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The United States is sending more missile systems to Ukraine, and Moscow is signaling more comprehensive war goals

#United #States #sending #missile #systems #Ukraine #Moscow #signaling #comprehensive #war #goals

The United States on Wednesday promised to send more precision missile systems to Kyiv, shortly after Moscow signaled it intended to seize more Ukrainian territory beyond the eastern industrial region of Donbass.

The announcement came as the European Commission urged EU members to cut demand for natural gas to reduce dependence on Russian energy, and the bloc agreed to an embargo on Russian gold imports, measures Kyiv nevertheless dismissed as insufficient.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Washington will send four more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (Himars), which have greatly increased Kiev’s battlefield capabilities in recent weeks by enabling Ukrainian forces to hit Russian targets at long range .

“Ukraine needs the firepower and ammunition to withstand this barrage and strike back,” Austin told reporters, adding that the new shipment would bring the total number of US Himars sent to Kyiv to 16.

Hours earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview that Moscow’s military was no longer just concentrating on seizing control of eastern Ukraine’s Lugansk and Donetsk regions, which have been partially controlled by pro-Moscow rebels for years.

“The geography is different now. It is not only about DNR and LNR, but also about Kherson region, Zaporizhia region and a number of other areas,” he told state media.

On Tuesday, the United States said Russia was “starting to roll out a version of what you might call an annexation playbook” – citing the same areas mentioned by Lavrov.

Russian forces have steadily advanced into each of these regions since invading Ukraine on February 24, wreaking havoc as they captured key cities and met stiff Ukrainian resistance.

In recent weeks they have also struck Ukrainian civilian targets in cities far from the front lines, killing scores of civilians in what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described as a terror campaign.

– “Russian terror must lose” –

In an emotional speech before the US Congress on Wednesday, Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska described the plight of millions of Ukrainian parents and children and urged Washington to repel Russian missiles around air defense systems.

Zelenska, who took on a more public role after her stay in the early weeks of the war, featured images of children killed or maimed by Russia, including a four-year-old killed during a strike in the town of Vinnytsia.

Photos of her blood-splattered pink stroller and footage of her final moments went viral on social media.

“Help us to stop this terror against the Ukrainians,” Zelenska said.

Later in the day, Zelensky expressed hope that Kiev’s appeals for anti-missile systems would be answered, saying, “I hope the answers to our inquiries will not be long in coming.”

– Western weapons a “direct threat” to Russia –

The steady advance of Russian troops in the east came after Moscow troops had initially failed in the invasion to capture the capital, Kyiv, and were pushed back from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

But Russian artillery has conducted a near-constant shelling campaign on Kharkiv, and strikes on Wednesday killed three people, local officials said.

“Among them was a 13-year-old boy,” regional governor Oleg Synegubov said in a statement on social media.

AFP journalists saw a man kneel in shock over the body, which was covered in a blue sweatshirt and surrounded by broken glass.

While the brunt of recent fighting in Ukraine has centered on the Donbass, a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south has slowly recaptured some Russian-held areas, thanks in large part to long-range artillery supplied by the West.

Lavrov said western arms supplies to Ukraine were a factor in Moscow’s decision to focus beyond the east and said its ambitions could grow even larger if supplies continued.

“We cannot allow that part of Ukraine controlled by Zelenskyy or whoever replaces him to possess weapons that pose a direct threat to our territory and the territory of the republics that have declared their independence,” Lavrov said with a look on Donetsk and Lugansk.

– Energy Contingency Plans –

Lavrov also dismissed the idea of ​​further peace talks with Ukraine, claiming previous rounds showed Kyiv was unwilling to negotiate “seriously”.

“That makes no sense in the current situation,” he told state media.

Nevertheless, Russian and Ukrainian delegations are expected in Istanbul in the coming days for further talks on the release of Ukrainian Black Sea grain exports.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he hoped an agreement could be formulated “this week”.

The West has responded to Russia’s invasion with several packages of damaging sanctions, which in turn has led Russia to cut natural gas supplies to the bloc, sparking a supply and cost crisis.

In its latest punitive package on Wednesday, the EU targeted gold exports and froze assets at Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank.

And Brussels also urged EU members to cut demand for natural gas by 15 percent to limit supplies from Russia, which accounted for 40 percent of EU imports last year.

However, Zelenskyy criticized these measures as insufficient and said in his speech: “Russia has to pay a much higher price for this war, which would force it to seek peace.”

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