Ukraine news – live: China vows to maintain ‘fair’ stance on war after Putin and Xi meeting

China has vowed to maintain what it described as its “objective and fair” stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine following a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

President Xi said Beijing and Moscow should closely coordinate and cooperate in international affairs and emphasised Russia’s willingness to engage in negotiations over Ukraine, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said in its report on a call between him and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“The Chinese side has noted that the Russian side has said it has never refused to resolve the conflict through diplomatic negotiations, and expressed its appreciation for this,” Mr Xi was quoted as saying in the video call by CCTV.

Elsewhere, residents in Kyiv were told to rush to air raid shelters as air raid sirens wailed across the capital city at 2am local time. Ukraine’s military said it came under attack from 16 “kamikaze” drones, all of which it had shot down.

In his overnight address, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelemnsky said air commands in central, southern, eastern and western Ukraine repelled 54 Russian missiles and 11 drones on Thursday.

Key Points

  • Putin expecting China’s Xi in spring next year

  • Kyiv comes under Russian drone threat in early hours

  • Russia gets fourth commander since invasion of Ukraine - MoD

  • Russia has not abandoned ‘insane idea’ to capture Donetsk, says Zelensky

  • Britain sending more than 1,000 metal detectors, defusing equipment to Ukraine

In the ruins of east Ukraine, farmers won't leave their animals

15:40 , Matt Mathers

As the sound of exploding artillery echoes in the distance, Senia, a big white bunny, twitches nervously in the arms of his owner, Herbert Villarraga, reports from Yampil, in Ukraine Donetsk Oblast region.

“He’s afraid,” explained the farmer, Yevhennia, stroking the rabbit.

Here in Yampil, a crater-pocked frontline village in east Ukraine recaptured by Ukrainian forces at the end of September after months under Russian occupation, buildings lie in ruins and most people have left. But not Yevhennia and Ivan, who say they could not bear to abandon their rabbits, ducks, chickens and pigeons.

It has not been easy.

“We’ve always kept rabbits. But when (the missiles) started falling down over the maple, in the morning I saw 15 of them on the ground, blood coming from their noses. It’s the stress toll,” said Ivan.

Ukrainian authorities have come with leaflets urging remaining residents to leave. Ivan and Yevhennia aren’t going anywhere.

Farmer Yevheniia Andriivna, 70, who refuses to evacuate in order to look after her and her husband’s animals, holds one of their prized hens, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Yampil (REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne)
Farmer Yevheniia Andriivna, 70, who refuses to evacuate in order to look after her and her husband’s animals, holds one of their prized hens, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Yampil (REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne)

“This is my escape. I have been living here my entire life,” explained Ivan.

Yevhennia said she has been raising poultry since she was a little girl, living on the farm with her mother.

“This love grew with us up until our older years. This is what we do, and we can’t live without our chickens, our rabbits. So we try to do as much as we can physically manage.”

Nearby in the village, a blasted stable strewn with animal bones is a monument to the dark fate of animals in a war zone. Private owners had collected a menagerie of exotic and wild animals there. Residents say the private zoo used to be visited by tour buses of children to see its ostriches, bears, wolves, kangaroos and birds.

The animals died, ran away or were killed during the months of Russian occupation, residents say.

Before the war, “there were excursions from all over Ukraine... Big buses came, with children. It was a culture centre,” said Pavlo, a farmer living nearby.

“But now... it’s gone.”

China vows to maintain ‘objective and fair’ stance on war after Putin and Xi meeting

15:19 , Matt Mathers

China has vowed to maintain what it described as its “objective and fair” stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine following a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

President Xi said Beijing and Moscow should closely coordinate and cooperate in international affairs and emphasised Russia’s willingness to engage in negotiations over Ukraine, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said in its report on a call between Mr Xi and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“The Chinese side has noted that the Russian side has said it has never refused to resolve the conflict through diplomatic negotiations, and expressed its appreciation for this,” Mr Xi was quoted as saying in the video call by CCTV.

Mr Xi and Mr Putin have in recent years been drawn closer by a shared distrust of the United States and its allies, highlighted by a declaration in early February of a “no-limits” strategic partnership that sent alarm bells ringing across the West.

