Ukrainian men are trekking through mountains to dodge conscription, according to border officials.
Soldiers armed with Kalashnikov rifles and dressed in white camouflage are regularly intercepting fighting age men attempting to flee Ukraine via its snowy, mountainous border with Romania, a Ukrainian border official told the Washington Post.
Many of the men looking to escape from the country use fake documents and exemptions, while others hide in vehicles and don elaborate disguises as women and priests, the official said.
It comes as President Volodymyr Zelensky recognised the problem earlier this month, saying: “Everyone in Ukraine understands that changes are needed in this area.”
He added that there were problems with the current military terms of service.
Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last February, the country has been under martial law, meaning men between the ages of 18 to 60 are prohibited from leaving.
But 650,000 fighting age men have managed to flee Ukraine since the war began and have received residency in Europe, according to official EU data.
Follow the latest updates below.
03:42 PM GMT
That's all for today.
Thanks for following The Telegraph’s live blog. We’ll be back tomorrow with the latest on the war in Ukraine.
03:41 PM GMT
Putin announces run for re-election in 2024
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he will run in the 2024 presidential election.
After awarding soldiers who had fought in Ukraine with Russia’s highest military honour, the hero of Russia gold star, Putin was asked by a lieutenant colonel if he would run again, Russian news agencies said. The Kremlin chief said that he would.
The move is expected to keep him in power until at least 2030.
Putin, who was handed the presidency by Boris Yeltsin on the last day of 1999, has already served as president for longer than any other ruler of Russia since Josef Stalin, beating even Leonid Brezhnev’s 18-year tenure.
With opposition politician Alexei Navalny in a prison colony and other critics abroad following a sustained crackdown on them, Putin faces no serious political competition at home.
03:09 PM GMT
Finland will not extradite Russian man suspected of terrorism in Ukraine
Finland will not extradite to Ukraine a Russian man suspected of terrorism in Ukraine, Finland’s supreme court ruled on Friday, citing the risk of inhuman prison conditions in Ukraine.
Russian national Yan Petrovsky was taken into custody by Finnish authorities in August after a Ukrainian court issued an arrest warrant for the man who is suspected of participating in a terrorist organisation in Ukraine, Finnish court documents seen by Reuters showed.
Social media channels linked to Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries said in August that Petrovsky was a top fighter in Rusich, a far-right subunit affiliated to Wagner.
02:34 PM GMT
EU has frozen €21 billion worth of Russian assets
The EU says it has frozen some 21.5 billion euros worth of Russian assets and that a further 300 billion euros of the Russian central bank’s funds are arrested in the bloc and the allied G7 club of the world’s most industrialised countries.
Some 125 billion euros of the latter sum is held by Belgian company Euroclear. Belgium - an EU state but not in the G7 - estimated it would collect 2.3 billion euros in taxes on that in 2023-24. It said it would use those proceeds to help Ukraine.
The Commission’s proposal next week would aim to introduce standard rules for handling such assets across all EU states. Unanimous backing of the 27 would be needed to enact it.
The proposal would clarify legal obligations of institutions involved, as well as tasking them to put the immobilised Russian assets aside, according to EU officials.
02:17 PM GMT
Pictured: Ukrainian soldier training in western Poland
01:56 PM GMT
Strangling Putin's legal system could bring about his downfall
For the second time, the State of Qatar has negotiated the repatriation of Ukrainian children deported to Russia, writes Gabriella Jozwiak.
The country has become the go-to mediator in hostage crises too, having played a key role in brokering a deal between Israel and Hamas.
But can Qatar also succeed, where others have failed, to help return thousands of Ukrainian hostages imprisoned in Russia?
Read the full piece here.
01:34 PM GMT
Ukraine’s farm ministry raises grain harvest forecast
Ukraine’s farm ministry on Friday raised its 2023 grain harvest forecast to 59.7 mln tonnes, saying the country had a “record grain yield”.
The total grain and oilseed harvest is expected to reach 81.3 million tonnes, the ministry added in a statement.
