MOSCOW/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian forces bombed dozens of towns in Ukraine on Christmas Day as President Vladimir Putin said he was open to negotiations, a position Washington denied as a position because of the continuing Russian attacks.
Ukraine’s top military command said that, on Sunday, Russia launched more than 10 missile attacks on the Kobyansk region of the Kharkiv region, bombed more than 25 towns along the Kobyansk-Lyman front line, and in Zaporizhia hit nearly 20 towns.
On Sunday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had killed about 60 Ukrainian servicemen the day before along the Kobyansk-Lyman seam line and destroyed many pieces of Ukrainian military equipment.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 – which Moscow calls a “special military operation” – triggered the biggest European conflict since World War II and a standoff between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Despite Putin’s latest offer of negotiation, there is no end in sight to the 10-month-old conflict.
“We are ready to negotiate with all interested parties about acceptable solutions, but it is up to them – we are not the ones who refuse to negotiate, it is them,” Putin told state television Rossiya 1 in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin should return to reality and admit that it is Russia that does not want talks.
“Russia single-handedly attacked Ukraine and is killing citizens,” Chancellor Mykhailo Podolak wrote on Twitter. “Russia does not want negotiations, but it is trying to avoid responsibility.”
Russian attacks on power plants have left millions without electricity, and Zelensky said Moscow will aim to make the last few days of 2022 dark and difficult.
“Russia has lost everything it could this year… I know that darkness will not prevent us from leading the occupiers to new defeats. But we have to be ready for any scenario,” he said in a Christmas Day evening video address.
Ukraine traditionally did not celebrate Christmas on December 25, but January 7, like Russia. However, this year some Orthodox Ukrainians decided to celebrate the holiday on December 25, and Ukrainian officials, starting with Zelensky and the Ukrainian Prime Minister, issued Christmas wishes on Sunday.
The Kremlin says it will fight until all of its territorial goals are achieved, while Kyiv says it will not subside until every Russian soldier is expelled from the country.
Asked if the geopolitical conflict with the West was approaching a dangerous level, Putin said on Sunday: “I don’t think it is very serious.”
Kyiv and the West say Putin has no justification for what they describe as an imperial-style war of occupation.
A senior official in the Belarusian Ministry of Defense said, on Sunday, that the tactical missile systems provided by Russia, which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and the S-400 air defense systems, have been deployed in Belarus and are ready to perform the intended tasks.
“Our soldiers and crews have fully completed their training at joint combat training centers of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus,” Leonid Kasinsky, head of the Ministry’s Main Directorate of Thought, said in a video released. in the Telegram messaging app.
“These types of weapons (Iskander and S-400 systems) are operating today on a combat mission and are fully prepared to perform the tasks for their intended purpose,” Kasinsky added.
It is not clear how many Iskander systems have been deployed in Belarus after Putin said in June that Moscow would supply them and air defense systems to Minsk.
The news comes after Putin visited Minsk on December 19 amid fears in Kyiv that he will pressure Belarus to join a new ground offensive and open a new front in his faltering invasion.
Russian forces used Belarus as a launching pad for their failed offensive on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in February, and there has been a growing flurry of Russian and Belarusian military activity in recent months.
Iskander-M, mobile guided missile system code named “SS-26 Stone” by NATO, replaced the Soviet-era “Scud”. The guided missiles have a range of 500 km and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.
This scope extends deep into Belarus’ neighboring countries: Ukraine and NATO member Poland, which has very tense relations with Minsk.
The S-400 is a mobile Russian surface-to-air missile (SAM) interceptor system capable of engaging aircraft, drones, and cruise missiles and has an end-to-end ballistic missile defense capability.
Today, Monday, Russian and Ukrainian media reported that explosions were heard at the Russian Air Force Base of Engels, hundreds of kilometers from the front lines in Ukraine.
The governor of Russia’s Saratov region, home to the Engels air base, said law enforcement agencies were checking information about “an incident that occurred at a military facility.”
“There were no emergency situations in the residential areas of the (Engels) city,” Roman Busargin, the region’s governor, said on the messaging app Telegram. Civilian infrastructure facilities were not damaged.
The air base near the city of Saratov, about 730 km southeast of Moscow, was hit on December 5 in what Russia described as attacks by Ukrainian drones on two Russian air bases that day. Analysts said the strikes dealt a major blow to Moscow’s reputation and raised questions about why its defenses failed.
Ukraine has never publicly claimed responsibility for the attacks inside Russia but has said, nonetheless, that such incidents are “karma” of the Russian invasion.
Reporting by Reuters offices. Writing by Michael Berry; Editing by Himani Sarker
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