Ukraine attempted a diplomatic offensive at the UN, and succeeded in hitting the Engel base as well as Crimea. Russia is looking for a counter to neutralize the Patriot systems.
The front line moves little as the eleventh month of war in Ukraine has begun. While the military staffs speculate on an upcoming offensive, the conflict continues elsewhere, in depth and far from the front, on the bombed Ukrainian territory, in Russia, targeted by incursions and on the diplomatic level.
On Monday, Moscow claimed to have intercepted a drone over the Engels base, 500 kilometers from the border. Without making any further comments, kyiv was content to consider that this attack was the “result” of the Russian invasion. The site is a prime military target: the base hosts the long-range strategic bombers used to attack Ukraine. The real toll of the destruction is not known. Russia mourned the death of three people but no loss of aircraft. The Tu90s and Tu160s at Engels airfield are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
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For several weeks, the Ukrainian army has demonstrated an ability to strike Russian territory far from its borders. The Engels base had already been hit in December, as well as that of Dyagilevo or a fuel depot site in Kursk. Crimea has also been hit several times. On Monday, the FSB, Russia’s internal security service, claimed to have arrested “saboteurs” Ukrainians in Bryansk. All of these attacks have not been clearly claimed, no doubt to prevent Russia from using them as a pretext for an escalation. If the military effect is limited, their symbolic power is heavy: Moscow would be within the same reach. They also demonstrate a serious weakness in Russian anti-aircraft defences. The original launch point for these attacks is not known, nor is the precise type of vector. “We do not encourage Ukraine to strike beyond its borders”, had indicated at the beginning of December the American State Department.
Ukrainian diplomatic attempt
If Russian President Vladimir Putin has again assured that he is ready for negotiations, his aggressive rhetoric does not weaken. “The policy of our geopolitical adversaries is aimed at dividing Russia, historical Russia“, accused Vladimir Putin Sunday evening. No one in kyiv believes in the real possibility of a dialogue.
The autocrat also assured that the Russian army would find “an antidote” to destroy the Patriot air defense system that the United States has promised to provide to Ukraine. In the meantime, the Russian army continues to bomb Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure. On Saturday, Kherson was again targeted. “We must be aware that our enemy will try to make (the end of the year) dark and difficult”, warned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Luhansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Zaporizhia regions were also affected.
Thousands of miles away in New York, Ukraine attempted on Monday to launch a process ofexclusion of Russia from the United Nations. “Ukraine calls on UN member states to strip the Russian Federation of its status as a permanent member of the Security Council and to exclude it from the UN as a whole,” said the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. The diplomatic offensive, which aims to maintain symbolic pressure on Moscow, has no chance of succeeding.
Russia hit again in depth on its territory