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Archive for: December 2022 - DIGEST UKRAINE

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s New Year’s address to the nation usually is rather anodyne and backed with a soothing view of a snowy Kremlin. This year, with soldiers in the background, he lashed out at the West and Ukraine.

The conflict in Ukraine cast a long shadow as Russia entered 2023. Cities curtailed festivities and fireworks. Moscow announced special performances for soldiers’ children featuring the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus. An exiled Russian news outlet unearthed a video of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, now the Ukrainian president despised by the Kremlin, telling jokes on a Russian state television station’s New Year’s show just a decade ago.

Putin, in a nine-minute video shown on TV as each Russian time zone region counted down the final minutes of 2022 on Saturday, denounced the West for aggression and accused the countries of trying to use the conflict in Ukraine to undermine Russia.

“It was a year of difficult, necessary decisions, the most important steps toward gaining full sovereignty of Russia and powerful consolidation of our society,” he said, echoing his repeated contention that Moscow had no choice but to send troops into Ukraine because it threatened Russia’s security.

“The West lied about peace, but was preparing for aggression, and today it admits it openly, no longer embarrassed. And they cynically use Ukraine and its people to weaken and split Russia,” Putin said. “We have never allowed anyone and will not allow anyone to do this.”

The Kremlin has muzzled any criticism of its actions in Ukraine, shut independent media outlets, and criminalized the spread of any information that differs from the official view — including diverging from calling the campaign a special military operation. But the government has faced increasingly vocal criticism from Russian hardliners who have denounced the president as weak and indecisive and called for ramping up strikes on Ukraine.

‘Sanctions war was declared on us’

Russia has justified the conflict by saying that Ukraine persecuted Russian speakers in the eastern Donbas region, which had been partly under the control of Russian-backed separatists since 2014. Ukraine and the West says these accusations are untrue.

“For years, the Western elites hypocritically assured all of us of their peaceful intentions, including the resolution of the most difficult conflict in the Donbas,” Putin said.

Western countries have imposed wide sanctions against Russia, and many foreign companies pulled out of the country or froze operations after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine.

“This year, a real sanctions war was declared on us. Those who started it expected the complete destruction of our industry, finances, and transport. This did not happen, because together we created a reliable margin of safety,” Putin said.

Year-end celebrations tempered

Despite such reassurances, New Year’s celebrations this year were toned down, with the usual fireworks and concert on Red Square canceled.

Some of Moscow’s elaborate holiday lighting displays made cryptic reference to the conflict. At the entrance to Gorky Park stand large lighted letters of V, Z and O – symbols that the Russian military have used from the first days of the military operation to identify themselves.

“Will it make me a patriot and go to the front against my Slavic brothers? No, it will not,” park visitor Vladimir Ivaniy said.

Moscow also announced plans to hold special pageant performances for the children of soldiers serving in Ukraine.

The Russian news outlet Meduza, declared a foreign agent in Russia and which now operates from Latvia, on Saturday posted a video of Zelenskyy, who was a hugely popular comedian before becoming Ukraine’s president in 2019, performing in a New Year’s Day show on Russian state television in 2013.

Zelenskyy jokes that the inexpensive sparkling wine Sovietskoe Shampanskoye, a popular tipple on New Year’s, is in the record books as a paradox because “the drink exists but the country doesn’t.”

Adding to the irony, the show’s host was Maxim Galkin, a comedian who fled the country in 2022 after criticizing the military operation in Ukraine.

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«Завдяки відмінній роботі ППО та завчасним технічним заходам сьогодні вдалось уникнути серйозних ушкоджень енергосистеми України», – Герман Галущенко

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У Києві близько 30% споживачів не мають електроенергії, але це планові відключення, повідомив перший заступник голови Київської міської державної адміністрації Микола Поворозник.

«Все працює в штатному режимі – вода є, тепло є. Є обмеження в подачі електроенергії для близько 30% міста. Але це планові відключення, за графіком», – розповів він в ефірі національного телемарафону.

Він також повідомив оновлені дані щодо постраждалих внаслідок російської атаки – наразі їх 21.

Читайте також: Ракетний удар по Запоріжжю: влада повідомляє про чотирьох поранених, серед них – вагітна жінка та дитина

Росія завдала масованого ракетного удару по Україні напередодні Нового року. Відомо про вибухи в Києві, є руйнування в чотирьох районах міста – Голосіївському, Солом’янському, Печерському та Дніпровському. Також вибухи пролунали у Хмельницькому, Запоріжжі та Миколаєві, є постраждалі.

