Biden and Macron pledge to maintain a united front against Putin

Ukraine destroys Russian military vehicles

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Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron today pledged to maintain a united front against Russia amid growing worries about waning support for Ukraine’s war effort in the US and Europe.  Mr Biden was honouring his French counterpart with a grand state dinner – the first of his presidency for a foreign leader. 

Mr Macron’s visit to Washington has been tempered by his criticism of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and the challenges both leaders face amid the mounting costs of keeping military and economic aid flowing to Kyiv with no end in sight for the Russian invasion.

Despite their differences, the pair sought to emphasise that the US-France alliance remains solid and that the West must hold steadfast against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Mr Biden said: “Today, we reaffirm that, as I said, we’re going to stand together against this brutality. 

“Putin thinks that he can crush the will of all those who oppose his imperial ambitions by attacking civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, choking off energy to Europe to drive up prices, exacerbating the food crisis. 

“That’s hurting very vulnerable people not just in Ukraine but around the world and he’s not going to succeed.”

Mr Macron added: ““What is at stake in Ukraine is not just very far from here, in a small country somewhere in Europe,” he declared. “But it’s about our values. And about our principles. Our two nations are sisters in the fight for freedom,

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KEY EVENTS

  • Russian forces forced to pull back from key towns in Ukraine15:58
  • Biden vows to speak to despot Putin face-to-face only if he ends bitter Ukraine war

    The US President said he was prepared to hear what the Russian despot is “willing to do” to end the bloodshed.

    But he insisted he would only meet Putin with the blessing of his Nato allies.

    “There’s one way for this war to end – the rational way,” he said. “Putin to pull out of Ukraine, number one. But it appears he’s not going to do that. He’s paying a very high price for failing to do it.”

    Moment Russian supersonic fighter jet crashes amid questions over Putin’s faltering forces

    Witnesses captured the moment a Russian MiG-31 fighter jet crashed in Primorsky Krai, in the far east of Russia.

    Russia’s Eastern Military District confirmed the disaster, adding that the pilots on board managed to eject before the crash.

    Witnesses to the crash reported seeing the plane on fire before the crash took place.

    Russia planning ‘new massive attack’ on Ukraine – satellite images show bombers lined up

    Satellite images suggest Russia is planning a “new massive attack” on Ukraine.

    Weeks after much of Kyiv’s power grid was destroyed by Moscow’s forces, more air strikes could be on their way.

    New footage shared by German newspaper Spiegel shows increased activity at a military airport around 500 miles from the Ukraine border.

    The paper described “an unusual amount of movement” at Engels-2.

    It added that the airport was on “increased alert”.

    Military experts told the paper that Ukraine could soon be hit by a “serious airstrike”.

    Ukrainian receive ‘strong signal’ threat as ‘bloody parcels’ dropped off at embassies

    Eight Ukrainian embassies across Europe have received disgusting packages containing animal eyes from an unknown sender.

    The “blood-soaked” packages were found in Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Austria and Spain, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

    Spokesman Oleh Nikolenko said they were “studying the meaning of this message,” adding it was a “very strong signal.”

    The grotesque messages follow the sending of six letter bombs over the past week to various addresses in Spain, including Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the US embassy to Madrid, prompting the country to ramp up its security and search the Ukrainian embassy with sniffer dogs

    Ukraine says chance of Russia negotiations are ‘slim to none’ despite Putin comments

    Vladimir Putin may have said he is “open to negotiations” on Friday but the chances of “meaningful” discussions with the Kremlin are “slim to none”, a Ukrainian official has said.

    Advisor to the Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Yuriy Sak said they would not entertain conversations with Russia unless the “non-negotiable pre-condition” of a withdrawal of the enemy forces from the country, as defined by “internationally-recognised borders” was carried out.

    Mr Sak said he did not believe Russia would ever fulfil that prerequisite and, as a result, the only means of ending the war involved the total “defeat of the enemy on the battlefield”. 

    VDL infuriates Ukraine as she revealed ‘classified’ war figures in now deleted video

    The EU Commission President was forced to delete a video she posted which Ukraine’s armed forces claimed contained classified information.

    Ursula von der Leyen pledged to set up a new specialised international court to trial Russia’s war crimes against Ukraine.

    In a video posted on Twitter, the European Commission President delivered a stern warning to Vladimir Putin, vowing to mobilise the international community to punish Russia for crimes during its invasion. 

    But she was later forced to delete the video after infuriating officials in Kyiv for sharing classified estimates of Ukrainian casualties in the war.

    In the original video, Ms von der Leyen said: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has bought death, devastation and unspeakable suffering. We all remember the horrors of Bucha.

