Day 299: Putin goes to Minsk, Kyiv comes under drone attack

Russia carries out another drone strike on Kyiv and region

In the early hours of Monday morning, Russia launched a major drone attack on Kyiv and Kyiv region, using Iranian-made suicide drones Shahed.  

Two air raid alerts were declared one after the other. They lasted around four hours in total – from 2 a.m. until nearly 6 a.m.

Kyiv withstood several rounds of attacks from Iranian-made drones, the Kyiv city military administration said. Ukraine’s air defenses located 23 hostile drones in the sky above the capital and intercepted 18 of them. In Kyiv region, air defense systems were also at work. At night, the Russian forces launched 35 Shahed drones at Ukraine, of which 30 were shot down by Ukraine’s air defenses, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said. 

Kyiv’s mayor Vitaliy Klychko said that several drones had hit their targets in Solomyanskyi and Shevchenkivskyi districts, damaging a critical infrastructure facility. As of 1 p.m., Kyiv utility workers fixed most of the city’s heat generating facilities. Three per cent of the consumers did not have heat.

Russia attacked Kyiv with suicide drones from a new batch that it received from Iran, Ukrainian President Zelenskyi said, addressing the leaders’ gathering of Joint Expeditionary Force countries, including the UK, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway.

“This past night, Ukraine was once again attacked by Iranian drones – 34 Shahed drones. I mention a specific number and name. These are the Shahed drones from a new batch that Russia received from Iran. A terrorist state received a total of 250 Shahed drones,” Zelenskyi said. 

Putin visits Minsk for first time since 2019

On Monday, December 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk. The meeting was Putin’s first visit to Belarus since 2019. 

In the past year, Putin and Lukashenka frequently held talks. The last time they spoke by phone was on December 2. Lukashenka made several visits to Russia since the invasion. He also met with Putin in Russia’s satellite countries. 

Formally, Putin made a visit to Minsk at the invitation of Lukashenka to discuss “integration within the Union State,” the Kremlin said. Lukashenka’s office said they will talk “security, economic cooperation, emergency response, and Belarus’s integration with Russia.” They spoke at a joint news conference late Monday.

As Putin and Lukashenka meet in Minsk, Ukraine continues to warn its western allies of Russia’s plans for a new ground offensive in 2023. It may take place between January and March, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said in an interview with The Economist. Russia could even stage a second attempt to take Kyiv, advancing from Belarus, he said.

Commander of the Joint Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Serhiy Nayev said he believed that in Minsk, Putin will continue attempts to drag Belarus into the war against Ukraine. The talks would address “further aggression against Ukraine and the broader involvement of the Belarusian armed forces in the operation against Ukraine, in particular, in our opinion, also on the ground,” Nayev said in a recent interview.

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