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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy cancels address to US senators

Published December 5, 2023last updated December 5, 2023

Zelenskyy's last-minute cancellation came after the White House urged Congress to approve more funds to support Kyiv. Meanwhile, both Russia and Ukraine say they shot down multiple drones overnight. DW has the latest.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Volodymyr Zelenskyy was expected to address US senators by video during a classified briefing which was canceled at short noticeImage: president.gov.ua
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy canceled a scheduled video briefing with US senators on Tuesday.

Zelenskyy was set to appeal for continued military funding amid the ongoing Russian invasion.

The Biden administration has been urging Congress to approve the White House's nearly $106 billion (around €98 billion) request for funds for the war in Ukraine.

A bloc of Republicans oppose providing more assistance to Ukraine and argue US money should be spent at home.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military said that its air defenses had shot down 10 of 17 attack drones launched by Russia overnight.

Here's a look at the latest headlines on Russia's war in Ukraine on Tuesday, December 5:

Skip next section Dutch government allocates €2.5 billion support for Ukraine
December 5, 2023

Dutch government allocates €2.5 billion support for Ukraine

The Netherlands has earmarked  2.5 billion (nearly $2.7 billion) to support Ukraine in 2024.

Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot made the announcement during a visit to Ukraine where she sought to reassure counterpart Dmytro Kuleba of continued support.

"My main message to Minister Kuleba was the same as to all of you here. Be assured of our support," Bruins Slot said.

The Dutch foreign minister went to the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where Ukrainian forces discovered widespread evidence of Russian atrocities. 

Ukraine's Kuleba said that while media attention was focused on conflict in the Middle East, "political attention" had not diverted from his country.

He said the NATO ministerial meeting last week was positive and "the overall mood in the room was that the support will continue and will even be increased."

"I also do not see any decrease in support coming from partners when it comes to deliveries of weapons and ammunition. Things are happening according to the schedule," Kuleba said.

Skip next section Ukraine says it shot down a Russian fighter in Black Sea
December 5, 2023

Ukraine says it shot down a Russian fighter in Black Sea

The commander of Ukraine's air force, Mykola Oleshchuk, said that a Russian SU-24 fighter bomber was shot down near Snake Island in the Black Sea.

Oleshchuk said that the Russian bomber had been supported by another fighter aircraft and was trying to fire a missile south of Odesa.

The Ukrainian Air Force said Russia had sent a search aircraft to look for the pilots of the downed aircraft in the sea.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned the downing of the SU-24 during his nightly video address. Russia now has one aircraft less and Ukraine will continue to deplete its stocks, Zelenskyy said.

Skip next section Russia rejects proposal for release of two Americans
December 5, 2023

Russia rejects proposal for release of two Americans

The US said on Tuesday that Russia had rejected a new proposal to free two Americans.

"We have made a number of proposals, including a substantial one in recent weeks," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

"That proposal was rejected by Russia," he said.

Washington says Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich and former Marine Paul Whelan have been wrongfully detained and Miller said efforts to free the pair would continue.

"They never should have been arrested in the first place. They should both be released immediately," Miller said.

Gershkovich was arrested during a reporting trip at the end of March in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg and became the first Western reporter to be jailed on espionage charges in Russia since the Soviet era.

Gershkovich, along with his newspaper and the US government all deny his involvement in spying.

Whelan worked in security for a US auto parts company when he was arrested in Moscow in 2018. He has always asserted that the evidence against him was falsified.

The US has managed two prisoner swaps including one involving Basketball player Brittney Griner, who was held over traces of cannabis.

Russia accuses US reporter of spying

Skip next section Zelenskyy's scheduled briefing with US senators canceled
December 5, 2023

Zelenskyy's scheduled briefing with US senators canceled

A scheduled briefing involving Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US senators was canceled at the last minute on Tuesday.

"Zelenskyy by the way could not make it to — something happened at the last minute — to our briefing," AFP news agency cited Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as having told reporters.

Zelenskyy had been set to appeal for continued military funding as Russia continued its invasion.

It remains unclear as to why the address was called off.

The Biden administration has been pushing for Congress to approve the White House's nearly $106 billion (around €98 billion) request for funds for the war in Ukraine.

However, there is a group of Republicans who oppose providing more assistance to Ukraine and maintain that US money should be spent at home.

