Attacks reported across Ukraine, Biden to visit neighbour Poland


Ukraine said Friday that Russia had launched a major new wave of aerial attacks, as President Joe Biden announced he would mark one year since the invasion by visiting Kiev’s neighbour Poland.

Strikes were reported from the eastern region of Kharkiv to the western region of Ivano-Frankivsk, a day after President Volodymyr Zelensky travelled to Brussels to lobby EU leaders for long-range weapons and fighter jets.

Zelensky said Russian missiles had crossed over ex-Soviet Moldova and NATO member Romania while heading to Ukraine, though Bucharest denied the claim.

With the bloody conflict approaching its one-year anniversary on February 24, the White House said Biden would travel to NATO ally Poland on February 20-22.

Biden will make a speech to mark “Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, addressing how the United States has rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and democracy,” the White House said.

The Kremlin on Friday also announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin would deliver his annual state of the nation speech on February 21.

Russia last targeted Ukraine with a mass strike in late January, days after Western allies agreed to deliver heavy tanks to Kiev.

Zelensky called the new Russian attacks “a challenge to NATO”, adding “this is terror that can and must be stopped.”

Romania’s defence ministry said it detected an “aerial target launched from the Black Sea from a Russian Federation ship” but “at no point did it intersect with Romania’s airspace”.

The Moldovan defence ministry confirmed that Russian missiles had crossed its airspace, adding it would summon Russia’s ambassador. 

Kiev residents on Friday rushed to shelters as Russia battered the pro-Western country with missiles and drones.

“Russian terrorists today again launched a massive missile attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.

The Ukrainian air force said Russians targeted cities and critical infrastructure, adding that Iranian-made explosive drones were launched from the Sea of Azov and Kalibr cruise missiles from the Black Sea.

Russia also carried out a “massive” attack with “up to 35 anti-aircraft guided missiles” targeting the eastern region of Kharkiv and the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, the air force said.

Ten missiles were shot down over Kiev, according to officials.

After humiliating defeats on the ground, Russia has in recent months targeted Ukraine’s energy facilities, leading to power shortages that have left millions in the cold and dark.

Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo said “power plants and high voltage network facilities” had been affected in the east, west and south, with the “most difficult situation” in the region of Kharkiv, near the border with Russia.

The country temporarily lost 44 percent of its nuclear generation and 75 percent of the capacity of thermal power plants, Shmyhal said.

The electrical grid instability caused by the shelling also led to the shutting down of one of the reactor units at Khmelnytskyi Nuclear Power Plant, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Despite this terror, the vast majority of Ukrainians remain with heating, water and electricity,” Shmyhal said. 

Friday’s wave of attacks follows Zelensky’s visit to Europe, where he urged allies to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles and fighter jets as Kiev braces for a renewed Russian push in the east.

Zelensky warned that Ukraine needs military supplies faster than Russia can prepare what he said would be a dangerous new offensive.

He said he received “positive signals”, but some EU leaders were wary, fearing it could drag the West closer to direct conflict with Russia.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned that even if fighter jets were to be sent to Kiev, it would not be in “the coming weeks”.

The situation, however, is becoming more pressing on the ground, where months-long fighting for control of Bakhmut, a key town in the eastern region of Donetsk, has left many casualties on both sides.

In one measure of the year-long conflict’s toll on Moscow, about half of Russia’s main battle tanks have likely been destroyed or captured by Ukraine, a senior US defence official said Friday.

Numerous foreign leaders have visited Kiev since the war began, but Biden is considered unlikely to do so while in Poland due to security concerns.

Addressing a virtual summit of sports ministers chaired from London, Zelensky insisted that Russian athletes should not be allowed to take part in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“The mere presence of representatives of the terrorist state is a manifestation of violence and lawlessness,” he said.

“If the Olympic sports were killings and missile strikes, then you know which national team would occupy the first place.”

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