Ukraine war: Zelenskyy hails US aid, Abramovich wealth ‘reorganisation’, Orthodox Christmas
1. ‘Exactly what is needed’: Zelenskyy welcomes US military aid
Ukraine’s president praised the US on Friday for pledging to supply it with tank-killing armored vehicles as part of a new multibillion-dollar military aid package.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy said they are “exactly what is needed” for Ukrainian troops as they fight Russia’s invading force.
On Friday, the White House announced its latest batch of military aid to Kiev, its largest to date.
The $2.85 billion package included Bradley armored vehicles – known as tank killers as they can fire anti-tank missiles – for the first time.
In his late-night televised speech on Friday, Zelenskyy called it “a very powerful package.”
“For the first time, we will get Bradley armored vehicles – this is exactly what is needed. New weapons and ammunition, including high-precision ones, new missiles, new drones. It is timely and strong “, he said.
He thanked his American counterpart Joe Biden, the country’s lawmakers and “all Americans who value freedom and who know that freedom is worth protecting.”
In 2022, the US sent nearly $50 billion in aid to Ukraine, including humanitarian, financial and military support, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German think tank.
2. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas under the shadow of war
Orthodox Christians in Russia and Ukraine packed churches on Friday night for Christmas Eve celebrations, as conflict flared between their Orthodox neighbors.
Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, the world’s largest Orthodox faith, led elaborate services at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, alongside dozens of priests waving incense and chanting.
A day earlier, Kirill called for a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed, but Ukrainian officials dismissed it as an attempt to allow Moscow’s forces to regroup.
Residents of Kiev ventured out in a light dusting of snow to buy gifts, sweets and groceries for family Christmas Eve celebrations, hours after a ceasefire was supposed to begin.
In a video message, Zelenskyy hailed Ukrainians as “united as never before,” lamenting that the conflict has forced many to abandon popular Christmas traditions that ban sewing and hunting.
“Sewing and knitting are prohibited, but we knit camouflage nets and sew bulletproof vests, defeating evil. Our ancestors did not go hunting in these days, but we fight not to become prey and defeat the beast,” he said.
Of the 260 million Orthodox Christians in the world, about 100 million are in Russia, while Ukraine has about 30 million believers.
3. London will host the international meeting on alleged war crimes
Justice ministers from around the world will gather in London to boost support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) as it investigates alleged war crimes in Ukraine, the British government said on Saturday.
The March meeting, which will be hosted by UK Justice Secretary Dominic Raab and his Dutch counterpart Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius, will be attended by ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan, according to a statement.
“Almost a year after the illegal occupation, the international community must give its strongest support to the ICC so that war criminals can be held accountable for the atrocities we are witnessing,” said Raab, who is also deputy prime minister.
The meeting will seek to increase global financial and practical support for the ICC and coordinate efforts to ensure it has everything it needs to conduct investigations and prosecute those responsible, the statement said.
Russia has denied targeting civilians and other war crimes.
The UK has been consistent in its support for Ukraine, having provided £2.3bn of military support to Kiev.
4. Abramovich’s trusts reshuffle ahead of Russia sanctions – Report
According to the Guardian, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich transferred several secret trusts worth billions of dollars to his children before hitting them with sanctions.
His seven children became owners of 10 offshore trusts worth at least $4 billion as of early February 2022, the UK newspaper reported.
Abramovich, the former owner of Chelsea FC, was sanctioned shortly after this “comprehensive reshuffle” of his finances, with experts saying the move made it harder to target the oligarch.
An anonymous source shared with the newspaper a “vast archive” of documents – dubbed the “Oligarch files” – it reported.
They show that Abramovich’s children – five of whom are adults, with the youngest aged nine – became billionaires almost overnight.
The reshuffle came just as Western governments were threatening to sanction Russian oligarchs if Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Sanctions experts told the British newspaper that the move will make it harder for countries to sanction Abramovich. Once Israel’s richest man, the 56-year-old is accused of having close ties to the Kremlin and Putin.
It is sanctioned by the UK, the EU and Canada, but not by the US. However, the US Department of Justice seized two of its planes last year, saying they were used in violation of sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine.
While Western sanctions have hit many close to the Russian presidency, punishments have largely avoided targeting their families.
The Guardian noted that the reshuffle could lead to more calls for his children to also face asset freezes.
5. Putin praises the Russian Orthodox Church for supporting the Ukrainian offensive
Russia’s president praised the Russian Orthodox Church for supporting the war in Ukraine in an Orthodox Christmas message that seeks to rally people behind his vision of a modern Russia.
The Kremlin released Putin’s message after he attended an Orthodox Christmas Eve service inside a Kremlin cathedral instead of joining other believers in a public celebration.
Putin praised the Orthodox Church, whose influential head Patriarch Kirill has fully supported the offensive in Ukraine.
Church organizations are “supporting our soldiers participating in a special military operation,” he said, using the Kremlin’s official term for the invasion of Ukraine.
Such a large, multifaceted, truly ascetic work deserves the most sincere respect.
In his message, Putin said he saw the Russian Orthodox Church as an important stabilizing force in society amid a historic clash between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
“It is deeply gratifying to note the great constructive contribution of the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian faiths in uniting society, preserving our historical memory, educating young people and strengthening the institution of the family,” he continued.
Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, but the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for Moscow’s war in Ukraine has angered many Ukrainian Orthodox believers.
It has divided the worldwide Orthodox Church, with others strongly opposed to the war.
Patriarch Kirill has called on the faithful to support pro-Russian “brothers” during Moscow’s offensive in eastern Ukraine.
In a sermon last year, he said that death in Ukraine “takes away all sins.”