Skip next section US imposes fresh Russia-related sanctions
December 5, 2023

US imposes fresh Russia-related sanctions

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on a Belgian it said was involved in the procurement of electronics "with military applications for Russian end-users."

The US Treasury said a network led by the Belgian national consisted of nine entities and five individuals based in Russia, Belgium, Cyprus, Sweden, Hong Kong and the Netherlands.

"The United States and our allies remain focused on disrupting any attempts by Russia or its trusted agents to gain access to the critical inputs and technologies necessary to support Moscow's defense industry and facilitate its brutal war in Ukraine," said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

The United States, European Union and other Western nations have imposed a raft of sanctions on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine, including targeting Russian banks and President Vladimir Putin, as they seek to hold Russia accountable for the invasion of Ukraine.

Skip next section Ukraine at risk of losing war if US Congress postpones vital aid
December 5, 2023

Ukraine at risk of losing war if US Congress postpones vital aid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff told US politicians on Tuesday that any postponement of aid for Kyiv would create a "big risk" of his country losing the war with Russia.

Andriy Yermak was speaking in Washington when he made the remarks as uncertainty continued over the future of US and European Union assistance packages as the war continues with no end in sight.

"If the help which [is] now debating in Congress will be just postponed...it gives the big risk that we can be in the same position to which we're located now," he said, addressing the audience in English, adding that "it makes this very high possibility impossible to continually liberate [Ukraine] and give the big risk to lose this war."

Biden says House turmoil could hurt Ukraine aid

White House officials had said on Monday that the United States was running out of time and money to continue helping Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden's administration asked Congress in October for almost  $106 billion for Ukraine, Israel and US border security, but Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, rejected the package. Officials said they are hopeful they can still get a significant package approved.

"Of course, without this direct budget support, it will be difficult to keep … in same positions and to be for the people to really survive...during the situation when the war will continue," Yermak added.

"That is why it is extremely critically important that this support will be voted and will be voted as soon as possible," he said. 

Zelenskyy is scheduled to address US senators later on Tuesday in a closed-door video speech and is expected to ask them to continue supporting his country as it fights off a full-scale Russian invasion that began in February 2022.

Skip next section Baerbock says German budget crisis will not affect Ukraine
December 5, 2023

Baerbock says German budget crisis will not affect Ukraine

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Germany's budget crisis would not diminish support for Ukraine.

"At a time when crises are collapsing on top of each other, we, as strong democracies, must show that we have maximum capacity to act even in times of crisis," the Green politician said during a visit to the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. 

One thing is clear, Baerbock said: "Germany will remain a reliable international partner because security in the world, especially with regard to Ukraine, also contributes to our own security." 

In view of the "difficult financial times," she said that she and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had "clearly emphasized that this will not diminish our support for Ukraine, on the contrary." 

Baerbock recalled that Germany had doubled its support for Ukraine's self-defense from €4 billion ($4.3 billion) to €8 billion for next year "just before what is likely to be another brutal winter for the Ukrainians."

Skip next section UK says Russia controls most of Mariinka near Donetsk
December 5, 2023

UK says Russia controls most of Mariinka near Donetsk

Russia now probably controls "most of the built-up area" of the eastern Ukrainian town of Mariinka in the Donetsk region, the British Defense Ministry said in its intelligence update. 

"However, Ukrainian forces remain in control of pockets of territory on the western edge of the town," the ministry added.

Mariinka has been contested since 2014. It is located about 30 kilometers southwest of the center of Donetsk, which is under Russian control.

The town had about 9,000 inhabitants before the war but is now almost completely destroyed.

"Russia’s renewed efforts against Marinka are part of Russia’s autumn offensive which is prioritising extending Russia’s control over the remaining parts of the Donetsk Oblast," the update said.

The British ministry added that the seizure of the Donetsk region is likely to remain one of the Kremlin's key war aims.

Russia intensifies assault in eastern Ukraine

Skip next section Six Ukrainian children to be returned from Russia in Qatari deal
December 5, 2023

Six Ukrainian children to be returned from Russia in Qatari deal

Six Ukrainian children taken by Russia in the wake of Moscow's full-scale invasion are to be reunited with family after Qatari mediation, officials from the Gulf state said.

