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Ukraine updates: Kyiv to call on men living abroad to fight

Published December 21, 2023last updated December 22, 2023

Ukraine's defense minister has said men between 25 and 60 who have left the country will be asked to return for military service. Germany is to give Kyiv more money to increase its energy resilience. DW has the latest.

Three Ukrainian soldiers at a training session
Ukrainian men living abroad could soon be called on to fightImage: Ben Birchall/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov has said he would extend "an invitation" to Ukrainian men living abroad to report to recruitment centers run by the armed forces, as the country looks to mobilize up to 500,000 more soldiers to defend against the ongoing Russian invasion.

Umerov told German media outlets that noncompliance would mean penalties, but added it was not yet clear what form they would take.

With Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure likely to increase as winter continues, Germany said it would give more financial assistance to bolster the electricity and gas supply in the country.

Here's a look at the latest developments in Russia's war in Ukraine on Thursday, December 21.

Skip next section Zelenskyy notes signs of 'slowdown' in Russian military plans
December 22, 2023

Zelenskyy notes signs of 'slowdown' in Russian military plans

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine was receiving signals that Russia's military planning and activity were slowing.

Zelenskyy, in his nightly video address, said this was noted in a report issued by the HUR military intelligence directorate.

"The enemy's plans, the work of the Russian defense [industry]. There are signals indicating a slowdown. We will continue to support their slowdown," Zelenskyy said.

It was not immediately clear whether the president was referring specifically to the Russian defense industry, or to Russian tactics and objectives in a broader sense.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian military, in its evening report, did not indicate any letup in Russian attacks and movement along the 1,000-km front.

Skip next section Drone hits Kyiv apartment building, setting off fire
December 22, 2023

Drone hits Kyiv apartment building, setting off fire

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

Mayor Vitali Klitschko said a drone had hit a block of flats in the Solomyanskyi district, south of the city center, triggering a fire.

He also reported a drone strike on a private house in the Darnytskyi district on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River that runs through the city. 

Meanwhile, Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv's military administration, reported fragments from a downed drone had struck an apartment building in a third area  Holosiivskyi district  also south of the city center.

Skip next section Orban: EU aid to Ukraine should not come from bloc's budget
December 21, 2023

Orban: EU aid to Ukraine should not come from bloc's budget

Viktor Orban
Orban has been a frequent naysayer in matters regarding UkraineImage: Zoltan Mathe/dpa/MTI/AP/picture alliance

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said European Union funding to Ukraine must not come from the bloc's budget but from outside of it.

"I am convinced that to give Ukraine €50 billion ($54.70 billion) from the EU budget for five years ... That's a bad decision," Orban told a news conference.

Orban's comments come after he last week vetoed the wish of leaders from the other 26 member states to revamp the bloc's budget to allow €50 billion to be channeled to Ukraine.

The other leaders are expected to seek a way to work around Hungary's resistance at an emergency summit on February 1.

The EU had suspended billions of euros in funding to Hungary over concerns that democratic checks and balances in the country are being undermined under Orban's rule.

Prior to last week's EU leaders' summit, a large chunk of these funds was released. In the subsequent voting in Brussels, Orban agreed to leave the room and not block Ukraine formally opening accession talks with the EU. He then returned and voted against sourcing Ukraine's assistance from the EU budget.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said afterwards that while there were other avenues available to funnel EU funds to Kyiv, he still believed it would be possible to sway Orban in a subsequent summit.

Hungary has maintained relatively friendly relations with Russia, since Moscow began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year. It is currently the only EU state working on major projects with Russia

Hungary criticizes Ukraine's EU prospects

Skip next section Final tranche of EU's €18 billion aid package received, says Ukraine
December 21, 2023

Final tranche of EU's €18 billion aid package received, says Ukraine

Ukraine has received the last €1.5 billion ($1.65 billion) tranche from an EU package worth some €18 billion for 2023, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has said.

"Today we have received the last 1.5 billion euros of the 18 billion euro financial aid package. Hope for continued unwavering support from the EU," Shmyhal said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The announcement comes amid concern in Kyiv that further financial support might falter, with new packages of aid blocked both in the EU and the United States amid internal divisions

In 2023, the EU was the largest donor of direct budget support, covering more than 45% of the external financing needs, according to Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko.

Skip next section Germany pledges more aid to bolster energy system
December 21, 2023

Germany pledges more aid to bolster energy system

Germany has said it will provide an additional €88.5 million (about $97 million) to help maintain the Ukrainian energy system, which is a major target for Russian attacks.

A joint statement said the Economy Ministry was contributing €54.3 million via the state-owned bank KfW, while the Foreign Minister would give €34.2 million.

Attacks by Russian forces on Ukrainian energy infrastructure last winter caused large-scale blackouts, with Ukrainians struggling to stay warm amid very low temperatures.

Skip next section Ukraine to 'invite' men living abroad to join up
December 21, 2023

Ukraine to 'invite' men living abroad to join up

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov has told several German media outlets that Ukrainian men who are fit for military service yet living abroad will be called on to join the Ukrainian armed forces to help fight off the invasion by Russia.

The Ukrainian military has said it wants to mobilize up to 500,000 more soldiers to defend the country.

Umerov said that those who did not comply with the call-up would face sanctions despite saying he would merely be extending an "invitation."

"We are still discussing what should happen if they don't come voluntarily," he said.

Many Ukrainian men have gone abroad amidst the war before a possible call-up, with many ending up in Germany.

Skip next section Russia pumps billions into aviation as sanctions bite
December 21, 2023

Russia pumps billions into aviation as sanctions bite

Aeroflot plane seen on the tarmac in France
Russian civilian planes are still flying — but at a huge cost to the governmentImage: Regis Duvignau/REUTERS

Russia has been struggling to keep its aviation sector afloat as Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine affect the availability of key parts and maintenance services, according to an analysis published by the Reuters news agency. 

The report said Moscow has paid out more than $12 billion (€11 billion,1.09 trillion roubles) in state subsidies and loans to keep civilian planes flying.

Western planemakers Airbus and Boeing stopped supplies of services and spare parts in March 2022, shortly after the invasion of Ukraine began. They also ceased the regular maintenance support for flag carrier Aeroflot and other Russian airlines.

Reuters based its analysis on data from based on data from the Russian Ministry of Finance and the Accounts Chamber, which oversees budget execution.

Skip next section 34 of 35 drones shot down, Ukraine says
December 21, 2023

34 of 35 drones shot down, Ukraine says

Picture of a drone flying toward Kyiv
Russia frequently employs Iranian-made Shahed drones in its attacksImage: Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo/picture alliance

Ukraine's air force said on Thursday that 34 of 35 Russian drones had been destroyed on approach during the night.

It said air defense had been operating in several regions, including around the capital, Kyiv.  

Ukraine is currently reporting Russian drone attacks almost every night as Moscow's full-scale invasion approaches the two-year mark.

tj/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters, DPA)