Москва від початку повномасштабного вторгнення заперечує цілеспрямовану атаку на цивільних, попри наявність свідчень і доказів цього.

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When Pope Benedict shocked the Roman Catholic Church in 2013 by announcing he would resign instead of ruling for life, he promised to stay in the Vatican “hidden from the world.”

He kept only half that promise. Benedict may not have been seen much, but he certainly was heard. 

Benedict wrote, gave interviews and, unwittingly or not, became a lightning rod for opponents of Pope Francis, either for doctrinal reasons or because they were loath to relinquish the clerical privileges the new pope wanted to dismantle.

Despite Francis’ insistence that Benedict was like a “grandfather living in the house,” and that an emeritus pope was now an institution in the Church, the result was a sometimes cumbersome co-habitation that caused more than one headache.

Between the time he announced his resignation on Feb. 11, 2013, and the time it took effect on Feb. 28, Benedict and his secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, unilaterally decided that he would be called “pope emeritus” and continue to wear a white cassock, albeit a slightly modified one.

There was no broad consultation with canon lawyers and no real precedent to go by – the last pope to abdicate was Gregory XII, who stepped aside in a political deal to end a schism in 1415 and spent the rest of his days in obscurity 300 kilometers away from the Vatican.

Celestine V was pope for five months in 1294 before he quit, concluding there was far more holiness in his previous life as a mountain hermit than in the Vatican with its clerical and political intrigue.

Church law says a pope can resign if he does so with no outside pressure, but it lacks specific rules on his status, title and prerogatives.

It was last updated in 1983, when Pope John Paul was a robust, globe-trotting 63-year-old and a papal resignation was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.

Visitors, books, interviews

Benedict received visitors, many from Germany, who were eager to have their picture taken with him. They sometimes disclosed what he said, feeding a conservative, nostalgic Catholic faction bent on weaponizing his words.

In 2016, he published a memoir “The Last Conversations,” the first time a former pope had judged his own pontificate after it was over.

In a 2019 article for a Catholic magazine in Germany, Benedict linked the Church’s child sexual abuse scandal to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, which he said had spawned a general collapse in morality.

Many theologians called his reasoning deeply flawed and accused him of trying to blame society in general for what was a structural problem within the Church.

The situation became so ideologically polarized that he once had to tell those who pined for his pontificate there was only one pope and it was Francis.

Leaked letters showed Benedict told a German cardinal who was part of a public assault on Francis’ legitimacy to sheathe his ideological sword.

As late as 2021, eight years after he resigned, Benedict still had to chide “some of my more fanatical friends” who never accepted his decision to step aside and who rejected the legitimacy of Francis.

The biggest imbroglio revolved around a book about priestly celibacy in early 2020 written primarily by Cardinal Robert Sarah, a conservative African who holds a senior Vatican post.

The book defended priestly celibacy in what some saw as an appeal to Francis not to change the rules after a proposal that he allow older married men to be ordained on a limited basis in the Amazon to deal with a shortage of priests.

Sarah said Benedict was co-author. Benedict demanded that his name be removed from the cover, saying he was a contributor not a co-author. The American publisher refused and Sarah rejected media accusations that he had taken advantage of the frail ex-pope.

EX-popes need rules

Commentators said Benedict was being used by the Church’s right wing in a power play against Francis to influence the election of the next pope.

“The emeritus papacy has proved a disorderly institution, one vulnerable to manipulation,” wrote papal biographer Austen Ivereigh.

Ganswein, a conservative, was widely seen as having mismanaged the book episode. Pope Francis later removed him from a top job in the Vatican. No explanation was given.

The episode brought calls for clear rules.

“In the Catholic Church, symbols are important,” said Father Tom Reese, a Washington-based Catholic author and commentator for Religion News Service.

“Symbols communicate, they teach. If you are not the pope, you should not be wearing white. Having two men wearing white sitting next to each other makes them look like they are equals, when they are not,” he wrote.

Reese said an ex-pontiff should not be called pope, should wear either the red or black garb of a cardinal or priest and should return to using his own name – in Benedict’s case, Joseph Ratzinger.