    “It is estimated that more than 20,000 civilians and more than 100,000 Ukrainian military officers have been killed so far.

    “Russia must pay for its horrific crimes, including for its crime of aggression against a sovereign state.

    “And this is why, while continuing to support the International Criminal Court, we are proposing to set up a specialised court, backed by the United Nations, to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression.

    “We are ready to start working with the international community to get the broadest international support possible for this specialised court.”

    Desperate Putin recruits football ‘ultras’ to join Ukraine invasion – video

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has recruited football hooligans in order to be trained to fight and join the battlefield in Ukraine.

    According to local media sources the football hooligans have been recruited into Russia’s 106th Airborne unit.

    The football hooligans are from the city of Tula which is located just south of the capital, Moscow. 

    Putin’s new conscripts have been seen in recent footage training for the frontlines has been released.

    Football ultras have a reputation in Russia as thugs.

    In the footage, the men can be seen marching in straight lines, and wearing what appears to be skeleton balaclavas.

    The men can be seen training and receiving lessons in shooting and firing bullets.

    Putin nightmare as apocalyptic dark smoke rises from Moscow warehouse

    The cause of the blaze remains unknown at this stage as local authorities are investigating the premises of the plastic factory in Moscow.

    A warehouse has reportedly caught fire on the outskirts of Moscow.

    A plume of dark smoke can be seen rising from the 450 square meter plastic factory.

    The cause of fire and the number of victims remain unknown at this stage.

    The fire broke out in Ramenskoye, a suburban distrct located 31 miles away southeast from capital Moscow.

    Ukraine and NATO allies facing ‘major issue’ amid heavy fight against Russian forces

    A retired US general has pinpointed a “major issue” for NATO as the West look to keep up with ammo demands as fighting in Ukraine continues to eat up Western stockpiles.

    Ukraine is burning through ammunition and shells at a faster rate than the West can maintain according to retired US Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

    The former commander believes that NATO lacks the industrial base to replace depleted stockpiles and Ukraine continues to demand ammunition to use against Russian forces. 

    Mr Leighton told CNN: “The defence industrial base of all these countries, the NATO countries in Europe as well as the United States it is really not built for this kind of war.

    “That very fact has made it really difficult for the West to resupply Ukraine, Ukraine is using weapons at a very high rate it is using ammunition as well as part of this.

    “Then the other thing we are confronted with is the barrels of the various artillery pieces are overheated because of overuse.

    “So that is a major for the Ukrainians and for the West, especially if the West wants to continue helping the Ukrainians stop the Russians.” 

    Drone submarine to guard UK internet cables from Russian underwater attacks

    The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that a submarine is under construction specifically to thwart any attempts by Vladimir Putin on British infrastructure.

    An unnamed British drone submarine is set to protect the UK from underwater attacks on internet cables.

    It will cover 1,000 miles over seven days and will be deployed by the Royal Navy as part of Project Cetus. The submarine is currently being built in Plymouth.

    UK Defence Secretary Mr Wallace said: “In order to meet the growing threats to our underwater infrastructure, the Royal Navy needs to be ahead of the competition with cutting-edge capabilities.”

    The submarine will be 12 metres long and will be battery-powered.

    First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key called the project “a capability step-change in our mission to dominate the underwater battlespace”.

    UK armed forces chief Admiral Tony Radakin said Russian submarine threats to internet cables would be seen as an “act of war”.

    Biden and Macron vow to maintain united front

    Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron vowed to maintain a united front against Russia on Thursday amid growing worries about waning support for Ukraine’s war effort in the US and Europe. Biden also signaled he might be willing to tweak aspects of his signature climate legislation that have raised concerns with France and other European allies.

    Biden was honoring Macron with a grand state dinner Thursday evening – the first of the US President’s COVID-19 shadowed presidency for a foreign leader. But following up on Biden’s upbeat comments might not go as smoothly as that fancy affair.

    Republicans who are about to take control of the House have shown less willingness than Biden to spend billions on Ukraine, and Democratic lawmakers said Thursday they were not about to jump back into the climate legislation.

    In fact, for all the positive statements, Macron’s visit to Washington has been tempered by his criticism of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and the challenges both leaders face amid the mounting costs of keeping military and economic aid flowing to Kyiv with no end in sight for the Russian invasion.

    Despite the differences, Biden and Macron sought to underscore that the U.S.-France alliance remains solid and that the West must hold steadfast against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

    Mr Biden said: “Today, we reaffirm that, as I said, we’re going to stand together against this brutality.

    “Putin thinks that he can crush the will of all those who oppose his imperial ambitions by attacking civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, choking off energy to Europe to drive up prices, exacerbating the food crisis.

