Ukraine lambasts West over air defence shortage as Russian missiles kill 17

Kyiv’s frustration grows after western powers took direct action to protect Israel

A Russian missile strike on northern Ukraine has killed at least 17 people and injured 60 others, in an attack that Kyiv said could have been prevented if western states had supplied more air defence systems and been less timid with Moscow.

Officials said three Iskander ballistic missiles hit a central area of Chernihiv, a city 150km north of Kyiv and near Ukraine’s border with Russia and its ally Belarus, at about 9.30 on Wednesday morning when streets and shops were busy. Several apartment blocks and other civilian buildings were badly damaged, and rescue work continued through the day.

“Unfortunately, the death toll may rise. And this would not have happened if Ukraine had received enough air defence equipment and if the world’s determination to counter Russian terror was also sufficient,” said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“Terrorists can destroy lives only when they first manage to intimidate those who are able to stop terror and protect life. Determination matters. Support matters. Ukrainian determination is enough. There needs to be enough commitment from partners and enough support to reflect that.”

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Repeated Russian missile and drone strikes have badly damaged Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in recent months and drained its stocks of ammunition for western-supplied air defence systems such as the US-made Patriot.

Mr Zelenskiy has complained that powerful air defence systems and ammunition are just “gathering dust” in the warehouses of countries that claim to be prepared to do “whatever necessary” to help Ukraine defeat Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine’s supply problems have been exacerbated by the refusal of some US Republican Congress members to approve a longstanding White House request for $60 billion (€56 billion) in new military aid for Kyiv.

Ukrainian frustration with the West grew when the US, France and Britain used their own jets and missiles to protect Israel from Iran’s rocket and drone barrage last weekend. They refuse to take similar action to help Ukraine due to what they call the danger of “escalation” and possible confrontation with Russia.

“These innocent people would not have been killed or injured if Ukraine had sufficient air defence capabilities. Three days ago in the Middle East, we saw what reliable protection of human lives from missiles looks like,” Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said after the attack on Chernihiv.

“Ukraine’s partners have the necessary means to help us save Ukrainian lives with the same level of efficiency,” he added. “We are grateful to Germany for already taking the important decision to provide Ukraine with an additional Patriot battery… I will urge other partners to follow suit during my meetings with G7 allies in Italy this week.”

Separately, the Financial Times said Mr Kuleba confirmed its report that Germany had written to dozens of countries, including Nato and Gulf Arab states, asking them to “take stock of all air defence systems in your arsenals and consider what could be transferred to Ukraine”.

Heavy explosions rocked the Dzhankoi airfield in occupied Crimea early on Wednesday, in an apparent Ukrainian missile strike that pro-Kyiv sources said destroyed Russian air defence systems.

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