Ukraine war - latest: Putin statements 'not having the desired effect' on Russians, analysis finds; Moscow responds to secret 'CIA peace deal' reports (2023)

Key points
  • Zelenskyy to make case for Ukraine joining EU in talks
  • Putin statements 'not having desired effect' on Russians, analysis finds
  • Next six months of war will be 'absolutely crucial', says US
  • Why are European Union leaders in Ukraine?
  • Reports of secret peace proposal are 'hoax' - Kremlin
  • Dominic Waghorn:Signs suggest Putin is now doubling down
  • Live reporting by Chris Lockyer.Updates also from Deborah Haynesin Ukraine and Diana Magnay in Moscow


Ukraine continues push to ban Russian athletes from Olympics

Ukraine has threatened to boycott next year's Olympic Games in Paris if organisers allow Russia to take part.

The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) current stance is to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutral competitors.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are among the countries that support Kyiv's potential boycott, while other nations like Denmark are actively seeking the banning of Russia and Belarus from the games.

The IOC says it can discriminate against athletes because of their citizenship, and banning the two countries could have ramifications beyond sport.


Russia has claimed to encircle Bakhmut - but what does the evidence show?

by Jack Taylor, OSINT Producer

Verified images show that Russian forces are operating on the outskirts of Bakhmut, a key Ukrainian city on the eastern front that Moscow claims it has already encircled.

This claimed encircling can be seen in the latest control maps, produced by the Institute for the Study of War.

Red areas represent verified Russian advancesand yellow areas are claimed by Moscow to also be under their control.

Professor Michael Clarke, defence and security analyst, said that it appears close to "the end game in Bakhmut. The Russians have got north and south of the city."

Imageshave been posted on social media that show Russian units around Bakhmut.

Many have been taken by Ukrainian soldiers using drones, such as this screenshot from a video of artillery engaging a Russian position.

An analysis by Sky News of these images show Russian soldiers in some of the areas of known control, but there is limited visual evidence of soldiers in areas that Russia claims to control.

Sky News has verified and located these images from Bakhmut by matching key features with existing satellite imagery, such as this video of Russians in the east of the city.

Michael Clarke explained that fighting through a city centre by going from house to housecan be "very difficult" for an invading force. Instead, the Russian army can be seen trying to encircle the city in order to surround defending Ukrainian forces.

"The Ukrainians will have to decide - can we stop the ring from closing, or do we arrive at the point when we have to get out and live to fight another day."


France and Italy in talks to send anti-tank missile system to Ukraine

More defensive weapons could be on the way to Ukraine, with France and Italy in final talks to send anti-tank systems.

It comes after a number of countries pledged to send tanks to the battlefield, after requests from Kyiv.

"Thiswill allow Ukraine to defend itself against Russian drones, missiles and plane attacks, through the coverage of a significant part of the Ukrainian territory," a French defence ministry statement said.


EU countries agree price caps on Russian refined oil products

EU countries have agreed on a European Commission proposal to set price caps on Russian refined oil products, the Swedish presidency of the European Union has said.

EU diplomats said the price caps agreed by ambassadors for the 27 EU countries were $100 per barrel on products that trade at a premium to crude, such as diesel, and $45 per barrel for products that trade at a discount, such as fuel oil.

Poland and Baltic states Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia had pushed for the caps to be set at lower levels to curb Russia's revenues from fuel, diplomats had said, dragging on talks for days.

The price caps, together with an EU ban on Russian oil product imports, are part of a broader agreement among the Group of Seven (G7) countries. It follows a $60 per barrel cap imposed on Russian crude on Dec. 5 as G7 countries, the EU and Australia seek to limit Moscow's ability to fund its war in Ukraine.

Both caps work by prohibiting Western insurance and shipping companies from insuring or carrying cargoes of Russian crude and oil products unless they were bought at or below the set price cap.


New EU sanctions 'will hit Russia's war machine'

The European Union's next package of sanctions against Russia will hit the trade and technology that supports its war against Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said.

"Our 9 packages of sanctions are biting, and a 10th one is on its way. With our partners, we must deny Russia the means to kill Ukrainian civilians and destroy homes and offices," she said on Twitter.