Reese, a Church liberal, found agreement from an unusual source – conservative Australian Cardinal George Pell, a former Vatican treasurer and close associate of Benedict in his retirement.

“The protocols on the situation of a pope who has resigned need to be clarified, to strengthen the forces for unity,” Pell wrote in a book in 2020.

“While the retired pope could retain the title of ‘pope emeritus’, he should be re-nominated to the College of Cardinals so that he is known as ‘Cardinal X, Pope Emeritus’, he should not wear the white papal soutane (cassock) and should not teach publicly,” Pell wrote.

A pope is also bishop of Rome. Reese and others have suggested that a former pontiff be called “bishop emeritus of Rome” and be subject to the rules that cover retired bishops.

Those rules say any bishop emeritus “will want to avoid every attitude and relationship that could even hint at some kind of parallel authority to that of the diocesan bishop, with damaging consequences for the pastoral life and unity of the diocesan community.”

Francis, 86, has said several times he would readily resign instead of ruling for life if his health made it impossible to run the Church. He has said he would want to be called Bishop Emeritus of Rome and live not in the Vatican but in a home for retired priests in the Italian capital “because its my diocese.”

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When Pope Gregory XII, the last pope to resign before Benedict, died in 1417, the world was not watching.

Gregory had stepped down two years earlier in 1415 and spent his remaining days in virtual obscurity hundreds of miles from Rome. He was quietly buried in Recanati, a town near the northern Adriatic coast.

It will be vastly different for Pope Emeritus Benedict.

The Vatican has painstakingly elaborate rituals for what happens after a reigning pope dies but no publicly known ones for a former pope.

The Vatican will be at least partially scripting new protocols. They could be a template for other popes who choose to resign instead of ruling for life, including Pope Francis himself someday, Vatican sources say.

Those for a reigning pope include a 30-page constitution called “Universi Dominici Gregis,” Latin for “The Shepherd of the Lord’s Whole Flock,” and “Ordo Exsequiarum Romani Pontificis,” (Funeral Rites for a Roman Pontiff) a missal of more than 400 pages that includes liturgy, music, and prayers.

Those rules say a pope’s burial should take place between four and six days after his death as part of a nine-day period of mourning known as the Novendiale.

Vatican officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss such matters, said the script for Benedict’s passing will depend on two key elements: If Benedict himself left any instructions and decisions that will be taken by Pope Francis.

Solemn farewell

Francis has often praised his predecessor as a great pope who had the courage to resign, so he would probably like to give Benedict the most solemn ceremonial farewell as possible, perhaps even the whole works, one Vatican official said.

The last pope to die, John Paul II, was buried on April 8, 2005, six days after he died.

His body first laid in state in the frescoed Clementine Hall for Vatican staff and then was moved to St. Peter’s Basilica for viewing by the public.

Millions of people queued up for hours to see him, in perhaps the biggest event in Vatican history, and monarchs and presidents attended his funeral.

He was first buried in crypts under St. Peter’s Basilica and moved in 2011 to a chapel on the main level of the largest church in Christendom.

Many people will want to pay their respects to Benedict, who succeeded John Paul in 2005 and resigned in 2013.  The Vatican has already announced that Benedict’s body will lie in state in St. Peter’s Basilica beginning Monday.

In 2020, Benedict’s authorized biographer, Peter Seewald, was quoted as telling Bavarian newspaper Passauer Neue Presse that the emeritus pope had prepared a spiritual testament stating that he wanted to be buried in the same crypt where John Paul II was originally laid to rest. 

Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, presided at John Paul’s funeral in 2005 in St. Peter’s Square and Francis is expected to preside at Benedict’s.

After the death of a reigning pope, the person in charge of ordinary affairs at the Vatican until the election of a new pope is the camerlengo, or chamberlain.

The position is currently held by Irish American Cardinal Kevin Farrell but because the Church has a pope and there will be no conclave to elect another, Farrell would have no role.

Most of the work, including the scripting of an unprecedented event in Vatican history, will fall to Monsignor Diego Ravelli, the papal master of ceremonies.

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Чаус зазначив, що за останні дні інтенсивність ворожих обстрілів зросла – російські війська гатять із артилерії, мінометів та РСЗВ

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За даними британської розвідки, з жовтня Росія зберігає загальну схему проведення інтенсивної хвилі ударів кожні сім-десять днів

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Behind the frontline near Kreminna, a strategically located Russian-controlled city in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv’s troops say they are facing a tough enemy.

