spoke about his “path to peace” to end the war, noting that Ukraine would not compromise on its stance until its territory was reinstated.
  • Also on Monday, Ukraine’s foreign ministry demanded that Russia be removed as one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and called for the country’s expulsion from the United Nations, a move considered unlikely.
  • The foreign ministry said that Russia illegally took over the Soviet Union’s seat without going through necessary procedures outlined in the U.N. charter when the union broke up in 1991. It also argued that Russia has abused its veto powers on the Security Council.
  • Russia should be readmitted only once it “fulfills the conditions for membership in the Organization,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
  • Dec. 25
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Ukrainians struggle to find, reclaim children taken by Russia, Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova, Dec. 25, 2022. While Ukrainians face daunting logistical barriers to recover children taken to Russia, Vladimir Putin issued a decree last May making it quick and easy for Russians to adopt Ukrainian children.
  • Oleksandr has not seen his mother since Russian soldiers captured the pair in Mariupol, in southern Ukraine, in April and took her away. At 12, he escaped adoption into a Russian family only because he remembered his grandmother’s phone number and called her to come and save him.
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  • Russia’s proxy social welfare officials in occupied Ukraine discouraged her, warning of heavy fighting.
  • “They said that they would send him to an orphanage or they would find a family in Russia,” said his grandmother, Lyudmila, of Ichnya, in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region. “I told them, ‘I’ll risk my life. I’ll come and pick him up.’ I was pleading with them not to send him to Russia.
  • “They told me, ‘It’s going to be very hard, and the paperwork is awful.’ I said I didn’t care,” Lyudmila said. The Washington Post is identifying her and Oleksandr by first names only to protect them from reprisal.
  • While Ukrainians face daunting logistical barriers to recover children taken to Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree last May making it quick and easy for Russians to adopt Ukrainian children.
    Lyudmila, who lives in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine, had to beg Russian-designated child welfare officials in Donetsk, in occupied Ukraine, not to send her grandson Oleksander to Russia for adoption, after he was separated from his family by war. (Family photo)
  • The policy is vigorously pursued by Putin’s children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, who openly advocates stripping children of their Ukrainian identities and teaching them to love Russia. Last spring, Lvova-Belova personally adopted a Ukrainian boy — an orphan who had been evacuated from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which was under heavy bombing by Russia, first to Donetsk and then to a sanitorium near Moscow. Lvova-Belova has also spoken publicly about her efforts to change his views.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, As Russia bombs Ukraine’s infrastructure, its own services crumble, Francesca Ebel, Dec. 25, 2022. As Russia has launched relentless strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, leaving millions without electricity, water and heat, towns across Russia have been beset by their own, utility-related disasters.
  • A huge gas pipeline explosion outside St. Petersburg last month, major fires in two separate Moscow shopping malls allegedly caused by dodgy welding, and faulty power grids that have left tens of thousands without heat and electricity are just some of the incidents reported since Russia’s efforts to obliterate Ukraine’s infrastructure that began in October.
  • In late October, two sewer pipes burst in the southern city of Volgograd, flooding several streets with feces and waste water, and leaving 200,000 of the 1 million residents without water or heating for several days.
  • Ilya Kravchenko, a local lawmaker who collected testimony from more than 1,000 victims of the incident and filed a lawsuit against the corporation that owns the sewer system, said the sight was “not pretty.”
  • “This is the worst year on record. The city has never had so many problems,” Kravchenko said.
  • A few weeks later, a similar, though less drastic sewage problem in the town of Pervouralsk, a small city west of Yekaterinburg, provoked residents to drag buckets of fecal water to the offices of the local water council in protest, claiming authorities had neglected the problem for years.
  • Putin declares ‘war’ – aloud – forsaking his special euphemistic operation
  • While disasters now raise suspicions of sabotage linked to the war in Ukraine, poorly maintained infrastructure is a long-standing and persistent problem in Russia — the result of old Soviet-era systems in need of repair and costly maintenance, decades of endemic corruption, and the government’s prioritization of defense and security budgets, as well as the development of major cities over regional towns.
  • Washington Post, Visual story: A photojournalist in Ukraine revisits the horrors she helped to reveal, Heidi Levine, Dec. 23, 2022. Photography.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the monumental, stop-start effort to arm Ukraine, Karen DeYoung, Dan Lamothe and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Dec. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The U.S. supply of weapons has never been enough for Kyiv. But for Washington and the Pentagon, there are broader concerns.