    “That’s hurting very vulnerable people not just in Ukraine but around the world and he’s not going to succeed.”

    Sunak pursuing a ‘war policy’ over Ukraine, claims former Russian oil boss and peer

    Rishi Sunak’s Government has been accused of pursuing a “war policy” over Ukraine by a cross bench peer who was previously the boss of a Russian oil company.

    Lord Skidelsky was speaking during a House of Lords debate on the conflict sparked by Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s invasion on February 24, with foreign minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon responding by pointing out Vladimir Putin could stop the war at any stage by ceasing its “illegal assault” and pulling out its troops.

    The UK has provided stockpiles of weaponry to the Kyiv government since Russia’s invasion of the country began in February 2022, including anti-tank missiles, and helped train thousands of Ukrainian troops.

    Criticising the UK’s approach to the conflict, Lord Skidelsky, who until the start of the year was a director of the Russian oil refining firm Russneft, said: “The Government’s policy is a war policy. I support a peace policy.”

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    Dutch prosecutors will not appeal acquittal over shooting down of Malaysia Airlines jet

    The Dutch prosecutor’s office said Thursday that it will not appeal the acquittal of a man charged in the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet as it flew over eastern Ukraine in 2014, citing concerns over the stress it would place on the families of the 298 people killed in the tragedy.

    Earlier this month, a court in the Netherlands convicted three other men in absentia for supplying the Russian surface-to-air missile which was used to bring down Flight 17, killing everyone on board the Boeing 777. Oleg Pulatov, a Russian who was the only suspect represented by defense lawyers at the trial, was acquitted for lack of evidence.

    “An appeal would be a great burden for the next of kin, because they would then remain in uncertainty about the outcome of the criminal case,” the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service said in a statement.

    All of the men are believed to be in Russia, which does not extradite its own nationals. Through his lawyers, Pulatov maintained he was not involved in the tragedy. A former officer in the Russian military intelligence service, he was considered the lowest-ranking member of the group.

    Putin could launch Christmas offensive on Ukraine but Russia’s military ‘unprepared’

    An “unusual” level of high activity has been spotted by satellites at the Russian military airport Engels-2.

    News of the images came earlier this week, and around the same time as Major General Tim Cross, who has more than four decades of experience in the British military, said he believes Vladimir Putin could carry out an offensive before the New Year.

    Major Cross, who served in the British Army for 43 years, told Times Radio on Tuesday that an offensive in order to put pressure on Ukraine to negotiate was “certainly a possibility” either this side of Christmas or in the New Year.

    However, he added that there was “no probability” with Russia, citing how unpredictable Putin is, the Russian president having only ordered the February 24 invasion of Ukraine at a moment’s notice.

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    Russia: Putin might be losing support as conscript morale drops

    Russian shelling cuts power to Kherson

    Russian shelling cut off power in the recently liberated Ukrainian city of Kherson on Thursday, just days after it was restored amid Moscow’s ongoing drive to destroy key civilian infrastructure as freezing weather sets in.

    In Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko warned the capital’s millions of residents that they should stock up on water and preserved food to see them through a winter that could prove miserable if more energy infrastructure is damaged.

    He also urged people to consider leaving the city to stay with friends or family elsewhere, if possible.

    Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said: “Trying months lie ahead. The enemy still possesses substantial resources.”

    He added, however, that “signs are accumulating that Russia needs a pause at all costs”.

    Ukrainian students get chance to continue their studies

    Ukrainian students have been given the opportunity to complete their education interrupted by the Russian invasion of their country – as a result  of support from the University of Birmingham.

    Whilst most of the 12 students are using their time in the UK to complete their studies and emerge with degrees from both their home institution and Birmingham, others have come to the University because their route to higher education has been blocked by the war in Ukraine.

    The University has made available more than £300,000 in direct awards and support to students from Ukraine in addition to our support for the CARA scheme which works with academic staff and researchers.

    In addition, a new Sanctuary Scholarship Scheme has awarded a further five fully funded scholarships and cost of living support to students who are refugees and asylum seekers fleeing conflict and persecution from around the world. The University is supporting seven international scholars through this scheme from countries including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Eswatini.

    First-year Business Management with Marketing student Mykhailo Pymkin – also President of the Ukrainian Student Society – commented: “This is a great opportunity to study on a beautiful campus and it is fantastic that the University of Birmingham has been helping Ukrainian students to continue our education with a range of support.”

    Security chiefs denounce Putin’s war on Ukraine

    Europe’s largest security organisation opened a meeting Thursday with foreign ministers and other representatives strongly denouncing Russia’s war against Ukraine, a conflict that is among the greatest challenges the body has faced in its nearly half-century of existence.

