Recently, Russia launched an unprecedented drone attack on Kiev. After the attack on Monday, the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, left for Belarus, Reuters reported.

Ukrainian officials said Putin made the trip to convey to Kiev that he wants to pressure his ally to launch a new attack on Ukraine. Because Russian drones have just targeted key infrastructure in Kiev.

Belarus was used as a launchpad for Moscow’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine on February 24. But the country did not directly join the war.

“Protecting our borders with both Russia and Belarus is our constant priority,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said after a meeting of Ukraine’s top military command on Sunday. We are preparing for all possible defense scenarios.’

Putin headed to Belarus for his first visit in three and a half years and held talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The Kremlin described it as an extensive ‘working visit’.

Lukashenko has repeatedly said he has no intention of sending his country’s troops to Ukraine. But Ukrainian officials have warned for months that Belarus could once again serve as a base for ground attacks on Kiev.

The Russian Interfax news agency, citing the Russian Ministry of Defense, reported that Russian troops going to Belarus in October will conduct battalion tactical exercises. It was not immediately clear when and where the latest exercise shake-up would begin in Belarus.

Russian airstrikes on Monday hit ‘critical infrastructure’ in and around Kyiv, Ukrainian authorities said. The air defense system destroyed about 15 drones out of 20 operating in the capital. Governor Olesky Kuleba said private homes were also damaged in the Kyiv region.

Kyiv’s mayor said initial information indicated no deaths or injuries from the attack in the capital, and that medics were working at the scene of the attack in Solomyanskyi and Shevchenkivskyi districts.

Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app, “As a result of the attack on the capital, critical infrastructure has been damaged.”

Zelensky on Sunday again called on Western nations to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses, monitoring the energy network amid sub-freezing temperatures that have been under Russian airstrikes for weeks.

Several explosions were heard on Monday, but it was not immediately clear whether they were destroying the air defense system drones or the drones hitting their targets.

Power supplier Yasno said emergency blackouts had been reinstated in Kiev following the attack.

The 10-month-long conflict in Ukraine is the largest in Europe since World War II. So far the war has killed thousands, displaced millions and reduced cities to rubble.

Zelenskiy told Ukrainians that the armed forces firmly hold the city of Bakhmut. There have been weeks of fierce fighting as Russia tries to advance into the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

He said, ‘Bakhmut’s battlefield is very critical. We control the city even though the occupiers are doing everything so that no damaged walls remain standing.’

“Ukrainian forces shelled a hospital in the city of Donetsk, killing one person and wounding several others,” said Denis Pushilin, the Russian-appointed administrator of the Moscow-controlled part of the Donetsk region. But Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield account.

(Dhaka Times / 19 December / SAT)