All the updates from December 20, as they happened.Ukraine’s capital Kyiv woke to blasts and air raid sirens on Wednesday, while Belarus is being closely watched for any signs it is preparing for war.

Ukraine’s power shortages, resulting from Russia’s repeated strikes on the country’s energy infrastructure, are becoming more acute as colder weather sets in.Dobri vechir.Good evening from Kyiv.This winter will be life-threatening for millions of people in Ukraine. The devastating energy crisis, the deepening mental health emergency, constraints on humanitarian access and the risk of viral infections will make this winter a formidable test for the Ukrainian health system and the Ukrainian people, but also for the world and its commitment to support Ukraine. The country is facing a therma-crisis on top of a perma-crisis brought on by the war and the pandemic. Half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is either damaged or destroyed. This is already having knock-on effects on the health system and on people’s health.Put simply, this winter will be about survival.WHO has so far verified 703 attacks on health since the war began 9 months ago. This is a breach of international humanitarian law and the rules of war. Continued attacks on health and energy infrastructure mean hundreds of hospitals and health-care facilities are no longer fully operational – lacking fuel, water and electricity to meet basic needs.   Maternity wards need incubators; blood banks need refrigerators; intensive care beds need ventilators; and all require energy. To focus the world’s attention on this situation is why I am here on my 4th visit this year and just days after the largest wave of missile strikes across the country – to meet officials, health workers and patients and offer WHO’s unwavering support to the Ministry of Health, to the government and to the Ukrainian people. And to express my gratitude and respect for Ukraine’s doctors, nurses and other health workers, who continue to show their heroism.      What we know is that hundreds of thousands of premises across the country – including private homes, schools and hospitals – have no gas supplies, essential not only for cooking but also for heating. Today, 10 million people – a quarter of the population – are without power.    Cold weather can kill. Temperatures are predicted to plummet as low as -20 ˚C in parts of the country.As desperate families try to stay warm, many will be forced to turn to alternative heating methods, like burning charcoal or wood, or using generators fuelled by diesel, or electric heaters. These bring health risks, including exposure to toxic substances that are harmful for children, older people and those with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, as well as accidental burns and injuries. We expect 2–3 million more people to leave their homes in search of warmth and safety. They will face unique health challenges, including respiratory infections such as COVID-19, pneumonia and influenza, and the serious risk of diphtheria and measles in under-vaccinated populations.  All of this is taking its toll on the mental health of Ukrainians. This week, the war enters its 9th month, and already some 10 million people are at risk of mental disorders such as acute stress, anxiety, depression, substance use and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. By training health-care workers on how to provide mental health services, WHO has so far reached 1400 people with severe mental health conditions across Ukraine.Tens of thousands of psychosocial support and mental health consultations have been held for health-care workers and the general public, including by mobile mental health teams who go out to the community to offer care. This wouldn’t be possible without the tireless support of the First Lady, Her Excellency Ms Olena Zelenska, whom I thank for our meeting earlier today. I have also met with the Prime Minister, His Excellency Mr Denys Shmyhal, and the Minister of Health, Mr Viktor Liashko, with whom I discussed energy supply, preparing for the winter, and perhaps most crucially, meeting critical health needs in both newly regained and occupied areas.   And this brings me to my next point – humanitarian access. The war has impacted both access to health-care and supply lines for the flow of humanitarian aid. Ukraine needs sustained resources to see the health system through the winter and beyond, points that will be high on the agenda at next month’s Ukraine Conference in Paris, under the leadership of President Macron and President Zelenskyy. I am very concerned for 17 000 HIV patients in Donetsk, who may soon run out of critical antiretroviral drugs that help keep them alive. I am urgently calling for the creation of a humanitarian health corridor into all newly regained and occupied areas. WHO and our partners are ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice. I reiterate my call on both parties to allow urgent humanitarian access to meet people’s health needs.Access to health care cannot be held hostage.  Finally, let’s not forget that people are more likely to acquire viral respiratory infections in the winter than other seasons. Like in the rest of Europe, the many sub-variants of Omicron are also circulating in Ukraine. However, with low basic vaccination rates, let alone boosters, millions of Ukrainians have waning or no immunity to COVID-19. Couple that with an expected surge in seasonal influenza and difficulties in accessing health services, and this could spell disaster for vulnerable people.We are helping Ukraine’s health system prepare for the winter. This includes emergency repairs to health facilities and heating infrastructure, and energy maintenance. We are also providing prefabricated structures in newly regained areas, portable heating devices with fuel, survival blankets, diesel generators and ambulances. Ukraine’s health system is facing its darkest days in the war so far. Having endured more than 700 attacks, it is now also a victim of the energy crisis. It is being squeezed from all sides and the ultimate casualty is the patient. In the short term, we must find practical solutions that allow health-care services to continue through the winter as best as they can. But this is not a sustainable scenario. This war must end, before the health system and the health of the Ukrainian nation are compromised any further.  Dyakuyu. Thank you.    . Nine months after Russia invaded Ukraine, rural households are increasingly forced to scale down or abandon agricultural activities, according to a new survey released on Wednesday by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). . The war in Ukraine is a “relentless humanitarian nightmare” said the UN chief on Tuesday, warning that the death and destruction afflicting civilians there will take years to overcome, and rebuild.

