- Ukraine says it needs more weapons, calls for sanctions
- The Western allies agreed this week to provide tanks
- Russia says US president holds key to end fighting
NEAR VUHLEDAR, Ukraine, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Ukraine fought on Friday against Russian troops trying to break through its lines in the east and northeast, with artillery shelling intensifying after Western allies promised the Kyiv government it would he would send tanks to repel the invaders.
Kyiv said fierce battles were underway, a day after at least 11 people were killed in missile and drone strikes seen in Ukraine as a response to promises by major allies to send tanks.
After weeks of wrangling, Germany and the United States said this week they would send dozens of modern tanks to Ukraine to help push back Russian forces, clearing the way for other countries to do the same.
Poland gave Ukraine a new boost on Friday by pledging an additional 60 tanks on top of the 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks it had already promised.
Several countries have promised Ukraine a total of 321 heavy tanks, Ukraine’s ambassador to France Vadym Omelchenko said on BFM television on Friday.
Ukraine has also ordered American F16 fighter jets. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the government was aware of Ukraine’s request, but added: “We don’t have any additional weapons systems to talk to today.”
Both sides in the war are expected to launch spring offensives, though Washington has advised Ukraine to wait until the latest weapons are in place and training has been provided, a process that is expected to take several months.
Moscow has accused US President Joe Biden of prolonging the war by arming Kyiv. Ukraine says the only way to end the war is for the allies to give it the weapons to win it.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the situation at the front remains extremely serious, particularly in the eastern Donetsk region.
In a speech late Friday, Zelenskiy said Russian forces were not only storming Ukrainian positions, but also destroying cities and towns around them.
In the village of Bohoiavlenka in the Donetsk region, soldiers said fighting around the nearby town of Vuhledar had intensified, with Russian troops constantly trying to advance and capture it.
Vuhledar had come under heavy shelling in the past 24 hours, with seven buildings and two schools damaged, Yevhen Nazarenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian army’s 68th brigade, told Reuters.
“They constantly use artillery fire, aviation. There is not a single minute of tranquility here, ”she said.
Thick black smoke billowed over Bohoiavlenka, and explosions could be heard in the background. Some houses were damaged.
Oleh Synehubov, governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region, said fierce fighting continued on the front lines, but Ukrainian forces were holding out.
Millions of Ukrainians faced power outages after Thursday’s missile and drone strikes, the latest to target power facilities and deprive people of heat, light and water.
Russian airstrikes hit five high-voltage substations in the central, southern and southwestern regions on Thursday, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said. Ukraine will need an additional $17 billion in financing this year for power repairs, demining and infrastructure reconstruction, he added.
Russia has been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with intensive airstrikes away from the front lines on a weekly basis since October. Kyiv says the attacks have no military purpose and are aimed at harming civilians, a war crime. Moscow says the attacks are aimed at reducing Ukraine’s fighting capacity.
The latest attacks focused on “facilities that operate Ukraine’s defense industrial complex and transportation system,” it said. “Mass attack targets have been hit. All assigned targets have been neutralized.”
After Ukraine recaptured the land in the second half of 2022, the front lines were largely frozen over for more than two months, with Russia trying to gain ground in the east and protect a corridor of land it has seized in the southern Ukraine.
Oleskandr Musiyenko, head of Ukraine’s Center for Military and Strategic Research, said Russia was sending reinforcements, mainly conscripts, to block Ukrainian advances.
“But they don’t have the level of artillery and tank support that they had on February 24,” Musiyenko told Ukrainian television, referring to the date of the 2022 invasion of Moscow.
Kyiv accuses Moscow of deporting children and adults from the occupied areas and giving them Russian passports.
Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency, said this violates “fundamental principles of the protection of children in war situations” and that Russia must stop it.
Japan tightened sanctions on Friday, expanding an export ban list and freezing assets of Russian officials and entities.
But Ukraine’s hopes that the European Union would impose sanctions on nuclear power were dashed by Hungary, which said it would veto such measures. Hungary has a nuclear plant built in Russia that it plans to expand.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said it will summon Hungary’s ambassador to complain about Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s “unacceptable” comments on Ukraine. A ministry spokesman said Orban told reporters that Ukraine was a no man’s land and compared it to Afghanistan.
Russia stepped up its own moves against Western entities, and communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it had blocked the CIA and FBI websites.
Russia says it launched its “special military operation” to defend itself against a hostile West. Ukraine and its allies say the invasion was an unprovoked act of aggression.
Reuters bureau reports; Written by Timothy Heritage; Edited by Angus MacSwan, Peter Graff, and Cynthia Osterman
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