“We fight them every day, in any weather. We attack in the direction of Kreminna, but they are not easy to defeat,” said a 24-year-old Ukrainian soldier who goes by the call sign “Kulak” or “Fist.”

“They are good, they are tough,” he told Agence France-Presse in Yampil, a village some 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Kreminna and recaptured by Ukrainian forces in late September.

The city in the eastern Luhansk region — which Moscow claimed to have annexed along with three other Ukrainian regions — has been the scene of intense fighting in recent days.

“We had some successes on the Ukrainian side, but nothing huge. The enemy is not giving up,” Kulak said with a smile.

For the past few days, the region’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, has been posting encouraging — if slightly contradictory — messages on social media.

On Thursday, he wrote that Ukraine’s troops advanced 2.5 kilometers in the direction of Kreminna in a week.

A day earlier, he said Russians had sent reinforcements to the area, while adding that the city could be retaken early next year.

According to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian forces “appear to be preparing for a decisive effort” in the Luhansk region.

‘Get it over with’

Yampil looks like a hive of wartime activity.

Military vehicles crisscross the main street of this largely destroyed village. There are nearly as many soldiers as there are civilians.

In a field behind several half-abandoned houses, soldiers are busy keeping two tanks — nicknamed Natalya and Salvador — in fighting shape. The tanks were captured during the Russian army’s retreat.

“If we liberate Kreminna, we will cut off the Russians’ supply route in Rubizhne, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk,” said one of the soldiers, Vlad, referring to other occupied towns in the region.

“We don’t want the situation to be put on ice. We want to push them back, get it over with,” said Vlad, who hails from Kyiv.

‘Nowhere better than home’

Although Yampil was liberated by Ukrainian forces during a sweeping counteroffensive in the fall, it is still within reach of Russian artillery.

A few kilometers up north, battles are raging in the village of Torske, and the shelling has intensified in recent days.

“It’s more or less fine. It would be better if it weren’t for these deafening noises,” said Olga, a 69-year-old retired teacher, declining to give her last name.

Every day, she meets with other residents of Yampil outside the only operating store.

The convenience store is both a collection point for humanitarian aid and a place to gather for a chat.

Despite the cold, they sit around a table in front of the store, talking and arguing as military vehicles drive by.

“We come here to talk; it’s our living room,” Olga said, smiling while a woman sitting next to her lamented the power cuts and lack of aid in the village.

“They don’t care about us!” she said.

Humanitarian aid dominates conversations here.

Not far away, an 84-year-old woman wearing a blue head scarf bursts into tears as she points to the people gathered round the table.

“When help arrives, they take everything, they don’t share anything. Why?” she asked tearfully, standing in front of her heavily damaged home.

But local official Yulia Rybalko insists that “nobody is starving” in Yampil.

She said she organizes the distribution of food, clothing and firewood delivered by NGOs.

Only some 600 civilians remain in the village that used to have a population of 2,500 people before Russia invaded on February 24.

But according to Olga, the former math teacher, many of those who leave choose to eventually return.

“Nowhere is better than home,” she said.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday that Ukraine continues to endure and repel waves of Russian air attacks and that Ukrainian air defenses have been made “stronger than ever.” 

“In the new year,” he added, “Ukrainian air defense will become even stronger, even more effective.”

The Ukrainian leader said Ukrainian air defense “can become the most powerful in Europe,” a guarantee of security “not only for our country, but for the entire continent.”

The United States last week announced nearly $2 billion in additional military aid, including the Patriot Air Defense System, which offers protection against aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on NATO member states to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

“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,” Stoltenberg told German news agency DPA on Friday.

Stoltenberg said the need for ammunition and spare parts was “enormous.” He told DPA that military support for Ukraine was the fastest way to peace, Reuters reports.

“We know that most wars end at the negotiating table — probably this war too — but we know that what Ukraine can achieve in these negotiations depends inextricably on the military situation,” he said.

Russia’s ongoing offensive

Russia shelled Ukrainian towns across a long stretch of the front line from north to south, Ukrainian officials said Friday, a day after Moscow fired dozens of missiles in its latest barrage against critical infrastructure.

