Russia may also withdraw from Zaporizhia

The Russian army may also withdraw from the next important combat area: the Zaporizhia region. As the experts at the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) write in their daily update, Putin’s troops are apparently trying to reduce losses at the front. The Ukrainian General Staff reports that the Russians have withdrawn from Polohy, Myhailivka and Inzhenerne, among others.

The withdrawal from Polohy is particularly noteworthy. The village lies at a strategically important crossroads. Now the defense of the city of Tokmak (120 kilometers south of the city of Zaporizhia) is much more difficult for the Russians. The “ISW” researchers write: “The withdrawal from this important position may show that the Russians cannot defend the entire front line in the Zaporizhia region.”

They would therefore move troops to strategically more important parts of Zaporizhia Oblast.

Read here why parts of the Zaporizhia region are so important to the Russians.

Selenskyj takes action against the Russian Church

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to stop the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on spiritual life in his country. Ukraine must also defend its independence in the religious field, said the head of state in a video message distributed in Kyiv on Thursday evening. “We will never allow anyone to create an empire within the Ukrainian soul.” The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church has traditionally had strong influence in Ukraine and claims numerous sanctuaries there.

At a meeting of the National Security Council, numerous facts about the connections of religious circles with the aggressor state Russia were discussed, Zelenskyj said. Parliament should now draw up a law that would ban religious organizations from having links with centers of influence in the Russian Federation. In addition, the leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church should be checked by an expert report for connections to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Moscow’s Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill supports Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin’s war against the neighboring country. The Church claims to protect Russian Orthodox Christians from attacks by Ukrainian nationalists. Russia also accuses Ukraine of restricting freedom of religion.

Biden: No plans for talks with Putin at this time

US President Joe Biden has now commented again on the question of possible negotiations on an end to the conflict. He is only open to talks with Kremlin chief Putin if Russia is ready to end the war against Ukraine. “But the fact is that I have no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin,” Biden said at a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on Thursday (local time). “I’m willing to talk to Mr. Putin if there really is an interest on his part and he’s looking for a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that before.”

During Macron’s visit to Washington, Biden emphasized the common front against Russia. “Today we, France and the United States, together with all our allies – our NATO allies and the G7 countries, the European Union – reaffirm that we stand as strongly as ever against Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine,” said Biden. The US and France would continue to work together to hold Russia accountable.

Switzerland freezes more than 7.5 billion euros in Russian assets

In Switzerland, 7.5 billion Swiss francs (about 7.6 billion euros) in Russian assets have been frozen since the start of the Russian war against Ukraine in February. In addition, 15 properties were blocked, the government announced on Thursday in Bern. According to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, a total of 116 companies and more than 1,200 individuals are affected. As part of the sanctions, Swiss banks are prohibited from accepting large sums of money from Russian nationals and from persons or companies based in Russia.

Russia and Ukraine exchange another 100 prisoners

Meanwhile, more than nine months after the war began, Russia and Ukraine again exchanged a total of 100 prisoners. The Defense Ministry in Moscow reported on Thursday that 50 Russian soldiers were to be flown to the Russian capital for medical treatment. The head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, also confirmed the exchange: “We have freed 50 defenders of Ukraine.”

Ukraine looking for transformers for power grid

Ukraine is urgently looking for transformers – new or used – to repair its power grid damaged by Russian attacks. The country is also hoping for help from companies and communities in Germany, said former member of parliament Viktoria Wojzizka of the German Press Agency. Wojzizka works in Warsaw for a center that supports the government in Kyiv in organizing foreign aid.

The many emergency generators that are now being sent to Ukraine are a help, said Wojzizka. However, they did not solve the problem of the power grid. Ukraine can generate enough electricity on its own. But Russia is destroying substations with transformers with rocket attacks, so that electricity can no longer be distributed. The district heating network, which supplies millions of homes with heating and hot water, would not work without electricity. In deep frost, the district heating lines threatened to freeze and then fail until spring.

What will be important on Friday

The UN International Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations is holding a press conference in Kyiv on Friday on the situation in the war zone. A ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is also coming to an end in Poland with further deliberations on Russia’s war against Ukraine. Russia is one of the 57 member states. The meeting of foreign ministers in Lodz, Poland, will take place without Russia’s head of department, Sergey Lavrov. Poland, which currently holds the presidency, refused him entry. Russia accused the OSCE of paternalism and attested its loss of importance on the world stage.

Also read: The Ukraine update of December 1st

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