Russia-Ukraine war: Putin 'becoming more informed' about challenges, U.S. intel chief says

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Nov. 29. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russia’s war in Ukraine has now entered its 10th month, and as the weather drops below freezing, the invasion enters a new phase. According to the head of U.S. intelligence, the war is running at a “reduced tempo.” Meanwhile, a Kremlin official defended Russia’s repeated strikes against Ukraine’s crucial energy facilities, which the civilian population needs to stay warm this winter. Here are the latest developments.

Putin more ‘informed’ about military difficulties, says intelligence chief

The U.S. director of national intelligence said on Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has become “more informed” about the challenges the military is facing. Speaking at a defense forum, Avril Haines indicated that the Kremlin leader was no longer shielded from negative information about Russia’s standing in the war. Haines also stated that the conflict seemed to be operating at a “reduced tempo” as both sides resupply for a possible spring counteroffensive.

‘Massive missile attack’ launched in Ukraine

Ukrainian officials said Monday that Russia’s military had begun a missile attack across the country. The deputy head of the president’s office said that two buildings had been hit in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, killing two people and injuring three others, including a small child. Air raid sirens sounded in cities such as Kyiv, where locals were forced to take shelter in the underground subway system. Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s energy provider, said its facilities had been struck, causing blackouts amid “the eighth massive missile attack by a terrorist country.”

Explosions at Russian military bases

Russian state-linked media outlets reported Monday that two explosions had occurred at air bases in Russia. According to Astra, two aircraft were destroyed and two soldiers were injured and hospitalized after a drone attack. One of the strikes occurred at the Engels-2 air base, located hundreds of miles from Russia’s border with Ukraine, the New York Times reported. The other, according to RIA Novosti, happened in an airfield near Ryazan when a fuel truck exploded. Three people died, and at least six others were wounded.

Kremlin defends infrastructure strikes

The silhouette of a person sitting in a tent.
A local resident whose house has been destroyed sits in a tent for warmth in Borodyanka, near Kyiv, on Sunday. (Dimitar Dilkov/AFP via Getty Images)

Sergey Lavrov, the Kremlin’s foreign minister, defended Russia’s ongoing attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, saying they were legitimate targets. “This infrastructure supports the combat capability of the Ukrainian armed forces and nationalist battalions,” Lavrov said Thursday during a video call with reporters. Removing the energy facilities, he said, would in turn minimize the number of Russian casualties, as these infrastructures “allow you to keep pumping deadly weapons into Ukraine.”

Macron discusses peace negotiations

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a news conference with President Biden.
French President Emmanuel Macron at a news conference with President Biden at the White House on Dec. 1. (Susan Walsh/AP)

During a state visit to the U.S., French President Emmanuel Macron said the West should consider Russia’s need for security guarantees if peace talks are to take place again. Speaking in an interview with French media on Saturday, Macron said Europe should prepare a “dialogue” for both Russian and Ukrainian officials to “return to the table.”

“One of the essential points we must address, as President Putin has always said, is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia,” Macron said. He added that preparation must be done so Europe knows “what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states.”

Russia lost 60 aircraft likely from Ukrainian ‘air defense’

The wreckage of a Russian aircraft shot down in a field.
The wreckage of a Russian aircraft in a field near the town of Izium, in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, on Sept. 30. (Vladyslav Musiienko/Reuters)

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense revealed on Monday that Russia has lost over 60 fixed-wing aircraft so far in the invasion. At the start of the war, Russia was operating as many as 300 missions per day; now it is conducting “significantly” fewer. “The decrease in sorties is likely a result of continued high threat from Ukrainian air defences, limitations on the flying hours available to Russian aircraft, and worsening weather,” the Defense Ministry tweeted. “With Russia’s ground attack tactics largely reliant on visual identification and unguided munitions, the Russian air force will likely continue a low rate of ground attack operations through the poor winter weather.”