    The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which was founded to maintain peace and stability on the continent, has been a rare international forum – along with the United Nations – where Russia and Western powers have been able meet to discuss security matters. The two-day meeting in Lodz, Poland, is the first such high-level meeting since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

    But since the war began, the 57-nation OSCE has also become another venue where the bitter clash between Russia and the West has played out, exposing the organization’s own inadequacies in helping to resolve the conflict.

    Notably absent was Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was banned by Poland, the current chair of the OSCE, from entering the country. Poland is a member of the 27-member European Union, which has put Lavrov on a sanctions list.

    Pro-Moscow politician gets nod as Serbia’s new spy chief

    Serbia’s government on Thursday named a staunchly pro-Russian politician as the Balkan state’s new spy chief.

    Aleksandar Vulin, who served as Serbia’s interior minister in the previous government and held the defense ministry portfolio prior to that is taking over as the director of BIA, Serbia’s intelligence agency, the government said in a statement.

    As Serbia’s interior minister, Mr Vulin visited Moscow in August, a rare visit by a European state official that underscored Belgrade’s refusal to join Western sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine.

    He then told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that “Serbia is the only state in Europe that didn’t introduce sanctions and was not part of the anti-Russian hysteria.”

    Serbia, which formally seeks European Union membership, has for years been drifting away from its EU path and toward traditional Slavic ally Russia, as well as China.

    Mr Vulin is considered “Moscow’s man” within the Serbian leadership. His appointment to such a sensitive intelligence post is seen as another snub to the West and its calls for Serbia to align its foreign policies with the EU if it really wants to join the bloc.

    Russian forces forced to pull back from key towns in Ukraine

    Russian forces have been forced to pull back from strategically vital towns on the opposite side of the Dnipro River to the southern city of Kherson, in another massive blow for President Vladimir Putin.

    A statement issued by the Ukrainian military said: “A decrease in the number of Russian soldiers and military equipment is observed in the settlement of Oleshky.

    “Enemy troops were withdrawn from certain settlements of the Kherson oblast and dispersed in forest strips along the section of the Oleshky – Hola Prystan highway.”

    The report also claimed Moscow’s most well-trained, professional troops had already quit the area.

    Putin under pressure as latest poll shows Russian support for war plummeting

    A leaked poll published by senior Russian officials at the Federal Guard Service now shows that just one in four people in Russia wish for the Russian military to stay in Ukraine.

    The documentation was obtained by Meduza, an independent investigative media website.

    The drop in support amongst Russians comes after Vladimir Putin ordered tens of thousands of soldiers to be mobilised in order to be sent to the front lines.

    The Russian leader attempted to quell fears of mass mobilisation by meeting with the wives and mothers of Russian soldiers last week.

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    Ukrainian refugees in Wales must start paying for meals and laundry

    Refugees who have fled war-torn Ukraine to live in Wales will have to start contributing towards the costs of meals and laundry, the Welsh Government has announced.

    The changes will see people having to contribute to some of their costs after a five-week settling in period.

    After five weeks, refugees will either be in receipt of Universal Credit, assessed as ineligible due to savings or be employed, the Welsh Government said.

    Further changes will see anyone refusing “two reasonable” offers of accommodation facing a weekly service charge of between £25-£37, depending on the household’s size.

    Almost 3,000 people have travelled to Wales under the Homes for Ukraine scheme after fleeing Russia’s illegal invasion.

    They have been staying in welcome centres or hotels, universities and holiday parks while they find work and settle into life in Wales.

    Suspicious package detonated at US embassy in Madrid

    Police in Spain detonated a suspicious envelope discovered at the US Embassy in Madrid, Spanish officials said Thursday, a day after a similar package sent to the Ukrainian Embassy ignited upon opening and injured an employee.

    A statement issued by the US embassy said: “We can confirm a suspicious package was received at the US Embassy in Madrid, and are aware of reports of other packages sent to other locations throughout Spain.

    “We are grateful to Spanish law enforcement for their assistance with this matter,” it added.

    Authorities cordoned off a wide area around the embassy, located in the center of Spain’s capital.

    The action followed police reporting that multiple explosive letters were sent in Spain over the past two days. Police said they were delivered to Spain’s Defence Ministry, a European Union satellite center located at the Torrejón de Ardoz air base outside Madrid and to an arms factory in northeastern Spain that makes grenades sent to Ukraine.

    Russia’s Gazprom reduced gas production by 19.4% in 11 months

    Since the beginning of the year, according to preliminary data, Gazprom has reduced gas production by 19.4 percent compared to the same period last year – to 376.9 billion cubic meters.

