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Russia Says it Shot Down Ukrainian Drone at Southern Russia Airfield

A Ukrainian soldier watches a drone feed from an underground command center in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Dec. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Libkos)
A Ukrainian soldier watches a drone feed from an underground command center in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Dec. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Libkos)

Russian news agencies quoted the country’s defense ministry as saying Russian troops shot down a Ukrainian drone Monday, with the debris from the aircraft killing three people as it fell on a base in southern Russia.

The ministry said the drone was flying at a low altitude early Monday as it approached the Engels military airfield in Russia’s Saratov region, and that the three dead were Russian servicemen at the airfield.

The base is hundreds of kilometers from the front lines in Ukraine where Russian forces invaded in February.

Russia said Ukrainian drones attacked the same base on December 5.

Christmas message

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave thanks Sunday to all those "doing everything so that we can live" as he offered Christmas wishes Sunday in his nightly video address.


Zelenskyy Says Grateful to All Who Struggle for Ukraine’s Survival

Among those he thanked were the military personnel who are holding the front and trying to push it farther; repairmen, utility workers, volunteers, nurses and all medical personnel, educators and IT specialists, and everyone who is helping Ukraine remain resilient.

Zelenskyy also thanked journalists who spread the truth, as well as the leaders and people of the world who support Ukraine.

He also urged caution.

"There are only a few days left this year. We must be aware that our enemy will try to make this time dark and difficult for us," Zelenskyy said. "Russia lost everything it could this year. But it is trying to compensate for its losses with the gloating of its propagandists after the missile strikes at our country, at our energy sector."

"I know that the darkness will not prevent us from leading the occupiers to their new defeats," he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Rossiya 1 state television on Sunday that his country is ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the war in Ukraine, but that Kyiv and its Western backers have refused to engage in talks.


Putin Says Russia Ready to Negotiate Over Ukraine

The Kremlin, which invaded Ukraine on February 24, said it will fight until all its aims are achieved, while Kyiv said it will not rest until every Russian soldier is ejected from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.

"We are ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions, but that is up to them — we are not the ones refusing to negotiate; they are," Putin said in the interview.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Zelenskyy, said that Putin needed to return to reality and acknowledge that it was Russia that did not want to negotiate.

"Russia single-handedly attacked Ukraine and is killing citizens," Podolyak said on Twitter. "Russia doesn’t want negotiations but tries to avoid responsibility."

He echoed the United States’ CIA assessment earlier in December that Russia was not yet serious about a real negotiation to end the war.

Putin argued Russia was acting in the "right direction" in Ukraine because the West, led by the United States, was trying to cleave Russia apart. Washington denies it is plotting Russia's collapse.


Putin Says West Aiming to 'Tear Apart' Russia

"I believe that we are acting in the right direction; we are defending our national interests, the interests of our citizens, our people. And we have no other choice but to protect our citizens," Putin said.

Earlier Sunday, Pope Francis delivered his traditional Christmas address from St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, describing Russia’s war in Ukraine as "senseless" and calling for an end to the conflict.

Some material for this article came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.