In an evening report Friday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Russian forces had tried to advance near Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the east, while firing on several towns and villages, and shelled settlements further west in the Donetsk region, including the town of Vuhledar.

Zelenskyy said the nation’s forces were holding their positions in the eastern Donbas region.

“There are also some areas of the front where we are advancing a bit,” he noted.

Russian forces shelled several towns near Kupiansk, in the northeast Kharkiv region recaptured by Ukraine in September, the General Staff report said, as well as settlements in the Luhansk region, where Ukrainian forces hope to advance after the gains of recent weeks.

Areas of the Zaporizhzhia region, to the south, also came under heavy Russian shelling, including the contested town of Hulyaipole. Additionally, there was also shelling in and around Ukrainian-held Nikopol, on the opposite side of the Kakhovka reservoir from the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station. 

On the southern front, there were renewed Russian strikes targeting infrastructure in the city of Kherson, which Russian forces abandoned last month, and Kachkarivka, further north on the west bank of the Dnipro River.

Air attack sirens blared overnight into Friday in the capital, Kyiv, and Reuters reported several explosions and the sound of anti-aircraft fire south of the city, as Russian forces launched 16 Iranian-made Shahed drones, the officials said.

The Ukrainian military said all of the drones had been destroyed. Seven had targeted Kyiv, where an administrative building was damaged, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

Putin-Xi deepen ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed Friday to strengthen their bilateral cooperation. During their opening remarks on a publicly broadcast videoconference, the two leaders welcomed strengthening ties between Moscow and Beijing amid what they called “geopolitical tensions” and a “difficult international situation,” with Putin expressing his wish to extend military collaboration.

“In the face of increasing geopolitical tensions, the significance of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is growing as a stabilizing factor,” he said.

Putin added that he expected Xi to visit Moscow in the spring. Such a trip “will demonstrate to the whole world the strength of the Russian-Chinese ties on key issues, will become the main political event of the year in bilateral relations,” he said.

Xi said through a translator that “in the face of a difficult and far from straightforward international situation,” Beijing was ready “to increase strategic cooperation with Russia, provide each other with development opportunities, be global partners for the benefit of the peoples of our countries and in the interests of stability around the world.”

But an official Chinese transcript of the video summit between the two leaders highlighted differences in their approach to their developing alliance, making no mention of Xi’s visit to Moscow and stressing that Beijing, which has declined to back or condemn the invasion, would maintain its “objective and fair” stance.

The U.S. expressed concern about the Russian-China rapprochement.

“We are monitoring Beijing’s activity closely,” a State Department spokesperson said. “Beijing claims to be neutral, but its behavior makes it clear, it is still investing in close ties to Russia.”

U.S. officials have repeatedly said they have yet to see Beijing provide material support to Russia on its invasion on Ukraine, a move that could provoke sanctions against China.

Some material for this article came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.  


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The condition of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI remains stable, the Vatican said Friday, as Catholics prayed for the 95-year-old former pontiff whose health has seriously deteriorated.

The German, who in 2013 was the first pope since the Middle Ages to resign as head of the worldwide Catholic Church, has become increasingly frail over the years.

Pope Francis said Wednesday his predecessor, whose birth name is Joseph Ratzinger, was “very ill.”

On Friday, the Vatican said his condition was “stable,” adding that Benedict had rested well overnight and taken part in a mass held in his bedroom.

Benedict moved out of the papal palace and into a former convent within the Vatican when he retired.

Francis called Wednesday for people to pray for him, before visiting him at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery.

The Vatican later confirmed the former pope’s health had worsened “due to advancing age,” while a Vatican source told Agence France-Presse it had begun deteriorating “about three days ago.”

“It is his vital functions that are failing, including his heart,” the source said, adding that no hospital admission was planned, as he has the “necessary medical equipment” at home.

The Rome diocese celebrated a special mass for Benedict at the Basilica of St. John Lateran Friday. In his homily, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis said as “priest, theologian, bishop, pope,” Benedict “expressed at the same time, the strength and the sweetness of faith.”


In Germany, in the church of St. Oswald in Marktl am Inn, where the former pope was baptized, a photo of Benedict was set up on a tripod next to a baptistery.

Photos from his 2006 trip to the town line the walls. A red candle burns on the floor of the white building, which is topped by a black bell tower.