‘Do something:’ Ukraine works to heal soldiers’ mental scars

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Sleep plunges the soldier back into the horrors of Ukraine’s battlefields. He can hear bombs falling again and picture explosions. He imagines himself frantically running, trying to save himself and others.The “blitz spirit” is a term used to describe stoicism of a population in the face of a constant mortal threat. Coined during the London Blitz of 1940, it has been employed on multiple occasions since. However, fast-forward 82 years and 1,500 miles and Ukraine’s population finds itself facing an aerial threat, but very different attitudes to mental health.LexisNexis is aiming to break down barriers between Ukrainian attorneys and lawyers in other countries with the launch of a free legal aid portal which is still in its early stages.

There were seismic shifts in energy, big medical advances, animal comebacks, low-carbon planes, new night trains, plus much more good news. Russia is facing the prospect of another raft of sanctions on prominent individuals and sectors of the economy after it oversaw a series of sham referendums.The death toll rose following a Russian rocket strike on a train station in central Ukraine on its independence day.Ukraine has once again made pleas to the U.S. for more air defense systems as it tries to stop Russian forces advancing in Donetsk in the Donbas.

Russian officials continue to threaten to cut Russia’s energy supplies to the West.Ukraine news from October 10: Moscow says raids were a response to an attack on a bridge linking Russia and Crimea. The war in Ukraine is flooding social media to an unprecedented degree.

Russia-Ukraine War: Elon Musk Drops Threat to Halt Internet Service in Ukraine

Internet service provided by Mr. Musk’s company, SpaceX, has been crucial for the Ukrainian army’s communication as it moves to retake Russian-occupied territory. Russia’s Defense Ministry said two men shot and killed fellow soldiers at a training camp in the Belgorod region. Russia claimed its forces had seized the besieged city of Mariupol, save for a steel plant near the port where Ukrainian fighters held out. Moscow’s missiles also hit targets across the country, including military factories.Ukraine news from November 7: Russian leader says rest of 300,000 reservists called up are still being trained.Russia’s barrage of missile attacks this week has not changed the course of the ground war, though its forces are on the offensive in one area of the east.Russia demanded that the U.S. halt shipment of advanced weapons to Ukraine. American officials said Russia’s Black Sea flagship had been sunk by Ukrainian missiles.

Mental health support is the need of the hour. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a “historic” joint customs control with Poland that he described as “the beginning of our integration into the common customs space of the European Union.” Follow live news updates here.Ukraine news from November 4: Russian-backed official in Kherson backtracks after saying curfew imposed in the city.The two sides agree to meet at the Belarus border Monday, Ukrainian President Zelensky’s office says, as Russian President Putin put nuclear forces on alert. Follow here for live news updates from the ground in Ukraine.

Kyiv says at least 11 killed in alleged Russian attack in Zaporizhzhia, while five die in Kherson, according to Moscow.Russia-Ukraine news from March 2: UN General Assembly resolution condemns Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.Ukrainians are trying to confront the war’s psychological wounds even as the battles wear on.News from May 23: Prosecutor general says officials probing alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces.The battle for the eastern city of Lysychansk reaches a pivotal point. While Russia continues to make gains in the east, Ukraine tries to take back lost territory in the south.Six months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Project HOPE is still on the ground in and around Ukraine, responding to the most urgent health needs.