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Putin admits that the situation in the annexed regions is very difficult

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In his first public acknowledgment that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may not go as planned, President Vladimir Putin said the situation in four Moscow-annexed regions of Ukraine is proving “extremely difficult”.

He also called for increased surveillance in his comments marking Russia’s Security Services Day on Tuesday. That visit came after a visit by a close ally of Belarus raised concerns, and was rejected by the Kremlin, that the country could help Russia open a new front of invasion against Ukraine.

Putin told the Russian security services on their professional holiday that “the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, is very difficult.”

Putin referred to those working in the “new regions of Russia”.

“The people who live there, the citizens of Russia, are counting on you, on your protection,” he said.

Putin also said that “maximum calm and concentration of forces” was required in Russian counterintelligence operations.

He ordered the Federal Security Services (FSB) to step up surveillance of Russian society and the country’s borders to combat “the emergence of new threats” from abroad and traitors at home.

“It is necessary to strictly suppress the actions of foreign intelligence services to quickly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs,” he said.

In September, Putin announced Russia’s annexation of four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine after Moscow’s proxies held referendums there, which Kyiv and the West denounced as sham.

Kyiv asks for more weapons

Meanwhile, Kyiv was seeking more weapons from the West after weeks of attacks on energy facilities that cut off electricity and water supplies amid freezing temperatures.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address, “New weapons, missiles and defense capabilities… everything that would give us the ability to accelerate the end of this war.”

Ukraine’s military said it shot down 30 of 35 “kamikaze” drones launched by Russia on Monday, most of them over the capital Kyiv. The drones fly toward their target, then collapse and explode on impact.

Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday that five people were killed in the eastern Donetsk and southern Kherson regions, eight were wounded, and that 21 rockets knocked out power in the southern city of Zaporizhia.

Belarus activity

To Ukraine’s northwest, there has been ongoing Russian and Belarusian military activity for months in Belarus, which Moscow’s forces used as a launching pad for their failed assault on Kyiv in February.

Lukashenko has repeatedly said that he does not intend to send his country’s troops to Ukraine. But the commander of Ukraine’s joint forces, Lieutenant-General Serhiy Naif, said his country was ready.

“The military threat level is increasing, but we are taking appropriate measures,” he was quoted by the Ministry of Defense on Telegram as saying. He added, “The General Staff of the Armed Forces is working to expand the units in the event of a significant increase in the forces of the other side.”

The Kremlin on Monday rejected the suggestion that Putin wants to push Belarus into a more active role. The RIA Novosti news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying such reports were “unfounded” and “stupid”.

Both Putin and Lukashenko have also been battling to reject the idea of ​​Russia annexing or absorbing Belarus.

Putin said, “Russia has no interest in absorbing anyone.

Asked about the comment, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said it should be treated as “the height of irony,” given that it “comes from a leader who is seeking at the moment, right now, to violently absorb his next other peaceful neighbor.” The Door “.

Fighting grinds

The 10-month-old conflict in Ukraine, the largest in Europe since World War II, has killed tens of thousands of people, driven millions from their homes, and reduced cities to rubble.

Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian artillery had bombed 25 towns and villages around Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the east and several areas around Kobyansk, a town in the northeast that Ukraine recaptured in September.

Alexey Kolymzin, the Russia-installed mayor of Donetsk, said Ukrainian bombing had hit a hospital ward, along with a kindergarten, and posted on Telegraph a picture of what appeared to be a waiting room with smashed furniture and fixtures.

Reuters could not independently verify either side’s accounts of the battlefield.

Russia says it is launching a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe the Kremlin’s actions as an unjustified war of aggression.

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