Zelensky says Ukraine is preparing for all possible defence scenarios

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that protecting Ukraine’s borders was a “constant priority” and that his country was ready for all possible scenarios with Russia and its ally Belarus. Heating has also been restored to Kyiv following the latest Russian bombardment that targeted water and power infrastructure, said the capital’s mayor Vitali Klitschko. Read our live blog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

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03:59am: Nine drones shot down in Kyiv’s airspace early Monday

Nine Iranian-made Shahed drones were shot down early on Monday in Kyiv’s airspace, the capital’s military administration said on the Telegram messaging app.

“Air alert continues in Kyiv,” the administration said. “The enemy is attacking the capital with ‘Shahed’ barrage ammunition. Air defence is being at work.”

03:54am: Blasts heard in Kyiv city and region early Monday

Several loud blasts were heard early on Monday in Kyiv and the region that surrounds the Ukrainian capital, Reuters witnesses reported.

Earlier, Oleksiy Kuleba, governor of the Kyiv region, said that the region was under a drone attack.

It was not immediately clear whether the blasts were air defence systems destroying the drones or hitting targets.

03:50am: Russian troops stationed in Belarus to ‘begin military exercises’

Russian troops that were moved to Belarus in October to become part of a regional formation will conduct battalion tactical exercises, the Russian Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing the Russian defence ministry.

It was not immediately clear when and where in Belarus the exercises will be conducted.

Belarus defence ministry said in October that 9,000 Russian troops were moving to the country as part of a “regional grouping” of forces to protect its borders.

02:30am: Ukraine watchful of borders as Putin heads to Belarus

President Volodymyr Zelensky said protecting Ukraine’s borders was a “constant priority” and his country was ready for all possible scenarios with Russia and its ally Belarus, which Kyiv has warned could be drawn into the 10-month conflict.

Zelensky, in his nightly video address to Ukrainians, also issued a fresh appeal to Western nations to provide Kyiv with better air defences as “one of the most powerful” steps to halt the Russian invasion.

Early on Monday, air raid warnings again rung out over Kyiv and eastern Ukraine, with videos of blasts and air defence systems shared on social media.

“Protecting our border, both with Russia and Belarus – is our constant priority,” Zelensky said after a meeting on Sunday of Ukraine’s top military command. “We are preparing for all possible defence scenarios.”

10:12pm: Zelensky says power restored to 3 million more Ukrainians following attacks

Power has been restored to three million more Ukrainians after the latest Russian attacks on infrastructure, bringing the total to nine million after two days, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday.

“Electricity supplies have been restored to a further three million Ukrainians,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “Plus six million yesterday. That means after the terrorist strikes on Friday, we have results already for nine million of our people.”

Russia fired scores of missiles on Ukraine’s power grid last Friday, killing at least three people and damaging nine energy facilities.

10:05pm: Zelensky says Ukraine preparing for all defence scenarios

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that protecting Ukraine’s borders was a “constant priority” and that his country was ready for all possible scenarios with Russia and its ally Belarus.

“Protecting our border, both with Russia and Belarus – is our constant priority,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “We are preparing for all possible defence scenarios.”

Zelensky made his remarks on the eve of a visit to Belarus by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s amid discussion of a possible new offensive by Moscow and suggestions it could originate in Belarus.

In his address, Zelensky issued a new appeal to Western nations to provide Ukraine with effective air defences. He also said his forces were holding the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, where some of the fiercest fighting has been seen.

7:00pm: Ukraine Jews mark ‘Festival of Lights’ amid blackouts

War-weary Ukrainian Jews gathered on Sunday for prayer and candle-lighting ceremonies to kick off Hanukkah, the so-called Festival of Lights, vowing to overcome blackouts caused by persistent Russian bombardment.

In the capital’s iconic Independence Square, known as Maidan, worshippers huddled together for warmth near what officials claimed was the largest Hanukkah menorah – a nine-branched candelabra – in Europe.

