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The United States has accused Russia of violating international laws by allegedly deploying chemical weapons as a method of warfare in Ukraine. Specifically, they claim that Russia used the chemical agent chloropicrin to gain battlefield advantages over Ukrainian forces. These accusations, according to US officials, are not isolated incidents and would breach the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which Russia is a signatory.

However, the Kremlin has rejected these accusations as baseless, asserting that Russia adheres to its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as a substance used to cause intentional harm through its toxic properties, and chloropicrin falls under this category. The use of chloropicrin in warfare is explicitly prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Additionally, there are claims that Russia has also used riot control agents, such as tear gas, during the conflict in Ukraine. President Joe Biden has previously warned Russia against the use of chemical weapons, stating that there would be severe consequences if such actions were taken.

Despite warnings, there have been reports of chemical attacks, with Ukrainian troops reportedly facing increasing instances of exposure to toxic gases. The US has sanctioned individuals and entities linked to Russia’s biological and chemical weapons program in response to these allegations.

There have also been concerns about Russia’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, with accusations of incomplete declarations of its stockpile. Previous incidents, such as the Salisbury attack and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, have raised doubts about Russia’s adherence to international agreements.

Amidst these allegations, Russian forces continue their advance in eastern Ukraine, with ongoing fighting around strategic locations. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has taken action against allegations of corruption within the Ukrainian Security Service, while Human Rights Watch has called for a war crimes investigation into alleged executions of surrendering Ukrainian troops by Russian forces.

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Ukraine’s President Zelensky has expressed concerns over Russia’s offensive tactics amid delays in Western weapon deliveries, particularly from the US, despite a recently approved $61 billion aid package. Zelensky emphasized the urgency of faster deliveries, citing the need for artillery shells and air defense systems to counter Russian aggression.

The situation escalated after a Russian missile strike killed four civilians and wounded dozens in Odesa. Russian forces also claimed the capture of additional villages in eastern Ukraine, heightening tensions along the frontline.

NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg echoed Zelensky’s sentiments, acknowledging Ukraine’s urgent need for weapons and the detrimental impact of delayed aid on the battlefield. However, he expressed optimism that forthcoming arms deliveries could help bolster Ukraine’s defenses.

Stoltenberg reaffirmed NATO’s support for Ukraine’s eventual membership but downplayed the possibility of an official invitation at the upcoming Washington summit. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces reported withdrawals from positions in Donetsk amidst intensified Russian attacks.

The dire humanitarian situation was underscored by the harrowing journey of a 98-year-old woman who traversed several kilometers to escape shelling in the eastern village of Ocheretyne. Her ordeal serves as a poignant reminder of the human cost of the conflict.

The long-awaited approval of US military aid offers hope for replenishing Ukraine’s dwindling supplies, which have been stretched thin amid the ongoing conflict. Delays in aid delivery have been attributed to the loss of lives and territory, highlighting the critical need for timely support from Western allies.

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Two separate Russian strikes in Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region resulted in eight fatalities, including two children. The attacks targeted the main city of Dnipro and the town of Synelnykove, damaging homes and infrastructure. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized the necessity for cities to have sufficient air defenses following the incidents.

Additionally, Ukraine claimed to have downed a long-range bomber inside Russian territory for the first time. In Synelnykove, six people, including an eight-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl, were killed during the strikes on private residences. Another child was critically injured, with several others wounded. The regional capital, Dnipro, also suffered casualties when the train station and a five-story building were hit, resulting in two deaths and numerous injuries.

Rescue efforts are ongoing, with concerns that the casualty count may increase. Ukraine has repeatedly raised alarms about its dwindling arsenal capable of defending against Russian attacks, prompting calls for urgent military assistance from NATO. The recent escalation follows a deadly attack in Chernihiv, where 18 people were killed by Iskander cruise missiles.

Despite months of obstruction, a $60.8 billion US military aid package has seen renewed interest from Republican lawmakers, with a potential vote looming. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s air force claimed to have downed a Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bomber, which crashed in Russia’s Stavropol region after launching a missile strike on Ukraine. Russia attributed the incident to a technical malfunction, with two pilots rescued and efforts underway to locate others. This marks the latest in a series of confrontations between the two nations, with Ukraine citing the bomber’s use of Kh-22 missiles in attacks on Ukrainian cities.

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A Polish man has been detained and accused of collaborating with Russian intelligence to potentially target Volodymyr Zelensky, according to authorities. The individual, identified as Pawel K, allegedly aimed to gather intelligence on an airport in Poland frequently used by the Ukrainian president. The arrest was prompted by Ukrainian intelligence information, though it’s unclear if any information was actually transmitted. If convicted, Pawel K could face a sentence of up to eight years. He remains in custody while investigations continue.

Polish prosecutors stated that Pawel K had offered his services to Russian military intelligence and had direct contact with individuals involved in the conflict in Ukraine. His assignment reportedly involved gathering details about security measures at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in southeastern Poland.

Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport, previously a small regional facility, has become crucial for supplying Western military aid to Ukraine since the full-scale invasion. It serves as a significant transit point for military and cargo aircraft from the US and Europe, facilitating the delivery of supplies to Ukraine via trucks.

The airport is frequently used by leaders traveling to and from Ukraine, including President Zelensky, who has utilized it for foreign trips. Notably, other dignitaries like US President Joe Biden have also transited through this airport on their visits to Ukraine.

This incident follows previous arrests related to espionage suspicions, including the apprehension of foreign nationals accused of spying for Russia. They were reportedly involved in installing surveillance cameras, some of which were positioned around Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport.

Additionally, neighboring Germany recently detained two alleged Russian spies suspected of planning to disrupt German military aid intended for Ukraine.

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Dozens of people were injured in a series of missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, overnight, with 53 people, including six children, harmed, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko. The attacks occurred after President Volodymyr Zelensky’s plea for increased military aid in the US yielded little progress. Ten Russian ballistic missiles were reportedly shot down, damaging kindergarten and hospital buildings. Zelensky, who left the US prior to the strikes, vowed a response and criticized Russia for targeting residential areas. The EU is set to discuss further aid for Ukraine, and Zelensky arrived in Norway for additional support talks.

The attack on Kyiv followed the use of cruise missiles by Russia, ending a 79-day hiatus in missile attacks. Ukraine’s air force claimed to have intercepted all 10 incoming missiles. The projectiles were identified as Iskander-M ballistic missiles and S-400s, designed for air defense but also used against ground targets. A major cyberattack on Ukraine’s largest mobile network operator, Kyivstar, disrupted operations, impacting millions of people relying on air raid alerts. Additionally, the port city of Odesa faced drone attacks, causing injuries and damage.

Zelensky’s efforts to secure more military aid in the US faced challenges, with President Joe Biden warning Republicans about giving Russia a “Christmas gift” if aid was not increased. Zelensky and Biden agreed to enhance air defense systems for Ukraine. Meanwhile, a summit of European leaders discussed Ukraine’s potential accession to the EU, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban opposed opening accession talks, emphasizing the need for support without full membership.

Hungary has previously clashed with EU partners over its stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed Ukraine’s fight as crucial for Europe and urged support for its inclusion in the European family.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree approving a 15% increase in the country’s troop numbers, gradually adding 170,000 personnel to reach a total of 1,320,000. The move, as announced by the defense ministry, is a response to perceived threats, particularly from the expansion of NATO. The ministry emphasized that the augmentation will be carried out through a staged recruitment drive rather than mobilization or changes to conscription procedures.

The rationale behind the decision includes concerns about the “growth of the joint armed forces of [NATO] near Russia’s borders” and the perceived threats associated with Russia’s ongoing military operations, particularly its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.

Amidst this development, NATO’s recent expansion, which now includes Finland, and Sweden’s application to join, have been highlighted as contributing factors to Russia’s decision. The alliance has clarified that Ukraine’s potential membership is contingent on meeting certain conditions, though a specific timeline has not been specified.

Notably, Ukraine cannot pursue NATO membership while it remains in a state of conflict with Russia. Against this backdrop, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for reinforcements and enhanced defenses along the front line with Russia, particularly given the challenging weather conditions with temperatures falling below freezing in the region.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has emphasized the urgent need to strengthen defenses along the front line following meetings with commanders in key areas of tension in the south and east. Russian forces are attempting to encircle the eastern town of Avdiivka, targeting southern regions like Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. President Zelensky, in his nightly address, highlighted the importance of accelerating the construction of structures in sectors requiring reinforcement. Despite Ukraine’s air force claiming success in downing 18 out of 25 Russian drones and one cruise missile, the situation remains challenging, especially with temperatures dropping below freezing.

Zelensky acknowledged that winter introduces a new phase of the war, and he pledged “maximum attention” to eastern towns under fire, the Donetsk region, and the defensive line in the north-east. Concerns are rising about the possibility of a “frozen” conflict despite ongoing fierce fighting. The failure of Ukraine’s counter-offensive since the summer to achieve desired gains has raised questions about frontline morale. The military reported repelling 20 attacks near Avdiivka, which is almost encircled by Russian forces. The town’s industrial hub faces threats, with Russian forces aiming to seize a nearby coke plant.

In the south-east, Russian forces are attempting to regain lost areas around Robotyne, but Ukrainian officials claim to maintain positions on the east bank of the River Dnipro. Zelensky expressed dissatisfaction with casualties and the insufficient supply of weapons. Despite facing challenges, Ukrainian forces managed to regain control of the village of Krynky after crossing the Dnipro, facing relentless Russian attacks. Russia’s defense ministry reported repelling a Ukrainian naval attack on occupied Crimea via the Black Sea, while parts of the peninsula were placed under a state of emergency due to storm-related deaths.

