Ukraine says fierce fight after tank promises, seeks more weapons
- Fighting intensifies in eastern Ukraine: Ukrainian officials
- 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
Kyiv, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Ukraine fought Russian troops trying to break through its lines in the east and northeast on Friday before Kyiv receives tanks from its Western allies, saying the fighting shows it needs more weapons to repel the the invaders.
Kyiv said fierce battles were taking place, a day after at least 11 people were killed in missile and drone attacks that were widely seen in Ukraine as a response to promises by major allies to send tanks.
After weeks of wrangling, Germany and the United States this week said they would send dozens of modern tanks to Ukraine to help push back Russian forces, clearing the way for others 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.
Both sides in the war are widely expected to launch spring offensives, though Washington has advised Ukraine against doing so until the latest weapons are in place and training has been provided, a process expected to take several months.
Russia said the United States was “smuggling weapons into Ukraine”, which Moscow says is doing Washington’s bidding, and rebuked President Joe Biden, saying he held the key to ending the conflict but had not used it.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked the allies for their support but renewed calls for tougher sanctions against Moscow and more weapons in the 12th month of the war.
“This evil Russian aggression can and must be stopped only with the right weapons. The terrorist state will understand nothing more,” Zelenskiy said in his late-night television address on Thursday.
Hours after he spoke, Ukrainian officials reported fierce battles in the northeast and east of the country, the scene of some of the most intense fighting since the invasion of Russia on February 24 last year.
“Fierce fighting continues along the front lines,” said Oleh Synehubov, governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region, adding that 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.
Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of attacking civilian infrastructure, a charge Moscow denies.
Russia said the attacks targeted “facilities that operate Ukraine’s defense industrial complex and transportation system” and limited Ukraine’s ability to repair military equipment and transport weapons provided by its allies.
“The targets of the massive attack have been reached. All assigned targets have been neutralized,” he said.
Reuters was unable to verify the reports from the battlefield.
The front lines have been largely frozen over for two months, with Russia trying to gain ground in the east after seizing swaths of territory there and protecting a land corridor it has seized in southern Ukraine.
Oleskandr Musiyenko, head of Ukraine’s Center for Military and Strategic Research, said Russia was sending more reinforcements, mainly conscripts, to block Ukraine’s advances.
“But they don’t have the level of artillery and tank support that they had on February 24,” Musiyenko told Ukrainian television.
Britain said in an intelligence update that Russian forces likely carried out probing strikes near Orikhiv in southeastern Ukraine and at Vuhledar in the east, but were unlikely to have made “substantial progress.”
Kyiv also 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.
Russia stepped up its own moves against Western entities, and communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it had blocked the CIA and FBI websites, accusing the two US government agencies of spreading false information.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Eritrea on the latest leg of a tour of Africa aimed at bolstering support and started in South Africa, which plans joint military exercises with Russia and China.
Wrapping up her own tour of African nations, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she had discussed economic sanctions on Russia during each stopover and hoped an agreement could be reached soon on the next cap on the price of Russian oil.
Kyiv and its allies say Russia’s oil profits can be used to finance Moscow’s war effort.
Russia has shifted focus from its rhetoric of “denazifying” and “demilitarizing” Ukraine to confronting what it says is an aggressive and expansionist US-led NATO alliance. Ukraine and the West say the invasion was an unprovoked act of aggression.
Reuters bureau reports; Written by Timothy Heritage; Edited by Frank Jack Daniel
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