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Ukrainian PM calls for air defenses to counter Russian attacks

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Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukraine’s prime minister has appealed for Patriot missile batteries and other high-tech air defense systems to counter Russian attacks that cut off electricity and water to millions of Ukrainians, putting Europe on high alert on Monday to prepare for more refugees.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told French TV channel LCI that in addition to making Ukrainians suffer, Russia wanted to flood Europe with a new wave of Ukrainian refugees by continuing to hit power stations and other infrastructure.

The Polish president said his country had already seen an increase in demand for refugee shelters due to the combination of such attacks and freezing weather in Ukraine.

“The number of refugees in Poland has increased (recently) to some 3 million. This will probably also mean an increase in their number in Germany,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said after talks with German President Frank- Walter Steinmeier in Berlin.

Millions of Ukrainians fled their country after Russia invaded on February 24. Thousands of people have died and dozens of towns and villages across Ukraine have been reduced to rubble during a war that is in its 10th month. On Monday, Russian bombardment was again mainly focused on the eastern and southern regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed.

To defend against further strikes, Shmyhal reiterated previous Ukrainian calls for Patriot surface-to-air missiles – a highly sophisticated system. During an interview with LCI broadcast on Sunday evening, he also asked for more German and French air defense systems, supplies of artillery shells and modern combat tanks.

Organizers in France expect more than 45 nations and 20 international institutions to attend a conference in Paris from Tuesday to raise and coordinate aid for Ukraine’s water, electricity, food, health needs. and transport during the harsh winter months.

The supply of Patriot missiles to Ukraine would mark a major advance in the types of air defense systems the West sends to help the country fend off Russian air attacks. So far, no country has offered them, and such a move would likely mark an escalation in the fight against Russia.

US officials have said they are considering supplying Ukraine with Patriot missile batteries. But Brig. Pentagon press secretary Gen. Pat Ryder recently told reporters there were no plans to send the complex, high-tech system.

“We will continue to have these discussions,” he said. He added: “None of these systems are plug-and-play. You can’t just show up on the battlefield and start using them.

Air defenses were also the subject of a phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden. Zelenskyy, his office said, told Biden “about 50% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been destroyed.”

Biden “highlighted how the United States is prioritizing efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense through our security assistance, including the Dec. 9 announcement of an additional $275 million in munitions and weapons. ‘equipment including systems to counter Russian use of unmanned aerial vehicles,’ the White House said. said.

Russian drone attacks near the Black Sea port of Odessa over the weekend destroyed several energy facilities and left all customers except hospitals, maternity wards, boiler rooms and pumping stations without power .

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric, concluded a four-day visit to Ukraine, including Odessa, on Monday. She said she “saw how families were torn apart and how power cuts and freezing temperatures increased the suffering of too many people during this difficult winter.”

European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels on Monday to discuss new sanctions aimed at further punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney strongly condemned “Russia’s deliberate targeting of civilians in terms of inflicting suffering on a large population”. He described Russia’s actions as “a crime, both in terms of aggression and a crime against humanity.”

Slovakia said that in cooperation with Germany it had opened a repair center for Ukrainian weapons of Western origin. The center is located inside a military base in the town of Michalovce, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of the border with Ukraine, the country’s defense ministry said. the EU. Howitzers and air defense systems are among the weapons to be attached to it.

In Ukraine, eastern Donbass, made up of the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, has once again become the scene of intense fighting, especially around the town of Bakhmut.

Ukrainian officials said on Monday that the country’s forces struck a hotel in the Luhansk region that served as the headquarters of the Wagner Group, a private Russian military contractor and mercenary group that played a leading role in the east of Ukraine.

The region’s Ukrainian governor, Serhiy Haidai, said hundreds of Russians were killed in the attack on Kadiivka on Sunday. Moscow-backed local officials in Luhansk confirmed that a Ukrainian strike had destroyed a hotel building in Kadiivka, but claimed it was not in use.

Ukrainian mayor of the southeastern city of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, reported that Ukraine also attacked a hotel that allegedly housed analysts from Russia’s main security agency, the FSB. Moscow has not commented on this claim and none of the reports could be independently confirmed.

Elsewhere on the battlefield, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said on Monday that two civilians were killed and 10 injured in the Russian shelling of the town of Hirnyk in the Donetsk region.

“It was yet another Russian attack on civilians,” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on his Telegram messaging app channel.

Kherson Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said a Russian strike on the southern city of the same name, which Ukraine recaptured a month ago, killed two civilians and injured five on Monday. He said Russian shelling hit residential buildings and damaged power lines. Yanushevych urged residents of the city to move to shelters.

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Leicester reported from Pecq, France.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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