One visitor, Tobias Ferstl, 43, prayed with his eyes closed for several minutes in front of the photograph of Benedict.

“I was passing through, so I decided to stop by the birthplace of the Pope Emeritus,” the devout Catholic, an altar server at Regensburg Cathedral, told AFP.

“I don’t feel any great sadness or astonishment, but rather gratitude,” he said, despite a few tears filling his eyes. Benedict was “a gentle person,” he said.

At Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican, tourists and pilgrims taking selfies in front of the Christmas tree and Nativity scene contrasted with the few journalists on standby in case of a death announcement.

“He was a great pope,” Italian Carmelo Dellisanti told AFP. “Perhaps misunderstood by some in the Catholic world, but he served the Church. He produced extraordinary homilies and writings.”

A difficult time

Benedict was 78 when he succeeded the long-reigning and popular John Paul II in April 2005.

His eight-year pontificate was marked by multiple crises, including the global clerical sex abuse scandal, which has dogged him in retirement as well.

A damning report for the German church in January 2022 accused him of personally having failed to stop four predatory priests in the 1980s, when he was archbishop of Munich.

Benedict has denied wrongdoing, but in a letter released after the report, asked “for forgiveness.”

“I think he had a difficult time as pope, because of the pedophilia scandal, and he never really wanted to be pope, so it would be nice if he went to heaven,” said 30-year-old German Annika Hafner.

Benedict has appeared increasingly frail in recent months, using a wheelchair, but was still receiving visitors. He appears frail in photos taken December 1.

The last public video of him, released by the Vatican in August, shows a thin man with a hearing aid who can no longer speak, but whose eyes are still bright.

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Згідно з рішенням військової адміністрації міста Києва, використання будь-яких піротехнічних виробів у період дії воєнного стану заборонене

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Напередодні в Генеральному штабі ЗСУ повідомили, що за тиждень українські військові просунулися в напрямку Кремінної на понад два кілометри

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У Чорному морі на бойовому чергуванні станом на 30 грудня перебувають 10 російських кораблів, із них один носій крилатих ракет «Калібр» із загальним залпом вісім ракет

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У прикордонній службі уточнили, що від початку воєнного стану на українсько-румунській річковій ділянці кордону виявили 12 потопельників, тіла ще трьох чоловіків виявили у горах

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Romanian authorities have arrested divisive social media personality Andrew Tate on suspicion of human trafficking and rape.

Prosecutors in Bucharest asked a court Friday to extend by 30 days Tate’s detention.


Tate, a former professional kickboxer, was detained along with his brother and two other men.  


Tate did not comment but his attorney confirmed he had been detained.


Tate has been barred from some media platforms because of his misogynistic comments and hate speech.  


Reuters reports that prosecutors say they found six sexually exploited women when they detained the four men.   


Tate recently was involved in an online exchange with 19-year-old environmentalist Greta Thunberg, after he said he owned 33 cars.  



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As the person who dressed the Sex Pistols, Vivienne Westwood, who died Thursday at 81, was synonymous with 1970s punk rock, a rebelliousness that remained the hallmark of an unapologetically political designer who became one of British fashion’s biggest names.

“Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London. The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better,” her fashion house said on Twitter.

Climate change, pollution and her support for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange were all fodder for protest T-shirts or banners carried by her models on the runway.

She dressed up as then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for a magazine cover in 1989 and drove a white tank near the country home of a later British leader, David Cameron, to protest fracking.

The rebel was inducted into Britain’s establishment in 1992 by Queen Elizabeth, who awarded her the Order of the British Empire medal. But, ever keen to shock, Westwood turned up at Buckingham Palace without underwear — a fact she proved to photographers by a revealing twirl of her skirt.

“The only reason I am in fashion is to destroy the word ‘conformity,'” Westwood said in her 2014 biography. “Nothing is interesting to me unless it’s got that element.”

Instantly recognizable with her orange or white hair, Westwood first made a name for herself in punk fashion in 1970s London, dressing the punk rock band that defined the genre.

Together with the Sex Pistols’ manager, Malcolm McLaren, she defied the hippie trends of the time to sell rock ‘n’ roll-inspired clothing.

They moved on to torn outfits adorned with chains as well as latex and fetish pieces that they sold at their shop in London’s King’s Road variously called “Let It Rock,” “Sex” and “Seditionaries,” among other names.

