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Russian missiles rain down on Ukrainian cities

Russian missiles rain down on Ukrainian cities

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KVIV/MOSCOW, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Russian forces bombed dozens of cities in Ukraine on Christmas Day, while Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was open to talks, a position Washington dismissed as posturing over continued Russian attacks.

On Sunday, Russia launched more than 10 missile strikes on the Kupyansk region of Kharkiv Oblast, shelled more than 25 towns along the Kupyansk-Liman front line and hit nearly 20 towns in Zaporozhye, Ukraine’s high military command said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday it had killed around 60 Ukrainian servicemen the previous day along the Kupyansk-Liman contact line and destroyed numerous units of Ukrainian military equipment.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.

Putin’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine – which Moscow calls a “special military operation” – sparked Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II and the confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Despite Putin’s latest offer of talks, there is no end in sight to the 10-month conflict.

“We are ready to negotiate with all participants for acceptable solutions, but it depends on them – it is not us who refuse to negotiate, but them,” Putin told state-run Russia 1 television in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin should come back to reality and admit that Russia does not want negotiations.

“Russia alone attacked Ukraine and killed citizens,” councilor Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter. Russia does not want negotiations, but tries to avoid responsibility.

Russian attacks on power plants have left millions without electricity, and Zelensky said Moscow would seek to make the last few 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 ready for any scenario,” he said in a Christmas Eve video address.

Ukraine traditionally does not celebrate Christmas on December 25, but on January 7, as does Russia. This year, however, some Orthodox Ukrainians decided to celebrate the holiday on December 25, and Ukrainian officials, starting with Zelensky and Ukraine’s prime minister, issued Christmas wishes on Sunday.

The Kremlin says it will fight until all its territorial goals are achieved, while Kyiv says it will not rest 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’s that dangerous.”

Kyiv and the West say Putin has no justification for what they describe as an imperial-style war of occupation.

BELARUSIAN ROCKET

Russia-supplied Iskander tactical missile systems, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and S-400 air defense systems are deployed in Belarus and are ready to perform their intended tasks, a senior Belarusian defense ministry official said on Sunday.

“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 Ideology Department, said in a video posted on the Telegram messaging app.

“These types of weapons (the Iskander and S-400 systems) are on combat duty today and are fully ready to perform their intended tasks,” Kasinski added.

It is not clear how many of the Iskander systems were deployed in Belarus after Putin said in June that Moscow would supply Minsk with them and the air defense systems.

The news follows Putin’s visit to 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 launch pad for their failed attack on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in February, and there has been a growing wave of 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. The guided missiles have a range of up to 500 km (300 mi) and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.

This range reaches deep into Belarus’ neighbors: Ukraine and NATO member Poland, which has very strained relations with Minsk.

The S-400 system is a Russian mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) interceptor system capable of engaging aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles, and has a ballistic missile defense capability.

Explosions were heard at Russia’s Engels air base, hundreds of kilometers (miles) from Ukraine’s front line, Ukrainian and Russian media reported on Monday.

The Russian governor of Saratov Oblast, where Engels Air Force Base is located, said law enforcement authorities were verifying information about an “incident at a military facility.”

“There were no emergency situations in the residential areas of (Engels) city,” Roman Busargin, the region’s governor, said on the Telegram messaging app. “Civil infrastructure facilities have no damage.

The air base, near the city of Saratov, about 730 km (450 miles) southeast of Moscow, was hit on December 5 in what Russia said were Ukrainian drone attacks on two Russian air bases that day. The strikes 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 attacks in Russia, but has said such incidents are “karma” for the Russian invasion.

Reports from Reuters bureaus; Written by Michael Perry; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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