Ukraine promises to strengthen air defense as Russia attacks cities

KYIV, Ukraine –

Ukraine’s allies on Thursday vowed to provide the besieged nation with advanced air defense systems as Russian forces hit the Kyiv region with kamikaze drones and fired missiles at targets civilian targets elsewhere, in retaliation for the bombing of a strategic bridge linking Russia with annexed Crimea.

Rocket attacks killed at least five people and destroyed an apartment building south of the city of Mykolaiv, while heavy artillery damaged more than 30 homes, a hospital and a kindergarten. and other buildings in the town of Nikopol, across the river occupied by Russia. Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Russia has stepped up its bombardment of civilian areas in recent weeks as its troops lose bases in many of the occupied regions of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed. Kremlin war hawks have urged Putin to escalate his bombing campaign further to punish Ukraine for Saturday’s truck attack on the Kerch Bridge. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We need to protect our skies from Russian terror,” Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskky told the Council of Europe, a human rights organization. “If this is done, it will be a fundamental step towards ending the entire war in the near future.”

In response to Zelenskyy’s repeated pleas for more effective air defense, the British government announced it would supply missiles for the advanced NASAM air defense system the Pentagon intends to send to Ukraine. The UK is also sending hundreds of drones for information gathering and logistical support, along with 18 howitzers.

“These weapons will help Ukraine defend its skies from attacks and strengthen its overall missile defense capabilities alongside the US NASAMS,” said British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

Other NATO defense ministers at a meeting this week promised to provide systems that provide medium to long-range defense against missile attacks.

Germany has delivered the first of four promised IRIS-T air defense systems, while France has pledged to add artillery, air defense systems and missiles. The Netherlands has said it will send missiles, and Canada is planning an additional $50 million in military aid, including winter equipment, drone cameras and satellite communications.

Speaking in Berlin, German Olaf Scholz said Putin “and his supporters have made one thing clear: this war is not just about Ukraine”, but is “a crusade against the way of life of us and a crusade against what Putin calls the collective West. . He means all of us.”

NATO plans to hold a nuclear exercise next week as Putin insists it will use all necessary measures to defend Russian territory, including areas illegally annexed by Ukraine. . The exercise takes place every year.

On the Ukrainian battlefield on Thursday, Russian forces attacked a five-story apartment building in Mykolaiv with S-300 missiles, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said, a weapon commonly used to target military aircraft. An 11-year-old boy was pulled alive from the rubble of a building six hours later but later died.

“No words. Terrorist creature,” Kim wrote on Telegram.

Video shows rescuers working with flashlights to pull the boy out of concrete and metal debris. As they carried the boy on a stretcher through the front door of the building to the ambulance, a man who appeared to be the boy’s father leaned down to kiss the boy’s head, then covered the boy with a blanket.

Four other people are believed to have died in Mykolaiv.

Residents of Ukraine’s capital region, who had returned to normal as the front lines of the war moved east and south in the previous months, were shaken by air raid sirens several times on Monday. Thursday after drones packed with Iranian-made explosives found their targets.

Ukrainian officials say Iranians in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied territories are training the Russians to use the Shahed-136 system, which can conduct air-to-ground strikes, electronic warfare and targeting.

The low-flying drones help keep Ukrainian cities in a favorable position, but the British Ministry of Defense says they are unlikely to strike deep into Ukrainian territory as many of the drones were destroyed before that time. hit the target. The Ukrainian Air Force Command said on Thursday its air defense units shot down six drones over the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions overnight. Ukrainian authorities also announced that they had shot down four Russian cruise missiles.

Describing the scope of Russia’s retaliatory strikes, a speaker in the Russian lower house of parliament said Russian forces attacked more than 70 energy facilities in Ukraine this week.

State Duma spokesman Vyacheslav Volodin threatened an “even tougher” response to future Ukrainian attacks. The 19 km long Kerch Bridge is a prominent symbol of Moscow’s strength.

Kyiv’s army recaptured villages and towns in an autumn offensive but that exposed the sufferings of residents who lived for months under Russian occupation.

In a liberated town, Velyka Oleksandrivka in the Kherson region was annexed, seven months of Russian occupation caused bridges to explode to pieces, blackened vehicles on pitted roads and shells. into buildings.

“It was a disaster,” resident Tetyana Patsuk said of her home. “I cried for a month. I’m still in shock. I can’t recover that feeling that I’ve lost everything now I’m 72 years old, and that’s all.”

As the Ukrainian military announced more success on Thursday in forcing their enemies to retreat from their positions in the Kherson region, Moscow authorities promised free accommodation to Kherson residents who chose to evacuate to Russia. The Russian-backed Kherson leader, Vladimir Saldo, cited possible missile attacks on civilians to suggest the move.

Saldo’s deputy, Kirill Stremousov, tried to downplay the move, saying, “No one withdrew … no one intended to leave the territory of the Kherson region.” But the British military said the move reflected Russia’s concern that fighting was approaching the city of Kherson.

Russia has repeatedly described the movement of Ukrainians to Russia as voluntary, but reports have emerged that many have been forcibly deported from the occupied territory to Russian “filter camps”, among other things. harsh conditions. In most cases, the only way out of the camps is to go to Russia or Russian-controlled areas.

Among those who were raped were children. An Associated Press investigation found that officials deported Ukrainian children without consent, lied that their parents didn’t want them, used them for propaganda, changed their nationality to Russian. and give some to Russian families.

On the side of the border with Russia, the Ukrainian military blew up an ammunition depot and damaged a multi-storey building in Russia’s Belgorod region, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram. The village where the warehouse was located was evacuated.

The director-general of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said on Thursday that fighting around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest, remained “worrying.” A Russian missile attack on a remote power substation on Wednesday caused the plant to temporarily lose its last external power source, which is needed to prevent reactors from overheating.

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi said in Kyiv after returning from Russia that his organization was promoting a demilitarized zone around the plant, but that he did not. received any indication that Putin was ready to discuss such obvious “parameters”. a consent.


Yesica Fisch in Velyka Oleksandrivka, Ukraine, Lorne Cook in Brussels and Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.


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