  • The constant tempo has evolved from choppy beginnings into precision choreography in the 10 months since Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Similar scenes are being repeated at bases and seaports up and down the East Coast as U.S. commitments surpass $20 billion in military support for a war in which the United States, at least officially, is not a participant.
  • “It’s all a steady flow on purpose,” Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Mitcham said this fall as he supervised the activity in Dover. “You just understand that you’re at the mercy of what the mission needs.”
    Cargo of ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine wait on a tarmac at Dover Air Force Base. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)
  • Both the mission and its needs have undergone a radical transformation since Russia’s full-scale invasion in late February, when the Biden administration provided minimal support for vastly outnumbered Ukrainian defenders. Since then, Washington has dug ever-deeper into its own arsenal and treasury to supply Kyiv with massive quantities of arms.
  • This week, the administration marked the historic visit to Washington by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by announcing the transfer of a Patriot missile battery, the most sophisticated air defense system in the U.S. arsenal.
  • But the initial war supply operation clearly wasn’t built for the long haul. As the grueling conflict continues with no end in sight, it has exposed flaws in U.S. strategic planning for its own future battles, and revealed significant gaps in the American and NATO defense industrial base. Stocks of many key weapons and munitions are near exhaustion, and wait times for new production of missiles stretches for months and, in some cases, years.
  • In interviews over the last several months, more than two dozen senior U.S., European and Ukrainian government and military officials and experts, some speaking on the condition of anonymity about the strategically and diplomatically sensitive effort, revealed new details about how a U.S.-led consortium of democracies has gone about keeping Ukraine afloat in the war.
  • Dec. 24
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Rising to a historic destiny, Zelensky embodies America’s values, David Von Drehle, right, Dec. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Zelensky is, like david von drehle twitterLincoln, an improbable protagonist in a vast and consequential drama. This former TV comedy star saved Ukrainian independence in February with a single decision. The Russians had invaded. Assassins were hunting for him. Escape was possible, but Zelensky would have had to leave immediately. A few months earlier, Afghanistan’s president faced the same choice, ran for his life, and the government fell within hours.
  • Zelensky stood fast. More than 300 days later, against all expectations, he and his nation are still standing.
  • This matters because the world cannot have peace unless Ukraine has peace. Historian Timothy Snyder has defined Ukraine and its Eastern European vicinity as the Bloodlands, the most violent frontier of the ghastliest era in human history. Its rich culture is macerated by violence, its past traumatized almost beyond belief. Zelensky is emblematic of this disputed territory: a native Russian speaker who is also a zealous patriot of Ukraine; a Jew nearly erased by the Holocaust; a grandson of farmers deliberately starved by Soviet communists. And the blazing eyes and determined enunciation with which he addressed a joint session of Congress put a face on his nation’s determination to put that history in the past and never again to be fodder for the appetites of distant tyrants.
  • In that moment when he decided to stand and fight, and to use his powers of communication to transmit that courage to his people and to the world, Zelensky drew a line across history. Either Ukraine will live, and the right of people to determine their futures under the rule of law will be vindicated, or Ukraine will die, and the triumphant principle will be that there is no law, only brute force.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Using conscripts and prison inmates, Russia doubles its forces in Ukraine, Mary Ilyushina and Francesca Ebel, Dec. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Despite heavy combat losses over ten months of brutal war, Russia now has more than double the number of troops poised to fight in Ukraine as it did when it invaded in February, including thousands of convicts released from prison and conscripts from a controversial mobilization drive this fall.
  • According to a new U.S. assessment, the Wagner mercenary group, which fights alongside regular Russian troops in Ukraine, in recent months recruited 40,000 prisoners from all over the country into its ranks. Together, with 300,000 new conscripts and 20,000 volunteers, Russia’s force is now more than double the 150,000 initially allocated to what President Vladimir Putin termed a “special military operation.”
  • The larger Russian force, even after losing an estimated more than 25,000 killed in action and tens of thousands more wounded, backs up Putin’s oft-repeated pledge to press forward until his military objectives in Ukraine are met, even as military experts widely question the level of preparedness and morale among recent recruits.
