EURACTIV.com with Reuters 26 Dec 2022
People from the collective ‘Kyivska Kolyada’ ride in the train after singing Christmas carols and collect money for the Ukrainian army at a metro station in Kyiv, Ukraine, 25 December 2022. 2022 is the first year Orthodox churches were allowed to hold a Christmas prayer service on 24 December. Traditionally, the Orthodox church celebrates Christmas on 6 January. [EPA-EFE/OLEG PETRASYUK]
Russian forces bombarded scores of towns in Ukraine on Christmas Day as Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was open to negotiations, a stance Washington has dismissed as posturing because of continued Russian attacks.
Russia on Sunday launched more than 10 rocket attacks on the Kupiansk district in the Kharkiv region, shelled more than 25 towns along the Kupiansk-Lyman frontline, and in Zaporizhzhia hit nearly 20 towns, said Ukraine’s top military command.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday that it had killed about 60 Ukrainian servicemen the previous day along the Kupiansk-Lyman line of contact and destroyed numerous pieces of Ukrainian military equipment.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports.
Putin’s 24 February invasion of Ukraine – which Moscow calls a “special military operation” – has triggered the biggest European conflict since World War Two and confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Despite Putin’s latest offer to negotiate, there is no end in sight to the 10-month conflict.
“We are ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions, but that is up to them – we are not the ones refusing to negotiate, they are,” Putin told Rossiya 1 state television in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Putin needed to return to reality and acknowledge it was Russia that did not want talks.
“Russia single-handedly attacked Ukraine and is killing citizens,” the adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted. “Russia doesn’t want negotiations, but tries to avoid responsibility.”
Russian attacks on power stations have left millions without electricity, and Zelenskyy said Moscow would aim to make the last few days of 2022 dark and difficult.
“Russia has lost everything it could this year. … I know darkness will not prevent us from leading the occupiers to new defeats. But we have to be ready for any scenario,” he said in an evening video address on Christmas Day.
Ukraine has traditionally not celebrated Christmas on 25 December, but 7 January, the same as Russia. However, this year some Orthodox Ukrainians decided to celebrate the holiday on 25 December and Ukrainian officials, starting with Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s prime minister, issued Christmas wishes on Sunday.
The Kremlin says it will fight until all its territorial aims are achieved, while Kyiv says it will not rest until every Russian soldier is ejected from the country.
Asked if the geopolitical conflict with the West was approaching a dangerous level, Putin on Sunday said: “I don’t think it’s so dangerous.”
Kyiv and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an imperial-style war of occupation.
Blasts at Engels airbase
Blasts were heard at Russia’s Engels air base, hundreds of kilometres (miles) from the Ukraine frontlines, Ukrainian and Russian media reported on Monday.
Russia’s governor of Saratov region, home to the Engels air-base, said law enforcement agencies were checking information about “an incident at a military facility”.
“There were no emergencies in residential areas of the (Engels) city,” Roman Busargin, the governor of the region, said on the Telegram messaging app. “Civil infrastructure facilities were not damaged.”
The air base, near the city of Saratov, about 730 km (450 miles) southeast of Moscow, was hit on 5 December in what Russia said were Ukrainian drone attacks on two Russian air bases that day. The strikes dealt Moscow a major reputational blow and raised questions about why its defences failed, analysts said.
Ukraine has never publicly claimed responsibility for attacks inside Russia, but has said, however, that such incidents are “karma” for Russia’s invasion.