Russia launched a barrage of drone and missile strikes on Kyiv in what it described as a retaliatory attack against Ukraine’s targeting of a Russian border city. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he would intensify attacks on Ukraine following the attack on Belgorod, which killed 25 people.
Zelenksyy’s defiant interview
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy has maintained throughout the war that his country will be able to defeat Russia. In a new year interview with The Economist, Zelenskyy appeared frustrated with faltering Western support for his nation as the war nears its second anniversary. “Giving us money or giving us weapons, you support yourself. You save your children, not ours,” Zelenskyy said. “Putin feels weakness like an animal, because he is an animal. He senses blood, he senses his strength. And he will eat you for dinner with all your EU, NATO, freedom, and democracy.”
Putin year-end speech praised ‘united’ Russia
A brief year-end address to the nation by Putin on Dec. 31 centered on Russia’s achievements on the battlefield in 2023. “What united us and unites us is the fate of the Fatherland,” Putin said, applauding the efforts of Russian soldiers in Ukraine. Some analysts view 2023 as having been a positive year for the Russian president: “It’s been a good year; I would even actually call it a great year” for Putin, Mathieu Boulegue, a consulting fellow with Chatham House’s Russia-Eurasia program, told the Associated Press. But Putin also needs to “massage the facts” to stay on message about his country’s successes, Nathan Hodge wrote for CNN. Russia doesn’t control the regions it illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2022, and the war has landed on Russian doorsteps as Ukraine launches counterattacks within the country. “Putin clearly wants the world — as well as his electorate — to believe that he is winning,” Hodge noted.
Putin needs to shore up support in election year
Russia is heading into an election, and while Putin doesn’t face any serious competition and will certainly secure another term, he still needs to ensure voter turnout is high enough to make his reelection seem legitimate. “Putin’s main task is not to upset people too much,” political scientist Aleksandr Kynev told German outlet Deutsche Welle. Ordinary Russians are dissatisfied with how things are going at home — but it would be nearly impossible to challenge Putin in an election, Kynev explained. “The country is huge, and nobody would have the resources to fight for the presidency.”