By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Russia has launched a new round of missile strikes against Ukraine a day after Orthodox Christmas as ground fighting in the eastern Donbas region remained intense..
Russian forces fired on several locations on January 8, according to Ukrainian authorities, including the city of Zaporizhzhya, villages in the Dnipropetrovsk region, as well as Kramatorsk and Kostyantynivka in the Donbas. A few people were reported killed, Ukrainian officials said.
In the southern region of Kherson, the military governor accused Moscow of using incendiary ammunition in bombarding part of the city.
The Russian shelling of Ukrainian cities began after midnight following the conclusion of Orthodox Christmas on January 7 which Russians and many Ukrainians observe.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said fighting in the Donetsk region remained intense.
The Donetsk and Luhansk regions make up the Donbas, which Russian President Vladimir Putin claims to have annexed. Full control of the Donbas is Putin’s main priority at this stage in the war, analysts have said.
Malyar said that Russian forces had made some progress in Soledar, a Donetsk town about 20 kilometers northeast of Bakhmut, where the most intense fighting is taking place.
Malyar said that Russia had concentrated “considerable efforts” in Soledar in order to reach the borders of the Donetsk region or to just capture some territory for propaganda purposes.
“It is very difficult in Soledar now,” she wrote on Telegram.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is now in its 11th month and Kyiv claims that Moscow is preparing for another major offensive in the coming weeks.
Ukraine has been able to stop the Russian invasion and recapture some previously seized territory with the help of Western military aid.
The United States and its NATO allies announced new military provisions last week to Ukraine but Kyiv says it still needs more.
In a major policy shift, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Berlin would provide about 40 infantry fighting vehicles and a Patriot missile battery after months of dragging his feet.
However, Berlin declined for the time being to supply Leopard heavy battle tanks, which Ukraine says is critical for the land battle in the Donbas.
Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state from 2005 to 2009, and Robert Gates, the secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011, urged the West to approve a “dramatic increase in military supplies and capability” to Ukraine to stop any new Russian offensive and push Putin’s troops out of the country.
The two former officials warned in a January 7 article in The Washington Post that time was on Russia’s side in the war. Western unity and Ukraine’s economy were at serious risk of breaking the longer the fighting continued, they said.
Rice and Gates urged NATO members to supply Ukraine with longer-range missiles, advanced drones, greater ammunition stocks, and more reconnaissance and surveillance systems within “weeks, not months.”