Three Ukrainian children returned from Russia, occupied territories

On December 16, three Ukrainian children were successfully returned to their families under the Bring Kids Back UA plan from Russia and the Russian-occupied part of Kherson Oblast, as reported by Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets. The efforts involved in each return are considered separate operations, aiming to bring all children back to their homeland. The State of Qatar has been instrumental in mediating the Bring Back Kids UA project, assisting in the return of deported Ukrainian children. Over 19,500 children have been identified by the Ukrainian government as deported or forcibly displaced by Russia, with less than 400 having been returned to Ukraine. The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Maria Lvova-Belova and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in March for their roles in the forced deportation of Ukrainian children.

Zelensky: Ukraine downs 104 of 112 Shahed drones launched by Russia this week

Ukrainian forces successfully shot down 104 out of 112 Shahed "kamikaze" drones launched by Russia over the past week, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky's address on December 16. Russia has escalated attacks against Ukrainian cities and infrastructure in the face of the winter season, following a similar strategy as in the previous year. Zelensky expressed gratitude to Ukrainian military personnel, including soldiers, pilots, engineers, and air defense troops, for their efforts in countering the drone threats. He also acknowledged the effectiveness of air defense systems provided by Ukraine's partners, such as Patriot, NASAMS, Gepards, and others. Additionally, Zelensky mentioned agreements with allies for additional air defense support, with recent contributions from Germany and Norway.

Third driver reportedly dies at blocked Polish-Ukrainian border

A third driver has reportedly died at the Polish-Ukrainian border amid the ongoing blockade by Polish protesters. Polish carriers initiated the blockade in November to protest the EU's liberalization of transit rules for Ukrainian truckers. The blockade has led to significant disruptions, with long lines on both sides of the border, stranding drivers in harsh conditions. Two previous deaths were reported earlier, and the cause of the latest death remains unclear. The situation underscores the challenges and consequences arising from such protests impacting the flow of goods and the well-being of drivers.

Russian attacks against Dnipropetrovsk Oblast injured 3

Russian artillery and drone attacks targeted Dnipropetrovsk Oblast's Nikopol district on December 16, causing injuries to three men. The attacks involved seven "kamikaze" drones and four artillery strikes against Nikopol, Marhanets, and Chervonohryhorivka. Significant damage was reported, including to residential buildings, an excavator, and power lines. Nikopol, located near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, has been a frequent target of Russian attacks. The incident underscores the ongoing challenges and risks faced by Ukrainian communities in the conflict zone.

Russians increase number of attacks on Zaporizhzhia Oblast, civilians wounded 

Russians increase number of attacks on Zaporizhzhia Oblast, civilians wounded – photo

Russian troops bombarded 21 settlements in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on December 16-17, resulting in injuries to several civilians. The attacks included 174 incidents, with multiple-launch rocket systems used in nine attacks and 36 UAV attacks reported. Artillery attacks numbered 129, targeting frontline towns and villages. The village of Huliapilske suffered damage, and two local residents—a 55-year-old woman and a 73-year-old man—were wounded and received medical attention. The continued attacks underscore the humanitarian impact on civilian populations in conflict-affected areas.

ISW reports slight progress of Russian on three fronts

Russian forces have made marginal advances near the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast and the village of Verbove in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The Russian army conducted local offensive operations near Bakhmut, advancing north of the settlement of Khromove. In Avdiivka, Russian troops advanced to the western outskirts of an industrial area southeast of the town. Additionally, minor gains were reported northwest of the village of Verbove in the western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Ukrainian forces led ground operations on the left bank of Kherson Oblast on December 16. Heavy fighting was reported in the forested areas near the village of Krynky. The situation remains dynamic, with ongoing military activities in various regions.