Ukraine war live updates: Russia hits Kyiv with massive air attack as intense 'flash' and explosions light up the night sky

The battle for Bakhmut is as hot as ever, UK defense ministry says

Ukrainian soldiers on a road in the direction of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on April 24, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Despite recent Ukrainian claims of advances in the hotly contested town of Bakhmut in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, the fighting there remains complex and intense, the U.K. noted Tuesday.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the Wagner Group mercenary forces fighting in the town “continue to make gradual progress in clearing Ukrainian positions” in the town center, although it noted that over the last four days, Ukrainian forces made tactical progress stabilizing the flanks of Bakhmut to their advantage.

“As well as progress to the south of town, Ukrainian assaults have forced back the Russian frontline to the north-west of the town. This has likely enabled Ukrainian forces to re-establish more secure use of the key 0506 supply road,” the ministry said in an intelligence update on Twitter.

Ukraine is holding Russia’s western advances along the line of Donets-Donbas Canal, the U.K. noted, “turning the waterway into an obstacle as part of a deep defensive zone around the town of Chasiv Yar.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Kyiv hit with massive, overnight air attack notable for its ‘exceptional’ density of missiles

Ukraine’s capital Kyiv has been hit yet again by a Russian air attack overnight, officials in the city said, noting that the latest strike was “exceptional” in the number of weapons. They include drones, cruise and possibly ballistic missiles.

A bright flash lit up the sky in Kyiv early Tuesday morning as Russia carried out an overnight air attack on the city, video obtained by Reuters showed. The news agency said it was able to verify the location and date of the video but was unable to verify the cause of the flash.

During the night, Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported a number of explosions in the city on his Telegram channel, saying falling rocket and drone debris had damaged buildings and cars in several of the city’s districts, as well as started some fires.

A shelter in a residential building in the Solomian district of Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 16, 2023, as powerful bomb blasts and fire were heard.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

He warned civilians to stay in shelters and later posted on Telegram that three civilians had been injured, according to preliminary information.

Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, warned the city’s residents to “head for cover” as air alerts sounded in the night in what marked the eighth air attack on the city since the start of May.

“This time, the enemy launched a complex attack from different directions simultaneously, using UAVs [drones], cruise missiles and probably ballistic missiles. It was exceptional in its density – the maximum number of attacking missiles in the shortest period of time,” Popko said.

“According to preliminary information, the vast majority of enemy targets in the airspace of Kyiv were detected and destroyed,” he added, saying more details on the number and type of missiles will soon be reported by Ukraine’s air force.

China’s envoy will begin Ukraine visit on Tuesday

A top Chinese envoy’s visit to Ukraine is due to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to media reports.

Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs and former ambassador to Russia, will be visiting Ukraine, Russia and several other European cities in a trip Beijing says is aimed at discussing a “political settlement” to the Ukraine war, which China describes as a “crisis.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping via phone line, in Kyiv on April 26, 2023.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Reuters and NBC News both cited an unnamed Ukrainian government official as confirming the visit would begin Tuesday but declined to provide further details.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in the U.K. on Monday to drum up more support for Kyiv ahead of its much-anticipated counteroffensive.

— Holly Ellyatt

White House set to announce additional sanctions for Iran’s military support to Russia

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi greets Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 19, 2022. Putin likely wanted to show that Moscow is still important in the Middle East by visiting Iran, said John Drennan of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Sergei Savostyanov | AFP | Getty Images

The White House said it will impose additional sanctions targeting Iran as Washington ups the ante in its campaign against Tehran for supplying Moscow with weapons for its war on Ukraine. 

“In the coming days we will be announcing additional designations against those involved in the increased military trade between Russia and Iran,” national security council spokesman John Kirby said on a call with reporters.

Kirby added that since August, Iran has provided Russia with more than 400 one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

“By providing Russia with these UAVs, Iran has been directly enabling Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

Kremlin slams new weaponry for Kyiv but says it won’t change the course of the war

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov waits before a signing ceremony following talks of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 21, 2023.

Vladimir Astapkovich | Sputnik | Reuters

The Kremlin said Monday that it takes a very dim view of the U.K.’s decision to provide more military hardware to Ukraine but claimed it wouldn’t change the course of the war, or “special military operation,” as it calls its invasion.

“We feel extremely negative about this,” Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday, in comments translated by NBC News.

“The U.K. claims to be at the forefront among the countries that continue to pump weapons into Ukraine,” he added.

The U.K. said last week that it will provide Storm Shadow long-range precision missiles to Ukraine, and on Monday it said it would give Kyiv hundreds of air defense missiles and long-range attack drones with a range of over 200 kilometers, or 124 miles.

