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France 24

Countries at Paris aid conference pledge 1 billion euros for Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pictured on a screen as he attends via video-link, with (From L) German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, French President Emmanuel Macron, French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna and President of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen attend the "Solidarity with Ukrainian people" conference, at the French Foreign Affairs ministry, in Paris, on December 13, 2022. © Teresa Suarez, AFP

Countries gathered at an aid conference for Ukraine in Paris have pledged aid worth around one billion euros to help the war-hit country this winter, France's foreign minister said on Tuesday. Follow our blog to see how the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

This live blog is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage on the war in Ukraine, please click here.

01:42am: US finding grid equipment for Ukraine at home and abroad

As Washington sends Ukraine US-sourced power equipment to help the country's grid recover from Russian attacks, it is also scouring for those supplies worldwide, US officials said on Tuesday.

The Biden administration this week shipped the first portion of $53 million in power equipment aid it announced last month. The open market value is likely to be higher because utilities and manufacturers provided many items at cost and paid transportation costs.

"They were really quite forthcoming," an Energy Department official said about the suppliers, but noted that not all US equipment is compatible with Ukraine's grid.

01:21am: Zelensky shuts court, says Ukraine can fight graft and Russia at same time

President Zelensky hailed his dissolution on Tuesday of a Kyiv court as evidence Ukraine can fight to end a history of corruption and Russia's invasion at the same time.

"This story has drawn to a close," he said as he announced he had signed a law liquidating the Kyiv District Administrative Court, which Ukrainian anti-corruption authorities had compared to a criminal organization and whose chairman was hit with US sanctions Dec. 9.

"But the story of reforms continues – it continues, even in the time of such a war," Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

He signed the law the same day it was passed by Ukraine’s parliament, in a nod to extensive judiciary and other reforms needed for Ukraine to join the European Union.

11:50pm: Biden's energy envoy Hochstein happy with Russian oil price cap so far

The United States, one of the architects of the G7's price cap on Russian oil, is so far happy with the way the mechanism is functioning, Amos Hochstein, the Biden administration's energy envoy said on Tuesday.

The Group of Seven countries, the European Union and Australia implemented the price cap on seaborne cargoes of Russian oil on Dec. 5, setting it at $60 a barrel as part ofsanctions that aim to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions include an EU ban on seaborne imports of Russian oil and a US ban on imports of Russian energy.

"So far we are seeing exactly what we wanted to see,"Hochstein told a US Export-Import Bank conference.

He said he spoke on Tuesday morning with the chief executive of "one of the largest crude trading houses" who told him that they have started trading crude below the price cap. Hochstein did not detail that discussion further.

9:41pm: Zelensky says swathe of Ukraine contaminated with mines

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called for long-term help in clearing his war-ravaged nation of mines and other unexploded ordinance, which he said now cover an area roughly the size of Cambodia.

In a video address to New Zealand's parliament, Zelensky described Russia's nearly year-old invasion as an "ecocide" that would have lasting impact and implored Wellington and others to step up aid.

"As of now, 174,000 square kilometres (67,000 square miles) of Ukrainian territory are contaminated with mines and unexploded ordnance," Zelensky told lawmakers.

8:39pm: US charges seven in Russian smuggling ring

The US Justice Department announced charges Tuesday against five Russians and two Americans who allegedly smuggled electronic components and sniper ammunition to Russia via Estonia.

The seven operated their network since at least 2017 on behalf of Serniya Engineering and Sertal LLC, two Russian companies already on US sanctions blacklists.

The two companies operated "under the direction of Russian intelligence services" to obtain advanced electronics and testing equipment for Russia's military, science and industrial sectors, according to a Justice Department Statement.

Some of the equipment was useful in quantum computing, hypersonic and nuclear weapons development and other military and space uses, it said.

8:38pm: New Zealand PM Ardern announces NZ$3 million aid for Ukraine

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday announced a further NZ$3 million ($1.94 million) in humanitarian support for Ukraine as the conflict enters the winter months.

Ardern was speaking after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky became just the second foreign leader to ever address the New Zealand parliament.

Ardern said in her speech to Zelensky that the Ukraine war "must not become a gateway to a more polarised and dangerous world for generations to come."

Ardern added that Ukraine's war is "not a forgotten war."

8:31pm: Zelensky urges New Zealand to leadership on environmental security destroyed by Russian war

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky urged New Zealand, a staunch supporter of Kyiv, to take leadership in working on ensuring environmental security that has been destroyed by the Russian invasion of his country.

"Economy and infrastructure can be reconstructed," Zelensky told New Zealand's parliament. "You cannot rebuild the destroyed nature, just as you cannot restore the destroyed lives."

6:31pm: US finalising plans to send Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine 

The United States is poised to approve sending a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, finally agreeing to an urgent request from Ukrainian leaders desperate for more robust weapons to shoot down incoming Russian missiles, US officials said Tuesday. 

The approval is likely to come later this week and could be announced as early as Thursday, said three officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision is not final and has not been made public. Two of the officials said the Patriot will come from Pentagon stocks and be moved from another country overseas.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pressed Western leaders as recently as Monday to provide more advanced weapons to help his country in its war with Russia. The Patriot would be the most advanced surface-to-air missile system the West has provided to Ukraine to help repel Russian aerial attacks.

