Putin claims Moscow is ready for talks to end assault on Ukraine
But country-wide air raid alert announced in Ukraine twice on Sunday alone
President Vladimir Putin claims Russia is ready for talks to end the war in Ukraine even as the country faced more attacks from Moscow.
Putin said in a state television interview, excerpts of which were released on Sunday afternoon, that Russia is "prepared to negotiate some acceptable outcomes with all the participants of this process."
He said "it's not us who refuse talks — it's them," something the Kremlin has repeatedly stated in recent months as its invasion that began in February kept losing momentum.
Putin also repeated that Moscow has "no other choice," and said he believed the Kremlin was "acting in the right direction."
"We're defending our national interests, the interests of our citizens, our people."
Attacks on Ukraine continue
Putin's remarks come as attacks on Ukraine continue. A country-wide air raid alert was announced twice on Sunday alone, and three missiles in the afternoon hit the city of Kramatorsk in the partially occupied Donetsk region, local officials reported.
The missiles hit an industrial area of the city, with no casualties, according to the Ukrainian governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Kyrylenko said the city of Avdiivka was also attacked on Sunday, with six rounds of shelling, and a woman was wounded.
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Elsewhere in the front-line region, around the city of Bakhmut where fierce battles have been underway in recent weeks, Russian forces were struggling to keep up the pace of their offensive, a U.S.-based think-tank reported this weekend.
"Russian forces' rate of advance in the Bakhmut area has likely slowed in recent days, although it is too early to assess whether the Russian offensive to capture Bakhmut has culminated," the Institute for the Study of War wrote in its recent update.
The think-tank cited Russian military bloggers who it said have recently acknowledged "Ukrainian forces in the Bakhmut area have managed to slightly slow down the pace of the Russian advance around Bakhmut and its surrounding settlements."
Sources on Ukrainian social media "previously claimed that Ukrainian forces completely pushed Russian forces out of the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut" around Dec. 21, the report added.
"Russian forces will likely struggle to maintain the pace of their offensive operations in the Bakhmut area and may seek to initiate a tactical or operational pause," the institute concluded.
Kherson shelled heavily over 24 hours
A day before, a deadly Russian attack on the southern city of Kherson, retaken by Ukrainian forces last month, killed and wounded scores of people.
Russian forces shelled Ukrainian-held areas of the partially occupied Kherson region 71 times over the past 24 hours, including 41 attacks on the city of Kherson, the region's Ukrainian governor, Yaroslav Yanushevich, reported on Sunday.
A total of 16 people have been killed, according to the official, including three emergency workers who were in the process of de-mining the Berislav district of the region. Yanushevich said 64 more people have been wounded.
In the neighbouring Dnipropetrovsk region, the city of Nikopol was shelled overnight from heavy artillery, Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said. No casualties have been reported.