War in Ukraine, day 683 | The city of Kherson bombed, Russian soldiers celebrate Orthodox Christmas

(Kyiv) The southern Ukrainian city of Kherson came under heavy shelling on Sunday from Russian-occupied parts of the Kherson region across the Dnieper River, officials said local.

The head of Kherson city administration, Roman Mrochko, said two people died in the attacks and several others were injured.

Air defense downed 21 of 28 drones launched by Russia overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force announced on Sunday. Russia also launched three anti-aircraft missiles against Ukraine.

During an unannounced visit to the country this weekend, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa pledged Japan’s continued support for Ukraine. Speaking at a news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv on Sunday, she said Japan had decided to “contribute 37 million to the NATO trust fund to provide systems drone detection,” according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.


Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba

In Russia, more than 100 residents of the Russian border town of Belgorod were evacuated to a more remote area in Ukraine, local officials said.

“On behalf of regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, we met with the first residents of Belgorod who decided to settle in the safest place. More than 100 people have been placed in our temporary accommodation centers,” wrote Andrei Chesnokov, head of the Stary Oskol district, about 115 kilometers from Belgorod, on the social network Telegram.

Ukrainian attacks on Belgorod on Dec. 30 killed 25 people, officials said, and rocket and drone attacks continued throughout this week.

Meanwhile, Russian servicemen celebrated Orthodox Christmas on Sunday. The Russian Defense Ministry said military priests led prayer services on the front line on Sunday and Christmas Eve.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was joined by the families of servicemen who died in Ukraine’s war at Christmas Eve masses at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, a western suburb of Moscow.


Orthodox Christians attend a Christmas mass at St. Nicholas Episcopal Cathedral in Donetsk, a region of Ukraine controlled by Russia.

“Many of our men, our brave and heroic guys, are still today, during the holidays, warriors of Russia – with weapons in their hands, they defend the interests of our country,” he told the families present, according to the Kremlin press service.

In his annual Christmas interview, broadcast by the official Russian news agency TASS, Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, referred to the war in Ukraine.

“The trials that are happening to us today are not capable of crushing our vision of the world, which directly includes love of the Fatherland and the desire to defend it,” he replied, when asked asked how to reassure Russians amid military and civilian deaths.

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