Russia-Ukraine War Newsletter – DECEMBER 25-31, 2023

Situation as of 8:00 a.m. on January 01, 2024

  • Russian troops managed to establish control over the ruins of the city of Maryinka, the fighting for which continued since 2014.
  • On December 26 a large landing ship “Novocherkassk” of the Russian fleet was destroyed in the port of Feodosia as a result of a missile strike by the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
  • On the morning of December 29, the Russian military carried out a massive attack on the territory of Ukraine, using missiles and drones. As a result of the attack, at least 40 civilians were killed and more than 100 people were injured in various regions of Ukraine.
  • On the afternoon of 30 December explosions were recorded in the Russian city of Belgorod. According to Russian sources, about 20 people were killed and more than 100 people were injured in the city. 


Russian troops continued attacks on the eastern sector of the front during the week. Near Donetsk, they managed to completely capture the territory of the city of Maryinka, the battles for which have continued since 2014. However, due to intense hostilities, the city was completely destroyed. In addition, Russian troops carried out attacks in the Zaporizhzhia direction, trying to regain positions lost as a result of the summer Ukrainian counteroffensive.

On the morning of December 29, Russian troops launched the largest attack against the territory of Ukraine in recent months. They used almost the entire range of weapons – kamikaze drones, cruise and ballistic missiles (including Kh-47 “Kinzhal”).In total, 158 rockets and drones were used against Ukraine – of which Ukrainian air defense managed to shoot down 114 targets (27 kamikaze drones and 87 cruise missiles). One of the Russian missiles violated Polish airspace. As a result of the attack in Kyiv, a multi-storey building, warehouses and a business center were damaged; residential areas were damaged in Odesa, Kharkiv and Lviv; in Dnipro, a shopping center and a maternity hospital were damaged. As of December 31, the civillian losses as a result of the attack amounted to more than 40 people killed and 100 people injured (in particular, in Kyiv – 23 people killed, 35 people injured; in Dnipro – 7 people killed, 28 people injured; in Lviv – 1 person killed, 30 people injured; in Odesa – 4 people killed, 10 people injured; in Kharkiv – 3 people killed,  12 people injured; in Zaporizhzhia, 9 people killed, 13 people injured; in Cherkasy region – 9 people injured; in Sumy region – 2 people injured).

On the evening of December 30, Russian troops launched a missile attack on Kharkiv, using ballistic missiles. As a result of the attack, the hotel building and residential areas were damaged; 28 civilians were injured in the city.

Attacks using kamikaze drones continue daily. The Ukrainian military reports the destruction of: on the night of December 26 – 13 out of 19 drones; on the night of December 27 – 32 out of 46 UAVs; on the night of December 28 – 7 out of 8 drones; on the night of December 30 – 5 out of 10 drones. On the night of December 31, only 21 out of 49 drones launched by the Russian military were shot down. This is due to a change in priorities of Russian attacks, as a significant part of the UAVs this time were directed against the frontline territory, and not deep into Ukraine. On New Year’s night, January 1st, Russians launched over 60 attack drones of the “Shahed” type towards the south of Ukraine. The air defense forces managed to destroy more than 50 of them.

In addition, during the week, the losses of civilians in the frontline regions of Ukraine as a result of the actions of the Russian military were: in the Donetsk region – 9 people killed and 24 people wounded; in Kherson region – 6 people killed and 38 people wounded. In the Kharkiv region, in addition to the above-mentioned losses from strikes on December 29 and 30, 3 people were killed and 3 were injured.  In Odesa region, 1 person was killed and 3 people were injured as a result of falling debris from a downed UAV on the night of December 27. At least 3 people were killed in the Zaporizhzhia region as a result of artillery shelling on December 28.

On the night of December 26, the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine launched a missile attack on the port of Feodosia in the temporarily occupied Crimea. As a result of the attack, the large landing ship “Novocherkassk”, which was transporting ammunition, was destroyed. According to unconfirmed information, more than 70 Russian sailors could have died on the ship.

Russian sources report a massive attack on the territory of the Bryansk, Orel, Kursk and Moscow regions of the Russian Federation by drones on the night of December 30. In particular, the “Kremniy El” plant in Bryansk, which is the second largest manufacturer of microelectronics in Russia, was hit.