6:54pm: Kissinger calls for a negotiated peace in Ukraine, Kyiv dismisses his proposal

Veteran US diplomat Henry Kissinger said the time is approaching for a negotiated peace in Ukraine to reduce the risk of another devastating world war, but the Kyiv government dismissed his comments as amounting to “appeasing the aggressor” and said there could be no deal involving ceding territory.

2:23pm: Russian shelling targets heart of Kherson

Russian military forces on Sunday shelled the centre of Kherson, the major city that Russian soldiers retreated from last month in one of Moscow’s biggest battlefield setbacks in Ukraine.

Three people were wounded in the attacks, said presidential deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

The southern city and its surrounding region have come under frequent attack since the Russian pullback. Regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said Sunday that Russia had carried out 54 attacks with rocket, mortar and tank fire over the previous day, killing three people and wounding six.

1:15pm: Putin’s invasion of Ukraine opened ‘gates of hell’, says Anglican leader

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Sunday said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “opened the gates of hell” unleashing “every evil” force worldwide from murder and rape in occupied territory to famine and debt in Africa and Europe.

Welby, the highest-ranking cleric in the worldwide Anglican communion, travelled to Ukraine late last month to meet church leaders and local Christians as well as those displaced by the conflict.

He said he had been struck by the “size of the mass graves in Bucha, the photos of what had been done to the people there, the rape, the massacres, the torture by the occupying Russian forces”, and that the repercussions of the invasion were also being felt far beyond Ukraine’s borders.

1:07pm: Heating restored in Kyiv after Russian bombardment, Mayor Klitschko says

Heating has been restored to Kyiv after the latest Russian bombardment targeting water and power infrastructure, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Sunday.

“The city is restoring all services after the latest shelling,” Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app. “In particular, the capital’s heat supply system was fully restored. All sources of heat supply work normally.”

Ukrainian officials said Russia fired more than 70 missiles on Friday in one of its heaviest barrages since the Kremlin’s February 24 invasion, forcing emergency blackouts nationwide and cutting access to heat and water.

Temperatures in Kyiv and many places across Ukraine were below freezing on Sunday morning, with forecasts expecting them to dip to minus 6 degrees Celsius (21.2 °F) in the capital by  the evening.

Kyiv is the largest city in Ukraine with an estimated population of about 3 million, with up to two million more in the Kyiv region.

12:39pm: One dead, several injured in strikes on Russian region near Ukraine, says governor

Strikes on the Russian region of Belgorod that borders Ukraine killed one person and injured five others on Sunday, the regional governor said, two days after renewed attacks by Moscow battered the Ukrainian energy grid.

In the regional capital Belgorod, “there are four wounded (with injuries) of moderate severity”, governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on social media.

One of those injured is a man whose back was cut by shrapnel and another is a woman who suffered facial injuries, according to Gladkov.

He said more than a dozen residential buildings and several cars were damaged across the city.

Gladkov added there was also “one dead and one injured” in the Belgorod district that surrounds the main city, where a poultry farm was damaged.

11:16am: Russian defence minister inspects troops involved in Ukraine offensive

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu inspected troops involved in what Moscow calls its special military operation in Ukraine, his ministry said Sunday.

Shoigu “made a working trip to the Southern Military District and inspected troops in the areas of the special military operation”, the defence ministry said in a statement on Telegram.

The statement did not say where exactly the trip took place and whether Shoigu visited Ukraine.

8:07am: Ukraine races to restore power after Russian missiles batter grid

Ukraine worked Saturday to restore electricity and water supplies after Russia’s latest wave of attacks pitched multiple cities into darkness and forced people to endure sub-zero temperatures without heating or running water.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Saturday that electricity had been restored to almost six million Ukrainians, but noted ongoing problems with heat and water supplies, and “large-scale outages” in many regions.

In the capital Kyiv, the metro had stopped running so that people wrapped in winter coats could take shelter at underground stations, but Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Saturday the service had resumed.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

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