Blasts were heard at Russia’s Engels airbase hundreds of miles from frontlines in Ukraine, Ukrainian and Russian media outlets reported early on Monday. The RBC-Ukraine news agency reported that two explosions took place. The Russian news outlet Baza, citing local residents, said air raid sirens were wailing and an explosion was heard. The Guardian was not been able to immediately verify the reports. The airbase, near the city of Saratov, is about 730km (450 miles) south-east of Moscow.
Vladimir Putin has said the west is trying to “tear apart” Russia and claimed his offensive in Ukraine aims to “unite the Russian people”. In an interview aired on national TV, Putin said Russia’s “geopolitical opponents [were] aiming to tear apart Russia, the historical Russia … Divide and conquer, that’s what they have always sought to accomplish and are still seeking to do,” Putin added. “But our goal is different: it’s to unite the Russian people.”
Putin claimed Russia was ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the war in Ukraine, while accusing Kyiv and its western allies of “refusing” to negotiate. Kyiv and its allies suspect Putin’s claims are a ploy to buy time after a series of Russian defeats and retreats on the battlefield.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Putin “needs to come back to reality” after the Russian leader claimed Moscow was ready for negotiations. It is “obvious” that Russia “doesn’t want negotiations, but tries to avoid responsibility”, Podolyak tweeted.
Air raid alerts sounded across Kyiv and most of Ukraine on Sunday. Officials gave the all-clear and there were no immediate reports of Russian attacks. Unconfirmed reports on Ukrainian social media suggested the sirens may have been triggered after Russian jets took to the skies in Belarus.
Ukraine’s Kherson governor has issued a blood donor appeal after 16 people were killed when Russian shelling hit the southern region on Saturday. Yaroslav Yanushevych said Russian forces “opened fire on the Kherson region 71 times” with artillery, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars. Iuliia Mendel, a Ukrainian former presidential spokesperson, shared photos of people waiting to donate blood in Kherson.
Three Ukrainian emergency workers died when a mine exploded while they were demining parts of the Kherson region. “All three selflessly served … and performed the task of demining territories liberated from the enemy in the Kherson region,” the Zhytomyr emergency service said on its Facebook page.
Russian forces’ rate of advance in the Bakhmut area of eastern Ukraine has probably slowed in recent days, according to analysts. In its latest update, the US thinktank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) cited one Russian military blogger as saying that Ukrainian forces had pushed back elements of Russian private mercenary company the Wagner group to positions they held days ago.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy used his latest video address to say that Ukrainians would create their Christmas miracle by remaining unbowed, despite Russian attacks that have left millions without power. Speaking 10 months to the day since Russia invaded, Zelenskiy said that while freedom came at a high price, slavery would cost more.
Moscow is reportedly ready to resume gas supplies to Europe through the Yamal-Europe pipeline. “The European market remains relevant, as the gas shortage persists, and we have every opportunity to resume supplies,” Russian state media outlet Tass cited Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Novak as saying on Sunday.
Russia’s parliament is preparing to introduce a higher taxation rate for people who have left the country, as many have since the war in Ukraine began. Some local media reported as many as 700,000 fled after the announcement of a mobilisation drive to call up new troops to join the fight in September. The government rejected that figure at the time.
China’s foreign minister has defended his country’s position on the war in Ukraine and indicated that Beijing will deepen ties with Moscow in the coming year. China will “deepen strategic mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation” with Russia, Wang Yi said in a video address.
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Pope Francis used their Christmas addresses to call for an end to the war in Ukraine. Condemning the use of food as a weapon of war, the pope said the war in Ukraine and conflict in other countries had put millions at risk of famine.