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Ukraine updates: Kherson marks 1 month since liberation

Published December 11, 2022last updated December 11, 2022

Continued shelling and leftover explosives by the Russians in Kherson have hampered efforts for residents to return to normalcy. The UK sees no sign Russia is prepared to negotiate in a meaningful way. DW has the latest.

Landmines piled up in Kherson
Russian's have left a myriad of landmines and other explosives behind in KhersonImage: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP/picture alliance

Ukrainians on Sunday marked one month since Russia's troops withdrew from Kherson and its vicinity. The region had been occupied for eight months.

 Since then, residents have struggled to regain normalcy, dealing instead with the aftermath of the lengthy occupation, as shelling continues to batter the southern Ukrainian city. 

Liberated Kherson targeted by relentless shelling

Kherson's regional administration said shelling has killed 41 people over the past month, including a child, while 96 people were hospitalized. 

Kherson's regional governor, Yaroslav Yanushevich, said that another two people were killed by Russian attacks overnight.

"The enemy again attacked the residential quarters of Kherson," he wrote on Telegram. "Last night, two people were killed due to Russian shelling."

Access to electricity is still unreliable, although water is largely connected. Indoor heating has only very recently been restored to roughly 70-80% of the city, the result of Russians destroying one major central heating station last month. 

The city's main police station, where detainees were reportedly tortured, was packed with explosives and made impenetrable to demining squads, which has hindered investigations into what happened there. 

Ukrainian forces have had the painstaking task of clearing the myriad of mines and hidden explosives left behind by the Russians. 

"The difficulties are very simple, it's the weather conditions," one unnamed military demining squad member told the AP, adding that some of their equipment simply does not work in frost conditions "because the soil is frozen like concrete.'' 

Kherson sits in an agricultural region that produces crops as diverse as wheat, tomatoes, and watermelon, but the fields are so heavily mined that some 30% of arable land in the region is unlikely to be available for planting in the spring, the unnamed deminer told the Associated Press news agency (AP). 

As a result of the occupation, regional officials say some 80% of Kherson's pre-war population of about 320,000 fled. Only some 60,000-70,000 residents remained, making the city feel like a ghost town.  

Here are the other top stories related to the war in Ukraine on Sunday, December 11: 

Biden says US is prioritizing air defense for Ukraine

In a call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, US President Joe Biden highlighted his administration's efforts to boost Ukraine's air defense, the White House said.

Biden mentioned the December 9 announcement of $275 million (261 million) in additional ammunition and equipment that included systems to counter the Russian use of unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as the November 29 announcement of $53 million to support Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

He also welcomed Zelenskyy's "stated openness to a just peace based on fundamental principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter."

Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to continue providing Ukraine with security, economic, and humanitarian assistance, holding Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities, and imposing costs on Russia for its aggression.

Zelenskyy says work proceeds on Ukraine's power supply

Emergency crews were working to ease power shortages in many parts of Ukraine after Russian attacks, particularly the Black Sea port of Odesa, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

"At this time, it has become possible to partially restore supplies in Odesa and other cities and districts in the region," Zelenskyy said.

"We are doing everything to reach the maximum number possible in the conditions that developed after the Russian strikes," he added.

Russian forces used Iranian-made drones to hit two energy plants in Odesa on Saturday, knocking out power to about 1.5 million customers.

According to Zelenskyy, Odesa was "among the regions with the most frequent power outages." Other areas experiencing "very difficult" conditions with power supplies included the Kyiv metropolitan area and four regions in western Ukraine, along with Dnipropetrovsk region in the center of the country.

Ukraine expecting more German weapon deliveries

Ukraine's ambassador to Germany says Berlin has promised more assistance in the form of weapon deliveries.

"In direct talks, we were assured of more weapons and more ammunition. Which ones, we will jointly announce in due course," Oleksii Makeiev told newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

Makeiev told the publication that more anti-aircraft systems, artillery and ammunition were needed on the frontline.

"In addition, we are still in talks about the delivery of Marder infantry fighting vehicles and Leopard battle tanks. However, the decision on this lies with the German government," the ambassador said.

Germany has been under pressure to deliver high-tech battle tanks to help Ukraine's forces.

However, the country's Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has questioned the practicalities of training Ukrainian forces on advanced weapons systems that will take weeks, when Soviet-era tanks can be deployed almost immediately.

Ukraine claims responsibility for weekend missile strikes

Ukraine's senior military leadership has claimed responsibility for missile strikes on various targets in Russian-occupied territory over the weekend.

The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces confirmed in a statement that its air force carried out five strikes "on areas where personnel, weapons and military equipment are concentrated."

"Units of rocket troops and artillery at the same time hit seven control points, 10 personnel concentration areas, an artillery concentration area and an enemy ammunition depot," Ukraine's military said.

The statement did not provide details of specific targets attacked.

Russia reported that there had been multiple strikes on the south-eastern city of Melitopol on Saturday.