    Gas exports to non-CIS countries for 11 months fell by 44.5 percent (by 76.3 billion cubic meters) – up to 95.2 billion cubic meters.

    At the same time, the average daily export of Gazprom in November decreased by 3.9 percent compared to October – to 133.3 million cubic meters, follows from the data of the holding. Gazprom continues to supply gas according to confirmed orders.

    Demand for Gazprom’s gas from the gas transmission system in the domestic market of Russia decreased by 5.7 percent (by 12.8 billion cubic meters) over 11 months.

    Russian gas exports to China continue to grow via the Power of Siberia gas pipeline under a bilateral long-term contract between Gazprom and CNPC. As stated in the message of the company, deliveries are regularly made in excess of the daily contract quantities.

    Donetsk head announces exchange of Ukrainian and Russian prisoners

    The acting head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin announced another exchange of prisoners of war with Kyiv, Donbass Today reported.

    According to him, the exchange will take place according to the formula 50 to 50. He also noted that among the released fighters there are 12 fighters from the Donetsk People’s Republic and eight from the Luhansk People’s Republic.

    “Today, another exchange with Kyiv is taking place. We are returning home 50 Russian servicemen. We are giving the same number of VES to Ukraine,” he wrote on the Telegram channel.

    Modi pulls rug from under Putin as India orders Russia to back down on threat

    Indian leader Narendra Modi has taken a swipe at Vladimir Putin. The Prime Minister has so far abstained from openly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But Mr Modi said on Thursday that the world should not be at war.

    Writing in The Telegraph, he said: “Our era need not be one of war. Indeed, it must not be one!”

    The Indian leader also vowed to use the G20 presidency to seek to “depoliticise the global supply of food, fertilisers and medical products” to avoid humanitarian catastrophes.

    Biden mulling expansion of US military training to Ukraine forces

    The US administration is considering expanding the US military training programme it provides to Ukraine, including instructing as many as 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers a month at a US base in Germany.

    According to US officials speaking to CNN, “under the new programme, the US would begin training much larger groups of Ukrainian soldiers in more sophisticated battlefield tactics, including how to coordinate infantry manoeuvres with artillery support – ‘much more intense and comprehensive’ training than Ukraine has been receiving in Poland or the UK, according to one source briefed on the proposal”.

    The proposal is still under review.

    Russian soldiers fleeing training camps

    Russian soldiers have been sighted fleeing training camps in Belarus. 

    According to independent Belarusian media, “Between three and four Russian soldiers armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle fled the Belarusian Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground yesterday afternoon”. 

    Inside Bakhmut frontline ‘littered with corpses’ and ‘colossal’ losses

    Ukrainian soldiers on the front line in the city of Bakhmut are fighting Russian attacks in dreadful conditions.

    The Ukrainian commander of the Svoboda battalion, Petro Kuzyk, whose unit is one of those holding Bakhmut said his soldiers are fighting in fields “littered with corpses”, fighting in extremely cold conditions and in knee-deep water against Russia’s attacks.

    Asked by NV news how big the human losses are so far, he replied: “They are colossal. They don’t even count bodies.

    “The fields, the woods in front of the positions are all littered with corpses. I watched them: they dragged their people back to bury them, take off their warm sweaters, and start to put it on themselves. But, nevertheless, each assault group has a grenade launcher, a machine gunner, and their machine guns more or less perform their tasks. They have herds.

    “I apologise for speaking slowly now, because I’m very cold – it’s making me dizzy. I’ve now left the first line (since I was called). I’m warming up in the car, I’m almost falling asleep, because I haven’t slept all this time. They charged yesterday, quite seriously. They felt a weakness in our defence, because (I will not name the numbers of the units, so as not to spoil their honour) there are units that are less motivated than ours. And yesterday they weakened our defence a little in the area just around the Bakhmut. Some units could not withstand this artillery onslaught and retreated.

    “This is our principle: we, the Svoboda Battalion, do not retreat. And because of that, we found ourselves in a semi-surrounded situation, and we had a lot of work to do. In addition, it is a swamp full of mud. It is very difficult to evacuate the wounded or to deliver ammunition. The trenches are constantly deteriorating, and in this swamp they must be constantly rebuilt.”

    He added: “Today is the first day without rain, but then and yesterday when it fell, all the water flowed into the trenches. And the shelling was such that it was impossible to get out of the trench, so the guys were constantly wet for a day or two. Plus the temperature is like this. Many are contused, many with pneumonia. But we hold our ground, and we defend. I see young guys standing with their teeth clenched. I would really like someone to write about their achievements, because few people in the country know about it.”

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