Russian missiles rain down on Ukraine towns

KIEV/MOSCOW, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Russian forces bombed many Ukrainian cities over Christmas. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is open to talks, a position Washington has rejected because of continued Russian attacks.

Russia on Sunday launched more than 10 missile attacks on the Kupyansk district of Kharkiv region, shelling more than 25 towns along the Kupyansk-Lyman front, and shelling about 20 towns in Zaporozhye, Ukraine’s top military command said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday it had killed around 60 Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed a large amount of Ukrainian military equipment on the Kupyansk-Lyman front line the previous day.

Reuters could not independently verify these reports.

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

Despite Putin’s latest offer to negotiate, the 10-month conflict has yet to come to an end.

“We are ready to talk to all those involved in the discussion of acceptable solutions, but it depends on them – they will refuse to talk, not us,” Putin said in an interview with state-run Rossiya 1 television on Sunday.

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, an adviser to the president of Ukraine, said that Putin should come back to reality and admit that it is Russia that does not want to talk.

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“Russia is attacking Ukraine alone and killing its citizens,” wrote adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Twitter. “Russia does not want negotiations, but is trying to avoid responsibility,” he said.

Russia’s attacks on power plants have left millions without electricity, and Zelensky said Moscow would aim to make the final days of 2022 dark and difficult.

“Russia has lost everything this year… I know the darkness will not prevent us from leading the occupiers to new defeats. But we must be prepared for any scenario,” he said in a Christmas Eve video message.

Ukraine traditionally celebrates Christmas not on December 25, but on January 7, as in Russia. But this year, some Orthodox Ukrainians decided to celebrate the holiday on December 25, and the Ukrainian authorities, led by Zelensky and the Prime Minister of Ukraine, wanted Christmas on Sunday.

The Kremlin says it will fight until all its regional goals are achieved, while Kyiv says it will not rest until every Russian soldier is withdrawn from the country.

Asked whether the geopolitical conflict with the West has reached a dangerous level, Putin said on Sunday: “I don’t think it’s that dangerous.

Kyiv and the West believe that there is no basis for what Putin says is an imperial-style war of conquest.

BELARUSIAN MISSILE

Russia’s nuclear-capable Iskander tactical missile systems and S-400 air defense systems have been deployed in Belarus and are ready to perform their intended missions, a senior Belarusian Defense Ministry official said on Sunday.

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“Our military personnel and crews have completed their training at the joint combat training centers of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus,” Leonid Kasinsky, the head of the Ideology Department under the ministry, said in a video. In the Telegram messaging app.

“These types of weapons (Iskander and S-400 systems) are in active duty today and are fully ready to perform tasks according to their purpose,” Kasinsky added.

It is unclear how many Iskander systems have been deployed in Belarus, after Putin said in June that Moscow would supply Minsk with them and air defense systems.

Reports follow Putin’s visit to Minsk on December 19, with fears in Kiev that he will press Belarus to join a new ground offensive and open a new front in his faltering occupation.

Russian forces used Belarus as a launch pad for a failed February attack on the Ukrainian capital Kiev, and Russian and Belarusian military activity has increased in recent months.

The Iskander-M, NATO’s code name for the SS-26 Stone mobile guided missile system, replaced the Soviet-era Scud. The cruise missiles have a range of 500 km (300 miles) and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.

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This range extends to Belarus’ neighbors: Ukraine and NATO member Poland, which has very tense relations with Minsk.

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

On Monday, Ukrainian and Russian media reported that explosions were heard at Russia’s Engels air base, hundreds of kilometers from the Ukrainian front.

The governor of the Saratov region, where Russia’s Engels Air Base is located, said that law enforcement agencies are investigating information about an “incident at a military facility.”

“There were no emergency situations in the settlements of (Engels) city,” the governor of the region, Roman Busargin, said on the Telegram messaging application. Civil infrastructure facilities were not damaged,” he said.

The air base near the city of Saratov, 730 km (450 miles) southeast of Moscow, was hit on December 5, when the Russians said two Russian air bases were attacked by Ukrainian drones 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 claimed responsibility for the attacks inside Russia, but has said such incidents are “karma” for a Russian invasion.

Information from the Reuters agency; Written by Michael Perry; Edited by Himani Sarkar

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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