In a recent televised meeting with war veterans in Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia made a strong declaration. He vowed to continue missile strikes on Ukrainian cities as a response to what he referred to as a “terror” attack on the Russian city of Belgorod. According to Mr. Putin, these strikes aim to counter the attempts to instill fear and uncertainty within Russia. He emphasized that Russia will intensify its efforts in this regard.
These comments from President Putin come at a time when Russian armed forces have been relentlessly bombarding Ukrainian cities with rocket strikes. This latest wave of attacks represents some of the most significant and devastating strikes since the invasion began. Both sides are currently seeking ways to break the stalemate on the battlefield.
The ongoing cycle of strikes and retaliations has raised concerns about the escalating civilian casualties in the conflict, which commenced in February 2022. In a retaliatory move, Ukraine launched an attack on Belgorod on Saturday, resulting in the deaths of at least 22 people and injuring nearly 110 others. This attack marked the deadliest assault on a Russian city since the start of the war.
The Ukrainian government did not publicly comment on the attack, as is customary when Russian territory is targeted. However, an anonymous official from Ukraine’s intelligence services revealed that the strike was in response to Russia’s massive air assault on Ukrainian cities the previous day. The official clarified that only military facilities were targeted.
In response, Russia’s Defense Ministry stated that Ukraine had hit Belgorod with two missiles and several rockets, describing the attack as “indiscriminate.” It is worth noting that Mr. Putin had falsely claimed that Russian strikes solely targeted military facilities.
President Putin asserted that these strikes will persist. He clarified that Russia will continue its actions today, tomorrow, and beyond. The attacks have been ongoing, with Russia hitting the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on the eve of New Year’s Eve. This assault resulted in numerous casualties and significant damage to infrastructure.
The attacks continued into the New Year, with the Ukrainian Air Force reporting that Russia had launched a record number of attack drones—approximately 90—against Ukraine. Ukraine claimed to have successfully shot down most of the drones, but falling debris caused damage to civilian infrastructure and resulted in casualties. In Odesa, a 15-year-old boy was killed, and in Lviv, falling debris started a fire in a regional museum.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the nation after the attack on Belgorod, affirming that Russia would be held responsible for all strikes in various cities and regions across Ukraine. He hinted at political and practical retaliation for Russian attacks.