Putin accelerates offensive as he relentlessly bombards Ukraine cities

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Russian strikes across Ukraine awoke millions of civilians in the early hours of Friday as one city in the south was hit 17 times in less than an hour, amounting to the “largest number” of attacks since the beginning of the invasion, according to local officials. Those still living in the south and east of Ukraine were urged to “stay in shelters” as dozens of Iranian Shahed-136 suicide drones struck cities in Zaporizhzhya, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk Oblasts. The attacks follow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s 48-hour round trip through the UK, Paris and Brussels, in which Kyiv’s Western backers made renewed pledges to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia, including the provision of longer-range weapons that could be used to strike Crimea.

After Rishi Sunak promised to send longer-range missiles to Kyiv during a meeting with Mr Zelensky on Wednesday, Ukrainian defence sources said on Thursday night that such artillery could be used to strike the region of Crimea to the south of the mainland. Mr Zelensky himself said the weapons would be used to strike “deep in the occupied territories”. The two missiles being considered by the UK to send to Ukraine are believed to be the Harpoon, which has a maximum range of 150 miles, and the Storm Shadow, which can hit targets as far as 350 miles away.

Russia make ‘tactical gains’ in Donetsk

Russian forces have made “tactical gains” in two areas in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, the British Ministry of Defence has reported, as Putin’s major spring offensive looks to be under way.

Wagner Group mercenary fighters “have pushed 2-3km further west” near the city of Bakhmut in attempts to encircle the city and cut off access to the E40 Bakhmut-Slovyansk and T0504 Kostyantynivka-Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut highways.

The two roads are the last remaining supply channels into the city for Ukrainian soldiers still holding their defence lines.

In Vulhedar, a coal mining town 60 miles southwest, the MoD reported that “Russian units have made advances around the western edge”.

They added, however, that it had come at the expense of “particularly heavy casualties” with the use of “inexperienced units” proving fatal.

On Thursday, the Institute for the Study of War said that Russian forces had made “marginal advances” near Kreminna in the Luhansk region east of Donetsk, suggesting such movements signalled the start of Putin’s spring offensive.

Ukraine to use UK missiles to strike Crimea

Ukrainian defence sources have said they are prepared to use missiles set to be delivered to Kyiv from the UK to strike Russian bases in Crimea.

Rishi Sunak, during his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in London on Wednesday, said the UK would send longer-range weapons to Kyiv as part of the next tranche of support.

Mr Zelensky later said such missiles would be used to strike “deep in the occupied territories”.

The two missiles being considered for supply to Ukraine are believed to be the Harpoon anti-ship missiles and the surface-to-air Storm Shadows.

The former has a maximum range of 150 miles and costs around £1.2 million each. The latter, the Storm Shadow, costs £2.2 million and can hit targets more than 350 miles away.

The Ukrainian forces closest to Crimea are located in the Kherson region just north of the Dnipro River and the land corridor below the mainland. They are roughly 95 miles away from the northernmost point of Crimea.

Harpoon anti-ship missiles

Russia strikes Ukraine in sweeping Friday morning attacks

Russian strikes across three regions of Ukraine have left cities “without electricity” as Putin reacts to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s 48-hour round trip across the United Kingdom and northern Europe.

At 4am on Friday morning, Ukrainian civilians were urged to rush to nearby shelters as dozens of rockets and Iranian Shahed-136 suicide drones devastated regions across the east and south of Ukraine.

At least 17 missiles struck the city of Zaporizhzhya in southern Ukraine, according to the city council secretary Anatolii Kurtiev.

In Kharkiv, in the northeast, S-300 missile systems are believed to have been used to strike areas across the region at least 10 times.

Regional governor Oleh Synyehubov said on Telegram: “At 4:00, the enemy launched rocket attacks on the city of Kharkiv and the region. Previously by S-300 missiles.

“Critical and infrastructure facilities were targeted. Fires broke out, which the rescuers managed to quickly put out.

“However, some areas of the city remain without electricity. Specialists are working to eliminate the consequences of the impact. Fortunately, there were no casualties.”

Serhiy Lysak, the military administrator in the Dnipropetrovsk region to the north of Zaporizhzhya, said Iranian drones were detected on their way to the area but were intercepted.

Russia prepares 2,000 tanks for major spring offensive

Russia has prepared 2,000 tanks and 300,000 soldiers for a “huge invasion” in Donbas, which comprises the two easterly Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, according to local intelligence.

A Ukrainian intelligence officer warned that the attack, expected to coincide with the anniversary of Putin’s invasion on February 24, will be bolstered by thousands more armoured vehicles, artillery systems and hundreds of fighter jets and helicopters.

Ukrainian forces in the Luhansk city of Kreminna are already battling what appears to be the first waves of this next Russian offensive, with Putin’s forces making “marginal advances” in the past week with additional regiments arriving to the front, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

Good morning

Good morning from London. I’m Tom Watling. I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.

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Twitter: @TomAWatling

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