– Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the capture of Marinka, an important Ukrainian stronghold in Donetsk.
“Our assault units today completely liberated the settlement of Marinka,” Shoigu said during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin broadcast on public television.
Shoigu said Marinka, five kilometers (three miles) southwest of the capital, Donetsk, which had a pre-war population of about 10,000, had been reduced to rubble.
“It is of importance that we have moved the artillery away from Donetsk quite significantly, further to the west. This allows us today to protect Donetsk from strikes more effectively,” he stressed.
He also underlined that the liberation of this bastion will reduce Ukraine’s defensive potential, while giving the Russians new opportunities for future action, referring to Avdiivka, a city in the Donetsk region, which has been the scene of some of the war’s bloodiest battles.
Meanwhile, Putin emphasized that thanks to this victory, the biggest since May’s in Bakhmut – also in the Donetsk region – at hands of the Wagner Group, Russian soldiers have “the opportunity to move into a wider operational area.
Zelensky’s Christmas message
Despite the fact that the Russians have regained the upper hand, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians in his Christmas message on Monday to take a fresh breath and continue to resist the onslaught of Russian forces.
This Christmas “sets the right mood for the whole year ahead,” Zelensky said Monday via Telegram, also noting that five Russian planes were shot down during the week.
He added that it was a mood about the Ukrainian “capabilities in negotiations with partners. Capabilities in bolstering our sky shield. Capabilities in defending our homeland from Russian terrorists.”
Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Defense Ministry, also joined in the Christmas messages, saying that “the Kremlin’s terrorist and occupation regime will never be able to realize its insidious plans to destroy our statehood, our traditions and our identity.”
“Ukrainians are a strong nation, capable of overcoming everything on the way to their freedom and independence,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ukraine was preparing to announce the largest draft in its history, which could include up to half a million men, a figure requested by the Ukrainian military command to Zelensky.
According to Davyd Arakhamiia, leader of the president’s party in the Supreme Rada (legislature), “The government was supposed to submit a draft law on mobilization today (December 25), which it has been working on at the request of the military.
The draft has sparked controversy in the country, especially after Defense Minister Rustem Umérov proposed that Ukrainians currently living abroad be called up, an idea put forward by the Ukrainian presidential assessor Mijailo Podoliak.However, the main obstacle is that there are no clear criteria for organizing the rotation of units at the moment and the leave of soldiers who have fought for years