Russia bombards Ukraine as West pledges more aid

AFP

Russia battered Ukraine with multiple missile strikes on Thursday as its troops sought to advance in the east, Kyiv said, but Western allies pledged even more military aid for an intended Ukrainian spring counter-offensive.

Following a pattern of heavy aerial bombardment at times of Ukrainian battlefield or diplomatic advances, Russia launched 32 missiles in the early hours, Ukraine's Air Force said.

Half were shot down, it added, a lower rate than normal.

Among them, air defences in the south downed eight Kalibr missiles fired from a ship in the Black Sea, Ukrainian officials said. Other missiles struck northern and western Ukraine as well as the central regions of Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovohrad.

Russia has usually carried out its biggest waves of air strikes in daylight, striking energy facilities, but Ukrainian officials suggest Moscow is starting to adapt strategy, including using air balloons for reconnaissance.

Ukraine did not say why fewer missiles had been knocked out than usual but it has previously reported lower success rates when Russia fired Soviet-era Kh-22 missiles.

Bolstered by tens of thousands of reservists, Russia has intensified ground attacks across southern and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, and a major new offensive appears to be shaping as the first anniversary of its February 24 invasion nears.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, pulverised Ukrainian cities, destabilised the global economy just as it was recovering from the COVID pandemic, and uprooted millions of people from their homes.

Showing the scale of the humanitarian disaster, Germany said 1.1 million people arrived from Ukraine in 2022, exceeding an unprecedented migrant influx in 2015-16.

Russia did not immediately comment on the overnight bombardment, though on Wednesday it was touting Ukrainian retreats in parts of the eastern province of Luhansk.

Luhansk and Donetsk provinces make up the Donbas, Ukraine's industrial heartland, which is now partially occupied by Russia. It wants full control of the Donbas and its current focus is on encircling and taking the small city of Bakhmut in Donetsk.

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