West plans more weapons for ‘brave’ Ukraine as sirens sound again
- Ukraine’s Western allies promise more air defense weapons
- Biden calls Putin a ‘rational actor who miscalculated’
- Air raid sirens sound for third day but no big wave of strikes
- Pipeline leak as EU discusses response to energy crisis
KYIV/BRUSSELS, Oct 12 (Reuters) – More than 50 Western countries gathered on Wednesday to pledge more weapons to Ukraine, especially air defenses after Russia launched its most intense missile strikes since the start of the war.
At the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in Brussels, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Russia’s latest attacks had laid bare its “wickedness and cruelty” since invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Ukraine has changed momentum since September with extraordinary gains but would need more help, he said.
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“These victories belong to the brave Ukrainian soldiers. But the Contact Group’s assistance, training and security support efforts have been vital,” Austin said.
Russian attacks using more than 100 missiles have killed at least 26 people across Ukraine since Monday, when President Vladimir Putin ordered what he called retaliatory strikes against Ukraine for a bridge explosion.
On Wednesday, air raid sirens sounded over swaths of Ukraine for a third day and shelling was reported, but no sign of a repeat of the intensive nationwide strikes of the previous two days.
The missiles mainly targeted civilian electricity and heating infrastructure, while some hit busy roads, parks and tourist sites, including in central Kyiv.
Transatlantic Alliance NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called Russia’s missile attacks a sign of weakness. “Russia is losing on the battlefield,” Stoltenberg said.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the Evening Standard that people had underestimated Ukraine and overestimated Russia. “But he (Putin) has in his back pocket millions of people that he can put through a meat grinder with no rules, no regard for human lives and innocents and civilians,” he added.
Since Monday’s attacks, Germany has sent the first of four planned IRIS-T SLM air defense systems, while Washington has said it will speed up the delivery of a promised NASAMS air defense system.
The Czech Republic has said it will refuse Russians with Schengen zone visas from October 25, as it joins other members of the European Union in tightening entry rules.
“As Russian rockets fall on a children’s playground and on Ukrainians, up to 200 citizens of the Russian Federation are traveling to the Czech Republic via international airports every day,” Foreign Minister Jan said. Lipavsky.
European Union energy ministers were also meeting in Prague to strategize on a war-induced energy crisis.
Polish pipeline operator PERN said it detected a leak in a pipe in the Druzhba system that transports oil from Russia to Europe, although it said the cause was likely an accident. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said the leak appeared to have been eliminated.
Global attention has focused on the safety of Russian energy pipelines to Europe since major undersea gas pipelines were damaged in suspected sabotage last month.
Western countries did not say who they blamed for the huge explosions that ripped holes in the two Nord Stream 1 pipelines and one of the two pipes that make up the new Nord Stream 2 project, but hinted that they thought it was Russia.
Putin said on Wednesday gas could now be delivered through the Nord Stream 2 pipe remaining in good condition, but it was up to Europe to allow it. The new pipeline, completed but never opened, has been suspended by Germany since the invasion.
As his forces have lost ground on the battlefield since September, Putin has escalated the conflict, ordering the recall of hundreds of thousands of reservists, proclaiming the annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory and repeatedly threatening to use weapons nuclear weapons to protect Russia.
US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he doubted Putin would resort to it. Putin is a “rational actor who miscalculated considerably”, he told CNN television, saying he believed the Russian leader had expected his invading troops to be welcomed.
The Biden administration is considering a comprehensive ban on Russian aluminum in response to Russian military escalation in Ukraine, Bloomberg news agency reported. Read more
In Kyiv, residents cleaned up after strikes this week.
“It’s not that they are fighting the army, they are just motivated by a desire to destroy us, to destroy us, to destroy us,” said Yulia Datsenko, a 38-year-old paramedic, as she examined damage to his apartment.
Pope Francis denounced the bombings, part of what he called a “hurricane of violence”.
On the battlefield, the Ukrainian governor of the partially occupied province of Donetsk said seven people were killed in the Russian shelling of a market in the front town of Avdiivka.
The Ukrainian army said its forces had consolidated control of several settlements recaptured from Russian troops on the west bank of the Dnipro, near the Russian-occupied town of Beryslav in the Kherson region.
The Ukrainians broke through the Russian front line in the area in early October and advanced in an attempt to cut off thousands of Russian troops from supply and escape routes across the river.
Russian media reported explosions in Kherson and Melitopol in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine.
Also in the south, Russian missiles destroyed buildings in the Zaporizhzhia region overnight, although no casualties were reported, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said.
Video footage from Ukrainian emergency services showed a family being rescued from a razed building following what it said was a missile attack in Zaporizhzhia. Reuters could not independently verify the location of the video or the date it was taken.
Sixth largest city in Ukraine, Zaporizhzhia is still controlled by Ukraine although Moscow claims to have annexed the surrounding province. The city has suffered nightly Russian attacks since the proclamation of annexation, including at least three buildings destroyed while residents slept. Starukh said at least 70 people have been killed this month.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Stephen Coates, Peter Graff and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Alex Richardson and Nick Macfie
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