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Air Raid Alert in Ukraine as Zelenskyy Calls for Aircraft, Missiles

Russia launched a fresh wave of missile strikes on Ukraine in the morning Thursday, killing at least one person, hours after an overnight drone attack, while heavy fighting continues unabated in the east, where Moscow’s forces have been increasing pressure on Ukrainian defenders.

The new missile attacks came after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking just hours after Germany and the United States pledged to provide Kyiv with advanced battle tanks, called on Kyiv’s Western allies to deliver long-range missiles and military aircraft to beef up Ukraine’s air defense.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person was killed and two others were wounded in a strike on the capital and urged residents to stay in shelters.

“As a result of a rocket hitting a nonresidential building in the Holosiyiv district, we have information about one dead and two wounded. The wounded were hospitalized,” he said.

Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said more than a dozen missiles were destroyed above the capital by air defenses.

“The enemy launched more than 15 cruise missiles in the direction of Kyiv. Thanks to the excellent work of air defense, all air targets were shot down,” he said.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, wrote on Telegram, “the first Russian missiles have already been shot down,” without specifying the locations.

Two energy facilities were hit by Russian missiles in the southern region of Odesa, local authorities said.

“There is already information about damage done to two critical energy infrastructure facilities in Odesa. There are no injured. Air-defense forces are working over the Odesa region,” the head of the region’s military administration, Yuriy Kruk, wrote on social media. 

The central region of Vinnitsya was also targeted by Russian missiles, said Serhiy Borzov, the head of the regional military administration, adding that there were no casualties.

Earlier, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Military said its forces destroyed 24 drones, including 15 over Kyiv, that Russia launched in overnight attacks.

Zelenskyy said in his regular nightly video address on Wednesday that it is now necessary to “go ahead with the supply of aircraft for Ukraine.”

On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces continued to sustain incessant pressure from Russian attacks in the east, mainly in Bakhmut and Avdiyivka in the Donetsk region and Chervopopyivka in Luhansk, the General Staff said in its daily report Thursday.

“Despite suffering numerous losses, the enemy did not halt its offensive actions,” the General Staff said, adding that Ukrainian defenders also repelled attacks in Lyman, Kupyansk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson.

Russia has been “intensifying” its offensive near Bakhmut, where it deployed a “superior number of soldiers and weapons” in what has become a hot spot in the 11-month-old invasion, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said Wednesday, adding that “the enemy is intensifying pressure in the Bakhmut and Vuhledar sectors” of the front.

Ukrainian officials on Wednesday also acknowledged their loss to Russian forces of the Donetsk-region salt-mining town of Soledar as many military experts are forecasting a Russian spring offensive in the area.

Berlin and Washington agreed to provide the tanks following months of intense debate among NATO allies in the hope of helping stem the expected push by Russia.

Zelenskyy praised the allies’ commitment to deliver advanced tanks and urged them to provide large numbers of tanks quickly.

“The key now is speed and volumes. Speed in training our forces, speed in supplying tanks to Ukraine. The numbers in tank support,” he said. “We have to form such a ‘tank fist,’ such a ‘fist of freedom.'”

“It is very important that there is progress in other aspects of our defense cooperation as well,” Zelenskyy said.

“We must also open the supply of long-range missiles to Ukraine. It is important — we must also expand our cooperation in artillery, we must enter into the supply of aircraft for Ukraine. And this is a dream. And this is the task.”

President Joe Biden on Wednesday said the United States will send 31 of its highly advanced Abrams tanks in a move he said was not a threat to Russia.

Moscow has warned that it regards the Western supply of advanced battle tanks to Ukraine a dangerous provocation.

Speaking from the White House, Biden said the NATO tanks for Ukraine would help “improve their ability to maneuver in open terrain.”

He praised Berlin’s similar announcement as evidence that “Germany has really stepped up.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said hours earlier that Germany will supply 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and will also allow third countries to reexport their own German-made Leopards.

Scholz said the decision, approved Wednesday, was “the right principle” in the face of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbor.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius added that the first Leopard tanks could be in Ukraine within three months.

With reporting by Reuters, The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and dpa.

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