Ukraine Hit by Deadly Wave of Russian Missile Strikes as Zelenskyy Calls for Aircraft, Missiles

Russia launched new missile attacks on several locations in Ukraine on Thursday, killing 11 people and wounding 11 others, authorities reported.

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said the attacks hit 11 regions across the country. Ukraine’s Air Force said Russia fired 55 missiles, with Ukraine shooting down most of them. Thirty-five buildings were damaged in the attacks.

Moscow’s forces continued to target Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the depth of winter, an effort to demoralize Ukrainians. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a post on Telegram, “The main goal is energy facilities, providing Ukrainians with light and heat.”

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person was killed in the Ukrainian capital and two more were wounded when a missile hit a building. The state prosecutor general’s office said three people were killed in a Russian strike on infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia, where Europe’s biggest nuclear plant is located, and there were reports of strikes in the Vinnytsia region in western Ukraine and outside Odesa.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said that IAEA’s security staff has been reporting almost daily blasts near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, with eight detonations heard Wednesday and more on Thursday. He called again, as he has for months, for Russia and Ukraine to agree to a safety and security zone around the nuclear plant to make sure it is not targeted and not used for attacks from the site.

Grossi discussed the proposed zone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv last week and is also continuing discussions with Russia.

Six reactors remain shut down at the Zaporizhzhia site with two continuing in hot shutdown mode to supply steam and heat to the plant and the nearby city of Enerhodar.

The new missile attacks came after 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.

Zelenskyy praised the allies’ commitment to deliver advanced tanks and urged them to provide large numbers of tanks quickly, although it could be months before some of them arrive on the battlefront.

“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,” he added.

President Joe Biden said Wednesday the U.S. 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 was “the right principle” in the face of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbor, a war now in its 12th month.

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

Some material in this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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