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A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says

By ILLIA NOVIKOV, Associated Press
Published: April 23, 2024, 8:10am
3 Photos
FILE - Local men cut trees in front of a residential building that was heavily damaged by a Russian airstrike in Lukiantsi, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
FILE - Local men cut trees in front of a residential building that was heavily damaged by a Russian airstrike in Lukiantsi, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File) Photo Gallery

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a Russian missile strike that smashed a prominent skyline television tower in Kharkiv was part of the Kremlin’s effort to intimidate Ukraine’s second-largest city, which in recent weeks has come under increasingly frequent attack.

The strike sought to “make the terror visible to the whole city and to try to limit Kharkiv’s connection and access to information,” Zelenskyy said in a Monday evening address.

The northeastern Kharkiv region straddles the approximately 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been locked in battle for more than two years since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The front line has changed little during a war of attrition, focused mostly on artillery, drones and trenches.

Since late March, Russia has stepped up the pressure on Kharkiv, apparently aiming to exploit Ukraine’s shortage of air defense systems. It has pounded the local power grid and hit apartment blocks.

On Monday, a Russian Kh-59 missile struck Kharkiv’s 250-meter (820-foot) -high TV tower, breaking it roughly in half and halting transmissions.

A Washington think tank said Russia may be eyeing a ground assault on Kharkiv.

“The Kremlin is conducting a concerted air and information operation to destroy Kharkiv City, convince Ukrainians to flee, and internally displace millions of Ukrainians ahead of a possible future Russian offensive operation against the city or elsewhere in Ukraine,” the Institute for the Study of War said in an assessment.

The expected arrival in Ukraine in coming weeks of new military aid from its Western partners possibly has prompted Russia to escalate its attacks before the help arrives, the ISW said, adding that trying to capture Kharkiv would be “a significant challenge” for the Kremlin’s forces.

Instead, the Russian military command “may attempt to destroy Kharkiv City with air, missile, and drone strikes and prompt a large-scale internal displacement of Ukrainian civilians,” it said.

The U.S. Senate was returning to Washington on Tuesday to vote on $61 billion in war aid to Ukraine after months of delays. Zelensky said U.S. President Joe Biden assured him the aid would include long-range and artillery capabilities.

“Four priorities are key: defense of the sky, modern artillery, long-range capacity, and to ensure that packages of American aid arrive as soon as possible,” Zelenskyy said.

Also Tuesday, Britain pledged 500 million pounds ($620 million, 580 million euros) in new military supplies for Ukraine, including 400 vehicles, 60 boats, 1,600 munitions and 4 million rounds of ammunition.

The shipment will also include British Storm Shadow long-range missiles, which have a range of about 150 miles (240 kilometers) and have proven effective at hitting Russian targets, the British government said.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke with Zelenskyy on Tuesday morning to confirm the new assistance. He announces the aid during a visit to Warsaw later in the day where he was meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Less cheering news came from the European Union, however. EU countries that have Patriot air defense systems gave no clear sign Monday that they might be willing to send them to Ukraine, which is desperately seeking at least seven of the missile batteries.

Ukraine’s army is also heavily outnumbered in the fight, and expanding the country’s mobilization has been a delicate issue.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday signaled that authorities plan to clamp down on young men of conscription age who have moved abroad, with details of the specific measures to be made public soon.

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“Staying abroad does not relieve a citizen of his or her duties to the homeland,” Kuleba said on the social media platform X.

Meanwhile, Russia launched 16 Shahed drones and two Iskander-M ballistic missiles over Ukraine’s southern and central regions, the Ukrainian air force said Tuesday morning. It said all but one of the drones were intercepted.

In Odesa, an overnight attack injured nine people, regional Gov. Oleh Kiper said. Among those injured were two infants and two children aged nine and 12, Kiper said. City mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said 58 apartments in 22 buildings were damaged.

In other developments:

  • A Russian missile strike near Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, injured four people who were admitted to hospital, regional Gov. Serhii Lysak said.
  • Russian forces dropped a guided aerial bomb in Kostiantynivka, a city in the eastern Donetsk region, injuring five people who were riding in a car, police said. Two of them were in critical conditions.
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