Berliner TageBlatt - NATO hints at more heavy weapons for Ukraine

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NATO hints at more heavy weapons for Ukraine
NATO hints at more heavy weapons for Ukraine / Foto: © AFP

NATO hints at more heavy weapons for Ukraine

Kyiv can expect more deliveries of heavy weapons from Western countries soon, NATO said Sunday, as President Vladimir Putin praised his forces after their claimed capture of a Ukraine town.

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The death toll from Russian missile strike on a tower block in the eastern city of Dnipro rose again, this time to 30. People continued their search for survivors trapped under the rubble.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine could expect more heavy weapons following Kyiv's requests to its allies for the vehicles, artillery and missiles it says are key to defending itself.

"The recent pledges for heavy warfare equipment are important -- and I expect more in the near future," Stoltenberg told Germany's Handelsblatt daily, ahead of a meeting this week of a group that coordinates arms supplies to Kyiv.

Days after Russia claimed to have taken Soledar in eastern Ukraine, a salt-mining outpost home to 10,000 before the conflict, Putin hailed it as a major success.

"There is a positive dynamic, everything is developing according to plans," Putin said, in an interview broadcast Sunday. "I hope that our fighters will please us more than once again."

Russia's defence ministry announced this week that it had "completed the liberation" of Soledar.

This could be a key gain as Russian forces push towards what has been their main target since October -- the nearby transport crossroads of Bakhmut.

- Rivalries in Soledar -

Ukraine denied the claims and said heavy fighting continued in Soledar.

On Sunday, the US-based Institute for the Study of War said that "Ukrainian forces are highly unlikely to still hold positions within the settlement of Soledar itself".

Russia's victory there, if that is what it proves to be, follows months of humiliating setbacks.

Both sides have conceded heavy losses in the battle for the town, where Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin insists his forces spearheaded the offensive.

The Russian defence ministry initially made no mention of Wagner when it claimed victory, only later praising the "bravery" of Wagner's troops in Soledar.

The nod was an unusual recognition of the controversial force following talk of infighting between Wagner and the official military.

Late Saturday, Prigozhin praised his mercenaries in a veiled jab at Russian army command, which has been criticised for poor coordination and being too far removed from the ground.

Wagner, which has been accused of abuses in the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Syria and Ukraine, has recruited thousands of convicts to fight in Ukraine.

- Strikes on Ukraine -

Ukraine was still reeling Sunday from a 12th wave of large-scale attacks on energy infrastructure in recent months.

On Sunday, operator Ukrenergo said energy infrastructure was "being restored" but that the attacks had "increased the energy deficit.

"The period of outages may increase," it acknowledged.

But the head of the military administration in the southern Kherson region, Yaroslav Yanushevych, said it was again under "massive attack".

Russian strikes had hit civilian and critical infrastructure, including Red Cross premises and a centre for disabled children, he said.

The Russian army said it had targeted "the military command and related energy facilities... all targets were reached".

But Ukrainian officials denounced Russian "terror" after a tower block in Dnipro was hit during a massive wave of strikes that caused power outages across the country.

At least 30 people were killed and scores more wounded in the attack, said regional adviser Natalia Babachenko in televised comments.

A 15-year-old girl was among the dead, officials said, after dozens of people were pulled from the rubble, including a woman brought out by rescuers on Sunday.

Babachenko said that "between 30 an 40 people are still under the rubble."

The Ukrainian army said the block was hit by an X-22 Russian missile that it lacked the capacity to shoot down.

"Only anti-aircraft missile systems, which in the future may be provided to Ukraine by Western partners... are capable of intercepting these air targets," it said.

- British tanks -

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday pleaded for more Western military weapons, saying that Russian "terror" could be stopped only on the battlefield.

"What is needed for this? Those weapons that are in the warehouses of our partners," Zelensky said.

Earlier this month, France, Germany and the United States respectively promised French AMX-10 RC light tanks, 40 German Marder infantry vehicles, and 50 Bradley fighting vehicles.

However, pressure is growing on the allies to go further and agree to the delivery of battle tanks.

Russia's embassy in Britain warned that "bringing tanks to the conflict zone... will only serve to intensify combat operations, generating more casualties, including among the civilian population".

F.Pavlenko--BTB