Ukraine’s defenders dig as Russia ramps up shelling

by Adam Schreck and Kara Anna

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia said on Monday it destroyed air defense systems in Ukraine over the weekend, in a renewed push to gain air superiority and pull out weapons, which Kyiv called a Important before the massive new attack. east.

The initial invasion of Moscow stalled on several fronts as it faced stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces, who prevented the Russians from capturing the capital and other cities. The failure to gain complete control of Ukraine’s skies has hampered Moscow’s ability to provide air cover for troops on the ground, limiting their progress and potentially exposing them to greater damage.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the military used cruise missiles to destroy four S-300 air defense missile launchers on the southern outskirts of the central city of Dnipro. He said about 25 Ukrainian soldiers were also affected by Sunday’s strike.

Konashenkov said Ukraine had received the air defense system from a European country, which he did not name. Last week, Slovakia said it handed over the Soviet-designed S-300s to Ukraine – but Slovakia said there was no evidence its systems were hit.

Their advances have been thwarted in many parts of the country, with Russian forces increasingly relying on bombed cities. The war has flattened many urban areas, killed thousands and left Russia politically and economically isolated. Ukrainian authorities accused Russian forces of committing war crimes against civilians, including a massacre outside Kyiv, airstrikes on hospitals and a missile attack that killed at least 57 people at a train station.

Now, Russia is regrouping for a renewed push in the eastern Donbass region, where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014 and declared independent states. Both sides are exploring what could be a devastating war of escape.

According to US officials, Russia has appointed an experienced general to lead the effort, although they do not see one person making the difference.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is meanwhile calling for more Western aid, saying his forces need heavy fire to resist the oncoming attack and push back Russian forces. Echoing his remarks in an AP interview, Zelensky said on Sunday that the week ahead could be crucial, with Western support to his country – or lack thereof – proving decisive.

“To be honest, whether we’ll be able to (survive) depends on it,” Zelensky said in a “60 Minutes” interview. “Unfortunately, I don’t believe we’ll get everything we need.”

Zelensky said he was grateful to US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders for the military aid to date, but added that he had “long ago” forwarded a list of specific items that Ukraine desperately needs. In a video address to South Korean lawmakers on Monday, he specifically requested equipment that can shoot down Russian missiles.

Those armaments could become increasingly vulnerable to attack as Russia seeks to shift the balance in the 6-week-old war.

Russian reports of an attack on S-300s outside Dnipro were the third such strike since the weekend. Konashenkov said the military also targeted similar systems in the Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions. Russian military claims could not be independently verified.

Asked about Russian claims that it had taken systems supplied by a European country, Slovakian Foreign Minister Ivan Korko said on Monday that he had “no evidence” that the Russians had taken systems supplied by his country. The weapon was destroyed. Earlier, his government had called reports that the Slovak-supply system had been hit “disruption”.

Ukraine already had a number of Soviet-built S-300s and other long-range air defense systems, and it has also received batches of portable, shoulder-mounted Western anti-aircraft weapons such as the Stingers, which can be used for low-flying aircraft. are efficient against.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehmer was due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, after meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv. Austria, a member of the European Union, is militarily neutral and is not a member of NATO.

Questions remain about the ability of depleted and demoralized Russian forces to conquer much ground after their advance on Kyiv was repulsed by Ukrainian defenders.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that Ukraine has already repelled several attacks by Russian forces in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions – which make up the Donbass – that resulted in the destruction of Russian tanks, vehicles and artillery.

In Washington, a senior US official said Russia has appointed General Alexander Dvornikov, one of its most experienced military chiefs, to oversee the invasion. The officer was not identified and authorized to speak on condition of anonymity. Russia usually does not announce such appointments, and there has been no comment from Moscow.

Dvornikov, 60, gained a reputation for brutality as the chief of the Russian military stationed in Syria in 2015 to support President Bashar Assad’s government during the country’s devastating civil war.

Until now, Russia had no central combat commander on the ground. But US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan downplayed the importance of the appointment, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“What we learned in the first several weeks of this war is that Ukraine will never be subject to Russia,” Sullivan said. “It doesn’t matter which general President Putin tries to appoint.”

Western military analysts say Russia’s attack is increasingly focusing on eastern Ukraine – an arc that stretches from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city in the north to Kherson in the south.

On Sunday, Russian forces opened fire on government-controlled Kharkiv and sent reinforcements to Izium in the southeast to try to break through Ukraine’s defenses, the Ukrainian military said. The Russians also continued the siege of Mariupol, a major southern port in the Donbass, which has been besieged since the start of the war.

Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Sinyehubov said on Monday that 11 people, including a 7-year-old child, were killed in Russian shelling in the past 24 hours.

The Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, predicted that Russian forces would “renew offensive operations in the coming days” from Izium, in a campaign to conquer the Donbass, which contains Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

But it said the result is “highly questionable.”

In Mariupol, Russia deployed Chechen fighters, who were considered particularly fierce. Capturing the city on the Azov Sea would give Russia a land bridge to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia had seized from Ukraine and annexed eight years earlier.

In a video posted on his Telegram channel, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said Russian forces would launch fresh attacks on Mariupol as well as Kyiv and other cities. “Our offensive will be carried out not only in Mariupol, but also in all other settlements, towns and villages,” he said.

Mariupol residents lack food, water and electricity as Russian forces besieged the city. Hundreds of thousands have fled, although Russian attacks have also frustrated evacuation missions.

Vladislav Usovich, an 18-year-old soldier serving in Russia-backed separatist forces, moved slowly along with other fighters through residential areas around a factory in Mariupol on Sunday.

“I thought it would be better, I thought it would be faster. Everything is going slowly, ”he said. “The Ukrainians are ready fighters. NATO trained him well.”

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This story has been updated to correct that the war only started six weeks ago, not 10 weeks. ,

Anna reported from Buka, Ukraine. Borodenko, Yesika Fisch in Ukraine, Robert Burns and Calvin Woodward in Washington, and Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

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