Deadly missile strike on eastern Ukraine as allies pledge more air defence aid

Volodymyr Zelenskiy to attend G7 summit and sign security pact with US leader Joe Biden

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban: Mr Orban has signalled his country will not take part in any alliance assistance programmes for Ukraine. Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP

A Russian missile strike on eastern Ukraine killed at least eight people and injured 21 others on Wednesday, as Kyiv said it needed more western help to bolster its air defences even after pledges of new weaponry from the United States and Germany.

“Every day and every hour, Russian terror proves that Ukraine must strengthen its air defence with the support of our partners. A Russian missile attack [struck] Kryvyi Rih… All necessary services are working at the site,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said after the attack on a residential area of the city where he was born and raised.

“Modern air defence systems can ensure maximum protection for our people, cities and positions. We need them urgently,” he added.

US media reported that the White House had approved delivery to Ukraine of another advanced Patriot missile defence system that is now in neighbouring Poland, and Germany announced that it would provide 100 more missiles for the system in co-operation with Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.

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Russia has intensified missile and drone strikes on Ukraine’s power infrastructure in recent months, destroying half the country’s electricity-generating capacity and fuelling fears of long blackouts in the months ahead and throughout winter.

Ukrainian officials said Russia also struck an unspecified “critical infrastructure” facility in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region on Wednesday, hours after air defence systems shot down 29 of 30 missiles and drones fired at the capital Kyiv and other areas of the country. Several people were reportedly hurt by falling debris and an unnamed industrial site outside Kyiv was set on fire.

Kyiv’s military said it hit Russian air defences in occupied Crimea for the second time this week, and claimed to have destroyed the radar units of one S-400 and one S-300 missile battery. Moscow did not confirm the attacks.

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Heavy fighting continued in eastern Ukraine, with intense clashes taking place in the Pokrovsk, Chasiv Yar and Kurakhove districts of Donetsk region and in the Kupiansk and Vovchansk districts of Kharkiv province.

Mr Zelenskiy is expected to attend a meeting of G7 leaders in Italy on Thursday and Friday before a “peace summit” hosted by Switzerland, at which he hopes to secure support from dozens of states for a peace plan that would then be presented at a follow-up summit to Russia – which is not invited to the weekend gathering near Lake Lucerne.

Kyiv hopes that G7 nations will tighten sanctions on Russia and agree on ways to use frozen Russian assets held in the West to generate tens of billions of euro to spend on military support for and reconstruction of Ukraine.

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Mr Zelenskiy is also expected to meet US president Joe Biden in Italy, where they will reportedly sign a security agreement on close co-operation in arms supply and manufacturing, military training, intelligence sharing and other fields.

On a visit to Budapest, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban had made clear that his country would neither take part in any alliance assistance programmes for Ukraine nor seek to veto any such initiatives.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

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