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War in Ukraine: New Russian Warships; Putin-Xi meeting; and missiles land in Belarus

origin 1Local residents stand among the debris after residential houses were damaged following a Russian missile attack on Kiev. ©AP Photo/Roman Hrytsyna

1. Russia launches a massive missile barrage across the Ukraine

Several regions of Ukraine, including the capital Kiev, faced a new “massive” Russian missile attack on Thursday.

Air raid sirens blasted across the country for five hours, one of the longest alerts of the war.

The Ukrainian military said it shot down 54 of 69 missiles fired during the assault, including 16 around Kiev, where three people were injured and 40 percent of residents were without electricity.

Damage was also reported at a power plant in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and in the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Odesa.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Lviv said on Telegram that 90% of his city near the Polish border was left without electricity.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the attack as “senseless barbarism”.

Waves of weekly Russian air strikes in recent months have targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, leaving millions without electricity and heating in often freezing temperatures.

“The Ukrainian Air Defense Forces have demonstrated an incredible level of skill and efficiency,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Telegram.

“Emergency shutdowns may be applied in some areas to avoid grid accidents. Our energy engineers are already working to fix everything,” he added.

Two people were killed in Russian attacks on Wednesday, according to the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office.

Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and says its rocket attacks on infrastructure are militarily legitimate.

Russia strikes the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine 590 times in one week
War in Ukraine: Kiev denounces “senseless barbarism” as Russia launches missile attack

2. Vladimir Putin oversees the commissioning of new warships

Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw the commissioning of new warships and promised on Thursday to further strengthen his country’s navy.

“We will speed up and increase the volumes of building ships of various projects, equip them with the most modern weapons, and conduct combat and operational training using the experience received during the special military operation,” Putin said, referring to the 10th anniversary of Russia’s one-month campaign in Ukraine.

Newly commissioned vessels included a corvette, a minesweeper and the nuclear submarine Generalissimus Suvorov.

The submarine armed with nuclear-tipped Bulava ICBMs is the sixth aircraft of the new Borei-class to join the Russian Navy.

“It will ensure Russia’s security for decades to come,” Putin said.

Another submarine of the same type, the Emperor Alexander III, was launched during Thursday’s ceremony. The navy plans to commission it after sea trials.

For nearly 23 years in power, Putin made rebuilding his military a priority after the fall of the former Soviet Union (USSR).

The flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based on the annexed Crimea peninsula, was sunk by Ukrainian forces in April.

origin 1Russian President Vladimir Putin oversees commissioning of new ships for Russian Navy via video conference.Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

3. A Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile reportedly lands in Belarus

A Ukrainian S-300 missile is said to have fallen in Belarus on Thursday morning, according to the Belarusian news agency BelTA.

The incident happened between 10:00 and 11:00 local time during the “massive” Russian attacks on Ukraine. No damage or casualties were reported.

The anti-aircraft missile was reportedly shot down by Belarusian air defense systems near the village of Gorbakha in the south-western Brest region on the border with Ukraine.

It is the first time Minsk has reported an incident since Russia invaded Ukraine, using Belarus as a rear base for its forces.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was “immediately” informed of the incident, the defense ministry said in a statement.

Authorities investigating the event are investigating whether the rocket was a stray missile, similar to what exploded along the Polish side of the Polish-Ukrainian border.

Russian air defense also said on Thursday that it had shot down a drone near the Engels military base, about 500 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

Fragments from the drone damaged a car and a house without causing any casualties, according to regional governor Roman Boussargine.

Engels base was hit in a deadly attack on Monday, killing three people, which Russia blamed on Ukraine.

Ukrainian drone strike on Russian base kills at least three, Moscow says
War in Ukraine: Explosions at air bases in Russia; oil price ceiling; and intense fighting around Bakhmut

4. Putin will hold a video conference with Xi Jinping

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold a video conference on Friday, the Kremlin announced, part of the accelerated rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing since the start of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

“The exchange of views on the most acute regional problems will be very important, of course [problems] they are closer to us, to Russia, and others are closer to China,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

“Our leaders will address these issues in the spirit of our true strategic partnership,” Peskov said, adding that the meeting will take place “in the early part of the day” Moscow time.

There will also be discussions about “bilateral relations” and the “sharp increase in trade volume” between the two countries, Peskov noted.

Moscow and Beijing present themselves as a geopolitical counterweight to the United States and its allies and have conducted several joint military exercises in recent months, including naval maneuvers this week in the East China Sea.

origin 1The statue of Russian Empress Catherine the Great was dismantled in central Odessa.AFP

5. Statue of Catherine the Great removed from Odessa

A monument to the 18th-century Empress Catherine the Great was removed from public display in Odessa overnight as part of Ukraine’s efforts to cleanse its public spaces of vestiges of Russia’s influence.

The statue was originally erected in 1900, a century after Catherine’s death, but was only restored to its current location in 2007 by the city authorities.

It had been in storage since 1920 when it was demolished by the Soviets.

When an online poll about the statue’s future was held in October, 50.2% of Odessa residents wanted it to be completely destroyed, 36.12% thought it should remain with a historical explanation, 8.3% voted for it to remain unchanged, while 4.2% wanted it moved to a museum.

Read more and watch the video here.