Russia launched a rush-hour barrage of missiles towards Ukraine on Thursday, killing at least one person, the day after the West obtained dozens of modern battle tanks to try to repel the Russian invasion.
Moscow has reacted furiously to German and American announcements and has in the past responded to apparent Ukrainian successes with airstrikes that have left millions without light, heat or water.
The Ukrainian army said it shot down the 24 drones sent overnight by Russia, including 15 around the capital, with no damage reported.
But soon after, air raid alarms sounded across Ukraine as people headed for work, and senior officials said air defenses were shooting down incoming missiles.
The Kremlin said on Thursday it viewed the promised delivery of Western tanks to Ukraine as “direct involvement” by the United States and Europe in the 11-month-old conflict, which both deny.
In the capital, crowds of people took refuge in underground metro stations. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person was killed and two injured when a missile hit non-residential buildings in the south of the city.
Kyiv’s military administration said more than 15 missiles fired at Kyiv had been shot down, but urged people to stay in shelters.
DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private power producer, said it was carrying out emergency power cuts in Kyiv and the surrounding region, as well as in the Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk regions due to of imminent danger.
In Odessa, the Black Sea port designated on Wednesday by the UN cultural agency UNESCO as a “world heritage in danger” site, Russian missile strikes damaged energy infrastructure, the district military administration said. .
Western analysts say the attacks on Ukrainian cities are more of an attempt to break morale than a strategic campaign.
Both sides are expected to launch new ground offensives in the spring, and Ukraine is seeking hundreds of modern tanks in hopes of using them to break through Russian defensive lines and retake occupied territory in the south and east.
So far, Ukraine and Russia have relied mainly on Soviet-era T-72 tanks.
“FIST OF FREEDOM”
“The key now is speed and volumes. Speed in training our forces, speed in supplying tanks to Ukraine. Tank support numbers,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his video address on Wednesday. nocturnal.
“We must form such a ‘tank fist’, such a ‘freedom fist’.”
Keeping pace with Kyiv’s demands, Zelensky said he had spoken to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and requested long-range missiles and aircraft.
Ukraine’s allies have already provided billions of dollars in military support, including sophisticated US missile systems that have helped turn the tide of the war over the past six months.
The United States was reluctant to deploy the difficult-to-maintain Abrams, but had to change tactics to persuade Germany to send its more user-friendly German-built Leopards to Ukraine.
Germany will send a first company of 14 tanks from its stocks, which could be operational in three or four months, and will approve shipments by allied European states with the aim of equipping two battalions – of the order of 100 tanks.
The Leopard is a system that any member of NATO can maintain, and crews and mechanics can be trained together on a single model, Ukrainian military expert Viktor Kevlyuk told Espreso TV.
“If we were brought into this club by providing us with these vehicles, I would say our prospects look good.”
US President Joe Biden has said the 31 M1 Abrams tanks Washington will provide pose “no offensive threat” to Russia.
But Sergei Nechayev, Russia’s ambassador to Germany, on Wednesday called Berlin’s decision “extremely dangerous”, saying it “brings the conflict to a new level of confrontation”.
FIGHTING IN EASTERN UKRAINE
Since invading Ukraine on February 24 last year, Russia has shifted its publicly stated goals of ‘denazification’ and ‘demilitarization’ of its neighbor to confrontation with a supposedly aggressive NATO alliance. and US-led expansionist.
The Russian invasion killed thousands of civilians, forced millions from their homes and reduced entire cities to rubble.
The heaviest fighting so far is around Bakhmut, a town in eastern Ukraine with a pre-war population of 70,000 that has seen some of the most brutal fighting of the war.
The Ukrainian military said Russia was attacking “with the aim of capturing the entire Donetsk region and regardless of its own losses”.
The Russian-installed governor of Donetsk said Wednesday that units of Wagner’s Russian-contracted militia were advancing inside Bakhmut, with fighting on the outskirts and in neighborhoods recently held by Ukraine.
Reuters could not verify reports from the battlefield.