Russian forces shelled dozens of towns in Ukraine on Christmas Day as Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was open to negotiations, a stance Washington has dismissed as a stance because of continued Russian attacks.
Russia launched more than 10 rocket attacks on the Kupiansk district in the Kharkiv region on Sunday, shelling more than 25 towns along the Kupiansk-Lyman front line and in Zaporizhzhia hitting nearly 20 towns, the high command said. Ukrainian military.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it had killed about 60 Ukrainian servicemen the day before along the Kupiansk-Lyman contact line and destroyed numerous pieces of Ukrainian military equipment.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which Moscow calls a “special military operation,” has sparked the biggest European conflict since World War II and the confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. .
Despite Putin’s latest offer to negotiate, there is no end in sight to the 10-month conflict.
“We are ready to negotiate with everyone involved on acceptable solutions, but that depends on them, it is not us who refuse to negotiate, it is them,” Putin told Rossiya 1 state television in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin needed to come to terms with reality and acknowledge that it was Russia that did not want talks.
“Russia single-handedly attacked Ukraine and is killing citizens,” the adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted. “Russia does not want negotiations, but tries to avoid responsibility.”
Russian attacks on power plants have left millions without power, and Zelensky said Moscow will try to make the final days of 2022 dark and difficult.
“Russia has lost everything it could this year. … I know that the darkness will not prevent us from leading the occupiers to new defeats. But we have to be prepared for any scenario,” he said in an evening video address on Christmas Day.
Ukraine traditionally does not celebrate Christmas on December 25, but on January 7, just 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 it achieves all its territorial goals, while Kyiv says it will not rest until all Russian soldiers are driven out of the country.
Asked if the geopolitical conflict with the West was approaching a dangerous level, Putin said on Sunday: “I don’t think it’s that dangerous.”
Kyiv and the West say Putin has no justification for what they present as an imperial-style war of occupation.
Russian-supplied Iskander tactical missile systems, which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and S-400 air defense systems have been deployed in Belarus and are prepared to perform their intended tasks, a senior Ministry of Defense official said on Sunday. Defense of Belarus.
“Our servicemen, crews have fully completed their training at the 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 Ideological Directorate, said in a statement. video posted. in the Telegram messaging application.
“These types of weapons (Iskander and S-400 systems) are on combat duty today and are fully prepared to perform tasks for their intended purpose,” Kasinsky added.
It is unclear how many of the Iskander systems have been deployed in Belarus after Putin said in June that Moscow would supply Minsk with them and air defense systems.
The news follows Putin’s visit to Minsk on December 19 amid fears in Kyiv that he would pressure Belarus to join a new ground offensive and open a new front in its faltering invasion.
Russian forces used Belarus as a launching pad for their failed attack on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in February, and there has been increasing Russian and Belarusian military activity in recent months.
The Iskander-M, a mobile guided missile system codenamed “SS-26 Stone” by NATO, replaced the Soviet-era “Scud.” Guided missiles have a range of up to 300 miles and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.
That range reaches deep into Belarus’s neighbors: Ukraine and NATO member Poland, which has highly strained relations with Minsk.
The S-400 system is a Russian mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) interception system capable of engaging aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles, and has terminal ballistic missile defense capability.
Explosions were heard at Russia’s Engels airbase, hundreds of miles from the Ukrainian front lines, Ukrainian and Russian media reported on Monday.
The Russian governor of the Saratov region, home to the Engels airbase, said law enforcement was verifying information about “an incident at a military installation.”
“There were no emergencies in the residential areas of the city (of Engels),” Roman Busargin, the region’s governor, said on the Telegram messaging app. “Civilian infrastructure facilities were not damaged.”
The airbase, near the city of Saratov, about 450 miles southeast of Moscow, came under attack on December 5 in what Russia said were Ukrainian drone strikes on two Russian airbases that day. The attacks dealt a major blow to Moscow’s reputation and raised questions about why its defenses failed, analysts said.
Ukraine has never publicly claimed responsibility for the attacks inside Russia, but has nonetheless said that such incidents are “karma” for the invasion of Russia.