Russia unleashes airstrikes, hypersonic missile on Ukraine after tanks decision
“At first, I heard a roar. And then there was an extremely loud strike that made me jump up. I was in the bedroom … I was saved by the fact that the bedroom is to the other side of the house.”
A 70-year-old woman who gave her name only as Valentyna said she managed to survive by scrambling out of her damaged house over glass splinters. “Everything was in rubble,” she said.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said electricity substations had been hit.
The Kremlin said it saw the promised delivery of Western tanks as evidence of growing “direct involvement” of the United States and Europe in the 11-month-old war, something both deny.
DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private energy producer, said it was conducting preemptive emergency shutdowns in Kyiv, the surrounding region and the regions of Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk.
In Odesa, the Black Sea port designated a “World Heritage in Danger” site on Wednesday by the UN cultural agency UNESCO, Russian missiles damaged energy facilities, authorities said, just as French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna was arriving.
“What we saw today, new strikes on civilian Ukrainian infrastructure is not waging war, it’s waging war crimes,” she said.
Colonna was due to meet her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, to discuss humanitarian and military aid and potentially whether France might join its NATO allies in supplying Ukraine with battle tanks, in this case its own Leclerc model.
Both Moscow and Kyiv, which have so far relied on Soviet-era T-72 tanks, are expected to mount new ground offensives in spring.
‘Fist of freedom’
Ukraine has been asking for hundreds of modern tanks in the hope of using them to break Russian defensive lines and recapture occupied territory in the south and east.
Ukrainian ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko told the ABC’s Radio National Breakfast on Friday that his country would welcome if Canberra could join the “tank coalition”.
“I think that will be a significant contribution to Ukraine. Also, Australia can choose to send more Bushmasters which are armoured mobility vehicles […] we’re extremely thankful for what Australia has done so far […] The troops which are now in Britain, will be training Ukrainian soldiers. It’s really a big, big help. What’s important is there’s so many ways you can support Ukraine but the military support is probably the one which is in the highest demand today because the challenges we are facing and the sooner we can end it the sooner we can get back to normal,” he said.
In his nightly video address on Wednesday, Zelensky said the key now would the speed of tank supply.
“The key now is speed and volumes. Speed in training our forces, speed in supplying tanks to Ukraine. The numbers in tank support.
“We have to form such a ‘tank fist’, such a ‘fist of freedom’.”
Maintaining Kyiv’s drumbeat of requests, Zelensky said he had spoken to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and asked for long-range missiles and aircraft.
Ukraine’s allies have already provided billions of dollars in military aid, including sophisticated US missile systems that have helped turn the tide of the war.
The US has been wary of deploying its difficult-to-maintain M1 Abrams tanks, but ultimately promised 31 to persuade Germany to pledge its more easily operated German-built Leopards.
Germany will initially send 14 tanks from its inventory and approve shipments by allied European states, with the ultimate aim of equipping two battalions – in the region of 100 tanks.
It said its Leopards should be operational in three to four months, and Britain said on Thursday it expected the 14 Challenger tanks it is sending to be in Ukraine in two months.
Colonna said that Paris has yet to make a decision on whether to send Leclerc main battle tanks. “Their priority today is air defence systems,” she said, adding that France would respond to those needs by doing more on that front.
On the diplomatic front, the United States on Thursday formally designated Russian private military company the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organisation, freezing its US assets for helping Russia’s military in the Ukraine war.
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