Kyiv: Kyiv said Russia battered Ukraine on Thursday with multiple missile attacks as its troops sought to advance east, but Western allies pledged even more military aid for the Ukrainian spring counter-offensive.

Ukraine’s air force said Russia launched 32 missiles in the early hours, following a pattern of heavy aerial bombardment at times of Ukrainian battlegrounds or diplomatic advances.

Among them, air defense in the south shot down eight sKalibr missiles fired from a ship in the Black Sea, Ukrainian officials said. Other missiles struck northern and western Ukraine as well as the central regions of Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovohrad. Bolstered by thousands of reservists, Russia has stepped up ground offensives in southern and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, and a major new offensive looms on February 24, the first anniversary of its invasion.

“The enemy’s offensive continues in the east, (with) round-the-clock attacks,” Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said. “The situation is tense.”

There was no word from Moscow on the overnight bombardment. On Wednesday, Russia said Ukrainian forces were retreating in parts of the eastern province of Luhansk.

Luhansk and Donetsk provinces make up the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, which is now partially occupied by Russia. It wants full control of the Donbas and its current focus is on taking the small city of Bakhmut in Donetsk.

Ukrainian military analysts said Russian troops had launched several unsuccessful attacks on villages to the north and south of Bakhmut over the past day. “Things are very difficult for our forces there as Russian troops are being sent into the area en masse,” analyst Oleh Zhdanov said.

The capture of Bakhmut would give Russia a stepping stone to advance further west into Donetsk in two major cities, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, reviving Moscow’s momentum ahead of the February 24 anniversary. In an attempt to counter this, NATO alliance countries are ramping up production of the artillery to keep pace with their rapid use by Ukraine.

Ukraine has received billions of dollars in military aid, particularly from the United States, which has given more than $27.4 billion since the conflict began.

Senior US officials have advised Ukraine to hold off on a major offensive until the latest US arms supplies and training are provided.

“We have to ensure that this spring it is truly felt that Ukraine is moving towards victory,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an evening address.

Russia calls the invasion a special military operation against security threats and the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine as evidence that the West is escalating the war. In the latest stream of foreign dignitaries traveling to Ukraine, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was set to meet Zelensky in Kyiv. This was the first such visit by a senior Israeli official since the start of the war.

Israel, which coordinated with Russia strikes on suspected Iranian targets in Syria, has blocked any direct arms supplies to Kyiv.

By Archana

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