Ukrainian officials are urging residents to evacuate from the city of Kherson as Russian forces stepped up mortar and artillery attacks on the southern Ukrainian city, which was recently liberated. Some residents who lived through the Russian occupation are reluctant to leave despite the bombardment, according to a local official who has been involved in the evacuation.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy said “only a few” civilians remain in the embattled frontline city of Bakhmut in the eastern province of Donetsk. In a Telegram post, Ukraine’s leader said “there is no place that is not covered with blood” in the Ukrainian-held city, where his troops are waging a battle that has come to symbolise the grinding brutality of the war.
Ukraine has secured the release of 1,456 prisoners of war since Russia invaded in February, according to Zelenskiy. Ukraine’s president was speaking in an annual address to the Ukrainian parliament, where Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, cabinet ministers, foreign diplomats, military personnel and family members of fallen soldiers were reportedly present.
The Kremlin has insisted any proposals to end the conflict must take into account what it calls “today’s realities” of four Ukrainian regions Moscow has unilaterally declared part of Russia. In a regular briefing with reporters, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed Zelenskiy’s 10-point peace plan, which includes the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of all prisoners, a tribunal for those responsible for the aggression and security guarantees for Ukraine.
Russia’s foreign minister has said he is convinced that Moscow would achieve its goals in Ukraine thanks to its “patience” and “perseverance”. “I am convinced that thanks to our perseverance, patience and determination, we will defend the noble goals that are vital for our people and our country,” Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov said in an interview broadcast on national television.
The head of Gazprom has said the Russian gas giant had a challenging year, as the company seeks new markets after international sanctions over Moscow’s Ukraine offensive. “I want to say right away that 2022, of course, has turned out to be very, very difficult,” Alexei Miller said during an end-of-year conference as tensions soar between Russia and the west.
A Crimean human rights activist has been sentenced to seven years in prison after a Moscow-installed court in the Russian-annexed peninsula found her guilty of carrying an explosive device, in a trial that rights activists have described as “trumped up” and “illegal”. Iryna Danilovich was sentenced to seven years in a general regime colony by a court in Feodosia, the Kyiv-based organisation Institute of Mass Information (IMI) said.
Authorities in the Ukrainian city of Odesa have begun dismantling a monument to Catherine the Great, the Russian empress who founded the city in the late 18th century. Last month, the local parliament voted to dismantle the statue, as well as another to the Tsarist general Alexander Suvorov.
Russian soldiers mobilised to fight in Ukraine will be able to store their frozen sperm in a cryobank for free, a leading Russian lawyer has said. Demographers have warned that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and its “partial” military mobilisation could further deepen Russia’s demographic crisis.
The United Nations high commissioner for human rights has released a count of the number of civilian casualties in Russia’s war on Ukraine so far, saying that 6,884 people are known to have died in Ukraine, including 429 children, between 24 February 2022 to 26 December 2022. The actual figure is likely to be “considerably higher”, it added.