Zelenskiy begs for air defence aid as 17 die in strikes

André Ballin and Andreas Stein |

Denmark, the Netherlands and the US expect to deliver the first F-16s to Ukraine within months.
Denmark, the Netherlands and the US expect to deliver the first F-16s to Ukraine within months.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for more air defence support from Western partners after a Russian missile attack killed at least 17 people in the northern city of Chernihiv.

More than 60 were injured in the strikes, including several children.  

“This would not have happened if Ukraine had received sufficient air defence and if the world had been determined enough to counter Russian terror,” Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram. 

The Ukrainians do not lack determination in their fight, Zelenskiy added. “We need sufficient determination from our partners and sufficient support that reflects this determination,” he said. 

Due to a lack of air defence systems and ammunition, the Russians are now destroying many important objects in Ukraine, said Zelenskiy, referring to the Trypilska thermal power plant near Kyiv, which is lying in ruins.  

A meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council is to take place on Friday at the request of Kyiv, the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced. The top NATO official was responding directly to Zelenskiy’s plea. 

Stoltenberg also stressed that supporting Ukraine was more important than alliance members meeting NATO targets for supplies of weapons and ammunition.  

The Netherlands handed over another three F-16 fighter jets to a training facility in Romania where Ukrainian pilots and ground staff are being taught to fly and maintain the planes in battle.

Zelenskiy called the donation a “breakthrough agreement” last year and said the planes would strengthen Ukraine’s air defences and help its counter-offensive against Russian forces.

But US officials have privately said the jets will not be a game changer.

After months of obstruction, the Republican leader of the US House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, said he expected a vote on further US aid for Ukraine on Saturday evening.  

In the event of approval, the Senate would still have to approve the package. It is considered likely that the upper chamber, which is led by the Democrats, will support the project. 

US President Joe Biden urged lawmakers to approve the aid package.

“The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow. I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed,” the president said in a statement on Wednesday. 

A man in Chernihiv
Missiles were said to have hit a hotel, hospital, university building and residential buildings. (EPA PHOTO)

Earlier, Chernihiv governor Vyacheslav Chaus said three missiles struck near the city centre and civilian infrastructure was damaged on Wednesday. 

According to official reports, a hotel, the district hospital, the main university building and several multi-storey residential buildings were hit, and many cars also went up in flames.  

A total of 16 buildings were damaged, according to mayor Oleksandr Lomako. In most of them, windows were broken by the blast wave. However, some houses also suffered severe damage.  

Rescue workers searched under the rubble for other victims of the attack. The police said there were six missing. Due to the large number of injured, the local health authorities have called on the population to donate blood. 

Chernihiv is located around 150km north of Kyiv, not far from the border with Russia. 

The Russian Ministry of Defence did not go into detail about the missile strike in Chernihiv in its daily situation report. It merely stated that air and missile forces had fought Ukrainian units and military technology.  

Meanwhile, Ukraine attacked several targets in Russia and on the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia with drones and missiles, including an aircraft factory, a military airfield and a radar station.

A Russian air defence system was destroyed and several Russian soldiers were killed or injured, according to reports from Ukraine. There was no independent confirmation. 

With Reuters