4:42pm: Paris aid mechanism to coordinate civilian aid to Ukraine

Tuesday's conference in Paris, titled "Standing with the Ukraine People," saw the launch of a new so-called Paris Mechanism to co-ordinate civilian aid to Ukraine. The digital platform, announced by G7 leaders on Monday, will enable Ukraine to list its requirements and allow international donors to coordinate their responses in real-time. FRANCE 24's International Affairs Editor Philip Turle provides more details below. 




4:25pm: Ukraine PM says IAEA mission will 'secure' nuclear plants

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said Tuesday that the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA agreed to dispatch permanent teams to the country's nuclear plants, including the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant.

Ukraine's atomic sites have been a key concern throughout the nearly 10 months since Russia invaded, with attacks around several plants – including Chernobyl – raising fears of a nuclear incident.

"The missions are aimed at securing the plants and recording all attempts to externally influence them, in particular shelling by the Russian aggressor," Shmygal said following a meeting in Paris with Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The prime minister, who was participating in an international conference on Ukraine, said the IAEA teams would deploy to plants at Zaporizhzhia, Rivne, Khmelnytskyi, Pivdennoukrainska and Chernobyl without specifying a time frame.

3:09pm: Donors meet in Paris in bid to get Ukraine through the winter, bombing

French President Emmanuel Macron said the summit was going to be very pragmatic in nature, and that the conference was about getting fresh help for Ukraine as quickly as possible to help the country survive what he described as "the longest of winters". FRANCE 24's Catherine Norris Trent reports from Paris.



3:09pm: Belarus puts southern military unit on alert in large-scale readiness exercise

Belarus has put one of its southern military units in a state of alert as part of surprise drills to test the combat readiness of its troops, the secretary of Belarus's Security Council said on Tuesday.

"The inspections will be of a wide-ranging nature and carried out unannounced by the leadership of the armed forces," Alexander Volfovich said in a video statement posted by the Defence Ministry.

The snap military inspection is the latest in a burst of exercises and other military activity that have prompted concern from neighbouring Ukraine.

2:09pm: Paris Ukraine conference raises just over 1 billion euros

France's Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna on Tuesday said parties to an international conference for Ukraine pledged payments of just over 1 billion euros ($1.05 billion).

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukraine's allies gathered in Paris earlier on Tuesday that he needed at least 800 million euros ($840 million) in urgent winter energy aid as Russian forces target civilian infrastructure across the country.

2:08pm: Air raid alerts issued across Ukraine

Air raid sirens wailed across Ukraine on Tuesday after warnings by the country's leaders that Russia could launch a new wave of missile and drone strikes, but there were no immediate reports of attacks.

Russia has carried out several waves of attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure since October, causing power outages across the country.

Several minutes after the first air raid alerts were issued on Tuesday, there had been no reports of missiles being fired at Ukraine.

Ukrainian media said the alerts may have been triggered by MiG fighter jets that took off from Ryazan, near Russia's border with Ukraine, and flew towards Belarus.

1:42pm: Belarus appoints new foreign minister, air force chief 

Belarus on Tuesday named a new foreign minister and air force head, as the country conducts a flurry of military activity that have raised fears it could take a more active stance in Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Minsk named Sergei Aleinik as its new foreign minister, the state-run Belta news agency reported, to fill the position left empty after the death of Vladimir Makei last month. Aleinik was previously first deputy foreign minister.

Andrei Lukyanovich, previously deputy head of the air force, was promoted to head of Belarus’ air force and air defence units, Belta said.

11:55am: Russia says no heavy weaponry at Zaporizhzhia

Russia said on Tuesday it had not placed any heavy weapons at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.  Kyiv has repeatedly accused Russian forces of using the nuclear facility, which Russia seized in the first days of the conflict, as a de facto weapons depot.

Fighting over the nuclear plant in the 10-month conflict has raised fears of a possible Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster, with Kyiv and Moscow accusing each other of behaving recklessly. Both sides have accused each other of shelling the plant, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power station.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a call with reporters that Russia remains in contact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is trying to broker a demilitarized zone around the power station.

He was responding to earlier comments from French President Emmanuel Macron, who said an agreement had been reached on removing heavy weapons from the power plant.

10:24am: Ukraine needs €800 million in emergency energy sector aid, says Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the international aid conference on Tuesday that Ukraine needed emergency aid for its energy sector totalling around 800 million euros. 

"Of course it is a very high amount, but the cost is less than the cost of a potential blackout," Zelensky told the gathering in Paris via video link. "I hope that decisions will be made accordingly."

10:10am: Ukraine needs electricity generators, Zelensky tells donor conference

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday addressed the donor conference in Paris via video link and said his country is in desperate need of electricity generators as Russia continues to target its civilian infrastructure.

Zelensky said 12 million Ukrainians are currently suffering power outages. 

“Generators have become as necessary as armoured vehicles and bullet-proof jackets,” he said.

