Putin admits situation in annexed regions ‘extremely difficult’
In a first public acknowledgment that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may not go as planned, President Vladimir Putin said the situation in four Moscow-annexed areas of Ukraine had proved “extremely difficult”.
He also called for increased surveillance in his comments on Security Services Day in Russia on Tuesday. They followed a visit to close ally Belarus, which fueled fears, dismissed by the Kremlin, that the country could help Russia open a new invasion front against Ukraine.
“The situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, in the Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts is extremely difficult,” Putin told the Russian security services during their professional vacation.
Putin highlighted those who worked in the “new regions of Russia”.
“The people living there, the citizens of Russia, rely on you, on your protection,” he said.
Putin also said that Russia’s counterintelligence operations would require “maximum composure, the concentration of forces.”
He ordered the Federal Security Services (FSB) to step up surveillance of Russian society and the country’s borders to combat the “emergence of new threats” from abroad and traitors at home.
“It is necessary to strictly suppress the actions of foreign intelligence agencies in order to quickly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs,” he said.
Putin announced in September the Russian annexation of four territories in eastern and southern Ukraine after Moscow proxies held referenda there in what Kyiv and the West branded a sham.
Kyiv demands more weapons
Kyiv, meanwhile, was looking for more weapons from the West after weeks of attacks on power plants that had shut down both electricity and water supplies in freezing temperatures.
“Weapons, grenades, new defense capabilities… anything that will enable us to accelerate the end of this war,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his evening address.
Ukraine’s military said it shot down 30 of 35 “kamikaze” drones fired by Russia on Monday, mostly at the capital Kyiv. The unmanned aircraft fly toward their target, then crash and detonate on impact.
Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday that five people were killed and eight wounded in the east Donetsk and south Kherson regions and that 21 missiles shut down power supplies in the southern city of Zaporizhia.
Activities in Belarus
In north-western Ukraine, there has been constant Russian and Belarusian military activity in Belarus for months, which Moscow troops used as a launch pad for their failed attack on Kyiv in February.
Lukashenko has repeatedly said he has no intention of sending his country’s troops to Ukraine. But the commander of Ukraine’s joint forces, Lieutenant General Serhiy Nayev, said his country was prepared.
“The level of the military threat is increasing, but we are taking appropriate measures,” he was quoted as saying by the Ministry of Defense on Telegram. “The General Staff of the Bundeswehr ensures the expansion of units in the event of a significant reinforcement of the opposing forces.”
The Kremlin on Monday rejected the suggestion that Putin wants to push Belarus into a more active role. RIA Novosti news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying such reports were “unfounded” and “stupid”.
Both Putin and Lukashenko also scrambled to reject the idea of Belarus being annexed or taken over by Russia.
“Russia has no interest in taking anyone in,” Putin said.
When asked about this comment, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said it should be treated as “a pinnacle of irony” because it “came from a leader who, in the present moment, right now, is trying to violently destroy his other peaceful neighbor.” to absorb -door neighbor.”
The fight goes on
The 10-month-old conflict in Ukraine, the worst in Europe since World War II, has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions from their homes and reduced cities to rubble.
Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian artillery hammered 25 towns and villages around Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the east and several areas around Kupiansk, a northeastern city recaptured from Ukraine in September.
Alexei Kulemzin, the Russian-installed mayor of Donetsk city, said Ukrainian shelling hit a hospital wing and a kindergarten and posted a photo on the Telegraph of a waiting room with smashed furniture and fixtures.
Reuters could not independently verify either side’s battlefield reports.
Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe the Kremlin’s actions as an unprovoked war of aggression.