Rescuers clear debris of homes destroyed by a Russian missile attack on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, December 29, 2022 (Genya Savilov/AFP)
Source: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1050 GMT:
UK military intelligence assesses that Lt.-Gen. Yevgeniy Nikiforov will soon be named the commander of Russia’s Western Group of Forces.
Nikiforov would be the fourth commander of the WGF during Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. He would replace Col.-Gen. Sergey Kozovlev, who was appointed only three months ago.
The WGF is tasked with holding Russia’s right flank against Ukraine’s counter-offensive in eastern Ukraine. The UK analysts note:
As the Chief of Staff of Russia’s Eastern Group of Forces (EGF) during the early weeks of the invasion, Nikiforov would have been heavily involved in planning the disastrous attempt by EGF and airborne forces to advance on Kyiv from the north-west, via the Chernobyl area.
They add, “The continued churn of senior Russian officers probably reflects internal divisions regarding the Russian Ministry of Defence’s future conduct of the war.”
UPDATE 1041 GMT:
Vladimir Putin has spoken by video conference with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Reports on the discussion offer little substance, including over the Ukraine invasion.
In an 8-minute public statement, Putin said, “We are expecting you, dear Mr Chairman, dear friend, we are expecting you next spring on a state visit to Moscow” to “demonstrate to the world the closeness of Russian-Chinese relations”. He said he hoped to bolster military cooperation.
Speaking for only two minutes, Xi said China was ready to increase strategic cooperation with Russia amid a “difficult” situation in the world.
But he implicitly pressed Putin to accept a diplomatic resolution of Russia’s troubled invasion: “The Chinese side has noted that the Russian side has said it has never refused to resolve the conflict through diplomatic negotiations, and expressed its appreciation for this.”
UPDATE 1038 GMT:
One person has been killed by Russian shelling of the Chernihiv region in northern #Ukraine.
Electricity has been cut in the settlement of Semenivka by three Russian shells.
Russian forces have also killed a civilian in Bakhmut, near the frontline in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.
UPDATE 0901 GMT:
Lviv Governor Maksym Kozytskyi says repairs after Thursday’s missile strikes have been completed. Electricity supply is being maintained with a “schedule of hourly outages”.
UPDATE 0846 GMT:
Russian insiders depict an isolated and uncertain Vladimir Putin as he faces the defeat of his Ukraine invasion.
A “Russian billionaire who maintains contacts with top-ranking officials” summarizes, “There is huge frustration among the people around him. He clearly doesn’t know what to do.”
A “Russian state official” explained that Putin’s only plan is “constant attempts to force the West and Ukraine to begin talks” through waves of strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. He emphasized that Putin is willing to enter discussions “only on his terms”.
The billionaire, the state official, and several analysts all noted the postponement of Putin’s annual State of the Nation address to the Russian Parliament in February.
The billionaire said:
In the address, there should be a plan. But there is no plan. I think they just don’t know what to say.
He is in isolation, of course. He doesn’t like speaking with people anyway. He has a very narrow circle, and now it has gotten narrower still.
Alexandra Prokopenko, a former Central Bank advisor who resigned and left Russia soon after the start of the invasion, said her former colleagues “try not see the war in terms of winners and losers. But they know there is no good exit for Russia right now.”
The state official echoes, “There is a feeling that we cannot attain the political aims that were originally forwarded. This is clear to all” — but no one knows how large a loss Russia will sustain before its leaders accept this.
Prokopenko notes that Russia’s economic elite “understand this isn’t going to end well”: “Everything they built collapsed for no reason.”
UPDATE 0828 GMT:
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says it is ready to conduct an international investigation over an S-300 anti-aircraft missile that was reportedly downed in neighboring Belarus on Thursday.
Belarusian authorities said the S-300 landed 15 km (10 miles) inside its territory amid Russia’s missile barrage on Ukraine.
The Ministry said the incident might be a deliberate Russian provocation, “The Ukrainian side is aware of the Kremlin’s desperate and persistent efforts to draw Belarus into its aggressive war against Ukraine.”
Vladimir Putin has met Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko twice in recent days, once in Minsk and once in St. Petersburg, amid reports of Russian pressure for Belarus’s air and ground intervention in Ukraine.
Lukashenko has resisted direct involvement, citing Belarusian “sovereignty” and the need for defense against a possible NATO attack.
UPDATE 0815 GMT:
US President Joe Biden has signed a $1.7 trillion spending bill, approved by Congress last week, which includes $44.9 billion in financial and military assistance for Ukraine.
Today, I signed the bipartisan omnibus bill, ending a year of historic progress.
It'll invest in medical research, safety, veteran health care, disaster recovery, VAWA funding – and gets crucial assistance to Ukraine.
Looking forward to more in 2023. pic.twitter.com/KTI1R9qMij
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 29, 2022
UPDATE 0737 GMT:
In his nightly address to the nation, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy summarized the outcome of Russia’s attacks with 54 missiles and 11 drones.
As of this evening, there are power outages in most regions of Ukraine. It is especially difficult in Kyiv region and the capital, Lviv region, Odesa and the region, Kherson and the region, Vinnytsia region and Zakarpattia.
But this is nothing compared to what could have happened, if it was not for our heroic anti-aircraft troops and air defense….
And despite all the strikes, the state works every day. The Office, the Cabinet of Ministers — everyone is working.
Zelenskiy then assessed the consequences for Moscow.
With each such missile strike, Russia is only driving itself deeper into a dead end. They have fewer and fewer missiles. Instead, the status of the biggest terrorist in the world will have consequences for Russia and its citizens for a long time. And each missile only confirms that all this must end with a tribunal. And that is exactly what will happen.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Trying to stave off defeat on the battlefield, Russia has launched another missile barrage across Ukraine — but with diminishing effect.
As air raid sirens sounded on Thursday morning, Ukrainian officials initially forecast an attack with more than 120 missiles. That would have been the largest Russian assault since Moscow began the waves of strikes on October 2022.
But in the end, there were just 69 missiles fired from Russia’s Rostov region and from warships in the Caspian and Black Seas. Ukraine’s air defenses downed 54 of them.
Two people were killed, both in the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine, and seven were injured. There was some damage to energy infrastructure, but outages from the attacks were not as severe as in earlier waves.
Emergency power cuts were implemented in several regions to cope with any damage from the attacks. About 40% of residents in Kyiv were affected. However, Ukrainian services anticipated restoration of power in most areas by the end of Thursday.
Russia followed up with 16 Iranian-made drones early Friday morning. All were downed, although munitions fired by one damaged an administrative building in Holosiiv, near Kyiv.
Kremlin Rejects Peace Talks
Moscow accompanied the barrage with the rejection of discussions over the 10-point peace formula of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed any end to Vladimir Putin’s “annexations” of four Ukrainian regions in September as well as that of Crimea in 2014. He insisted that Ukraine’s liberation of the Russian-occupied east of the country and Crimea in the south will be “an illusion”.
Lavrov dismissed Zelenskiy, proclaiming his “lack of independence in making important decisions”, and questioned whether an ”acceptable” politician will ever lead the “Kyiv regime”.
At her Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wished everyone “warmth, hope, faith, resilience and light”. She then echoed Lavrov’s rejection: “We can’t talk about the serious peace initiative of Kyiv and its western sponsors as [they] don’t have anything serious about them.”