  • The new numbers, laid out by U.S. national security spokesman John Kirby at a briefing on Thursday, generally match assessments by rights groups, including Russia Behind Bars, which has said that an unofficial recruitment of Russian prison inmates was conducted separately from “partial mobilization” ordered by Putin late September.
  • Dec. 22
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  • During a Dec. 21 address to a joint session Congress, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky presents to the people of the United States a Ukraine flag signed by the country's fighters he visited this week at the Ukraine-Russia war's hotest frontline battlefield of Bakmut, which has been pulverized fo. months by Russian attacks but resists strongly.
  • During a Dec. 21 address to a joint session Congress, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky presents to the people of the United States a Ukraine flag signed by the country's fighters he visited this week at the Ukraine-Russia war's hotest frontline battlefield of Bakmut, which has been pulverized fo. months by Russian attacks but resists strongly
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Is ‘Alive and Kicking,’ Zelensky Tells Congress, Ben Shpigel and Anushka Patil, Dec. 22, 2021 (print ed.). President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine capped his visit to Washington by asking Congress to approve nearly $50 billion in additional aid to his country. Swift passage would not only stop Russian influence in the region, but preserve democracy as a whole, he said.
  • Addressing a joint session of Congress, Mr. Zelensky spoke for roughly 25 minutes, mixing doses of humor with pleas for the future safety and stability of Ukraine. He delivered the speech in English, giving it more impact than if it had been translated from Ukrainian. 2m ago
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Congress to continue to support Ukraine. “Your money is not charity,” he said. “It’s an investment.”
  • Mr. Zelensky delivered his remarks in English and closed with “Happy victorious New Year” — drawing loud cheers.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky told Congress that the fight now raging for Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, could “change the trajectory of our war for independence and for freedom.”
  • That battle has turned into one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war, and as losses for both sides have mounted, Ukraine’s hold on the ravaged city has taken on a symbolism that outstrips its military significance. There are bumper stickers, artwork and T-shirts in shops across Ukraine with the slogan: “Bakhmut Holds.”
  • But in Washington on Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky emphasized that holding was not enough. “To ensure Bakhmut is not just a stronghold that holds back the Russian army, but for the Russian army to completely pull out, more cannons and shells are needed,” he said.
  • Before his trip to Washington to ask for that increased support, Mr. Zelensky made an unannounced visit on Tuesday to Bakhmut to rally the soldiers there. It was perhaps his most daring visit to the front lines since Russia invaded Ukraine, and a demonstration of defiance in the face of Moscow’s ceaseless assault against the ravaged eastern city.
  • Despite months of Russian bombardments and waves of assault by formations from the Wagner Group, an infamous paramilitary organization that has helped lead the Kremlin’s war effort in parts of Ukraine, the city has remained in Ukrainian control.
  • The Ukrainian forces holding Bakhmut are from a mix of units, including the 93rd Mechanized Brigade and the 58th Motorized Infantry Brigade, that have been worn down by the nonstop Russian assaults. Other units relocated from southern Ukraine have arrived in recent weeks to bolster the defense of the city.
  • While Russian forces are digging in and establishing more fortified defensive positions across much of the 600-mile front, they have continued to assault Bakhmut from multiple directions.
  • Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Bakhmut came as Ukrainian troops say they have pushed Russians out of some positions on the edge of the city, although the situation there is far from stable.
  • “Last year, 70,000 people lived here in Bakhmut, in this city, and now only a few civilians stay,” Mr. Zelensky told Congress. “Every inch of that land is soaked in blood, roaring guns sound every hour.”
  • He told Congress that the troops he met with in Bakhmut had given him a Ukrainian battle flag and asked that he bring it to Washington.
  • “Let this flag stay with you, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This flag is a symbol of our victory in this war. We stand, we fight and we will win because we are united — Ukraine, America and the entire free world.”
  • “This is so important,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, speaking to reporters on the Hill. “The most important thing going on in the world is to beat the Russians in Ukraine. Fortunately they have a leader that everyone can look up to and admire. And also it’s nice to have something here at the end of the year that we all actually agree on.”
