Saturday, 20 April 2024 03:26

What to know after Day 786 of Russia-Ukraine war

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Ukraine downs Russian strategic bomber after airstrike kills eight, Kyiv says

Ukraine shot down a Russian strategic bomber on Friday after the warplane took part in a long-range airstrike that killed eight people including two children in the central Dnipropetrovsk region, Kyiv said.

Missiles rained down on the city of Dnipro and the surrounding region in the early hours, damaging residential buildings and the main train station.

Regional Governor Serhiy Lysak said three people died in Dnipro, including a man whose body was pulled from the rubble of a five-storey building, while five others were killed in nearby areas of Dnipropetrovsk region.

A 14-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy were among the dead, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.

Russia has stepped up its long-range aerial assaults on Ukraine's energy system and other targets in recent weeks, ratcheting up the pressure on Kyiv behind the front lines where Russian forces have been slowly advancing in the east.

Russia denies targeting civilians and says the energy system is a legitimate target, but hundreds of civilians have been killed during airstrikes.

In a wartime first for Ukraine, Kyiv's top military spy said Ukrainian forces had shot down a Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bomber from a distance of just over 300 km (180 miles) after the plane fired missiles in the overnight attack.

"I can only say the plane was hit at a distance of 308 km, quite far away," Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), said in a BBC-Ukraine interview, parts of which were posted by the agency on the Telegram messaging app.

He said they downed the warplane in the same way Kyiv shot down Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft earlier this year.

An intelligence source told Reuters the plane had been hit using a modified S-200, a Soviet-era long-range surface-to-air missile system.

Unconfirmed social media footage showed a warplane with its tail on fire spiralling towards the ground.

The Russian defence ministry confirmed a bomber had crashed in Russia's southern Stavropol region, hundreds of kilometres from Ukrainian-controlled territory, as it returned to base after carrying out a combat mission.

But it said the crash appeared to have been caused by a technical malfunction.

Of the four Russian air force crew members ejected from the warplane, two were rescued, one died and a rescue operation was under way for the fourth, the Russian regional governor said.


Civilians in a five-storey residential building hit in Dnipro said they were shaken up. The building's top floor was partially destroyed and firefighters battled to put out a fire early in the morning.

"My wife and daughter are in shock. They say they won't go back to the apartment and asked me to evacuate them somewhere because they won't be able to stay here anymore," said Serhii, a resident.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited the site of the strike and called on Ukraine's allies to rush in supplies of air defences as Ukraine's stocks dwindle due to a slowdown in vital Western military aid.

Ukraine's air force said it shot down 15 incoming missiles, including two Kh-22 cruise missiles and 14 drones overnight.

Air defences shot down 11 of 16 missiles and nine of 10 drones targeting the Dnipropetrovsk region, governor Lysak said.

Zelenskiy said more Russian missiles had struck the Black Sea port of Pivdennyi in the southern Odesa region on Friday afternoon, destroying grain storage facilities and foodstuffs they contained.



NATO ‘one step away’ from sending troops to Ukraine – Orban

The leaders of the EU and NATO are potentially ready to deploy forces to Ukraine, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed on Friday. Brussels sees the conflict between Moscow and Kiev as its “own” and is failing to consider the risks arising from its ever-deeper involvement, he warned.

The mood of EU leaders is “one of war,” Orban told a gathering of his Fidesz Party ahead of the EU Parliament elections. “There is a pro-war majority in Brussels today,” he said, adding that the bloc’s politics “are dominated by the logic of war.” EU politicians are already so invested in the conflict that they fail to see the flaws in their strategy, the prime minister argued.

Despite all the “money and weapons, the situation is not improving [for Kiev], in fact, it is getting worse… We are one step away from the West sending troops to Ukraine,” Orban warned. “This is a vortex of war that can drag Europe into its depths. Brussels is playing with fire.”

Budapest will not let itself be dragged into the hostilities, and “will not enter… the war on either side,” the prime minister pledged, adding that his country “must stand for peace”everywhere, including in “Brussels, Washington, the UN and NATO.”

“We don't want war, and we don't want Hungary to become a toy of great powers again,” Orban stated.

The idea of sending NATO troops to Ukraine has been repeatedly floated by Western leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron first raised it in February, saying “all options are possible.”

Macron has since doubled down, stating that there are “no limits” to support for Kiev. His words initially alarmed some NATO allies, who quickly denied having such plans. However, the French leader did receive backing from certain members of the US-led military bloc.

In March, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Russia’s military operation in Ukraine requires an “asymmetric escalation” on the part of the West. Warsaw’s top diplomat also called the idea of a NATO presence in Ukraine “not unthinkable.”

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said earlier in April that every NATO member already has military personnel in Ukraine operating as advisers or instructors. Last week, former British minister of state for the armed forces James Heappey told Sky News that sending NATO forces to Ukraine did “deserve consideration.”

Moscow has repeatedly warned that deploying NATO troops in Ukraine would bring the US-led bloc to the brink of a full-blown conflict with Russia. President Vladimir Putin stated in March that it would be “one step shy of a full-scale World War III.”



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