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Ukraine live briefing: Belarus shoots down Ukraine missile; Russian strikes knock out power in Kyiv, Lviv

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s air defenses thwarted a number of Russian missiles fired at targets across the country Thursday. The barrage was the most intense attack in weeks and knocked out power in several cities, including the capital, Kyiv.

In his evening address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the military’s antiaircraft missile brigades, claiming Ukrainian defenses intercepted 54 of the 69 Russian missiles and 11 of 23 attack drones. Engineers and repair crews, Zelensky added, were trying to restore power, but he did not elaborate on the extent of the damage.

“Unfortunately, there were several hits,” Zelensky said. “And I thank everyone who is working to restore energy supply.”

Belarus also shot down a Ukrainian missile that strayed into Belarusian territory, the nation’s Defense Ministry said. A local official in the Brest region where the missile fell played down the incident in a video posted by Belarus’s state-run news agency, Reuters reported. Residents in the area had “absolutely nothing to worry about,” military commissar Oleg Konovalov said. “Unfortunately, these things happen.”

Hours later, however, Minsk summoned Ukraine’s ambassador to demand a “thorough investigation” into the missile launch. Such incidents “can lead to catastrophic consequences for everyone,” a spokesman for the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said, the state-run news agency reported.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments
  • Ukraine’s Defense Ministry responded to the reports from Belarus on Thursday, saying that it was ready to investigate the downed missile. “The Ukrainian side, reserving the unconditional right to defend and protect its own sky, is ready to conduct an objective investigation,” the ministry said in a statement. It said Kyiv would invite independent experts not associated with Russia, which it ultimately blamed for the incident.
  • Lviv’s mayor said most of the city near the Polish border was “without light” after Russia attacked Ukraine using air- and sea-based cruise missiles Thursday. Andriy Sadovyi also wrote that trams were not running in the city. Kyiv’s mayor said nearly 40 percent of the capital had lost electricity and that workers were trying to restore power. In Odessa, the region’s governor said the strikes prompted emergency outages.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned the attacks as “senseless barbarism,” writing on Twitter that there could be “no ‘neutrality’ in the face of such mass war crimes.” He said: “These are the only words that come to mind seeing Russia launch another missile barrage at peaceful Ukrainian cities ahead of the New Year. … Pretending to be ‘neutral’ equals taking Russia’s side.”
  • 2. Battlefield updates
    • A bloody battle in Bakhmut has left only a “few civilians” in the city, once home to 70,000 people, according to Zelensky. The president made an unexpected visit last week to troops fighting to defend the eastern city from a Russian assault in the Donetsk region.
    • Russian air defenses shot down a drone near the Engels air force base Thursday, a regional governor said on Telegram. The air base near Saratov, southeast of Moscow, is home to long-range strategic bombers. Missile and drone fragments damaged some residences in the area, the governor said, but no injuries were reported.
    • The British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update Thursday that “it is increasingly clear” Russian air defenses are struggling to counter Ukrainian attacks within Russia, citing previous attacks on Engels air force base. The report suggested that Russia’s modern air defense systems have been spread thin protecting field headquarters closer to the frontline, leaving targets within Russia vulnerable.
    • Ukraine’s army could enter Russian territory “if necessary to protect our country,” Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said Thursday in an interview with the Kyiv Post. “We will be there,” he said. “And we will not ask anyone.” The Kremlin has already accused Ukraine of using drones to attack bases inside Russia.
    3. Global Impact
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will hold a virtual meeting Friday to discuss “the most pressing regional affairs,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
    • Zelensky renewed his calls for Ukraine’s entry to the European Union in his year-end speech to parliament. “On any continent, when they see blue and yellow, they know that it is about freedom,” he said. The president, who recently held meetings with U.S. and French officials, praised Ukrainian troops for defining “new NATO standards.”
    • The United States is considering sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles, an armored infantry transport, as part of additional military aid, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources. The vehicles would provide a significant boost to Ukraine’s capabilities, international security adviser Mark Cancian told Bloomberg, though it would take months of crew training before they could be fielded.
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the Ukrainian president’s preconditions for negotiations in an interview with state media Thursday. Lavrov said the Russian government would not discuss several conditions for peace proposed by Zelensky, including Russian withdrawal from occupied areas of Ukraine, payment of reparations and participation in an international tribunal.
    4. From our correspondents

    Inside the Ukrainian counteroffensive that shocked Putin and reshaped the war: In a months-long examination, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Paul Sonne, Serhiy Morgunov and Kamila Hrabchuk reconstructed the Kharkiv and Kherson counteroffensives through 35 interviews with Ukrainian commanders, officials and combat troops, as well as senior U.S. and European military and political officials.

    “Our relationship with all of our partners changed immediately,” Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, who commanded the Kharkiv offensive, told The Washington Post. “That is, they saw that we could achieve victory — and the help they were providing was being used with effect.”

    — WashingtonPost