Ukraine: heavy casualties on Dnipro, NATO announces more heavy weapons

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday that Vladimir Putin had “overestimated the strength” of his troops by invading Ukraine.

This weekend’s strike balance on the Dnipro in Ukraine increased on Monday to at least 35 people killed. A day earlier, NATO had announced the future delivery of new weapons, while Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned “positive dynamics” for his troops.

Russian-Belarusian air military drills started earlier this week in Belarus, an ally of Russia. Minsk, however, assured that they had only “defensive” properties.

According to Ukraine’s regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko, a Russian attack that destroyed a building on Saturday on Dnipro, in the east of the country, killed at least 35 people, including two children. “Thirty-nine people rescued, 75 injured,” he added on social media. He said that “the fate of the other 35 occupants of the building is unknown”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday that Vladimir Putin had “overestimated the strength” of his troops by invading Ukraine. “We saw their missteps, their lack of morale, their commanding problems, their poor equipment” and their “heavy losses,” he told German daily Handelsblatt.

Western heavy weaponry

“The recent (Western) pledges of heavy weapons have been very important – and I hope there will be more in the near future,” he added. This statement came days before a new coordination meeting in Germany, on January 20, Western countries provided aid to Ukraine.

Westerners had long been reluctant to ship heavier weaponry to Kyiv, fearing they would be drawn into the war. But in early January, France, Germany and the United States finally pledged to send armored infantry or scout tanks – 40 German Marders, 50 American Bradleys and French AMX-10 RCs.

Britain announced on Saturday that it would deliver 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine “in the coming weeks”. The UK will thus become the first country to supply Western construction heavy tanks to Kyiv. Ukraine has received from its allies Soviet-designed heavy tanks -nearly 300-, but there is still no Western manufacture.

Russian diplomacy estimates that the delivery of these weapons “will in no way hasten the end of military hostilities, but only intensify them”.

“As planned”

While his troops appeared to be struggling against Western-backed Ukrainian troops, Vladimir Putin assured that “everything is going according to plan”. He spoke in an interview broadcast on Russian public television on Sunday.

“The dynamics are 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 launched, after a question from a journalist from the Rossia-1 channel about “news coming from Soledar”, which the Russian army claimed on Friday to have conquer.

The capture of this small Ukrainian town was presented to Moscow as a success. Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar, however, assured late Sunday that Ukrainian troops had maintained their positions in Soledar.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, is expected in Ukraine on Monday. In a tweet before his departure, he stressed that his organization would expand its presence in the country “to help prevent nuclear accidents during the ongoing conflict”.

Following the Dnipro attack, the United States denounced “a new example of Russia’s brutal and barbaric war 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, on the Kryvyi Rig, one person was killed and another injured Saturday in the demolition of an apartment building following the attack. On Sunday, Russian troops again opened fire on Kherson, hitting Red Cross infrastructure and buildings and wounding seven people, including one seriously. Power outages have affected large parts of the country after these new attacks, according to Ukrainian authorities.

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