Russian forces attacked several Ukrainian regions with kamikaze drones and heavy artillery, officials said on December 7, killing two people and wounding several others, as heavy fighting continued in the east a day after Moscow accused Kyiv of hitting an airfeld inside Russia.
In Kherson, Russian troops shelled the region 51 times the previous day, killing two people, Yaroslav Yanushevych, the head of the regional military administration, said on December 7.
Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said all Russian drones were destroyed by Ukrainian forces in the overnight attack.
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"Military men from the East air command did a great job. We shot down all eight enemy drones that the enemy directed at the area,"Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.
He said Russian shelling targeted the Nikopol district and city, causing damage to gas pipelines, houses, and farm buildings, but no people were wounded.
"Nikopol suffered the most. Up to a dozen private houses, farm buildings, and gas pipelines were damaged in the city. Several shops, office buildings, and a college were destroyed by Russian shells," he said.
Russian troops also shelled two settlements in the Zaporizhzhya region, the head of the regional military administration, Oleksandr Starukh, said on December 7.
"Two houses were destroyed in one of the villages, and eight more were damaged. "We know about three wounded, including a 15-year-old girl," said Starukh.
In Washington, U.S. lawmakers agreed to provide Ukraine at least $800 million in additional security assistance next year, according to a defense policy bill unveiled on December 6.
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The Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, authorizes the additional spending for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, an increase of $500 million over President Joe Biden's request earlier this year.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on December 7 the United States "neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia" after another Russian airfield was set ablaze by a drone strike on December 6, a day after Russia had said two of its air bases, had been hit by drones.
Blinken added that it was important to understand what Ukrainians are living through every day with the "ongoing Russian aggression," accusing Russia of "weaponizing winter" through attacks on civilian infrastructure.
Officials in the Russian city of Kursk, around 90 kilometers north of the Ukraine border, released pictures of black smoke above an airfield, where the governor said an oil storage tank had gone up in flames.
While Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility for any of the three strikes -- one of which targeted a Russian military air base about 600 kilometers east of Ukraine in the Saratov region -- a senior Ukrainian official quoted on December 5 anonymously by The New York Times said the drones were launched from Ukrainian territory.
The official said at least two planes were destroyed at one of the Russian bases and several more were damaged.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the air base in Saratov is Russia's only base fully equipped for the long-range bombers Russia has used in its campaign to damage Ukraine's energy grid that has plunged millions of Ukrainian homes into darkness and cold at the onset of winter.
“All this complicates their operation against Ukraine,” Arestovych said. “Yesterday, thanks to their 'unsuccessful smoking,' we achieved a very big result," he said, poking fun at an earlier claim by Russia that explosions at one of its bases had been caused by carelessness with cigarettes.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said very heavy battles were taking place in the Donetsk region, "and the price is very high."
"For us, the epicenter of hostilities today is the Donetsk region, and the enemy has concentrated most of its forces there,” she said.
It was the sixth time in memory that Russian forces had tried to push to the borders of the Donetsk region and failed, she added.
"We must understand that when we liberate the temporarily occupied territories, it is a victory. When we stand firm and don't let the enemy in, it's also a victory," Malyar emphasized.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine earlier reported that Russian troops were concentrating their main efforts on conducting offensive operations in the Bakhmut and Avdiyivka areas of the Donetsk region.
With reporting by Reuters and AP