The latest announcement came as Ukraine’s Zelenskyy visited Britain, one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters.

Peskov downplayed the significance of the latest weaponry that’s been announced for Kyiv, saying: “We repeat once again, this cannot have any significant and fundamental impact on the course of the special military operation, but, of course, it leads to further destructions, it leads to further retaliatory actions. That is, it makes this story much more difficult for Ukraine.”

— Holly Ellyatt

UK has no plans to send fighter jets to Ukraine, PM’s spokesman says

Britain’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak (R) with Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, walk to a waiting Chinook helicopter after meetings at Chequers on May 15, 2023 in Aylesbury, England.

Carl Court | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Britain has no plans to send fighter jets to Ukraine after the Ukrainian military indicated it would prefer to use F-16 fighter jets, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said on Monday.

Asked if Britain would send fighter jets to Ukraine, the spokesman said: “There are no plans to do that.”

“The Ukrainians made the decision to train their pilots on F-16s and you will know the RAF don’t use those,” he said.

 — Reuters

UK and Ukraine discuss fighter jets, Zelenskyy says decision on the issue could come soon

Britain’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak (R), chats with Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, ahead of a bilateral meeting at Chequers on May 15, 2023 in Aylesbury, England.

Carl Court | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak discussed the matter of fighter jets for Ukraine as they met in Britain on Monday, hinting that a decision could soon be made on the matter.

Kyiv has repeatedly asked its Western allies for fighter jets, saying they could make a big difference as it tries to reclaim Russian-occupied territory.

“We want to create a fighter jets coalition,” Zelenskyy said Monday, following talks with Sunak, Reuters reported.

“I see that in the closest time, you will hear some, I think, very important decisions but we have to work a little bit more on it,” he added.

As Zelenskyy’s surprise visit to the U.K. was announced Monday morning, Downing Street issued a statement in which it said it would launch a training program for Ukrainian pilots in summer, saying “this will adapt the programme used by U.K. pilots to provide Ukrainians with piloting skills they can apply a different kind of aircraft.”

This training, the government added, “goes hand in hand with U.K. efforts to work with other countries on providing F16 jets – Ukraine’s fighter jets of choice.”

The U.K. has previously ruled out giving Ukraine fighter jets, as has the U.S., but the latest comments signal a change of position could be on the cards.

– Holly Ellyatt

UK set to give more aid to Ukraine as Zelenskyy visits Britain

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has welcomed his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy to his countryside residence in a surprise visit by the president.

The British government is expected to “confirm the further U.K. provision of hundreds of air defence missiles and further unmanned aerial systems including hundreds of new long-range attack drones with a range of over 200km,” or 124 miles.

“These will all be delivered over the coming months as Ukraine prepares to intensify its resistance to the ongoing Russian invasion,” Downing Street said in a statement.

During their meeting today at the prime minister’s official countryside residence Chequers, Sunak will discuss with Zelenskyy what support Ukraine needs from the international community, both in terms of immediate military equipment and long-term defenses, the government said.

Zelenskyy’s trip to today comes after the Ukrainian president’s tour of several European capitals in recent days as he tries to win more military support ahead of the country’s much-vaunted counteroffensive in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wait to meet Ukrainian troops being trained to command Challenger 2 tanks at a military facility in Lulworth, Dorset, in southern England, on Feb. 8, 2023.

Andrew Matthews | AFP | Getty Images

“This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke,” Sunak said in a statement.

“We must not let them down. The frontlines of Putin’s war of aggression may be in Ukraine but the fault lines stretch all over the world. It is in all our interest to ensure Ukraine succeeds and Putin’s barbarism is not rewarded,” he added.

The U.K. is one of Ukraine’s largest military supporters, providing masses of military hardware including armored vehicles, tanks and ammunition as well as training to thousands of Ukrainian soldiers. The U.K. said it had provided £2.3 billion ($2.9 billion) worth of military support to Ukraine in 2022 — more than any country other than the U.S.

Last week, the U.K. donated long-range Storm Shadow precision missiles to Ukraine which it said could be “critical in helping the country defend against the relentless bombardment of their critical national infrastructure.”

The government also hinted it could be galvanizing support among Ukraine’s allies to get fighter jets to Kyiv after repeated requests by Ukraine.

Britain will launch “an elementary flying phase for cohorts of Ukrainian pilots to learn basic training” this summer and said “this will adapt the programme used by U.K. pilots to provide Ukrainians with piloting skills they can apply a different kind of aircraft.”

“This training goes hand in hand with U.K. efforts to work with other countries on providing F16 jets – Ukraine’s fighter jets of choice,” the government said.

— Holly Ellyatt

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