Russia launches fresh strikes on Ukraine’s biggest cities after ’21 killed’ during shelling of Russian border city

Russia has launched fresh airstrikes on Ukraine’s biggest cities, officials have said, hours after Moscow accused Kyiv of shelling the Russian border city of Belgorod, killing at least 21 people and injuring more than 110.
Ukraine’s air defence systems surrounding Kyiv were engaged overnight to repel Russia’s drone attack, the military administration of the region said on Telegram. The scale of the attack is so far unclear.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, a drone attack hit several residential buildings, causing fires, the city’s mayor Ihor Terekhov said.

Image: A drone attack hit Kharkiv in the hours leading into New Year’s Eve, Ukrainian officials say

“On the eve of the New Year, the Russians want to intimidate our city, but we are not scared – we are unbreakable and invincible,” Mr Terekhov said on Telegram.
He posted several photos showing windows blown out of residential buildings and firefighters putting out a fire at what seemed like a store.

Image: Firefighters in Belgorod. Pic: Russia Emergency Situations Ministry telegram channel via AP
The last week of 2023 has seen increased attacks by both sides.
On Saturday, Russia’s foreign ministry requested a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss what officials have called the “indiscriminate” shelling of Belgorod, according to the state-run news agency RIA.
“The terrorist attack in Belgorod will be the subject of proceedings in the UN Security Council,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova is reported to have said.
While Kyiv never acknowledges responsibility for attacks on Russian territory or the occupied Crimean Peninsula, larger aerial strikes against Russia have previously followed heavy assaults on Ukrainian cities.
Images of Belgorod on social media showed cars on fire and plumes of black smoke rising among damaged buildings as air raid sirens sounded.
One strike hit close to a public ice rink in the heart of the city.

Image: Firefighters in Belgorod. Pic: Russia Emergency Situations Ministry telegram channel via AP

Image: A person is carried away after the shelling in the Russian city

Image: Belgorod is a Russian city on the border with Ukraine
Earlier on Saturday, officials in Russia reported shooting down 32 Ukrainian drones over the country’s Moscow, Bryansk, Oryol and Kursk regions.
They also reported that cross-border shelling had killed two people in Russia – one man in the Belgorod area and a nine-year-old in the Bryansk region.

Image: Pic: Governor of Russia’s Belgorod Region Vyacheslav Gladkov via Telegram/Reuters

Image: Pic: Russia Emergency Situations Ministry telegram channel via AP
Russia launches missiles and drones
On Friday, Moscow’s forces launched 122 missiles and dozens of drones across Ukraine, an 18-hour onslaught described by one air force official as the biggest aerial barrage of the war.
Ukrainian officials said 39 people had been killed – a figure that is expected to rise as the extensive rubble is cleared – with another 160 people wounded.
Army chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said the attack targeted critical infrastructure and industrial and military facilities.
A maternity hospital, flat blocks and schools were also damaged in the attack, according to officials.

Russia’s recent aerial assault on Ukraine may have cost up to $1bn

Sean Bell

Military analyst

It would appear Russia tested the Ukrainian air defences this past few weeks with small-scale attacks to establish where the clusters of air defence capability lie, before launching a massive, co-ordinated attack.
But what was Russia seeking to target?
Although Ukraine understandably highlights the damage inflicted on Ukrainian hospitals and schools, it is hard to believe Russia would “waste” scarce (and expensive) missiles on targets that do not further its war aims.
Instead, Valerii Zaluzhnyi – the head of the Ukrainian armed forces – suggested Russia focused on military targets, transport hubs and defence infrastructure.
President Zelenskyy desperately needs weapons and ammunition if Ukraine is to prevail in its war with Russia, and has made clear his intent to develop a national Defence Industrial Base.
However, factories take months or years to build, and a single bomb to destroy, so it is very likely that Ukraine’s fledgling defence industry was a priority target.
And, the single wave of attacks probably comprised over $1bn (£785m) of Russian missile capability, so Russia would have wanted to ensure the majority hit their intended targets which explains its detailed preparation.
To meet its munition demands, Russia is securing over one million rounds of artillery from North Korea, and drones and missiles from Iran. And, Russia is leveraging its significant Defence Industrial Base to increase production rates, funded by its oil revenues.
However, Ukraine has very limited potential to meet its own wartime requirements, and without Western long-term support, its military prospects are bleak.

Read more:Ukraine and Zelenskyy: What went wrong in 2023? And what next?How a significant tactical victory for Russia will embolden Putin
Poland’s defence forces said on Friday that an unknown object had entered the country’s air space before vanishing from radars, and that all indications pointed to it being a Russian missile.
Poland’s deputy foreign minister summoned Russian ambassador Andrei Ordash on Friday to discuss the alleged breach of Poland’s airspace.

Image: Several Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, were hit in strikes on Friday
However, Mr Ordash said Poland had provided no proof of Russian involvement.
In a statement, published by the state-owned RIA news agency, Mr Ordash said: “I was handed a note which contained an unsubstantiated claim that allegedly on the morning of 29 December, an airborne object violated Polish airspace, which Polish specialists identified as a Russian guided missile.
“No proof was presented. My request for documented proof of what was in the note was refused.”

Source : Sky News