A day after President Vladimir Putin said he was open to negotiations on Ukraine, Russia’s foreign minister said Kiev and the West intended to destroy his country and Ukraine must comply with Moscow’s demands or its army would.
Kiev and its Western allies have rejected Putin’s offer for talks, while his forces bombard Ukrainian cities with missiles and rockets and Moscow continues to demand that Kiev recognize its conquest of a fifth of the country.
Kiev says it will fight until Russia withdraws.
“The enemy is well aware of our proposals for the demilitarization and denazification of regime-controlled territories and the elimination of threats to Russia’s security emanating from them, including our new lands,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state news agency TASS late on Monday.
“The question is simple: Fulfill them for your own sake. Otherwise, the matter will be decided by the Russian army.”
Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, calling it a “special operation” to “de-Nazify” and demilitarize Ukraine, which he said was a threat to Russia.
Kiev and the West claim that Putin’s invasion was nothing more than an imperialist seizure of territory. The United States and its allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia over its invasion and sent billions of dollars in aid to the Ukrainian government.
Just last week, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Washington, the United States announced another $1.85 billion in military aid for Ukraine, including the transfer of the Patriot air defense system, angering Moscow.
“It is no secret to anyone that the strategic goal of the United States and its NATO allies is to defeat Russia on the battlefield as a mechanism to significantly weaken or even destroy our country,” Lavrov told TASS.
He reiterated that Russia and the United States cannot maintain a normal connection, blaming the administration of US President Joe Biden.
Although Moscow had planned a quick operation to seize the neighboring country, the war is now in its eleventh month, marked by numerous embarrassing Russian setbacks on the battlefield.
In the latest attack that has exposed gaps in Russian air defenses, a suspected Ukrainian drone penetrated hundreds of kilometers through Russian airspace on Monday, triggering a deadly explosion at the main base of its strategic bombers.
Russia’s military has been fighting fierce for months in eastern and southern Ukraine to defend lands Moscow proclaimed annexed in September that make up Ukraine’s broader industrial region of Donbass.
In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have repelled Russian attacks on the areas of two settlements in the Luhansk region and six in the Donetsk region, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Tuesday.
In his late-night video message on Monday, Zelenskiy called the situation along the front line in the Donbass “difficult and painful.”
Oleh Zhdanov, a Kiev-based military analyst, said heavy fighting was taking place around elevated areas near Kreminna in the Luhansk region.
He also said fighting has intensified along Bakhmut and Avdiivka, a line of contact further south in the Donetsk region, following a brief relaxation in previous days.
“The arc of fire in the Donetsk region is still burning,” Zhdanov said in a video posted on social media.
Zelenskiy said that as a result of attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, nearly nine million people were without electricity. That figure is equivalent to about a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
Sergei Kovalenko, director of YASNO, which supplies electricity to Kiev, said late on Monday that although the energy situation has been improving in the city, blackouts will continue.
“While repairs are carried out, emergency blackouts will continue,” Kovalenko said on his Facebook page.
Moscow said on Monday it had shot down a drone believed to be Ukrainian, causing it to crash at the Engels air base, killing three service members. Ukraine did not comment, under its usual policy on incidents inside Russia.
On December 5, an alleged drone crashed into the same base.
The base, the main airfield for bombers that Kiev says Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, is located hundreds of kilometers from the Ukrainian border. The same aircraft are also designed to launch nuclear-capable missiles as part of Russia’s long-term strategic deterrence.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that no aircraft had been damaged, but Russian and Ukrainian social media said several had been destroyed. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Putin hosted the leaders of other former Soviet states in St. Petersburg on Monday for a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States group, which Ukraine has long since abandoned.
The invasion of Ukraine has tested Russia’s authority among other former Soviet states.
In televised remarks, Putin made no direct reference to the war, though he claimed that threats to the security and stability of the Eurasian region were on the rise.
“Unfortunately, the challenges and threats in this area, especially from the outside, are only increasing every year,” he said. “We also have to acknowledge, unfortunately, that disagreements also arise between Commonwealth member states.”