Russia-Ukraine war live: Putin offers new incentive for Russians to join fight in Ukraine | Ukraine

Russian troops in Ukraine exempted from income tax

Russian authorities have announced that soldiers and state employees deployed in Ukraine will be exempt from income tax, in the latest effort to encourage support of its military operation there.

Agence France-Presse reported that the new measure concerned all those fighting in the four Ukrainian territories Russia has declared as its own, although it does not completely control them: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov cited an exemption contained in an anti-corruption law, which the Russian authorities published the details of on Thursday evening.

Soldiers, police, members of the security services and other state employees serving in the four regions no longer had to supply information on “their income, their expenditure, their assets”, the decree said.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu meets Russian military personnel involved in the war at an unknown location in Ukraine, in an image released last week
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu (second right) meets Russian military personnel involved in the war at an unknown location in Ukraine, in an image released last week. Photograph: Russian defence ministry press service/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The decree also granted them the right to receive “rewards and gifts” if they were of “a humanitarian character” and received as part of the military operation in Ukraine.

It applies to the partners and children of those serving, and is back-dated to February 24 2022 – the date Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Kremlin has rolled out a series of incentives for Russians to fight in Ukraine, offering cash incentives, banking and property facilities and promising financial aid to families in the case of the death or injury of loved ones.

In Russia, soldiers and senior officials close to the country’s military-industrial complex are regularly convicted in corruption cases in which large sums of money have been embezzled.

Key events

The Ukrainian military says Russian forces have tried to advance near Bakhmut and Avdiivka, the focal points of their slow-moving campaign to take all of the Donetsk region in the country’s east.

Reuters reported the Ukrainian armed forces’ general staff as saying on Friday that Russian forces had fired on several towns and villages, including Bakhmut, Kudryumivka just to the south, nearby Soledar and also the town of Kostyantynivka, west of Bakhmut.

The general staff also said Russian forces fired on Avdiivka, the nearby town of Maryinka and Nevelske. Russian forces shelled settlements further west in Donetsk region, including the town of Vuhledar, its statement said.

Ukrainian troops prepare mortar shells before firing them towards Russian positions on the outskirts of Bakhmut
Ukrainian troops prepare mortar shells before firing them towards Russian positions on the outskirts of Bakhmut. Photograph: Reuters

Opening summary

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s continuing live coverage of the war in Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Ukrainian troops are holding their positions against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, “where the fiercest battles are going on”.

He added that Ukrainian forces were “slowly advancing” in some areas there.

Zelenskiy also claimed in his nightly video address on Friday that Kyiv had strengthened its anti-aircraft capability and would make it “even stronger” in the new year to protect itself and the entire European continent.

This is Adam Fulton and here’s a brief look at other major developments as it turns 9am in Kyiv on this last day of 2022.

  • Vladimir Putin has invited his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to make a state visit to Moscow next northern spring, as Russia seeks to deepen its ties with China amid growing international isolation over the war in Ukraine. Speaking to Xi via a videoconference, Putin said Russia’s ties with China were the “best in history” and expressed his wish to extend military collaboration.

  • The call between the two leaders came hours after Ukraine was again attacked by Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones. The Ukrainian military said it shot down all 16 drones, which it said were sent from the south-east and north. Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said there were no casualties from the strikes.

  • Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said Vladimir Putin had not given up his plans to “control Ukraine” and warned everyone to “prepare for the long haul”. Stoltenberg told the dpa news agency that Russia had mobilised “many new troops” and “demonstrated a willingness to endure painful losses”. “This is not over,” he said. “We should not underestimate Russia.”

  • Belarus has summoned the Ukrainian ambassador, saying it shot down a Ukrainian air defence missile in Belarusian territory. Alexander Volfovich, the secretary of the Belarus security council, has accused Ukraine of trying to “provoke a regional conflict”, claiming it was “unlikely” that the Ukrainian air defence missile downed on Thursday had entered Belarusian airspace by accident. A Ukrainian military spokesperson said the incident was “the result of air defence”.

  • Zelenskiy repeated his earlier warnings that Moscow could be planning to plunge Ukraine into darkness before the New Year’s Eve holiday. The latest drone attack comes at the end of a week in which Russian forces launched a series of deadly bombardments of the recently liberated city of Kherson.

  • Moscow’s exiled chief rabbi says Jews should leave Russia while they still can, before they are made scapegoats for the hardship caused by the war in Ukraine. Pinchas Goldschmidt told the Guardian: “When we look back over Russian history, whenever the political system was in danger you saw the government trying to redirect the anger and discontent of the masses towards the Jewish community … We’re seeing rising antisemitism while Russia is going back to a new kind of Soviet Union.” Goldschmidt resigned from his post and left Russia in July after refusing to back Putin’s war.

  • The self-proclaimed republics in Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR), both of which are occupied areas of Ukraine that Russia claims to have annexed, have adopted new “constitutions”, the Russian state-owned Tass news agency reported. Denis Pushilin, who is styled as the acting leader of the DPR, was quoted as hailing “the return of Donbas to the bosom of the Russian cultural and historical tradition”.

  • The richest Russian oligarchs have lost almost $95bn this year amid sanctions imposed by western nations over the Ukraine war – shedding $330m a day since the Kremlin launched its invasion. Roman Abramovich, the former Chelsea FC owner, was the biggest loser, with his fortune falling by 57% to $7.8bn this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

  • Britain says it has given Ukraine more than 1,000 metal detectors and 100 kits to deactivate bombs to help clear minefields in the latest instance of military support. “This latest package of UK support will help Ukraine safely clear land and buildings as it reclaims its rightful territory,” the British defence minister, Ben Wallace, said in a statement.

  • Vladimir Putin “warmly congratulated” Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on the coming new year, adding that “mutually beneficial relations” between the two countries were developing “very dynamically”, the Kremlin said. Putin would not wish a happy new year to Joe Biden, Olaf Scholz, Emmanuel Macron or leaders of other “unfriendly countries”, it added.

  • The chief of Eurovision, Martin Österdahl, has told BBC radio that Russia’s ongoing ban from the international song contest has been hard but the event should stand for “the basic and ultimate values of democracy”.