Russia hits cities in Ukraine with missile fire

Russia hits cities in Ukraine with missile fire

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Russia has hit cities in Ukraine with sustained rocket fire, causing a nine-story apartment building in the central city of Dnipro to partially collapse.

Ukrainian officials said at least 12 people were killed and 64 wounded in the strike on the industrial city of more than 1 million people.

Dozens of rocket strikes were reported on Saturday in cities across Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east, as well as the regions of Odesa in the south and Lviv in the far west.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said 28 residential buildings in the Kyiv region were damaged but there were no casualties.

German Galushchenko, Ukraine’s energy minister, said electricity infrastructure had been damaged in six provinces, causing further blackouts.

Emergency workers clear the rubble of the building in Dnipro © AP

Russia began attacking Ukraine’s power infrastructure in the fall after its invasion forces were pushed out of large parts of the country’s eastern and southern regions and caused electricity and heating blackouts.

In his evening address to the nation, Zelensky urged Kyiv’s Western backers to increase arms supplies, saying “we must do everything to stop ‘Russianism’ in the same way the free world once stopped Nazism.”

“I want to be heard by those people – not only political leaders – who are still hesitating whether it is worth providing Ukraine with weapons that will help us defeat the terrorist state this year,” Zelensky said.

Andriy Yermak, Zelensky’s chief of staff, wrote on Twitter: “Dnepr. A residential building was hit. The Russians continue to fight civilians, taking away the lives and future of Ukrainians.

“Russia is a terrorist state,” Yermak added.

Ukrainian officials said on Saturday that fighting for the eastern town of Soledar was continuing, contradicting Russian claims that its forces had captured it in recent days.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, called on Ukraine’s allies to deepen sanctions against Russia and provide more advanced NATO-class weapons.

“Each missile barrage further depletes Russian stockpiles. However, they are still able to produce new ones. We can and must kill their missile and drone industry with a massive sanctions strike!” Kuleba tweeted.

Ukraine’s Air Force Command said 25 of the 38 Russian missiles fired on Saturday were intercepted.

Ukrainian air defense systems have intercepted the majority of incoming Russian missiles and kamikaze drones in recent months, including during massive barrages involving 80 or more missiles fired in a single day.

However, Ukraine has called on the US and European countries to provide modern air defenses as its stockpile of Soviet-era S300 and Buk surface-to-air missiles is rapidly depleting.

Kyiv recently received some Nasam systems from the US and Norway, as well as one Iris-T unit from Germany. The US announced late last year that it would provide longer-range Patriot systems capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, a capability Ukraine currently lacks.

In a telephone conversation with Zelensky on Saturday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reiterated his country’s promise, made earlier this year, to provide Ukraine with Challenger 2 tanks.

In a later statement, the UK government said it would send a squadron of 14 tanks to Ukraine “in the coming weeks”, with around 30 AS90 self-propelled guns to follow. Training of Ukrainian soldiers to use the equipment will begin in the next few days.

“UK defense and security officials believe a window has opened in which Russia is taking a back seat due to supply problems and a sharp drop in morale,” the statement said. “The Prime Minister is therefore encouraging Allies to deploy their planned support for 2023 as soon as possible to have maximum impact.”

Officials from Poland and Finland recently announced that they intend to provide Ukraine with German-made Leopard tanks. But Berlin has not yet signaled that it approves such supplies from third countries.

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