Russia’s Defense Ministry taunted Ukrainians with the prospect of never-ending missile attacks early Thursday as it unleashed a fresh wave of cruise missiles on cities across the country and the Kremlin rejected negotiations with Kyiv.
“Kalibr [cruise missiles] will never run out,” the Defense Ministry captioned an ominous photo on its official Telegram channel.
While Putin has largely been hiding out in his bunker in recent weeks after canceling his traditional public appearances, on Thursday he announced Russia will build four new nuclear submarines to “ensure the country’s security in the years ahead.”
He also authorized the launch of the Russian Navy’s new Emperor Alexander III nuclear submarine, and attended the flag-raising ceremony for the new nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Generalissimo Suvorov—from behind his desk via video link.
Russia’s attempted show of strength—while Putin cowers—came as dozens of missiles rained down on cities throughout Ukraine, sending civilians scrambling for bomb shelters and emergency workers rushing to put out fires. There were no immediate reports of fatalities, but at least three people were injured in the Kyiv region, including a 14-year-old girl, the mayor’s office said.
Ukrainian defense systems shot down at least 16 missiles heading toward the capital, authorities said. Nationwide, 54 missiles out of 69 were intercepted, according to Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
Russian forces also used kamikaze drones and heavy artillery to launch attacks in the Dnipropetrovsk region, the governor said.
After the hours-long bombardment, however, Russian troops were also left scrambling on their own territory, as an airbase used by Russian bombers came under attack by what the Saratov governor described as an “unidentified object.”
Panicked residents near Engels took to social media to report they’d heard explosions, with some posts claiming mandatory evacuations were underway near the base. Gov. Roman Busargin denied there were any evacuations and urged residents to “remain calm” in a statement on Telegram, saying the explosions that had been heard were Russian defense systems working.
Three Russian servicemen were killed earlier this week at the same airbase in what Russian authorities said was a Ukrainian drone attack.
Authorities in Russia’s Bryansk region also reported shooting down drones early Thursday following the Kremlin’s missile bombardment of Ukraine.
And it appears the fear of Ukraine taking the war to Russian territory has spread to the Russian capital, as the Kremlin was forced to respond Thursday to a question on whether Moscow is prepared for Ukrainian drone attacks.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, dodged the question when asked by a reporter.
“You’re asking me a question, that, obviously the presidential administration doesn’t deal with. So I will redirect you to other agencies,” Peskov said.
Belarus claimed a Ukrainian missile also fell on its territory during Russia’s bombardment, threatening to drag Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko more directly into the war.
The fresh attacks come as Moscow rejects peace talks with Kyiv, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling it an “illusion” to think the Kremlin would be willing to withdraw troops from occupied territories and pay reparations, demands previously made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“It goes without saying we will not talk to anyone under such conditions,” Lavrov said.
Ten months into the war, even as Russian troops on the battlefield complain they’re running out of supplies and lacking reinforcements, Moscow has thus signaled it will keep plowing full steam ahead.
Ukraine’s spy chief, Kyrylo Budanov, told the BBC on Wednesday that Russia is “now completely at a dead end” on the battlefield, while Ukraine’s ground forces have also been slowed down by the cold weather.
“We can’t defeat them in all directions comprehensively. Neither can they,” he was quoted saying.
The Kremlin appears to be counting on further escalation—or fear-mongering—to create the appearance of a military win ahead of New Year’s.