At a moment the front lines are at a standstill and Ukraine is suffering severe manpower and ammunition supply woes, its military continues high-risk attacks on Russian territory, including two days of missile and drone launches on Crimea. Russia in return has been unleashing even harsher retaliatory strikes in Ukrainian cities, as it warned it would do.
The Russian military has said Saturday it deflected a fresh missile attack on Crimea, having shot down four inbound Ukrainian missiles overnight. The day prior, Russia downed 36 attack drones over the peninsula, a defense ministry statement also said.
However, Kiev said some of its projectiles made it through the anti-air measures, with Mykola Oleshchuk, the commander of Ukraine's air force, announcing on social media: "Saki airfield! All targets have been shot!" - in reference to the Russian airbase in western Crimea. Ukraine's military also said it targeted a command post near Sevastopol.
Air raid sirens have been sounding in various border regions of Russia stretching back to Thursday:
Air alerts were heard over the Russian oblasts of Krasnodar and Belgorod, as well as temporarily occupied Crimea, on Jan. 4 as Russia’s aggressive war on Ukraine increasingly hits closer to home in Russia.
Russia claimed nearly 50 drones were used in the separate attacks, with explosions heard in occupied Crimea and Belgorod, and reports of injuries in Belgorod.
In the latest direct hit on a residential neighborhood in Belgorod city, two Russian civilians were injured by shelling. Belgorod Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram, "According to preliminary data there are two injured: one man has shrapnel wounds to the forearm, and another has shrapnel wounds to the shin."
"Windows were shattered in several apartments and more than 30 vehicles were damaged because of a shell explosion near an apartment building," according to regional media. "One house suffered roof damage and a car was damaged."
Russia has throughout nearly two years of war warned that countries externally supplying weapons to Ukrainian forces would be treated as direct participants in the conflict if their weapons are found to be used against Russia. The US in particular has been the biggest supplier of heavy weaponry, followed by NATO and EU countries.
Moscow has all the while underscored the proxy war nature of the conflict and showdown with NATO, but so far a WW3-style escalation has been narrowly avoided, but this worst case scenario certainly looms large. This especially as President Putin has lately charged that Ukraine is using Western advanced weapons systems to directly target Russian cities and territory.