President Vladimir Putin said the situation in four regions of Ukraine, which Moscow claims is part of Russia, is “extremely difficult” as Kiev continues to call for more weapons supplies after Russian drones attack energy targets.
In comments made on Security Service Day, which is widely celebrated in Russia, Putin also ordered the strengthening of Russia’s borders and instructed special agencies to keep more control of society. and ensure the safety of people in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.
In September, a defiant Putin proceeded to annex a large swath of Ukraine – about 15% of the country – in a Kremlin ceremony, but earlier this month he said the war “could be It’s a long process.”
As for the Russian security services operating in Ukraine, he said late Monday in a comment translated by Reuters: “Yes, now it is difficult for you. The situation in the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk, in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions is extremely difficult.”
Putin’s move to annex these regions has been condemned by Kiev and its Western allies as illegal.
On Monday, Putin made his first visit to Belarus since 2019, where he and his counterpart hailed the growing relationship in a late-night press conference but made little mention of it. Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Kyiv is seeking more weapons from the West after Russian “kamikaze” drones hit energy targets.
“New weapons, shells, new defenses…everything will give us the ability to accelerate the end of this war,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his evening speech.
The Ukrainian military’s high command said its air defenses shot down 23 of the 28 drones – mostly in the capital Kyiv – in Moscow’s third air strike in six days. Russia has targeted Ukraine’s power grid, causing power outages amid sub-zero temperatures.
The drone strikes caused no casualties, although nine buildings were damaged in the Kyiv area, it said.
Ukraine’s Atomic Energy Agency accused Russia of sending one of the drones over part of the Southern Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant in the Mykolaiv region.
The “kamikaze” drones used in the attacks are cheap, disposable drones that fly toward the target before slowing down and exploding on impact.
In the northwest of Ukraine, there has been continuous Russian and Belarusian military activity for months in Belarus, a close ally of the Kremlin that Moscow’s military has used as a launch pad for its failed offensive. they entered Kyiv in February.
Putin’s trip is his first to Minsk since the pandemic and wave of protests on the streets of Belarus in 2020 that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko crushed with support from the Kremlin.
Ukraine fears that discussions will revolve around the wider participation of the Belarusian armed forces in the invasion. Putin and Lukashenko barely mentioned Ukraine at a press conference after the talks, instead touting the benefits of economic and defense alignment.
Lukashenko has repeatedly said that he has no intention of sending his troops into Ukraine, where Moscow’s invasion has failed miserably with a series of retreats on the battlefield before a major counteroffensive.
The Kremlin on Monday rejected the idea that Mr. Putin wants to push Belarus to play a more active role. The RIA Novosti news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying such reports were “baseless” and “stupid”.
Both Putin and Lukashenko also took great pains to reject the idea of Russia annexing or taking over Belarus.
“Russia is not interested in absorbing anyone,” Putin said. “This simply doesn’t help… It’s not a takeover, it’s a matter of policy alignment.”
Asked about the comment, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said it should be seen as “the pinnacle of irony”, as it “comes from a leader looking at the present time.” at, right now, to violently absorb his other peace plan”. – the neighbor’s door.”
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported, citing the Defense Ministry, that Russian troops that moved to Belarus in October will conduct battalion-level tactical drills. It is not clear when they will start.
The 10-month conflict in Ukraine, the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II, has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions and turned cities into rubble. broken.
Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian artillery hit 25 towns and villages around Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the east and some areas around Kupiansk, a northeastern town recaptured by Ukraine in September.
It also said Ukrainian air forces and artillery had carried out more than a dozen attacks on Russian troops and assets, including ammunition dumps, and shot down two helicopters.
Alexei Kulemzin, the mayor of the Russian-appointed city of Donetsk, said Ukrainian shelling had hit a hospital, along with a kindergarten, posting in the Telegraph a picture of what appeared to be a waiting room with furniture. and broken accessories.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield accounts of the two sides.
Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine to eliminate nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe the Kremlin’s actions as a gratuitous war of aggression.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)
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