Russia battered Kyiv and Kharkiv with missiles and drones overnight, killing at least four people and injuring 92 more, after President Vladimir Putin said he was “seething” and would “intensify attacks” on Ukraine.
Moscow hit the capital with a combination of Iranian-made Shahed drones and “waves” of missiles for almost six hours, according to the Kyiv City Military Administration.
“As a result of such a massive missile attack in the capital, unfortunately, there is destruction of residential buildings, damage to infrastructure. There are victims,” said Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv military administration.
“Since December 31st, Russian monsters have already fired 170 ‘Shahed’ drones and dozens of missiles of various types” at Ukraine, the country’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a post on social media. “The absolute majority of them targeted civilian infrastructure. I am grateful to all of our partners who are helping us strengthen our air shield.”
Putin said on Monday that he was “seething” at strikes on the Russian city of Belgorod over the weekend that the Kremlin blamed on Kyiv, and vowed to “intensify strikes” on Ukraine.
“They want to a) intimidate us and b) create instability in our country,” Putin said during a New Year’s Day visit to a military hospital, according to the Kremlin’s readout of the president’s comments. “We will intensify the strikes,” he added, saying that “no crime — and this [the attack on Belgorod] is certainly a crime against the civilian population — will go unpunished.”
Russia blames Kyiv for the air attack on Belgorod, which killed at least 25 people and wounded more than 100, according to the Kremlin.
Since Saturday, Moscow has hit Ukraine with nonstop drone and missile assaults.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one woman from Kyiv’s Solom’yans’kyi district died and dozens more were injured.
In Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv, strikes killed at least one person and damaged civilian infrastructure.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said its air defenses had shot down all 35 of the Iranian-made drones Russia launched against several cities on Tuesday. But debris from the missiles hit several civilian facilities across the area, damaging gas pipelines and cutting off water and electricity in some areas, Klitschko said.
“It’s probably the biggest attack on Kyiv & [Ukraine] as a whole since the start of full-scale invasion. Urgent action in providing additional air defense capabilities needed,” said Ukrainian MP Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze in a post on social media.
Almost one-half of the presidential decrees signed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin last year were done in secret, a local media outlet said, more than any other year on record.
Mediazona said in a report on January 2 that according to its research based on data from Russia’s official publications website, 49.5 percent of the 997 decrees Putin signed were done in secret. The previous highest rate was by Putin in 2001, during the Second Chechen War, when 47 percent of all decrees were secret. The number of decrees signed in 2022, the first year of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, was 996, 45 percent of which were signed in secret.
The independent news outlet said that secret decrees are often used to reward the military and pardon convicts who were promised to be freed from prison if they served a six-month term with the military in the war against Ukraine.
In 2022 and 2023, data showed at least 17 people who committed murders were pardoned – all of them fought against Ukraine and then returned to Russia where they were granted their freedom.
On June 13, Putin confirmed he signed a decree absolving convicts of their crimes, saying, “the state must do everything to fulfill its obligations” to those who agreed to serve at the front.
Mediazona said it calculated the figures by looking at the registration numbers of the presidential decrees. Since they are done sequentially, the news outlet said that by totaling up the missing registration numbers, one could ascertain how many secret decrees were signed but never published.
The return of convicts from the war — dead or alive — is causing controversy across Russia as the government recognizes them as heroes while victims and families suffering as a result of their preinvasion crimes stew in anger.
There have been several cases of Russian families expressing outrage that the convicted killer of a loved one has been released and amnestied because they completed a tour of duty in Ukraine, and some neighborhoods live in fear of violent returnees. Some families are also irate over the state honors bestowed upon former inmates who don’t survive their stint in the war.
In a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed on January 2 that the U.K. would “continue to stand steadfastly by Ukraine as they fight aggression and occupation.” “The prime minister set out ongoing U.K. work to provide military and diplomatic support to Ukraine, including through further deliveries of lethal aid,” a Downing Street spokesperson said. It comes as Moscow escalates its aerial attacks on Ukraine, with Russian President Vladimir Putin pledging to intensify the strikes following what is believed to have been unprecedented Ukrainian attack on the Russian city of Belgorod.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has rejected calls for an international probe into alleged voting irregularities during recent parliamentary and municipal elections that sparked weeks of opposition-led protests demanding the vote be annulled.
Protesters have taken to the streets of Belgrade and other cities and towns in Serbia since the disputed December 17 elections that were won by the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), according to preliminary results.
The Serbia Against Violence coalition, which placed second in the general election, has accused the SNS of widespread vote fraud, which the authorities deny.
An international monitoring mission that followed the balloting said the SNS had gained an unfair advantage through media bias, the improper influence of Vucic, and voting irregularities such as vote-buying.
Serbian authorities rejected the allegations.
In ruling out any outside probe, Vucic said on January 2 that elections in Serbia are “a matter for [Serbian] state institutions.”
Vucic suggested that Serbia Against Violence, which has led the protests, objects to the results, particularly in the vote for Belgrade city authorities, because the party did not poll as well as it had expected.
Serbia Against Violence came second in the election with 23.56 percent of the parliamentary vote. The Socialist Party of Serbia was third with 6.56 percent.
Final results are expected to be published sometime this month.
Thousands rallied in Belgrade on December 30 in what was described as the biggest protest to date, with demonstrators chanting, “Thieves!”
That rally in the Serbian capital was organized by an independent civic initiative, ProGlas(Pro-Vote) that had campaigned for high turnout ahead of the ballot.
The crowd at the rally on December 30 roared in approval at the appearance of Marinika Tepic, a leading opposition politician who had been on a hunger strike since the ballot.
Tepic and two other opposition leaders, Jelena Milosevic and Branko Miljus, ended their hunger strikes on December 31 after about 12 days.
The opposition has urged an international probe of the vote after representatives of several global watchdogs reported multiple irregularities, including cases of vote-buying and ballot-stuffing.
Local election monitors also alleged that voters from across Serbia and neighboring countries were registered and bused in to cast ballots in Belgrade.