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Zelensky’s Task Was to Thank Congress, Then Ask for Much More, David E. Sanger, Dec. 22, 2022. For all of his talk of victory against Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky revealed hints about his worries for the year ahead in his remarks in Washington.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky’s carefully choreographed blitz of Washington was crafted as one part celebration of Russia’s failure to crush Ukraine, one part appreciation for the American taxpayers funding the battle, and one part sales pitch for keeping a fragile coalition together in the long, bloody and freezing winter ahead.
  • But between the lines were revealing hints of Mr. Zelensky’s worries about the year ahead.
  • For all the repeated talk of “victory,” and the comparisons of the current moment to the turning of World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Zelensky and his top military officials doubt that the Russian forces that invaded in February can be vanquished anytime soon. And the Ukrainian president surely knows his country’s remarkable resilience in the first year of the war could be threatened in the second, and the resolve of its saviors could begin to waver.
  • A Russian buildup of forces has many officials wondering if a humiliated President Vladimir V. Putin is plotting a new attack. And for the first time, there are hairline fractures — but not cracks — among some allies and partners, including a minority of Republicans who question whether America should be spending tens of billions for a nation that is not a treaty ally.
  • It was up to Mr. Zelensky to address all of that and make the case for more without actually reading out a shopping list. He did so in a speech that was carefully designed to appeal to many constituencies, one in which the Ukrainian president came off as grateful and yet gently demanding more. He wants Abrams tanks and F-16 fighters, layered air defenses and the Patriot missile system that President Biden announced would soon be on its way.
  • ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Aid Is ‘Not Charity,’ Zelensky Tells Congress as a Lengthy War Looms, Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Updated Dec. 22, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky described military assistance for Ukraine as an investment in global security and democracy in the face of Russian aggression.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine delivered an emotional wartime appeal to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday night, telling Americans that “your money is not charity” and vowing that his people would eventually secure an improbable victory against Russia on behalf of all free nations.
  • “Against all odds and doom-and-gloom scenarios, Ukraine did not fall,” Mr. Zelensky said in halting but forceful English from the dais in the House chamber, where he was greeted with extended applause from lawmakers.
  • “Ukraine is alive and kicking,” he said. “And it gives me good reason to share with you our first joint victory: We defeated Russia in the battle for minds of the world.”
  • In blunt terms, Mr. Zelensky pleaded for more military assistance from the lawmakers, who are poised to approve $45 billion in additional aid by the end of the week, bringing the total over a year to nearly $100 billion. His message: Your support has kept President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia from overrunning our country. Now keep it coming.
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Unmasking the Russian Military Unit That Killed Dozens in Bucha, Yousur Al-Hlou, Masha Froliak, Dmitriy Khavin, Christoph Koettl, Haley Willis, Alexander Cardia, Natalie Reneau and Malachy Browne, Dec. 22, 2022 (video report). Exclusive evidence obtained in a monthslong investigation identified the Russian regiment, and commander, behind one of the worst atrocities in Ukraine.
  • The killings were not random acts of violence. Read our takeaways. We identified 36 of the Ukrainian victims. These were their final moments.
  • how the agency has become increasingly unable to crack down on wealthy taxpayers who push the legal limits to lower their tax bills and have the means to fend off audits if they get caught.
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Buoyed by Hero’s Welcome for Zelensky in Washington, Andrew E. Kramer and Ivan Nechepurenko, Dec. 22, 2022. Ukrainians, many left in the dark and cold by airstrikes, drew solace from President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to Congress.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky’s unannounced trip to Washington on Wednesday buoyed morale back home in Ukraine, where millions have been plunged into darkness and cold from Russian missile strikes that have knocked out power as winter sets in.
  • After weeks of a stalemate along much of the front, some Ukrainians said on Thursday they had been cheered to see many members of Congress chant during Mr. Zelensky’s appearance a day earlier the patriotic refrain “Glory to heroes!”
  • The high-profile visit was greeted in Ukraine mostly with pride and hope that their president’s impassioned in-person appeals would keep American weapons and financial support flowing.
  • “Friends, everything will be fine, Ukraine will be fine, we will be given everything, we will be helped,” Valeriy Tryhub, a ski instructor, wrote in a post on Facebook.
