(Kyiv) NATO announced on Sunday that Ukraine could expect to receive new Western heavy weapons “in the near future”, while Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of “positive dynamics” for his troops on the forehead.
At the same time, the emergency services were still active on Sunday evening to find survivors in the ruins of a building in Dnipro, in eastern Ukraine, hit the day before by a strike whose balance sheet is at least 30 dead. Dozens of people remained missing.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ruled on Sunday that Vladimir Putin had “overestimated the strength” of his troops by invading Ukraine. “We see their missteps, their lack of morale, their command problems, their bad equipment” and their “heavy losses”, he told the German daily. Handelsblatt.
“The recent (Western) promises of heavy weaponry delivery are significant – and I expect there will be more in the near future,” he added, a few days before a new coordination meeting in Germany on January 20 of Western countries providing aid to Ukraine.
Western nations have long been reluctant to deliver heavier weaponry to Kyiv, fearing they will be drawn into the war. But at the beginning of January, France, Germany and the United States finally promised to send armored infantry or reconnaissance tanks -40 German Marders, 50 American Bradleys and French AMX-10 RCs.
The UK announced on Saturday that it will deliver 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine “in the coming weeks” – the first country to supply Western-built heavy tanks to Kyiv.
Russian diplomacy estimated that this shipment of arms would “in no way accelerate the end of military hostilities, but only intensify them”.
Kyiv had already received from its allies heavy tanks of Soviet design – nearly 300 – but none of Western manufacture.
Poland said it was ready on Wednesday to deliver 14 German Leopard 2 heavy tanks, which requires Berlin’s approval.
“According to plans”
While his army seems to be struggling against Ukrainian forces supported by Westerners, Vladimir Putin assured that “everything is going according to plan”, in an interview on Russian public television broadcast on Sunday.
“The dynamic is positive and everything is going according to the plans of the Ministry of Defense and the general staff. I hope that our fighters will still delight us more than once with their military results, “he said, after a question from a journalist from the Rossia-1 channel on the “news coming from Soledar”, which the Russian army claimed on Friday to have conquered.
The capture of this small Ukrainian town was presented in Moscow as a success, after several months of Russian setbacks, in particular the withdrawals in the fall of the Kharkiv region (northeast) and the large city of Kherson (south) against Ukrainian counter-offensives.
But Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar assured Sunday evening that Ukrainian forces had held their positions in Soledar.
They “repelled the invaders’ attacks” at multiple frontline points in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including Soledar, she said. “Put simply, the battle continues,” according to Mme Maliar.
“The battle for Soledar, for Bakhmout, for the entire Donetsk region, for the Luhansk region continues without the slightest respite,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his daily speech.
According to Moscow, the conquest of Soledar is an important step to encircle the nearby city of Bakhmout, which the Russian army and the paramilitary group Wagner have been seeking to conquer for months.
30 dead in Dnipro
A new wave of shelling hit several Ukrainian cities and sites on Saturday and Sunday, including a residential building on Saturday in Dnipro.
According to the latest report from the emergency services on Sunday evening, 30 people were killed there, including a child (a 15-year-old girl, according to the Ukrainian president), and 75 injured, including 14 children. 45 people remain missing.
A video released by Ukrainian relief showed rescuers digging through the rubble of the building cut in two at night, from which they managed to extract 39 survivors, including six children.
Addressing Russians in Russian in his evening address, Volodymyr Zelensky told those “who even now cannot utter a few words to condemn this terror”, that their “cowardly silence” will allow “one day, the same terrorists will come for you”, because “evil is very sensitive to cowardice”.
The United States denounced “a new example of the brutal and barbaric war waged by Russia against the Ukrainian people”. A spokesman for the National Security Council assured that they “will continue to provide Ukraine with what it needs to defend itself”.
In the south, in Kryvyi Rig, one person was killed and another injured on Saturday in the destruction of apartment buildings by a strike, according to an official report.
And on Sunday, Russian forces again heavily bombarded Kherson, hitting infrastructure and the premises of the Red Cross and injuring seven, including one seriously, according to regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevich.
“During the day, the enemy carried out eight attacks with multiple rocket launchers”, announced Sunday evening the Ukrainian general staff, noting in particular “offensive actions (Russian) near Bakhmout and Avdiïvka”.
Power cuts have affected most parts of the country after these new attacks, according to Ukrainian authorities.
“The generation deficit in the electrical system after the attack is huge. Several thermal power plants are no longer working,” the CEO of the energy company YASNO, Serguiï Kovalenko, said on Facebook, announcing substantial restrictions on the supply of electricity throughout the country, particularly in Kyiv.
“The damage is severe. All energy companies are working on repairs, but we have to be prepared for the outages to last a long time,” Kovalenko said.