Ukraine calls on West to supply air defence systems and impose tougher sanctions on Moscow

Missile strikes reported in several regions of Ukraine; Kremlin promises Belarus nuclear-capable missiles

Ukraine urged western powers to provide it with air defence systems and impose tougher sanctions on Moscow after the Russian military fired dozens of missiles at Kyiv and other cities across the country over the weekend, killing and injuring several civilians.

Fierce fighting continued in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces took full control of the devastated city of Sievierodonetsk and moved towards neighbouring Lysychansk, where Ukrainian troops have reinforced their defensive positions.

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said Moscow planned to move more troops and warplanes to neighbouring Belarus, after Russian missiles were fired at Ukraine from its airspace on Saturday and the Kremlin said it would soon supply it with nuclear-capable missiles.

Russian cruise missiles hit central Kyiv for the first time in several weeks on Sunday morning, smashing into an apartment block and killing at least one resident and injuring six others. Russian rockets also hit the city of Cherkasy, about 160km southeast of Kyiv, killing one person and wounding five others.

Missile strikes were reported in several other regions of Ukraine, a day after officials said about 45 Russian rockets were fired at the country, killing at least four people and injuring seven.

Rescue workers pulled one young girl from the ruined apartment block in Kyiv on Sunday morning, after a rocket attack that reportedly killed her father and left her mother trapped in the rubble.

Several senior Kyiv officials said the strike — coming as leaders of G7 states gathered for a summit in Munich — showed the need for tougher action against Moscow.

“This seven-year-old Ukrainian kid was sleeping peacefully in Kyiv until a Russian cruise missile blasted her home,” said Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba.

“Many more around Ukraine are under strikes. G7 summit must respond with more sanctions on Russia and more heavy arms for Ukraine. Russia’s sick imperialism must be defeated.”

Ukraine has started receiving heavier artillery pieces and multiple-launch rocket systems from western allies but says it needs more arms, ammunition and advanced air-defence protection.

“No Russian missiles, no strikes can break the morale of Ukrainians,” said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“This [missile attack] confirms that sanctions packages against Russia are not enough, that Ukraine needs more armed assistance, and that air defence systems should be not in training areas or storage facilities but in Ukraine, where they are now needed.”

Ukraine’s atomic energy agency accused Moscow of “nuclear terrorism” on Sunday after a missile flew at a “critically low” level over a nuclear power station in the south of the country.

‘Nazi’ elements

The Kremlin insists its forces are only striking military targets in a “special operation” to protect Russian speakers and root out “Nazi” elements in Ukraine, a pro-western democracy where thousands of civilians have died and some 14 million have been displaced since Moscow launched its all-out invasion four months ago.

Moscow’s troops took full control of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk over the weekend after Ukrainian forces withdrew to escape possible encirclement and to reinforce neighbouring Lysychansk.

“In the coming months, we will transfer to Belarus Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which can use ballistic or cruise missiles, in their conventional and nuclear versions,” Russian president Vladimir Putin told his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday.

Mr Lukashenko denounced what he called the “aggressive” and “confrontational” policies of Poland and Lithuania, amid tension around Kaliningrad, a Russian region separated from the rest of the country by the two EU and Nato members.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe