Russian missiles have pounded dozens of Ukrainian cities and towns over the past 24 hours, while the head of one of the regions annexed by Russia told residents on Thursday, October 13, to leave amid fighting between Russian and advancing Ukrainian forces.
A day after the United Nations Security Council condemned Moscow’s incorporation of four partially occupied regions into its territory as illegal, the Russian-installed governor of one of those, Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, appealed for residents to take their children and leave.
The official, Vladimir Saldo, asked for Moscow’s help in transporting civilians into Russia, saying the cities in the region were subject to missile attacks.
Since August, Kherson has been the center of a major Ukrainian counter-offensive in which Kyiv says it has retaken more than 1,170 sq km (450 sq miles) of land.
Russian troops were not preparing to leave Kherson, another Russian-installed official said.
After Russia lost ground since early September around Kherson and a large area in the country’s northeast, Moscow has intensified its air campaign, prompting Kyiv’s allies to pledge more air defense systems and other military aid.
On Thursday NATO allies meeting in Brussels unveiled plans to also jointly beef up Europe’s air defenses with Patriot and other missile systems.
“We are living in threatening, dangerous times,” said German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht at a signing ceremony where Germany and more than a dozen of European NATO members committed
to jointly procuring weapons for a “European Sky Shield” to better protect their territory.
Moscow renewed warnings that more military aid for Kyiv made members of the US-led military alliance “a direct party to the conflict,” and said admitting Ukraine to the alliance would trigger a global conflict.
“Kyiv is well aware that such a step would mean a guaranteed escalation to a World War Three,” deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Alexander Venediktov, told the state TASS news agency on Thursday.
Moscow has repeatedly justified the February 24 invasion that has killed tens of thousands of people, in what it calls a “special operation”, by saying Ukraine’s ambitions to join the alliance posed a threat to Russia’s security.
Ukraine’s accession remains a distant prospect, not least because its membership during an ongoing war would put the United States and allies into direct conflict with Russia under the alliance’s collective defence clause.
Washington and other NATO members have provided Ukraine with weapons to fight Russia and imposed sweeping economic sanctions but have tried to avoid more direct involvement in the war.
In Brussels for a meeting of NATO’s defense ministers, including close-door talks by its nuclear planning group, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed to defend “every inch” of members’ territory.
Shortly after Russia’s assault began Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signalled he was willing to consider neutrality, but has since asked for fast-track membership, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as Russian land on
In the past 24 hours Russian missiles hit more than 40 settlements, while Ukrainian air force carried out 32 strikes on 25 Russian targets, Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff said.
The southern port city of Mykolaiv came under massive bombardment, local officials said.
“It is known that a number of civilian objects were hit,” regional governor Vitaly Kim said in a social media post.
He said the top two floors of a five-story residential building were completely destroyed and the rest were under rubble. Video footage provided by state emergency services showed rescuers pulling from under the rubble an 11-year-old boy, who Kim said had spent six hours trapped under the debris.
‘Cold as weapon’
On Wednesday, more than 50 Western countries met to pledge deliveries of air defense systems and other weapons to Ukraine after Putin ordered heavy retaliatory strikes in response to an explosion on a bridge in Crimea.
Germany has sent Ukraine the first of four IRIS-T SLM air defense systems, while Washington said it would speed up delivery of a promised NASAMS air defense system.
While Moscow denies targeting civilians, Kyiv says the strikes are aimed at the Ukraine’s population and its power supply, with Russian forces trying to use “cold as their weapon.”
“In their sick imagination, Ukrainians sitting for several hours without electricity is a victory,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Wednesday while calling on citizens to conserve energy and prepare for winter by stocking up on warm clothes, candles, torches and batteries.
At least 26 people have been killed since Monday in the Russian missile attacks. Ukrainian officials reported strikes at 28 energy installations.
Stressing the urgency of further assistance, Zelenskiy told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Thursday that Ukraine still had about only 10% of what it needed to protect itself against Russian air attacks. – Rappler.com