01:10 PM GMT
Ukrainian parliament approves EU accession bills
The Ukrainian parliament on Friday approved three bills necessary to start European Union accession talks, including one on national minorities’ rights, a critical demand from Hungary which opposes Ukraine’s EU bid, officials said.
Lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak said on Telegram messenger that members of parliament voted in the final reading for the bill regarding minorities’ rights, taking into consideration the expert assessment of the European Council.
Budapest has clashed with Kyiv over what it says are curbs on the rights ethnic Hungarians in west Ukraine, in particular regarding education.
12:48 PM GMT
Russian warplanes fire 19 long-range missiles at targets in Ukraine
Russian warplanes fired 19 long-range missiles at targets in Ukraine on Friday morning, killing one civilian in a central region, wounding eight more and damaging an industrial facility and power lines, Ukrainian officials said.
The strike was the first big salvo of missiles Russia has fired at targets, including the Ukrainian capital, in weeks. Russia has mainly been using drones for its overnight attacks in recent weeks.
One person was killed and eight injured in the central region of Dnipropetrovsk, governor Serhiy Lysak said on the Telegram messaging app.
12:25 PM GMT
Blocking Ukraine aid a 'Christmas present' for Putin, Lord Cameron tells US
David Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, on Thursday urged US lawmakers to approve fresh aid for Ukraine to help fund Kyiv’s battle against Russian forces.
On Wednesday, the US Senate blocked a White House request for $106 billion in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel, in a move Lord Cameron described as a “Christmas present” to Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.
It was a setback for President Joe Biden, who had urged lawmakers to approve the funds, warning that Putin would not stop with victory in Ukraine and could even attack a NATO nation.
“We should pass this money to the Ukrainians,” Lord Cameron told the Aspen Security Forum in the US capital. “We should back them and make sure that it’s Putin that loses because if that money doesn’t get voted through, there are only two people that will be smiling.”
One of them is Putin, and “the other one is Xi Jinping in Beijing,” Lord Cameron said. “And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to give either of those people a Christmas present.”
11:52 AM GMT
EU conscious of 'existential' importance of aid to Ukraine
European Union leaders are conscious of how “existential” financial aid is to Ukraine and will honour their commitments, a senior official said on Friday, less than a week before a summit where billions in aid for Kyiv hang in balance.
Ahead of the year’s final summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Dec. 14-15, Hungary has threatened to veto a proposal for the bloc to grant 50 billion euros in budget aid to Kyiv through 2027.
“We know how existential it is. European leaders are responsible people - at least 26,” said the official who is involved in preparing the summit. “They will stick to their commitments.”
11:23 AM GMT
Zelensky lighting candles for Hanukkah
11:02 AM GMT
Ukrainian soldiers training in Poland
In a snow-covered field in western Poland, Ukrainian soldiers are being trained in trench warfare, just days before being sent to the front in what has become a grinding war of attrition against Russia.
Reuters was among a number of media organisations invited this week to watch the training, which was conducted by soldiers from Poland, France and Belgium, in Wedrzyn, around 40 kilometres from the German border.
“Most of the people have actually no military experience and they are taught how to execute some basic tactics,” said one Ukrainian soldier. “We are taught how to use weapons in urban areas and in trenches.”
The training was conducted by the Combined Arms Training Command, which was established as part of the European Union’s efforts to aid Ukraine’s military. Exercises have been held in 24 out of the bloc’s 27 member states.
10:42 AM GMT
Russia has a new nuclear-powered submarine
Russia’s got a big new nuclear-powered submarine armed with long-range hypersonic missiles, writes David Axe.
If, as a resident of some country that isn’t Russia, that sentence alarms you – relax. One submarine does not a fleet make.
Yes, the new submarine Arkhangelsk is impressive in some regards. No, she won’t reverse a decline in Russian naval power that began in 1991, and accelerated as Russia began waging war on Ukraine.
Read the full piece here.
