Russia has hit cities across Ukraine with a sustained missile barrage, causing a nine-storey residential building in the central city of Dnipro to partially collapse.
Ukrainian officials said that at least 12 people were killed and 64 wounded in the strike on the industrial city of more than 1mn people.
Dozens of missile strikes were reported on Saturday in cities throughout 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 head of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration, 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, triggering fresh power outages.
Russia began to target Ukraine’s power infrastructure in the autumn after its invading forces were pushed out of large parts of the country’s eastern and southern regions and has resulted in rolling electricity and heating blackouts.
In his evening address to the nation, Zelenskyy urged Kyiv’s western backers to step up weaponry supplies saying “we must do everything to stop ‘Russism’ in the same way that 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 the weapons that will help us defeat the terrorist state this year,” Zelenskyy said.
Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, wrote on Twitter: “Dnipro. A residential building hit. The Russians continue to fight civilians, taking away Ukrainian people’s lives and future.”
“Russia is a terrorist state,” Yermak added.
Ukrainian officials said on Saturday that fighting for the eastern town of Soledar continued, contradicting Russian claims that their forces had captured it in recent days.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, urged Ukraine’s allies to deepen sanctions on Russia and provide more modern Nato-grade weaponry.
“Each barrage of missiles further exhausts Russian stocks. However, they are still able to produce new ones. We can and must kill their missile and drone industry with a mass sanctions strike!” Kuleba tweeted.
Ukraine’s air force command said 25 of 38 Russian missiles fired on Saturday were intercepted.
Ukraine’s air defence systems have intercepted the majority of incoming Russian missiles and kamikaze drones in recent months, including during massive barrages that included 80 or more missiles fired in a single day.
But Ukraine has pleaded for the US and European countries to provide modern air defences as its Soviet-era S300 and Buk surface-to-air missile stocks are rapidly depleting.
Kyiv has 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 which can intercept ballistic missiles, a capability Ukraine does not currently have.
In a phone call to Zelenskyy on Saturday, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak repeated his country’s promise made early 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 AS90s self-propelled guns to follow. It would beginning training Ukrainian soldiers to use the equipment in the next few days.
“UK defence and security officials believe a window has opened up where Russia is on the backfoot due to resupply issues and plummeting 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 intended to provide Ukraine with Leopard tanks produced by Germany. But Berlin has not yet signalled its approval of such supplies from third parties.
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