Propaganda game in fight over Ukraine military aid

With Republicans holding up new military aid for Ukraine on Capitol Hill, Russia launched one of the most massive aerial assaults of the war on Dec. 29, killing 40 in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Dnipro and Lviv. Ukraine retaliated the next day with a missile strike on the Russian city of Belgorod, killing at least 22. Russia counter-retaliated with a wave of drone strikes, damaging schools, hospitals and homes across Ukraine, killing at least 24. Russia accused Ukraine of using internationally prohibited cluster munitions in the strike on Belgorod, and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Moscow claimed that Czech-supplied rocket launchers were used in the Belgorod attack, and demanded that the Czech permanent representative appear before the Security Council to account for the matter. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky responded in a post on X (formerly Twitter): "We refuse to be summoned anywhere by Russia. Czechia will not serve the lie-poisoned propaganda of the aggressor. When Russia wants to discuss the withdrawal of its occupying troops at the Security Council, we will be happy to come." (Jurist, Kyiv Post, Al JazeeraNBC, ABCNYT, BBC News)

Of course, Russia has itself used cluster munitions since the start of the war in February 2022, despite international criticism from bodies including the UN Human Rights Council.

Kyiv also claimed that Russian drones brought down by its air-defense systems definitively prove that they were supplied to Moscow by Iran. (Al Jazeera)

UN condemns new wave of Russia attacks on Ukraine

A UN expert on Jan. 2 condemned a new wave of Russian aerial attacks on Ukraine. The recent attacks targeted densely-populated cities and towns across the country. In her statement, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Denise Brown said:

For the people of Ukraine, the new year started with loss, pain, and anguish. For the third day in row, vast aerial assaults by the Russian Federation have caused death – including several children – and destruction of homes and other civilian infrastructure.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted, "Over the previous five days, the enemy has launched at least 500 missiles and drones toward Ukraine." Many parts of the capital Kyiv have been left without electricity or water, as temperatures drop to -20 degrees C. (Jurist)

Ukraine and Russia announce prisoner exchange

Ukraine and Russia on Jan. 3 announced their first prisoner-of-war exchange since August 2023. The exchange involved a total of nearly 500 prisoners captured by both Ukraine and Russia. Following the exchange, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted its mediation efforts in the exchange.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that 230 Ukrainians returned to Ukraine through the prisoner swap, six of whom are civilians. (Jurist)

Contention over deadly Donetsk market attack

At least 27 civilians were killed and 25 injured at a market in the Russian-occupied eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on June 22. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation released a statement that a market in the suburb of Tekstilshckik was shelled, causing civilian fatalities and injuries. The suburb is located less than 15 kilometers from the frontline of war. 

Ukraine's armed forces denied these accusations, adding: "Donetsk is Ukraine! Russia will have to be responsible for the lives of Ukrainians taken." (Jurist)

Russia accuses Ukraine of shooting down plane

Russia accused Ukraine of deliberately shooting down a Russian military transport plane Jan. 24 carrying 65 Ukrainian military personnel for an alleged “pre-agreed exchange” of prisoners of war. The incident over Belgorod region reportedly killed 74, including six crew members and three Russian officers.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy blamed Russia for the incident, stating: "The Main Intelligence Directorate is clarifying the fate of all captives... I have instructed the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to provide our partners with the information available to Ukraine. Our state will insist on an international investigation." (Jurist)

Corruption investigation shakes Ukraine Defense Ministry

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry announced Feb. 2 that it had suspended senior official Toomas Makhkur after the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) said that it had exposed an embezzlement scheme within the ministry. (Jurist)

Russia accuses Ukraine of attack on bakery in Lysychansk

Russian officials accused Ukraine on Feb. 3 of attacking a bakery in a Russian-occupied town, Lysychansk, in eastern Ukraine, killing civilians and several representatives of the Russian occupation authorities. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the attack a terrorist act against a civilian target. Russia says 28 people were killed in the attack. Ukrainian officials have not yet commented. (Jurist)

Ukraine withdraws from Avdiivka

Russian troops have occupied the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka after a months-long assault that wore down Ukrainian troops running low on ammunition.

Oleksandra Ustinova, a Ukrainian lawmaker who leads a parliamentary committee on international aid and arms procurement, told NPR that Ukraine is struggling to defend itself and criticized the US House, saying representatives were "playing internal politics" with an Ukraine aid package that the Senate has already approved.

"Our soldiers and civilians are dying as there is no munition left to protect them," she said.

Ukraine lowers age of military conscription

Ukraine lowered the age of military conscription on April 1 from 27 to 25 in an attempt to reinforce their army admist the ongoing war with Russia. President Volodymyr Zelensky signed the bill instating the change which had already been passed by the country's parliament. (Jurist)

Villages evacuated in Kharkiv region

Over the past days more than 30 settlements in Ukraine's eastern region of Kharkiv have come under artillery and mortar fire, with the town of Vovchansk being hit by massive shelling. According to the latest reports, during the last three days, 5,762 civilians have been evacuated from their homes amid heavy fighting in the region. Some families had to walk miles to reach transportation to take them to safety. (IRC)