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Ukraine updates: New Polish FM discusses border protests

Published December 22, 2023last updated December 22, 2023

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called for an end to a border protest by Polish truckers. Poland's foreign minister is making his first visit to Kyiv after taking office last week. DW has the latest.

A long line of heavy goods vehicles queue near a border crossing from Ukraine to Poland, delayed because of protests blocking the border. Image from November 21, 2023.
Polish truck drivers have been blockading Ukrainian border crossings in recent weeks, saying a wartime deal for Ukrainian hauliers is unfair on themImage: Monika Sieradzka/DW
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is urging Poland to "unblock the border" amid a protest by truckers over the waiver of permits for Ukrainian hauliers.

Kuleba made the comments during a visit by Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who took office last week.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has praised Poland for its "significant support for Ukraine" and called for a "boost" in relations with Warsaw.

Here's a look at the latest developments in Russia's war in Ukraine on Friday, December 22.

Skip next section Ukrainian police arrest Defense Ministry official over suspected embezzlement
December 22, 2023

Ukrainian police arrest Defense Ministry official over suspected embezzlement

Ukrainian authorities say they have uncovered a scheme for the fraudulent purchase of artillery shells.

Police arrested a senior Defense Ministry official who is suspected of embezzling €36 million ($39.7 million). Prosecutors accuse him of developing a system under which he bought artillery shells at inflated prices.

"The director of one of the main Defense Ministry services has been placed in detention," prosecutors said in a statement.

Ukraine has seen several corruption scandals in recent months, some involving the Defense Ministry.

Battling corruption is one of the conditions set by the European Union for membership in the bloc. Last week, Brussels agreed to open formal membership negotiations with Kyiv.

Skip next section Zelenskyy hails Polish support for Kyiv during Sikorski visit
December 22, 2023

Zelenskyy hails Polish support for Kyiv during Sikorski visit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was "grateful to Poland for its significant support."

He made the comments during a visit by Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and amid tensions over the blockage of border crossings by Polish truckers.

"We both agree that our bilateral relations need a boost, and that all concerns ought to be resolved in a mutually respectful manner," he said.

Zelenskyy said he and Sikorski discussed Ukraine's military needs and further defense cooperation.

Skip next section Kuleba urges Poland to 'unblock' border amid trucker protest
December 22, 2023

Kuleba urges Poland to 'unblock' border amid trucker protest

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has urged Poland to "unblock the border."

He made the comments during a visit by his Polish counterpart, Radoslaw Sikorski.

Polish truckers have been blocking the border between Ukraine and Poland for over a month calling for the reintroduction of a permits system for Ukrainians. They argue that their earnings have been affected by the waiver of the need for permits, introduced after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

"The first thing to do is to unblock the border, because the situation in which our friendly relations find themselves — in the shadow of the blocked border — is unacceptable and harmful," Kuleba told Sikorski.

Kuleba praised Sikorski's visit as a "sign of respect to Ukraine." This is the Polish foreign minister's first trip abroad after taking office earlier this month.

"There is a feeling, an understanding that with this new Polish government and specifically [minister] Sikorski... there will be a very fruitful dialogue between Ukraine and Poland," Kuleba said.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba shake hands during a press conference, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine December 22, 2023.
Sikorski is a former Polish prime minister with close ties to defense and political circles in both the US, where his wife was born, and the UK, where he was schooledImage: UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY/REUTERS

Sikorski said Ukraine and Poland must restore conditions for fair competition and said he'd brought relevant Cabinet colleagues to Kyiv to this end.

"There are always some issues to be resolved between neighbors related to history or current affairs. That's why I brought the minister of transport and minister of agriculture," he said.

He also reaffirmed Warsaw's support for Kyiv during the meeting with Kuleba.

"It's completely unacceptable for a country to attack its neighbor and bomb cities, destroy entire provinces, deport children... In this titanic fight, minister, Poland is on your side," Sikorski said.

Skip next section Netherland prepares to deliver 18 F-16 jets to Ukraine
December 22, 2023

Netherland prepares to deliver 18 F-16 jets to Ukraine

The government of the Netherlands is preparing an initial delivery of 18 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Friday.

"The delivery of F-16s is one of the most important elements of the agreements made on military support for Ukraine," Rutte said in a post on social media. He added the decision showed his country's "undiminished commitment" to supporting Ukraine.

The outgoing prime minister is visiting amid a degree of uncertainty about how the Netherlands' next government might approach Ukraine, with far-right leader Geert Wilders aiming to replace Rutte at the head of a coalition after his party secured the largest share of the vote in last month's elections.

Rutte mentioned a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier on Friday. The two leaders discussed the European Council's decision to launch accession negotiations with Ukraine.

"I’m impressed with Ukraine’s progress so far, and the Netherlands stands ready to help Ukraine as it continues to work on the reforms that the accession process requires," Rutte said. The EU decision was made last week.

Skip next section EU sends 500 generators to Ukraine
December 22, 2023

EU sends 500 generators to Ukraine

The European Commission said it would provide 500 additional generators to Ukraine to keep vital services running in the war-torn nation.

The announcement comes in the wake of continued Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on social media it was "another token of our unshakable solidarity and support to Ukraine and its people."

