President Vladimir Putin has announced an escalation in the conflict with Ukraine, pledging intensified attacks after recent aerial bombardments by both sides. During a visit to a military hospital in Moscow, Putin emphasized targeting Ukrainian military installations, condemning Ukraine’s air raid on Belgorod as a deliberate strike on civilians, resulting in 25 casualties. Putin expressed confidence in the war turning in Moscow’s favor, citing Ukraine’s Western supporters as a major obstacle to resolution.

In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky contested Putin’s claims, characterizing Russia’s perceived victory as a mere “feeling.” Zelensky highlighted Russia’s casualties and criticized the failure to capture a significant city in 2023. Both leaders delivered New Year messages, with Putin praising Russian soldiers without explicit conflict references, while Zelensky pledged increased weapon production.

Recent deadly attacks include Ukrainian shelling of Russia-held Ukrainian cities and strikes on southwest Russia, labeled a “terrorist attack” by Putin. The death toll in Belgorod rose to 25, with 109 wounded in the air raid. Last week, Russia initiated a significant missile bombardment in various Ukrainian cities, resulting in at least 45 casualties, described by Kyiv as a major escalation.