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Nato nations to boost Ukraine’s missile defence

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Brussels: Ukraine’s Nato-led allies have announced deliveries of advanced air defence weapons to Kyiv, after a spate of Russian missile strikes, media reported.

The weaponry promised by the UK, Canada, France and the Netherlands includes missiles and radars. The US earlier made a similar pledge. One high-tech system from Germany is already in Ukraine.

The UK will donate air defence missiles, as well as hundreds of aerial drones to support Ukraine’s information gathering and logistics capabilities. It will also provide 18 howitzer artillery guns in addition to the 64 already delivered, the BBC reported.

Speaking after the Brussels meeting on Wednesday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said “we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that they [Ukrainians] have what’s required to be effective”.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Paris would supply air defence systems to Ukraine. In an interview to France 2 television, he did not specify which systems would be sent. But he did say their main function would be to protect the population from drones.

The Netherlands said it would deliver $14.5million worth of air defence missiles.

Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said the Russian attacks “can only be met with unrelenting support for Ukraine and its people”.

Canada pledged to provide more than $34 million worth of military aid, including satellite communications and drone cameras.

The pledges come as Ukraine’s allies from 50 countries meet at Nato headquarters here in Belgium.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has for months been asking Ukraine’s allies to provide air defence systems to create an “air shield” for Ukraine.

In his video address late on Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader said: “The more audacious and cruel Russian terror becomes, the more obvious it is to the world that helping Ukraine to protect the sky is one of the most important humanitarian tasks for Europe of our time.”

“I believe that we will cope with this task,” he added.

Kyiv hailed the Nato summit as “historic”, even as Russian shelling hit its southern city of Mykolaiv on Thursday morning, officials said.

The city’s mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said the city was “massively shelled” at around 1 am local time.

“A five-storey residential building was hit, the upper two floors were completely destroyed, the rest – under rubble. Rescuers are working on the site,” he said.

It has been a particularly intense week in Ukraine – on Monday and Tuesday, it saw some of its heaviest Russian bombardment in months when more than 100 missiles were launched, hitting energy infrastructure and other non-military targets including a children’s playground, the BBC said.

At least 19 people were killed on the first day of the strikes, which included hitting central Kyiv.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the missile strikes were retaliation for an attack on a key bridge linking Russia and Crimea – Ukraine’s southern peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Russia said Saturday’s blast was organised by Ukraine’s intelligence agency – a claim rubbished by Kyiv.

Ukraine’s military announced earlier on Wednesday that the first of several “state-of-the-art IRIS-T SLM has been delivered from Germany to Ukraine”. It said the air defence system would help protect the country “against terror”.

Russia has repeatedly warned Ukraine’s allies against supplying advanced weaponry to Kyiv, stressing this would make them participants of the war that Putin began on February 24.

The West has accused Moscow of nuclear sabre-rattling, following a string of Russian military defeats on the battlefield, the BBC report added.

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