Ukrainian missiles target Russian border regions in retaliatory strikes

Recent escalation sees both sides deploying urban warfare tactics as renewed fighting erupts to the east in Bakhmut.

Rescuers work at the site of a damaged building after a missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 2, 2024
Rescuers work at the site of a damaged building after a missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 2, 2024 [Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE]

Ukraine has launched air attacks on regions in Russia and occupied east Ukraine as the recent escalation of the war between the two countries continued.

Russian officials reported on Wednesday that Ukrainian missiles targeted Belgorod and Kursk in southern Russia, as well as the Crimean Peninsula, annexed in 2014, in the latest in a series of deadly tit-for-tat attacks that began last week and have killed dozens of civilians.

The overnight assault came a day after Russia struck Ukraine’s two largest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv, with several dozen missiles and drones, killing five.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence reported on Telegram that it had destroyed 12 Ukrainian missiles – six Tochka-U ballistic missiles and six guided missiles – over the Belgorod region. A Ukrainian attack the previous day had killed one person, said regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov. No casualties were reported from the latest attack, but the situation, he said, “continues to be tense”.

Ukraine also hit the Kursk region, to the north of Belgorod, damaging infrastructure and causing power cuts, regional Governor Roman Starovoyt posted on Telegram. And, in occupied Crimea, the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, reported that a Ukrainian missile had been downed overnight.

Ukraine rarely comments on its attacks on Russian soil. During the war, it has sporadically targeted border villages, launching missiles from an area blanketed by thick forests.

As details on the Ukrainian strikes emerged, Yuriy Malashko, the head of Ukraine’s regional military administration, reported that the Zaporizhia region had been hit by 134 Russian strikes over the past 24 hours, killing two people.

Deadly escalation

The spiral of tit-for-tat provocations started on Friday, when Russia launched one of its biggest attacks since the war started almost two years ago, its drones and missiles killing at least 31 people and damaging infrastructure.

Despite insisting it only targets military infrastructure, Moscow appears to have shifted its focus to urban warfare, hitting civilians and destroying infrastructure, leaving many struggling to stay warm.

Kyiv responded on Saturday, shelling Belgorod in an attack that killed more than two dozen people, according to Russia. President Vladimir Putin dubbed the assault a “terrorist” attack, saying it would “not go unpunished”.

Ukraine said on Tuesday that Russia had launched more than 300 attack drones and missiles since the end of last year, including that day’s assault on Kyiv and Kharkiv. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pledged that Russia would have to “answer for every life taken away”.

The spike in tensions comes against a backdrop of renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine, with the contested town of Bakhmut a hot point.

Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the Ukrainian army’s ground forces, said on Telegram that Russia was on the offensive, striking the Lyman area with guided aerial bombs as its forces regroup.

Western support

Amid the recent spate of attacks, Ukraine has been pressing to reinvigorate Western support, which has appeared to flag in recent months.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski on Wednesday called for Western nations to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles to enable it to strike Russian launch sites and command centres.

“We should respond to the latest onslaught on Ukraine in language that Putin understands: by tightening sanctions so that he cannot make new weapons with smuggled components,” he added.

The Russian barrage of missiles and drones in recent days has drawn renewed condemnation from across Europe.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, reiterated the EU’s support for Ukraine, saying Russia’s air attacks showed it was not interested in peace talks.

Norway announced it was clearing the direct sale of weapons to Ukraine.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said: “In the extraordinary security situation resulting from Russia’s war of aggression, it is crucial that we continue to support Ukraine.”

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) condemned the “continuing and intensifying aerial attacks by Russia in its war against Ukraine”.

However, Russia’s permanent mission to the OSCE blasted the organisation, complaining that it had failed to condemn the “barbaric missile attacks in Belgorod”.

Source: Al Jazeera