This latest batch is in addition to 5,000 generators sent to Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion nearly two years ago.

Skip next section US targets foreign banks aiding Russia's war effort
December 22, 2023

US targets foreign banks aiding Russia's war effort

US President Joe Biden will sign an executive order allowing Washington to sanction foreign banks that help Russia evade sanctions, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

"Today we are taking steps to level new and powerful tools against Russia's war machine," Yellen said. "We will not hesitate to use the new tools provided by this authority to take decisive and surgical action against financial institutions that facilitate the supply of Russia's war machine."

The new order empowers US authorities to target foreign banks that assist Russia in circumventing existing sanctions, effectively cutting them off from the global financial system.

"Ultimately, for almost any bank in the world, you give them the choice between continuing to sell a modest amount of goods to Russia's military-industrial complex or being connected to the US financial system, they're going to choose being connected to the US financial system, given that our economy is far bigger, and our currency is the one used around the world," a Treasury official said.

The United States and its allies, including the European Union and Britain, imposed sanctions on Russia after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The latest action aims to isolate Russia from the global economy by cutting off critical financial resources.

Skip next section Kremlin accuses WSJ of 'pulp fiction'
December 22, 2023

Kremlin accuses WSJ of 'pulp fiction'

The Kremlin rejected a report by the Wall Street Journal on Friday that Nikolai Patrushev, a top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, orchestrated the assassination of Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The Wagner boss and nine others  died in a plane crash near Moscow in August.

Citing unnamed Western and Russian intelligence officials, the WSJ reported Patrushevm, the secretary of Russia's Security Council, showed Putin the plans to kill Prigozhin, and the Russian leader did not object.

According to the publication, Prigozhin's private jet was downed by a small bomb placed under a wing.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had seen the story but would not comment on it, before adding: "Lately, unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal has been very fond of producing pulp fiction."

Skip next section Poland's new foreign minister makes Kyiv his first stop
December 22, 2023

Poland's new foreign minister makes Kyiv his first stop

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski is in Ukraine for his first visit abroad since being appointed.

He posted a picture on social media, apparently from the center of Kyiv, saying, "First visit abroad; Already on the spot."

A senior Ukrainian government official confirmed the trip to the French news agency AFP. 

Poland has been one of Ukraine's strongest backers in its fight against a Russian invasion, but a Polish truck drivers' protest at the Ukrainian border has put a damper on relations.

Polish drivers have been blocking border crossings, saying Ukrainian companies were offering cheaper prices for their services, transporting goods within the EU, rather than just between the bloc and Ukraine.

Poland's newly appointed Prime Minister Donald Tusk said last week his government will try to put an end to the truck drivers' protest quickly.

Skip next section Germany will not force Ukrainians into military service in Ukraine, says official
December 22, 2023

Germany will not force Ukrainians into military service in Ukraine, says official

Ukraine's problems with the mobilization of soldiers to repel the Russian invasion will not have any practical consequences for Ukrainians living in Germany, according to German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann. 

"Since our constitution stipulates that German citizens do not have to serve in the armed forces against their will, I cannot imagine that we can force people from other countries to do so," Buschmann said in an interview with the German dpa news agency. 

He added that it was good that the war refugees from Ukraine had been admitted to Germany in an uncomplicated procedure and had been given the opportunity to work. 

"After all, we are trying to get more people from Ukraine into work and fewer of them end up living on welfare," he said.

Discussions are underway in Ukraine about how the army can recruit more soldiers. The military wants to mobilize an additional 450,000 to 500,000 men

Ukraine's Defense Ministry has appealed to Ukrainians abroad who fled the war to return and defend their homeland.

Skip next section Stoltenberg says Putin's war goal is no longer achievable
December 22, 2023

Stoltenberg says Putin's war goal is no longer achievable

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he believes Russia will no longer be able to achieve its military aims in Ukraine, despite the major Russian war effort.

The purpose of the invasion ordered by President Vladimir Putin was to prevent Ukraine from moving toward NATO and the European Union, Stoltenberg said in an interview with the German dpa news agency.

But after nearly two years of war, Ukraine is now closer to NATO and the EU than ever before

"President Putin has lost Ukraine forever," Stoltenberg said, referring to the fact that Russia had considered Ukraine part of its sphere of influence for decades. 

Stoltenberg also pointed out that Russia was paying an enormous price for its war. The country had already lost hundreds of planes and thousands of tanks, and 300,000 soldiers had been killed or wounded, he said.

Skip next section Russian drone attack in Kyiv injures two
December 22, 2023

Russian drone attack in Kyiv injures two

A Russian drone attack hit a residential building and injured at least two people in Kyiv, authorities said, in a rare breach of the Ukrainian capital's air defenses.

Russian missiles and drones frequently target Kyiv but are usually shot down, with the incident the first of its kind in months.

"A residential building in Kyiv hit by a Shahed," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram, referring to the Iranian-made drones often used by Russia in its attacks on Ukraine.

The attack also affected Solomianskyi district, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram, reporting "flames on the upper floors." One man was hospitalized, while another person was treated at the scene, he added.

Klitschko also said debris from another downed drone fell on a house in the Darnytskyi district in the east of the city.

dh/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)