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Zelenskiy Calls On Aid From The West To Mend Ukraine’s Energy Infrastructure

Ukrainian and Russian forces fought pitched battles in the east as Moscow continued its offensive in several directions while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pleaded with allies for more aid to help repair Ukraine's power infrastructure, which has been badly damaged by multiple waves of missile strikes.

The United Nations, meanwhile, said that at least 6,755 civilians have been killed and more than 10,600 were injured since the start of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on December 13 that Russians continued to attack in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Zaporizhzhya areas in eastern and central Ukraine while indiscriminately bombarding both military positions and civilian settlements.

"Trying to contain the actions of Ukrainian forces, the enemy is shelling the positions of our troops and civilian objectives along the entire line of contact, while carrying out engineering work on its own defensive lines and positions," the General Staff reported.

Zelenskiy has said that Russia's sustained shelling has completely destroyed the city of Bakhmut and heavily damaged the city of Avdiyivka, which lies in the region's center.

Intense fighting in Donetsk has blurred the line between areas under Russian and Ukrainian control.

Moscow has claimed to be gradually advancing in Donetsk, but the leader of Moscow-backed separatists in the region, Denis Pushilin, admitted that Russians have had difficulty advancing in some areas. Pushilin said that more than half of Donetsk was under Russian control.

"A little more than 50 percent of the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic has been liberated," Pushilin told the Russian state-owned news agency RIA.

His claim could not be independently verified.

Russia on December 13 dismissed a peace proposal from Zelenskiy that would involve a pullout of Russian troops and demanded that Kyiv accept new territorial "realities" which included Russia's addition of four Ukrainian regions as its "new subjects."

Zelenskiy told the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations on December 12 that Russia needed to prove it was capable of renouncing "aggression" and to begin withdrawing troops from Ukraine this Christmas.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that "without taking into account these realities, any progress is impossible."

Addressing an international aid conference in Paris on December 13, Zelenskiy told participants that Ukraine needed emergency aid for its energy sector totaling around 800 million euros ($843 million).

"Of course it is a very high amount, but the cost is less than the cost of a potential blackout," Zelenskiy told the gathering in Paris via video link. "I hope that decisions will be made accordingly."

Zelenskiy said Ukraine needed transformers, equipment to repair damaged high-voltage power lines, as well as generators and gas turbines.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the conference, said the gathering was intended to help "the Ukrainian people to get through this winter."

"Very concretely, these are commitments to deliver generators, help repair infrastructure, deliver LEDs (light-emitting diodes) for lighting," he said, adding that the focus was on countering Russia's attempts to "sow terror" in Ukraine through the "cowardly" bombing of the country's civilian infrastructure.

Macron said there was an agreement on removing heavy weapons from Ukraine's Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant -- a hotspot for fighting -- and that talks were under way on how to achieve this.

"We managed to protect Chernobyl and our goal is to protect Zaporizhzhya. The coming weeks will be crucial," Macron said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had agreed to dispatch permanent teams to the country's nuclear plants, including Zaporizhzhya.

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"The missions are aimed at securing the plants and recording all attempts to externally influence them, in particular shelling by the Russian aggressor," Shmyhal said in a statement on social media following a meeting in Paris with Rafael Grossi, the head of IAEA.

In other news, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that at least 6,755 civilians have been killed and 10,607 wounded in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24.

So far this month, the OHCHR said 67 civilians have killed and 182 injured amid a wave of Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian and infrastructure targets.

The OHCHR stressed that the real death toll is very likely much higher because there are delays in receiving information from some places where the fighting is ongoing, and many reports still need to be confirmed.

On December 12, the world's economic powers pledged to send more military aid to Ukraine to bolster Kyiv's military capabilities after Zelenskiy appealed to a meeting of the G7 nations for modern tanks, artillery, and long-range weapons.

By RFE/RL

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