Italy theatre cancels show by Putin-tattooed Russian dancer

14:40 , Matt Mathers

An Italian theatre on Friday called off a show by a prominent Russian dancer who has three tattoos of president Vladimir Putin on his chest and shoulders, reacting to online protests over the artist’s scheduled appearance.

Sergei Polunin’s 28-29 January show at Milan’s Arcimboldi theatre was cancelled "due to the pressing campaign (against it) on the internet and social media", the theatre said on its website.

Mr Polunin was due to star in the "Rasputin - Dance Drama" ballet, originally scheduled for 2019 and repeatedly postponed due to the Covid-19  pandemic.

The theatre said the cancellation was an act of "political and moral responsibility", given "a climate of tensions and threats". A spokeswoman said the theatre had been subjected to an email campaign as well as many negative messages online.

The Arcimboldi, which said it had taken the decision in agreement with the artist’s company, said it was firmly against the war in Ukraine, noting it had staged shows by the Russian dissidents’ group Pussy Riot and Ukrainian artists.

Mr Polunin, one of the biggest names in the dance world and a former principal at the Royal Ballet in London, was born in Ukraine, but acquired Russian citizenship in 2018. There was no immediate reply to a request for comment via his website.

Evidence of Russian crimes mounts as war in Ukraine drags on

14:10 , Matt Mathers

Ten months into Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine, overwhelming evidence shows the Kremlin’s troops have waged total war, with disregard for international laws governing the treatment of civilians and conduct on the battlefield

Michael Biesecker and Erika Kinetz report:

Evidence of Russian crimes mounts as war in Ukraine drags on

Could Vladimir Putin fall in 2023 as his war in Ukraine falters?

13:40 , Matt Mathers

It is quite hard to envisage the fall of a brutal dictator who controls the means of production, distribution and exchange of information, but it’s happened before (not least in Russia’s own turbulent history), writes Sean O’Grady. [Putin] is plainly in a war he cannot win, and is losing.

Read Sean’s analysis on the year ahead for the Russian president here:

In 2023, things can only get better | Sean O’Grady

13:20 , Matt Mathers

As we reported briefly earlier, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed to deepen their bilateral cooperation against the backdrop of Moscow’s 10-month war in Ukraine, which weathered another night of drone and rocket attacks following a massive missile bombardment.

Felipe Dana has more details:

Putin, Xi hold talks as Russia fires another Ukraine barrage

Belarus official says ‘unlikely’ downed Ukrainian missile entered airspace by accident - Russian state media

12:46 , Matt Mathers

The secretary of Belarus’ Security Council on Friday said it was “unlikely” that a Ukrainian air defence missile downed on Thursday entered Belarusian airspace by accident, and that most likely there had been some “intention” behind its launch, Russian state owned news agency RIA reported, citing an interview he gave to Russian state outlet Sputnik Belarus.

Belarus’ defence ministry said on Thursday its air defence forces had shot down a Ukrainian S-300 surface-to-air missile near the village of Harbacha in the Brest region, some 15 km (9 miles) from the Belarus-Ukraine border.

Xi tells Putin that road to peace talks on Ukraine will not be smooth

12:04 , Matt Mathers

China’s president Xi Jinping told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday that Beijing and Moscow should closely coordinate and cooperate in international affairs, according to Chinese state media.

Mr Xi also told Mr Putin in a video call that the road to peace talks on Ukraine would not be smooth and that China would continue to uphold its "objective and fair stance" on the issue, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Sarajevo’s agony echoes as Ukraine braces for a dark winter

11:29 , Matt Mathers

Vildana Mutevelić huddled in her apartment with her two young children and elderly cousins. They had no heat, electricity or running water as artillery shells tore the roof off their building and almost took their lives.

To survive, she improvised.

Mutevelić made a lamp out of used engine oil, water and a shoelace for a wick. She cooked on a fire fueled by books, furniture, shoes or clothes. A plastic spoon, she discovered, when lit, worked well as a temporary flashlight if she ventured outside. Plastic sheets covered the blown-out windows, a flimsy buffer against the bitter cold. Her news of the world came from a neighbor who powered a radio with a car battery.

