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UK: Opera Unlikely to Raise Russian Soldiers’ Morale in Ukraine

The bodies of dead Russian soldiers lay covered after being gathered by Ukrainian soldiers, to be exchanged for the bodies of fallen Ukrainian soldiers, in the former Russian occupied region of Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, Dec. 14, 2022.
The bodies of dead Russian soldiers lay covered after being gathered by Ukrainian soldiers, to be exchanged for the bodies of fallen Ukrainian soldiers, in the former Russian occupied region of Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, Dec. 14, 2022.

Russia is sending opera singers to its frontline troops in Ukraine to raise the morale of Russian soldiers. Russia announced the formation of the creative brigades last week, which will also include actors and circus performers.

In the British Defense Ministry intelligence update Sunday on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the agency said that while “Fragile morale almost certainly continues to be a significant vulnerability across much of the Russian force,” the soldiers’ concerns lie elsewhere.

The ministry said, “soldiers’ concerns primarily focus on very high casualty rates, poor leadership, pay problems, lack of equipment and ammunition, and lack of clarity about the war's objectives.” The ministry said, “The creative brigades' efforts are unlikely to substantively alleviate these concerns.”

A day after Russia’s massive airstrikes on Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that power has been restored to almost 6 million Ukrainians. However, he added, crews have been working nonstop to stabilize the energy grid in an effort to restore heat and water supplies to residents.

The most difficult situation, he said, is in “Kyiv and the region, Vinnytsia and the region, Lviv and the region.” Large-scale power outages are affecting many other regions, as well, including Dnipro and Dnipropetrovsk.

Russia fired more than 70 missiles at Ukraine on Friday, in one of its biggest attacks since the start of the war, Ukrainian officials said. The attack knocked out power in the second-largest city, Kharkiv, and forced Kyiv to implement emergency blackouts nationwide, officials said.

Zelenskyy also said on Saturday that, so far, “Russia’s large-scale investment in terror” amounted to “more than 4,000 missiles.”

Zelenskyy thanked the EU and the United States for decisions to provide defense, energy and financial support to Ukraine in the coming year. But he added there is more to be done and urged “a reliable air defense shield,” that will protect the Ukrainian people from “the main form of Russian terror – missile terror.”

Britain’s Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update Saturday that “in recent days, there has been an uptick in Russia's campaign of long-range strikes against Ukraine's critical national infrastructure.”

The ministry tweeted, “The waves of strikes have largely consisted of air and maritime launched cruise missiles but have almost certainly also included Iranian-provided uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) being launched from Russia's Krasnodar Region."

“Previously, these UAVs had been primarily launched from locations within occupied Crimea,” the ministry tweeted. “The change of launch site is likely due to Russian concerns about the vulnerability of Crimea, while it is also convenient for resupply from the weapons' likely arrival point in Russia, at Astrakhan.”

Earlier Saturday, emergency workers pulled the body of a 1-year-old boy from the rubble of an apartment building in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, following a Russian missile strike.

The barrage of long-range Russian strikes aimed at Ukraine’s infrastructure was coming as Russian President Vladimir Putin conducted meetings with his armed forces commanders, seeking proposals on Russian military strategy against Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

Russia has said attacks on basic infrastructure are militarily legitimate. Ukraine has said attacks, which are intended to cause civilian misery, are a war crime.

The United States will provide additional security assistance to Ukraine, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told VOA in an interview, Friday.

Asked if Washington would heed Russia’s warning not to deliver sophisticated Patriot air defense missiles or risk the consequences, Kirby replied “Russia will not dictate to the United States or any other country what security assistance we provide to Ukraine.”

The U.S. official said Washington is in “lockstep with the Ukrainians, talking to them almost every day about what their needs are, and making sure that we are best meeting those needs.”

Kirby emphasized that air defense capabilities are becoming a chief requirement of Ukraine’s military after Russia’s “unprecedented” airstrikes with cruise missiles and Iranian drones “the likes of which we've just seen again over the last 12 to 18 hours,” he told VOA.

Kirby said Washington’s focus is to help Ukraine succeed in the battlefield in whichever way Zelenskyy sees fit. The U.S., he said, does not dictate to Ukraine how to defend its territory.

Russia’s foreign ministry has warned the U.S. that if it ships sophisticated Patriot air defense missiles to Ukraine, Moscow would consider it a “provocative move” that could prompt a response from the Kremlin.

Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova did not spell out what Moscow’s response might be but said the U.S. should “draw the right conclusions” from Russia’s warnings that equipment supplied by the U.S. is a legitimate target for Russian attacks. With its arms shipments to Ukraine, she said the U.S. already had "effectively become a party" to the war.

U.S. officials this week confirmed to reporters plans to send the Patriot missile system to Ukraine, which Zelenskyy has long said Ukraine needs to defend itself against an onslaught of Russian airstrikes targeting vital infrastructure, including power and water facilities. So far, no official announcement has been made.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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