Ukraine live briefing: G-7 leaders pledge ‘unwavering support’ for Kyiv; E.U. approves major economic assistance

An Emergencies Ministry employee visits a market hit by shelling in Donetsk, in Russian-controlled Ukraine, on Monday. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)
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President Biden met virtually with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, and leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations Monday.

“I joined G7 Leaders and President Zelenskyy to discuss the progress we’ve made under Germany’s presidency to address pressing challenges of our time — Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine, climate, food and energy security, infrastructure, and more,” Biden said on Twitter. “We’re more united than ever.”

In a joint statement, the G-7 leaders condemned Russia’s “unprovoked war of aggression” and nuclear brinkmanship, reaffirmed commitments to move away from Russian fossil fuels and pledged ongoing support for Ukraine’s economy and military.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • WNBA star Brittney Griner is undergoing medical evaluations at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio after Russian authorities released her from a Moscow jail last week in a prisoner exchange with the United States. Roger D. Carstens, the Biden administration’s hostage affairs envoy, described Griner as healthy and full of energy in an interview with CNN on Sunday.
  • The White House will engage with Russia this week on efforts to free Paul Whelan, a former Marine who is serving 16 years in a Russian prison, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday. Members of the Biden administration virtually met with Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan’s sister, earlier Monday. “The conversations with Paul Whelan’s family have been substantive,” Sullivan said. “We are bound and determined to ensure that we work through a successful method of securing Paul Whelan’s release at the earliest possible opportunity.”
  • Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was swapped by the United States for Griner, joined an ultranationalist political party just days after returning to Russia. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) confirmed Bout’s membership Monday, posting a video to Telegram that showed him standing on a stage next to party leader Leonid Slutsky.
  • The European Council approved 18 billion euros ($18.9 billion) in financial assistance for Ukraine for 2023. In a statement Monday, the council said the assistance will provide short-term financial relief, finance Ukraine’s immediate needs and rehabilitate critical infrastructure.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold his traditional end-of-year news conference, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, the first time he will skip the event in at least a decade. The conference is infamous among reporters in Moscow for lasting several hours. It is one of the rare occasions when journalists from outside the Kremlin pool can question Putin directly.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russian forces are making slow, incremental gains in their fight to take the Ukrainian city of Bahkmut, a senior U.S. military official said Monday, as intense fighting there continues. “The Ukrainians continue to hold the line,” the military official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon.
  • Western military experts say Russia is firing larger batches of missiles at Ukraine, which risks depleting Kyiv’s stockpiles of interceptor missiles. Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp., wrote in a Twitter thread that Russia is trying to “confuse and overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses.”
  • Russian forces are also launching an increasing number of “dud” artillery shells in Ukraine, as they rely more frequently on older ammunition after months of fighting, the U.S. military official said. The trend has become evident as Ukrainians more frequently find unexploded ordnance, the official said. Nearly 10 months into its invasion, Russia has burned through a large number of its munitions, prompting it to look to outside nations, such as Iran, for more, the official said.
  • Moscow-backed officials accused Ukrainian forces of using U.S.-supplied HIMARS rockets to attack the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol over the weekend. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the strike. Ivan Fedorov, the exiled Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, said the attack hit a church seized by Russian troops for use as a base several months ago.

3. Global impact

  • The E.U. will have enough natural gas this winter but could face shortages in 2023, Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said Monday at a European Commission news conference. “This winter, it looks like we are off the hook,” he said. But he warned that next year would be more difficult if European temperatures return to their colder averages, if the capacity to import liquefied natural gas isn’t ramped up, and if Russia continues reducing its gas supplies to Europe. “Next year it is very likely that we won’t have any Russian gas in our system,” Birol warned.
  • The E.U., in a statement Monday, condemned Iran’s military support, including the supply of drones, for Russia’s war in Ukraine. The E.U. Council announced sanctions against four Iranian individuals and as many entities for the supply of drones to Russia. “These weapons provided by Iran are being used indiscriminately by Russia against Ukrainian civilian population and infrastructure causing horrendous destruction and human suffering,” the statement said.
  • More than 82,000 Ukrainians and their families have arrived in the United States since the war began as part of a special program that allows them to stay for two years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a report. The agency said it has confirmed the financial suitability of more than 177,000 U.S. supporters for the arrivals through its “Uniting for Ukraine” program.

4. From our correspondents

Ukrainian lawmaker who idolizes former U.S. president Reagan tries to win over today’s Republicans: Maryan Zablotskyy grew up venerating Ronald Reagan in Lviv, in western Ukraine — as many did in the post-Soviet years.

Now a member of parliament, Zablotskyy, 37, faces the prospect that the Republicans, the party of his favorite American politician, could turn against Ukraine in its moment of greatest need — under invasion and relentless bombing by Russia, with about one-fifth of its land occupied and its economy in tatters, writes Jeff Stein from Kyiv.

“What I can do is explain that Ukraine is important to the whole world, and that we fight for values and ideals that should be equally important to both parties,” Zablotskyy said in an interview.

Erin Cunningham, Francesca Ebel, Dan Lamothe, Emily Rauhala, Matt Viser, Jon Wagner and Amy B Wang contributed to this report.