Ukraine Latest: Xi, Putin Hail Ties; Zelenskiy’s Air Defense Vow

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(Bloomberg) — Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping hailed deepening ties between Russia and China in talks Friday, despite signs that Beijing is impatient with the wider political and economic impact of Russia’s struggling invasion of Ukraine.

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Russia would seek to strengthen military cooperation with China, with relations between the two countries at their “best in history,” Putin said in the video call, the first since the leaders met in person in September. China stands ready to expand their “strategic partnership,” Xi said.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed to reinforce his nation’s air defenses in the new year.

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Key Developments

  • Putin, Xi Hold Talks as Russia Struggles With War in Ukraine

  • Biden Signs $1.7 Trillion Funding Bill That Includes Ukraine Aid

  • US Considers Sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine

  • Russia to Raise Yuan Share in Wealth Fund to 60%, Gold to 40%

  • Why the US Is Giving a Patriot System to Ukraine: QuickTake

On the Ground

Ukraine’s defenses shot down all of the fourth wave of drones sent over the past day, with a district administrative building sustaining damage in Kyiv, according to local authorities and Ukraine’s military command in the east. It was part of one of the most intense missile and drone attacks of the war. Russian shelling killed two people and wounded two more in the Kharkiv region, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office. The president said the toughest fighting is taking place near Bakhmut and Soledar, and he expects more attacks before New Year’s eve.

(All times CET)

Zelenskiy Vows to Create What May Be Europe’s Top Air Defenses (8:09 p.m.)

Zelenskiy said in his evening address that Ukraine will further bolster its air defenses in the new year as Russia continues to pound its electrical grid and cities with missiles and armed drones.

“This year we didn’t just save our air defense, we made it the strongest ever,” he said. “But in the new year Ukraine’s air defense will become even stronger and more efficient.”

Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s air defense could become the most powerful in Europe, which he said would help the defense of the continent as well as his nation.

Ukraine Will Get 13,000 More Generators by February (5:58 p.m.)

Ukraine got 5,000 diesel generators this month and expects to get about 8,000 more next month, though the nation’s needs are much bigger, given repeated Russia’s air attacks on its energy infrastructure, according to the Infrastructure Ministry.

The overall number of generators imported so far this year is near 500,000, according to Ukraine’s government.

Shelling Disconnects Zaporizhzhia Plant From Backup Line (5:45 p.m.)

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian forces, lost connection to the backup power line due to shelling, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said on Twitter.

The power plant is receiving offsite electricity from the last external line, IAEA said. Ukraine’s three other nuclear plants are restoring previous electricity production levels after Thursday’s missile attacks, according to the statement.

Russian Raids Killed 120 People in Kyiv During War (4 p.m.)

Russian forces killed 120 people in Kyiv in 52 air raids against Ukraine’s capital since the start of the war, the city’s military administration said on Telegram. Almost 500 people were wounded and 600 buildings damaged, it said.

The city’s residents spent nearly a combined one month sheltering during more than 600 air raid alerts.

War May Cost Ukrainian Farmers $40 Billion This Year (3:24 p.m.)

Financial losses suffered by Ukraine’s agriculture industry may rise to $40 billion this year due to Russia’s invasion, Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskiy said on television.

Xi Vows to Play Constructive Role in ‘Crisis’ (1:51 p.m.)

Chinese state television reported that Xi told Putin Beijing would continue to play a constructive role in seeking to resolve the Ukraine “crisis,” though the road to peace talks won’t be smooth.

Beijing has refused to publicly condemn the invasion or even to call it a war, instead accusing the US of provoking Russia by pushing to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Putin, Xi Pledge to Expand Ties (12:30 p.m.)

Putin said in his end-of-year video call with Xi that Russia and China’s strategic partnership is a “stabilizing factor” against rising geopolitical tensions, and Russia would seek to strengthen military cooperation with China. Xi said China is ready to expand their “strategic partnership.”

Putin has grown increasingly dependent on China for political and economic support, turning to its neighbor as a buyer for oil redirected away from European markets as well as for imports. While Xi has refused to publicly condemn the war, Beijing has shown some impatience with the wider political and economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The US said Biden and Xi chastised the Kremlin for loose talk of nuclear war over Ukraine when they held talks at the Group of 20 summit in November.

Ukraine’s Energy System Resuming Operations After Recent Attack (12:15 p.m.)

Ukraine is fixing the relatively minor damage to its energy system cause by Russia’s missile and drone attacks over the past day, Ukrainian energy operator Ukrenergo said Friday in a Facebook statement. Operations are resuming at the planned level, it said.

The nation is still experiencing power shortages, particularly in the southern and eastern regions, because of previous repeated attacks. “Consumption limits have been established for all areas,” Ukrenergo said. “Exceeding the shortages leads to emergency shutdowns.”

DTEK, a private supplier of electricity to Ukraine’s cities, said in its Telegram channel that it stabilized supplies to Kyiv.

Russia Raises Yuan, Gold Limits for Reserves (11:15 a.m.)

Russia’s Finance Ministry doubled the amount of Chinese yuan and gold it can hold in the national wealth fund, with much of its savings frozen by international sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

The potential share of yuan was raised to 60% of the National Wellbeing Fund and gold to 40% to make investments in the National Wellbeing fund “more flexible,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement on Friday. The ministry said its accounts in British pounds and Japanese yen at the central bank have been set at zero.

Belarus Says It’s Investigating Ukrainian Missile (10 a.m.)

Belarus is looking into whether a Ukrainian missile entered its airspace Thursday by mistake or as an intentional provocation from Kyiv’s troops, Air Force commander Kirill Kazantsev said in a video statement on the Defense Ministry Telegram channel.

Ukraine Defense Ministry said Thursday that it’s ready to investigate the incident. Without directly confirming of denying it launched the anti-aircraft guided missile that was shot down over southern Belarus, the ministry said Russia may have deliberately laid the trajectory for its cruise missiles to provoke an interception in Belarusian airspace.

The incident said is a “matter of concern” for Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a daily conference call with reporters.

Ukraine Needs More Arms: NATO Chief (7 a.m.)

Once Putin realizes he can’t subdue Ukraine, there could be a “negotiated peaceful solution ensuring that Ukraine prevails as an independent democratic state,” Stoltenberg said in the DPA interview.

Recent Ukrainian attacks on military targets in Russia are legitimate as “every country has the right to defend itself,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization head said.

Biden Signs Bill With $47 Billion Aid for Ukraine (1:15 a.m.)

Biden signed the measure after Republicans who will have control of the House in January vowed to subject the administration’s support for Ukraine to greater oversight.

The fresh assistance to the government in Kyiv adds to the $65 billion the US has already appropriated this year in response to Russia’s invasion and follows an address in person to Congress earlier this month by Zelenskiy.

15,000 People Missing, Zelenskiy Adviser Says (12 a.m.)

Aliona Verbytska, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, said Russia had confirmed that it was holding more than 3,000 prisoners of war. She said 15,000 people were missing, many of them civilians.

Verbytska, in her capacity as ombudsperson for the rights of Ukrainian soldiers, underscored the discrepancy between the number of confirmed POWs and the number still missing.

“We do not know what happened to them. Whether they are also Russian prisoners of war, have been taken from Russian-occupied territories or possibly killed,” Verbytska said. She assailed what she called the “very poor” cooperation of Russian agencies, with regards to dealing with prisoners of war.

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