A quick overview of the Russia-Ukraine conflict: key facts on day 660

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Hungary has exercised its veto power to reject a €50bn aid package from the EU intended for Ukraine. This decision came shortly after Kyiv celebrated the EU’s agreement to initiate membership negotiations. Ukraine was relying on these funds to help its struggling economy survive in the upcoming year.

The Kremlin has expressed that Ukraine’s accession into the EU is highly unlikely, and that the EU’s actions are merely a show of political support for Kyiv. According to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, both Ukraine and Moldova, another former Soviet republic seeking membership, do not meet the EU’s strict requirements. Allowing Kyiv to join could potentially destabilize the EU.

Overnight, Russia launched a total of 14 drones at Ukraine, all of which were successfully shot down according to the Ukrainian air force’s announcement on Telegram on Friday morning.

Japan has implemented new sanctions on Russia, Belarus, and several organizations in the UAE, Armenia, Syria, and Uzbekistan in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Currently, Japan has imposed export bans on a total of 494 Russian organizations and 27 Belarusian entities.

In a surprising move, the EU has decided to commence membership negotiations with Ukraine. This decision represents a significant victory for Volodymyr Zelenskiy and a setback for Vladimir Putin. Despite opposition from Hungary, who repeatedly stated their intention to veto any talks of accession, the announcement was made after eight hours of intense negotiations in Brussels.

During the discussions, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary walked out of the room as leaders finalized the decision to initiate accession talks, resulting in unanimous agreement. Orbán explained Hungary’s stance, stating, “Hungary does not wish to be part of this unfavorable decision, and for this reason, Hungary did not participate in today’s decision.”

Zelenskiy expressed his satisfaction with the outcome, declaring, “This is a victory for Ukraine, and for all of Europe. It is a triumph that motivates, inspires, and strengthens.”

Putin held his annual end-of-the-year press conference, the first since the invasion began. During the conference, he asserted that “there will only be peace in Ukraine when we achieve our objectives,” projecting confidence in his military campaign. He also expressed openness to mending relations with Europe and the US while placing blame on the west for damaging relations with Russia.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia on espionage charges, had his appeal for release denied. As a result, he will remain in custody until at least January 30th.

The Guardian recently visited Avdiivka, a city that has experienced almost a decade of front-line conflict. The once bustling city is now in ruins, with only 1,200 residents remaining. Despite its destruction, Avdiivka holds significant symbolic value.

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