On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin unleashed a lethal bombardment of missiles and self-exploding drones on Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine, in retaliation for Western commitments to send dozens of battle tanks to Ukraine.
The attacks came a day after Ukraine’s Western allies, led by the United States and Germany, promised to send dozens of sophisticated combat tanks to assist Ukraine in pushing back Moscow’s soldiers and putting an end to the one-year-long invasion.
As people went to work in Ukraine, air raid sirens went off. Crowds in Kyiv sought brief refuge in underground metro stations, where they were photographed huddled on unmoving escalators, looking at their phone screens.
According to the mayor of Kyiv, a 55-year-old man was slain in the capital, the city’s first war-related death of the year, and two others were injured.
According to the regional prosecutor’s office in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia province, three persons were killed and seven others were injured in an attack on an energy complex.
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Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, the spokesperson for Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, said that at least 11 persons were killed in the attacks around the country.
The Ukrainian military said it had shot down all 24 Russian drones deployed overnight, including 15 in the capital, as well as 47 of 55 Russian missiles, some of which were fired from Tu-95 strategic bombers in the Russian Arctic.
According to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, Russia has continued to strike energy facilities.
The attacks followed Russia’s recent practice of waging broad strikes on power plants and other essential infrastructure every two weeks in order to break Ukrainian resolve by leaving millions of people without heat and electricity in the depth of winter.
However, this fresh barrage came less than 24 hours after Germany announced the supply of 14 powerful Leopard 2 battle tanks and authorized other European nations to send up to 88 more.
Meanwhile, President Biden has offered 31 Abrams M1 tanks to Ukrainian forces as they attempt to breach entrenched Russian defenses in the east.
Hundreds of tanks and heavily armored vehicles have been delivered or announced plans to be sent to Ukraine by the United Kingdom, Poland, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
“The key now is speed and volumes. Speed in training our forces, speed in supplying tanks to Ukraine. The numbers in tank support,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address Wednesday.
“We have to form such a ‘tank fist,’ such a ‘fist of freedom.’”
In keeping with Kyiv’s drumbeat of requests, Zelensky stated that he had met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and requested long-range missiles and aircraft, which he called a “fantasy.”
Ukraine’s allies have already supplied billions of dollars in military assistance, including advanced US missile systems that have helped reverse the tide of the fight.
The US was hesitant to send its difficult-to-maintain M1 Abrams tanks but eventually offered 31 in order to persuade Germany to pledge its more easily run Leopards.
Germany said its Leopard tanks would be operational in three to four months, while Britain said Thursday that the 14 Challenger tanks it is deploying to Ukraine will be there in two months.
Moscow reacted angrily to the Western tank pledges, calling them a “blatant provocation” on Wednesday.
The Kremlin interpreted this move as evidence of the US and Europe’s expanding “direct engagement” in the 11-month-old conflict, which Ukraine’s Western allies reject.