As we enter the 658th day of the war, these are the most important developments.

Here is the situation as of Wednesday, December 13, 2023.


  • Yevgeny Balitsky, the Moscow-appointed head of the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region, said Russian forces had “significantly advanced northeast of Novopokrovka.” The village is about 20 km east of Robotyne, which Kiev said it recaptured in August. Balitsky said Russian forces “not only held the line, but gradually advanced.” Ukraine acknowledged that there had been fighting in the region. “The defense forces repelled three enemy attacks in the areas north of Pryutne and west of Novopokrovka in the Zaporizhia region,” the army said in its daily report.
  • The Ukrainian Air Force said it shot down nine of 15 Iranian-made Shahed drones that Russia fired in several regions of Ukraine.
  • One person was killed and four others were injured in the 24-hour Russian bombardment of the southern Kherson region, according to Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the regional military administration.
  • Ukraine claimed to have captured a tactically important hill in the eastern Donetsk region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on social media that his troops had captured a base near Pivdenne, a mining town northwest of the Donetsk city of Horlivka, which provides a vantage point over the front line.
  • A major outage at Kyivstar, the operator of Ukraine’s largest mobile phone network, left 24.3 million people without cell service and airstrike warnings in what appeared to be the biggest cyberattack since Russia began its full-scale invasion of the country. “War also takes place in cyberspace. Unfortunately, we are affected by this war,” CEO Oleksandr Komarov told national television. Ukraine said it was investigating possible Russian state involvement and Kyivstar said it hoped to resume services by Wednesday.

Kyivstar was hit by a cyberattack that left millions without phone reception [Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP]

  • A declassified U.S. intelligence report found that 315,000 Russian soldiers were killed and injured in the war in Ukraine – nearly 90 percent of the personnel Moscow had at the start of the conflict, a source familiar with the intelligence told Reuters . The report also noted that Moscow’s losses in personnel and armored vehicles to the Ukrainian military had delayed the modernization of the Ukrainian military by 18 years.

Politics and diplomacy

  • US President Joe Biden and Zelensky met at the White House to discuss the “vital importance” of continued US aid to Ukraine after US Republicans seeking to link Ukraine’s funding to new border security measures blocked billions of dollars in aid had.
  • At a news conference following the meeting, Biden reiterated the need to maintain military aid to Ukraine and said Republicans standing in the way were giving Russian President Vladimir Putin a “Christmas present.” “If we don’t stop Putin… [he] “We will continue,” Biden said.
  • Zelensky, meanwhile, said about 600,000 Ukrainians were fighting Russian troops and that the country’s troops had succeeded in the Black Sea and established a new corridor for grain exports. He said the goal in 2024 was to “take away Russia’s air superiority.”
  • The Ukrainian president had previously addressed the US Congress directly about new funding, saying that while he received “positive” signals from the meeting, he would focus on actions rather than words. House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, appeared unfazed. “What the Biden administration appears to be demanding is billions of additional dollars without adequate oversight, without a clear strategy to win, and without the answers that I believe the American people are owed,” Johnson said.
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had previously said that Russia would closely monitor the meeting between the two heads of state and government. Peskov said further U.S. military aid to Ukraine would be a “fiasco,” claiming that billions of dollars in previous aid to Ukraine had not helped Ukraine on the battlefield.
  • Zelensky firmly dismissed as “crazy” suggestions that Ukraine should give up part of its territory to secure a peace deal with Russia. “It’s about families and their history. We will not cede any territory to terrorists,” Zelensky told reporters.
  • Poland’s newly elected Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Warsaw would demand the “full mobilization” of the West to help Ukraine. “There is no alternative,” he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for Ukraine to demand more military aid across Washington DC [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]

  • The US announced a wave of new sanctions targeting more than 250 individuals and entities in countries including Turkey, China and the United Arab Emirates as it seeks to further isolate Russia amid its all-out invasion.
  • Alsu Kurmasheva, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist who Russia arrested in October, was hit with additional charges of “spreading false information about the Russian army.” Jeffrey Gedmin, acting president and board member of RFE/RL, said the network “strongly condemned” the move. “It is time for this cruel persecution to end,” he said.


  • The US announced a new $200 million military aid package for Ukraine, including ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), high-speed anti-radiation missiles and artillery shells. It is different from the package currently stalled in Congress. “Unless Congress takes action to pass additional assistance, this will be one of the last security assistance packages we can offer to Ukraine,” the Biden administration said in a statement.

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