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Zelensky’s Weapons Wish List Goes Mostly Unfulfilled on Trip to Washington, Eric Schmitt, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Julian E. Barnes, Dec. 22, 2022. The Biden administration continues to balk at sending U.S. battle tanks, fighter jets and long-range missiles to Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky’s triumphant visit to Washington ended with promises of billions more in U.S. support for Ukraine, but not what he wanted most: American battle tanks, fighter jets and long-range precision missiles.
  • The United States has repeatedly said there are weapons it will not send to Ukraine to battle Russia’s invading forces. But as the last 10 months of war have shown, the limits of U.S. support have shifted in Ukraine’s favor, and Mr. Zelensky may yet get what he wants.
  • After his daring 10-hour dash to the nation’s capital on Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky left with nearly $2 billion in new arms and equipment — as well as a likely commitment from Congress for nearly $50 billion in additional aid next year.
  • And while Mr. Zelensky did not get everything on his wish list, John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, said on Thursday that the United States was committed to providing the equipment that Ukraine needs, although he declined to provide specifics.
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Zelensky Heads Home to Dire Situation After Hero’s Welcome in Washington, Andrew E. Kramer, Dec. 22, 2022.  President Volodymyr Zelensky was returning to Ukraine on Thursday after a high-profile visit to Washington that was greeted at home with mostly pride and hope that his impassioned, in-person appeals would keep American weapons and financial support flowing.
  • Amid the darkness and cold from Russian missile strikes that have knocked out power for millions of people as winter sets in — and after weeks of stalemate along much of the front line — the surprise presidential trip buoyed morale in Ukraine. Some Ukrainians said that they were cheered to see members of Congress chant during Mr. Zelensky’s appearance the patriotic greeting, “Glory to heroes!”
  • “Friends, everything will be fine, Ukraine will be fine, we will be given everything, we will be helped,” Valeriy Tryhub, a ski instructor, wrote in a post on Facebook.
  • Reached by telephone later, Mr. Tryhub said that he had stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to watch Mr. Zelensky’s address to a joint session of Congress, where the Ukrainian president received standing ovations and presented Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a Ukrainian flag that had been signed by soldiers.
  • “This is, without exaggeration, an historical event,” he said of Mr. Zelensky’s visit, his first trip abroad since Russia’s invasion in February.
  • Here’s what we know:
  • While the U.S. gave the Ukrainian leader a coveted missile battery, additional aid was tied up by a political squabble in Washington.
  • Zelensky’s U.S. trip lifts spirits during a cold winter for Ukraine.
  • In Russia, Zelensky’s visit to Washington provokes outrage and ridicule.
  • The Ukrainian leader sought to convey the reality of the war to Washington.
  • Belarus’s leader tries to play down suggestions that recent military moves were aimed at Ukraine.
  • Germany and France welcome Zelensky’s trip to Washington.
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  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was greeted by President Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 (New York Times Photo by Tom Brenner).
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine arrived at the White House Wednesday for a show of solidarity with President Biden and a plea for continued support from his American allies as his country digs in for a long, cold winter of war. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was greeted by President Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 (New York Times Photo by Tom Brenner).
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Beside Zelensky, Biden Vows Support for ‘as Long as It Takes,’ Staff Reports, Dec. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Biden’s Pledge Comes During Zelensky’s Defiant Visit to U.S.
  • nato logo flags name“I’ve never seen NATO or the E.U. more united about anything at all,” President Biden said about the U.S. and its allies’ support for Ukraine.
  • Mr. Biden and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine are holding a joint news conference. Watch live.Zelensky is flying back after he talks to Congress tonight. An exhausting trip? Or will his time on the U.S. plane, which has a cabin with a bed in it, be his most peaceful night of sleep in a while? I wonder.
  • ukraine flagThis is quite a scene. A foreign journalist asks Zelensky and Biden if Ukraine could receive all that it needed to drive Russia out of Ukraine. “His answer is yes,” Biden cut in. “I agree,” Zelensky says. There is laughter in the room, but this is serious talk about what is needed — and what can be given — on the battlefield.
  • The U.S. has been unwilling to give long-range ATACMS missiles because their range could reach deep into Russian territory, and they would most likely be seen by Moscow as an escalatory step. And if Kyiv used the missiles to strike Moscow, the White House fears Russia would expand the war to NATO.
  • American FlagLet’s face it, one Patriot battery is a drop in the pan compared to what is needed considering the volume of Russian airstrikes.
