Russia attacked Ukraine again on Thursday night with swarms of kamikaze drones. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, the Iranian-made Shahed drones flew in from the east and south. In the east and center of Ukraine there was an air alert from the evening hours of Wednesday, depending on where the drone swarms were headed.
In his video address, President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized the importance of drones of all kinds for Ukraine's warfare. "This is an obvious state priority and a very concrete way to save the lives of our soldiers," he said. The General Staff in Kiev reported continued fierce ground fighting on many sectors of the front in the east and south of Ukraine. Thursday marks the 666th day of the war; Ukraine has been repelling a large-scale Russian invasion since February 2022.
Zelensky said he had spoken to the government and military in Kiev about what drones were in storage and what was needed at the front. “Logistics will be faster,” the president said. They are also working on improving the effectiveness of drones.
The importance of drones of all sizes has increased greatly in the nearly 22 months of war. Using small camera drones, Ukrainian and Russian soldiers observe the enemy's every move on the battlefield. Such aircraft can also drop small explosive charges over tanks or trenches. The Ukrainians are partly making up for their lack of artillery ammunition. Russia has very effective technology for jamming the electronics of enemy drones.
Russia uses Shahed drones almost every night, which, like kamikaze planes, crash over their target at the end of the flight with an explosive charge. Ukraine is further developing its own drones, giving them greater range. So far, however, the damage they cause when they attack targets in Russia has been limited.
The Ukrainian military confirms that the Russians have gained ground in their ground offensive in the southeast of Ukraine for two months. "Since October 10, when the enemy became more active, he has advanced one and a half to two kilometers in some places," said Colonel Olexander Shtupun, army press spokesman in this sector of the front. He added: "But it cost him a lot." The focus of the attacks is the industrial city of Avdiivka, which is close to the Russian-controlled Donbass capital Donetsk.
The enemy was superior in manpower, Shtupun admitted. Observers such as the Institute for War Studies (ISW) in the USA confirm the high Russian deployment of soldiers and tanks in the region, as do the high Russian losses. Their reports also show that the Russians are advancing, which is putting pressure on Ukraine in Avdiivka.
For Wednesday, the evening report from the Ukrainian General Staff named 89 individual Russian ground attacks on 7 sectors of the front. Accordingly, there were another 31 battles near Avdiivka. But 29 battles were also recorded on the southern bank of the Dnipro near Krynki in the Kherson region. The Ukrainian army has maintained a bridgehead there for several weeks.
In Ukraine's search for additional soldiers, the new Defense Minister Rustem Umjerov wants to recruit men living abroad for military service next year. Ukrainians of military age between 25 and 60 in Germany and other countries should be asked to report to the armed forces recruiting centers. Umjerow announced this in an interview with “Bild”, Welt TV and “Politico”.
The Ukrainian military wants to mobilize 450,000 to 500,000 more soldiers. However, the financial and political framework conditions have not yet been clarified. President Zelensky called the mobilization a "sensitive issue." Despite the ban, many Ukrainian men have fled abroad to avoid being drafted.
The European Union has transferred 150 million euros to Ukraine for reconstruction. As the Finance Ministry in Kiev announced, the funds will flow as part of an agreement with the EU for the rapid restoration of infrastructure in Ukraine. It's about damage to the transport network, utilities, the social sector and residential buildings, said Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko.
A second tranche of 100 million euros is expected in the first quarter of 2024. The money should be used for economic stimulus measures and support for agricultural businesses.
In Budapest, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives a press conference to mark the end of the year. Questions about Ukraine are also expected. Despite the war, Orban maintains close contacts with Moscow. He is the most staunch opponent of Ukraine's accession in the EU. An EU summit last week was only able to make the decision to start talks with Kiev because Orban did not vote. His country is also blocking a large EU aid package worth 50 billion euros.