Russia and Belarus have begun joint air force drills this morning, triggering fears in Kyiv and the west that Moscow could use its ally to launch a new ground offensive in Ukraine. According to a statement published to the Telegram account of the Belarus ministry of defence, units from Russia’s aerospace forces arrived at the airfields of Belarus late on Sunday night. Shortly after 8am local time the ministry said the planned combat training tasks had begun.
Viacheslav Chaus, the Chernihiv governor, has warned residents that there is likely to be an increase in air raid warnings as a result of the exercises. Belarus has described the drills as purely defensive. The country was used as a base for Russian troops to launch their failed assault on Kyiv in February 2022,
Russia launched an attack on Ukraine’s south-eastern city of Zaporizhzhia overnight, wounding civilians and destroying residential infrastructure, according to regional officials. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the office of president of Ukraine said “The occupiers launched a rocket attack on the regional centre. The rocket hit next to a five-story building. Five people, including two children aged nine and 15, were injured by glass fragments. The children were hospitalised.”
Air defences in Sevastopol in Crimea have been active against Ukrainian drones, according to the Russian-imposed regional governor in the area which Russia annexed in 2014.
As of Sunday, Ukraine’s forces have “almost certainly” maintained positions in Soledar, north of Bakhmut, according to the UK ministry of defence. Over the weekend, intense fighting continued in both the Kremina and Bakhmut sectors of the Donbas front, the ministry added.
The number of people killed in a Russian missile attack on a residential block in Dnipro has risen to 37, the state broadcaster Suspilne reported Ukrainian officials had confirmed to it. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a Sunday latest address that the victims included a 15-year-old girl. At least 73 people were wounded and 39 people had been rescued as of Sunday afternoon. The city government in Dnipro said 43 people were still reported missing. “The chances of saving people now are minimal,” Dnipro’s mayor, Borys Filatov, told Reuters. I think the number of dead will be in the dozens.”
Claiming responsibility for the missile strikes across Ukraine, Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday that it achieved its goal. A ministry statement posted on Telegram said: “All designated targets have been hit. The goal of the attack has been achieved.” However, it did not mention the attack on the Dnipro residential building.
President Vladimir Putin has told Russian state television that what he calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine has gained positive momentum. “The dynamic is positive,” he told Rossiya 1 state television. “Everything is developing within the framework of the plan of the ministry of defence and the general staff.” Putin said he hoped soldiers would deliver more wins after Russia claimed control of the eastern Ukrainian salt-mining town of Soledar – a claim disputed by Kyiv.
Battle tanks from German industrial reserves wanted by Ukraine will not be ready to be delivered until 2024. The warning from arms manufacturer Rheinmetall will dampen Kyiv’s hopes that the UK’s promise to deliver Challenger 2 tanks would encourage other European nations to swiftly follow suit. “Even if the decision to send our Leopard tanks to Kyiv came tomorrow, the delivery would take until the start of next year,” Rheinmetall’s chief executive, Armin Papperger, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
German defence minister Christine Lambrecht on Monday asked Chancellor Olaf Scholz for her dismissal. Her decision to step down comes as Germany is under pressure to approve an increase in international military support for Kyiv, and Germany’s defence capabilities have been called into question after several Puma infantry tanks were put out of service during a recent military drill.
A Ukrainian vessel carrying peas was grounded in Istanbul’s Bosphorus strait on Monday, and traffic in the strait was suspended. No damage was reported. The joint coordination centre in Istanbul, which runs the UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal operations, said at the weekend the ship was travelling from Pivdennyi – a commercial seaport in the Ukrainian city of Yuzhne, near Odesa – to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Mersin.
The UK prime minister has confirmed the country will provide 14 of its Challenger 2 main battle tanks and other advanced artillery support to Ukraine in the coming weeks. Downing Street said Rishi Sunak made the pledge during a call on Saturday morning with Volodymyr Zelenskiy as a sign of the UK’s “ambition to intensify our support to Ukraine”. Russia’s embassy in Britain said the move would only “intensify” the conflict.
The UK foreign secretary has said “now is the time to accelerate and go further and faster” in giving Ukraine the support it needs. In a column for British tabloid the Sun on Sunday, James Cleverly writes that the Russian army is on the defensive and morale among its troops is pitiful, blaming the “shambolic state of Russian military logistics”.
Nato’s secretary general said Ukraine could expect more deliveries of heavy weapons from western countries soon. “The recent pledges for heavy warfare equipment are important – and I expect more in the near future,” Jens Stoltenberg told Germany’s Handelsblatt daily on Sunday. Western allies will consider sending battle tanks to Kyiv ahead of a meeting in Ramstein in Germany next Friday where governments are expected to announce their latest pledges of military support.
The US military has launched an expanded, more sophisticated training programme of Ukrainian forces that is focused on large-scale combat and designed to bolster Ukraine’s ability to take back territory from Russian forces, the Pentagon’s top general said on Sunday.