West offers Ukraine more help; Russia steps up offensive

A resident wounded after a Russian attack lies inside an ambulance to be taken to a hospital in Kherson, southern Ukraine in this Nov 24, 2022 file photo. (BERNAT ARMANGUE / AP)

BRUSSELS/KYIV — Western allies stepped up their support of Ukraine with additional funding, sanctions against Moscow and expanded military training.

European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to provide $19 billion in financing to Ukraine next year and hit Moscow with a ninth package of sanctions. The measures designate nearly 200 more people and bar investment in Russia's mining industry, among other steps.

"These sanctions, we know they are efficient," said French President Emmanuel Macron, adding that the measures should be complemented with financial, military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. "They are gradually making an impact, including on Russia's capacity to produce and regenerate its weapons."

Tens of thousands of people have been killed, and millions more displaced since the conflict erupted.

They (EU sanctions) are gradually making an impact, including on Russia's capacity to produce and regenerate its weapons.

Emmanuel Macron, President, France 

The targets of the latest recommended sanctions included government ministers, lawmakers, regional governors and political parties. The EU Commission also wanted to hit the Russian defense industry and more Russian banks, and to impose export controls and restrictions on products like chemicals, nerve agents, electronics and IT components that could be used by the armed forces.

In Washington, the US military announced it will expand training in Germany of Ukrainian military personnel. Starting in January, 500 troops a month will be trained, building on more than 15,000 Ukrainians trained by the United States and its allies since April.

On the battlefield on Friday, Russia launched a new barrage of missiles at Ukraine and air defense systems went into operation across the country, Ukrainian officials said.

Explosions were heard in the eastern city of Kharkiv and local officials said critical infrastructure had been hit. Local officials in the Black Sea region of Odessa said critical infrastructure had also been hit there.

Russian forces bombarded Kherson on Thursday, depriving the Ukrainian city of electricity.

Ukrainian military vehicle passes by anti-tank barricades in Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Dec 16, 2022. (ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO / AP)

No heat, no power

Much of Ukraine is struggling without heat or power after Moscow started targeting electricity and water systems two months ago.

Meanwhile, local officials in the city of Donetsk said they had come under some of the heaviest shelling in years from Ukrainian forces.

The Belarus presidency said on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Minsk on Monday for talks with his counterpart Alexander Lukashenko.

The office said the pair will hold one-on-one talks as well as wider negotiations with their ministers on "Belarusian-Russian integration".