Day 649 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Klitschko Criticized Zelensky, Called for Honesty on the Situation in the CountryUkraine | December 4, 2023, Monday // 13:10| views
Day 649 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- Hell on the Dnieper front
- The EC sticks to its position on the start of negotiations for Ukraine's accession to the EU
- Russia launched 23 drones and one cruise missile against Ukraine overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force said
- Klitschko criticized Zelensky, called for honesty about the situation in Ukraine
- Poland and Ukraine have opened a new border crossing to ease truck congestion
- Iran's parliament approved the agreement between Iran and Russia to establish joint centers for cultural activity
Hell on the Dnieper front
Amid optimistic predictions about the outcome of the war in Ukraine, Western support and promises of funding, a frontline soldier tells the BBC the sobering truth about the Ukrainian army's battle to hold on to the east bank of the Dnieper River.
Several hundred Ukrainian soldiers have made it there as part of the counteroffensive that began six months ago.
Under relentless Russian fire, the soldier spent several weeks on the Russian-occupied side of the river as Ukraine tried to establish a bridgehead around the village of Krynky.
In his account, sent via a messaging app, he spoke of military boats thrown out of the water, inexperienced reinforcements and a sense of abandonment by Ukrainian military commanders. It underscores rising tensions as Ukraine's defense against a Russian invasion nears the end of another year.
The Ukrainian military declined to comment on the situation in that area for security reasons.
"The crossing of the river is under constant fire. I have seen boats with my comrades on board simply disappear into the water after being hit, lost forever in the Dnieper. We have to carry everything with us - generators, fuel and food. When you create a bridgehead, you need a lot of everything, but no supplies are planned for that area, we thought that once we got there, the enemy would run away and then we could safely transport everything we needed, but it didn't work out that way.
When we arrived on the (eastern) coast, the enemy was waiting for us. The Russians we managed to capture said their forces had been tipped off about our landing, so when we got there they knew exactly where to find us. They threw everything at us - artillery, mortars and flame thrower systems. I thought I would never get out," said the soldier, who requested anonymity.
Still, the few hundred Marines managed to dig in, aided in part by Ukrainian artillery fire from the higher, western banks of the Dnieper.
The river separates the Russian-occupied and Ukrainian-controlled parts of southern Kherson Oblast.
President Volodymyr Zelensky is keen to portray this offensive as the start of something more.
Ukraine's General Staff said in its daily briefing on Sunday that the country's forces were holding their positions on the east bank of the Dnieper and inflicting "fire damage in the rear of the enemy".
However, this soldier's testimony reveals the disagreement between the Ukrainian government and its generals about the real situation.
In November, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, told the Economist magazine that "just like during the First World War, we have reached a level of technology that puts us in a stalemate."
President Zelenskiy's office quickly rebuked the general for his comments, denying that there was a stalemate on the battlefield.
"Every day we hid in the forest, but we were under fire. We were trapped - all the roads and paths are strewn with mines. The Russians can't control everything and we use it. But their drones are constantly buzzing in the air, ready to strike, as soon as they see movement.
Procurement was the weakest link. The Russians were monitoring our supply lines, so it became more difficult - there was even a lack of drinking water, despite our deliveries by boats and drones.
We paid for much of our gear ourselves - buying generators, power banks and warm clothes. Now that the cold weather is coming, things will only get worse - the real situation is being hidden, so no one will change anything. No one knows what the goals are. Many believe that the command has simply abandoned us. The boys think our presence had more political than military significance. But we were just doing our job and not dealing with strategy," says the Ukrainian soldier.
There is no doubt that the crossing of the river forced some of the Russian forces to be diverted from other parts of the front line, such as their heavily defended positions in the Zaporizhzhia region, where Kyiv had hoped for an early breakthrough.
Russian soldiers defending the riverbank in the area said it was "suicide" for their men to move, adding that they had lost many men in the fighting and that they could not dislodge the Ukrainians from their strongholds.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military says it wants to target Russian supply lines and force them back far enough from the river to protect civilians from shelling.
