Russia strikes Ukraine’s cities hours after Western countries pledge tanks to Kyiv

Rob Picheta, CNN

Ukraine has urged the West to get military hardware into the hands of its troops as quickly as possible, as Russia fired missiles toward Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities just hours after Germany and the US announced their plans to provide modern tanks to the country.

Russia launched 55 missiles at Ukraine on Thursday morning, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Telegram. Shmyhal said the salvo was aimed at the country’s “energy facilities” and some power substations had been hit.

“The main targets were energy facilities to deprive Ukrainians of power and warmth,” Shmyhal said on Telegram. “The majority of missiles and drones were intercepted by our defenders. Unfortunately there were hits at substations. Nevertheless the situation in the power grid remains under control. Power engineers are doing everything to provide power supply.”

Emergency power outages were introduced in the Kyiv region after the attack.

One person died in the capital, and an air raid alert was in place across the whole country, according to the city’s mayor. The person who died was identified as a 55-year-old man, who was killed “due to the fall of missile fragments,” he head of the Kyiv city military administration, Serhiy Popko, added.

Popko accused Russia of using the Iranian-made attack drones it sent to Ukraine overnight to try and distract Ukrainian air defense units. Fifteen attack drones were fired over over the capital on Thursday, “aimed not only at hitting targets on the ground,” he said. “According to the new tactics of the aggressor, the drones constitute the first wave of a combined air attack for detecting and exhausting Ukrainian air defense.”

The fresh assault comes amid Russian rage at the West’s decision to provide Ukraine with high-tech tanks. Germany finally approved the transport of Leopard 2 tanks on Wednesday, joining the US in sending a batch of vehicles after weeks of geopolitical negotiations.

But a race to get those tanks onto the battlefield has now begun, and Thursday’s attack indicates Moscow will aim to damage Ukrainian resolve in the intervening period.

People took shelter in Kyiv's metro stations during Thursday's strikes.
People took shelter in Kyiv’s metro stations during Thursday’s strikes. (Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters)

“The key thing now is speed and volume,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday in his nightly video address. “The speed of training of our military, the speed of supplying tanks to Ukraine. The volume of tank support.”

Germany is planning to deliver its 14 pledged Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine by the end of March “at the latest,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced Thursday. That will follow a period of training for Ukrainian soldiers.