Ukraine's Military Says It Shot Down 12 Drones, a Missile and a Plane

Ukraine’s Military Says It Shot Down 12 Drones, a Missile and a Plane

Ukraine downed 12 Shahed drones, an Su-34 fighter-bomber and a Kh-59 missile Sunday morning, according to its air force.

The plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine, while the drones and the missile were downed in Chernihiv, Sumy, Poltava, Kirovohrad, and Dnipro oblasts.

Also Sunday, the air force said that Russia has lost 402,430 troops in Ukraine since the conflict began in February 2022.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in speaking by telephone with U.S. President Joe Biden, said he expressed his hope that the U.S. Congress would make a “wise decision” in approving a delayed large aid package for Ukraine.

“We discussed the current front-line situation. I am grateful to have President Biden’s full support,” Zelenskyy wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “I also believe that the U.S. Congress will make a wise decision.”

Zelenskyy is in Germany to attend the Munich Security Conference.

Zelenskyy warned allies Saturday that low ammunition supplies could give Russia breathing room to regroup against Ukraine, highlighting the need for artillery and long-range weapons after his military chief announced he was withdrawing troops from the eastern city of Avdiivka.

During his address at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of security and foreign policy officials, Zelenskyy said Ukraine is back on the defensive against Russia in the nearly 2-year-old war, due to an “artificial deficit” of arms for Ukraine.

“We’re just waiting for weapons that we’re short of,” he said, pointing to a lack of long-range armaments.

“Ukrainians have proven that we can force Russia to retreat,” Zelenskyy said. “We can get our land back, and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin can lose, and this has already happened more than once on the battlefield.”

After a meeting with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, the Ukrainian president and Harris held a joint news conference in Munich. “It is in the strategic interest of the United States to continue our support,” said Harris.

Zelenskyy echoed Harris’s comments that the aid package for Ukraine stuck in Congress “is vital” to Ukraine’s war effort, and he stressed that Kyiv is counting on the U.S. to remain a “strategic partner.”

Also at the conference, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized the delay in approval of the Ukraine aid package by the U.S. Congress has a direct impact on Ukraine’s defense.

“Every week we wait means that there will be more people killed on the front line in Ukraine,” he said.

Ukrainian servicemen pile bags of earth to build a fortification not far from town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Feb. 17, 2024.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, whose country directly borders Russia, said, “If America isolates itself, it eventually is going to cost you more,” warning that if “aggression pays off somewhere, it serves as an invitation to use it elsewhere, jeopardizing global security.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose country is Ukraine’s second-biggest military supplier after the U.S., renewed his call for other European countries to step up with more deliveries, and pointed to America’s military aid since the war began.

Avdiivka seized

Putin congratulated Russian troops and their commander Saturday on the capture of the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka.

“The head of state congratulated Russian soldiers on this success, an important victory,” the Kremlin website said.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu presented the Russian president with a report on the capture of the city. He told the Kremlin that Russian forces were working to clear final pockets of resistance at the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant, officials said in a statement.

Videos on social media Saturday appeared to show soldiers raising the Russian flag over one of the plant’s buildings.

Reacting to the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the southeastern city of Avdiivka, Zelenskyy said that the retreat ordered by Ukrainian commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi was “a correct decision” emphasizing the priority of saving Ukrainian soldiers’ lives.

He also suggested that Russia has achieved little, however, adding that it has been attacking Avdiivka “with all the power that they had” since October and lost thousands of soldiers. “That’s what Russia has achieved. It’s a depletion of their army.”

A Russian Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopter flies over the settlement of Panteleimonivka in the Donetsk region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, Feb. 17, 2024.

Syrskyi, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, posted Friday on Facebook that the troops were moved “to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of service personnel.”

Capturing the eastern city is seen as key to Moscow’s aim of securing full control of the two provinces that make up the industrial Donbas region and could hand Putin, who recently underlined its significance, a battlefield victory as he seeks reelection next month.

During a White House press briefing Friday, Biden stressed the significance of continuing U.S. military support for Ukraine against Russia and noted that though a bipartisan Senate voted in favor of funding Ukraine’s war against Russia, the House of Representatives has not yet done so.

“History is watching the House of Representatives. That failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten,” he said. “The clock is ticking. And this has to happen. We have to help now. You know, we have to realize what we’re dealing with,” Biden added.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.  » …
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