UK to supply tanks; Russian missiles hit Ukraine

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to deliver tanks and artillery systems to Ukraine on Saturday amid renewed rocket attacks by Moscow on multiple Ukrainian cities for the first time in nearly two weeks.

Five people were killed and 39 injured in the southeastern city of Dnipro, where a Russian missile strike destroyed part of an apartment building, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said. Photos showed a large hole in the nine-story building.

Infrastructure facilities were also affected in the western Lviv region and Ivano-Frankivsk region, in the Black Sea region of Odessa and in northeastern Kharkiv. Kiev, the capital, was also targeted.

Sunak pledged to supply Challenger 2 tanks and other artillery systems after a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday, the British leader’s Downing Street office said in a statement.

It was not stated when the tanks would be delivered and how many. British media have reported that four British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks will be sent to Eastern Europe immediately, with eight more to follow soon after, without citing sources.

Zelenskyy tweeted his gratitude to Sunak on Saturday “for the decisions that will not only strengthen us on the battlefield, but also send the right signal to other partners.”

Ukraine has spent months trying to get heavier tanks, including the US Abrams and Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks, but Western leaders have proceeded with caution.

The Czech Republic and Poland have supplied Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukrainian troops. Poland has also expressed its willingness to provide a company of Leopard tanks, but President Andrzej Duda stressed during his recent visit to the Ukrainian city of Lviv that the move would only be possible as part of a larger international coalition of tank aid to Kiev.

Earlier this month, France said it would send AMX-10 RC armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine, called “light tanks” in French. The US and Germany announced the same week that they would send Bradley fighting vehicles and Marder armored cars respectively for the first time.

Sunak’s announcement came as Russian forces fired rockets into Kiev and other parts of Ukraine on Saturday in the first major barrage in days.

In Dnipro, rescuers used a crane to evacuate people trapped in the upper floors of the apartment building, some of whom signaled with the flashlights on their mobile phones, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Telegram. He also said there were probably people under the rubble.

In the northeastern Kharkiv region, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said two Russian missiles struck another infrastructure object on Saturday afternoon, following a similar strike in the morning. .

Another infrastructure facility was hit in the western Lviv region, according to Governor Maksym Kozytskyi.

Air defense systems were also activated in other regions of Ukraine, and when air raid sirens sounded again across the country in the afternoon, regional officials urged local residents to seek shelter.

Vitali Kim, governor of the southern region of Mykolaiv, hinted in a Telegram message that missiles have been intercepted over his province.

Top military commander Valeri Zaluzhny said Russia fired a total of 33 cruise missiles on Saturday, 21 of which were shot down.

Earlier in the day there were also explosions in the capital Kiev. The explosions occurred before air sirens sounded, which is unusual. It is likely that the explosions came before the warning sirens because the attack was carried out by ballistic missiles, which are faster than cruise missiles or drones.

According to Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat, Russia attacked Kiev with ballistic missiles flying from the north.

“The ballistics are not easy for us to detect and shoot down,” he told local media. The warning about the missile threat came late due to the lack of radar data and information from other sources.

According to Ukrainian officials, an infrastructure target was hit during the morning missile strike.

Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko said explosions were heard in the Dniprovskyi district, a residential area on the left bank of the Dnieper River. Klitschko also said that fragments of a missile fell on a non-residential area in the Holosiivskyi district on the right bank, and a fire broke out in a building there for a short time. No casualties have been reported so far.

This was the first attack on the Ukrainian capital since January 1.

Two Russian missiles hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Saturday morning. The attacks with S-300 missiles targeted “energy and industrial objects of Kharkiv and the (outer) region,” said governor Syniehubov. No casualties were reported, but emergency power cuts in the city and other settlements in the region were possible, the official said.

In the city of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, where fighting is fiercest, three people were killed in Russian artillery strikes on Saturday, Mayor Vitalii Barabash said. One person was killed in a rocket attack in Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk region, Reznichenko said.

The attacks follow conflicting reports about the fate of the hotly contested salt mining town of Soledar, in disputed eastern Ukraine. Russia claims its troops captured the city, a development that would mark a rare victory for the Kremlin after a series of humiliating battlefield setbacks.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Saturday that “fierce fighting for Soledar continues”.

Moscow has portrayed the battle for the city and the nearby city of Bakhmut as key to conquering the eastern region of the Donbas, which consists of the partially occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, and as a way to bring down the best Ukrainian forces and prevent them from launching counter-attacks elsewhere.

But that cuts both ways, as Ukraine says the fierce defense of its eastern strongholds has helped tie down Russian forces. Western officials and analysts say the importance of the two cities is symbolic rather than strategic.

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Hanna Arhirova reported from Kiev, Ukraine.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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