- Zelenskyy speaks with leaders of the USA, France and Turkey
- Ukraine is struggling to restore power to Odessa and other areas
- US support to continue ‘as long as necessary’ – Yellen
KIEV, Dec 12 (Reuters) – The United States is prioritizing efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses, President Joe Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart on Sunday, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stepped up efforts to secure international aid against the Russian invasion. dragging into a 10th month.
Heavy fighting in the country’s east and south continued unabated, while drone and missile attacks on key energy infrastructure, particularly in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, kept many Ukrainians cold and dark.
There are no peace talks and no end to the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II, which Moscow calls a “military special operation” and Ukraine and its allies call unprovoked aggression.
“We are constantly working with partners,” Zelenskyy said after meetings with Biden and leaders of France and Turkey, adding that he expects some “important outcomes” from a series of international events related to the EU next week situation in Ukraine.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz will hold an online meeting with G7 leaders and European Union foreign ministers on Monday to try to agree on further sanctions against Russia and Iran, as well as additional aid or arms sales to Ukraine .
While Zelenskyy has held numerous talks with Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan since Russian forces invaded in late February, the accumulation of talks in just one day is not a regular occurrence.
Zelenskyy said he thanked Biden for the “unprecedented defense and financial assistance” from the United States and spoke with the US President about Ukraine’s need for effective anti-aircraft systems to protect the population.
Biden “reaffirmed US commitments to continue providing security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, to hold Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities, and to make Russia pay for its aggression,” the White House said.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CBS’ 60 Minutes that Washington’s support for Ukraine’s military and economy — more than $50 billion and more — will last “as long as necessary,” and reiterated that the Ending the war was the best the United States could do for the world economy.
Earlier, Zelenskyi said he had a “very meaningful” talk with Macron on “defense, energy, economy, diplomacy” that lasted more than an hour, and had “very specific” talks with Erdogan on securing Ukraine’s grain exports .
Turkey, which acted as a mediator in peace talks during the first months of the war, also worked alongside the United Nations on a grain deal that opened Ukrainian ports to exports in July after a six-month Russian de facto blockade.
Erdogan’s office said the Turkish head of state called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, in which he called for a quick end to the conflict.
Putin said last week that Moscow’s near-total loss of faith in the West would make an eventual deal on Ukraine much more difficult, and warned of a protracted war.
Moscow shows no signs that it is willing to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and pre-war borders, and says the four regions it claims to have annexed from Ukraine in September belong to Russia “forever”. The government in Kiev has ruled out ceding land to Russia in exchange for peace.
On the ground in Ukraine, the entire eastern front line was continuously shelled, with heavy fighting taking place.
Russian forces continued attempts to breach Ukraine’s defences, training tank and artillery fire on 26 settlements near Avdiivka and Bakhmut, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in an update Sunday night.
Serhiy Gaidai, the exiled governor of the Russian-held Luhansk region, said local troops from Ukrainian television attacked a hotel in the town of Kadiivka, where members of Russia’s private military group Wagner are based, killing many of them.
Photos posted on Telegram channels showed a building largely reduced to rubble.
“They had a little bang there, right where Wagner HQ was,” he said. “A huge number of those who were there died.”
The claims could not be verified by Reuters and the Russian Defense Ministry was not immediately available for comment.
Moscow is also targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with waves of missile and drone strikes, and intermittently cutting off power to millions of civilians in winter when temperatures often plummet below zero.
Russian forces used Iranian drones on Saturday to hit two power plants at Odessa’s Black Sea port, bringing electricity to about 1.5 million people — virtually all non-critical infrastructure in and around the port.
Zelenskyy said other areas with “very difficult” conditions for electricity supply are the capital Kyiv and the Kyiv region, four regions in western Ukraine and the Dnipropetrovsk region in the center of the country.
Reporting by Nick Starkov in Kiev; Additional reporting by Ronald Popeski in Winnipeg, Canada; writing from Lidia Kelly and Lincoln Feast; Adaptation by Grant McCool & Simon Cameron-Moore
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