The children, aged between eight and 15, would be the second group of minors to be returned via Qatar's Embassy in Moscow through a Doha-mediated deal. A similar agreement between Russia and Ukraine in October saw four children returned.

Qatar facilitated "the reunification of six additional Ukrainian children with their families in time for the festive holidays," said Lolwah Al-Khater, Minister of State for International Cooperation.

"Both sides cooperated fully and engaged in good faith throughout the process, with Qatar serving as an intermediary," she added.

Ukraine has said some 20,000 children were taken to Russia in the wake of Moscow's February 2022 invasion. Fewer than 400 have been returned.

Getting Ukrainian children back from Russia

Skip next section Finnish companies probed for allegedly smuggling drones to Russia
December 5, 2023

Finnish companies probed for allegedly smuggling drones to Russia

Two Finnish companies are suspected of having exported drones and other military-classified products worth more than €3 million ($3.25 million) to Russia in violation of EU sanctions, Finnish Customs said.

"There are a total of six suspects, one of whom has been in custody since September," the customs agency said in a statement.

It said nearly 3,500 drones are believed to have been sent to Russia. The products also included microcontrollers, semiconductor devices and defense materials designed to stop drones.

Authorities said they suspected the items were approved for export to another nation but ended up in Russia. In the case of the anti-drone equipment, for example, the products were cleared for Kazakhstan.

Drones have been used extensively in the war in Ukraine, including for reconnaissance and to deliver explosives. 

Following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the EU imposed 12 sets of sanctions on Russia, targeting crucial oil and gas exports, as well as technology and military products.

Skip next section Putin to visit UAE, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday
December 5, 2023

Putin to visit UAE, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday

Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to travel to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, a Kremlin spokesperson said.

Putin's foreign trips have become rare since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him in March over the alleged deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

On Thursday, Putin is also expected to hold talks with his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, in Russia, the Kremlin said. Tehran and Moscow have sought to boost economic and military ties in the face of Western sanctions since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has also made extensive use of Iranian-made drones during the conflict. 

Skip next section 10 Russian drones downed overnight, says Kyiv
December 5, 2023

10 Russian drones downed overnight, says Kyiv

Ukraine's military shot down 10 of 17 attack drones launched by Russia overnight, Ukrainian officials said.

The governor of Ukraine's western region of Lviv said three drones hit an unspecified infrastructure target, but damage was minimal and no casualties were reported.

The Ukrainian air force said the drones were shot down over "various regions" of the country. It also said six S-300 missiles had been fired at civilian targets in the eastern Donetsk and southern Kherson regions.

Meanwhile, Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine's presidential administration, said at least two people were killed and one wounded after Russian forces attacked the city of Kherson.

Russian drones change Ukraine's tactics on eastern front

Skip next section Russia says it neutralized dozens of drones over Crimea, Azov Sea
December 5, 2023

Russia says it neutralized dozens of drones over Crimea, Azov Sea

Russia says it has neutralized dozens of Ukrainian drones over the annexed Crimean Peninsula and the Sea of Azov. 

"Twenty-two Ukrainian drones were destroyed and 13 others were intercepted over the Sea of Azov and Crimea," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the ministry said that four Ukrainian drones were shot down and two intercepted over the Sea of Azov.

Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, hosts the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet and is a key supply route for Russian forces in southern and eastern Ukraine. It is regularly targeted by Ukrainian forces.

Skip next section Zelenskyy to address US senators by video
December 5, 2023

Zelenskyy to address US senators by video

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to address US senators by video during a classified briefing on Tuesday.

It comes as the Biden administration urges Congress to approve the White House's nearly $106 billion (around €98 billion) request for funds for the wars in Ukraine, Israel and other security needs.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Zelenskyy's appearance after the administration Monday sent an urgent warning about the need to approve the military and economic assistance to Ukraine, saying Kyiv's war effort to defend itself from Russia's invasion may grind to a halt without it.

Schumer said the administration had invited Zelenskyy to address the senators so they "could hear directly from him precisely what's at stake." They will also be hearing from the secretaries of defense, state and other top national security officials.

In a public letter to House and Senate leaders, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young warned the US will run out of funding to send weapons and assistance to Ukraine by the end of the year, saying that would "kneecap" Ukraine on the battlefield.

dh/nm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)