Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

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Explosions in Zaporizhzhia as southern, northeastern Ukraine come under attack

Russia attacked Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine and Kharkiv in the northeast in the early hours of Monday morning, regional officials said.

“As a result of a combined attack of cruise and ballistic missiles launched from different directions, a total of 5 explosions rang out in the regional center,” Yuriy Malashko, the head of the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration, said on Telegram.

“It is known that missiles hit residential areas in open areas and near houses. As of 08:00, two people have been reported injured as a result of the missile attack a man and a woman. The information is being updated.”

A yard is being damaged by shelling, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on January 2, 2023. On the morning of January 2, Russia struck Kharkiv with Kinzhal missiles.

Pavlo Pakhomenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Acting Zaporizhzhia Mayor Anatoliy Kurtiev said civilians were injured in the attack. “Russian terrorists are attacking Zaporizhzhia. Unfortunately, there are victims,” he wrote on Telegram. Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians.

Russian forces also attacked industrial facilities in the city of Kharkiv Monday morning, leaving a woman injured, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Telegram.

Kharkiv was the target of repeated attacks last week as Russia and Ukraine exchanged retaliatory strikes on the city and Belgorod, on Russian territory. Russia’s Ministry of Defense said Monday that a missile was intercepted over Belgorod overnight.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian National Guard bolstered with personnel and resources

Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) servicemen patrol Red Square in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in central Moscow on Nov. 10, 2022.

Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images

The Russian National Guard, Rosgvardia, is bolstering its resources and personnel “as a result of upheavals in Russia’s internal security scene” in light of the war in Ukraine, Britain’s Ministry of Defense noted Sunday.

Elements of private military company Wagner Group came under Rosgvardia from October 2023, following an ill-fated mutiny last summer that was succeeded by the death of Wagner’s founder Yevgeny Prigozhin.

On Jan. 3, the “Vostok” battalion from the pro-Russian, separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine was also subsumed under Rosgvardia.

“Moscow has also been advancing its efforts to dissolve the DNR’s “Kaskad” group, which specialises in drone operations, and subordinate parts of it to Rosgvardia,” the British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update on X on Sunday.

“In July 2023, the Russian State Duma authorised Rosgvardiya to employ heavier weaponry. New capabilities, along with its augmentation with experienced veterans from other groups, will likely represent a significant increase in combat effectiveness,” the ministry added.

— Holly Ellyatt

Putin courts families of dead Russian servicemen ahead of March election

Russian President Vladimir Putin courted the families of dead Russian servicemen over the weekend as he continued attempts to burnish his leadership credentials ahead of the March 2024 presidential election.

Putin met family members of Russian service personnel who died fighting in Ukraine at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo on Saturday, ahead of Orthodox Christmas celebrations. Praising the service personnel’s heroism, Putin said they defended Russia’s interests and that the government would support their families.

“Many of our men, our courageous, heroic men, the soldiers of Russia are defending right now the interests of our country with weapons in their hands, on this holiday,” Putin said at the meeting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, near the Kremlin Wall during the national celebrations of the ‘Defender of the Fatherland Day’ in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

Alexei Nikolsky | Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

“I would like our meeting to be a clear and understandable signal … that my colleagues, I repeat, at every level of government and governance, should always be with you, so that you always feel that there are people around you who can support you, help you, and come to your aid if you need it,” Putin added.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War noted that Putin recently attended similar events during which “he presented himself as a gracious leader who cares about the well-being of Russian military personnel and paraded his power to fulfil servicemen’s requests and deal with issues.”

Presenting that image is pressing for Putin as he campaigns for reelection in the March 17 presidential election, which he’s widely expected to win.

“Putin is likely using these recurring, publicized meetings as part of his election campaign, as Russian servicemen and their family members comprise a sizable constituency, and their public support for Putin is vital for the Kremlin’s ability to present the Russian population as largely in support of the war in Ukraine,” the ISW noted in analysis Sunday.

— Holly Ellyatt


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