Shellfire echoed on Saturday around the near-deserted streets of the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, current focus of the most intense fighting in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Reuters was not able to ascertain the origin of the shells heard in Bakhmut.
* President Vladimir Putin praised the Russian Orthodox Church for supporting Moscow’s forces fighting in Ukraine in an Orthodox Christmas message designed to rally people behind his vision of modern Russia.
* Russia’s defence ministry said its forces in Ukraine would maintain a ceasefire it unilaterally declared in honour of Orthodox Christmas until midnight, despite Ukraine rejecting the truce offer.
* Kyiv dismissed Moscow’s ceasefire as a ploy to buy its forces time to rest and re-arm, and both sides exchanged artillery fire at the front line in Ukraine on Friday.
* The Russian-installed governor of the Crimean city of Sevastopol said on Saturday that air defences had shot down a drone in what he suggested was the latest attempted Ukrainian attack on a port where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based.
* The founder of Russia’s most high-profile mercenary group, the Wagner group, said on Saturday he wanted his forces and the regular Russian army to capture the town of Bakhmut because it possessed “underground cities” that can hold troops and tanks.
* Justice ministers from around the world will gather in London in March to boost international support for the International Criminal Court in its investigations of alleged war crimes in Ukraine, the British government said.
* The United States will provide more than $3.75 billion in military assistance to Ukraine and countries affected by the Russian invasion of its neighbour, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.
* Germany said on Friday it wants to deliver around 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine before the end of March, and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Berlin could ultimately send its entire functioning fleet of the weapons.
* Ukraine will need at least $1.79 billion to restore its telecommunications sector to pre-war levels, a U.N. agency said on Friday, alleging Russia had “destroyed completely or seized” networks in parts of the country.
* Costs for hiring ships to transport commodities from the Black Sea have risen by more than a fifth since the start of the year, reflecting higher war risk insurance rates, industry sources have said.
* Ukraine’s power grid operator issued a new appeal to civilians on Friday to save electricity as temperatures fell and energy consumption rose, threatening new strains on a network devastated by Russian air strikes.