Russian attacks kill at least 11; Ukrainian troops prepare to train on Western tanks
Russian forces fired another barrage of missiles and self-exploding drones in nearly a dozen provinces of Ukraine early Thursday, causing the first attack-related death of the year in Kyiv and killing
at least 11 people in all, according to Ukrainian authorities.
The attacks adhered to Russia’s recent pattern of striking power plants and other critical infrastructure about every two weeks.
The latest onslaught came after Germany and the United States promised Wednesday to send high-tech battle tanks to Ukraine, greenlighting other allies to do the same.
The spokesperson for Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, announced the casualty toll in comments to Ukrainian television. He said the attacks also wounded at least 11 people.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person was killed during the attacks in his city, the capital’s first such death since New Year’s Eve. Two other people were injured, he said. The head of the Kyiv city administration, Serhiy Popko, said Ukrainian air defenses shot down 15 cruise missiles heading to the area.
The regional prosecutor’s office in Zaporizhzhia said three people were killed and seven injured in a strike on an energy facility. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, said Thursday’s volley involved 55 missiles, 47 of which were intercepted.
Self-exploding drones swept in overnight before the missile strikes, in what a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Southern Defense Forces said appeared to be a Russian attempt to overwhelm or distract Ukraine’s air defenses.
As air raid sirens echoed across the country, civilians, some tugging pet dogs on leashes, poured into subway stations, underground parking lots and basements to seek shelter.
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It was the first such barrage of Russian firepower across the country since Jan. 14.
Russia has carried out massive strikes on Ukrainian power plants and other infrastructure since early October, part of a strategy to try to hamper Ukrainian forces and put civilians in the cold and dark this winter, before what many experts predict could be a springtime offensive as more Russian conscripts reach the battlefields.
Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko acknowledged that some energy facilities had been hit, resulting in outages. He said repair teams were working to restore power supply as quickly as possible.
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In Kyiv’s southern Holosiivsky district, Arkadii Kuritsyn, 53, said he heard a loud explosion that blew out windows of several trucks parked next to his scrap metal business and snapped several trees in half in a nearby wooded area.
But the strikes did not reach what appeared to be the intended target: a nearby district power plant. The industrial area has witnessed several missile attacks already due to its proximity to the power station, said Andrii Tarasenko, 36, who works in a factory nearby.
“I am not surprised it was targeted again,” he said. “We’ve gotten used to it.”
In Hlevakha, an urban area 16 miles southwest of the capital, a barrage of missiles followed a drone attack that damaged the two-story home of Halyna Panasian. The damage included a deep crater in the courtyard, a large hole in the roof and debris scattered about the house.
“I was in my bedroom when the house was hit. I had to crawl out through the destroyed walls,” Panasian, 59, said of the blast around 2 a.m. “Such grief: What can I say? How can I have a happy life now? I can’t. I’m so sad. My life is broken.”
The attacks came a day after Germany said it would supply 14 high-tech Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and authorize other European countries to send up to 88 more. The U.S. said it planned to ship 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukrainian forces.
Along with Germany and the U.S., Britain, Poland, the Netherlands and Sweden are among the nations that have sent or announced plans to supply hundreds of tanks and heavy armored vehicles to fortify Ukraine as it enters a new phase of the war and tries to break through entrenched Russian lines.
The United Nations’ cultural agency has added the historic center of Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odesa to the list of endangered World Heritage sites.
Gian Gentile, a U.S. Army veteran and senior historian with the Rand Corp. think tank, said the Abrams and the Leopards would give Ukraine a “mechanized armored punching force.”
The British government said Thursday that it would start training Ukrainian troops next week on how to use and fix Challenger 2 tanks. The U.K. is giving 14 of the tanks to Ukraine’s forces, and Defense Minister Alex Chalk said they should arrive in Ukraine by the end of March.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Ukrainian crews would start their training in Germany in coming days on German-made Marders, which are infantry fighting vehicles, while training on the heavier Leopard 2 tanks would start “a little later.”
“In any case, the aim with the Leopards is to have the first company in Ukraine by the end of March, beginning of April,” he added. “I can’t say the precise day.”
Germany may soon approve deliveries of high-tech Leopard 2 tanks that Ukraine and others hope will boost Kyiv’s fight against Russian invaders.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declined to speculate on the timing, but said that the “allies are extremely focused on the importance of speed.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the move to provide Ukraine with modern Western tanks reflected the West’s growing involvement in the conflict.
“Both European capitals and Washington keep saying that the delivery of various kinds of weapons systems, including tanks, to Ukraine absolutely does not mean the involvement of these countries or the alliance in the hostilities ongoing in Ukraine,” Peskov told reporters. “We categorically disagree with that.
“Moscow views everything that has been done by the alliance and the capitals I have mentioned as direct involvement in the conflict,” he added. “We can see it growing.”
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who was in Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odesa on Thursday, in part to meet with her Ukrainian counterpart, told France’s LCI television that the latest attacks went beyond retaliation.
“What we saw this morning — that is, new strikes on civilian installations — that is not making war,” she said. “It is making war crimes.”
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