West plans more arms for 'brave' Ukraine as sirens sound again

West plans more arms for 'brave' Ukraine as sirens sound again


West plans more arms for 'brave' Ukraine as sirens sound again

KYIV/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - More than 50 Western countries met on Wednesday to promise more weapons for Ukraine, especially air defences after Russia launched its most intense missile strikes since the war began.

At the meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russia s latest attacks had laid bare its "malice and cruelty" since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Ukraine had shifted momentum since September with extraordinary gains, but would need more help, he said. "These victories belong to Ukraine s brave soldiers. But the Contact Group s security assistance, training, and sustainment efforts have been vital," Austin said.

Russian attacks using more than 100 missiles have killed at least 26 people across Ukraine since Monday, when President Vladimir Putin ordered what he called retaliatory strikes against Ukraine for an explosion on a bridge.

Air raid sirens sounded across swathes of Ukraine for a third day on Wednesday and there were reports of some shelling, but no sign of a repeat of the intensive countrywide strikes of the previous two days.

The missiles have mostly targeted civilian electricity and heating infrastructure, while some hit busy roads, parks and tourist sites, including in the centre of Kyiv.

Transatlantic alliance NATO s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said Russia s missile attacks were a sign of weakness. "Russia is actually losing on the battlefield," Stoltenberg said.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the Evening Standard people had underestimated Ukraine and overestimated Russia. "But he (Putin) has got in his back pocket millions of people he can shove into a meat grinder with no rules, no regard for human lives and innocent people and civilians," he added.

Since Monday s attacks, Germany has sent the first of four planned IRIS-T SLM air defence systems, while Washington said it would speed up delivery of a promised NASAMS air defence system.

The Czech Republic said it would turn away Russians holding Schengen-zone visas from Oct. 25, as it joined other European Union members in tightening entry rules. "While Russian rockets fall on a children s playground and on people in Ukraine, up to 200 Russian Federation citizens travel to the Czech Republic via international airports every day," Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said.


European Union energy ministers were also meeting in Prague to strategise over an energy crisis caused by the war. Polish pipeline operator PERN said it had detected a leak in one pipe in the Druzhba system that carries oil from Russia to Europe, though it said the cause was probably an accident. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said the leak appeared to have been eliminated.

Global attention has been focused on the security of Russian energy pipelines to Europe since the main undersea gas pipelines were damaged by suspected sabotage last month.

Western countries have not said who they blame for huge explosions that blew holes in the two Nord Stream 1 pipelines and one of two pipes that make up the new Nord Stream 2 project, but have implied they believe it was Russia.

Putin said on Wednesday gas could now be delivered through the remaining undamaged Nord Stream 2 pipe, but it was up to Europe to allow it. The new pipeline, completed but never opened, has been suspended by Germany since the invasion.

As his forces have lost ground on the battlefield since September, Putin has escalated the conflict, ordering the call-up of hundreds of thousands of reservists, proclaiming the annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory and repeatedly threatening to use nuclear weapons to protect Russia.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he doubted Putin would resort to that. Putin is a "rational actor who has miscalculated significantly", he told broadcaster CNN, saying he believed the Russian leader had expected his invading troops to be welcomed.

The Biden administration is mulling a complete ban on Russian aluminium in response to Russia s military escalation in Ukraine, Bloomberg news agency reported.


In Kyiv, residents cleaned up after this week s strikes. "It is not that they are fighting the military, they are just driven by the desire to destroy, destroy, destroy us," said Yulia Datsenko, a 38-year-old paramedic, as she surveyed damage to her apartment. Pope Francis denounced the bombings, part of what he called a "hurricane of violence".

On the battlefield, the Ukrainian governor of partially occupied Donetsk province said seven people were killed in Russian shelling of a market in the frontline town of Avdiivka.

Ukraine s military said its forces consolidated control of several settlements recaptured from Russian troops on the west bank of the Dnipro River, near the Russian-occupied town of Beryslav in the Kherson region.

The Ukrainians broke through Russia s front line in the area at the start of October and have been advancing to try to cut off thousands of Russian troops from supply and escape routes across the river.

Russian news media reported explosions in Kherson and Melitopol in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine. Also in the south, Russian missiles destroyed buildings in the Zaporizhzhia region overnight though there were no reports of casualties, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said.

Video footage from Ukrainian emergency services showed a family being rescued from a flattened building following what it said was a missile strike in Zaporizhzhia. Reuters could not independently verify the location of the video or date it was filmed.

Ukraine s sixth-largest city, Zaporizhzhia is still controlled by Ukraine although Moscow claims to have annexed the surrounding province. The city has come under nightly Russian attacks since the annexation proclamation, including at least three apartment blocks destroyed while residents slept. Starukh said at least 70 people have been killed this month.