As published by the New York Times.
KYIV, Ukraine — Russia launched several volleys of missiles at Ukraine on Thursday, with strikes reported all over the country, including the capital, Kyiv, where at least one person was killed, the authorities said.
Large booms shook Kyiv about 10 a.m. local time, shortly after a spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force command reported that Russian bombers had fired about 30 missiles at targets around the country.
“Explosions have been heard in Kyiv — stay in your shelters,” Anton Gerashchenko, a senior interior ministry official, posted on Telegram, a messaging service.
Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, later said that one person had died and that two were wounded when a projectile hit a building in the city’s south. There were also reports of missile strikes in the Vinnytsia region in western Ukraine and outside Odesa.
For the past week, Russia’s Air Force has been conducting exercises north of Ukraine in Belarus, keeping the country on heightened alert. Countrywide air attack sirens have sounded each time Russian planes take to the air.
Overnight, according to Ukraine’s Air Force Command, Ukraine’s air defenses shot down 24 Iranian-made Shahed explosive drones.
Ukrainian soldiers firing at Russian positions in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine on Tuesday.Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times
The fall of Soledar to Russian forces on Wednesday drove home a reminder that Ukraine will need the tanks the United States and Europe recently promised ahead of an expected Russian assault this spring.
The escalation in fighting by the Russians was part of the calculation that led to pledges by Germany and the United States on Wednesday that they would send tanks to Ukraine, freeing other European countries to send their own. But tanks move slowly. Experts predict that the coveted German-made Leopard 2 tanks might arrive in a couple of months, just as ground offensives from both sides could be underway.
“The key thing now is speed and volume,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in his nightly address on Wednesday. “The speed of training of our military, the speed of supplying tanks to Ukraine. The volume of tank support.”
The number of tanks — an initial 14 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany and 31 M1 Abrams tanks from the United States — is modest but ended weeks of tense negotiations. It also cleared the way for other nations that have now pledged to send their own Leopards: Poland, Portugal, Norway, Spain, Finland and the Netherlands. Britain had already said that it would send 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks.
The Leopard 2s will be a serious upgrade over the Soviet-era tanks being used by Ukraine, but questions remain about how quickly they can arrive and how much they could affect the war. Ukrainian military officials have long said they need at least 300 modern tanks to make a difference in the war, though experts have said the Ukrainians need 500 to 1,000.
Still, the tanks represent a radical change in thinking among U.S. and European leaders who once feared that sending their most advanced weapons could provoke Moscow. And it was hastened by the Ukrainians’ success on the battlefield in the fall, when they retook vast chunks of territory in the northeast and southeast, turning the tide of the war.
“This is a substantial shift for NATO and the U.S. moving away from supporting the Ukrainians so they’re not defeated toward a status where they can win,” said Mick Mulroy, a former Pentagon official and C.I.A. officer.
The capture of Soledar is the first significant victory for Russian ground forces in months and brings them closer to encircling Bakhmut in the eastern region of Ukraine known as the Donbas. Since seizing two cities in Luhansk last summer, Russia’s military advances in the Donbas have been slow. Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have sustained heavy casualties in intense shelling and trench warfare. In recent weeks, soldiers have had to endure bitter cold and mud.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian defense officials reported intense fighting near Bakhmut and Vuhledar, which is in the same region.
The Russians took note of the decision to send tanks, though there were no threats of using a tactical nuclear weapon, as had once been feared.
Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the tanks would be a “losing scheme” that would burden Europe without strengthening the Ukrainian military, warning that the tanks would “go up in flames.”