In addition, on the afternoon of December 30, several explosions rang out in the city of Belgorod. They were probably the result of the work of Russian air defense, which tried to shoot down Ukrainian targets in the sky over the city. According to Russian sources, 24 people were killed and more than 100 people were injured in the city. Explosions were heard in Donetsk on the night of January 1.

The mine threat in the Black Sea remains relevant. A civilian ship flying the flag of Panama, which was heading to one of the Danube ports, hit a mine on December 28. As a result of the incident, 2 crew members were injured.


The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a draft law “On improving certain issues of mobilization, military registration, and military service.” The draft proposes, among other things, to lower the mobilization age from 27 to 25 years, introduce the option to send draft notices through the electronic account of the conscript or via email, and in case of failure to fulfill military duties by conscripts and reservists, include them in the Unified Register of Debtors with associated restrictions. During the initial analysis of the mobilization aspects of the draft law, Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, identified provisions that contradict the Constitution. The vote on the draft law is scheduled for January 2024.

On December 26, Chief Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhny held his first press conference during the full-scale invasion. According to Zaluzhny, it is crucial for the General Staff that mobilization takes place, but the manner in which it occurs is a government task. The General Staff and the Ministry of Defense agreed to allow demobilization for those who have served continuously for over 36 months during the state of war, but only if there is no major escalation on the front. Zaluzhny also did not support the provision of mandatory rotation for military personnel after six months of combat operations.

According to the Associated Press, on December 28, the self-proclaimed President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, participated in a government-organized meeting with children brought from the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine. A recent study by Yale University found that over 2,400 Ukrainian children aged 6 to 17 were brought to Belarus from four Ukrainian regions, partially occupied by Russian forces. The Belarusian opposition called on the International Criminal Court to hold Lukashenko and his officials accountable for involvement in the illegal movement of Ukrainian children.

Another investigation by the Associated Press reveals that the Russian occupation authorities on the seized territory of Kherson significantly and deliberately underestimated the number of casualties in the explosion of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station. Russia controlled the issuance of death certificates and removed bodies that relatives did not claim, also threatening medics and volunteers for disclosing “unnecessary” information. Russia claimed 59 deaths, but in Oleshky, whose population was around 16,000 at the time of the explosion, the number of victims is estimated to be at least in the hundreds, according to medical estimates, with 200 to 300 people drowned only in Oleshky.

On December 27, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine announced the initiation of an investigation into the shooting of Ukrainian prisoners of war by Russian forces near Zaporizhzhia. According to the investigation, Russian military personnel, during a battle with the Armed Forces of Ukraine near the village of Robotine in the Zaporizhia region in December 2023, captured three Ukrainian defenders and executed them an hour later. The video of the execution appeared on social media.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that over 12 million tons of cargo have been transported through the Ukrainian export corridor in the Black Sea during its operation. The corridor was particularly active in December 2023 (5 million tons). Ukraine announced the opening of temporary corridors for merchant ships in the Black Sea in August 2023. 

The National Bank lowered the official exchange rate of the hryvnia to the dollar for Monday, January 1, 2024, to 38.0020 UAH/$. This is a new historical minimum. The decline in the Ukrainian currency has been ongoing for over a month against the backdrop of uncertainty about the volumes of foreign financial assistance for 2024.


On December 29, a meeting of the United Nations Security Council was held at the request of Ukraine and its allies. During the meeting, the majority of member countries condemned Russia for the largest mass rocket and drone attack on Ukrainian territory since the beginning of the full-scale invasion carried out by the Kremlin in the morning of December 29.

The United States announced additional assistance to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs amounting to $250 million, including additional ammunition for NASAMS and HIMARS, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, components of air defense systems, artillery shells, and other auxiliary equipment. The United Kingdom will send rockets to Ukraine to reinforce its air defense systems.

The Ministry of Economy of Taiwan announced the expansion of the list of goods whose export to Russia and Belarus is prohibited due to the full-scale invasion in Ukraine, to prevent their use for military purposes.

The Parliament of Moldova voted in favor of the country’s accession to the expanded partial agreement to create a registry of damages inflicted on Ukraine by Russia.

This week, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had a telephone conversation with Pope Francis regarding the implementation of the Peace Formula.

The information in the newsletter is collected from official sources—reports of state authorities of Ukraine, Ukrainian and international news agencies. The accuracy of the data is carefully checked by the project team and corrected in case of fake news.