“The electricity failed right away,” Mutevelić, 70, said through a translator. “And everything we had in our freezers, it melted. Those were our stocks, basically. That’s all.”

For Mutevelić, these are memories from three decades ago, when Bosnian Serbs besieged Sarajevo, causing thousands of civilian casualties. But it’s all happening again in Ukraine. Russia’s armed forces have aimed their firepower at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as winter weather sets in.

Beatrice Dupuy, Richard Lardner and Sabina Niksic report:

Sarajevo’s agony echoes as Ukraine braces for a dark winter

Russia says it carried out 'massive' overnight strike on Ukrainian industrial targets - Ifax

10:35 , Matt Mathers

Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Friday that it had carried out a "massive strike" on Ukraine’s energy and military-industrial infrastructure on 29 December using high-precision weapons, Interfax reported.

It said that the strikes had disrupted the production and repair of military equipment and the movement of reserve troops.

Evidence of Russian crimes mounts as war in Ukraine drags on

10:10 , Matt Mathers

Ten months into Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine, overwhelming evidence shows the Kremlin’s troops have waged total war, with disregard for international laws governing the treatment of civilians and conduct on the battlefield.

Michael Biesecker and Erika Kinetz report:

Evidence of Russian crimes mounts as war in Ukraine drags on

Russia expecting China’s Xi to visit in Spring, Putin says

09:40 , Matt Mathers

Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Friday he was expecting Chinese president Xi Jinping to make a state visit to Russia in spring 2023, in what would be a public show of solidarity from Beijing amid the Kremlin’s flailing military campaign in Ukraine.

In introductory remarks from a video conference between the two leaders broadcast on state television, Mr Putin said: "We are expecting you, dear Mr Chairman, dear friend, we are expecting you next spring on a state visit to Moscow."

He said the visit would "demonstrate to the world the closeness of Russian-Chinese relations".

Putin and Xi at a previous meeting between the two leaders (Sputnik)
Putin and Xi at a previous meeting between the two leaders (Sputnik)

NATO chief calls for more weapons for Ukraine

08:53 , Matt Mathers

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg called on member states to supply more weapons to Ukraine, according to an interview published on Friday.

"I call on allies to do more. It is in all our security interests to make sure Ukraine prevails and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin does not win," he told German news agency DPA.

He said it was perhaps even more important that Ukraine receive enough ammunition for the systems already in place, adding that the need for ammunition and spare parts was "enormous".

Jens Stoltenberg (Terje Bendiksby / NTB)
Jens Stoltenberg (Terje Bendiksby / NTB)

Russia is driving itself ‘deeper into a dead end’ - Zelensky

08:15 , Matt Mathers

Russia is driving itself “deeper into a dead end” with every missile strike on Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

The Ukraine president said Moscow’s troops have “fewer and fewer missiles” as he praised his forces for shooting down “54 missiles and 11 attack drones”.

In his nightly video address, Mr Zelensky added that there were “unfortunately several hits”, with power outages in most regions of the country.

 (Ukraine President’s Office)
(Ukraine President’s Office)

He said that it was “especially difficult in Kyiv region and the capital, Lviv region, Odesa and the region, Kherson and the region, Vinnytsia region and Zakarpattia.”

The situation on the frontline remains largely unchanged, he said, adding that the “most acute situation is in Bakhmut”.

Kyiv residents told to take cover as air raid sirens wail in capital

07:50 , Matt Mathers

Residents of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv were urged to head to air raid shelters early on Friday as sirens wailed across the city, a day after Russia carried out the biggest aerial assault since it started the war in February.

Shortly after 2.00 am local time, Kyiv’s city government issued an alert on its Telegram messaging app channel about the air raid sirens and called on residents to proceed to shelters.

Olekskiy Kuleba, governor of Kyiv region, said on Telegram that an "attack by drones" was underway.

Smoke billows from a power infrastructure following a Russian drone attack in Kyiv region, Ukraine, Monday (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Smoke billows from a power infrastructure following a Russian drone attack in Kyiv region, Ukraine, Monday (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A source 20 km (12 miles) south of Kyiv heard several explosions and the sound of anti-aircraft fire.