  • And not to mention, Zolan and Katie, that the United States has at least 50 of these things, if not more.
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  • U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyer Zelensky at the White House on Dec. 21, 2022.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyer Zelensky at the White House on Dec. 21, 2022.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, A remarkable moment for two presidents, Toluse Olorunnipa, Dec. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainian leader briefly leaves his war-torn country to meet U.S. counterpart who has rallied nations on his behalf.
  • Capping a year in which they each faced long odds and defied gloomy predictions, the two men stood side by side at the White House on Wednesday — President Biden in a blue suit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an olive-green military shirt and heavy boots.
  • The stark sartorial contrast was one of the few differences on display as Biden and Zelensky praised one another and presented a united front during the Ukrainian leader’s visit to Washington, his first appearance abroad since Russia’s invasion. The visit underscored how the relationship between the two men — a 44-year-old born in what was then the U.S.S.R. and an octogenarian born in Scranton, Pa. — has unexpectedly become one of the most vital partnerships in global affairs.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Amid a show of unity, Zelensky and Biden differ on some war needs, Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan, Dec. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Behind the smiles and handshakes — and a new $1.85 billion military aid package — the Ukrainian president and his advisers continue to push Washington for advanced weaponry that Biden is reluctant to provide.
  • ny times logoNew York Times, As Ukraine Readies for Second Year at War, Prospect of Stalemate Looms, Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, Dec. 22, 2021 (print ed.). American officials believe that with Russia bolstering defenses and learning lessons, Ukraine will find it more challenging to retake land.
  • As the war in Ukraine soon enters its second year, Ukrainian troops will find it much more challenging to reclaim territory from Russian forces who are focused on defending their remaining land gains rather than making a deeper push into the country, American officials say.
  • Over the course of the first 10 months of the war, the Ukrainian military has — with significant American support — outmaneuvered an incompetent Russian military, fought it to a standstill and then retaken hundreds of square miles and the only regional capital that Russia had captured.
  • Despite relentless Russian attacks on civilian power supplies, Ukraine has still kept up the momentum on the front lines since September. But the tide of the war is likely to change in the coming months, as Russia improves its defenses and pushes more soldiers to the front lines, making it more difficult for Ukraine to retake the huge swaths of territory it lost this year, according to U.S. government assessments.
  • All of these factors make the most likely scenario going into the second year of the war a stalemate in which neither army can take much land despite intense fighting.
  • Dec. 21

  • A photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows President Volodymyr Zelensky in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Dec. 20, 2022.

  • A photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows President Volodymyr Zelensky in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Dec. 20, 2022.
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Zelensky visits the battleground city of Bakhmut, aiming to show Ukraine’s resolve, Marc Santora and Anton Troianovski, Dec. 21, 2022 (print ed.). In perhaps his most daring visit to the front lines since Russia invaded Ukraine 300 days ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to the ravaged city of Bakhmut on Tuesday morning to rally the soldiers there and demonstrate his defiance of Russia’s invasion. Despite months of Russian bombardments and waves of assaults, the city has remained in Ukrainian control.
  • His unannounced visit came only hours after President Vladimir V. Putin acknowledged that his war may not be going according to plan, saying the situation in Russian-held parts of Ukraine was “extremely difficult.”
  • The battle for Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, has turned into one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war. As losses for both sides have mounted, Ukraine’s hold on the ravaged city has taken on a symbolism that outstrips its military significance. There are bumper stickers, artwork and T-shirts in shops across Ukraine with the slogan: “Bakhmut Holds.”
  • Despite months of Russian bombardments and waves of assault by formations from the Wagner Group, an infamous paramilitary organization that has helped lead the Kremlin’s war effort in parts of Ukraine, the city has remained in Ukrainian control.
  • In Bakhmut, Mr. Zelensky saluted the courage of the soldiers fighting in grueling conditions.
  • “It seems to me that the Bakhmut heroes should get the same that every person gets,” Mr. Zelensky said, according to Freedom TV, a Ukrainian network that covered the trip. “I wish their children, families — that everything is fine with them, that they have warmth, that they have health.”
  • Mr. Zelensky has repeatedly spoken about that the “very difficult” situation in parts of Donbas, with the fighting around Bakhmut particularly vicious. He said in a recent address that Russian forces had “destroyed” Bakhmut, turning the city, once home to 70,000 people, into “burned ruins.”
