Russian missiles rain down on Ukraine as the West promises lasting support

  • The battle for Lysychask continues
  • You could be next, Zelenskiy tells NATO leaders
  • Mykolaiv attack is a sign of an intensified Russian offensive
  • NATO says more weapons are in preparation

Kyiv, June 29 (Reuters) – Russian forces attacked targets in southern Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region on Wednesday and intensified strikes on front lines across the country as NATO members met in Madrid to plan a course of action against the challenge from Moscow.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told NATO leaders his country needed more weapons and money to defend itself against Russia, warning that Moscow’s ambitions did not stop at Ukraine.

At the summit, President Joe Biden announced additional US ground, air and sea deployments across Europe, including a permanent army headquarters in Poland, in response to threats from Russia.

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The mayor of the city of Mykolaiv said a Russian missile attack killed at least three people in a residential building there, while Moscow said its forces attacked what it called a training base for foreign mercenaries in the region.

In the east, the governor of Luhansk province said there was “fighting everywhere” in the battle around the hilltop town of Lysychansk, which Russian troops were trying to encircle.

The governor of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine said Russian shelling had also increased there in recent days.

“Several villages have been wiped off the face of the earth,” Kryvyi Rih Governor Oleksander Vilkul said.

The intensified attacks, following a missile attack on a shopping mall that killed at least 18 people in central Ukraine on Monday, come as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces advance slowly but relentlessly in a war that is now he is in his fifth month.

However, Western analysts say the Russians are taking heavy casualties and running out of resources, while the prospect of more Western weapons reaching Ukraine, including long-range missile systems, has made it necessary for Moscow to consolidate any gain more urgent.

Away from the fighting, the leaders of NATO countries were meeting in the Spanish capital, Madrid, to discuss policies in response to Russia’s actions. read more

Zelenskiy, in a video link from the capital Kyiv, demanded more weapons from the West, saying Ukraine needed $5 billion a month for its defense and protection.

Russia would set its sights on other countries, he warned, saying Moscow wanted to “enslave” NATO member Lithuania.

“This is not a war waged by Russia alone against Ukraine. This is a war for the right to dictate conditions in Europe, for what the future world order will look like,” he said.

The new US Army headquarters in Poland announced by Biden at the summit, with an accompanying battalion, would be the first permanent US deployment to NATO’s eastern flank.

Biden’s plans also include sending additional warships to Spain, squadrons of fighter jets to Britain, ground troops to Romania, air defense units to Germany and Italy and a variety of assets to the Baltic countries. read more

The Atlantic alliance would “defend every inch” of its territory: “We mean it when we say that an attack against one is an attack against all,” he told reporters.

The NATO summit will also receive applications for membership from previously neutral Sweden and Finland, which have overcome objections from Turkey.

Russia has long complained about an alleged expansion of Western blocs towards its borders, but its invasion of Ukraine, which it calls a “special military operation”, has served to give NATO a new impetus. The European Union has also granted Ukraine candidate status in light of the invasion.

In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said NATO’s expansion was “destabilizing” and did not increase the security of its members.

CIVIL VICTIMS

Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said eight Russian missiles had hit the city, including an apartment block. The photographs showed smoke billowing from a four-story building with the top floor partially destroyed.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces carried out attacks on a military training base for “foreign mercenaries” near the city and also targeted ammunition fuel storage. Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.

Mykolaiv, a river port and shipbuilding center facing the Black Sea, has been a bulwark against Russian efforts to push west toward Ukraine’s main port city, Odessa. Governor Vitaliy Kim said Russian shelling had increased and most civilian buildings were under attack.

“It is dangerous in Mykolaiv now, more dangerous than three weeks ago,” he said.

Wednesday’s Mykolaiv attacks came just two days after a Russian missile hit the Kremenchuk shopping mall. Rescuers were still searching for dozens of missing people on Wednesday.

Pope Francis joined the international condemnation of the Kremenchuk attack, calling it “barbaric”.

Moscow has denied targeting the mall and said it had attacked a nearby weapons depot, which exploded. read more

Britain’s Defense Ministry said it expected Russia to continue to carry out attacks in an effort to hamper Ukrainian supplies to the front, and that more civilian casualties were likely.

Russia has denied targeting civilian areas, but the United Nations says at least 4,700 civilians have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Ukraine believes that the true number of civilians is much higher.

EASTERN FRONT

Fighting has also spread further east, in Lugansk province, a key battleground in Russia’s assault on the industrial heartland of the Donbas region.

“There is fighting everywhere. The enemy is trying to break through our defenses,” Lugansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on television.

The battle for Lysychansk in Lugansk follows the fall of Sievierodonetsk, its sister city across the Siverskyi Donets River on Saturday.

Its capture would expand Russian control of the Donbas, one of Moscow’s strategic goals since it failed to seize Kyiv in the early stages of the war.

The Moscow-imposed civil-military administration in the Kherson region said it had started preparations for a referendum on joining Russia, Russia’s state news agency TASS reported.

Kherson, a port city on the Black Sea, is located just northwest of the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula.

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Reuters bureau reports; Written by Stephen Coates and Angus MacSwan Edited by Himani Sarkar, Peter Graff and Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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