KVIV/MOSCOW, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s military said on Monday that the war on Ukraine had not been suspended for Christmas, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin saying he was ready for talks after his forces launched more than 40 rocket attacks on Christmas Day.
Three Russian servicemen were killed early Monday in the wreckage of a Ukrainian drone that was shot down while attacking a base in Russia’s Saratov region, Russian news agencies reported, citing the Defense Ministry. read more
This is the second attack on the site this month. The base near the city of Saratov, about 730 km (450 miles) southeast of Moscow and hundreds of kilometers from Ukraine’s front lines, was hit on December 5 in what Russia said were Ukrainian drone strikes on two Russian air bases. day
Reuters could not immediately verify the news.
Putin again on Sunday said he was open to talks and accused Ukraine and its Western allies of failing to engage, a stance the US has previously rejected in light of relentless Russian attacks.
“We are ready to negotiate with all those involved on acceptable solutions, but it depends on them – we are not negotiators, they are,” Putin said in an interview with Rossiya 1 state television.
An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin needs to return to reality and admit that it is Russia that does not want negotiations.
“Russia is single-handedly attacking Ukraine and killing civilians,” adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said on Twitter. “Russia does not want negotiations, but tries to avoid responsibility.”
Putin’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine – which Russia calls a “special military operation” – has sparked the biggest European conflict since World War II and the most intense confrontation between Russia and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Russian attacks on Ukraine’s power stations have left millions without power, and Zelensky said Moscow would aim to make the final days of 2022 dark and difficult.
“Russia has lost everything it could this year. … I know that darkness will not prevent the aggressors from leading new defeats. But we must be prepared for any scenario,” he said in a Christmas Day speech.
Ukraine traditionally celebrates Christmas on January 7, as does Russia.
However, this year some Orthodox Ukrainians decided to celebrate on December 25 and Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky and Ukraine’s prime minister, issued Christmas greetings on Sunday.
Ukraine’s military said early Monday that Russian forces had shelled dozens of towns in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions over the past 24 hours.
“In the direction of Kherson, the enemy continues artillery attacks on populated areas on the right bank of the Dnipro River,” it said.
It said Ukrainian forces carried out strikes on nearly 20 Russian targets.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its forces had killed around 60 Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed Ukrainian military equipment the previous day along the Kubiansk-Lyman line of contact.
Reuters could not immediately verify the news.
The Kremlin says it will fight until it achieves all its territorial objectives, while Kyiv says it will not rest until every Russian soldier is expelled from the country.
Asked whether the geopolitical conflict with the West was approaching a dangerous level, Putin said Sunday: “I don’t think it’s very dangerous.”
Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for an imperialist-style war of aggression.
Russian-supplied Iskander tactical missile systems capable of carrying nuclear warheads and S-400 air defense systems will be deployed and operational in Belarus, a senior Belarusian Defense Ministry official said on Sunday.
“Weapons of this type are on combat duty today and are fully ready to perform their intended tasks,” ministry official Leonid Kaczynski said in a video posted on the Telegram messaging app.
It is unclear how many Iskander systems were deployed to Belarus after Putin said in June that Moscow would provide Minsk and air defense systems.
Putin visited Minsk on December 19, fueling speculation in Kiev that he would press Belarus to join a new offensive in his faltering invasion.
Russian forces used Belarus as a launching pad to stop an attack on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in February, and recent months have seen heightened tension in Russian and Belarusian military operations.
The mobile guided missile system codenamed Iskander-M, named “SS-26 Stone” by NATO, replaced the Soviet-era “Scud”. Guided missiles have a range of up to 500 km (300 miles) and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.
The S-400 system is a Russian mobile, surface-to-air missile interceptor system capable of engaging aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles and has a terminal ballistic missile defense capability.
Report by Reuters Bureau; Written by Michael Perry; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Robert Birzel
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