Russia says it has attacked Ukraine’s air defenses before the eastern offensive

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russia said it had destroyed several air defense systems in Ukraine over the weekend, which appeared to be a renewed impetus for air supremacy and arms acquisition, which Kiev described as important ahead of a broader new offensive. East.

In a strike announced on Monday, Moscow said it had attacked four S-300 launchers supplied by an unnamed European country. Slovakia presented such an arrangement to Ukraine last week but denied that it had been destroyed. Russia has previously announced two strikes elsewhere in similar organizations.

Moscow’s initial invasion was met with fierce opposition from Ukrainian forces, which stalled on several fronts as the Russians prevented the capture of the capital and other cities. Failure to take full control of Ukraine’s skies could limit Moscow’s ability to provide air defense to ground troops, limit their advance and inflict heavy casualties.

Patriot missile battery heading towards Slovakia in response to Ukraine invasion

As their offensive in many parts of the country was repulsed, Russian forces relied heavily on the bombing cities. The war razed many urban areas, killed thousands and isolated Russia politically and economically. Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of committing atrocities, including a massacre outside Pucha, Kiev, airstrikes on hospitals and a missile attack on a train station killing at least 57 people.

In Pucha on Monday, excavation work resumed from the mass grave in the church. Galina Fioktistova waited for hours in the cold and rain hoping to identify her 50-year-old son who was shot a month ago, but eventually he went home for a little warmth. “He’s still there,” said Andre, her surviving son.

Now, Russia is reuniting in the eastern Donbass region, where pro-Moscow separatists have been fighting with Ukrainian forces since 2014, declaring independence. Both sides are digging into what a catastrophic war would be.

Russia has appointed an experienced general to lead the effort, according to US officials.

In this photo taken on March 17, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin posed with Colonel General Alexander Dvornikov at a ceremony in the Kremlin. Dvornikov was appointed the new commander of the Ukrainian war on Sunday, following a setback in the post-invasion invasion of Russia. (Alexei Nikolsky / Sputnik, via Kremlin Pool Photo AP)

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky pleaded for more Western aid, saying his forces needed heavy firepower to counter the onslaught and repel Russian forces. Echoing his views in an AP interview, Zelenskyy said Sunday would be crucial next week, proving that his country has Western support – or lack thereof – decisive.

“It really depends on whether we can (survive),” Zhelensky said in a “60 Minutes” interview. “Unfortunately, I’m not sure we’ll get everything we need.” In a video address to South Korean lawmakers on Monday, he specifically demanded equipment that could fire Russian missiles.

But those weapons could be increasingly under attack as we watch Russia change its balance in the 6-week war.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday that the army had used four cruise missiles to destroy four missiles in the southern suburbs of the central city of Dinibro. He said the army had also attacked such organizations in the Mykolayiv and Kharkiv regions.

Slovakia’s prime minister’s spokeswoman Lubika Janikova denied on Monday that the S – 300 system sent to Ukraine had been destroyed. She said no other claim was true.

Russia has appointed a new Ukrainian warlord, a U.S. official has said

It is not clear what the system includes, but a senior U.S. defense official said the Soviet-era system typically included four missiles. The officer spoke anonymously to provide information in advance of the public announcement.

None of the Russian claims have been independently verified.

Ukraine has asked for more S-300s in recent months, although it already has Soviet-built systems and other long-range air defense systems. It also has a set of small, shoulder-to-shoulder anti-aircraft weapons such as the Stingers, which are effective against low-flying aircraft.

Austrian President Carl Neymar is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday. Austria, a member of the European Union, is militarily neutral and not a member of NATO.

After their advance on Kiev was thwarted by staunch Ukrainian guards, there are questions about the ability of weak and depressed Russian forces to capture multiple bases.

As a result of the destruction of Russian tanks, vehicles and artillery, Ukraine has already repulsed several attacks by Russian forces forming Donbass in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the British Defense Ministry said on Monday.

In Washington, a senior U.S. official said Russia had appointed one of its most experienced military leaders, General Alexander Duvorniko, to oversee the invasion. The officer was not authorized to identify or speak anonymously. Russia usually does not announce such appointments, with no comment from Moscow.

Dvornikov, 60, is best known for his brutality as leader of Russian forces stationed in support of President Bashar Assad’s government during Syria’s devastating civil war in 2015.

So far, Russia has no central warlord. But U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, downplayed the importance of the appointment.

“What we have learned in the first several weeks of this war is that Ukraine was never subject to Russia,” Sullivan said. “It does not matter what general president Putin is trying to appoint.”

Western military analysts say Russia’s offensive is increasingly focused on eastern Ukraine – Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, extending as far north as Kersan.

On Sunday, Russian forces shelled government-controlled Kharkiv and sent reinforcements to Izyum in the southeast in an attempt to break through Ukrainian security, the Ukrainian military said. The Russians continued to lay siege to Mariupol, a major southern port in Donbass, which had been under siege since almost the beginning of the war.

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

The American think tank War Research Institute predicts that Russian forces will “renew offensive operations in the coming days” in their campaign to capture Donbass, which includes Ukraine’s industrial hub.

But it said the results were “very questionable”.

In Mariupol, Russia stationed Chechen fighters, particularly fierce. The capture of the city in the Sea of ​​Azov would give Russia the ground bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine eight years ago.

In a video released on his Telegram channel, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said that Russian forces would launch renewed attacks on Mariupol and Kiev and other cities. “Our offensive work will be not only in Mariupol, but in all other settlements, towns and villages,” he said.

Mariupol residents have had no food, water or electricity since Russian forces surrounded the city. Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated, although Russian attacks have also frustrated evacuation efforts.

Vladislav Usovich, an 18-year-old man serving in pro-Russian separatist forces, advanced slowly along with other militants through residential areas around a factory in Mariupol on Sunday.

“I thought it would be good, I thought it would be fast. Everything is going slowly, ” he said.” The Ukrainians are ready fighters. NATO trained them well.

Anna reported from Pucha, Ukraine. Robert Burns in Washington and the Associated Press around the world contributed to the report.

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