They used prints of swastikas, naked breasts and, perhaps most well-known, an image of the queen with a safety pin through her lips. Favorite items included sleeveless black T-shirts, studded, with zips, safety pins or bleached chicken bones.

“There was no punk before me and Malcolm,” Westwood said in the biography. “And the other thing you should know about punk too: it was a total blast.”

‘Buy less’

Born Vivienne Isabel Swire on April 8, 1941, in the English Midlands town of Glossop, Westwood grew up at a time of rationing during and after World War II.

A recycling mentality pervaded her work, and she repeatedly told fashionistas to “choose well” and “buy less.” From the late 1960s, she lived in a small flat in south London for some 30 years and cycled to work.

When she was a teenager, her parents, a greengrocer and a cotton weaver, moved the family to north London where she studied jewelry-making and silversmithing before retraining as a teacher.

While she taught at a primary school, she met her first husband, Derek Westwood, marrying him in a homemade dress. Their son, Ben, was born in 1963, and the couple divorced in 1966.

Now a single mother, Westwood was selling jewelry on London’s Portobello Road when she met art student McLaren, who would go on to be her partner romantically and professionally. They had a son, Joe Corre, co-founder of lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.

After the Sex Pistols split, the two held their first catwalk show in 1981, presenting a “new romantic” look of African-style patterns, buccaneer trousers and sashes.

Westwood, by then in her 40s, began to slowly forge her own path in fashion, eventually separating from McLaren in the early 1980s.

Often looking to history, her influential designs have included corsets, Harris Tweed suits and taffeta ballgowns.

Her 1985 “Mini-Crini” line introduced her short puffed skirt and a more fitted silhouette. Her sky-high platform shoes garnered worldwide attention in 1993 when model Naomi Campbell stumbled on the catwalk in a pair.

“My clothes have a story. They have an identity. They have character and a purpose,” Westwood said.

“That’s why they become classics. Because they keep on telling a story. They are still telling it.”

The Westwood brand flourished in the 1990s, with fashionistas flocking to her runway shows in Paris, and stores opening around the world selling her lines, accessories and perfumes.

She met her second husband, Andreas Kronthaler, teaching fashion in Vienna. They married in 1993, and he later became her creative partner.

Westwood used her public profile to champion issues including nuclear disarmament and to protest anti-terrorism laws and government spending policies that hit the poor. She held a large “climate revolution” banner at the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony in London, and frequently turned her models into catwalk eco-warriors.

“I’ve always had a political agenda,” Westwood told L’Officiel fashion magazine in 2018.

“I’ve used fashion to challenge the status quo.”

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Georgiy Yatsenko was hiding in the basement trying to comfort his anxious grandchildren on Thursday morning when an explosion rocked his normally sleepy street in southern Kyiv.

The blast blew out all of his windows, but the scene that greeted him when he stepped outside was even more frightening: half a dozen nearby houses were mostly destroyed by Russia’s latest missile barrage targeting Ukraine.

“The main thing is that people are alive,” he said as he watched excavators try to clear the resulting mess of bricks, wooden planks and power lines.

Missiles cities in Ukraine

Ukrainian officials said the air defense systems downed all 16 missiles that targeted Kyiv on Thursday, part of a broader assault that also hit Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, in the east and the western city of Lviv on the border with Poland.

Multiple witnesses said the explosion on Yatsenko’s street in Kyiv’s southern Bortnychi neighborhood was probably caused by a missile fragment, not a direct hit.

It made little difference to Tetiana Denysenko, who rushed to the scene after receiving a distressing call from her young granddaughter.

“She said, ‘Grandma, our house is on fire. We’ve been hit. My mother (Denysenko’s daughter) was thrown to the ground. She’s lying unconscious,'” the 62-year-old recalled.

“That’s all I could hear,” she said.

By the time Denysenko arrived, her daughter was being taken in an ambulance for emergency surgery.

“Thank God the children are alive,” Denysenko said through tears. “Thank God my granddaughter only had an injured leg.”

Siren, then explosions

Sergiy, who lives in the same neighborhood and gave only his first name, said that despite an air raid siren early Thursday morning, he had spent a leisurely few hours having breakfast and walking his dog.

Once he heard reports of explosions elsewhere in Kyiv, he decided to go to a local shelter for cover. But he and his wife had only reached their front door when the explosion occurred around 9 a.m., local time.

