Ukraine claims downing drones as Moscow ‘avenges’ Belgorod attack

Published January 1, 2024
kharkiv: Utility workers clean up the debris and broken windows following an early morning Russian drone attack, on Sunday.—AFP
kharkiv: Utility workers clean up the debris and broken windows following an early morning Russian drone attack, on Sunday.—AFP

KYIV: Ukraine on Sunday claimed to have destroyed 21 of 49 drones launched from Russia as Moscow said it had attacked military facilities in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv overnight in response to strikes on Belgorod, the previous day.

The Ukrainian air force said the “Shahed” drones were particularly targeted at “the front line of defence, as well as at civilian, military and infrastructure facilities in the front-line territories”.

Six guided missiles had also targeted the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Kyiv said in a statement on Telegram, without specifying whether they had hit their targets.

Schools, a maternity hospital, shopping arcades and blocks of flats were among the buildings hit in Friday’s barrage.

Ukraine was still sifting through the rubble on Saturday when fresh strikes hit the regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Chernigiv, according to local authorities.

Three more people were killed by Russian strikes across Ukraine on Saturday, the officials said.

January 1 was to be declared a day of mourning in the capital Kyiv, where 19 people had been killed, city officials said.

Oleg Sinegubov, the head of Kharkiv’s military administration, said there had been 28 civilians wounded in the attack on the city, including two teenagers and a foreign citizen.

Residential buildings, offices and cafes were hit in the latest overnight attacks, said Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov.

“On the eve of the New Year, Russians want to intimidate our city, but we are not scared,” he said.

The fresh Russian strikes came a day after the deadliest attack on civilians in Russia since the start of the conflict in February 2022.

The official death toll in Belgorod has risen to 24 with 108 wounded– just 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the Ukrainian border, which has been repeatedly struck by what Moscow says is indiscriminate shelling.

The two sides took turns to accuse each other of pummelling civilian areas of their shared frontier region over the weekend.

The governor of Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said Sunday that one person had been killed by Ukrainian shelling in a village close to the border.

‘Revenge’ for Belgorod attack

 A view shows the Kharkiv Palace Hotel heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Dec 31, 2023. — Reuters
A view shows the Kharkiv Palace Hotel heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Dec 31, 2023. — Reuters

Moscow said the Belgorod attack had included the use of controversial cluster munitions, and told an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council that Kyiv had targeted a sports centre, an ice rink and a university.

Russian envoy Vasily Nebenzya called it a “deliberate, indiscriminate attack against a civilian target”.

Ukraine’s allies countered that responsibility ultimately lay with Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading the neighbouring country nearly two years ago.

“If Russia wants someone to blame for the deaths of Russians in this war, it should start with President Putin,” said British envoy to the UN Thomas Phipps.

Putin gave his traditional New Year’s Eve address on Sunday, in which he praised Russia’s soldiers on the front line and called for unity in the face of “difficult tasks”.

“To all those who are on duty, on the front line of the fight for truth and justice,” Putin said, “you are our heroes. Our hearts are with you. We are proud of you, we admire your courage.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is also set to give his New Year’s address later.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2024

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