Ukraine live briefing: Drones attack Kyiv, officials say; Zelensky pushes for ‘modern air defense systems’

People enter an underground passageway during a blackout after Russian strikes on the power infrastructure in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP/Getty Images)
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Air defense remains a top concern for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after a barrage of Russian missiles hit critical infrastructure across seven cities last week. The Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, came under attack again in the early hours of Monday, with the city’s military administration saying nine drones were shot down in the city’s airspace.

Zelensky renewed calls during his nightly address Sunday for “modern air defense systems in sufficient numbers” to protect Ukraine’s skies. “This will be one of the most powerful steps that will bring the end of aggression closer,” Zelensky added. “Russia will have to follow the path of cessation of aggression, when it can no longer follow the path of missile strikes.”

Ukrainians in major cities, including the capital, Kyiv, spent the weekend rebuilding after Russia launched more than 60 missiles Friday. Power was restored to 6 million Ukrainians as of Saturday night, and water access had returned to the capital. Russia’s Defense Ministry, which has increasingly targeted infrastructure in central and western Ukraine, said Friday’s missile barrage was meant to prevent the transfer of foreign weaponry and hurt Ukraine’s defense industry.

The missile attack came as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to visit Minsk on Monday for talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Putin could be trying to set conditions for a renewed offensive against Ukraine, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War think tank suggested. Lukashenko has not committed Belarusian troops to Russia’s invasion but he has allowed Russia to use Belarus as a staging ground.

“Protection of the border with both Russia and Belarus is also a constant priority,” Zelensky said Sunday night. “We are preparing for all possible defense scenarios. Whoever inclines Minsk to whatever, it will not help them.”

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects around the globe.

1. Key developments

  • “War must fail,” Zelensky said in his World Cup peace message, which Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry shared Sunday on Facebook. Ukraine’s presidential office told The Washington Post in a statement that “FIFA refused to show” the video. FIFA did not respond to The Post’s request for comment Sunday morning. CNN reported the news earlier.
  • Although power has been restored to millions after Friday’s attacks, there was still a lot of work to do to stabilize the system, Zelensky said Saturday. He described the situation as “most difficult” in the capital, Kyiv, and the surrounding region, as well as in the Vinnytsia and Lviv regions. Heating was restored in Kyiv early Sunday, the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram, as temperatures there dipped below 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 Celsius). Ukraine’s electricity transmission operator said work is underway to repair distribution networks throughout the country, but that the frost and strong winds are making it more difficult.
  • Putin isn’t the only leader meeting with allies this week. Zelensky said his government is preparing several proposals to strengthen “all the countries of Europe,” ahead of a meeting Monday of the leaders of Britain, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Iceland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russia’s efforts to raise its troops’ morale by assembling groups tasked with entertaining them are “unlikely to substantively alleviate” soldiers’ broader concerns about pay and the direction of the war, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its daily update. The ministry said the two new “front line creative brigades,” announced by Russia’s Defense Ministry last week and made up of opera singers, actors and circus performers, are tied to a “Soviet-era concept of ideological political education.”
  • Putin met with military commanders to determine next steps in the offensive, the Kremlin said Saturday. “We will listen to the commanders in each operational direction, and I would like to hear your proposals on our immediate and medium-term actions,” Putin said as he toured military headquarters Friday alongside Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Analysts said the Kremlin was probably attempting to depict Putin as a “competent wartime leader” and rehabilitate the battered image of Russia’s Defense Ministry by publicizing the visit.
  • Ukrainian officials warned that Russia may be trying to draw troops into a trap on the left bank of the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine. Ukraine’s military said Russian soldiers have been telling residents of the Kakhovka area, in the Kherson region, that they intend to withdraw by the end of the year. A spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command said this could be a ruse to lure Ukraine to advance — a tactic she said was deployed by Russia during the Ukrainian counteroffensive on the right bank.

3. Global impact

  • Ukraine picked its entry for next year’s Eurovision song contest. “Heart of Steel,” by electronic music duo Tvorchi, was chosen to represent Ukraine, which won this year’s contest, in a selection program streamed online. On social media, the two-man group said they would “do everything to properly represent Ukraine.” Ukraine revealed its selection from a Kyiv metro station that doubles as an underground bomb shelter — another reminder of the effects of the Russian invasion during the past nearly 300 days. Ukrainian fans and a panel of judges selected Tvorchi, who in 2020 also competed to represent their country in the contest.
  • Henry Kissinger called for peace negotiations to end the war in Ukraine. In an editorial for the Spectator magazine, the former secretary of state said a peace process should have two goals: “to confirm the freedom of Ukraine and to define a new international structure, especially for Central and Eastern Europe,” in which Russia would eventually find a place. Kyiv has repeatedly rejected the idea of any peace talks unless Russia first withdraws its troops from all of Ukraine’s territory.
  • Russia said Friday’s missile barrage using airborne and sea-based weapons prevented the delivery of foreign weapons to Ukraine. “The strike prevented the transfer of foreign-made weapons and ammunition, blocked the movement of reserves to combat areas and halted Ukraine’s defense enterprises producing and repairing weapons, military equipment and ammunition,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a Saturday briefing.
  • Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, announced the launch of three more Ukrainian-language audio guides in world museums — part of a project that aims to make refugees who fled Ukraine after Russia’s invasion feel more at home in their temporary places of residence. The audio guides have appeared as far away as the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have fled to elsewhere in Europe since the conflict started, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

4. From our correspondents

Ukraine’s combat amputees face a hard road home: The Ukrainian military medical system is overwhelmed with people who were injured by war and had to have limbs amputated. The U.S. Defense Department has not yet used its $20 billion in security assistance committed to the government in Kyiv and its vast medical resources.

One factor increasing the number of amputations is the lack of reliable and speedy air evacuations, with some waiting hours when seconds matter.

Those who could have lived with prosthetics are left with only wheelchairs and crutches. Cost is a massive issue, but so is a lack of specialists.

Front-line video makes Ukrainian combat some of history’s most watched: Ubiquitous access to cellphones and the internet has allowed military personnel, civilians and aid workers to document the war in Ukraine like no other conflict before it.

“With such prevalent access to the internet, it means that soldiers can upload things to show people the experiences they’re having right now,” said Matthew Moss, a weapons historian who uses open-source material — data posted publicly on social media and other digital platforms — to track modern warfare.

“There’s a broad range of reasons why collecting this sort of data is so important,” Moss told The Post. “But for me, personally, it’s a desire to understand the very human nature of conflict and the experience that people are having on the ground.”

Social media footage of fighting and destruction in Ukraine has made this war one of the most visually well-documented in history. (Video: Joshua Carroll, Leila Barghouty/The Washington Post, Photo: Kirsten Luce/The Washington Post)