Chris Lange, FISM News
Russia’s forces shelled areas in the north, northeast, and east of Ukraine overnight, local officials reported on Friday.
“Fierce fighting continues along the front lines. Our defenders are firmly holding their positions and inflicting losses to the enemy,” Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Synehubov said, according to Reuters.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Friday that at least 11 people were killed amid 55 missile and drone strikes that knocked out energy infrastructure and power systems, Newsweek reported.
Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko also reported Russian strikes on infrastructure in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast Friday and accused Russia of trying to cause a “systemic failure in the energy system of Ukraine.”
Elsewhere, Kremlin forces have been trying to advance into Bakhmut, where Ukrainians have fiercely held back an onslaught for months, after capturing nearby Soledar last week in some of the bloodiest and most brutal ground combat in the war to date.
Britain said in an intelligence update that, despite reports from pro-Kremlin commentators that the Russians “have made significant advances” in the Zaporizhia Oblast and Donetsk Oblast, it is unlikely that they have achieved “substantive advances.”
As the Russian invasion nears its one-year mark, both sides are reportedly preparing to launch new offensives in the spring.
LOCKHEED MARTIN STEPS UP US F-16 FIGHTER JET PRODUCTION
Newsweek also reported Friday that American arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin has begun stepping up production of its F-16 fighter jets in case the U.S. acquiesces to Kyiv’s ongoing requests for the aircraft.
The company’s CEO Frank St. John recently told The Financial Times that there has been “a lot of conversation” about other countries potentially sending F-16s to Kyiv, which would first require U.S. approval. St. John clarified that Lockheed Martin is not directly involved in the dialogue but that it has increased F-16 production as a proactive measure.
The news comes less than two days after both the U.S. and Germany announced that they would send Ukraine Abrams and Leopard 2 combat tanks, respectively, signaling a major shift in the West’s more neutral posture of supplying Ukraine with only defensive weapons.
US SENDS AUDITORS TO KYIV TO MONITOR AID
State Department Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told lawmakers at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday that the U.S. has installed auditors in Kyiv who are working alongside the World Banks and Deloitte consultant to ensure “that no aid or weapons are diverted” in the wake of a government corruption scandal that has rocked Ukraine’s capital this week, CNN reported.
“We continue to support essential reform and anti-corruption measures by the Ukrainian government across the country,” Nuland said.
The announcement came as Republican lawmakers continue to demand more transparency and accountability concerning U.S. funds to Ukraine.
This comes as Republican lawmakers call for greater transparency and accountability regarding U.S. funds to Ukraine.
Nuland also said that the U.S. is prepared to weaken sanctions on Russia if it withdraws its troops from Ukraine.
“In the context of Russia’s decision to negotiate seriously and withdraw its forces from Ukraine and return territory, I would favor sanctions relief,” she said.
ZELENSKYY NOT INTERESTED IN PEACE TALKS WITH RUSSIA
Ukrainian President Zelensyy said during a Sky News interview Thursday that he is not interested in peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he referred to as “a nobody.”
“What kind of peace talks? At present, these are just criminals who came here and were killing and raping. That’s what they have been doing,” Zelenskyy said, adding that no conversations will happen unless Russia admits “their big mistakes,” withdrawals all of its troops from Ukraine, and establishes a new government.
Asked what he would say to Putin if the two were alone together in the room, Zelenskyy replied, in English: “It is not interesting for me. Not interesting to meet, not interesting to speak … Who is he now? After [the] full-scale invasion, for me he is nobody, nobody. No decisions with him, not interesting.”
Hours later, presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted a list of demands Kyiv will require of Russia before any talks could take place, writing: “The country that started the war must…
- Realize it (so far impossible)
- Stop “being at war with NATO” (which isn’t the case)
- Withdraw troops from [Ukraine];” and
- Be ready to talk about intl. law & responsibility for war crimes.”