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Kyiv experienced its most significant drone attack since the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to the city’s mayor. The assault, consisting of over 75 Iranian-made Shahed drones, targeted the capital from the north and east. Despite the city’s air defenses successfully intercepting 74 drones, explosions and the sound of air defenses echoed through Kyiv for more than six hours. The Shahed drones, viewed as a cost-effective alternative to Russia’s diminishing missile stocks, are slower but distinctive due to their wingspan.

The attack caused damage to buildings, including a kindergarten, and left at least five people injured, including an 11-year-old child. Fortunately, there were no reported fatalities. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the strikes as an intentional act of terror, vowing to continue uniting the world against Russian aggression. The assault coincided with Ukraine’s commemoration of the 1932-1933 Holodomor famine, adding symbolic weight to the event.

The possibility of Russia targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, a tactic used in the past, materialized as 16,000 homes in central Kyiv lost power. While Moscow’s previous attempts to deprive Ukrainians of essential resources failed, causing authorities to rapidly repair damaged infrastructure, the impact of such strikes remains significant. Despite ongoing improvements in Ukraine’s air defenses, attacks like these continue to cause destruction, instill fear, and disrupt the lives of its residents.

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One of Ukraine’s steadfast supporters, Poland, has declared that it will cease its weapon supplies to its neighboring country, Ukraine, citing a diplomatic dispute regarding Ukraine’s grain exports as the primary reason. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki emphasized that Poland’s current focus is on bolstering its own defense capabilities with more modern weaponry.

Poland had already provided Ukraine with significant military assistance, including 320 Soviet-era tanks and 14 MiG-29 fighter jets. However, their willingness to continue such support has dwindled, coinciding with escalating tensions between the two nations.

The recent diplomatic rift was triggered when Poland, along with Hungary and Slovakia, extended a ban on Ukrainian grain imports. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s comments at the United Nations, characterizing their actions as political theater, added fuel to the fire. Poland viewed these remarks as unjustified, given their longstanding support for Ukraine.

In his interview, Prime Minister Morawiecki underlined that while Poland remains committed to assisting Ukraine in its struggle against Russian aggression, it could not allow its own markets to be destabilized by Ukrainian grain imports. He pointed out that Poland was already replacing its depleted military hardware, which had been significantly reduced through transfers to Ukraine, with modern Western-produced equipment.

While arms exports to Ukraine will not cease entirely, only previously agreed deliveries of ammunition and armaments, including those from existing contracts with Ukraine, will be fulfilled. This decision reflects Poland’s commitment to its own security and stability, while the future of its assistance to Ukraine remains uncertain.

The ongoing grain dispute arises from Ukraine’s need to find alternative overland routes for grain exports due to Russia’s full-scale invasion, which nearly closed the main Black Sea shipping lanes. Consequently, large quantities of grain flowed into Central Europe, leading the European Union to temporarily ban grain imports into several countries. Despite the EU lifting the ban, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia have maintained it, leading to Ukraine’s WTO lawsuits against these nations. Poland has signaled its intention to uphold the ban, while also hinting at the possibility of expanding the list of banned products should Ukraine escalate the grain dispute. However, diplomatic channels remain open, with discussions ongoing to seek a mutually beneficial solution.

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US President Joe Biden has defended his controversial decision to supply cluster bombs to Ukraine, acknowledging it as a “very difficult decision” but emphasizing the urgent need for ammunition faced by the Ukrainian forces. While Ukraine’s leader praised the move as timely, criticism has arisen from human rights groups and certain Democrats. A Moscow envoy condemned the decision as cynical. Biden, ahead of a Nato summit, stated that he had consulted with allies regarding the decision.

Cluster bombs are internationally banned by over 120 countries due to their track record of causing civilian casualties. The decision to provide them to Ukraine has raised concerns due to the risk of unexploded bombs causing harm to civilians in the long term. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan acknowledged the risk and explained that the decision was postponed as long as possible. Sullivan asserted that the cluster bombs provided by the US are safer compared to those used by Russia in the conflict, with a lower rate of unexploded bombs.

The decision bypasses US law prohibiting the use, production, or transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate exceeding 1%. Earlier in the war, when allegations of Russia’s use of cluster and vacuum bombs surfaced, the US referred to it as a potential war crime. The UN human rights office called for an immediate halt to the use of such munitions in any location. The Russian ambassador to the US criticized Biden’s decision, highlighting the risk of civilians being harmed by failed submunitions for years to come.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed gratitude for the military aid package worth $800 million provided by the US. He stated that it would bring Ukraine closer to victory and democracy over dictatorship. However, human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the US Cluster Munition Coalition condemned the decision, citing the grave threat cluster munitions pose to civilian lives even after the conflict ends.

The response from US lawmakers on Capitol Hill has been mixed, with some Democrats considering the decision alarming and a mistake, while others, including Republican leaders, view it as a means to enhance Ukraine’s capability to counter Russian forces more effectively.

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