The Patriot air defense systems the Ukrainian government called for to help the country defend itself from air attacks have at last arrived in the country.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov posted on Twitter that “our beautiful sky is made more secure because Patriot air defense systems have arrived in Ukraine”. He thanked the US, German and Dutch governments for providing them, and noted he first lobbied for the Patriots in August 2021, before the invasion, in a visit to the US.
The lack of a considerable Ukrainian air force since the early stages of the invasion has meant Ukraine has been laid bare to Russian air attacks by jet.
Ukrainian government ministers were urging foreign powers to provide the missile systems as recently as December, as the US drew up plans to supply them. The Dutch government then agreed in January to also send the batteries.
The second of four promised German Iris-T system were also delivered, according to a German newspaper which had spoken to government officials. No official announcements have been made.
New US aid package announced
The United States announced a new military aid package for Ukraine on Wednesday to help the Ukrainian military in its war against Russia, Reuters reported. The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told the daily press conference the package will include more ammunition and artillery rounds. It is the 36th security package since the war began in February 2022.
Russian forces in Bakhmut taking “heavy losses”
The Ukrainian army is reporting that the Russian forces in Bakhmut are taking “heavy losses” after seven strikes throughout Wednesday.
An update by the general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine said that two areas which included soldiers, weapons and military equipment and ammunition depots, were hit.
As Ukrainian authorities reported increased Russian use of heavy artillery and airstrikes around the contested town of Bakhmut on Tuesday, DW spoke to retired US General Ben Hodges.
“Bakhmut is actually all about Crimea,” Hodges said. “Ukraine has managed for nine months to stop Russian forces from capturing Bakhmut. In the meanwhile, they have been building up forces that they’re going to use in their offensive, which I think will happen in several more weeks, that will be aimed at isolating the Crimean Peninsula and then eventually making Crimea untenable for Russian forces.”
The former commanding general of US Army Europe said he believed the counteroffensive might be likely to commence around June: “It was never going to be a spring offensive, it needs to be when they’re ready to attack, and when the weather conditions are better, the ground specifically,” he said.
If Ukraine could break through Russian lines to the Sea of Azov and isolate the peninsula off the southern coast, Hodges said that would be “the beginning of the end for the Russians in Crimea.”
It would then be possible to isolate Russian forces there and use long-range weaponry to target sites like the major naval base at Sevastopol, he said.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, years before its full-scale invasion. Sevastopol provides its navy with valuable access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
Putin visits occupied territory
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine’s Luhansk and Kherson regions on Monday.
A video broadcast by Russian state television showed Putin arriving in the southern Kherson region in a helicopter and meeting top military commanders. He was then seen visiting the headquarters of the Russian National Guard in the eastern Luhansk region.
While this was Putin’s second visit to regions under Russia’s control, it was the first time the Russian leader visited Kherson and Luhansk — regions that are partly controlled by Russian troops.
It comes as Ukrainian troops prepare for a fresh counteroffensive to reclaim the occupied territories.
Last month, Putin visited the Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol which came under Russia’s control in May last year.
While meeting troops in Luhansk and Kherson, Putin wished them a happy Easter, which Orthodox Christians celebrated on Sunday.
In September last year, Russia annexed the regions of Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia in a move that was internationally condemned as illegal.
Compiled by ana Dumbadze