Kyiv officials said five Iranian Shahed drones were detected in the air and destroyed.

An administrative building was partly destroyed, said Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s civilian military administration, but there was no information yet about casualties.

Kyiv says Iran is supplying Moscow with drones for its air attacks, but Tehran says it last sent drones to Russia before the war started.

Russia launches ‘kamikaze’ drone attack

07:26 , Matt Mathers

Russia launched 16 "kamikaze" drones into Ukraine overnight, Kyiv’s military said on Friday, a day after Moscow fired dozens of missiles in its latest barrage against Ukrainian critical infrastructure.

The Ukrainian Air Force said that all 16 drones, which it said were sent from the southeast and north, had been destroyed by air defences.

File photo: A drone flies over Kyiv during an attack on 17 October, 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)
File photo: A drone flies over Kyiv during an attack on 17 October, 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on his Telegram channel that seven drones had been aimed at the capital, and that five were destroyed within the city and two before reaching Kyiv.

An administrative building in the city was partially destroyed, according to Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, who also said there was no information about any casualties.

Russia has launched numerous waves of drone and missile strikes against Ukraine since mid-October, heavily damaging its energy infrastructure and forcing planned and emergency power outages.

Russia gets fourth commander since invasion of Ukraine - MoD

07:06 , Arpan Rai

The British defence ministry has claimed that lieutenant general Yevgeniy Nikiforov is likely in the process of taking over command of Russia’s Western Group of Forces (WGF) in Ukraine, indicating rumblings in the internal task force.

“He would be at least the fourth commander of the formation since the invasion, and replaces colonel general Sergei Kuzovlev, who was appointed just three months ago,” the ministry pointed out in its latest intelligence update.

The continued churn of senior Russian officers probably reflects internal divisions regarding the Russian ministry of defence’s future conduct of the war, the MoD said.

It added that as the chief of staff of Russia’s Eastern Group of Forces (EGF) during the early weeks of the invasion, Mr Nikiforov would have been heavily involved in planning the disastrous attempt by EGF and airborne forces to advance on Kyiv from the north-west, via the Chernobyl area.

“WGF is almost certainly currently tasked with holding Russia’s right flank, the area of Luhansk oblast around Kremina and Svatove. As either side could plausibly attempt an offensive in this sector, Nikiforov assumes an important operational role in the conflict,” the British MoD noted.

Russian missile flies through Kyiv sky

06:41 , Arpan Rai

Footage shared by Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs appears to show a Russian missile flying through the air towards Kyiv, as hundreds were fired in the latest wave of attacks.

Rockets were fired from the sea and the air, targeting major cities including the Ukrainian capital, Kharkiv, Lviv and Odesa.

“Today Russia launched another massive missile shelling,” Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs wrote on Twitter, adding that footage shows one of the “enemy missiles” fired in the Kyiv region.

Watch the video here:

Russian missile flies over Kyiv as hundreds fired at Ukrainian cities in fresh attack

'Putin is threatening ‘nuclear blackmail’ in Ukraine – but the world must not give in’

06:02 , Arpan Rai

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its first anniversary, both sides are preparing for fresh offensives with flickering hopes of a ceasefire extinguished almost as soon as they surface.

For the historian Timothy Snyder, this war in the heart of Europe, one of the most momentous in recent history, will end with paradigm shifts and a new reality in the international order – but not the cataclysmic nuclear apocalypse some fear.

Speaking to The Independent, he says: “[Vladimir] Putin has introduced nuclear rhetoric. There is a temptation to give in to nuclear blackmail, it has become a matter of obsessive importance to many. This is what Putin wants, to make us worry about threats he is just alluding to.

Kim Sengupta reports:

‘Putin is threatening nuclear blackmail – but the world must not give in’

Russia has not abandoned ‘insane idea’ to capture Donetsk, says Zelensky

05:52 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the Russian forces have not given up on their plans to capture the Donetsk region which is witnessing the heaviest fight in the ongoing war despite harsh winter.

“The situation on the frontline remained without significant changes over the last day,” he said, sharing the update from the frontiers.

