As the war enters its 674th day, these are the main developments.
Here is the situation on Friday, December 29, 2023.
- Ukraine’s general prosecutor said two fishermen were killed after Russia shelled a village on the banks of the Dnipro river along southern Ukraine’s front line. Five people were also injured in the attack.
- Ukraine’s southern military command said a Panama-flagged bulk carrier that was heading to one of the country’s River Danube ports to load grain hit a Russian mine in the Black Sea causing it to lose speed and control and starting a fire. Two members of the 18-strong crew were injured, and one of them, an Egyptian, was taken to hospital. The captain intentionally ran the ship aground to stop it from sinking and Ukraine will use tugs to take it into port.
- Ukraine’s air force said air defence systems shot down seven out of eight Shahed drones launched by Moscow during the night overnight, the country’s air force said on Thursday. The drones came down in three central and southern regions, the air force added.
- Odesa regional governor, Oleh Kiper, said a fire broke out at a multistorey building in the Black Sea port city that was hit by a downed drone. Kiper said information about casualties was being verified and urged residents to stay in shelters amid an ongoing drone attack.
- The Russian Defence Ministry said it thwarted a Ukrainian drone attack over Crimea, which Russia seized and annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Politics and diplomacy
- The United States proposed that the Group of Seven (G7) countries explore ways to seize $300bn in frozen Russian assets, according to Britain’s Financial Times. Washington, backed by the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada, has proposed that options be ready for G7 leaders to consider at a potential meeting around February 24, the report said.
- A Moscow court jailed two men for taking part in a poetry recital critical of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Poet Artyom Kamardin, 33, was sentenced to seven years for reciting the poem, while Yegor Shtovba, 23, got five and a half years for attending the anti-mobilisation protest. Supporters shouted “Shame!” after the sentences were announced and some people were later detained by police, according to the AFP news agency.
- Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko attended a government-organised event for a new group of children brought from Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine, amid international outrage over his country’s involvement in Moscow’s forced deportation of Ukrainian children. Officials did not say how many Ukrainian children were in the latest group.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he discussed Ukraine’s peace formula in a call with Pope Francis, noting that more than 80 countries were “already involved” in the process. Zelenskyy has said the framework will next be discussed in Davos, Switzerland. The formula requires Russia to withdraw all its troops from Ukrainian territory, including regions it has been occupying since 2014, before talks can begin.
- Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said he had a “productive phone call” with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto to discuss a meeting between Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the “near future”. Earlier this month, all European Union states except Hungary agreed to start accession talks with Ukraine, and Budapest blocked a new EU budget providing aid to Ukraine.