Netherlands to deliver 18 F-16s to Ukraine

In a significant development, the Netherlands has decided to deliver 18 F-16 aircraft to Ukraine, as announced by President Volodymyr Zelensky on December 22. This decision follows the formation of an international coalition, led by the Netherlands and Denmark, to train Ukrainian pilots for F-16 jets. The training center officially opened in Romania, with the Dutch Defense Ministry previously expressing intentions to send up to 18 F-16s to Romania for training purposes. While the delivery is contingent on meeting various criteria, including export permits and infrastructure requirements, the decision reflects the Netherlands' commitment to supporting Ukraine against ongoing Russian aggression. The initial pilots are expected to complete their F-16 training by the end of 2023, with operational deployment in Ukraine anticipated by the spring or summer of 2024. Other contributing nations include Denmark, Norway, and Belgium, which have agreed to supply their own F-16 aircraft to bolster Ukraine's Air Force.

Russian drone strike on Kyiv, attacks across Ukraine kill 1, injure at least 4

Overnight attacks by Russian forces in various parts of Ukraine, including a drone strike on Kyiv, resulted in one fatality and at least four injuries, according to reports from regional authorities on December 21. The drone attack on Kyiv wounded two people, causing a fire in a high-rise apartment building. Two additional injuries were reported when debris from intercepted drones fell in Kyiv's Darnytskyi district. Russian forces launched 28 Shahed drones from locations in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea. Ukrainian defenses reportedly shot down 24 of the drones over several regions, including Kyiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Zhytomyr, Rivne, and Khmelnytskyi. The attacks in Kherson Oblast resulted in one fatality and two injuries, with over 60 recorded attacks in the city of Kherson. Other regions experienced damage from the attacks, but there were no reported casualties.

12-year-old boy returned after nearly 2 years under Russian control

A 12-year-old Ukrainian boy has been reunited with his family after spending 22 months under Russian occupation and control, according to Ukraine's human rights ombudsman, Dmytro Lubinets. The boy had initially gone to visit his father in Luhansk Oblast just days before the start of the full-scale invasion. He became stranded under Russian occupation in the oblast for 18 months and spent an additional four months on Russian territory, forced to attend a Russian school. The boy's mother, who is a soldier in Ukraine's military, was unable to retrieve him. The ombudsman's office facilitated the boy's return home after 22 months. The Ukrainian government has identified over 19,500 children who have been deported or forcibly displaced by Russia, with fewer than 400 having been returned to Ukraine.

3,900 trucks waiting in line at Polish border to enter Ukraine

As the blockade and protest by Polish truckers continue, approximately 3,900 trucks are waiting in line to enter Ukraine from Poland, according to Andrii Demchenko, a spokesman for the Border Guard Service. The protest, initiated by Polish truckers in November, opposes the EU's liberalization of transit rules for Ukrainian truckers. The blockade has caused significant delays on both sides of the border, with drivers stranded in freezing temperatures. Polish truckers argue that the suspension of the permit system has led to an overwhelming influx of Ukrainian goods into the EU, impacting businesses in Poland and Slovakia. Ukrainian officials deny these allegations. As of December 22, four border crossings were blocked, with 1,700 trucks waiting at the Yahodyn-Dorohusk crossing. While Slovak and Hungarian truckers had intermittently joined the protests in the past, crossings in Slovakia and Hungary were reportedly operating normally at the time.