U.S. planning to send smart-bomb kits to Ukraine, Russian airbase in Kursk hit by drone strike

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Dec 14 (Reuters) – The United States is planning to send electronic equipment that converts unguided aerial munitions into smart bombs, allowing a high degree of accurate targeting, The Washington Post reported, citing U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

A Russian airbase in Kursk was struck on Wednesday night, a senior Ukrainian official has said.

Anton Gerashchenko, a senior presidential adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, posted a series of updates on Telegram, saying an “unknown drone” struck the military facility.

Citing unspecified Russian media reports, he said there had been “two explosions in Kursk near the airfield” in a post at 10.30pm local time. “Unknown drone hit a military facility in Kursk,” he later added.

Footage circulating online appeared to show a series of explosions rock the city in western Russian about 10pm local time.

Russian media organisation RIA quoted regional governor Roman Starovoit as saying “Air defence worked over the Kursk region in the evening, there were no casualties and no damage.”

In Other Developments:

Moscow said no “Christmas ceasefire” was on the cards after nearly 10 months of devastating war in Ukraine, even as the release of dozens more prisoners including an American showed that some contacts between the two sides remain.

DIPLOMACY/ECONOMY/AID

* An announcement on U.S. plans to provide the Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine could be made as soon as this week, three U.S. officials told Reuters.

* The Kremlin said that U.S. Patriot missile defence systems would be a legitimate target for Russian strikes against Ukraine, and warned that Washington was getting “deeper and deeper into the conflict in the post-Soviet republic”.

* In Paris, about 70 countries and institutions pledged just over 1 billion euros ($1.05 billion) to help maintain Ukraine’s water, food, energy, health and transportation in face of Russia’s attacks, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said.

* A U.S. citizen was among dozens of detainees handed over to Ukraine by Russia as apart of a prisoner swap, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office said.

* Arms supplies from Italy to Ukraine would stop as soon as peace talks on ending the Russian invasion began, the Italian defence minister told parliament, as lawmakers endorsed a government decision to extend military aid throughout 2023.

CONFLICT

* Violence returned to Kyiv, with the first major drone attack on Ukraine’s capital in weeks. Two administrative buildings were hit, but air defences largely repelled the attack. Zelenskiy said 13 drones had been shot down.

Reuters was not able to independently verify battlefield reports.

* Russia’s close ally Belarus announced a snap military inspection including increased combat readiness in the south of the country, the latest in a burst of exercises that have prompted concern from neighbouring Ukraine.

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