Key developments on Dec. 25:
- Governor: At least 16 killed, 64 wounded due to Russian shelling on Christmas eve in Kherson Oblast
- Putin claims readiness for negotiations, blames West for refusing to talk.
- World leaders deliver Christmas message to Ukraine
- General Staff: Russia shells more than 20 settlements in Bakhmut, Avdiivka areas
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin claimed on Dec. 25 that the Kremlin was ready for negotiations to reach what it views as “acceptable solutions” to its brutal war against Ukraine.
Putin’s claim comes amid Western warnings that Russia may be trying to buy time to regroup its forces before launching a major new offensive in early 2023. Ukrainian senior officials have said that Russia’s potential operation could come from multiple fronts.
In the interview with Kremlin-controlled Rossiya 1 television channel, Putin once again blamed Kyiv and its Western allies for blocking negotiations. He nevertheless reiterated that Russia would continue raging war against Ukraine until it achieves all of its objectives.
His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Dec. 8 that Russia aims to capture areas in eastern and southern Ukraine that it illegally claimed to have annexed in September.
Despite Putin’s statement, U.S. and EU leaders have said they would be open to peace talks if Russia were serious about ending its war in Ukraine. But they stressed that it is ultimately up to Ukraine to decide what it views as acceptable terms.
Ukraine said it is not interested in resuming peace talks – which ended in the first months of Russia’s full-scale invasion without a breakthrough – unless Moscow completely withdraws from its territory.
Russian troops had shelled more than 20 settlements in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka areas, including the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut, throughout the day, Ukraine’s General Staff reported on Dec. 25.
Despite the heavy shelling, the Russian advance in the Bakhmut area, in the northern part of Donetsk Oblast, appears to have slowed down in recent days, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW)’s Dec. 24 report.
Though it is too early to determine whether Russia has scaled down its ambition to capture Bakhmut, Russian forces “made slightly fewer overall advances” in the embattled area in the November-December period compared with October, the ISW said.
“Russian forces will likely struggle to maintain the pace of their offensive operations in the Bakhmut area and may seek to initiate a tactical or operational pause,” according to ISW.
Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported on Dec. 25 that Russian troops had shelled “the entire front line” in the region, including an overnight attack that damaged a hospital in Avdiivka.
A total of seven civilians were wounded in Donetsk Oblast, including five in Bakhmut, according to Kyrylenko.
‘Killing for pleasure’
In Ukraine’s south, Russian attacks on the liberated parts of Kherson Oblast killed at least 16 civilians and wounded 64 on Christmas eve, Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych reported.
On Dec. 24, a Russian artillery barrage hit the center of Kherson, where at least 10 were killed. Regional authorities had asked residents to donate blood following the attack, saying that it’s urgent now more than ever.
Yanushevych said that Russians had also struck upon two medical facilities on Dec. 24. It included an attack that hit the territory of the Kherson Oblast Clinical Hospital, as well as a psychiatric hospital, damaging the latter's roof and heating system, according to the governor.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the Dec. 24 attack on Kherson, accusing Russia of “killing (civilians) for the sake of intimidation and pleasure.”
Russia has been constantly shelling Kherson and surrounding areas since their liberation in November.