9:50am: France’s Macron says talks to remove heavy weaponry from Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear site

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that there is an agreement on removing heavy weapons from Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and that talks were underway on the modalities around this.

“We managed to protect Chernobyl and our goal is to protect Zaporizhzhia. The coming weeks will be crucial,” he said.

9:42am: Donor conference to get Ukraine though winter kicks off in Paris

A donor conference has kicked off in Paris in a bid to help keep Ukraine powered, fed, warm and moving in the face of Russia’s sustained aerial bombardments that have plunged millions into the cold and dark during winter.

The conference, which has gathered delegations from 47 countries, is expected to raise and help coordinate many tens of millions of dollars of aid — both financial and in kind — to be rushed in coming weeks and months to Ukraine to help its beleaguered civilian population survive winter’s freezing temperatures and long nights.

>> Paris conference to put Ukrainian civil society at 'heart of humanitarian response'

9:25am: Russia, Ukraine both claim battlefield successes in Donetsk, but say situation difficult

Russia and Ukraine said on Tuesday that the situation on the battlefield in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk was difficult and claimed successes in repelling each other’s attacks.

“A little more than 50 percent of the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic has been liberated,” Denis Pushilin, Russian-installed administrator of the portion controlled by Moscow, told Russian state-owned news agency RIA. Ukraine’s top military command, meanwhile, said in its daily battlefield update that its forces repelled Russian in 10 areas of the region.

Fierce fighting in the region in recent weeks has left unclear which parts of Donetsk – illegally annexed by Moscow in September - are under Russian and Ukrainian control.

Britain’s defence ministry said Russia was still likely to be planning deeper advances within Donetsk, but cast doubts on its ability to do so. “It is highly unlikely that the Russian military is currently able to generate an effective striking force capable of retaking these areas,” it said. “Russian ground forces are unlikely to make operationally significant advances within the next several months.”

9:16am: Russian rouble slides to over 6-month low vs euro

The Russian rouble dropped to its weakest against the euro since late May on Tuesday, hurt by relatively low oil prices and the prospect of lower export revenue due to the price cap on Russian oil which came into force this month.

“The rouble has weakened against all major competitors,” said Otkritie Research in a note. “The sanctions theme continues to put pressure on the Russian currency.”

Russia’s economy and government finances are set to struggle under the weight of the European Union’s embargo of Russian oil exports and a $60-a-barrel price cap imposed by the G7, the European Union and Australia.

8:36am: Belarus carries out inspection of troop combat readiness

Belarus has launched an unannounced inspection of its troops’ combat readiness, its defence ministry said on Tuesday.

“The activities will be comprehensive in nature; troops will have to move to the designated areas as soon as possible, carry out their engineering equipment, organise protection and defence, and set up bridge crossings over the rivers Neman and Berezina,” the defence ministry said.

It added that military equipment and personnel will be moved and movement along certain public roads would be restricted.

8:27am: Russian town of Klintsy shelled ‘by Ukraine’, governor says

The town of Klintsy in Russia’s southern Bryansk region was shelled overnight by Ukraine, the regional governor claimed Tuesday, adding that there were no casualties or damage.

“As a result of the work of the air defence systems of the Russian Armed Forces, the missile was destroyed, some parts hit the territory of an industrial zone,” Governor Alexander Bogomaz said on Telegram.

Klintsy is a town of around 60,000 people, about 45 kilometres from the Ukrainian border.

The report has not been confirmed.

7:21am: Putin, Xi ‘to hold talks by year-end’

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will hold talks to discuss the events of 2022 in late December, Russian business daily Vedomosti reports.

Citing an unnamed source close to the Russian presidential administration, the newspaper said it is unlikely the meeting will be held face-to-face. “Details are being worked out,” the source told Vedomosti.

Russia has moved closer to China since sending its armed forces into Ukraine in February.

5:06am: France's Macron engineers new diplomatic push for Ukraine

Tuesday’s international donors conference in Paris is intended to provide Kyiv with some immediate aid, both in financing and equipment. It comes in response to Russian war operations in recent weeks that have focused on civilian infrastructure and are aimed at “making the civilian population lose hope,” according to Macron.

The French president has been championing tougher sanctions against Moscow Since the war began and has stayed in regular touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Macron has been criticised in recent months by Ukraine and some other European countries who feel he has not kept sufficient distance from the Kremlin. He is one of the few Western leaders to have maintained contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as part of a long-term geopolitical strategy. He has repeatedly said he would talk to Putin whenever it was required to avoid an escalation of the conflict.

11:45pm: EU reaches deal on Ukraine aid

The European Union reached a deal in principle to send an 18 billion euro ($18.93 billion) financial aid package to Ukraine and approve a minimum tax on major corporations in a big move that narrowed a rift between the bloc and recalcitrant member Hungary.

“Megadeal!,” the EU’s Czech presidency said on Twitter. The deal is still tentative because it needs to be signed off on but no major obstacles are expected.

The EU as a whole will be able to present a united front backing Ukraine after unseemly scenes of political brinkmanship had delayed the process for long and left a needy ally in the lurch and facing a major struggle to make financial commitments next year.


(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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