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Ukraine Strikes on Russian Cities Amid Upcoming Election, Hurting Putin’s Efforts

Ukraine’s recent strikes on targets inside Russia have disrupted the image that President Vladimir Putin has been trying to project, as he gears up for the presidential election in March.

Heightened Concerns Among Russian Citizens

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These attacks have not only caused significant damage but have also heightened concerns among Russian citizens, challenging the Kremlin’s control over the political landscape.

Increasing Frequency Of Attacks

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In recent weeks, Russian cities have experienced an increase in Ukrainian attacks.

A missile strike in Belgorod, a city near the Ukrainian border, left dozens dead and injured, marking a grim escalation.

Multiple Drone Attacks

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Ukrainian drones targeted a major fuel export terminal near St. Petersburg, leading to the suspension of operations by energy company Novatek.

Another drone attack ignited a fire at one of Russia’s largest refineries in Tuapse, while a separate refinery in Yaroslavl faced an attack.

Additionally, gunpowder factories and military facilities in various regions were not spared from these strikes.

Impact On Putin’s Image

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These attacks are undermining Putin’s efforts to assure the Russian population that their lives remain largely unaffected by the ongoing war.

Ukraine’s Capacity To Strike Back Has Grown

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Michael Kofman, a military expert, noted that Ukraine’s capacity to strike back at Russia has grown.

As Putin campaigns for re-election, maintaining an air of normalcy is crucial, but the increasing frequency of Ukrainian attacks is making it challenging to do so.

Growing Dissent

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Furthermore, signs of dissent are emerging across Russia.

Thousands have signed petitions in support of liberal politician Boris Nadezhdin, who is pushing for an end to the war.

Wives Of Lost Soldiers Protesting

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Wives of soldiers mobilized in 2022 have advocated for their discharge, and protests have erupted in Bashkortostan province against the jailing of a local activist.

Belgorod Attack’s Grim Toll

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The December 30th strike on Belgorod left a significant impact on the city and its residents.

Missiles rained down on the city during a holiday weekend, resulting in 25 fatalities, including five children, and over 100 injuries.

Horrific Scenes

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Eyewitnesses described gruesome scenes of horrific injuries and pools of blood in the streets, including a baby carriage hit by shrapnel.

Fear And Disruption

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The attack left the residents of Belgorod traumatized, with many afraid to venture outside due to any loud noise.

Schools in the city and the neighboring border areas have shifted to online classes until mid-February.

Shelling Damaging Private Homes

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The shelling damaged hundreds of apartments and private homes, as well as over 500 cars.

Bus stops are now being reinforced with concrete blocks and sandbags.

Previous Encounters

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Belgorod had experienced earlier brushes with the war, including drone strikes and accidents involving Russian warplanes.

In January, a military transport plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war was shot down in the Belgorod region, resulting in the tragic loss of all 74 people on board.

Putin’s Response

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In response to the Belgorod attack, Putin expressed anger and accused Kyiv of desperation following the failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Putin Decries Indiscriminate Weapons Use On Peaceful Settlements

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He criticized the use of indiscriminate weapons on peaceful settlements and maintained that Russia had only targeted military sites in Ukraine throughout the war, despite evidence to the contrary.

Ukraine’s Stance

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Ukraine’s government seldom comments on strikes inside Russia but underscores its right to defend against Moscow’s aggression.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy previously claimed that Russia had launched thousands of missiles and drones at civilian targets since the war’s onset.

Calls For Escalation

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Some Russian hawks view Belgorod as a turning point, advocating for a more aggressive response and a broad mobilization of resources.

They argue that Russia should secure more territory along the border to protect regions like Belgorod.

Pressure On Russian Defenses

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As winter keeps the front line largely frozen, Ukrainian missile and drone attacks inside Russia showcase their long-range strike capabilities, putting pressure on Russia’s air defenses.

Analysts suggest that these strikes may further strain Russia’s security assets.

Strategic Moves By Ukraine

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Ukraine’s approach appears to mimic Russia’s strategy from a year ago when Moscow targeted Ukraine’s power grid, hoping to slow down repairs.

However, Ukraine managed to make quick fixes and secure spare parts, thwarting Russia’s campaign. Now, Russia faces the challenge of devising a coping strategy.

Challenges For Russian Refineries

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Sergey Vakulenko, an energy analyst, points out that while Ukraine’s small drones may not cause extensive destruction, they can damage vital equipment that is difficult to replace due to sanctions.

Russian refineries may struggle to make speedy repairs if attacks on their facilities continue.

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