On Monday, Kyiv faced a flurry of kamikaze drone strikes that hit key infrastructure in and around the Ukrainian capital.
The strikes came right before Russian President Vladimir Putin made his way to Belarus, heightening fears that he would put pressure on his former Soviet ally to join a new offensive into Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Air Force said its air defenses shot down 30 drones, marking the third Russian air attack on the Ukrainian capital in six days and the latest in a series of attacks since October against Ukraine’s power grid, resulting in massive power outages amid freezing conditions. temperature.
The mayor of Kyiv said that as a result of the shelling of the Solomensky and Shevchenkovsky districts of the capital, according to preliminary information, no one was killed or injured.
Kamikaze drones are cheaply produced disposable drones that fly towards their target and then plummet and detonate on impact.
According to a Reuters witness, a fire raged at one of the facilities of a power facility in the central Shevchenko district, which is often attacked, in the dark of the night.
“I heard an explosion. And three or four minutes later I heard another explosion,” said an elderly man who works as a security guard at a nearby hospital.
Solomensky district in the western part of Kyiv is a busy transport hub, home to a railway station and one of the city’s two passenger airports.
Kyiv officials said 18 of 23 drones were shot down over the city of 3.6 million people.
“As a result of the attack on the capital, critical infrastructure facilities were damaged,” Vitali Klitschko said in the Telegram messenger.
“Energy and heating engineers are working to quickly stabilize the situation with energy and heat supply.”
Olesky Kuleba, governor of the region around Kyiv, said infrastructure and private homes were damaged and two people were injured. He said the attack caused “pretty severe” damage and left three districts in the region without electricity.
Ukraine’s national power grid operator Ukrenergo has reported on Telegram that drones have attacked power plants across the country.
“Now the most difficult situation is in the central, eastern and Dnieper regions,” the report says.
Belarus, a close ally of the Kremlin, has been under constant military activity by Russia and Belarus for months, which Moscow forces used as a launching pad for their failed attack on Kyiv in February.
Putin’s visit for talks with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko will be his first visit to Minsk since 2019, before the pandemic and the wave of Belarusian protests in 2020, which Lukashenko crushed with strong Kremlin backing.
Lukashenka has repeatedly stated that he does not intend to send his country’s troops to Ukraine.
“In the course of (these talks), the issues of further aggression against Ukraine and the wider involvement of the Belarusian armed forces in the operation against Ukraine, in particular, in our opinion, on the ground, will be worked out,” – Commander of the Joint Forces of Ukraine Sergei Naev. said.
Russian troops deployed to Belarus in October will conduct battalion tactical exercises, according to the Russian news agency Interfax, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.
It was not immediately clear when they would begin.
The 10-month-long conflict in Ukraine is the largest in Europe since World War II, with tens of thousands killed, millions displaced and cities reduced to rubble.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the military was firmly in the city of Bakhmut, the site of the most intense fighting in weeks as Russia struggles to advance into the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.
“The battlefield in Bakhmut is critical,” he said. “We control the city, despite the fact that the occupiers are doing everything so that not a single intact wall can withstand.”
Zelensky on Monday urged Western leaders gathered in Latvia, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to supply a wide range of weapons systems.
Denis Pushilin, the Russian-appointed administrator of the part of the Donetsk region controlled by Moscow, said Ukrainian forces shelled a hospital in Donetsk, killing one person and injuring several.
The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces shot down four American-made HARM anti-radar missiles over the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, over the past 24 hours, state-run TASS news agency reported.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.
Putin describes what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine as the moment when Moscow finally stood up to a Western bloc led by the United States seeking to capitalize on the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 by destroying Russia.
Kyiv and the West say the claim is absurd and that Putin has no justification for what they see as an aggressive imperial-style war that has seen Russia now control about a fifth of Ukraine.
Moscow said on Monday that Russian and Chinese forces will hold joint naval exercises from Dec. 21 to Dec. 27, including rocket and artillery fire in the East China Sea.
Although the exercises have been held annually since 2012, Moscow has in recent months sought to strengthen its political, security and economic ties with Beijing and sees Chinese President Xi Jinping as a key ally in the anti-Western alliance.