“The most acute situation is in Bakhmut, Soledar, over the entire line in the Donetsk region. The enemy has not abandoned the insane idea to capture the Donetsk region... Now they set themselves a task - for the new year,” Mr Zelensky said.

Britain sending more than 1,000 metal detectors, defusing equipment to Ukraine

05:39 , Arpan Rai

The UK is sending more than 1,000 metal detectors and 100 kits for deactivating bombs to help clear minefields, defence minister Ben Wallace said today.

"Russia’s use of landmines and targeting of civilian infrastructure underline the shocking cruelty of Putin’s invasion," Mr Wallace said.

He added that the latest package of UK support will help Ukraine safely clear land and buildings as it reclaims its rightful territory."

The UK is allocating 2.3 billion pounds for the coming year to aid Ukraine in terms of military as it is ready to match the financial aid shared this year.

Belarus protests to Ukraine after shooting down stray air defence missile

05:11 , Arpan Rai

Belarus has protested to Ukraine’s ambassador after saying it had shot down a Ukrainian S-300 air defence missile in a field, during one of Russia‘s heaviest aerial onslaughts against Kyiv and other cities since the start of the war.

State news agency BelTA first reported that a S-300 missile, used by both Ukraine and Russia, had landed inside Belarus on Thursday morning – with a statement from Belarus’s Defence Ministry confirming that the missile had been brought down by its air defence units between 10am and 11am local time.

Belarus protests to Ukraine after shooting down stray air defence missile

UK spy agency had to ‘pre-bunk’ Russian propaganda over Ukraine war, GCHQ boss says

04:39 , Arpan Rai

The conflict in Ukraine has represented a “sea change” in the release of secret intelligence to inform public debate, the head of the GCHQ spy agency has said.

Sir Jeremy Fleming said the release of details by western intelligence agencies of the Russian military build-up in the run-up to the invasion had helped counter Moscow’s narrative that Ukraine was threatening its neighbour.

However, speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he acknowledged that it had proved more effective in the West than in other parts of the world.

Read the full story here:

UK spy agency had to ‘pre-bunk’ Russian propaganda over Ukraine war, GCHQ boss says

Russia rains down scores of missiles on Ukraine in fresh assault on cities

04:36 , Arpan Rai

Cities across Ukraine have been targeted by a wave of missile strikes, in one of the heaviest bombardments since Russia’s president Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.

Russian forces dispatched explosive drones to selected regions before broadening the barrage with air and sea-based cruise missiles “launched from strategic aircraft and ships”, the Ukrainian air force said. Cities from Lviv in the west to Kharkiv in the east were included in the assault.

Read the full story here:

Russia rains down scores of missiles on Ukraine in fresh assault on cities

Russian troops ‘booby trapping’ bodies of dead soliders and children’s toys, Ukraine claims

04:15 , Arpan Rai

Russian troops have been accused of booby-trapping the dead bodies of soldiers killed fighting in the war in Ukraine.

Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, claimed bombs had also been planted in mass graves, children’s toys, backpacks, schools, hospitals and apartments.

He said this was only “a partial list of Russia’s violations” of the United Nation’s rules of engagement in armed conflicts and war.

Russians ‘booby trapping’ bodies of dead soliders and children’s toys, Ukraine claims

Ukraine shoots down 10 drones - officials

04:13 , Arpan Rai

At least 10 drones have been shot down by Ukraine’s air defence systems and anti-aircraft missile units today, officials said.

The Ukrainian forces destroyed nine Shahed-type drones and one Marlyn drone in Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, the country’s operational eastern command said.

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Kyiv comes under Russian drone threat in early hours

03:55 , Arpan Rai

The residents of Kyiv rushed to air raid shelters in the early hours today as officials sounded sirens across the city.

An "attack by drones" was under way, governor of Kyiv region Olekskiy Kuleba said on Telegram.

People were alerted of the air raid sirens and asked to proceed to shelters shortly after 2am by the Kyiv city government which issued an alert on its Telegram messaging app.

“We’re under an air raid alert in Kyiv, middle of the night, air defences working,” war reporter Nolan Peterson said from Ukraine.

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03:29 , Arpan Rai

Good morning, welcome to our coverage of the Ukraine war on Friday, 30 December.