Lavrov calls on US to end “aggression against Yemen” for “dialogue”.

Ukraine has intensified its attacks on the Belgorod border

After nearly two years of war, the damage has become more significant on the Russian border with Belgorod, which has seen an increase in Ukrainian attacks in recent weeks in response to Russian bombing targeting areas inside Ukraine. As Ukraine seeks in 2024 to appear on the city's landscape, its foreign minister said it would expand its control over airspace currently dominated by Russia, noting that victory over Moscow would require “time” and support from the West. The statement comes at a time when the Americans and Europeans are delaying aid to Kiev, while Ukraine fears that it will escalate the conflict in favor of Russia, which occupies about 20 percent of its territory.

Andrey is on patrol in Belgorod, Russia, which is being targeted by increasing attacks from Ukraine, where his son is fighting with Moscow forces (AFP).

Both Ukraine and Russia announced drone strikes targeting their territories early Wednesday morning, affecting the Ukrainian Odesa and the Russian Belgorod.

Andrei patrols the streets of the Russian city of Belgorod, which has been targeted for weeks by escalating attacks from Ukraine, where his son is fighting with Moscow forces. Andrey, nicknamed “Tushman”, is a member of the regional security forces stationed in the city. His coat displays the region's coat of arms, such as a lion and a falcon, in addition to the insignia of the Soviet special forces. He told Agence France-Presse: “If there is an attack, we will be the first.”

The 49-year-old points out that most members of the regional self-defense forces have recently been stationed at the border, helping the exhausted Russian army to block the Ukrainians' infiltration.

Due to the increase in strikes, these militants were relocated to Belgorod, a city of about 345,000 people, located fifty kilometers from Ukraine.

On December 30, Belgorod came under a Ukrainian attack that left 25 dead and over a hundred wounded. The strikes, considered the most violent on Russian territory since the conflict began in 2022, came in response to intense Russian bombing targeting Ukrainian cities. Oleg Gerasimov, who worked as a truck driver before the war, points to the large number of volunteers since the attack last December.

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Anatoly Krolovetsky, a 69-year-old former engineer… “There were several continuous explosions that day, they were very powerful.” (AFP)

Regional security forces organize patrols, assist residents in case of alarm and hold first aid classes. Although they wear military uniforms, they are not soldiers.

The targeting of a major Russian city is a blow to the Kremlin, which has always insisted that Ukrainian strikes do not directly affect the lives of Russians. Oleg realized that things were not going well. “The situation is difficult at the moment,” he points out, “but we believe that the threat affecting our city and the entire country will end soon, and we firmly believe that.” But it seems that the people of Belgorod do not feel safe. Local authorities carried out initial evacuations after extending school holidays and canceling public events.

“We are very worried every time our town is targeted,” says Andre, a 36-year-old miner who joined the regional security forces.

Many believe that Russian forces will resume their offensive on Kharkiv, a large Ukrainian city located across the border, to stop Ukrainian attacks on Belgorod.

Within the city, residents felt the brunt of the war more than anywhere else in Russia. While several memorials have been erected in memory of the civilians killed on December 30, giant billboards show videos on how to help the injured. Anatoly Krolovetsky, a retired resident of the area, said he was still in shock. The 69-year-old former engineer says: “On that day, there were several continuous explosions, which were very powerful.”

He continues, “Then there was a strong impact that I wanted to run and hide, but the explosion was so strong that it knocked me to the ground.” Educated in Kharkiv, Soviet Ukraine, Grolovtsky admits that living under the threat of strikes has become part of their daily lives. He sighs: “You go somewhere, but you have to keep looking at the sky, to see if there's anything flying…Peace is a thing of the past.”

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In 2024, Ukraine seeks to “kick” Russia out of its airspace, indicating that victory over Moscow will require “time” and support from the West.

The statement comes at a time when the Americans and Europeans are delaying aid to Kiev, while Ukraine fears that it will escalate the conflict in favor of Russia, which occupies about 20 percent of its territory.

Ukraine's foreign minister (right) with his British counterpart (AP)

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said: β€œThe priority is to get Russia out of our airspace by 2024. Because whoever controls the wind decides when and how the battle will end. We have defeated them on land in 2022, we have defeated them at sea in 2023 and we are focusing on defeating them in air in 2024,” he added.

Russia launched its offensive on Ukraine in February, but failed to capture Kiev, and has since been pushed out of the north, northeast and part of the country's south. In 2023, thanks to naval drones and missiles, Ukrainian forces were able to lift part of the blockade imposed on the country's ports on the Black Sea and resume part of the country's exports, especially grain.

The ship “Navi Star” loaded with Ukrainian grain waits to leave the port of Odessa in the Black Sea (AP).

Guliba said the West needed to provide his country with aircraft, long-range missiles and missiles to control the air. Speaking during a panel discussion, he added, “This requires providing Ukraine with aircraft…long-range missiles and drones,” noting that Ukraine has “significantly increased production of drones.” Guliba said: “We are fighting a very strong enemy, a very big enemy, an enemy that never sleeps. This will take time.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also confirmed that a delay in aid to his country would endanger “the security of Europe”. He added, “Without aid, we will have a shortage of artillery and a very significant shortage of anti-aircraft missiles.” This means we cannot repel attacks, raising the possibility of a “future war between NATO and Russia”.

Director of the Office of Ukrainian President Andriy Yermak (second from left) with members of the Ukrainian delegation at a press conference in Davos on Sunday (AFP)

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has expressed doubts about the prospects for a ceasefire in Ukraine, saying Moscow has shown no willingness to “negotiate in good faith” nearly two years after the conflict began.

Drones and missiles launched by Russia from land, sea or air targets Ukrainian territory on an almost daily basis. Ukraine said it shot down 19 of 20 attack drones launched by Russia overnight, specifically against the coastal city of Odessa in the country's south, injuring three.

The West has provided only a very limited range of long-range weapons, which Kiev believes is necessary to defeat Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the existence of the Ukrainian state was at risk, following a failed counteroffensive by Kiev over the summer that left Kiev unable to liberate territory held by Russian forces.

Zelensky listens to the discussions of “Davos” (AFP).

“Not only has Ukraine's counteroffensive failed, but the initiative now belongs only to the Russian Armed Forces,” Putin said during a televised meeting. If the current situation continues, the position of the Ukrainian government will suffer a very serious and dangerous blow.

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