Ukraine says it needs 60 multiple-launch rocket systems to have a chance of defeating Russia, suggesting the number promised by the West so far may be insufficient, as well as access to sophisticated air defenses to help protect vulnerable residents from relentless bombardment.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, told the Guardian that 60 launchers would stop Russian forces “dead in their tracks”. Forty would slow them down with heavy casualties, he said, while 20 would increase Russian casualties but leave little change to the battlefield outcome.
The United States and Britain recently announced plans to supply Kyiv with multi-launch rocket systems, which can hit targets up to 80 kilometers away.
Washington is sending four M142 high-mobility artillery rocket systems, though Ukrainian troops need at least three weeks of training to use them, the Pentagon said. Britain has confirmed that it will send an undetermined number of M270 launch systems to Ukraine.
US officials have left open the possibility that the United States could send additional rocket systems, but no such decision had been made on Tuesday, a US defense official said, speaking under cover of anonymity as the matter remains unresolved.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet his international counterparts in France today to discuss how best to support Ukraine, the official said, although it is unclear s they intend to send additional multiple launch rocket systems.
The Kremlin has warned Western nations against equipping Kyiv with long-range weapons.
Over the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened a broader bombing campaign in response, though he dismissed their effectiveness.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has alleged that Ukraine will use the systems to strike targets inside Russia, although the Biden administration has said Kyiv has agreed to use the weapons only on his territory. London did not say whether it had received similar assurance from Kyiv, but sent it in consultation with Washington.
Kyiv has said multi-launch rocket system shipments are a top priority as it loses ground in eastern Ukraine.
Thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed in action since the war began in late February. Ukraine made good use of Western-supplied equipment, and Kyiv scored several high-profile battlefield victories against Russian tanks and ships.
Ukraine’s navy said this week that it had pushed ships from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet about 60 miles off Ukraine’s coast. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said anti-ship missiles supplied by the West may have helped Ukraine regain control of parts of the northwest sea. Black.
PRESSURE ON ISRAEL
Ukraine’s ambassador urges Israel to sell its Iron Dome rocket interceptor system and supply anti-tank missiles to defend civilians against Russian invasion.
Yevgen Korniychuk on Tuesday refrained from accusing Israel of blocking the sale of the missile defense system. But he wants the Israeli government to back up its verbal support for Ukraine with military assistance.
At a press conference in Tel Aviv, he said Ukraine was interested in buying the Iron Dome system, saying the United States would not oppose such a sale.
The United States has financially supported Israel’s Iron Dome for about a decade, providing about $1.6 billion for its production and maintenance, according to the Congressional Research Service. The system is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets fired at Israel.
Korniychuk also said Israel last week refused a US request for Germany to deliver Israeli-licensed “Spike” anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.
Israel has limited its support for Ukraine to humanitarian aid and was the only country to operate a field hospital inside the country earlier this year. Israel fears that assisting Ukraine militarily could inflame Russia, which has a military presence in neighboring Syria. Israel, which frequently strikes enemy targets in Syria, relies on Russia for security coordination.
Israel’s Defense Ministry had no comment.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany was ready to deploy more troops to the Baltics as part of a NATO effort to bolster its eastern flank against the invasion.
“We are ready to strengthen our commitment to a robust combat brigade,” Scholz said Tuesday in Vilnius after a meeting with leaders from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
The three leaders, whom Scholz met on his first visit to the Baltic since taking office in December, pushed for an increase in brigade-sized units of up to 5,000 troops. Germany leads the NATO contingent in Lithuania.
“The Baltic states are in a very sensitive security situation on the NATO front line,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said alongside Scholz. “Lithuania is ready to welcome more Allied forces and provide the necessary infrastructure.”
At the June 29-30 NATO summit in Madrid, the 30-member alliance is expected to approve plans to reset its long-term defense strategy in light of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Along with building up its forces, NATO should pre-position more equipment and supplies on its eastern flank.
“If attacked, we will defend every inch of NATO territory,” Scholz said, reinforcing the alliance’s Article 5 commitment to help other members if attacked.
