Russia-Ukraine live war updates for Dec.15, 2023


17 Mins Ago

Hungary’s Orban says he could still block Ukraine’s EU membership talks

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he could still block Ukraine’s European Union membership talks, hours after the bloc voted to open discussions.

Orban, who abstained from the vote Thursday by leaving the room, said the move to admit the war-torn country to the EU was “a bad decision.”

“We can halt this process later on, and if needed we will pull the brakes, and the ultimate decision will be made by Hungarian parliament,” he said, without adding detail on how he might do that.

Orban — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the bloc — has proved a thorn in the EU’s side in its efforts to get the membership talks over the line.

The nationalist leader also blocked plans to extend a new financial package to Ukraine, with discussions set to resume in January.

— Karen Gilchrist

An Hour Ago

Fake TikTok accounts spread Russian war propaganda to millions

Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Fake TikTok accounts have spread disinformation on Russia’s war in Ukraine to millions of people, new data from the Chinese social media giant shows.

Posts on the video-sharing site targeted Ukrainian and Russian users, as well as many across Europe, with content designed to “artificially amplify pro-Russian narratives” on the war, TikTok said in a report released Wednesday.

Some accounts were fictitiously labeled as news outlets.

A separate BBC investigation published Friday identified some 800 fake accounts, which it said targeted European countries with false claims that senior Ukrainian officials and their relatives bought luxury cars or villas abroad after Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

A TikTok spokesperson told CNBC that the company had already begun to investigate the accounts prior to the BBC investigation and that all fake accounts identified had since been removed.

— Karen Gilchrist

2 Hours Ago

Ukraine’s EU membership talks a ‘clear victory,’ Estonia’s PM Kallas

Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Friday that the European Union’s agreement to open membership talks with Ukraine marked a “clear victory,” despite an unconventional sidestep from Hungary.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been highly vocal about his opposition to the war-torn country joining the bloc. On Thursday he opted to abstain from — rather than veto — a plan to launch membership talks, allowing the vote to pass unopposed.

“As long as he says the wrong things, but does the right things, we are OK,” Kallas said of Orban.

“We have been united so far and we were able to deliver the decision on the accession talks yesterday. It was interesting for the history books how it was done, but I will not talk about that today,” she added.

— Karen Gilchrist

3 Hours Ago

Whereabouts of Putin opponent Navalny still unknown, ally says

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia February 20, 2021.

Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

Russia’s prison authority told a court on Friday that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was no longer in the penal colony where he had been serving his sentence, but provided no further detail of his whereabouts, an ally said.

In a Google-translated post on social media, lawyer Vyacheslav Gimadi said it had been 10 days since allies had lost knowledge of Navalny’s circumstances.

— Karen Gilchrist

4 Hours Ago

EU agrees to launch accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova

European Union leaders will open membership talks with Ukraine, in a move that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed as “a victory” for his country and for Europe.

The decision took place at a summit in Brussels despite abstention from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who left the room during the vote.

The launch of talks with a country at war is a historic step for the bloc, which also agreed to begin accession discussions with Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova and to grant candidate status to Georgia.

— Karen Gilchrist

4 Hours Ago

Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban blocks funding to Ukraine

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends European Union Leaders Summit in Brussels, Belgium on December 14, 2023.

Anadolu | Getty Images

European Union leaders failed to agree a critical €50 billion ($55 billion) financial aid package to Ukraine, after Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban vetoed the proposal.

The collapse of funding talks, viewed as crucial to Ukraine’s financial stability next year, follows failures by U.S. Congress to agree a $60 billion aid package.

Republicans last week blocked an emergency spending bill for Ukraine, increasing the likelihood that Congress will struggle to pass the plans before the end of the year.

— Karen Gilchrist

23 Hours Ago

Putin says talks on prisoner swap for Gershkovich, Whelan are ‘not simple’

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he hoped an agreement could be reached with the U.S. over a prisoner swap for the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan, but said talks were complex.

“We want to reach an agreement, and these agreements must be mutually acceptable and must suit both parties,” Putin said, when asked about the matter during his annual phone-in and press conference.

“It is not simple, I will not go into details now, but in general, it seems to me that we speak a language that is understandable to each other. I hope we will find a solution. But, I repeat, the American side must hear us and make an appropriate decision, one that suits the Russian side,” he said in comments translated by Reuters.

Former U.S. marine Paul Whelan who is being held on suspicion of spying talks with his lawyers Vladimir Zherebenkov and Olga Kralova, as he stands in the courtroom cage after a ruling regarding extension of his detention, in Moscow, Russia, February 22, 2019. 

Shamil Zhumatov | Reuters

Marine veteran Whelan was arrested in 2018 and was convicted of spying for the U.S. in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He also denies the charges, as does the U.S.

Journalist Gershkovich was arrested on charges of spying in March. He, the Wall Street Journal, and the U.S. deny the charges. The imprisonment of both men is seen as politically motivated.

Gershkovich remains in custody and an appeal against an extension of his pre-trial detention was rejected by a Moscow court Thursday.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands inside an enclosure for defendants before a court hearing to consider an appeal against his pre-trial detention on espionage charges in Moscow, Russia, September 19, 2023.

Evgenia Novozhenina | Reuters

The WSJ issued a statement, noting that “while we expected this outcome, it’s important that we appeal these rulings to call out the absurd nature of the charge.”

“Evan has been wrongfully detained for more than 250 days for simply doing his job as a journalist, and any portrayal to the contrary is fiction. We will stand with Evan and his family for as long as it takes and continue to demand his immediate release.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Thu, Dec 14 2023 5:59 AM EST

Moscow says conditions not in place to rebuild relations with Washington

It would be difficult to rebuild relations with the U.S. as things stand, Russian President Vladimir Putin said when asked at his annual phone-in and news conference whether a normalization of relations was possible.

“When internal changes happen (in the U.S.), when they start respecting other people, other countries, when they start looking for compromise instead of trying to resolve their issues with sanctions and military intervention, then the fundamental conditions will be in place to restore fully-fledged relations,” Putin told the audience at his public phone-in and press conference Thursday.

“So far, such conditions are not in place, but we are ready for that,” he said, according to a Reuters translation.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange on June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Peter Klaunzer | Getty Images

Putin again blamed NATO for the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West, saying the military alliance had encroached upon Russia’s borders.

“The unbridled desire to creep towards our borders, taking Ukraine into NATO, all this led to this tragedy. Plus the bloody events in Donbass for eight years all this led to the tragedy that we are now experiencing. They forced us into these actions,” he said.

“What the United States conceived and organized, Europe stands and silently watches, or plays and sings along with them there. Well how can we build relations with them?” Putin asked.

— Holly Ellyatt

5 Hours Ago

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