The Ukrainian military said on December 10 that it is engaged in intense fighting in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine as Russian forces continue to attack cities.
Meanwhile, in the south, Russian drone strikes cut power in the Black Sea port city of Odesa a day after the West approved a new shipment of aid to Ukraine to bolster its air defenses.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on December 9 that Moscow’s troops had brought “hell under the Russian flag” to his country.
He called the fighting in eastern Ukraine “very difficult,” particularly in Bakhmut, Soledar, and Kreminna. Zelenskiy said Russia’s army had turned Bakhmut — a city of around 70,000 before the invasion — into “burnt ruin.”
Russia has been besieging Bakhmut for months at extraordinary costs to its own armed forces.
The city is home to key rail and road routes and its capture would rupture Ukraine’s supply lines, potentially opening a route for Russian forces to press on toward Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk. Its sacking would also represent a psychological victory for Russia following months of setbacks at the hands of Ukrainain forces.
However, some analysts have questioned Russia’s strategic logic in sacrificing so many of its own men as well as equipment to take Bakhmut, with the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War saying on December 8 that the costs to Russia “far outweigh any operational advantage” from capturing the city.
The intense fighting in the Donbas has hastened the depletion of Russia’s weapons stockpile, especially missiles, forcing it to turn to countries such as Iran and North Korea for additional supplies, Western governments have said.
Russia has been sourcing drones from Iran for months with Moscow using them to target both military and civilian targets.
Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward said on December 9 that Russia is now attempting to obtain more weapons, “including hundreds of ballistic missiles,” from Iran.
She said London was “almost certain” that Russia is also seeking to source weapons from North Korea and other sanctioned nations as its own stocks “palpably dwindle.”
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia dismissed her comments, saying Moscow had already refuted “on many occasions” that it was being supplied by Iran.
However, Ukraine has captured dozens of Iranian drones since Russia launched its invasion in February, demonstrating the military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.
To help combat Russia’s drone and missile attacks, the United States on December 9 approved another $275 million in military aid, much of which will be for anti-air defense.
A day later, the European Union approved $18 billion in financial aid to Ukraine for 2023. Russia’s invasion has decimated Ukraine’s economy, leaving it dependent on Western aid to finance expenses, including paying soldiers.
The back and forth accompanied a Security Council meeting requested by Russia on weapons “falling into the hands of bandits and terrorists” in Europe and elsewhere.
But the Security Council meeting’s focus on weapons proliferation was partly overshadowed by a provocative statement from the Kremlin on December 9.
Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested at a regional economic summit in Kyrgyzstan that Moscow is eyeing adoption of what he implied was a U.S. posture on possible preemptive military strikes.
“We are just thinking about it,” he said after an allusion to Russia’s powerful nuclear arsenal, adding in a reference about U.S. officials: “They weren’t shy to openly talk about it during the past years.”
Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly used high alerts and hints at a readiness to aim or use nuclear weapons since their invasion of Ukraine began.
Kyiv and Western leaders have accused Moscow of “nuclear blackmail” and “nuclear terrorism” in those statements and in Russian actions around captured Ukrainian civil nuclear facilities, including at Zaporizhzhya.
Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling prompted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cancel his annual in-person summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bloomberg News reported on December 9, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
While the two nations have long-standing ties, Bloomberg reported Modi felt it would be inappropriate to be seen at this time in the presence of Putin, who has been shunned by the West.
Odesa Power Cuts
Back in Ukraine, the Army General Staff said on December 10 it had repelled attacks by Russian forces in a heavy bout of fighting in the Luhansk region and nearly a dozen in the Donetsk region. The two regions make up the Donbas.
More than 20 settlements were hit in fighting in the fiercely contested Bakhmut area alone, it said.
Ukrainian regional officials said Russian troops had “massively” attacked the communities of Nikopol and Marganets in the Dnipropetrovsk region overnight on December 9-10, causing at least four casualties.
WATCH: Ukraine’s Finance Ministry says demand for private bomb shelters has risen twentyfold since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the country in February.
The head of the regional administration, Valentyn Reznychenko, shared images of bombed-out residences and said 11 high-rise and residential buildings had been and damage to a kindergarten and other civilian sites.
RFE/RL cannot independently corroborate claims of battlefield gains or losses or casualty counts by either side in areas of heavy fighting.
Early on December 10, the Ukrainian military claimed to have shot down 10 Iranian drones in the past day in the southern Kherson, Nikolayiv, and Odesa regions.
In Odesa, the local power-grid operator DTEK Odesa reported on December 10 that electricity was cut off to all but critical infrastructure facilities in and around the city after Russian forces fired on infrastructure overnight.
It said the power supply was affected in both Odesa, a port city that is Ukraine’s third-largest with about 1 million people before the war, and the surrounding region.
Ukrainian officials also say thousands more residents also remain cut off from power in bitter subzero temperatures in Kherson, farther east.
The Ukrainian General Staff also said via Facebook that it had liquidated nearly 94,000 enemy troops since the start of the invasion.
The White House announced a new $275 million aid package to help boost Ukraine’s air defenses, in particular against Russian drones, on December 9.
“We feel supported by states as well as international organizations and human rights institutions,” Zelenskiy said.