The EU agrees to open accession talks with Ukraine. Putin holds a four-hour call-in show and news conference. Russia steps up missile and drone attacks at Ukraine.
EU agrees to open accession talks with Ukraine
European Union leaders on Thursday agreed to open membership talks with Ukraine. “A clear signal of hope for their people and for our continent,” European Council President Charles Michel wrote in a post on X. He said that EU leaders meeting in Brussels also agreed to open accession talks with Moldova, granted candidate status to Georgia and said negotiations could begin with Bosnia once it meets the criteria.
In a video message to Thursday’s summit, before the decision was announced, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi told EU leaders that their “indecision today” will hand Putin a victory. Zelenskyi joined the EU leaders’ meeting at the invitation of European Council President Charles Michel.
“Putin gained nothing over the year. Neither in the battles against Ukraine, nor in his attempts to divide and demean Europeans,” Zelenskyi said. “And it’s very important that Europe doesn’t fall back into indecision today,” he added.
Zelenskyi told Europe’s leaders that Ukraine had fulfilled every obligation they had required. “Today is the day when determination will either be in Brussels or Moscow. People in Europe won’t understand if Putin’s satisfied smile becomes the reward for a meeting in Brussels,” Zelenskyi continued.
He said that ahead of the summit he held talks with “many of” EU leaders. “I haven’t heard any counter-argument as to why we shouldn’t implement the plan agreed upon by all of Europe,” the Ukrainian President said.
He referred to a question he said he had asked Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a staunch opponent of opening EU accession talks with Ukraine. Zelenskyi also said he expected the summit to greenlight the timeline earlier agreed by the European Commission.
“There was a clear schedule for the EU – today is a day for a political decision in response to what we’ve accomplished. It’s about opening accession negotiations with Ukraine. And in March next year – approving the negotiation framework for moving forward,” Zelenskyi said.
“Last year, Ukraine received clear recommendations on how to move forward. We have passed the key laws. You all — and I emphasize: all — know well that we have fulfilled every obligation,” the Ukrainian president said, in a nod to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Orbán earlier said there was “no reason to discuss anything because preconditions were not met”.
Putin holds four-hour call-in show, news conference
On Thursday, December 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a four-hour press conference that he combined with a “direct line” call-in show for Russians. The event was the first time Putin has fielded extended questions from either journalists or the public since he launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
He answered 67 questions during a show televised for more than four hours.
Responding to questions, Putin reaffirmed his pseudo historic claims that much of today’s Ukraine historically belonged to Russia and were given away by Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin. He also said, in a mocking tone, that the world order has “no rules” as they change all the time, and he “can do” without communications with western leaders.
Putin said that “there will be peace when we achieve our objectives”. Those “objectives do not change”, he said, listing Ukraine’s “denazification, demilitarization and its neutral status”. There are other possibilities, he continued. “Either we get an agreement, or we solve this by force. If they don’t want to come to an agreement, then we are forced to take other measures, including military ones.”
“Russians and Ukrainians are one people, and what’s going on now is a huge tragedy, a civil war between brothers who have found themselves on the opposite sides,” he added.
Putin claimed that Russia now has more than 600,000 soldiers currently serving in the war zone in Ukraine. At one point he revealed that Russia currently has a total of 617,000 troops fighting in Ukraine, including around 244,000 troops who were mobilized a year ago.
The frontline is around 2,000 kilometers long, he said. He said that a steady influx of volunteers means there is no need for a second wave of mobilization of reservists to fight in Ukraine.
Russia steps up missile attacks at Ukraine
On Thursday, December 14, Russia launched three Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missiles at Ukraine. Ukraine’s Air Force said it shot down one Kinzhal missile over Kyiv region. Starokostyantyniv, in Khmelnytskyi region was another target of Russia’s attack.
Russian MiG-31K fighter jets that could carry Kinzhal missiles took off from Russia’s Savasleyka airbase and sparked a national alert four times on Thursday. Russia also simulated targets with electronic warfare systems, Ukraine’s Air Force said.
Spokesperson for Ukraine’s Air Force Command, Colonel Yuriy Ihnat said in televised comments that Russia fired a Kinzhal missile at Starokostyantyniv.
“There was a missile launch, and the missiles headed toward Starokostyantyniv, in Khmelnytskyi region. An air raid alert was declared at around 14:09, sirens went off all across Ukraine. Ten minutes later, [missiles] hit the target in Khmelnytskyi region,” Ihnat said.
An overnight drone attack on Odesa region injured 11 people in the city of Odesa and damaged a dormitory building. Falling debris also caused damage to 11 more buildings. Two cars burnt down. In the Izmail district, the strike damaged a warehouse near the port.
Sports Outside of Politics? Ukraine in Flames #546
In this episode of Ukraine in Flames, we delve into the battle against Russian propaganda in sports and the response to the IOC’s decision allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under neutral status at the next Olympic games. Despite calls for a complete ban, the IOC defended individual athletes from governmental actions. Guests Olga Saladukha, Oleksandr Glyvinsky, and Leonid Veselkov shed light on the obvious support for the war among Rusian athletes, the challenges in countering global Russian propaganda, and efforts to hold accountable those backing the war within the sporting community. They discuss the need for vigilance, ensuring compliance with requirements for neutral status athletes. Take a watch of UIF #546 to learn more!
- Olga Saladukha, former triple jumper, MP, Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Sports of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Youth and Sports, winner and medalist of the World Championships, the bronze medallist of the London 2012 Olympic Games, three-time champion of the European Championships.
- Oleksandr Glyvinsky, President of the Ukrainian Sports Press Association, member of the Executive Committee of the European Association of Sports Press AIPS Europe
- Leonid Veselkov, Olympic reporter, TV and radio presenter, volunteer