Vladimir Putin speaks to reporters for the first time about “war” in Ukraine. Wagner boss Prigozhin denies arms purchases in North Korea. And: Selenskyj to Washington trip back to Kyiv. All news about the Ukraine war can be found in the Newsticker.

Saturday, December 24, 9:35 a.m.: According to British military intelligence services, the Russian troops in Ukraine lack ammunition and missiles. Tens of thousands of recruits have been mobilized since October. “Despite easing immediate manpower shortages, an ammunition shortage remains most likely the most important constraining factor for Russian offensive operations,” the UK Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

Due to the limited availability of cruise missiles, Russia has also limited its long-range missile attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure to about once a week. The stock of artillery ammunition is not sufficient for larger offensive operations. This is due to the fact that numerous grenades and rockets are needed every day for defense along the front.

6:55 p.m .: According to Ukrainian reconnaissance, the Russian armed forces are bringing reinforcements to their troops on the fronts in eastern and southern Ukraine. “The enemy has increased the volume of rail transport of troops, equipment and ammunition to combat zones,” the General Staff said in Kyiv on Friday.

The area around the frontline town of Bakhmut in the east was considered the primary combat zone, as were the towns of Avdiivka, Kupyansk and Limansk in the Donbass region. Reinforcements on the Russian side were also recognized in the south of the country, it said. However, the new units in the Cherson region would only be used to expand the defense lines. The information could not be independently verified.

6:11 p.m .: After his surprise visit to Washington, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has agreed to further trips abroad in wartime under certain conditions. “When a visit may have the same strategic importance as my visit to the US, when our armed forces and all of our defense forces depend on it, when one partner or another takes a leadership role in Ukraine’s peacekeeping role, when there are critical steps to accelerate our victory then my negotiations on a personal level could be an exception to the general practice in wartime,” Zelenskyy said on Friday in Kyiv at a meeting with Ukrainian ambassadors from various countries.

“I urge you to take this visit as a point of reference, as a yardstick,” said Zelenskyy, according to a report in Ukrayinska Pravda. The Ukrainian head of state left Ukraine on Thursday for the first time since war broke out on February 24 to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington and to give a speech to the US Congress. In addition to massive military aid in the billions, Biden promised Zelenskyj further support in the fight against Russia.

For appearances on the political world stage – for example at the G7 summit in Elmau, Bavaria – Selenskyj has always had himself connected digitally from Ukraine. He has been invited to Brussels for February. Among other things, an EU-Ukraine summit is planned there for February 3.

1:14 p.m .: Where do the weapons of the Russian Wagner group come from? The US is convinced that the mercenary group is buying weapons from North Korea to fight in Ukraine. According to the Russian news agency TASS, mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin contradicted the American allegations.

“Everyone knows that North Korea has not been supplying weapons to Russia for a long time. No such thing was attempted. The rumors are nothing but gossip,” Prigozhin said on the Telegram channel of his company Concord. In the past, Wagner had acquired “quite a lot” of weapons in the USA, the mercenary boss continued in the Telegram post. “We have never violated an international trade agreement.”

It was first reported in September, citing US intelligence, that Russia was buying ammunition from North Korea. A US official said at the time that they were suspected to be short-range missiles and artillery shells.

10:53 a.m .: After his trip to the USA, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has returned to his official residence in the capital Kyiv. On Friday morning, the 44-year-old, wearing an olive-green jacket and T-shirt, reported via video from his desk with a smile and a clenched fist: “We are working for victory. Have a good day everyone!” On Thursday, after returning from the USA, he made a stopover in Poland and met his counterpart Andrzej Duda.

Selenskyj had previously expressed his delight at the results of his visit to Washington and his talks with US President Joe Biden. He returns with “what really helps”. The US plans to send a Patriot air defense system to Ukraine as part of a new $1.85 billion military aid package. They also promised the Ukrainians new ammunition.

10.45 a.m.: The ruins that remain of the Mariupol Theater after the March shelling are now being demolished for good. Another piece of Ukrainian culture is being wiped out.

When the Russians attacked the theater with rockets on March 16, 2022, several hundred people were killed. People sought shelter from the bombs in the theater building. On the square in front of the building the word “Дети” (children) was written in big letters. The attack caused horror around the world.

In late November, satellite images showed that the Russians were hiding the ruins of the theater behind high scaffolding covered with a stretched tarpaulin. Videos now show the final removal of the remains of the theater.

9.14 a.m .: According to British military experts, plans to expand the Russian army should pose a major challenge. That’s according to the UK Defense Ministry’s intelligence update on the war in Ukraine on Friday. According to the plans presented to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the army will be expanded by 30 percent to 1.5 million soldiers. “It remains unclear how Russia will find the recruits to achieve such an increase at a time when its armed forces are under unprecedented pressure in Ukraine,” the British statement said.

07:47: “Our goal is not to turn the flywheel of the military conflict – but on the contrary to end this war,” Russian President Vladimir told reporters in Moscow on Thursday, describing his actions in Ukraine for the first time as a war. This was reported by the US broadcaster “CNN”. In Russian propaganda, the war is usually belittled as a “military special operation”.

The war in Ukraine has been going on for ten months. In Russia, people who criticize illegal acts in Ukraine or describe them as war face up to 15 years in prison and fines. St. Petersburg city councilor Nikita Yuferev – who fled Russia because of his critical attitude – now called for Putin to be prosecuted for “spreading misinformation about the army”.

A US official told CNN that Putin’s comments were likely a slip of the tongue. It remains to be seen whether this is a deliberate provocation by the head of the Kremlin after the massive promises of aid during the visit of Ukraine President Zelenskyy in Washington. On the question of negotiations with Ukraine, Putin only said: “All conflicts, including armed ones, end in one way or another with some kind of negotiations.”

Friday, December 23, 2022, 6:31 a.m.: Saxony’s head of government has triggered an objection with his demand to “freeze” the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Even months later, he sees no alternative to the ceasefire.

According to Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU), Germany must become more active in finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict. “For decades, that was one of the strengths of the Federal Republic. Germany enjoys a lot of trust in the world because it has faced up to its own history,” he told the German Press Agency in Dresden. German Chancellors and Foreign Ministers remained willing to talk in the most difficult conflicts and helped mediate peace. “Guns are no more important than talks. By dealing with history, Germany has become a credible negotiating partner,” emphasized Kretschmer. The mediation mission is also an issue of the European Union, of the Europeans. “The war is here, the US is thousands of miles away. It is therefore first and foremost the task of the Europeans to find a solution to the conflict. The destruction inflicted in Ukraine is enormous, innocent people are being harmed. The dying must stop.”

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