General Valery Zaluzhny says Ukraine successfully downed 47 of the 55 missiles launched by Russia following west’s offer of tanks

Daniel Boffey

26 Jan 2023

The Guardian

Ukraine’s top general vowed that his country would not be “broken” after the successful downing of 47 of the 55 missiles launched by Russia in a mass attack that followed the western offer of tanks. General Valery Zaluzhny, commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, said 20 of those intercepted had been heading to the Kyiv region, where one 55-year-old man was killed and two injured by falling fragments. As a result of the Russian assault from air and sea on Thursday morning, the 13th such missile barrage of the war, a total of 11 people died while a further 11 were wounded, a spokesperson for the emergency services said. “The goal of the Russians remains unchanged: psychological pressure on Ukrainians and the destruction of critical infrastructure,” Zaluzhny wrote on the Telegram social media platform. “But we cannot be broken!” Huge explosions had shook Kyiv at 10.06am local time and raid sirens had sounded across the country.

The targets of the strikes appeared primarily to be electricity plants and substations. A number of cities had already taken the precaution of turning off the electricity supply to mitigate the level of damage as reports emerged of bombers and cruise missiles heading towards Ukrainian targets. The previous night Ukraine’s air defences had shot down 24 Iranian-made Shahed “kamikaze” drones. Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said three people had been killed in Zaporizhzhia, in the south-east of Ukraine. “At 3.40am, the Russian military from the S-300 air defence system launched a missile attack on a critical infrastructure facility in the Zaporizhzhia district,” the statement said. “Three people died, seven more were injured.”

Maksym Marchenko, the regional head of Odesa, a city in southern Ukraine, said the attacks on his oblast had caused “significant problems with electricity supply.”

Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, tweeted: “Another cruel attack, same strategic failure. Waves of Russian drones and missiles can’t stop Ukraine’s heroic defenders, its brave people or our determined, unified support.” On Wednesday, US president Joe Biden had approved sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, after weeks of speculation. The reversal of the US’s position came after Germany confirmed it would make 14 of its Leopard 2A6 tanks available to Ukraine and give partner countries its permission to re-export other tanks.

Berlin’s decision unlocks offers by Canada, Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland and Norway to provide Ukraine with their own German-manufactured Leopards. About 300 tanks are expected to be provided.

Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister, said the latest attacks highlighted the value of the tank pledges from the west.  He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the sooner

such hardware was received, “the sooner we will be able to end this missile terror and restore peace”.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov condemned the move by Nato allies, claiming it amounted to involvement in the conflict. He said: “There are constant statements from European capitals and Washington that the sending of various weapons systems to Ukraine, including tanks, in no way signifies the involvement of these countries or the alliance in hostilities in Ukraine. “We categorically disagree with this, and in Moscow, everything that the alliance and the capitals I mentioned are doing is seen as direct involvement in the conflict. We see that this is growing.”

Germany has said it will seek to deliver the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine by early April, while Poland ‘s government said the tanks could arrive in “a few weeks”.

Speaking in response to the offer of the heavy armour, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy had said speed and volume of supply are key. “Speed in training our forces, speed in supplying tanks to Ukraine. The numbers in tank support,” he said in his nightly video address.