  • On previous trips to the front, Mr. Zelensky went to raise Ukraine’s blue-and-gold flag after Russian occupation forces were driven out of cities including Izium in the northeast and Kherson in the southwest. Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Bakhmut came as Ukrainian troops say they have pushed Russians out of some positions on the edge of the city, although the situation there is far from stable.
  • The Ukrainian forces holding Bakhmut are from a mix of units, including the 93rd Mechanized Brigade and the 58th Motorized Infantry Brigade, that have been worn down by the nonstop Russian assaults. Other units relocated from southern Ukraine have arrived in recent weeks to bolster the defense of the city.
  • While Russian forces are digging in and establishing more fortified defensive positions across much of the 600-mile front, they have continued to assault Bakhmut from multiple directions. They have suffered heavy losses and there have been widespread reports of low morale and disorder in the Russian ranks, with convicts recruited to fight clashing with other units.
  • The British military defense intelligence agency said on Monday that Russian recruits in eastern Ukraine are “likely being threatened with summary execution” if they fail to heed orders to assault Ukrainian positions.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Zelensky’s role on the Washington stage is Ukrainian fighter, David Ignatius, right, Dec. 21, 2022. Ukrainian President david ignatiusVolodymyr Zelensky’s bold Wednesday visit to Washington is an epic piece of theater designed to motivate multiple audiences — in the United States, Europe, Russia and Ukraine itself. The message is simple: With its own bravery in battle and the world’s help, Ukraine will prevail.
  • By embracing President Biden and addressing a clamorous joint session of Congress, Zelensky will send a riposte to Moscow that’s more potent, in some ways, than the Russian drones and missiles pounding his country. Ukraine has allies; it has staying power; NATO isn’t cracking; even in a polarized America, support for Kyiv is bipartisan and sustained.
  • As you watch Zelensky on the podium before Congress, imagine the rage that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be feeling: His bets are losing. Ukraine, Europe and the United States haven’t splintered. The West isn’t as feeble as he imagined. It’s Russia that is isolated and slipping month by month toward becoming a failed state.
  • washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Zelensky’s visit highlights that freedom is winning in Ukraine — for now, Editorial Board, Dec. 21, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made his career in comedy, but the Russian invasion of his country 10 months ago has brought out his talent for drama — of the most inspiring kind.
  • Standing before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky thanked the United States for its military and financial support, presented a flag signed by troops defending the the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut and characterized his country’s struggle as the front line in a global battle for freedom and democracy against tyrants seeking to rewrite the international order. Likening the war in Ukraine to the American Revolution, he declared that “the Russian tyranny has lost control over us.”
  • “Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom,” he said.
  • His address culminated a whirlwind of events that included President Biden’s official confirmation that the United States will send a Patriot missile-defense system to Ukraine. The Patriots will help protect against Russian aerial bombardment — Moscow fired 76 missiles on Friday night alone, 16 of which penetrated Ukraine’s air defense. The onslaught has destroyed half of Ukraine’s electric power infrastructure, according to the United Nations. A fresh package of $44.9 billion in economic and military aid, included in Congress’s must-pass omnibus spending bill, will bring total U.S. support since the war began to $110 billion.
  • ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s president is taking his plea to Congress amid a wave of Russian attacks, Andrew E. Kramer, Marc Santora and Andrés R. Martínez, Dec. 21, 2021. The Ukrainian leader was flying to Washington, a day after making a bold visit to the front line in the east. Ukrainian officials warned of more Russian attacks against the energy grid.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky will land in Washington on Wednesday to meet with President Biden and deliver an evening address to a joint session of Congress, capping a remarkable two days that will take the Ukrainian leader from the most violent point on the eastern front line to a daring show of solidarity in the capital of his most powerful ally.
  • Mr. Zelensky’s first trip outside Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February comes at a pivotal point in the war, which is now being waged on two fronts: in the fields and forests of southern and eastern Ukraine, where the armies are squaring off, and in the skies over the country as Ukrainian forces try to shoot down Russian missiles and drones aimed at civilian infrastructure.