“We heard a bang, very strong, and there was a second explosion, but less powerful,” the 59-year-old said.

“We went outdoors and saw the windows in our house were broken and the house opposite ours was destroyed.”

He and his neighbors now must race to repair their houses as they prepare for the depths of winter amid persistent blackouts.

Nearly half of Kyiv’s population was left without power after the attacks on Thursday, as was 90% of Lviv, officials said.

Yatsenko said he planned to cover his window frames with plastic in an attempt to warm the house where he lives with nine other relatives.

It was unclear what the options would be for those whose houses suffered heavier damage.

At Denysenko’s daughter’s house, neighbors helped cart out salvageable items including a refrigerator, but the elderly woman had no answer when asked where the family would go.

“I don’t know,” Denysenko said, sobbing. “I don’t know.”

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A new wave of Russian missile strikes pounded cities throughout Ukraine on Thursday, damaging power stations and other critical infrastructure during freezing winter weather.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said a number of energy facilities were damaged and that “Russia is trying to deprive Ukrainians of light before the new year.”

However, the Ukrainian military said it had managed to neutralize most of the missiles, avoiding much larger damage.

“According to preliminary data, 69 missiles were launched in total. Fifty-four enemy cruise missiles were shot down,” said Ukraine’s top military general, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhniy.

“The enemy is attacking Ukraine from various directions with air- and sea-based cruise missiles from strategic aircraft and ships,” Ukrainian air defense said on social media, describing the scope of the attack as massive.

‘Senseless barbarism’

Officials earlier said more than 120 missiles were fired, according to Reuters. In addition to the cruise missiles, Ukraine’s military said anti-aircraft and S-300 ADMS (air defense missile system).

Russia has repeatedly used missiles to target Ukrainian cities, including strikes that have destroyed critical infrastructure sites, though it denies targeting civilians.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the attacks “senseless barbarism.”

“These are the only words that come to mind seeing Russia launch another missile barrage at peaceful Ukrainian cities ahead of New Year,” he said.

Several people were wounded in the capital, as rescuers continued search-and-rescue operations.

“At the moment, there are three victims in Kyiv, including a 14-year-old girl. Everyone was hospitalized,” said Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

He warned of potential electricity cuts and called on residents to stock up on water and to charge their electronic devices.

Kharkiv, other cities attacked

Russian kamikaze drones targeted infrastructure in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, where there were numerous explosions throughout the city.

“The Russian occupiers once again struck the energy infrastructure of Kharkiv, using 13 Iranian Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles in the attack. Ukrainian defense shot down 11 of these drones,” the Ukraine General Staff said.

Local officials said the attacks killed at least two people around Kharkiv.

The strikes also targeted Zaporizhzhia and the Dnipropetrovsk regions, but most of them were downed by the Ukrainian military, the General Staff said, and five drones were shot down around the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Additional strikes were aimed at Lviv and the Black Sea port city of Odesa, where Russian attacks are rare, which was left without power. There were power cuts in the Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions to reduce potential damage to the power infrastructure.

Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Lviv, said the attack left his city near the Polish border about 90% without electricity.

Shelling on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia damaged electricity lines and gas pipelines and damaged houses.

Russia has attacked Ukrainian power and water supplies almost weekly since October while its ground forces struggle to hold ground and advance.

As heavy fighting in the Donbas region continued without significant advances on either side, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces rained scores of missile and rocket salvos along the whole front line in the east, while attempting to push ahead with their stalemated offensive in the Bakhmut and Avdiyivka areas of Donetsk.

Ukraine leader promotes peace plan

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been advocating a 10-point peace plan that calls for Russia to recognize Ukraine’s territory and withdraw its troops.

The Kremlin reiterated its dismissal of the proposal Wednesday, doubling down on its stance that Ukraine must accept the annexation Russia claimed in September after referendums rejected by Ukraine and most other nations as shams. The four Ukrainian regions include Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.

“There can be no peace plan for Ukraine that does not take into account today’s realities regarding Russian territory, with the entry of four regions into Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday. “Plans that do not take these realities into account cannot be peaceful.”

After the latest Russian air strikes, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, “There can be no ‘neutrality’ in the face of such mass war crimes. Pretending to be ‘neutral’ equals taking Russia’s side.”

Some material for this article came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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