Russia appears to be doubling down on its efforts to capture Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s armed forces said Wednesday that Russian forces continue to concentrate their efforts on capturing the besieged town and nearby areas around Lyman, Avdiivka and Marinka.
In an operational update, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces sectors said there had been 55 combat engagements recorded in those areas in the past 24 hours. “Bakhmut and Marinka remain at the epicenter of hostilities,” Ukraine’s military staff reported.
Thursday’s attacks on Kyiv are ninth in May
Thursday saw the ninth time this month that Russian air raids targeted the capital, a clear escalation after weeks of lull and ahead of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive using newly supplied advanced Western weapons.
The raids by Russia are “unprecedented in their power, intensity and variety,” the Kyiv City Regional City Administration (KMBA) wrote on Telegram.
“This time, the attack was carried out by strategic bombers Tu-95MS, Tu-160 from the Caspian region, probably by cruise missiles of the X-101/555 type. After launching the rockets, the enemy deployed its reconnaissance UAVs over the capital,” the KMBA wrote.
Ukraine’s army reported several explosions in Kyiv and other parts of the country early Thursday morning. The military also reports “cruise missile” attacks in the central Vinnytsia region of Ukraine, and local media reported explosions in Khmelnytskyi, about 100 kilometers further west. Air raid alerts are still in place for Kyiv and people have been urged to stay in bomb shelters.
A fire broke out at a business in the city’s Darnytskyi district as a result of falling debris, and an explosion was recorded in the Desnyansky district, according to Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko.
“The attack on the capital continues. Do not leave the shelters during the air alert!” he implored on Telegram.
Support builds for Ukraine’s ‘jets coalition’ but it’s unclear who will supply them
Momentum appears to be building behind Ukraine’s so-called “jets coalition,” but it remains to be seen who will supply the fighter aircraft.
Ukraine has been requesting fighter aircraft to combat Russia’s invasion for months. Its preference is to receive F-16s, jets operated by the US as well as Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands.
The UK, which does not operate F-16s, said earlier this week that it’s happy to train Ukrainian pilots and, on Tuesday, the prime ministers of Britain and the Netherlands agreed “they would work to build an international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F16 jets.”
Belgium’s prime minister said Wednesday that Belgium is also ready to train pilots to fly such jets, but cannot provide the aircraft. The US previously ruled out providing F-16s too.
Denmark previously seemed more amenable to the idea, with its defense minister saying in February that it is “open” to the idea of sending fighter jets to Ukraine.
Germany does not have the training capacity or military equipment to actively contribute to a British-Dutch initiative to supply Ukraine with fighter jets, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Wednesday.
“We cannot play an active role in such an alliance, because we have neither the training capacities, the competencies or the planes,” Pistorius said in Berlin after a meeting with his British counterpart.
For now, however, Ukraine has international partners willing to help it procure the aircraft but not willing to provide them.
Ukraine denies Russia destroyed Patriot missile defense system
Ukraine denied on Wednesday that a Russian hypersonic missile had destroyed a US-made Patriot missile defense system during an air strike on Kyiv.
Russia’s defense ministry made the assertion on Tuesday after an overnight air attack on the Ukrainian capital. Two US officials later said a Patriot system had probably suffered damage but that it did not appear to have been destroyed.
“Do not worry about the fate of the Patriot,” Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat told Ukrainian television, ruling out the possibility of a Russian “Kinzhal” missile knocking out a Patriot system.
“Destroying the system with some kind of ‘Kinzhal’ is impossible. Everything they say there can stay in their propaganda archive,” he said.
The Patriot system is one of an array of sophisticated air defense units supplied by the West to help Ukraine repel Russian air strikes following Moscow’s invasion last year.
It is considered one of the most advanced US air defense systems, including against aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, and typically includes launchers along with radar and other support vehicles.
UN chief welcomes extension of Black Sea grain deal
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the decision between Russia, Ukraine and Turkey to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative for another two months.
“These agreements matter for global food security. Ukrainian and Russian products feed the world,” Guterres told reporters at the United Nations. “I hope we will reach a comprehensive agreement to improve, expand and extend the [Black Sea Grain] Initiative – as I proposed in a recent letter to the Presidents of the three countries,” he added.
Since August, nearly 1,000 ships carrying more than 30.2 million metric tons of agricultural products and foodstuffs have left Ukrainian ports for global destinations, according to figures provided by the United Nations.
Compiled by Ana Dumbadze