Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Monday the difficult situation on the front lines of Bakhmut, Kreminna and other areas in the Donbas region, which as he said, “require maximum strength and concentration.”
He said the Russians are using all the resources available to them “to squeeze out at least some advance.”
Zelenskyy thanked Ukrainian forces who “hold their positions firmly, stand strong, and who nevertheless find opportunities not only to not lose anything, but also to drive the occupiers out, to ‘subtract’ them.”
Luhansk’s Ukrainian governor, Serhiy Haidai, said Russian forces have withdrawn from Kreminna as Ukrainian forces were approaching after months of intense fighting.
Zelenskyy cautioned people that they must be ready for more missile attacks or provocations from Russia.
“Air defense is preparing, the state is preparing, and everyone must prepare. Please pay attention to the sirens,” he said.
Zelenskyy said that almost 9 million people remain without electricity in Ukraine. He thanked power workers repairing the energy grid so that people could have electricity on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but he acknowledged that power shortages are persisting with continuing blackouts.
Earlier Monday, in an interview with The Associated Press, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said that his government wants a “peace” summit within two months at the United Nations with Secretary-General António Guterres as mediator. He added that he doesn’t anticipate Russia taking part, a statement foretelling a lengthy and difficult end to the war.
Kuleba said that Russia must face a war-crimes tribunal before his country engages in direct talks with Moscow. He said, however, that other nations should feel free to engage with the Russians, as happened before to reach a grain agreement between Turkey and Russia.
Kuleba also said he was “absolutely satisfied” with the results of Zelenskyy’s visit to the U.S. last week, and he revealed that the U.S. government had made a special plan to get the Patriot missile battery ready to be operational in the country in less than six months. Usually, the training takes as long as a year.
Kuleba said during the interview at the Foreign Ministry that Ukraine will do whatever it can to win the war in 2023.
“Every war ends in a diplomatic way,” he said. “Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table,” he added.
Kuleba also asked Monday for United Nations member states to strip Russia of its seat on the U.N. Security Council, calling its status as a permanent member “illegal.”
In an official statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the status of the Russian Federation as a U.N. member state and a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, “remains unsettled.”
“Russia falsely considers the issue settled, referring to the fact that since December 24, 1991, and publicly — since December 31, 1991, a country name plate for the Russian Federation appeared in the U.N. Security Council. In fact, according to the U.N. Charter, there has never been legitimate grounds for this,” the statement notes.
In a tweet, Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, “31 years ago Russia abused the UN Charter and usurped USSR’s seat at the UN Security Council — bypassing the only legitimate procedure set by the Charter. Russia’s presence at the UNSC and the UN as a whole is illegitimate.”
According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.N. Charter does not contain the words “Russian Federation.” The country did not complete the procedures for acquiring membership as, for example, the Czech Republic and Slovakia did after Czechoslovakia had collapsed.
“Therefore, the Russian Federation has never gone through the legal procedure to be admitted to membership and therefore illegally occupies the seat of the USSR in the UN Security Council. From a legal and political point of view, there can be only one conclusion: Russia is an usurper of the Soviet Union’s seat in the UN Security Council,” the statement says.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that for 30 years, the actions of Russia have not been those of a “peace-loving” state.
“Three decades of its illegal presence in the UN have been marked by wars and seizure of other countries’ territories, forceful change of internationally recognized borders, and attempts to satisfy its invasive and neo-imperial ambitions.”
When asked about Russia’s possible removal from the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield told VOA’s Eastern Europe Bureau Chief Myroslava Gongadze, “We do not think that the kinds of actions that Russia is taking in Ukraine are worthy of a country that is a permanent member of the Security Council.”
The ambassador said she does not “see that path” of kicking Russia off the Security Council but, she added, “I don’t think that we should give up on that possibility if presented the opportunity.”
Ukranian drone shot down
Russian news agencies quoted the country’s Defense Ministry as saying Russian troops shot down a Ukrainian drone Monday, with the debris from the aircraft killing three people as it fell on a base in southern Russia.
The ministry said that the drone was flying at a low altitude early Monday as it approached the Engels military airfield in Russia’s Saratov region, and that the three dead were Russian servicemen.
The base is hundreds of kilometers from the front lines in Ukraine. Russia said Ukrainian drones attacked the same base December 5.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Rossiya 1 state television Sunday that his country is ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the war in Ukraine, but that Kyiv and its Western backers have refused to engage in talks.
The Kremlin said it would fight until all its aims were achieved, while Kyiv said it would not rest until every Russian soldier was ejected from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
“We are ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions, but that is up to them — we are not the ones refusing to negotiate; they are,” Putin said in the interview.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said that Putin needed to return to reality and acknowledge that it was Russia that did not want to negotiate.
“Russia single-handedly attacked Ukraine and is killing citizens,” Podolyak said on Twitter. “Russia doesn’t want negotiations but tries to avoid responsibility.”
He echoed the U.S. CIA assessment earlier in December that Russia was not yet serious about a real negotiation to end the war.
Putin argued that Russia was acting in the “right direction” in Ukraine because the West, led by the United States, was trying to cleave Russia apart. Washington denies it is plotting Russia’s collapse.