Fighting is intensifying in southern Ukraine — where officials said 33 Russian rockets were fired at civilian targets in the city of Kherson on Wednesday alone — as Moscow doubles down on its calls for Kyiv to meet its demands before any talks to end the war.
Wednesday's shelling concentrated on populated areas on the Dnipro River's right bank, according to the daily report by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A total of 50 rockets fell in the Kherson region, including on military targets. according to the regional governor, Yaroslav Yanushevych.
The onslaught followed days of continued shelling of the city and its surrounding region, even after the occupying Russian forces retreated in November following a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The Kremlin dismissed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 10-point so-called peace plan, saying proposals to end the conflict must take into account what it claims are “today’s realities” of four Ukrainian regions having joined Russia.
While Kyiv has said it aims for a peace summit by the end of February, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also maintained that Russia would only be invited if it faced a war crimes tribunal.
In comments earlier this week, Zelenskyy listed “further rapprochement of our state with key partners” as one of his main goals in the coming year.
“This week will be important for Ukraine from a political point of view. We are entering the next year and must retain a common understanding of our national goals,” the statement read.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday said he was “ready for peace talks” in comments released to state television but there is little sign Russian attacks on Ukraine are relenting in recent days.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has made clear Russia will continue to pursue military means if Ukraine does not cede to its demands, which include the recognition of Russia's annexation of around a fifth of Ukrainian territory.
On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there could be no peace plan that “does not take into account today’s realities regarding Russian territory, with the entry of four regions into Russia.”
“Our proposals for the demilitarization ... are well-known to the enemy,” the state news agency Tass quoted him as saying Monday. “The point is simple: Fulfill them for your own good. Otherwise, the issue will be decided by the Russian army.”
Zelenskyy has said his country will never relinquish land. In his first trip abroad since the conflict began, he traveled last week to Washington, D.C., to appeal for further foreign support for his country's defense against Russia during a speech to Congress.
In an impassioned speech, he described support for his country as “an investment in global security and democracy.”
The ongoing destruction of infrastructure and a harsh winter have created a growing humanitarian crisis.
Around 30,000 Russian shellings have been recorded since the invasion began in February, destroying 702 pieces of critical infrastructure, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Yevgen Yenin said in a statement Wednesday. “We are talking about gas pipelines, electric substations, bridges.”
Around 18 million Ukrainians, or 40% of the country’s population, require humanitarian assistance, according to estimates by the United Nations.
Around 43% of all families in Ukraine have completely exhausted their savings, while basic survival resources are becoming increasingly scarce, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report Tuesday.