"New measures will hit the trade and technology that supports Russia's war machine."


Ukraine says new tanks from NATO will be 'iron fist' to break Russian defensive lines

Ukraine's defence minister has spoken optimistically about the potential impact a consignment of new tanks from NATO could have.

Oleksii Reznikov, told a news briefing with his Polish counterpart that Western supplies of 155-mm artillery were vital for his country to repel Russia's attacks in the south and in the east.

And he said: "The new tank coalition with the main tanks of NATO countries - we need this for the counteroffensive, we will use it like an iron fist to break through their defensive lines."

Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, in Kyiv today for talks with Mr Reznikov, said Warsaw was helping to train Ukrainian soldiers to use Western tanks and that completing the training was a question of "weeks not days or months".

Kyiv secured pledges from the West last month to supply main battle tanks to help fend off Russia's invasion, with Moscow mounting huge efforts to make advances in the east.


US announces $2.175bn security package for Ukraine.

Washington has announced a new $2.175bn security package for Ukraine.

The US defence department said this would include critical air defence capabilities, conventional and long-range rockets.

We'll bring you more on this as we get it.


'Putin does not want to commit nuclear suicide': Russia's former foreign minister offers insight into president's mindset

Andrei Kozyrev, a former foreign minister for Russia under Boris Yeltsin's administration, has been offering his assessment of the current Russian president's strategy.

He suggests that Vladimir Putin's aforementioned nuclear threats (see 15.33 post) and the US decision not to send long-range missiles and fighter jets is not a coincidence.

Citing historical precedence of nuclear tensions between Washington and Moscow and the common understanding of mutually assured destruction, he says the Russian leader largely "got away" with his aggression.

"Appetite comes with food, as the Russian saying goes," Mr Kozyrev says, in a thread on Twitter.

"It's almost a year since Putin invaded and began to destroy Ukraine. He doubles down on nuclear threats and long-distance bombardments of Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.

"The West refuses to send long-range missiles and F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. So, Putin strikes from afar with impunity and bets on the long-term war of attrition.

"Until Ukraine bleeds to exhaustion. NATO vows to stay with Ukraine as long as it takes.

"Putin does not want to commit nuclear suicide, but he dreams of successfully intimidating and humiliating the West in contrast to his Soviet predecessors.

"That is his strategic goal, not just the conquest of Ukraine, which would be the first step to greatness."


'Don't withdraw troops... You will no longer be respected': Wagner Group head goads Zelenskyy over Bakhmut

New quotes are emerging from Yegveny Prigozhin, the owner of the mercenary Wagner Group, which is currently engaged in fierce fighting with Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut.

Comments attributed to the infamous businessman were purportedly a direct address to Volodomyry Zelenskyy (who, as we mentioned in our previous post, has been speaking in defiant tones about the eastern city.

In remarks seemingly designed to goad the Ukrainian leader, Mr Prigozhin reportedly said: "Many people are asking you to withdraw troops from Bakhmut.

"Don't do that. Artemovsk [Bakhmut's former name] is the main event of this war. We must continue fighting.

"You will show cowardice. You will no longer be respected. The Ukrainian people will not forgive you for surrendering Artemovsk to a private military structure. Resist. Fight to the end."


'We consider Bakhmut our fortress': Ukraine will fight to hold key city for as long as we can, Zelenskyy says

More now from that EU summit news conference in Kyiv, where Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been discussing the battle for the Bakhmut.

The president said Ukraine's forces would fight to hold on to the eastern "fortress" city or as long they could, and urged the West to supply long-range weapons to help push Russian forces out of the Donbas region.

"Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress," he said.

"Ukraine would be able to hold Bakhmut and liberate occupied Donbas if it received long-range weapons."

The city of Bakhmut has become the focal point of Ukrainian resistance to Russia's invasion and of Moscow's drive to regain battlefield momentum.

Russian officials have said Russian forces are encircling the city from several directions and battling to take control of a road which is also an important supply route for Ukrainian forces.

Mr Zelenskyy said Russia would continue to push in the east, but that Ukrainian forces would be able to hold out until more Western weapons arrived.

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