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War in Ukraine, day 286 | Putin promises to continue destroying energy infrastructure



(Moscow) Vladimir Putin promised Thursday to continue the strikes against the Ukrainian energy infrastructure, a response according to him to the attacks of Kyiv in particular in Crimea, annexed peninsula whose Moscow admitted the vulnerability.

The remarks come as Moscow and Washington conducted a major prisoner swap at Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.

Russia has recovered arms dealer Viktor Bout, detained for more than ten years, while American basketball player Brittney Griner, imprisoned for several months for cannabis trafficking, returns to the United States.

Presenting medals to soldiers and other personalities Thursday in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin for his part swept aside Western criticism of the Russian strikes which in recent weeks have left millions of Ukrainians without electricity, even without water and without heating, in winter temperatures.

“Yes, we do, but who started it? “Launched Mr. Putin, presenting these bombings as a response to the explosion that damaged the Crimean bridge built by Russia in early October and other attacks attributed to Kyiv.

He also blamed Kyiv for having “blown up the power lines of the nuclear power plant in Kursk”, a Russian region bordering Ukraine, and for “not supplying water” to the pro-Russian separatist stronghold of Donetsk, in the East of the country, target of deadly Ukrainian bombardments for the past three days.

“From our side, as soon as we start doing something in response, the noise, the clamor, the crackle spreads throughout the universe,” Putin quipped.

“It will not hinder us in fulfilling our combat missions,” he added.


This fall, the bridge connecting Crimea to Russia was partially destroyed by a huge explosion that Moscow attributed to Ukrainian forces.

“Risks” in Crimea

Earlier Thursday, the Kremlin admitted to being vulnerable to Ukrainian attacks in Crimea, a peninsula annexed in 2014, after several attacks attributed to Ukraine far from the front.

In recent days, several Russian military bases, including two located some 500 kilometers from Ukraine, or as far as the Russian capital Moscow, have been targeted by drones.

Also on Thursday, a drone was shot down by the Russian fleet in Sevastopol in Crimea, local authorities said, a sign of the risks that continue to weigh on the annexed peninsula that Kyiv has sworn to take back.

These attacks, combined with a series of Russian reverses in Ukraine, seem to testify to the fact that, nine months after the start of the offensive, Russia is struggling not only to consolidate its positions, but also to protect its rear bases.

In Crimea, “there are risks, because the Ukrainian side continues to follow its line of organizing terrorist attacks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

But the fact that the drone was shot down “shows that effective countermeasures are being taken,” he said.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, based in the port of Sevastopol, was hit in late October by what authorities called a “massive” drone attack, which damaged at least one ship.

And in early October, the bridge connecting the peninsula to Russia was partially destroyed by an explosion that Moscow attributed to Ukrainian forces.

It is in this context that the authorities installed by Moscow in the Crimea announced the construction of fortifications and trenches, especially since the Ukrainian forces took over part of the border region of Kherson in November.

‘Spies’ Arrested

With front lines in danger of freezing with winter, Ukrainians are increasingly turning to drones to strike Russian bases in the rear, away from the front, as Russians bomb Ukraine’s energy infrastructure , even if it means plunging civilians into the cold.

According to the Ukrainian operator Ukrenergo, the electricity system was still the victim of a “significant deficit” on Thursday after the last Russian strikes on Monday.

Sign of tensions in Crimea, the Russian security services (FSB) announced Thursday the arrest of two residents of Sevastopol suspected of having transmitted to Ukraine information on military targets.

The Ukrainian army has moved closer to Crimea in recent weeks thanks to a victorious counter-offensive which enabled it to retake the strategic city of Kherson in the south of the country on November 11.

In this area, where the bulk of the forces of the two camps are separated by the Dnieper River, the situation remains tense, with regular Russian strikes on Kherson.

Oleksiï Kovbassiouk, a resident of the region met by AFP, crosses the river despite the risks and the freezing temperatures to help the inhabitants trapped on the left bank, occupied by the Russians, to flee.

“I’ve already had two bullet holes in my boat,” he said.

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