Putin sounds out military commanders over Ukraine plans

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This content was produced in Russia where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine

MOSCOW, Dec 17 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin has sought proposals from his armed forces commanders on how they think Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine should proceed during a visit to the operation’s headquarters, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

In video footage released by the Kremlin, Putin presided at a meeting of around a dozen people at a circular table, flanked by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and military Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

Putin was then shown at the head of another conference table at the joint task force headquarters, inviting suggestions from a number of military commanders.

“We will listen to the commanders in each operational direction, and I would like to hear your proposals on our immediate and medium-term actions,” Putin said.

Air Force General Sergei Surovikin, the overall commander of Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, was also shown attending the meetings in still photographs on the Kremlin website.

Putin spent the whole of Friday at the task force headquarters, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax news agency.

No other details of Putin’s visit or the location of the headquarters were reported.

CONFLICT

* Russia fired more than 70 missiles at Ukraine in one of its biggest attacks since the start of the war, knocking out power in the second biggest city and forcing Kyiv to bring in emergency blackouts nationwide, Ukrainian officials said.

* Three people were killed when an apartment block was hit in central Kryvyi Rih and another died in shelling in Kherson in the south, Ukrainian official said.

* The strikes caused “colossal” damage to infrastructure in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and mainly affected the energy system, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said.

* Ukraine shot down 60 out of the 76 missiles fired at it by Russia on Friday, the commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces said.

* Ukrainian shelling of a Russian-controlled village in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine killed at least 11 people and 20 were missing, the Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing emergency services.

* Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said late on Friday that just a third of its residents had both heat and water and 40% electricity. The metro system – a crucial transport artery – remained shut down, he added.

* Moscow says its attacks are aimed at disabling Ukraine’s military. Ukrainians call them a war crime.

* Reuters was not able to independently verify battlefield reports.

DIPLOMACY/ECONOMY/AID

* European Union states should buy arms jointly to replenish stocks after supplying Ukraine, said the bloc’s defence agency, warning the United States may not always be able to shield Europe from threats.

* Insurers may refuse to cover planes flying to Ukraine or ships sailing through the Black Sea as reinsurers – who insure the insurers – propose excluding the region from policies from next month, four industry sources said.

QUOTE

* “They want to destroy us, and make us slaves. But we will not surrender. We will endure,” said Lidiya Vasilieva, 53, as she headed for shelter at a railway station in the capital Kyiv.

* “Whatever the rocket worshippers from Moscow are counting on, it still won’t change the balance of power in this war,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

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