10:24 AM GMT
EU divided over proceeds from Russian sanctions
The European Union’s executive is due to approve next week a legal proposal on using proceeds from Russian assets frozen under sanctions, but doubts in France, Germany and Belgium mean Ukraine would not get the money anytime soon, officials and diplomatic sources said.
The draft law is expected on Dec. 12, two days before the year’s final summit of the EU’s 27 national leaders at which billions of much-needed budgetary and military aid for Kyiv are at stake, as well as advancing Ukraine’s membership bid.
The prospect of a Hungarian veto and budget bickering between EU states weigh heavy on chances for agreement that would give a boost to Ukraine, exhausted fighting against a Russian invasion through the war’s second winter.
10:07 AM GMT
Kremlin: Peace talks on Kyiv's terms 'unrealistic'
The Kremlin said on Friday that the idea Russia would engage in peace talks with Ukraine on Kyiv’s terms in 2024 was unrealistic.
It was responding to a media report which said Washington wanted such a scenario to unfold.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the idea “absolutely unrealistic”.
09:35 AM GMT
Celebrities tricked to provide videos manipulated into pro-Russian propaganda
Celebrities have been tricked into providing video messages which have been manipulated into pro-Russian propaganda,writes David Millward.
These videos were doctored to falsely suggest that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was a drug addict.
The latest dirty tricks were uncovered by the Microsoft Threat Analysis Centre.
Read the full piece here.
09:14 AM GMT
Listen: Ukraine The Latest
08:55 AM GMT
Russia relying on aerial attacks in eastern Ukraine offensive
Russian forces relied heavily on aerial attacks on Thursday in their slow-moving campaign to win control of eastern Ukraine and resorted to new smaller attack groups in pressing to capture the beleaguered town of Avdiivka.
Moscow has focused its attention on the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk since failing to advance on Kyiv in the early days of the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
It has set its sights since mid-October on Avdiivka, a gateway to the Russian-held regional centre of Donetsk -- 20 km (12 miles) to the east. The town has resisted capture while coming under sustained enemy fire.
08:36 AM GMT
Russia evading Western oil price cap
Russia’s success in evading a Western oil price cap is helping drive a recovery in economic growth as President Vladimir Putin prepares to run for re-election, despite the problems caused by labour shortages, inflation and high interest rates.
Russia’s parliament has formally set next year’s presidential election date for March 17. Putin, who on Thursday said the economy was set to grow 3.5% this year, is widely expected to run for a new six-year term.
Russia’s export-focused, $2.2-trillion economy has ridden the sanctions wave better than either Moscow or the West anticipated when those opposed to the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine sought to punish and isolate Putin’s Russia.
08:21 AM GMT
War in pictures
08:05 AM GMT
Ukraine bypassing Polish border blockade
Ukraine began using train platforms on Thursday to bypass a border blockade by Polish truck drivers, Ukrzalynitsya, Ukraine’s rail network, said.
The first train deployed in the operation moved 23 trucks across the border from Ukraine into Poland, a statement said.
Officials were working out ways to speed up the procedure and efforts were underway to have trucks moved in the opposite direction, into Ukraine. Drivers were being moved across the border by bus, the statement said.
07:48 AM GMT
Ukrainian air defences shoot down 14 Russian missiles
Ukrainian air defences shot down 14 out of 19 missiles fired by Russia during a morning air strike on Friday, Ukraine’s air force spokesman said.
The missiles were shot down in the region outside Kyiv and the central region of Dnipropetrovsk, the military official, Yuryi Ihnat, said on television.
07:30 AM GMT
Russian missile attack in Dnipropetrovsk kills one and injures four
A Russian missile attack killed one civilian and injured four others in Ukraine’s central region of Dnipropetrovsk on Friday, the region’s governor, Serhiy Lysak, said.
“Unfortunately, one person is dead. Preliminarily, four people are wounded. They are all in hospital. Two people are in severe condition,” Lysak said on the Telegram messaging app.