He also met Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Baltic leaders hailed the move by Scholz, who has come under enormous pressure from his allies to contribute more to Ukraine’s efforts to fend off Russia.
RUSSIA IN THE DONBAS
Russia claimed on Tuesday that it had taken control of 97% of one of the two provinces that make up Ukraine’s Donbass, bringing the Kremlin closer to its goal of fully capturing the eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow forces hold almost all of Luhansk province. And it appears that Russia now occupies about half of Donetsk province, according to Ukrainian officials and military analysts.
Moscow has concentrated its forces around the city and could take control of the Luhansk region in the coming weeks, according to British military assessments. But any victory there will come at a high cost.
In what may be the latest case of anti-Russian sabotage in Ukraine, Russian state media reported on Tuesday that an explosion at a cafe in the city of Kherson injured four people. Tass called the apparent shelling in the Russian-occupied city a “terrorist act”.
Earlier in the war, Ukraine successfully repelled Russian forces attempting to seize the capital and other major cities. But Moscow has scored some recent victories on the eastern plains with the support of its long-range artillery systems, with the bludgeoned Severodonetsk becoming the last city in danger of falling under Russian control.
Prior to the invasion, Ukrainian officials said Russia controlled about 7% of the country, including the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, and separatist-held areas in Donetsk and Luhansk. Last week, Zelenskyy said Russian forces held 20% of the country.
Zelenskyy said Russian forces had made no significant advances in the eastern Donbass region over the past day.
“The absolutely heroic defense of Donbass continues,” he said in his nightly video address on Tuesday evening.
Zelenskyy said the Russians clearly did not expect to meet so much resistance and are now trying to bring in additional troops and equipment. He said it was the same in the Kherson region.
Shoigu said Moscow forces have seized residential areas of Sievierodonetsk and are fighting to take control of an industrial zone on the outskirts of the city and neighboring towns.
Ukrainian troops are holding their positions despite incessant shelling and “doing everything possible to defend the city”, Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said on Tuesday, but the situation remains “difficult”.
Shoigu said Russian troops were pushing their offensive towards the town of Popasna and had taken control of Lyman and Sviatohirsk and 15 other towns in the region.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak urged his people not to be discouraged by setbacks on the battlefield.
“Don’t let the news that we gave something away scare you,” he said in a video address. “It’s clear that tactical maneuvers are underway. We’re giving something away, we’re taking something back.”
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai acknowledged that Russian forces controlled the industrial outskirts of Sievierodonetsk.
“The toughest street battles continue, with varying degrees of success,” Haidai said. “The situation is constantly changing, but the Ukrainians are repelling the attacks.”
Moscow forces also maintained their artillery barrage from Lysychansk. Haidai said Russian troops bombed a market, a school and a university building, destroying the latter. At least three people were injured, he said.
“Total destruction of the city is underway. Russian shelling has intensified significantly over the past 24 hours. The Russians are using scorched earth tactics,” Haidai said.
In other developments, Zelenskyy said Ukraine plans to release a special “Book of Executioners” next week containing information on war crimes committed by the Russian military.
“These are specific facts about specific people who are guilty of specific cruel crimes against Ukrainians,” he said. Those named would include not only the people who committed the crimes, but also their commanders, he said.
The war also caused a stalemate on Tuesday between the head of the UN’s nuclear monitoring agency and Ukrainian authorities over Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
International Atomic Energy Agency director Rafael Mariano Grossi wants to visit the Zaporizhzhia plant to help maintain its security after it was taken by Russian troops in March. But Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-owned company that oversees the country’s nuclear power plants, said in a direct statement that Grossi was unwelcome.
He said his planned tour was “another attempt to legitimize the occupier’s presence there”.
Information for this article was provided by Andrew Jeong, Lateshia Beachum, Mary Ilyushina Annabelle Chapman, Karoun Demirjian, Dan Lamothe, Claire Parker and Adela Suliman of The Washington Post, by John Leicester, Hanna Arhirova, David Keyton, Oleksandr Stashevskyi, Yuras Karmanau , Andrew Katell, Lolita Baldor and Associated Press staff and by Michael Nienaber and Milda Seputyte of Bloomberg News (WPNS).