This means that both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are constantly under fire.
"Our losses in most cases were from mistakes - someone didn't jump into the trench fast enough, someone took cover badly. But thanks to our doctors, if we can get a wounded soldier to the medics - he will be saved. They are titans, gods. But we can't retrieve the remains of the fallen. It's just too dangerous.
At the same time, our drones and missiles are inflicting many losses on the enemy. Once we took prisoners of war, but where to put them, since there is no way to cross the river even with our own wounded comrades?", commented the soldier.
Like any other part of the front line, this operation became a battle of attrition. As Russia replenishes its ranks with conscripts and pardoned prisoners, Ukraine struggles to find the manpower it needs.
Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, nearly 20,000 men have left Ukraine to avoid conscription.
"Several brigades should have been stationed here, not separate companies - we simply suffered from a lack of men. There are many young boys among us. We need men, but trained men, not the green ones we have there now. There are boys, who only spent three weeks training and only managed to shoot a few times. It's a complete nightmare. A year ago I wouldn't have said that, but now, sorry, I'm sick of it.
Everyone who wanted to volunteer came a long time ago - now it is too difficult to tempt people with money. Now those who failed to avoid conscription come to us. You'll laugh, but some of our marines can't even swim," the Ukrainian soldier said.
The village of Krynky was reduced to rubble. The scenes of palpable relief when the city of Kherson and large parts of Kharkiv Oblast were liberated a year ago have yet to be repeated. Instead, Ukraine's victories are expressed in small pieces of devastated and abandoned land.
This complicates the political implementation of President Zelensky's idea of long-term support from the West.
"I got out after getting concussed by a mine, but one of my colleagues didn't - he was only left with his helmet. I feel like I escaped hell, but the guys who replaced us last time got into a bigger hell than us. But the next rotation is coming. My time to cross the river is drawing near again," the soldier points out.
The EC sticks to its position on the start of negotiations for Ukraine's accession to the EU
"The European Commission stands by its proposal to open EU accession negotiations with Ukraine and continues to believe that it has done an impressive job in terms of substance and speed."
This was said by Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero in response to a question about Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's tweet. In it, he defines the proposal of the European Commission as "groundless and poorly prepared".
"There is no place for it on the agenda of the European Council in December," Orban also wrote.
Hungary also opposes EU military aid to Ukraine.
Pisonero recalled that the EU enlargement package was presented to the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, at a meeting of permanent representatives, and now the EU Council must decide on the next steps.
"It is of key importance that the aid to Ukraine be approved by the end of this year so that it can receive it from the beginning of the next," she emphasized.
Russia launched 23 drones and one cruise missile against Ukraine overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force said
Russian forces fired 23 unmanned aerial vehicles and a cruise missile in the direction of Ukraine overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force said, adding that air defense systems intercepted the missile as well as 18 enemy drones, Reuters reported.
Air defense systems have been activated in at least 9 regions of the country, the Ukrainian Air Force reported on Telegram. Reuters was unable to verify the information through an independent source.
The southern Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, as well as the Ivano-Frankivsk, Khmelnytskyi and Lviv regions were targeted by the attack, adds AFP, citing a statement from the Ukrainian forces.
Klitschko criticized Zelensky, called for honesty about the situation in Ukraine
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an interview with the Swiss news show "20 Minuten", which received a wide response in Russia and Ukraine today, BTA reported.
"People are asking why we were not better prepared for this war, why Zelenskiy denied until the end that it would come to this," said Klitschko in the interview broadcast yesterday.
"There was too much information that was not true," said the 52-year-old former world boxing champion, accusing the president of "mistakes." He called for honesty about the true situation of Ukraine after the Russian invasion. "Zelensky is paying for the mistakes he made," Klitschko also said.