  • Russian FlagWith Ukraine having pushed back Russian forces in the northeast and south, the armies are digging in along a new, 600-mile front line, and Ukraine’s ability to regain more ground could depend on more weapons from allies, including the United States. Mr. Zelensky’s trip comes a day after congressional lawmakers proposed another $44 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine, which would bring the total American wartime assistance to more than $100 billion.
  • Both Mr. Zelensky and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia have sought to project resolve as the war approaches the 10-month mark, steeling their people for a long fight ahead. On Wednesday, Mr. Putin used an annual meeting of senior military leaders to praise Russian soldiers as “heroes” and repeated his vow that Russia’s goals in Ukraine will be achieved.
  • Here is what you need to know:
  • Mr. Zelensky was scheduled to arrive at the White House at around 2 p.m. Eastern time to meet with President Biden after a long trans-Atlantic flight. The two leaders are expected to hold a joint news conference beginning at 4:30 p.m.
  • Mr. Biden will announce on Wednesday $1.8 billion in immediate aid for Ukraine that includes the most advanced American ground-based air defense system, including a Patriot missile battery. Deliveries of new U.S. weapons will lead “to an aggravation of the conflict” and do “not bode well for Ukraine,” Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said on Wednesday.
  • Mr. Zelensky’s address to Congress, scheduled for 7:30 p.m., follows a speech he made virtually to American lawmakers in March, weeks into the war, when he invoked the attack on Pearl Harbor and urged the United States to do more to help his country.
  • On Tuesday, Mr. Zelensky made his boldest visit yet to the front line, meeting soldiers defending the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Russian forces have failed to seize despite months of unrelenting bombardment.
  • Ukraine’s prime minister has said that Russia wants to plunge Ukraine into total darkness during the winter holiday season, and warned the government to “prepare for new attacks.”
  • Schumer noted that Zelensky’s appearance before Congress comes as the Senate is poised to approve nearly $50 billion in additional military assistance to Ukraine. He also said the Senate would confirm President Biden’s pick for ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy.
  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Extremist Russian nationalism triggers nationalism among non-Russian ethnicities, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and a former Navy intelligence officer, Dec. 21-22, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. In what stands as a classic cause and effect relationship, Vladimir Putin's championing of extreme Russian nationalism in concert with Russia's invasion of Ukraine has resulted in increasing nationalism among the non-Russian ethnic groups of the not-so-federal Russian Federation.
  • wayne madesen report logoThere is some evidence that an increase in nationalist fervor among some non-Russian groups has resulted in sabotage of key infrastructure elements such as pipelines, refineries, ammunition depots and other inviting targets in order to stymie Russia's war in Ukraine.
  • Few people outside of Ukraine and the Far East of Russia have ever heard of Green Ukraine or as it is known in Ukrainian, Zeleny Klyn. Located over 4,000 miles from Ukraine, Green Ukraine is located in a vast area between the Amur River and the Pacific Ocean in Siberia. In the late 1800s, the Czarist government of Russia, in seeking to populate the region, offered free land to anyone from European Russia willing to settle in what is now the Primorskiy Territory bordering North Korea and the Chinese province of Heilongjiang. This remote area of northeast Asia is the last place on Earth anyone would think there would be Ukrainians.
  •  New York Times, Surrender to a Drone? Ukraine Is Urging Russian Soldiers to Do Just That, Marc Santora, Dec. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Capitalizing on reports of low Russian morale, Ukraine has begun offering enemy troops detailed instructions on how to lay down their arms.
  • Tens of thousands of drones have been employed across Ukraine to kill the enemy, spy on its formations and guide bombs to their targets. But this month the Ukrainian military began a program to use drones in a more unusual role: to guide Russian soldiers who want to surrender.
  • The program had its genesis in late November, when the Ukrainian military released footage of a Russian soldier throwing his weapon to the ground, raising his hands and nervously following a path set out by a drone overhead, leading him to soldiers from the Ukrainian army’s 54th Mechanized Brigade.
  • A few weeks later, the Ukrainian General Staff released an instructional video explaining how Russian soldiers can surrender to a Ukrainian drone, and it is now part of a wide-ranging effort by Ukraine to persuade Russian soldiers to give up. The program, called “I want to live,” includes a phone hotline, a website and a Telegram channel all dedicated to communicating to Russian soldiers and their families.
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