Ukraine conflict has intensified diplomacy amid power outages

  • Zelensky talks with US, French, Turkish leaders
  • Ukraine struggles to restore electricity to Odesa and other areas
  • US support ‘how long it will take’ – Yellen

KYIV, Dec 12 (Reuters) – The United States is prioritizing efforts to improve Ukraine’s air defenses, President Joe Biden told Ukraine’s president on Sunday. 10th month.

Fierce fighting continued unabated in the east and south of the country, while drone and missile attacks on key energy infrastructure, particularly in the Black Sea port city of Odesa, kept many Ukrainians in the cold and in the dark.

There have been no peace talks for Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II, which Moscow describes as a “special military operation” and which Ukraine and its allies call an unprovoked act of aggression.

“We continue to work with partners,” Zelensky said after speaking with Biden and the leaders of France and Turkey, expecting some “important results” next week from a series of international events dealing with the situation in Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will hold an online meeting with G7 leaders on Monday and EU foreign ministers will try to agree on more sanctions on Russia and Iran and more aid or arms supplies to Ukraine.

Although Zelenskiy has held several talks with Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan since Russian forces invaded in late February, the accumulation of discussions in one day is not a regular occurrence.

Zelensky said he thanked Biden for the “unprecedented security and financial” assistance provided by the US and spoke with the US president about Ukraine’s need for effective anti-aircraft defense systems to protect its people.

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Biden “reaffirmed America’s commitment to continued security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, held Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities, and imposed costs on Russia for its aggression,” the White House said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that Washington’s support for Ukraine’s military and economy — more than $50 billion and counting — “will take as long as it takes,” and reiterated that ending the war is in America’s best interest. can do to the global economy.

Turkish Talks

Earlier, Zelensky said he had a “very meaningful” conversation with Macron on “security, energy, economy, diplomacy” that lasted more than an hour, and “very specific” talks with Erdogan on securing Ukraine’s grain exports.

Turkey, which acted as a mediator in peace talks in the early months of the war, worked with the United Nations on a grain deal that opened Ukrainian ports for exports in July after a six-month Russian blockade.

Erdogan’s office said the Turkish leader had a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday in which he called for a swift end to the conflict.

Putin said last week that a final settlement on Ukraine would become more difficult as Moscow has completely lost trust in the West, warning of a protracted war.

Moscow has shown no signs of being willing to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and pre-war borders, saying the four regions it claims were annexed from Ukraine in September are “always” part of Russia. The government in Kiev has ruled out ceding any land to Russia for peace.

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Heavy fighting

On the ground in Ukraine, the entire eastern front was under constant shelling with heavy fighting.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a Sunday evening update that Russian forces continued efforts to repel Ukrainian defense, training tank and artillery attacks on 26 settlements near Avdiyvka and Bagmut.

Serhiy Gaidai, the exiled governor of the Russian-occupied Luhansk region, told Ukrainian television that local forces had stormed a hotel in the town of Kadiivka where members of Russia’s private Wagner military group were staying, killing several of them.

Photos posted on Telegram channels showed a collapsed building.

“They had a little pop where the Wagner headquarters is located,” he said. “A large number of those who were there died.”

The claims were not verified by Reuters and Russia’s Defense Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Moscow has been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with waves of missile and drone attacks, sometimes cutting power to millions of civilians in winter, when temperatures often drop below zero Celsius.

Russian forces used Iranian-made drones to attack two energy plants in the Black Sea port of Odesa on Saturday, knocking out power to about 1.5 million people – and almost all critical infrastructure in and around the port.

Zelensky said other areas experiencing “very difficult” conditions in power supply include the capital Kyiv and the Kyiv region, as well as four regions in western Ukraine and the Dnipropetrovsk region in the center of the country.

Reporting by Nick Starko in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Ronald Popsky in Winnipeg, Canada; by Lydia Kelly and Lincoln Feist; Editing by Grant McCool & Simon Cameron-Moore

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