Putin vows to intensify attacks on Ukraine

The war between Russia and Ukraine has escalated in recent days, with both sides launching deadly air strikes on each other’s territory and Putin promising more attacks.

Following days of heavy air strikes by both sides in the ongoing war, President Vladimir Putin has vowed to “escalate” attacks on Ukraine.

Mr Putin made the statement during a visit to a military hospital in Moscow, where he said the military would persist in targeting Ukrainian “military facilities”.

He condemned an air strike on the Russian city of Belgorod by Ukraine as a “planned attack on civilians”.

Local officials say 25 people died in Saturday’s attack.

Talking to Russian servicemen on Monday, Mr Putin said the war was shifting in Moscow’s favour and he wanted the war to end soon, but only on Russia’s terms.

He also said that Ukraine’s Western backers were the main hindrance to ending the conflict, but said their language was starting to change as they began to realise they could not “annihilate” Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky disputed these assertions in an interview with The Economist, saying Mr Putin’s claim that Russia was winning the war was only a “sensation”.

He emphasised Russia’s casualty numbers in Ukraine, and said the opposing forces had failed to capture a single large city in 2023.

Zelensky also voiced dissatisfaction with Kyiv’s Western allies, saying they had lost a sense of urgency.

The two leaders earlier gave new year messages.

On Sunday, Vladimir Putin praised Russian soldiers as “heroes” without directly mentioning the war in Ukraine.

In his own speech to mark the beginning of 2024, Zelensky promised a sharp rise in the number of weapons made by the country – pledging to build at least a million drones.

Russia and Ukraine have traded lethal attacks in the last few days.

Ukraine bombarded the Russia-controlled Ukrainian cities of Donetsk on New Year’s Eve, according to Moscow-appointed officials, which killed at least four people and injured 13.

And on Saturday, Ukrainian forces carried out a series of strikes on targets in south-west Russia, including the strike on Belgorod which Vladimir Putin labelled a “terrorist attack”.

Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Monday that the death toll had increased to 25 after the death of a young child who was severely injured in the attack.

“Today, a 4-year-old girl died in a regional children’s hospital. She was in a very serious condition with combined injuries to the chest and internal organs,” Mr Gladkov wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

The girl’s death increased the number of child victims of the attack to five, the governor said. He added that 109 people were injured in the air strike, with 45 currently in hospital.

Last week, Russia carried out a widespread attack across several cities all over Ukraine, killing at least 45 people. Those strikes were characterised by Kyiv as Russia’s biggest missile assault of the war so far.

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