Ukrainian officials are on high alert over movement across their country’s border with Belarus as Vladimir Putin visits his counterpart Alexander Lukashenko today. The Russian leader is travelling to Belarus for his first “working visit” in three and a half years.
Ukraine has been warning the West for months that Belarus could soon join Russian military forces in their attack on Kyiv.
Minsk has already allowed the use of its territory to Russian forces in a bid to aid their invasion.
On Sunday, after a meeting of Ukraine’s top military command, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said: “Protecting our border, both with Russia and Belarus – is our constant priority.
“We are preparing for all possible defence scenarios.”
He added that whatever Belarus was planning to do under Russia’s influence, “this will not help them, just like all the other sick ideas in this war against Ukraine and Ukrainians”.
It comes as multiple explosive drones attacked Ukraine’s capital before dawn Monday, local authorities reported.
The drone attack came three days after what Ukrainian officials described as one of Russia’s biggest assaults on Kyiv since the war started and as Moscow presses on with its effort to torment Ukraine from the air amid a broad battlefield stalemate.
Russia launched 23 self-exploding drones over Kyiv while the city slept, but Ukrainian forces shot down 18 of them, the Kyiv city administration said on Telegram. No major casualties were reported from the attack, although the Ukrainian president’s office said the war killed at least three civilians and wounded 11 elsewhere in the country between Sunday and Monday.
The drone barrage caused emergency power outages in 11 central and eastern regions of the country, including the capital region, authorities said.
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Bits of wreckage from the downed drones damaged a road in the central Solomianskyi district and broke windows in a multi-story building in the Shevchenkyvskyi district of Kyiv, city officials said.
Although the capital appeared to be the main target of the latest Russian attack, the armed forces said other places in the country were also targeted.
Kyiv region Gov. Oleksii Kuleba said on Telegram that some infrastructure facilities were damaged across the Kyiv region, as well as private houses, and at least two people were injured.
Ukraine’s air force said on Telegram that its personnel were able to destroy 30 of at least 35 self-exploding drones that Russia launched across the country from the eastern side of the Azov Sea on Ukraine’s southeast coast. Russia is on the other side of the sea.
The Ukrainian military has reported increasing success in shooting down incoming Russian missiles and explosive drones.
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Moscow has targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including in Kyiv, since October as part of a strategy to try to leave the country without heat and light during the bitterly cold winter. It has kept up that effort despite Western sanctions and the supply of Western air defence systems to Ukrainian forces.
On Friday, Ukraine’s capital was attacked as part of a massive strike from Russia. Dozens of missiles were launched across the country, triggering widespread power outages. Four people, including a toddler, were killed when a Russian missile tore through an apartment building in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih.
The spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry reported that Russian air defences shot down four U.S.-made HARM missiles over Russia’s Belgorod region, which lies along Ukraine’s northeast border near Kharkiv. The claim by Lt.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov couldn’t be independently verified.