At the same time Ukraine's military leadership said that Russia had continued attacking civilian infrastructure, with five air strikes and rocket attacks recorded on Sunday.

Russia wanted 'assassin' held in Germany in prisoner swap

US attempts to get former marine Paul Whelan freed in a prisoner exchange failed to materialize when Russia demanded the release of a convicted murderer in exchange, according to US media.

Speaking to broadcaster ABC, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said that "there was a claim [Russia] wanted a man named Mr. Krasikov, that the Germans have held in custody, who is an assassin."

"That wasn't considered a serious offer," Kirby said.

Vadim Krasikov — a former colonel in Russia's domestic intelligence service — is serving a life sentence in Germany for murdering a Chechen fighter in a Berlin park in 2019.

Body of Zambian killed fighting for Russia repatriated

The body of a Zambian student killed while fighting for the Russian army in Ukraine has been repatriated.

Lemekani Nyirenda had been studying nuclear engineering in Russia before he was convicted of drug trafficking in 2020 and was sentenced to 9 years in prison.

He was pardoned in Russia's special amnesty, which saw convicts enlisted in the military and sent to fight in Ukraine.

Zambia's Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo had asked Russian authorities to provide a detailed account of the circumstances in which Nyirenda was killed.

"We were told that on August 23 he was conditionally pardoned and was allowed to participate in a special military operation in which he was killed in September," said Kakubo in a statement.

"We then demanded that officials provide details, not just of his recruitment.''

Kakubo said that DNA tests had been conducted and Russian compensation would be sent to his family.

Kremlin claims failed Minsk deal led to Russian invasion

The Kremlin has responded to comments by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Minsk agreements — which aimed to resolve the conflict between Kyiv and Russian-backed separatists in Donbas — were "an attempt to give Ukraine time" to prepare defensively, by accusing the western backers of the agreement of causing the Russian invasion.

Both Kyiv and Moscow accused each other of violating the agreements, preventing its proper implementation.

On Sunday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it had become "obvious" that the agreements had been a deception.

"But this was all ignored by the other participants of the negotiation process," he said. "This is all precisely the precursor to the special military operation."

Kremlin sends reinforcements to Ukraine’s eastern front

Russia says Ukrainian strikes on occupied Melitopol killed 2

Ukraine struck the strategically important coastal city of Melitopol on Sunday which has been occupied by Russian forces since early on in the invasion.

The local Russian-installed leader, Yevgeny Balitsky, said that the city had been hit by four HIMARS long-range rockets. Two more were reportedly shot down.

He added that a "recreation center" had been hit on the outskirts of the city and that two people had been killed and another 10 injured.

Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor of the city, claimed that the strikes had hit Russian military positions and killed dozens of "invaders."

UK: 'No sign' Russia ready to negotiate 

British foreign minister James Cleverly said that any peace talks in Ukraine cannot be a fig-leaf for Russian rearmament, adding that he had not seen any signs that Moscow would enter into negotiations in good faith. 

The UK wants to see peace talks sooner rather than later, but Ukraine should set the parameters for any negotiations that are held, Cleverly said. 

"Any negotiations need to be real, they need to be meaningful, they can't just be a fig leaf for Russian rearmament and further recruitment of soldiers," he added. 

Germany to deliver more weapons: Ukraine ambassador 

Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Oleksiy Makeyev, said he received guarantees from the German government about future arms deliveries. "In direct talks, we were assured of more weapons and more ammunition. Which ones, we will jointly announce in due course," Makeyev told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.  

The Ukrainian ambassador said he did not want to put diplomatic pressure on Berlin but wanted "Germany to deliver what it has more quickly." 

Ukraine reportedly needs additional anti-aircraft systems, self-propelled howitzers, Gepard anti-aircraft tanks and ammunition. 

Estonia PM calls for more military aid to Ukraine 

Estonia called on Germany and other allies to offer more support to Ukraine. Estonia, one of the smallest EU countries, delivered weapons to Ukraine before Russia invaded in February. 

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told Germany's DPA news agency, "I urge all the allies, including Germany, to send whatever you have in order for Ukraine to defend themselves."  

She added, "it's not only a matter of sovereignty and freedom of one country in Europe, but it's also a matter of security for the whole of Europe and also the rules-based order in the world - that if you are attacked, you have to be able to defend yourself." 

"If all the allies would have sent weapons already in January or February, a lot of human lives would have been saved," she added. 

Germany to deliver anti-missile system to Poland 

Germany again offered Poland the equipment to secure its air space, the surface-to-air Patriot anti-missile system, in response to the astray missile from the war in Ukraine crashed into Polish territory and killed two people last month. 

The US-made Patriot system can engage enemy aircraft, tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, with a range of more than 60 kilometers 

Warsaw had told Berlin it would be better for the security of the Polish side if Germany just sent the Patriot batteries directly to Ukraine, but the German government argued that no NATO member has sent Patriots to Ukraine and that the system has only been deployed to defend NATO territory.  

ab, jcg/ar (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)