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Fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine as Russia reaffirms its demand for an end to the war


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© Reuters. Ukrainian soldiers of the 43rd Heavy Artillery Brigade fire a shell from the 2S7 Pion self-propelled howitzer, as Russia’s assault on Ukraine continues, during heavy artillery shelling on the front lines in Bakhmut, Ukraine, December 26, 2022. REUTERS/Clodagh Ki

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By Dan Peleschuk and Herbert Villarraga

KYIV/BAKHMUT, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russian forces shelled and bombed towns and cities in eastern and southern Ukraine on Tuesday, a day after Russia’s foreign minister said Kyiv must accept Moscow’s demands for an end to the war, or defeat on the battlefield.

Those demands include Ukraine recognizing Russia’s conquest of one-fifth of its territory. Kyiv, armed and supported by the United States and its NATO allies, has vowed to recover all occupied territories and drive out all Russian troops.

The UK Ministry of Defense said in its latest update on the situation in Ukraine that fighting was particularly intense around the strategic city of Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk and Svatove provinces, and further north in Luhansk province. . Donetsk and Luhansk, which make up the industrial Donbas, are both claimed by Russia, along with two southern regions of Ukraine.

“Russia continues to initiate frequent small-scale attacks in these areas (by Bakhmut and Svatove), although a small number of territories have changed hands,” the British Ministry of Defense wrote on Twitter.

Reuters reporters saw flames burn in a large residential building in Bakhmut, while debris littered the streets and most buildings had their windows blown out.

“Our proposals for the demilitarization and denuclearization of regime-controlled territories, removing threats to Russia’s security stem from them, including those our new, well known enemy,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by TASS news agency. talk late on monday.

“The matter is very simple: Do them for your own good. Otherwise, the matter will be decided by the Russian military,” he said, repeating Moscow’s position that Ukraine is a pawn of the Russians. The West wants to “weak or even destroy” Russia.

Kiev and its Western allies reject this position, saying that Russia is engaged in a brutal imperial occupation of Ukraine.

The West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow, including a ceiling of $60 a barrel on December 5, imposed by the Group of Seven, the European Union and Australia to limit its ability to Russia’s ability to finance war.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Tuesday that Russia’s budget deficit could be larger than the planned 2% of national output in 2023 as the oil price ceiling squeezes export earnings, amid a surplus. the most obvious, but the ceiling can have a financial impact.

‘BY CONTINUOUS EXPLOSION’

After a series of failures in “special military operations”, Russia is now seeking victory on the battlefield by capturing Bakhmut, an industrial city with a pre-war population of 70,000, now only about 10,000. The residents are mainly elderly.

Gaining control of the city could give Russia a springboard to two larger cities, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

“Our building was destroyed. There was a shop in our building, it’s not there anymore,” said Oleksandr, 85, adding that he is the only resident left in the building. there.

Nearby, Ms. Pilaheia, 73, said she had long been used to “constant bangs”.

In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have repelled Russian attacks in areas of two settlements in Luhansk province and six settlements in Donetsk, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Wednesday. Tuesday.

It also reported that Russia has shelled more heavily on the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, in the Zaporizhzhia region and settlements in the Kharkiv region in the northeast near the Russian border.

Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst based in Kyiv, cited fierce fighting around high-altitude areas near Kreminna in the Luhansk region as well as around Bakhmut and Avdiivka in Donetsk.

“The ring of fire in the Donetsk region continues to burn,” Zhdanov said in a video posted on social media.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that as a result of attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, nearly 9 million people are now without electricity – equivalent to about a quarter of Ukraine’s population.

Unmanned aircraft

President Vladimir Putin planned a swift campaign to subdue Ukraine when he ordered the invasion on February 24, but Russia suffered many embarrassing defeats on the battlefield.

In the latest attack to expose vulnerabilities in Russia’s air defenses, an alleged Ukrainian drone penetrated hundreds of kilometers through Russian airspace on Monday, causing an explosion. deadly at the main base for the country’s strategic bombers.

Moscow said it shot down the drone at the Engels airbase, where three servicemen were killed.

The base, the main airfield for bombers that Kiev says Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, is hundreds of miles from the Ukrainian border. Similar planes are also designed to launch nuclear-capable missiles as part of Russia’s long-term strategic deterrence.

The Russian Defense Ministry said no aircraft were damaged, but Russian and Ukrainian social media accounts said several planes were destroyed. Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.

Ukraine did not comment on the attack, following its usual policy for incidents inside Russia. But a spokesman for the Ukrainian air force said on Tuesday that Russia had moved many aircraft from Engels to other air bases after the attack and that enemy air activity during the night had “significantly reduced”. tell”.

A suspected drone also hit Engels’ base on December 5.

Such attacks – coupled with Putin’s decision in September to recruit hundreds of thousands of men into Russia’s first draft since World War Two – have brought the Ukraine conflict closer to those of the Russians. Ordinary Russia, who at least in the early months of the war could ignore it. as a far-fetched event.

Some Muslims who visit the ice sculptures in Gorky Park say the war has affected their mood during the festive season.

“It’s hard to be happy when you understand that everyone out there is going through such terrible times,” said a tourist named Maria.

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