Russia Launches Record Number of Drones in Ukraine, and Putin Says Moscow Will Intensify Its Attacks

Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, firefighters work on the site of a burning building after a Russian drone attack in Dublyany, Lviv region, Ukraine, Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia launched a record 90 Shahed-type drones across Ukraine during the early hours of the new year, and Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would “intensify” its attacks on its neighbor.

Speaking during a New Year’s Day visit to a military hospital, Putin said Ukraine could expect more such strikes after shelling of the Russian border city of Belgorod that killed more than two dozen people and wounded more than 100 others.

“They want to intimidate us and create uncertainty within our country. We will intensify strikes. Not a single crime against our civilian population will go unpunished,” the Russian leader said, describing the barrage of Belgorod as a “terrorist act.”

Russia has blamed Ukraine for Saturday’s attack, which was one of the deadliest to take place on Russian soil since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine started more than 22 months ago. Russian officials said the death toll stood at 25 as of Monday, including five children.

Cities across western Russia regularly have come under drone attacks since May, although Ukrainian officials never acknowledge responsibility for strikes on Russian territory or the Crimean Peninsula.

Putin accused Western nations of using Ukraine to try and “put Russia in its place.” While vowing retribution, he insisted Russia would only target military infrastructure in Ukraine.

“Of course, we can hit public squares in Kyiv and in any other Ukrainian city,” he said. “I understand — I’m boiling with rage — but do we need to hit civilians? No. We are hitting military targets, and that’s what we will keep doing.”

Both Ukraine and Russia have relied extensively on explosive droves during the war. The wave of Russian attacks in Ukraine continued throughout the day Monday.

A 15-year-old boy was killed and seven people wounded after falling debris from one of 87 downed drones hit a residential building in the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, the head of the region’s military administration, Oleh Kiper, said. Debris also sparked a number of small fires, including at the city’s port.

Drone strikes and artillery fire also killed three people in Ukraine’s Kherson, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, including a 73-year-old woman.

In the western city of Lviv, Russian attacks severely damaged a museum dedicated to Roman Shukhevych, a controversial Ukrainian nationalist and military commander who fought for Ukrainian independence during World War II. University buildings in the town of Dubliany were also damaged, although no casualties were reported.

Writing on social media, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi described the strike as “a war for our history” that was “symbolic and cynical.”

Meanwhile, four people were killed and 13 more wounded following Ukrainian shelling on Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk, according to the region’s Kremlin-installed leader, Denis Pushilin. Russian state media reported that a journalist was among the victims, but provided no further details.

One person was also killed and another wounded in shelling on the Russian border town of Shebekino, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.