"Of course we can euphorically lie to the people and our partners, but we can't do it forever," he said, while expressing clear support for Ukraine's Chief of General Staff, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, who drew criticism a month ago by saying that the war had reached a stalemate.
"He told the truth," Klitschko said in the interview. "Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth, but in the end he is responsible. He explained and justified what the current situation is," added the mayor of Kyiv.
Klitschko spoke out against playing political games in Ukraine. According to him, there should not be internal conflicts in a country that is fighting for its existence, and for this reason he refuses to discuss his personal plans and expresses support for Zelensky.
"The president has an important function today and we must support him until the end of the war. But when the war is over, every politician will have to answer for his failures and mistakes," Klitschko said.
In his interview, Klitschko also thanked Germany for providing anti-aircraft systems, but criticized its refusal to provide Ukraine with long-range Taurus cruise missiles.
Valerii Zaluzhnyi spoke to The Economist on November 1 this year and compared today's situation in Ukraine with that of a century ago.
"Just like in the First World War, we have reached a level of technology that puts us in a stalemate," he says. The general concluded that a huge technological leap would be needed to break the impasse. "Most likely, there won't be a deep and beautiful breakthrough," he predicted about the Ukrainian counteroffensive five months after it began.
"Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 provoked a global security crisis. The attack on democracy by a morally sick imperial power in the heart of Europe has tilted the balance of power in other parts of the world, including the Middle East and Asia The failure of multilateral bodies such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to maintain order means that Ukraine can only restore its territorial integrity through military force.
Ukrainians showed their readiness to lay down body and soul for their freedom. Ukraine not only stopped the invasion of a far stronger enemy, but also liberated a large part of its territory. Now, however, the war is entering a new stage: what we in the military call ‘positional’ warfare of static and offensive fighting, as in World War I, as opposed to the ‘maneuver’ warfare of movement and speed. This will benefit Russia, as it will allow it to restore its military might, ultimately endangering Ukraine's armed forces and the country itself," Zaluzhnyi said for The Economist.
Poland and Ukraine have opened a new border crossing to ease truck congestion
Poland and Ukraine opened a new border crossing on Monday after the four main ones were blocked for a third week by protesting Polish carriers.
The first 30 trucks passed through the newly opened Uhryniv-Dolhobychuv checkpoint after the checkpoint became operational at 2:00 a.m. Bulgarian time on Monday.
Tens of thousands of trucks are waiting at the border after Polish carriers, angered by unfair competition from their Ukrainian counterparts, began a protest on November 6, blocking the passage of cargo trucks at four points.
The main demand of Polish truck drivers is to stop Ukrainian truck drivers from entering the EU without a permit, something Kyiv and Brussels say is impossible.
Ukraine said last week it had agreed some measures with Poland that could ease pressure on blocked border crossings, but that the main demands of the protests had not been discussed.
The European Commission has said that it cannot help much in solving the dispute between Kyiv and Warsaw, but it can facilitate contacts between the two sides and the search for a solution.
Ukraine has the right to transport goods to the EU under the free trade agreement concluded before the war. Unlike temporary measures related to, for example, duty-free agricultural imports, freight is part of an agreement that has been ratified and entered into force, so Brussels cannot revoke it without affecting its other parts, the European Commission says .
Polish carriers are demanding that Kyiv introduce a licensing regime for freight transport, as their lower prices are undermining their business. Their protest was also supported last week by transporters in Slovakia, who blocked the passage of trucks at a border crossing with Ukraine.
Iran's parliament approved the agreement between Iran and Russia to establish joint centers for cultural activity
Iran's parliament approved the agreement between Iran and Russia to establish joint centers for cultural activity, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
Iran's membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) requires the development of cultural and social relations between the organization's member states. The Iranian parliament's culture committee has included in its agenda a draft agreement on the establishment of cultural activity centers between the governments of Iran and Russia.
Cultural centers are necessary for cooperation in the field of humanitarian, technical, cultural and scientific activities, information, participation in cultural programs and support for Iranian emigrants to secure their rights.
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