Russian forces have unleashed a massive wave of drone and missile strikes across Ukraine, following a deadly attack on the Russian city of Belgorod near the border. The widespread aerial bombardment represents Russia’s largest coordinated attack since the initial invasion in February 2022.
Over 70 Missiles And Dozens Of Drones Strike Major Ukrainian Cities
According to Ukrainian officials, over 70 missiles and dozens of drones struck key infrastructure and civilian areas across Ukraine on December 31st. The attacks targeted the capital Kyiv as well as Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and other major cities. Explosions rocked urban centers amidst New Year’s celebrations, causing widespread damage and civilian casualties.
Russia claimed the strikes were in retaliation for a deadly attack on December 31st which killed at least 14 people in Belgorod, a Russian city about 40 kilometers from the border. Moscow blamed Kyiv for the incident, but Ukraine has not claimed responsibility.
The Russian bombardment marked the largest coordinated missile and drone attack since the initial invasion 11 months ago. Strikes disrupted electricity and water services, just as Ukraine was working to restore power nationwide following barrage of Russian attacks last week.
|Over 20 missile strikes
|At least one dead
|Over 30 strikes
|5 dead, over 20 injured
|3 dead, infrastructure damaged
Ukraine Vows To Defend Itself And Calls For More Western Aid
In an emotional late-night address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to destroy critical infrastructure and cause civilian deaths ahead of the New Year holiday.
“The world must stop this Russian aggression,” pleaded Zelenskyy, calling the bombardment “Russian terror without borders.”
Ukraine vowed to continue defending itself with anti-air systems while decrying the attacks as war crimes. Officials urgently requested additional Western air defense systems to intercept incoming missiles and drones.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the “horrific and indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure” and said the alliance would continue supporting Ukraine. Critics argued the latest strikes highlight the need to provide Ukraine with more advanced weaponry.
Russia Claims Strikes Were Justified Response To “Terrorist Act”
In contrast, Russian officials characterized the large-scale bombardment as an appropriate and proportionate response. A statement from Russia’s defense ministry described the strikes targeting key energy infrastructure and military command facilities as retaliation for the attack in Belgorod.
The ministry alleged Ukraine struck Belgorod, located 40 kilometers from the border, with six drones early Saturday morning. In addition to those killed, the attack injured 87 civilians according to Russian authorities.
“The Russian armed forces launched a massive strike with high-precision air- and sea-based weapons against military command and control systems in Ukraine and energy infrastructure,” said a statement released by the ministry.
Escalating Cross-Border Attacks Raise Concerns
The bombardment of Belgorod and retaliatory strikes on Ukraine end 11 months of relative calm along the Russia-Ukraine border. Sporadic incidents have occurred, but major attacks resulting in civilian casualties were rare since the war began.
However, cross-border shelling and sabotage attacks appear to be on the rise. Ukrainian partisans likely targeted infrastructure in Russian-occupied territories, while Russian forces lobbed missiles at border regions inside Ukraine.
But direct, acknowledged attacks on civilians marked a serious escalation, with senior officials from both sides promising retaliation. The increasing attacks sparked international concern over further inflammation of the conflict.
Future Trajectory Of The War Remains Uncertain
As Russia and Ukraine trade accusations, the future trajectory of the war remains uncertain. Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his commitment “to fulfill the set tasks” to completely control the Donbas region.
Meanwhile, Ukraine continues counteroffensives near Russian-occupied territories and seeks additional weapons from Western allies. Most experts believe the conflict will continue well into 2023, dragging on as a stalemate without a clear victory or resolution in sight.
Both sides appear trapped in an escalating spiral of retaliation. Russia seemingly hopes to batter Ukraine into submission through overwhelming bombardment, having struggled to achieve military objectives. But massive missile and drone strikes on civilian areas risk strengthening Ukrainian resistance and demands for more sophisticated air defenses.
Ultimately, most indications point to a long war of attrition. Without a shift in momentum or calculus on either side, the devastating human toll seems poised to continue mounting in 2023.
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