Fighting is intensifying in southern Ukraine, where authorities said 33 Russian rockets were fired at civilian targets in the city of Kherson on Wednesday alone. – as Moscow redoubles its calls for Kyiv to meet its demands before any talks to end the war.
Shelling on Wednesday targeted populated areas on the right bank of the Dnipro river, according to the daily report of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. A total of 50 rockets fell in the Kherson region, including on military targets. according to the regional governor, Yaroslav Yanushevich.
The attack followed days of continuous shelling of the city and surrounding region, even after occupying Russian forces withdrew in November following a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The Kremlin has dismissed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s so-called 10-point peace plan, saying proposals to end the conflict must take into account what it says are “the current realities” of four Ukrainian regions that have joined Russia.
While Kyiv has said it aims for a peace summit by the end of February, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also said Russia would only be invited if it faces a war crimes tribunal.
In September, Russia annexed the four regions of Ukraine after the occupied areas held fake votes, which were denounced by Kyiv and the West.
In comments earlier this week, Zelenskyy listed “further rapprochement of our state with key partners” as one of his top goals for the coming year.
“This week will be important for Ukraine from a political point of view. We are entering the next year and must maintain a common understanding of our national goals,” the statement read.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday he was “ready for peace talks” in comments posted on state television, but there are few signs that Russian attacks on Ukraine are abating in recent days.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has made it clear that Russia will continue to seek military means if Ukraine does not concede to his demands, which include recognition of Russia’s annexation of around a fifth of Ukrainian territory.
On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there can be no peace plan that “does not take into account the current realities regarding Russian territory, with the entry of four regions into Russia.”
“Our proposals for demilitarization… are well known to the enemy,” the state-run Tass news agency said on Monday. “The point is simple: Follow them for your own good. Otherwise, the matter will be decided by the Russian army.”
Zelenskyy has said that his country will never give up the land. In his first trip abroad since the conflict began, he traveled to Washington, DC, last week to appeal for more foreign support for his country’s defense against Russia during a speech before Congress.
In an impassioned speech, he described supporting his country as “an investment in global security and democracy.”
Continued destruction of infrastructure and a harsh winter have created a growing humanitarian crisis.
There have been around 30,000 Russian bombing strikes since the invasion began in February, destroying 702 pieces of critical infrastructure, Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Yevgen Yenin said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are talking about gas pipelines, electrical substations, bridges.”
About 18 million Ukrainians, or 40% of the country’s population, require humanitarian assistance, according to United Nations estimates.
Some 43% of all families in Ukraine have completely depleted their savings, while basic survival resources are dwindling, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report on Tuesday.